Filing taxes for the first time? You'll need these documents

Filing taxes for the first time can be nerve-racking. But being organized can relieve some of your stress. Knowing what paperwork and materials you'll need is a good place to start, especially if you're concerned about leaving out a key piece of information. If you're preparing to fill out your tax return, here's a breakdown of the documents you'll need to gather.

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1. Income Forms

In order to complete your tax return, you'll need to pull out all of the tax forms that show how much money you made in the past year. You'll need to account for all of your taxable income, including self-employment income, unemployment benefits, and any interest you earned from an investment or a savings account.

If you were employed during the previous tax year, information about your wages and your salary will appear on a W-2 form. Interest, dividends or self-employment earnings are reported on Form 1099. Anyone issuing these forms has to mail them out by the end of January. So you'll need to keep an eye on your mailbox.

When you receive a W-2 or 1099 form, it's a good idea to look it over and make sure your personal information is correct. You may also want to match up the income reported on your tax forms with what appeared on your last pay stub for the year (or your personal records if you're self-employed).

Keep in mind that the IRS also receives a copy of any W-2s or 1099s you receive. So it's imperative that you ensure that everything listed on those forms is accurate.

2. IRA Contribution Statement

If you're socking away money in an individual retirement account (IRA), there are two good reasons to have documentation showing what you contributed at tax time. First, you may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions for the year. For tax year 2016, you could have saved up to $5,500 in a traditional IRA (or $6,500 if you're 50 or older). Any contributions you make through the April tax filing deadline may also be deductible for tax year 2016.

Savers who contribute to a Roth IRA may be able to cash in on the Saver's Credit. Credits reduce your tax liability for the year on a dollar-for-dollar basis. For tax year 2016, you may be able to claim a tax credit for saving up to $2,000 if you're single (or up to $4,000 if you're married and filing a joint tax return). Your ability to claim the credit depends on your adjusted gross income.

RELATED: 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.

Related Article: How to Handle Excess IRA Contributions

3. Receipts for Deductible Expenses

Deductions reduce your taxable income for the year. They can reduce the amount of taxes you owe or increase the size of your refund. For tax year 2016, you may be able to deduct one or more of the following items on your tax return:

  • Tuition and fees
  • Student loan interest
  • Mortgage interest
  • Moving expenses
  • Job hunting expenses
  • Unreimbursed business expenses
  • Business travel expenses
  • Charitable donations
  • Health insurance premiums if you're self-employed
  • Medical expenses
  • Real estate or personal property taxes

For some of these expenses – such as student loan or mortgage loan interest – you'll receive a tax form in the mail. In order to claim the other deductions, you'll need to keep track of receipts showing the date of the expense, the amount, who it was paid to and what it was for. Without the proper paper trail, you could land in hot water if the IRS decides to audit your return.

Related Article: What Can You Deduct at Tax Time?

Double-Check Your Tax Return

Once you've gathered all your documents together, you can start entering the numbers on your tax return. Whether you decide to file your taxes electronically or on paper, you'll need to double-check your tax form before submitting it. Miscalculating or putting a decimal point in the wrong spot could mess up your whole tax return.

The post Filing Taxes for the First Time? You'll Need These Documents appeared first on SmartAsset Blog.

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