I think this is the earliest I've gotten everything together. We have an accountant that does our stuff, so it's all packaged and ready to get dropped off.
This is the earliest I think I have it all ready. I know this because every year when I finish things off, I create a little Word document that has miscellaneous information that doesn't have documentation, and the ‘Save' date was five days earlier than I've had in years past!
It was pretty easy to get everything together. Here's the process we used:
- Get a file folder for tax stuff – As soon as the first piece of information came in the mail, I grabbed a file folder and started putting everything into that
- Create a checklist of old stuff – There are certain things that happen every year that I know we need before we have all the information. W-2's, interest statements, investment statements, student loan statements, etc. It's pretty easy to gather a list of everything you had in years past especially if you peruse last year's returns.
- Create a checklist of new stuff – If you opened any new accounts or had anything life-changing, make sure this is accounted for. We had to add Baby Beagle's information to our recordkeeping, as well as information about our 529 plan that we opened for him, since we'll get to write those contributions off against our state taxes. I also reviewed our car transactions (selling a car, purchasing a new one) to make sure that there wouldn't be any possible tax implications.
- Use online resources – More and more access is available online, including year-end tax statements. In year's past, some stuff would get sent out on January 31st, but I found that the statements were available online well in advance of that, so I was able to print out the couple of items that hadn't yet arrived.
- Estimate – I plugged in our numbers on a couple of the websites that let you estimate your return, so I have a general idea of what to expect for our refund this year. It's always helpful to know that. Although I could probably do it myself, I find that I'm just more comfortable having a professional do it, just to make sure that everything is squared away.