The clock is winding down on the looming April 15th income tax filing deadline. Which means if you haven’t already scheduled your CPA appointment, now is the time!
Once a meeting is on the books, clients often wonder: “What do I need to bring to my tax appointment?”
Of course, the answer to this question somewhat depends on the individual. But the documents and forms necessary to complete an income tax return are roughly the same for most taxpayers.
To help you prepare for an upcoming CPA appointment, here’s a quick rundown of what you need to bring along.
Gather Up Necessary Tax Documents
Before February 1st, employers, clients, vendors, and anyone else you’ve worked for must provide requisite tax forms. These forms may be mailed or forwarded digitally via an emailed PDF attachment.
Meanwhile, it goes without saying that tax forms often fail to arrive promptly. If you don’t receive the expected tax documents, definitely follow up with the responsible party.
Don’t assume the payments accounted for in these documents won’t be attributed to your income. The forms could be lost in the mail, sent to the wrong person, or the payer simply could have forgotten. And it’s your responsibility to follow up on any missing documentation.
Common Tax Forms
Here’s an overview of the basic tax forms you’re likely to receive:
W-2 – As a salaried or hourly employee, you can expect to receive a W-2 to account for your annual income.
1099 – If you’re an independent contractor paid by the project or hourly on a non-employee basis, you should receive a 1099.
**You may also receive a 1099 for non-employment income, including distributions from a health savings account (HSA) or earned interest income.
1098 – If you’re paying a student loan or paid interest on a home mortgage loan, for which you can potentially get deductions or credits, you will likely receive a 1098.
These are the primary forms applicable to most taxpayers. But that said, you may receive additional documentation related to transactions and accounts subject to IRS oversight.
So, hang on to whatever tax documentation you receive and bring it to your tax appointment.
Past Tax Returns
This is only applicable if you’re working with a new CPA. If you’re meeting with the same CPA, they’ll have your past returns on file.
A new CPA wants to see your past filings to gain a historical perspective on your finances. Comparing past returns against your current filing helps your preparer ensure nothing is missed. Also, when a new CPA reviews your records, they often uncover errors in prior returns, which can sometimes lead to additional refunds.
Expect to Help Build a Personal Profile
For a variety of reasons, your CPA needs to create your personal taxpayer profile. Here again, this is mainly applicable if you’re working with a new CPA. But even your current CPA needs to confirm certain key information is up to date.
When meeting with a new CPA, basic profile questions will include your address, marital status, and the number of dependents (if any) living in your household or under your care.
The more detailed questions about your finances will likely include:
Employment – Are you an employee or independent contractor, do you work a second job, or maintain any “side hustles?”
Investments – Do you have any income-producing assets that pay interest or yield dividends, did you make any transactions that triggered capital gains or losses?
Real Estate – Do you own a home (which qualifies you for a mortgage interest deduction) or own investment real estate that earned income or accrued losses?
Business Expenses + Losses – If you’re a small business owner or sole proprietor, your CPA will also ask for details on your declared income and (potentially deductible) losses.
Retirement Account Withdrawals – Did you, for whatever reason, withdraw or borrow against your IRA, 401k, or other retirement accounts holding tax-exempt funds?
Social Security + Unemployment – Did you receive Social Security or Unemployment payments?
Gambling Proceeds – Did you win a significant amount of money from gambling in a casino, sports betting, or lottery?
Foreign Entities – Are you earning funds from businesses or assets outside the United States?
Outline Your Expenses
If you plan to itemize your deductions or believe your expenses warrant itemized deductions, it’s important to list relevant expenses.
If you’re working with the same CPA, they may have already provided a chart or other means to note relevant expenses. Of course, identifying and categorizing deductible expenses is a key aspect of your CPA’s job. But the more expense details you provide upfront, the more efficiently your tax appointment will progress.
If your upcoming appointment is the first with a new CPA, they may be able to provide a chart to note relevant expenses in preparation for your appointment.
Whether or not you use a chart or a similar document, some of the common items your CPA will cover in determining your deductions include:
- Retirement account contributions
- Medical expenses (including insurance premiums)
- Mortgage payments
- Student loan payments
- Health savings account contributions
- Educational funding accounts
- Real estate taxes
- Rental expenses or moving expenses
- Charitable donations (both cash and non-cash contributions)
If you’re an independent contractor, small business owner, or sole proprietor, you can likely deduct many business-related expenses.
Some commonly deductible business expenses include:
- Office supplies
- Business meals
- Work-related vehicle use
- Cell phone + landline costs
And these are just a few items, there are potentially more deductions your CPA will discuss with you.
Your CPA will evaluate this information to determine if it makes sense to itemize your deductions or if you’re in a better position to take the Standard Deduction (which is the amount you can deduct from your adjusted gross income without itemizing your deductions).
It’s also important to keep in mind that IRS regulations typically change on an annual basis. So, it’s not uncommon for applicable deductions and other aspects of your tax filing to change from year to year.
Have More Questions About Preparing For Your CPA Appointment?
While the income tax filing process is relatively straightforward, certain elements can be confusing. Particularly if special circumstances, like buying a home, having a child, losing a domestic partner, or inheriting money or other assets have arisen in the last year.
If any questions come to mind as you prepare for your annual income tax filing, get in touch for a free consultation!