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    Thomas Brock, CFA®, CPA, is a financial professional with over 20 years of experience in investments, corporate finance and accounting. He currently oversees the investment operation for a $4 billion super-regional insurance carrier.

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  • Updated: March 20, 2023
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At tax time, you should familiarize yourself with changes to the Internal Revenue Code and gather and organize the information required to file your return. Doing so can help you ensure compliance and reduce the time spent on the cumbersome, and often frustrating, process. It could also save you money, assuming the process enlightens you to a beneficial aspect of the tax code.

Whether you plan to file your own taxes or enlist the help of a tax professional, read on for some expert tips to streamline your experience.

Explore What’s New

This means familiarizing yourself with changes to the tax code since you filed your 2021 return and understanding any new filing procedures implemented for the 2023 season. The best place to do so is to go right to the source — the IRS.

I recommend a brief review of the agency’s December news release: What’s new and what to consider when filing in 2023.

The distribution helps to succinctly explaining the following tax code changes, including:
  • Reporting rules for Form 1099-K, Payment Card and Third Party Network Transactions
  • Return of some tax credits return to 2019 levels
  • Elimination of above-the-line charitable deduction for tax filers claiming the standard deduction
  • Extension of relaxed guidelines for the health insurance premium tax credit
  • Eligibility rules to claim a tax credit for clean vehicles

The release also offers guidance on avoiding tax return refund delays by leveraging the IRS’ electronic resources, which include a personalized online account and direct deposit functionality.

Gather and Organize Your Information

The information required to file a tax return is highly personal. Some people have simple documentation requirements that are easy to manage. Others have highly demanding situations that necessitate leveraging the expertise of a tax professional.

I designed my tips today for the average tax filer. Read on for a primer about gathering and organizing your information.

Personal Information

Gathering your personal information is the first and easiest thing to do.

Specifically, you need to make sure you have the following information on hand:
  • Your full legal name, date of birth and Social Security Number or Tax Identification Number (if applicable, you also need this information for your spouse).
  • Your primary home address.
  • If you can claim an individual as a dependent, such as a child, elderly parent or other qualifying person, you need the dependent’s full legal name, date of birth and social security number or tax identification number.
  • Any identity protection PINs (IP PIN) that have been issued to you, your spouse or dependents by the IRS.
  • A valid bank account number and routing number to facilitate IRS direct deposits.

In addition to the items above, you should have a copy of your 2021 federal tax return. It may not be necessary, but it can be a very useful reference.

Pro Tip
If your dependent child’s custodial parent is releasing his or her right to claim the child as a dependent, you will need to complete Form 8332.

Income Sources Documentation

Gather all your income substantiation documents. Depending on your labor arrangements and the diversity of your passive income streams, you may deal with one or many different documents.

The most common records are as follows:
  • Form W-2s are issued by employers to their employees for each calendar year. They must be distributed by January 31.
  • Schedule K-1s are issued by pass-through business entities and estates to document participant-level income.
  • Alimony records document income received as a result of divorce and separation agreements.
  • 1099 forms are issued to report over two dozen types of income distributions, but most tax payers will only ever deal with a handful of them. The most common 1099s are summarized below.
FormCovered Income
Form 1099-BThis 1099 is issued by brokerage firms and barter exchanges to report clients' gains and losses.
Form 1099-DIVThis form is issued by financial institutions to investors who receive dividends and distributions from an investment during a calendar year.
Form 1099-GThis document is issued by government entities to individuals who receive unemployment compensation payments and/or state or local income tax refunds.
Form 1099-INTThis 1099 is issued by financial institutions to savers and investors. It includes a breakdown of all types of interest income received and related expenses paid during a calendar year.
Form 1099-KThis form is issued by payment settlement entities (PSES) to report payments made to settle transactions executed during a calendar year. PSEs include credit card companies and third-party processors, such as PayPal and Zelle.
Form 1099-MISCThis form is issued by payers to report miscellaneous income distributions, such as rents, prizes and awards, health care payments and/or payments to an attorney.
Form 1099-NECThis 1099 is issued by payers to report compensation given to independent contractors, freelancers and self-employed individuals for services rendered.
Form 1099-RThis document is issued by payers to report distributions made from annuities, pensions, retirement plans, profit-sharing plans, individual retirement accounts, insurance contracts and survivor income benefit plans.

