Filing Taxes Yourself? Keep This Quick Checklist Handy

Filing Taxes Yourself? Keep This Quick Checklist Handy

Whether you file your tax return using tax software or work with a professional, a tax prep checklist will help you organize and retrieve the documents and information you’ll need to complete your tax return. Therefore, this article helps you understand the necessary documents and papers you need to file your tax to avoid typical mistakes and errors, allowing you to keep as much of your own money as possible. 

Checklist You Need to Follow If You Are Filing Your Taxes Yourself

Not every category of this checklist will apply to you. However, when you are ready to file your tax return, you’ll be surprised how much time you will save by organizing your information in advance.

Remember that if you are married and filing a joint return, you will need to include the following information for your spouse as well.

The following is a list of the tax documents and information you’ll require:

Personal information


The IRS and state taxation authorities use your personal information to determine who is filing a return, how to contact you, and where to deposit your tax refund. Your personal information will include: 

  • Your full legal name, as it displays on your Social Security card
  • Year of birth
  • Social Security number
  • Residential address
  • A copy of state and federal tax returns from the previous year
  • To receive your refund by direct deposit, you’ll need your bank account number and routing number.

Dependent information

You’ll need the following information to claim someone else as a dependent:

  • Names, dates of birth, and Social Security numbers of dependents (as they appear on their Social Security cards) (or tax ID numbers)
  • If the custodial parent of your dependent child is relinquishing their right to claim the child as a dependent, fill out Form 8332.

Sources of income

You may receive many different forms documenting your income. Among the most common are:

  • W-2s (Wage and Tax Statements) from your company (s)
  • Form 1099-G to report unemployment benefits and state or local tax refunds.
  • Forms 1099-INT and 1099-DIV, to report interest, stock sales, and dividends 
  • Form 1099-B to report broker-handled transactions.
  • Forms  1099-R and SSA-1099 to report retirement plan distributions and Social Security benefits.
  • Form 1099-S to report income from your home or other property sales. 
  • Form 1099-MISC to report rental property income.
  • Form 1099-Q to report 529 plan or Coverdell ESA distributions
  • Form 1099-SA (HSA) to report  distributions from a health savings account
  • Schedule K-1 for a pass-through corporation, trust, or estate income.
  • Alimony received (in the case you are separated or divorced, and the agreement is dated on/before December 31, 2018)
  • Record of any cryptocurrency transactions.
  • Other sources of income, such as gaming winnings,  debt cancelation, jury duty pay, etc.

Self-employment and business records

If you are self-employed, you must disclose your income. However, you can also deduct business expenses from your gross income to reduce your taxable income. 

The following are  the documents and business records a self-employed person must maintain and need at the time of filing returns:

  • Forms 1099-NEC or 1099-K.  To report income earned as an independent contractor 
  • Records of business income and expenses.
  • Documentation for home office expenses, including the square footage of the home and the area used only for business.
  • Records for depreciating business equipment, including cost and date of installation.
  • Record of business-related miles traveled



Deductions can help you reduce your taxable income and maximize your refund by lowering your tax liability. In general, you can either take the standard deduction (a fixed amount based on your filing status) or itemize your deductions. 

If you itemize your deductions, you’ll need information on the following:

  • Expenses for medical care paid from pocket
  • Long-term care insurance premiums that have been paid
  • Any mortgage insurance premiums, mortgage interest, and charges you paid during the tax year are listed on Form 1098.
  • Taxes on property
  • State, local taxes, including sales tax.
  • Taxes paid with the registration of your vehicle
  • Charitable donations
  • Documentation of casualty losses (if you owned/lived in a property situated in a federally declared disaster area)

Even if you do not itemize, if you have the following deductions, referred to as adjustments to income, you can claim them. 

Below are such adjustments to income:

  • Interest on student loans is reported on Form 1098-E.
  • Contributions to an HSA, IRA, SEP, or self-employed retirement plan should be recorded.
  • Alimony paid (for separation/divorce agreements dated on/before December 31, 2018)
  • Expenses for classroom supplies that teachers paid.
  • Premiums paid for self-employed health insurance

Tax credits

Tax credits reduce the amount of tax you owe on a dollar-for-dollar basis. To claim potentially essential tax credits, you’ll require the following documents:

  • Child care fees and the name, address, and tax identification number of the care provider are listed on Form 1098-T.
  • Costs of adoption and the Social Security number of the child you officially adopted in 2021
  • If you bought health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you’d need to fill out Form 1095-A.

