No one’s income tax situation is identical. That’s why it’s hard to have an across-the-board checklist for 2011 tax documents you’ll need to prepare your taxes.
But there are some standard tax documents everyone should have (including single parents), and now is the time to start accumulating them. Filing your tax return is stressful enough. Don’t wait until hours before the April 15 filing deadline to get your documents in order.
“Tax time doesn’t have to be a painful process,” writes Carmen Wong Ulrich on Yahoo Finance. “As a matter of fact, it’s easier than ever, especially with so much available online. However, there is still one part of the process that’s paperbound – the beginning.”
Tax Documents Checklist
She recommends starting your tax preparation by finding these records:
- W-2 forms. These list your total earnings from each employer. They also give the amount deducted for taxes, health care premiums and other items.
- 1099 forms. These are for other sources of income, such as interest earnings and capital gains from the sale of stocks or other investments.
- Mortgage statement. This document shows you much in principal and interest you paid.
TaxBrain.com offers a more comprehensive list of tax information you may need. Some items specifically relate to single parents. The list includes:
- Amount of child support or alimony paid
- Name, address and tax ID number of child care provider
- Unemployment compensation
- Rent paid
- Moving expenses
- Student loan interest paid
- Medical expenses
- Gifts to charitable organizations
Tax breaks for single parents
Single parents may be able to save on their income tax bill by filing as “head of household.”
“To file as head of household, you must be supporting your child on your own, which means you are either unmarried or living apart from your spouse and filing separate tax returns,” write tax advisors Susan Reynolds and Robert Brexton.
They also say that to file as head of household, your children must:
- Live with you at least 50 percent of the year
- Be under the age of 19, with a few exceptions
- Not provide more than half the cost of their support from trust funds, inheritances or earned income
Consider tax preparation software
Many people use software to make filing easier. Which software should you choose?
This site compares the pros and cons of 10 popular software programs, including Turbo Tax, TaxSlayer and TaxACT.
The site ranks tax preparation software based on its accuracy, ease of use and available support.
“Using an online eFile tax service, most taxpayers can create accurate federal and state returns within minutes,” the site says. “If you have a complex tax situation, the top-rated online tax software can guide you through your earned credits and deductions and income declaration requirements to create the most beneficial return as possible.”
Tax preparation isn’t fun, but it doesn’t have to be grueling either. The keys for single parents: start early and be organized.
You may want to hire a tax professional or buy software to make filing easier. However you choose to prepare your taxes, be thorough and accurate. As single parents, you have enough concerns without the IRS threatening you with an audit.
Make your income tax preparation a priority. Thankfully, April 15 only rolls around once a year. Do some advance planning, and filing becomes easier.