Taxpayers should work now to ensure the timely and complete preparation and processing of their 2017 tax returns. Here are three things a taxpayer should do now to get the project started:
1) Gather the needed documents. In order to file a complete and accurate tax return, taxpayers should make sure they have gathered all the needed documents before they begin to prepare the returns, including:

  • Forms W-2 from employers.
  • Forms 1099 from banks and other payers.
  • Forms 1095-A from the Marketplace for those claiming the Premium Tax Credit.
  • Bank statements and check registers from Dec 2016 through Jan 2018.
  • Brokerage statements from Dec 2016 through Jan 2018.
  • Charitable contribution receipts with full description of items and their value. The “IRS approved” value can be obtained from the Goodwill website.

Typically, the Forms W-2 and 1099 start arriving by mail in January. Be sure to check these forms over carefully. If any of the information stated is wrong, be sure to contact the payer right away for a correction or explanation.

2) Make summary sheets from the documents that your have gathered. This task will simplify your return preparation, whether you do it yourself, use a software program, or hire a return preparer to do the input for you. Make sure you review each check written during the year (from your register) to ensure you catch all the charitable contribution and other tax deductible expenses.

3) Check to see if you have an expiring ITIN. Some people with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) need to renew it before the end of the year to avoid a refund delay and possible loss of key tax benefits. For example, your ITIN may expire as of Dec. 31, 2017, if:

  • You have not used your ITIN on a tax return in the past three years; or
  • Your ITIN has the middle digits of 70, 71, 72 or 80.

Anyone who needs to renew an ITIN should submit a completed Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. They should mail the Form W-7, along with original identification documents or copies certified by the issuing agency. Once an individual files a completed form, it typically takes about seven weeks to receive an ITIN assignment letter from the IRS, so do it now to avoid a delay in the processing of your returns.

4) Choose e-file and direct deposit for a faster refund. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you, electronically filing a tax return is the most accurate way to prepare and file. Error in processing returns delay refunds and the easiest way to avoid paper processing errors is to e-file. Combining direct deposit with electronic filing is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their refund. With direct deposit, a refund goes directly into a taxpayer’s bank account.