Estimated tax payments

You may have to make estimated tax payments if you are self-employed or earn a lot of money and don’t have federal and state income tax withheld. 

To avoid paying twice, ensure you include those estimations on your tax return:

  • Estimated tax payments to the IRS and state and local tax authorities made.
  • Refunds from previous years are applied to the current year.
  • Any amounts paid as a result of the extension

Proof of losses

Deductions are available for different types of financial losses. If any of the following losses apply to you, provide evidence of the following:

  • Keep track of any stocks or other investments that have lost all value or for which you expect to file a loss claim, including the date and original purchase price.
  • Non-business bad debts that are not collected (an instance of a non-business bad debt is lending money to relatives from your bank account and having them not reimburse it.)

Letters from the IRS

You may receive different notices or letters from the IRS and state tax authorities that influence this year’s return. 

So when preparing your 2021 return, make sure you have these on hand:

Key Takeaway

It may take some time to gather all of this information before filing your return, but it will ensure you have everything you need to claim every tax deduction and credit.

After you submit your taxes, it’s a good idea to keep them in a safe place in case you’re audited. If the IRS or your state tax authority audits your return, they may request records to back up your income and tax benefits. In addition, having all of this information in one location can help you save time and avoid losing any deductions or credits.

With over 15 years of experience, AOTAX is the experienced team you need. We at AOTAX have taken care of the finances of numerous Indian IT professionals. We have assisted in reducing tax burdens and simplifying year-round tax preparation. So, if you’re going to trust a pro, go with AOTAX and sign up for free today!

Did You Know eFiling Protects Your Tax Returns?! Here’s How

Did You Know eFiling Protects Your Tax Returns?! Here’s How

The IRS began to accept tax returns on January 24 and has already sanctioned nearly 38 million refunds as of March. An average of almost $3401 has been refunded through March 4. 

If you are a resident of the US and are hustling with your tax returns, you have come to the right place. Although the process is challenging and some may find it complicated, eFiling for individuals is a more straightforward, faster, and safer means to file tax returns. 

Individuals can use eFiling for both federal and state taxes. The federal and state government has separate software that allows individuals to file their taxes electronically and send them to the government. 

Continue reading to learn more about eFiling, why should you consider it over in-person filing, its benefits and how we, at AOTAX can help you. 

Reasons to Use eFiling for Tax Returns this Season

Taxes can be filed in many ways: some fill out Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR by hand and mail it. However, many find it convenient to hire a tax preparer to file the returns, which may be expensive. 

The most straightforward way to file taxes is through eFiling using filing software. Here are some perks of eFiling for individuals:

Ease of use and flexibility

When filing taxes manually, one has to fill them out in person and mail it to the government or walk into the tax return office during 9-5 working hours to get it done. 

With eFiling, individuals can file tax returns at home at any time. This is more convenient and flexible for many who do not have the liberty to take time off to go to the office or send the forms over mail. 

Saving time and money

Efiling tax returns directly send your data to the server systems of the IRS immediately. This eliminates the need for sending mail to the IRS, which can take days. 

This also eliminates any transmission errors or unprecedented delays, or lags. As a result, eFiling is easier for both taxpayers and tax agencies as it is easier and faster.

Accurate filling

Efiling eliminates errors with record matching, transmission errors, or other manual errors from mailing tax return forms or filing them in person. 

This is essential to get maximum returns of taxes. 

With eFiling, individuals can upload all the necessary documents and the data and run mathematical accuracy tests to assess if figures are aligned. 

Using eFiling software can especially come in handy. The software can help assess typos, check mix-ups, and ensure that the IRS accepts the predicted refund amount and is processed on time. 

Reduced data manipulation

Many risks of filing tax returns manually come with data manipulation and window dressing. With eFiling, it becomes impossible to manipulate data. In addition, linking or tracing back the taxpayer also becomes more accessible with eFiling. 

One of the reasons e-filing is more safe, according to the IRS, is that your information is never in a hard copy version unless you print it off. Because there is no physical copy, there is less possibility that someone will look at your information when you are not present.

