What Forms Do I Need to File My Taxes?

Be certain your tax return is complete to avoid delays


Before you sit down at your computer with the newest tax software or with your accountant to file your taxes, you will need to have all the necessary forms organized and ready to go. 

If you have an accountant, they should know what forms you need to file to do your taxes; however, it's your responsibility to look for the forms in the mail and bring them when you meet with your accountant. If you use tax software, the interface will guide you in filling out the specific forms. But if you receive an unexpected form after you've filed, you may need to file an amended return, which could cost you.

That's why it's best to get a rundown of what documents you'll need to file your taxes and to ensure that all information in the tax forms is accurate and complete before you file.  

W-2 for Each Job

The first form that you'll need to do your taxes is Form W-2, the "Wage and Tax Statement." This form, which shows the wages you've earned and the taxes you've paid over the last year, will be sent to you by your employer. Employers who compensated one or more employees are required to send it for each employee for which:

  • It withheld income, Social Security, or Medicare tax (including Additional Medicare tax).
  • It would have withheld income tax if the employee had claimed one or fewer withholding allowances or had not claimed a withholding exemption on their W-4.
  • It paid $600 or more in wages even if no income, Social Security, or Medicare taxes were withheld.

If you worked more than one job, you will need a W-2 form from each employer to do your taxes. If you have worked as an independent contractor, you will not receive a W-2 for the firm with which you contracted since you are generally responsible for paying your own taxes on the income you earn; employers are not required to withhold them from your paycheck.

W-4 for New Jobs

To ensure that the federal income taxes withheld from each paycheck and that appear on your W-2 are correct, you will also need to fill out a Form W-4 every time you start a new job or your personal or financial circumstances change.

Form W-4, "Employee's Withholding Certificate," tells your employer about your tax filing status and whether you have multiple jobs, dependents, non-job income (such as interest, dividends, retirement income), deductions, or extra amounts that you want to have withheld with each pay period.

Form W-4 was redesigned for 2020 to eliminate allowances; however, if you filed Form W-4 prior to 2020, you do not need to provide your employer with a new form; they can continue to use the information in the old form to calculate your withholding.

1099 Tax Forms

If you received income other than that from your employer over the last taxable year, you will need to file a 1099 form. What specific 1099 form you'll need to do your taxes depends on the type of income you receive. There are several common types of 1099 tax forms, and they're labeled differently:

  • 1099-MISC: If you earned $600 or more as an independent contractor last year, earned at least $10 in royalties or broker payments instead of tax-exempt interest or dividends, or made at least $5,000 in direct sales of consumer products outside of a retail establishment, file Form 1099-MISC, "Miscellaneous Income." Other types of income that require you to file the form include rent, prizes and awards (such as merchandise you won on a game show), and medical or health care payments that you made in the course of business.
  • 1099-DIV: File Form 1099-DIV, "Dividends and Distributions," if you earned dividends and/or distributions amounting to $10 or more from your stock portfolio last year. You would also be required to file the form if you paid or had withheld foreign tax or income tax on dividends under backup withholding rules or if you paid $600 or more for a liquidation.
  • 1099-INT: File Form 1099-INT, "Interest Income" if you received interest payments of $10 or more, had foreign tax withheld on interest, or had income tax withheld under backup withholding rules.
  • 1099-G: You will need to file this 1099 if you received unemployment compensation.
  • 1099-R: File this tax form if you made a withdrawal of $10 or more from an employer-sponsored retirement plan, Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA), pension, life insurance policy, or charitable gift annuity.

W-9 Tax Form

You may also need to complete Form W-9, "Request for Taxpayer Identification Number and Certification," to supply your taxpayer identification number to employers, defined as:

  • A U.S. citizen or resident alien
  • A business created in the U.S. or under U.S. laws
  • A domestic estate
  • A domestic trust

This is an important tax form for the self-employed since you'll need to have a W-9 on file with each of your employers before they can legally pay you and fill out your 1099-MISC. Other entities may require a W-9 to accurately report information on other 1099 forms, including 1099-INT and 1099-DIV.

1098 Tax Forms for Deductions or Credits

If you plan on claiming a deduction because of the interest you paid on a loan, you will need to file one or more common types of 1098 forms:

  • 1098: If you paid mortgage interest on a home loan, you will need a Form 1098 from the mortgage holder. This form allows you to deduct any mortgage interest you paid in the last year, which then reduces your taxable income. Keep in mind: You only need this form if you paid at least $600 in mortgage interest last year.
  • 1098-E: You may need this form if you have student loans or paid college tuition and want to deduct any student loan interest you've paid.
  • 1098-T: This form allows you to report any tuition payments you made so that you can get an educational tax credit such as the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC) or the Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC).

Make a list of firms from which you expect to receive tax forms so that you can cross the forms off as you receive them. If you work for multiple firms and can't easily keep track of where you earned income, make a master list of the organizations as you receive them this year; the list will likely be similar next year.

What Timeline to Expect for Forms

Your employer or loan servicer is required to send you the W-2, 1099-MISC, or 1098 forms by January 31, so be sure to keep an eye on your mail and cross them off as you receive them.

Remember: In order to correctly and accurately file your taxes, it's important to ensure that you receive all the necessary forms. Once you receive what you need to do your taxes, double-check the documents to make sure that the amounts and other details are correct.

Compare the amounts in the forms to your own records or pay stubs. If there is an error, promptly contact the company and request a new form, which should say "corrected" somewhere on the document. Keep in mind: It can take several days at a minimum to receive a corrected form, so check each one as soon as it arrives to ensure that you are ready for tax season.

Additional Tax Forms

Depending on your circumstances, you may need to file other schedules and forms along with the documents above, including Schedule C of 1040 to report business profits or losses or special forms for tax deductions or credits for which you qualify.

For example, in order to claim the child care tax credit, you need to file Form 2441. Get acquainted with the common tax deductions and credits so that you know what forms you need to fill out to do your taxes and maximize your refund.

Updated by​ Rachel Morgan Cautero

Article Sources

  1. Internal Revenue Service. "About the Free File Program." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  2. Internal Revenue Service. "Independent Contractor (Self-Employed) or Employee?" Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  3. Internal Revenue Service. "About Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Certificate." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  4. Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for Forms 1099-MISC and 1099-NEC (2020)." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  5. Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for Form 1099-DIV (2020)." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "About Form 1099-INT, Interest Income." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "About Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  8. Internal Revenue Service. "Instructions for the Requester of Form W-9 (10/2018)." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  9. Internal Revenue Service. "Publication 936 (2019), Home Mortgage Interest Deduction." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  10. Internal Revenue Service. "About Form 1098-E, Student Loan Interest Statement." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  11. Internal Revenue Service. "Education Credits: Questions and Answers." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  12. Internal Revenue Service. "About Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship)." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.

  13. Internal Revenue Service. "About Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses." Accessed Feb. 17, 2020.