Preparing for Tax Season: What To Do Before Tax Day

Birchwood Financial Partners
Feb 12, 2021 9:55:39 AM

AdobeStock_339635698With the holidays behind us and the new year officially off and rolling, we have entered the time of year when we must start prepping for another important season -- tax season. As a critical and impactful component of an individual’s financial planning, tax planning often causes varying degrees of stress and anxiety for people, especially as the May 17th tax filing deadline looms. To help relieve some of this tension, we have put together reminders of the key materials to assemble and crucial dates to note as you prepare to file.

Paper versus e-delivery

In past decades, people had to wait for institutions to mail paper copies of their tax materials to them. However, in our digital age, these documents can be accessed by customers instantaneously within online portals, as soon as institutions make them available. For this reason, e-delivery has become the preferred delivery method for tax documents. In addition to usually receiving your materials faster than you would via post, e-delivery ensures you do not overlook or lose any items. If you haven’t already, go online or call your institution to elect e-delivery. This will save time, energy, and headaches.   

Once you have begun receiving your documents, send them to your tax preparer as soon as possible. Many people mistakenly believe that they need to send everything together as a completed batch, but this isn’t true. If you have already prepared the bulk of your tax documents and are waiting on your 1099’s, your tax preparer can begin your filing and incorporate the 1099’s once they become available.

IRA Distributions (1099-R's)

If you took any IRA distributions during the past year or if you converted assets from an IRA to a Roth IRA, you will be receiving a 1099-R from your IRA custodian.  Many of these tax documents are already available, as institutions have a deadline of January 31st for sending these to clients and customers.

If you are over age 70½ and you gifted any of your Required Minimum Distribution, which is the minimum amount you can withdraw from your account each year, to a charitable organization, please be sure to let your tax preparer know and provide supporting documentation. This is incredibly important to note because unless you provide documentation and make your preparer aware, the 1099-R will not reflect what you had paid directly to the charitable organization(s). 

[READ: Strategic Philanthropy: Use These Strategies for Tax Benefits]

Non-qualified brokerage accounts (1099-composite)

If you have a non-retirement account (e.g. Trust, Individual or Joint account), you will receive a 1099-Composite & Year-End Summary Tax Statement.  This report indicates the dividends, interest, and realized capital gains or losses for the year and will be prepared in mid-to-late February.

Institutions occasionally have to revise 1099’s, often due to reporting requirements associated with certain types of mutual funds, and it’s not a cause for alarm. But if you do receive a revised 1099, make sure to send it to your tax preparer as soon as you get it.

Gifting From Non-Qualified Brokerage Accounts

Over the last year, many people have gifted securities to support causes they care about and to support their communities. Charities and organizations must issue you a receipt if you would like to claim the tax benefits. If you gifted securities (stocks or mutual funds) from a non-qualified brokerage account, meaning an account that does not qualify for tax-deferred or tax-exempt status, to a charitable organization or into a Donor Advised Fund, let your tax preparer know. You will also need to provide a receipt from the charity. If you did not receive a receipt or you have misplaced it, reach out and ask for one. This is a common request.

Contributions to a Donor Advised Fund (DAF)

A Donor Advised Fund is an account overseen by a charity or foundation, which maintains legal control as the sponsoring organization. Similar to other gifting guidelines, it’s important to have documentation to verify your contribution. If you made any contributions to a Donor Advised Fund, be sure to provide your tax preparer with the letter from your DAF, and request documentation if you do not. 

529 Plan contributions

If you’re a parent, grandparent, or guardian planning for a child’s education, you likely contributed to a 529 college-savings plan during the past year. Be sure this is accounted for when preparing your Minnesota tax return (if applicable). Depending on your income, you may qualify for a Minnesota tax credit of up to $500. If your income exceeds certain thresholds, you will be allowed a subtraction to your Minnesota income (of up to $1,500 for single filers or $3,000 for married filers).  

retirement plan contributions

Sometimes, we get so caught up in the present that we can overlook the importance of planning for the future. Depending on the type, retirement accounts may have yearly limits, and maximizing contributions today can often make a significant impact in the future. Keep in mind you have until the tax filing date to make a contribution for the past year to your IRA, Roth IRA ,or SEP IRA (the deadline for SEP contributions is later if you file an extension). We recommend using tax planning as a time to check in on your longer-term financial goals and whether you’re preparing yourself for the retirement that you want to have.

Tax planning can feel intimidating, especially when you factor in tracking down data across financial accounts on top of your many other commitments and responsibilities to yourself and those around you. However, remember that planning and organizing goes a long way to helping reduce the stressors of tax planning. Tax planning season might never become your favorite season, but following these pointers can grant confidence and security today and in years to come. Of course, we encourage you to consult your tax advisors before taking any actions and remember this isn’t something you need to do alone.

[READ: Why Do I Owe So Much in Taxes? How Can I Reduce My Liability Today?]

[READ: A Guide to Taxes in Retirement]

We are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Internal Revenue Service or any government agency.

Investment Advisory services offered through Birchwood Financial Partners, Inc. an SEC Registered Investment Advisor.

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