According to Mark Steber, the chief tax information officer at Jackson Hewitt, this also eliminates the risks of tax refund theft and identity theft caused by manual filing.

Authentic and accountable

Efiling has made taxpayers and tax agencies more accountable and authentic. However, the paper filing comes with high ambiguity, leaving taxpayers and tax agencies to treat tax returns with lethargy and negligence.

Efiling comes with frequent and periodic notifications that allow people to know if their tax returns are approved or denied, giving more certainty to the process. 

This helps individuals do what is necessary in case of a denied request.  

Quicker refunds


A tax expert and certified public accountant said that 9 out 0f 10 tax returns were issued by the IRS within 21 days when filed electronically. In addition, Mark Steber said that eFiling is the fastest and safest way for taxpayers to have their refund directly deposited into their bank account.  

With eFiling, most refunds are issued within 21 days either directly to the bank account mentioned in the forms or as a paper check which can take longer. 

However, filing tax returns in person can take weeks or even months to reflect in your bank account and can take up to two months to receive a paper check.

Tax experts recommend using eFiling for individuals to file taxes and consider filing them earlier to get faster returns. 

Efiling for Individuals with AOTAX 

AOTAX has helped many Indians in the USA file their tax returns using eFiling. AOTAX helps its users by filing individual taxes and getting tax drafts within 24 hours of filing. We also help Indian professionals working in the US with eFiling services with high accuracy and success rate. 

If this is the first time you’re filing tax returns or if you find it complicated to file them, we can help you create a tax draft, making it more straightforward, fast, and cost-effective to file your taxes. Reach out to us to easily file your taxes electronically with AOTAX.

Which of THESE Tax Filing Methods Is the Most Convenient for You?

Which of THESE Tax Filing Methods Is the Most Convenient for You?

As tax season nears, you may ask what the alternatives available for filing a tax return are. You have three options to file your tax: filing your taxes, filing using online tax software, or filing by hiring a professional. You must have certain information readily available when filing taxes, no matter which method you select. This article will see how to file your taxes, which options are available, and which tax filing methods are best. But before you start to look for ways to file your taxes, you must know:

Do you even have to file taxes this year?


Your income, tax filing status, age, and other criteria will determine whether you must submit a tax return this year. It also depends on whether or not you can be claimed as a tax dependent by someone else.

Even if you aren’t required to file taxes, you should consider doing so anyway: If you qualify for certain tax credits or have already paid some federal income tax, the IRS might owe you a refund that you can only get by filing a return. 

Therefore, give filing tax a serious thought if:

When is the 2022 tax season?

In the early months of the following year, “tax season” for the previous tax year begins. For example, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will begin receiving and processing returns for the 2021 tax year on January 24, 2022. Also, due to some public holidays in certain states/districts, the deadline for filing taxes is April 19, 2022.

Choose How to File Your Taxes


You can file your taxes in several ways. Hiring the service of a tax professional, using online tax software, or filling out the forms yourself are the three primary options for tax preparation. Take a closer look at these methods below: 

1. Filing taxes online with tax software

You already know how to prepare and file taxes online if you’ve used tax software in the past. Many big tax software companies also provide access to human tax preparers.

For example, some companies provide software or support packages that include on-demand, on-screen, or online access to human tax specialists who can answer questions, evaluate your return, and even file your taxes.

Several tax-preparation companies, including big brands, offer free online tax preparation software under the IRS Free File program. You must have an adjusted gross income of $73,000 or less to be eligible.

2. Hire and work with a tax preparer

With a complicated federal tax code that is more than 74,000 pages long, it’s no surprise that more than half of all taxpayers in the United States need a professional to assist them.

If you choose this method, make sure the tax preparer has a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) from the IRS, and also ensure you ask about the fees upfront. Please note that the IRS requires your tax return to be filed electronically if your tax preparer submits 10 or more returns in a year.

If you do not wish to meet in person with the tax preparer, in that case, there is another way of filing taxes. You can share documents electronically with a tax preparer via a secure channel. Typically, the preparer will send you a link to the portal, where you will create a password and then submit photos or PDFs of your tax documents.

3. Filing taxes on your own

You can file taxes on your own by downloading and printing the forms from the IRS website, then mailing them with a check if you owe taxes.

