What documents do I need for the 2022 tax season?

Whether or not we have a tax professional, most of us would like to make sure we have everything we need once we get started. This list will cover the basics and highlight some newer items to consider for the 2022 tax season. 

Receipts or proofs of payment needed to support deductions or credits

Start collecting these items in January of the tax year. So for the 2021 tax return (filed in 2022), start collecting in January of 2021. 

I’m still a fan of hard copies. I print out or retain any of these documents that I need and put them in a folder cleverly labeled “Taxes.” 

I recommend keeping hard copies, but if you keep all or some of the documents electronically, back them up somewhere. 

These documents include proof of charitable donations, which is important now for nearly all taxpayers since all taxpayers are eligible to deduct some charitable contributions whether they itemize or not. 

Other important proofs of payment include child care expenses (You should receive a document from your child care provider in January.) and educator expenses for K-12 teachers. 

If you are in the position to itemize or think that you may be, then you’ll have a much longer list of receipts and proof to keep: medical and dental care, state and local taxes paid (usually covered via tax documents received in January, but not always), gambling losses (only to offset winnings), and possibly more.

For 2021, the child and dependent care credit expanded greatly. If you normally don’t bother to collect all your child care expenses documents because you maxed it out in prior years, this year may be worth it. 

If you are self employed and/or have a business that means a whole other level of maintaining receipts and invoices. Make sure you keep these documents separate from your other tax documents. 

I’ve had clients who are self employed apologize for bringing in a bunch of receipts because they aren’t sure which ones “count.” But there is no need to apologize. When in doubt, keep receipts, invoices, and documents – whether you have a tax professional or not. Tax laws change every year, and it is better to have some documents you don’t need than to miss out on a credit or deduction. 

A copy of last year’s tax return.

This may be in the software from last year if you did it on your own or if you have the same tax professional. But again, I like the hard copy even though that isn’t nice to trees. Remember to keep an electronic backup as well. 

If you have a new tax professional or if you are using new tax software, the hard copy can be very helpful to ensure you aren’t missing anything. Without access to a prior year’s return, it can be easy to miss a tax document. I’ve used the prior tax return to prevent people from missing a W-2, bank interest, and charitable contributions. Also, sometimes there are losses and credits that carry over from one year to the next. 

For 2021, if you had a COVID-19 related retirement account distribution in 2020 for which you chose to spread the income over three years, you need that information from your 2020 return to do the 2021 return properly. 

If you have a new tax professional, bringing your last three years is a good idea so that they can take a look for errors. 

Gather tax documents

As you might guess at this point, I do keep the hard copies. If I get sent the tax document electronically, I print it out. I have progressed to the modern age now and either scan or take pictures to store documents electronically as well. 

Tax documents include W-2s (employee wages), 1099-NEC (Non-employee compensation), 1098-T (education costs from qualifying institutions), and a 1098 (mortgage). 

If you have investments or other sources of income there can be other tax documents. Watch out for the one-time things you may not remember well like small one-time retirement account withdrawals, cashing in savings bonds, a brief job, some canceled debt (which may be taxable), and some legal settlements.

If you are expecting a lot of tax documents, you may want to create a checklist so you can track how close you are to getting them all and to make it easier for when you have to track down what you haven’t received yet. 

Two new tax documents you don’t want to forget: 

  1. You should have received Notice 1444-C Your Economic Impact Payment, a letter from the IRS providing you with the amount you received for the tax year 2021 stimulus or what is commonly known as the third stimulus. You’ll also receive Letter 6475 early in 2022 providing the amount received as the third stimulus. You’ll need to enter the amount received in your 2021 tax return and if the tax return calculates that you should have received more then you will pick up that difference as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The stimulus payment is NOT taxable. 
  2. If you received advance Child Tax Credit payments, in January 2022 you should receive Letter 6419, which will provide the total amount that the IRS sent you for the advance payments. You will need to enter this information in your tax return so the correct child tax credit is calculated on your tax return. 

If you can’t locate Notice 1444-C, Letter 6475, or Letter 6419, you can find the information in your online Tax Account at IRS.gov. Set up an account if you don’t have one. 

A last resort is to rely on your financial records, but realize if what you input on the tax return doesn’t match the IRS data, your tax return processing will likely be delayed. 

One document I frequently see missed is the 1095-A. Missing this document can delay the processing of your tax return by weeks. The 1095-A is provided to those who had subsidized healthcare provided through an Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) health exchange (NOT Medicaid). 

Personal information

This includes social security numbers, birthdays, addresses, emails, phone numbers, and other personally identifiable information. This also includes bank routing and account numbers. 

For children, it can be a good idea to have some proof that they live with you, particularly if you are claiming children when you are not one of the parents. This is often supported with school records or medical records. In complicated family situations, keeping this proof is important in case of future IRS inquiries. 

Yes, this is a lot of stuff just to meet our legal obligations. I recommend keeping your system of getting ready for and organizing for tax preparation relatively the same from year to year to make it easier and to make it less likely that something gets missed. And it wouldn’t hurt to follow the IRS guidance on how to prepare for doing your taxes. 

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