What Documents Do I Need to Bring to My Accountant?

Get Your Paperwork Together Before Tax Time

Couple getting financial consult
Jose Luis Pelaez/ Iconica/ Getty Images

If you're like many people, the thought of doing your taxes – or even just getting everything ready so someone else can do them for you –​ stresses you out at least a little. Hiring an accountant to prepare your tax return is always the easiest route, but you know that he's inevitably going to ask you for some document that you didn't think to include in that briefcase full of paperwork you arrived with.

​Take the stress out of this tax season by consulting our checklist before you leave home. Yes, it looks long and tedious, but take a deep breath – not all these documents will apply to you. As you go down the list, simply cross off those items that have no place in your personal financial picture. 

Take Your Social Security Card With You

This is unnecessary if you've used the same accountant in previous years, but if you're seeing someone new, he'll want to verify the spelling of your name. He can do this at a glance if you bring your Social Security card. Be sure to bring cards for your spouse and dependents as well.

​If you absolutely can't lay your hands on your Social Security card, it might be worth a visit to your local Social Security Administration office to get a replacement card because you'll inevitably need it for something else sooner or later. But if you just don't have the time, at least take a copy of a previous year's tax return with you, one that bears your current name and address if possible, as well as your Social Security number.

Income-Related Documents

​Now it's time to begin collecting all those income documents. Toss them in your briefcase as they begin landing in your mailbox in January and February.

  • Form W-2 (wage and salary income)
  • Form W-2G (gambling winnings)
  • Form 1099-A (foreclosure of a home)
  • Form 1099-B (sales of stock, bonds, or other investments)
  • Form 1099-C (canceled debts)
  • Form 1099-DIV (dividends)
  • Form 1099-G (state tax refunds and unemployment compensation)
  • Form 1099-INT (interest income)
  • Form 1099-K (business or rental income processed by third party networks)
  • Form 1099-LTC (benefits received from a long-term care policy)
  • Form 1099-MISC (self-employment and other various types of income)
  • Form 1099-OID (original issue discount on bonds)
  • Form 1099-PATR (patronage dividends)
  • Form 1099-Q (distributions from an education savings plan)
  • Form 1099-QA (distributions from an ABLE account)
  • Form 1099-R (distributions from individual retirement accounts, 401(k) plans, and other types of retirement savings plans)
  • Form 1099-S (proceeds from the sale of real estate)
  • Form 1099-SA (distributions from health savings accounts)
  • Form SSA-1099 (Social Security benefits)
  • Form RRB-1099 (Railroad retirement benefits)
  • Schedule K-1 (income from partnerships, S corporations, estates, or trusts)

It's possible that you might have received income during the course of the year that's not reported on any of these forms. ​For example, you might be a sole proprietor with your own business. Someone may have paid you $500 for work. This doesn't require that the company or individual submit a 1099-MISC form to you or on your behalf because the threshold is $600 as of 2017.

But you nonetheless have to report and pay taxes on that income.

Make note of all such payments or any others that didn't result in a specific income reporting document. Let your tax preparer know what the money was for and how much was received. Other examples of income that might not be reported on one of these tax documents include investment income from foreign financial accounts and rental income.

Expense-Related Documents

You may also receive some tax documents relating to money you spent that can affect your tax picture. You'll want to bring these with you as well or, if you didn't receive a document or form, make sure you have an accounting of the payments you made because they may well be tax deductible.

  • Form 1097-BTC (bond tax credit)
  • Form 1098 (mortgage interest)
  • Form 1098-C (charitable contribution of vehicles)
  • Form 1098-E (student loan interest)
  • Form 1098-MA (homeowner mortgage payments)
  • Form 1098-T (tuition for higher education)
  • Business expenses (summarized by type and amount)
  • Child care expenses (summarized by provider and amount)
  • Gambling losses
  • Medical expenses
  • Moving expenses
  • Personal property tax, such as car registration paid
  • Real estate tax bills
  • Realized gain/loss report for any stocks, bonds, mutual funds and other capital investments sold during the year
  • Receipts or acknowledgement letters for gifts to charity
  • Rental expenses (summarized by property, type, and amount)

Many tax professionals will provide you with a printed organizer to help you collect all this data so it will be at your fingertips when you're ready to file next year.

​If You're Missing Documents

You can get copies in several ways if you don’t have all your tax documents, so don't panic if you misplace something or a company fails to send you a required form.

  • If You're Missing a Form W-2: Ask your employer to give you a new copy. Employers are required by law to keep copies of your W-2 forms and all other payroll information for at least four years. Some employers charge a nominal fee for a second form.
  • If You're Missing a 1099 Form: ​These may come from several sources and replacing one depends on the type of income it should report. Banks may have tax documents available for download from their websites, or you can call their customer service number to get a new 1099-INT mailed to you. Investment brokers should be able to mail you additional copies of Form 1099-B and 1099-DIV to report stock trading and dividend activity, or you might be able to download copies from the brokerage's website. Be sure to download a copy of your year-end statement or a realized gain/loss report because information in those reports can supplement the information found on the Form 1099-B. Contact your clients for missing 1099-MISC forms.

​You Can Get Copies From the IRS

The IRS receives copies of all your tax documents, so either you or your accountant can request copies from this source as well. There are three ways to accomplish this.  

  1. Use the Get Transcript Online application on the IRS website. Ask for a copy of your "Wage and Income Transcript." Specify the year for which you're missing documents. You'll have to register with the website and take steps to confirm your identity. Keep in mind that IRS staff is as overworked as most other employees. The wage and income transcript for 2016 might not be complete and up to date until July 2017, so you or your accountant may have to file for an extension to pay your taxes after the April due date if you can't get what you need in time.
  2. Mail or fax Form 4506-T to the IRS. This form is used to request transcripts of various tax documents. Check the box for line 8, "Form W-2, Form 1099 series, Form 1098 series, or Form 5498 series transcript." The IRS will mail out the transcript, usually in about 10 business days.
  3. Visit a local IRS taxpayer assistance center. An IRS agent can print out the wage and income transcript for you.

If your accountant requests a copy of your Wage and Income Transcript, the IRS will fax it directly to his office, but you'll first have to authorize your accountant to talk to the IRS on your behalf. This is a simple matter of preparing and signing either Form 8821 or Form 2848. Your accountant can advise you which form you need and prepare it for you.

The wage and income transcript is a computer printout of the information contained in your various tax documents. It won't look like photocopies of your W-2 and 1099 forms. Instead, it will be a transcript of the data contained in those forms.

The IRS only retains the federal information on these forms. State and local tax withholdings won't show up, so you might want to contact the institutions that appear on the transcript to obtain a copy of those original documents.