What documents do I need to file my income tax return?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 16, 2019

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The types of income tax documents needed to file your income tax return will depend on a number of factors including source of taxable income, medical expenses, interest payments, available deductions, and more. Whether you’re a full-time employee of a company, self-employed or even retired, you will still have to file an income tax return and will need to gather income tax documents to do so. Some of the most common types of income tax documents that you will need in order to file your income tax return are:

  • Personal Income Records
  • Medical Expense Records
  • Records for Taxes paid During the Year
  • Non-reimbursed Employment Expenses (eliminated beginning 2018)
  • Interest Records
  • Theft and Casualty loss (beginning in 2018, applies only for losses in federally-designated disaster zones ) 
  • Charitable Contributions 

Personal Income Records Needed for Filing Income Taxes

Personal income records refer to income tax documents that reflect any measure of gross income such as pay stubs and records relating to tips, interest and dividends, tax refunds and/or credits from local government, alimony, capital gains/losses, business income/loss, and IRA distributions. These records also include annuities, Social Security, pension, unemployment compensation, agricultural payments, moonlighting income, and winnings from gambling.

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Medical Expense Records and Filing Income Taxes

When filing your income tax return, you will need to refer to records for health insurance premiums, long-term care premiums, prescription medications, insulin and insulin treatment, guide dogs, physical/occupational therapy, and acupuncture. Chiropractic treatments, x-rays, lab work, nursing care, and hospital bills (include food) may be deducted as well as long-term care services, podiatrist bills, glasses/contacts/hearing aids/braces/crutches/wheel chairs, and out-of-pocket doctors’ bills. Other medical bills that may be deductible on your income taxes include out-of-pocket mental health bills, ambulance services or travel expenses related to medical care (include gas, parking and tolls), alcohol or drug treatment programs, and prescription drugs designed to help you quit smoking. This does not include over-the-counter treatments such as the patch.

Providing Proof of Taxes Paid During the Year

You should gather all income tax documents pertaining to the amount you paid in state and local taxes during the tax year as well as mandatory contributions to your states’ workers compensation or disability-benefit program (CA, NJ, NY, RI and WA), records relating to your taxes for non-business real estate, records for any refunds or rebates you received for real estate taxes the same year you paid them, and personal property taxes.

Interest Records Needed for Filing Your Income Tax Return

Records of mortgage interest payments (Form 1098) and other records documenting mortgage interest payments, if you don’t have a 1098 that comes in the mail, are required if applicable. You should also keep records of points payments, if not otherwise reported on Form 1098. Refinancing records and any money borrowed for home improvements are also required.

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Non-reimbursed Employment Expenses and Income Taxes

2018 law through 2025: Under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, however, the unreimbursed employee work expenses deduction is eliminated beginning in 2018.

Pre-2018 treatment: Non-reimbursed employment expenses refers to any kind of special tools or clothing you needed for employment that you paid for out-of-pocket.  Deductible job-specific expenses include licensing fees, membership dues for professional organizations, subscription’s to professional magazines, job-related educational expenses, record’s relating to the use of your home as a home office, as well as travel-related expenses, meals and laundry. Travel expenses and commuting costs may be deductible only if your job is temporary and you do not work there for more than one year. 

Theft and Casualty Losses and Income Taxes

2018–through 2025 treatment: The deduction for personal casualty and theft losses was suspended with the enactment of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, beginning 2018 through 2025.  There is no itemized deduction for those years unless the personal casualty and theft losses were incurred in presidentially-designated disaster areas. 

Theft and casualty losses refers to all property losses due to fire, floods, earthquakes, vandalism, accidents, federal disasters or theft. In addition to records for these types of losses, you may also need records of appraisal fees and photography expenses incurred for the purpose of proving you had a loss.

Charitable Donations and Income Taxes

If you donated money or property to a charitable organization, the donation may be deductible. In addition to receipts from donations to charitable organizations, you should also total receipts for travel expenses relating to volunteer work (if applicable), including mileage, tolls, and parking, when you file your income tax return.

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More Information about Income Taxes

For a specific question about income tax documents or income taxes, contact an experienced tax attorney. To learn more about income taxes and the IRS, see the following articles:

The Free Advice Guide for Filing Your 2018 Tax Return

When You Have to File Your Tax Return Late

When You Need to Pay Your Income Tax Late

Do I Have to File if I Live Outside the U.S.?

What Will It Cost Me to Get My Money Early?

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