Calculator and tax folder

Tax Prep: The Documents You Need to File

Gather, Organize and Prepare Your Tax Documents

Whether your hobby is crunching numbers or you avoid calculating as much as possible (like me), everyone can count on filing taxes each year. I handle most of the tax prep at our house because my spouse’s schedule is unpredictable, so I created a system that works for me. Read on, grab a tip or two, and design your tax prep system.

Schedule a Tax Document Gathering Session

Depending on your schedule, plan an hour or afternoon to start the organization process. You may need to add more time later, especially if you track documents from employers or clients.

Two Quick Tips

  1. Kick off the tax document gathering process with momentum and collect the simple items first, like birth dates and social security numbers.
  2. Review the previous year’s tax return. It’ll jog your memory so you’re less likely to forget items.

Documents You May Need

This list isn’t exhaustive, and you probably won’t need everything listed to file.

  • Social Security numbers and birth dates for all eligible family members
  • Social Security benefits information
  • All W-2 forms, from all employers, for you and your spouse
  • Leave and Earnings Statement to ensure special pay, tax exclusion and TSP information are accurate
  • 1099 forms for independent contractors
  • 1098-E for student loan interest
  • 1098 for home mortgage interest
  • 1099-INT, 1099-OID, 1099-DIV, investment income forms
  • Child care, education and adoption receipts and documents
  • Alimony information
  • Charitable donation receipts
  • Medical and dental bills
  • Moving (PCS) expense receipts
  • Real estate tax documents
  • Education expenses
  • Power of attorney

Organize Your Tax Documents

Hopefully, you at least used a rudimentary filing system to stay organized in anticipation of the new tax year, but if you didn’t, it’s time to take charge of your documents.

Filing and tax document management systems vary as much as the people creating them, so there are plenty of options. Find one that works for you — from the trusty old shoebox to scanned documents stored safely in the cloud.

You can also use:

  • An envelope system, separating personal and business documents
  • File folders
  • Spreadsheets
  • Software accounting programs
  • Digital storage solutions

Unique Tax Situations for Military Spouses

If you are a spouse who owns a freelance business, has recently moved or has a deployed spouse, don’t forget there are a few things you’ll need to accurately file your taxes:

  1. 1099s. Your clients probably release them electronically, but some may send them in the mail, so don’t forget to update your address with your clients and the post office. Also, list everyone you worked with over the year to ensure you have a corresponding 1099. You might have to track them down through your clients’ payment systems or your contact at the company.
  2. The Military Spouses Residency Relief Act: When planning your tax return, it’s important to review the MSRRA if you’ve changed your state residency. The MSRRA lets military spouses keep the same state of legal residency as their spouses if they meet these criteria:
  • “The service member is living on military orders in a state that is not his/her resident state.
  • The spouse is in that state solely to live with the service member.
  • Both the service member and spouse have the same resident state.
  • The spouse only pays taxes on income in their state of legal residency when they meet the above conditions.”
  1. Power of attorney. If your spouse is deployed, you may need a power of attorney (IRS form 2848) and his or her MyPay information to download the W2 form.

MilTax Filing: Free Software and Support

Military members’ taxes can be time-consuming, complex or, if you’re lucky, easy to file. One way to simplify tax season, regardless of status, is to take advantage of MilTax through Military OneSource. It’s a tax filing program designed for military members and their families.

You can talk with a tax professional when you need help through a live chat, scheduled consultation or in-person visit near you. Best of all, the service is free.

Filing taxes, especially with military life considerations, may seem overwhelming. Preparation, organization and MilTax can make the process less frustrating and much more affordable.

Written By Dawn Smith
Army Spouse

Dawn is an experienced military spouse and freelance writer. When she isn’t writing, her teen daughter, Army husband, and Golden Retriever keep her busy with dog walks, home upkeep, travel planning, and chauffeur duties.

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  • John Lord says:

    greetings,, from Germany.

    There is a MAJOR problem w/ H&R.
    In Germany, our country code is 49.
    The program will not allow change. (and only list other countries)
    I wasn’t able to get this fixed w/ I wrote them, and was advised it was a self service program.
    Could you inform them and get it cleared? (and other countries all over…)

  • Social Media Admins says:

    Hello, John. We recommend you connect with one of our MilTax consultants for guidance. You can contact them by calling 800-342-9647.