“I don’t want all your receipts for meals,” says Tom Balarsky, a Carmichael CPA. “But if you want to keep important documents like 1099s and W2s in a shoebox, that’s fine.”
We asked Balarsky, who’s been filling out other people’s tax forms for almost three decades, to come up with a list of basic taxpayer dos and don’ts. Here’s what he says:
- Keep a logbook of mileage if you use your car for work.
- Don’t throw away receipts for charitable donations.
- Record any dependent-care expenses.
- Don’t wait until two weeks before the filing deadline.
- Review your return from last year. (Don’t rely on your preparer to review.)
- Keep vehicle and boat registration forms handy.
- Don’t forget to take advantage of tax breaks like IRA contributions.
- If you have kids with tuition, be aware of Qualified Education Expenses.
- Be ready for IRS Form 1095-A, which involves health insurance enrollment via Obamacare.
Balarsky warns this is the easy stuff. If you have partnerships, rental property or are self-employed, tax time can get far more complicated.
“With partnerships, you have until Sept. 15 to file, but you still have to estimate and pay taxes before that,” Balarsky says. “The IRS will let you know there’s a big difference between filing and paying, with a big penalty.”