It’s March, which means we’re officially in the peak of tax season. If you–like countless other Americans–are scrambling to get your taxes filed before the April 15th deadline, you may be coming to the realization that you may not actually know what tax documents you need to file successfully and get the biggest refund (or the lowest amount owed) possible.

We’re not here to give financial advice on how best to file or save on your taxes, but we can at least help get you up to speed and tell you what you need to have prepared to file your taxes in 2023:

  1. All your personal and dependent information

These are the basics, and are things you don’t even need documentation to submit. Most (if not all) your personal info should be stuff you can remember off the top of your head, but there are a few items sprinkled in here that can make filing much more strenuous if you don’t have them prepared ahead of time. And make sure you have all the info for your dependents, too!

Information needed:

  • Your legal name (as it appears on your social security card)
  • Your social security number
  • Your current address as well as any other addresses you resided at during the filing year (2022)
  • All of the above info for anybody you plan on claiming as a dependent
  • A copy of last year’s (2021’s) federal, state, and tax returns
  • Banking information (in order to set up a direct deposit for your refunds)

  1. Income records

Fundamentally, tax filing is about making sure the government knows how much money you earned in the past year. For self-employed and contract workers, you’ll want to have any documentation of earnings ready so the gov’t can determine how much you need to pay in taxes. If you’re officially classified as an employee (which is true of most workers, but make sure to double-check if you’re not certain–and if you’re a gig worker, it almost certainly qualifies as self-employment!), your employer will automatically withhold money for taxes, but you’ll still need to submit documentation when filing to ensure it’s correct. And if you have any other miscellaneous income sources, there’ll be specific forms for those as well.

Examples of common income statement forms:

  • W-2 forms from your employer
  • 1099-NEC/1099-K forms if you’re self-employed or a contractor
  • 1099-INT/1099-B/1099-DIV for income gained off of investments, interest, etc
  • 1099-G for unemployment income 
  • 1099-R for retirement plan distributions
  • SSA-1099 for social security income

  1. Deductions, business expenses, and tax credits

Fortunately, most people are not taxed on their full income. Federal and state governments offer many opportunities for deductions, which are expenditures that can reduce the amount of your total income that is taxed each year. 

To make things simple, the IRS offers a Standard Deduction each year, which is a smart idea to claim if you don’t have many other deductible expenses. But if your deductions would add up to more than the amount of the standard deduction, you can file your taxes with an Itemized Deduction instead, in which case you’ll need documentation of your various deductible expenses.

Sometimes, rather than reducing the amount of taxable income, taxpayers are eligible for tax credits, which are a straightforward reduction in the amount of taxes you pay. These usually require strict documentation, but can be a huge benefit if they apply to you.

Examples of common deductions and tax credits:

  • Home Office Deductions (if you’re self-employed)
  • Medical expenses (if paid out-of-pocket)
  • Mortgage interest and insurance premiums
  • Donations to charity
  • Health insurance premiums (if you’re self-employed)
  • Business expenses and mileage
  • Proof of losses from stocks, investments, and non-collectible, non-business debts
  • Electric Vehicle (EV) tax credits
  • Adoption and childcare costs
  • Higher education expenses (form 1098-T)

  1. Estimated tax payments (if self-employed)

If you’re not used to being self-employed or a contractor, one thing that can catch you off-guard is quarterly estimated taxes. Rather than filing all at once for the April 15th deadline, self-employed or contracted individuals are expected to estimate their tax payments each quarter, and pay the government accordingly (the due dates are the 15th of April, June, September, and January). 

If you’ve paid your estimated taxes as expected, make sure you bring that information and documentation with you when filing your yearly return, as the last thing you want to do is accidentally pay your taxes twice!

Spotloan: A Smarter Way to Borrow

Paying taxes is one of the most stressful and opaque parts of civic life in the United States, but it’s something we all need to do in order to comply with the law and contribute to our shared society. And for many people, they count on their yearly tax return hitting their bank accounts and helping build savings, pay off debt, or make necessary purchases, so it behooves you to be prepared so you can get the most accurate refund possible.

At Spotloan, our mission is not only to provide loan options for people in any financial situation, but also to provide the education and resources to help you navigate the difficult world of personal finance. Contact us today to fill out a loan application or take advantage of our financial education resources and get your money in order.

A note from Spotloan: We hope this article has provided some helpful tips as you prepare to file your taxes. However, as with any important tax-related decision, we suggest that you reach out to a qualified tax professional with any questions you may have.