Now is the time to ensure a smooth tax season. Seriously – even as a professional who preaches from the same gospel each year to all our clients, there are always a few that come in completely bamboozled by their documents. From the time that your W-2 is delivered (which, by the way, you should have!) until you actually sit down to file, there are only two things you HAVE to do:
Gather your documents…
The first step to a timely return is to have all your ducks in a row. Collate all the forms you’ll be collecting, like W-2s from employers, Form 1099s from banks and other payers, and Forms 1095-A from the Marketplace for those claiming the Premium Tax Credit. At the same time, you also will need a copy of your 2016 return. As you collect all this data, it’s also a great time to ensure that each of these institutions has your current mailing address.
In general, all these forms will begin arriving in January and you should have all the various 1099 forms by no later than the end of February. Yes, unfortunately, it always seems like 1099s show up last. Nonetheless, every one of these is critical to your return and taking the time (or exerting the patience) to gather them all will allow you to avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return later.
Once you have all that information together, I also recommend that you keep it all together. The IRS reserves the right to examine any supporting documents for at least 5 years, so gathering it once and storing it once – and properly – can save you loads of time down the road.
The other critical task to do before you file taxes? Check the status of your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). You may find, as a few clients of ours do every year, this is the year to renew. Doing so promptly – and before you forget – will avoid a refund delay and possible loss of key tax benefits.
Any ITIN not used on a tax return in the past three years will expire on Dec. 31, 2017, but the renewal process is simple – filling out a Form W-7 and returning it to the IRS. Here’s why I encourage you to check early and renew early. Most of the time, it will take about seven weeks to get your ITIN renewed, but during peak filing season (which is almost here) it can take nearly three months.