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With the exception of leap years, there are 105 days from New Years Day to April 15th – the deadline to pay federal income taxes. Most taxpayers file their returns during this periodi. But the vast majority wait until the last 30 days to get their taxes doneii. Whether you file promptly or procrastinate, here are some ideas on how to make things flow smoothly.

These Forms Help you Organize Income

Whether you prepare your own return or use the services of a professional, you can improve the efficiency of the process with a little organization.

Some of the forms to help you calculate your top-line income include:

  • 1099s and W2s from all sources
  • K-1s from any partnerships you own, either public or private
  • Bank and brokerage statements


If you have any questions about any of these items, the IRS is a good resource for answers. If your return is complicated, you should seek the advice of licensed tax preparer or CPA.

Forms you Receive to Report Deductions

  • If you pay interest on a home loan, you’ll receive a 1098 from the lender.
  • You’ll get a 1098E if you have a student loan.

Documents to Keep if you Itemize Deductions

If any of the following apply to you, ask your tax preparer or CPA which of these documents you’ll need to complete your return.

  • Loan documents if you borrowed money to buy a house
  • Receipts for unreimbursed business expenses
  • Receipts if you moved for a new job
  • Receipts for medical, dental, and prescriptions expenses not paid from your HSA account
  • Receipts for dental, health, or long-term care insurance not included in payroll deductions
  • Log books of miles driven for work or medical care
  • Property tax bills for real estate you own
  • State income tax bills
  • DMV fees
  • Police reports & insurance correspondence if you had a casualty loss
  • Receipts for charitable contributions you made (in cash or kind)
  • Receipts for investment fees
  • Receipts for tax preparation fees
  • Receipts for union dues
  • Receipts for professional dues and trade publications

If you work in a trade that requires tools, they may be deductible, so it is a good practice to hold onto receipts and cancelled checks for these types of items. The same applies for safety shoes you may have bought for work.

If you’re a teacher, certain items you bought for the classroom may be deductible. So, hold on to credit card receipts or cancelled checks for those. And check with your tax preparer or CPA to confirm exactly what you can claim.

Other Paperwork to Hold Onto

Keep your 1040-ES if you made quarterly tax payments. If you use online banking, consider downloading last year’s account activity. You can use this as a final review to search for other income you may have missed or expenses that may be deductible.

Your employer will likely send you a healthcare coverage statement (Form 1095) around the time you get your W2. Ask your CPA or tax preparer if it needs to accompany your return when you file it.

Take Note of Special Circumstance for 2020

If you were eligible to receive an Economic Impact Payment under the CARES Act but didn’t receive a check, you may be able to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit on your 2020 Federal income tax return. Check with your tax preparer or CPA to determine if you qualify.


i Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, Results of the 2019 Filing Season, January 22, 2020. 

ii Internal Revenue Service, Filing Season Statistics by Year, updated December 1, 2020.

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