Another option is filling out the forms online and submitting the return with a credit card payment. Using the Forms, Instructions, and Publications Search engine, you can find all the federal tax forms. In addition, state income tax forms are usually available on your state’s official website.

There is no cost or fee associated with submitting your taxes. Filing taxes on your own helps you understand and know your financial situation since it compels you to monitor and keep track of your transactions, earnings, and spending.

The majority of people who file taxes on their own have a simple tax status, an unaltered tax situation, or a genuine interest in the topic. If you have the necessary forms on hand, it can take only a few minutes.

If you file a paper return, it can take six to eight weeks to obtain your refund, however, you must submit it by mail in the below cases:

Gather Tax Filing Information

Whether you hire a tax preparer or prefer filing taxes on your own, you’ll need to gather tax filing information. 

The purpose is to collect proof of income, expenses that may be tax-deductible or qualify you for a tax credit, and documentation of taxes paid during the year. 

A tax preparation checklist offers more details, but here’s a quick rundown of what you’ll need:

  • Social Security numbers for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents, if applicable.
  • W-2 form, showing how much you earned in the past year and how much taxes you have already paid. (If you worked multiple jobs, you may have received multiple W-2 forms).
  • 1099 forms, record money given or paid by someone other than your employer. That is non-employment income such as dividend income, interest income, etc.
  • Contributions to a retirement account
  • Mortgage interest and property taxes
  • Donations to charity
  • Local and state taxes you paid
  • Expenses related to education
  • Medical bills that have not been reimbursed
  • Federal and state tax returns from the previous year

Collect Income Data

Getting your tax forms together for you and your spouse is a great start, however, keep in mind that you may have income that isn’t listed on your W-2. Remember to include any income you received over the year, such as:

  • Money earned through investments
  • Rental properties
  • Home businesses
  • Winnings from the lottery or a casino

Itemized Deductions and Credits

The total amount of taxable income is reduced due to tax deductions. Hence, keeping track of everything you can deduct is necessary. The following are some common deductions:

  • Child care costs
  • Education costs
  • Interest payments on a mortgage
  • Donations to charity

Most deductions necessitate receipts and other documents, so double-check with your tax expert to ensure you have all you need.

Track of Taxes Paid

Most businesses deduct federal, state, and additional taxes from each employee’s pay. On your W-2 form, these deductions will be detailed. You’ll have to keep your tax records if you’re a contract employee or operate a business.

Significant Life Changes

Important life events might have an impact on your tax return. If you had a life event that the IRS recognized, you may be able to claim additional deductions, such as:

  • Divorced
  • Got married
  • Had a baby
  • Moved to a new state

Closing Thoughts

The federal tax code is constantly changing. Make sure you discuss how these changes may affect you each year with your tax expert. Proposed tax legislation may have an impact on those in higher tax bands. Make sure you understand these bills significantly if your family’s annual income surpasses $250,000.

With over 15 years of experience, AOTAX is the experienced team you need. AOTAX has managed the finances of a number of Indian IT professionals. We have aided in reducing tax burdens and simplifying tax preparation year-round. So, if you’re going to trust a pro, sign up for free with AOTAX today!

9 Mistakes to Avoid While Income Tax Filing

9 Mistakes to Avoid While Income Tax Filing

As a relatively new resident in the US, there are many things to adjust to – a different culture, new sights, distinct workplace norms, and unfamiliar financial regulations. With so many things to get used to as an Indian professional in the States, taxes definitely sit high on the priority list. 

IRS guidelines and the tax return system can be confusing, especially to newcomers who are unaware of the finer details that need to be considered when filing their income tax returns. The implications can include large and unnecessary financial losses. The best way to avoid receiving lower refunds and incurring penalties is to file your tax returns correctly. 

What Are Some Common Mistakes That Individuals Make?

Mistakes are meant for learning, not repeating. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the most common errors individuals make in their tax filings. Read on to know more about what they are, and how you can avoid them, while simultaneously maximizing returns.


1. Not Being Aware of Important Deadlines

Having a clear idea of important dates on the tax calendar can help you plan financially according to payment deadlines and refund dates, which is something many people neglect to consider. Paying your taxes on time and budgeting expenses according to when you’re likely to receive your refund can greatly ease financial burdens. Additionally, respecting IRS deadlines means you can avoid any nasty penalty fees, and also make the most of deductible contributions within the requisite timeframes. Being a fiscally responsible resident can help you avoid unnecessary legal obstacles, and does wonders for your personal finances.