Beyond the items above, pull records of other sources of income, such as gambling winnings, jury duty pay and cancellations of debt.

Tax Deductions Documentation

Another critical area of preparation relates to tax deductions, which are provisions you can claim to reduce your tax obligation. According to recent data compiled by the IRS, nearly 90% of personal income tax filers claim the standard deduction, which is a flat, prespecified amount based on your filing status.

Pro Tip
When you claim the standard deduction, no effort or documentation is required. However, itemizing can make sense for some people. The optimal approach depends on whether the tax savings achievable via itemizing exceed the cost of maintaining pertinent documentation and filing your return.

The remaining 10% itemize their deductions via IRS Schedule A. If you are among this group, you need to maintain adequate documentation substantiating expenditures.

Generally, the most significant itemized deductions include those outlined below.
Several deductions are available to all filers, regardless of whether they claim the standard deduction or itemize. The most significant include the following:
  • Contributions to qualified retirement vehicles, such as traditional 401(k) plans and individual retirement accounts (IRAs)
  • Contributions to qualified medical savings vehicles
  • Premiums paid for self-employed health insurance
  • Financial losses associated with securities disposals and property subjected to casualty, disaster and theft

Tax Credits Documentation

Tax credits are another area that warrants documentation preparation. Tax credits offer direct reductions to your tax obligation, whereas tax deductions offer reductions to taxable income. As a result, credits are usually more economically beneficial than deductions.

A brief listing of the most widely claimed credits is provided below. Hold onto any documents received for these and other tax credits, and familiarize yourself with the IRS forms referenced.

Tax CreditPurpose and Pertinent IRS Form
American Opportunity CreditThis education-related credit can save you up to $2,500 per eligible student for 2022. Pertinent students must be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential. Form 1098-T is required to claim the credit.
Lifetime Learning CreditThis education-related credit can save you up to $2,000 per tax return for 2022. Pertinent students do not need to be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential. Form 1098-T is required to claim the credit.
Child Tax CreditThis credit offers a standard child tax credit worth up to $2,000 per child for 2022. However, if you added to your family through adoption, you may be eligible for additional credits. Schedule 8812 is used to determine eligibility.
Child and Dependent Care CreditThis credit can be used to offset the cost of childcare up to a maximum of $2,100 for 2022. Form 2441 is required to claim it.
Energy Efficient Home Improvement CreditsThese credits exist to encourage homeowners to make home improvements that increase the energy efficiency of their homes. If you've done any energy-focused home improvements, be sure to explore this opportunity.
Retirement Savings Contributions CreditThis credit, which is also referred to as the saver's credit, is available to some low-income individuals that contribute to an IRS-qualified retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan or an IRA.

Estimated Tax Payments Documentation

Generally, estimated tax payments documentation only pertains to self-employed individuals and those that earn significant amounts of money from non-employment sources, such as investments in real estate and financial securities. If you made estimated payments during 2022, be sure to document the transactions and incorporate the payments into your annual tax filing.

Closing Thoughts

For additional guidance, check out the IRS’ comprehensive get a jump on next year’s taxes resource. It provides in-depth coverage on what’s new this tax filing season, helpful information on organizing your records and links to online tools and resources.


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Last Modified: March 20, 2023

6 Cited Research Articles writers adhere to strict sourcing guidelines and use only credible sources of information, including authoritative financial publications, academic organizations, peer-reviewed journals, highly regarded nonprofit organizations, government reports, court records and interviews with qualified experts. You can read more about our commitment to accuracy, fairness and transparency in our editorial guidelines.

  1. Internal Revenue Service. (2022, November). 2020 Individual Income Tax Returns Complete Report. Retrieved from
  2. Internal Revenue Service. (2022, October 4). About Schedule A (Form 1040), Itemized Deductions. Retrieved from
  3. Internal Revenue Service. (2022, November 23). Compare Education Credits. Retrieved from
  4. Internal Revenue Service. (2023, January 10). Get Ready for taxes: What's new and what to consider when filing in 2023. Retrieved from
  5. Internal Revenue Service. (2023, January 4). Steps to Take Now to Get a Jump on Your Taxes. Retrieved from
  6. Tax Foundation. (n.d.). Tax Deduction. Retrieved from