When will my 2017 tax forms come?

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:

Guide to commonly-used US tax forms
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Guide to commonly-used US tax forms

The 1040 family of tax forms is for federal income tax and is absolutely essential for all.

The 1040EZ form is the simplest version and is typically filed by those who:

  • Have no dependents
  • Are younger than 65
  • Earned less than $100,000
  • Don’t plan to itemize deductions

Form 1040A is more comprehensive than 1040EZ, but simpler than the regular 1040. It's beneficial for those who earn less than $100,000 and don’t have self-employment income -- but who want to make adjustments to their taxable income, such as child tax credits or deductions for student-loan interest. Note that it doesn't allow for itemized deductions.

Form 1040 is filled out by those who make $100,000 or more, have self-employment income or plan to itemize deductions.

The W-2 is completed by employers document each employee's earnings for the calendar year. You will want to take a look at this tax form for important information you'll need to fill out your 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. 
The 1098 form is filled out by those who:
  • paid interest on a mortgage
  • paid interest on a student loan 
  • paid college tuition
  • donated a motor vehicle to charity

The 1099 series is reports all income that isn’t salary, wages or tips, and must be reported on both the state and federal level.

1099-DIV reports dividends, distributions, capital gains and federal income tax withheld from investment accounts, including mutual fund accounts.

1099-INT trakcs interest income earned on investments.

1099-OID (Original Issue Discount) is provided if you received more than the stated redemption price on maturing bonds.

1099-MISC documents self-employment earnings, as well as miscellaneous income such as royalties, commissions or rents. It covers all non-employee income that is not derived from investments.

If you receive a refund that you're unable to pay in full, you can request a monthly installment plan using Form 9465.
Don't forget to notify the IRS if you move! Use Form 8822 to change your address with the Internal Revenue Service. Otherwise, notices, refunds paid with a paper check and other correspondence relating to your personal, gift and estate taxes will be sent to your former address.
Anyone who has been employed by a company has completed a Form W-9. The W-9 is used by employers for payroll purposes -- and the information on the W-9 is used to prepare employee paychecks during the year and W-2 forms at the end of the year. 
The W-4 is an IRS form completed for employers know how much money to withhold from your paycheck for federal taxes. Accurately completing your W-4 can both ensure you don't have a big balance due at tax time and also prevent you from overpaying your taxes.

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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