2. Not Proofreading Your Forms

As is rightly said, the devil is in the detail. A shockingly large number of US residents receive delayed refunds because of their own doing. Silly spelling mistakes and small discrepancies in values declared on tax return forms can cause delays that can last weeks or even months.

Even the smallest of errors could result in you having to redo your taxes altogether, so make sure the information matches what is given on forms such as the W-2, or 1099, etc. Always remember to dot your I’s and cross your T’s!

3. Not Checking Your Eligibility and Residential Status

As an Indian professional and H1B visa holder, the Substantial Presence Test is an important component of being able to reside in the country legally and to receive the requisite benefits from paying taxes. The SPT is used to determine how long you have been in the country, and whether you are considered a resident for tax purposes. For more information, visit the IRS webpage. 

4. Not Safeguarding Important Documents

Documentation is undoubtedly the most significant facet of filing your tax returns. The taxes you are liable to pay, and the refund you are eligible to receive, both hinge on the supporting documents you provide. This includes financial statements, mortgage statements, letters from the IRS substantiating credits you have claimed, etc. Additionally, keeping past tax returns is equally critical in protecting against potential audits. The IRS has up to three years to decide whether to audit an individual and in the event you are audited, the records can make the process easier.

Also read: The Ultimate Documents Checklist to File US Income Tax Returns

5. Not Checking Tax Brackets or Adjusting Tax Withholdings

Life is full of big changes: marriage, children, job changes, and relocations. What professionals often underestimate is the influence that these life changes can have on your taxable income. For instance, your marital status can impact the value of the deductions you can claim, and your employment status can influence the tax bracket you fall into. The IRS recommends revisiting your W-4 form on a yearly basis to retain control over your finances and potential tax liability. 

6. Not Maxing Out Deductible Contributions

What seems to have become a buzzword, and rightly so, are deductions. We are revisiting this due to their sheer utility, although taxpayers seem to have forgotten them. When used correctly, tax deductions can considerably lower your taxable income, and therefore your tax bill. This is particularly useful while planning for your retirement, since contributions to 401k and IRA accounts are tax-deductible, hence affording taxpayers the twin benefit of smaller tax bills and growing nest egg. 

7. Not Claiming Applicable Credits and Deductions

While deductions lower taxable income, credits lower tax bills. Both are incredibly useful in maximizing returns when harnessed strategically. Tax credits such as the Child Tax Credit, Kiddie Tax Credits, and Other Dependent Credits lower tax burdens. Additionally, proofs of payments towards loans, fees, charitable donations, and state taxes among others do the same. Most taxpayers fail to take note of where their money is going throughout the year, and then miss out on the opportunities to reap the benefits owed to them. It’s important to remember that the IRS cannot assume anything about your expenses and lower your tax bill in good faith. Getting sizable returns depends on what you declare and claim. 

8. Not Filing Online or Asking for a Direct Deposit

The IRS is still battling large backlogs with skeleton staff amidst ongoing legislative changes, and hence urges taxpayers to file their returns online and opt for a direct deposit. Doing so will quell mounting frustration from both ends, and will quicken the refund process. Those who file electronically and provide their bank details can expect their accounts to be credited within 21 days of submission. Of course, it could take a little longer for those who have claimed credits that are prone to be misused (such as the Child Tax Credits), simply due to more stringent verification procedures. 

9. Not Consulting a Professional

There is a reason we don’t self-medicate when we’re sick, a reason we don’t fiddle with our cars when it has broken down, and opt instead to visit a doctor or a mechanic. There is an implicit understanding and trust in the professional we choose to consult. We believe in their expertise and heed their advice.

There is no reason the same logic should not be followed when it comes to something as important as filing your taxes, especially when you’re dealing with tax returns in the US as a foreigner. 

AOTAX is just the professional team you need: with over 15 years of experience, we’ve taken care of the finances of countless Indian IT professionals. We’ve helped ease tax burdens and made year-round tax preparations much easier. If you’re going to trust a professional, trust AOTAX and sign up for free today!