Many people are in a hurry to get their taxes done as soon as possible. But until you get all the tax forms you'll receive from various sources -- including your employer, your bank, and the brokers or financial institutions you use to hold your investments -- you won't be able to prepare your return properly. Below, we'll look at when key tax forms come out, and when you can expect to get them.
W-2s: Jan. 31
For most taxpayers, wages and salary income are the biggest sources of income, and those are reported on Form W-2. Employers must submit W-2 forms by Jan. 31, and employees must get their copies by that date as well.
The W-2 is especially important because it has records of your withholding for federal and state income taxes. In addition, you can find withholding for most other purposes, including employer retirement-plan contributions, health-insurance costs, and optional items like flexible spending arrangements. If February comes without your having gotten a W-2, it's smart to go to your employer as soon as possible to make sure that you get the information you need.
Most 1098 and 1099 forms: Jan. 31
Most of the information that you'll get from banks and other financial institutions should come to you by the same date as your W-2. The IRS requires that those institutions filing Forms 1098 and 1099, along with some other less common forms, provide information to recipients by Jan. 31. That's true even though the dates by which those institutions must have filed those forms with the IRS are typically later, with Feb. 28 being the due date for paper versions and March 31 being the electronic filing deadline.
Common forms include 1099-INT to report interest income, 1099-DIV for dividend income, 1099-R for retirement-plan distributions, and 1098 for mortgage interest and related costs from mortgage lenders. In addition, 1099-MISC forms must be in taxpayers' hands by Jan. 31 if they include nonemployee compensation.
Some 1099s: Feb. 15
Providers have a little extra time to provide certain types of 1099 forms. If you've sold securities during the year, then you'll get a 1099-B form from your broker or fund company, and it must be provided by Feb. 15. Form 1099-S for real-estate sales has the same requirement, and 1099-MISC forms are due Feb. 15 for some situations as well, including reports of payments in lieu of dividends, or interest or proceeds paid to an attorney.
Most Schedule K-1s: March 15
If you own shares of a business entity that is organized as a partnership, such as a master limited partnership (MLP), then you'll receive a Schedule K-1 that has the information necessary for you to do your tax return. Electing large partnerships must provide their partners with a copy of Schedule K-1 by March 15.
Technically, the date by which K-1s are due to investors is typically the fourth month after the end of the tax year, which is usually April 15 for calendar-year partnerships. Yet with many MLPs and other common partnership investments using the large partnership election, most investors should expect to get their documents in March.
That said, providers are notorious for sending K-1s late. If you know you'll have investments reporting K-1s, be sure to wait to get the information before you file your tax return. If you file early, then you'll have to do an amended return, which is a substantial additional pain.
See a guide to the most commonly used tax forms:
What if I'm missing a tax form?
The key thing to do if you don't get a form is to follow up with whoever should have provided it to you. Don't just ignore it or think that you don't have to report it, because the IRS will eventually get confirmation from the entity that should have provided the tax form to you. Not reporting income -- or doing it incorrectly -- can set you up for an unwanted audit when you're least prepared for it.
Not getting tax forms on time can be a problem. By knowing when to expect your forms, you can act quickly if someone's late in getting them to you.
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