Even if you e-file, doing your taxes can feel like a celebration of paperwork. You need forms to complete your tax return accurately: W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and sometimes more. You may also need records of payments you've made throughout the year, and receipts and invoices to document credits or deductions.
Take heart. Assembling the documents you'll need to file your taxes is possible. When you're ready to get started, here's a list of the documents you might need to complete your tax return.
You don't need documents to back up the personal information on your tax return, but you may want to have the following on hand for reference:
- Social Security or Individual Tax Identification numbers for you, your spouse and your dependents
- Bank account and routing numbers if you want to receive your refund by direct deposit
- Driver's license, government-issued identification or IRS Identity Protection PIN, which may be requested to help reduce identity theft
Documenting your income is key. Forms you receive from your employer, clients, investment companies, bank, payment processing company and others are critical information for preparing your taxes. They reflect your actual earnings from the year, so they help you prepare an accurate return. Also, copies of your W-2 and 1099s are sent to the IRS. They'll be checking to see that the information on your return matches up with the information they receive.
If you're missing a W-2 or 1099 form, contact the source and request one (or a duplicate). If you find an error on any form, request a correction.
Here's a quick list of income documents you may need:
W-2: Job Earnings
Your W-2 reports your wages for the year along with taxes withheld, retirement contributions and more. You should receive a separate W-2 from each employer you've had throughout the year. You'll attach a copy of your W-2(s) to your tax return when you submit it.
1099s: Interest, Investments and Independent Contracting
Your 1099 forms typically arrive by mail. If you receive any 1099 forms, have them on hand when you're preparing your taxes. These forms report non-employee income and they come in a wide range of types.
Some of the more common types of 1099s include:
- Income from independent contracting and gig work (1099-NEC)
- Rent, royalties, prizes or awards (1099-MISC)
- Social Security benefits (SSA-1099)
- Interest income (1099-INT)
- Dividends (1099-DIV)
- IRA or retirement distributions (1099-R)
- Unemployment benefits or state and local income tax refunds (1099-G)
- Canceled debts (1099-C)
- Payments from companies that process digital payments, including PayPal and Venmo business accounts, and crowdfunding sites (1099-K)
- Health savings account (HSA) withdrawals (1099-SA)
Additional Forms and Information
In addition to the W-2 forms and 1099s you'll need to report your income to the IRS, be ready to provide the following information if it applies to you:
- Income, losses, tax deductions and credits from a trust, partnership or S corporation (Schedule K-1)
- Capital gains from the sale of real estate, investments, goods or cryptocurrency
- Tip income
- Taxable alimony paid to you, if your divorce was finalized before January 1, 2019
- Jury duty payments
- Gambling winnings (Form W-2G)
- Any other income you've made throughout the year (the IRS considers all income taxable unless it's deemed otherwise)
Deductions, Credits and Adjustments to Income
Be prepared with records related to the following adjustments to income, tax credits, deductions and taxes paid.
Adjustments to Income
These adjustments reduce your taxable income even if you claim the standard deduction instead of itemizing:
- IRA, SEP-IRA and SIMPLE contributions (Form 5498)
- HSA contributions (Form 5498-SA)
- Tax-deductible alimony paid if your divorce was finalized before January 1, 2019
- Student loan interest (Form 1098-E)
- Deductible educator expenses, up to $300
Common Tax Credits
Refundable and nonrefundable tax credits reduce your tax bill dollar for dollar. Among the commonly claimed credits that require documentation or receipts are:
- Education expenses to qualify for the American opportunity tax credit (Form 1098-T)
- Child care or dependent care expenses for the child and dependent care credit
- Qualifying expenses for energy-saving home improvement credits
- Sales documents from your purchase of a qualifying vehicle for electric vehicle tax credits
- Premium tax credits on health insurance purchased through the health insurance marketplace (Form 1095-A)
If you take the standard deduction, you may be able to skip this section. The standard deduction provides a preset income deduction based on your tax filing status—no itemizing or documentation required.
Taxpayers who itemize should keep documents to back up their deductions, including receipts, invoices and proof of payment. Here are a few typical deductions you might claim if you itemize:
- Business expense deductions: If you have self-employment income from independent contracting or gig work, report your documented business expenses on Schedule C, including home office expenses, health insurance premiums, supplies and equipment or continuing education.
- Mortgage interest: Mortgage interest you've paid is reported on Form 1098.
- Medical expenses: Unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 7.5% of your adjusted gross income may be deducted. Save medical bills and proof of payment to document your expenses.
- Charitable contributions: Charitable donations you've made, including cash donations, in-kind goods or property and mileage to and from volunteering, are deductible.
Taxes You've Paid
Finally, account for any and all taxes you've paid throughout the year so you don't pay your tax bill twice. Gather records of the following:
- Taxes withheld from your wages (shown on your W-2)
- Quarterly estimated tax payments
- Property taxes
- Personal property taxes, such as vehicle license fees
- State and local income taxes
The Bottom Line
Although the list of possible documents you'll need to complete your tax return is long, you almost certainly won't need all of them. Besides, having W-2s, 1099s, 1098s and other forms on hand may actually make filing your taxes easier: They put the information you need at your fingertips.
When your taxes are finished and filed, keep your tax return and all relevant documentation in a safe place for at least three years (preferably longer), in case the IRS disputes any information or decides to audit. Having your information on file is also helpful when you're preparing for tax time in future years. You'll be able to see the documents and information you need at a glance.