Here's a Ridiculously Easy Way to Get Ready to File Taxes

Whether you’re anxious to get your 2023 tax returns filed or have an annual tradition of dragging your feet, you can make the entire process easier. By breaking up the labor-intensive part of gathering documents, you’ll be set and ready to go when tax time rolls around. Here’s an easy way to approach it step by step and make it all work.

RELATED: Best Tax Software

To start, you’ll need to decide when you want to begin. That’s “Week 1.” To help you determine the best time to get started, keep in mind that tax season officially begins on Jan. 23, 2024. That’s approximately 10 weeks from now.

Read more: we researched free tax software and put together a list of the best options here

Week 1: Personal information

While you probably remember most of this information off the top of your head, quickly run through the list and gather any information that’s not fresh in your mind.

  • You’ll need your Social Security number or tax ID number.
  • Make sure you know your spouse’s full name, Social Security number or tax ID number, and their date of birth.
  • If an Identity Protection PIN has been issued to you, your spouse, or a dependent by the IRS, have that number ready.
  • Gather your bank account routing and account numbers if you want to receive your refund via direct deposit or pay a balance due.
  • If you have foreign reporting and residency information, make sure you have it available.

Week 2: Dependent information

If you have dependents, this is the information you’ll be asked to provide:

  • Birth dates and Social Security numbers or tax ID numbers for each dependent.
  • Income of dependents.
  • Income of other adults in your home.
  • Child care records, if applicable, including the provider’s tax ID number.
  • If you’re a noncustodial parent who plans to claim a child as a dependent, you’ll need a Form 8332 indicating that the child’s custodial parent has released their right to claim the child.

Week 3: Income, part 1

We’re breaking up sources of income into two sessions due to the quantity of information needed. However, as you run through the list, you’ll find that some of it does not apply to your situation.

Employed by someone else

Unemployed for any part of 2023

  • Your 1099-G (unemployment income)


  • Forms 1099, Schedule K-1, 1099-MISC, or 1099-NEC
  • Records of expenses, including credit card statements, check registers, and receipts
  • In-home office expenses, if applicable
  • Business-use asset depreciation information, including cost and date asset was placed in service
  • Form 1040-ES, record of estimated tax payments made

Rental income

  • Record of income
  • Record of expenses
  • Rental asset information for depreciation, including cost and date placed in service
  • Form 1040-ES, record of estimated tax payments made

Week 4: Income, part 2

If you have diverse sources of income, here are the other forms and information to locate.

Retirement income

  • Income from Pension, IRA, and/or annuity (Form 1099-R)
  • Social Security, Railroad Retirement (RRB) income (Form 1099-R)
  • Traditional IRA basis (the amounts you’ve contributed to the IRA that have already been taxed)

Savings & investments or dividends

  • Interest and dividend income (Forms 1099-INT, 1099-OID or 1099-DIV)
  • Income for the sale of stock or other property (Forms 1099-B or 1099-S)
  • Health Savings Account and long-term care reimbursements (Forms 1099-SA or 1099-LTC)
  • Record of estimated tax payments you’ve made (Form 1040-ES)
  • Dates of acquisition, as well as records of your cost or other basis in property you sold.
  • Expenses related to investments
  • Transactions involving cryptocurrency

Week 5: Income and losses

This should be a relatively easy week, primarily because some of these sources of income and loss will not apply to you.

  • Form W-2G, gambling income
  • Jury duty income
  • Hobby income and expenses
  • Form 1099-K, payment card and third-party network transactions
  • 1099-MISC, royalty income
  • Trust income
  • Prizes and awards
  • 2022 state tax refund
  • Record of alimony you’ve paid or received, along with ex-spouse’s full name and Social Security number
  • Any additional 1099s received

Week 6: Deductions, part 1

This is the fun part — finding deductions that reduce how much you owe. Deductions are a big category, so we’re breaking it down.

Charitable donations

  • Records of non-cash donations
  • The number of miles driven for either charitable or medical purposes
  • Cash amounts donated to houses of worship, schools, and charitable organizations

Home and vehicle

  • Mortgage interest statements (most commonly, Form 1098)
  • Records of real estate and personal property taxes paid
  • Receipts for energy-saving home improvements you’ve made
  • Electric vehicle information
  • Any other 1098 series form received

Week 7: Deductions, part 2

And here are more deductions for you to take.

Medical expenses

  • Amounts you paid for doctors, dentists, and hospitals
  • Amounts you paid for qualified insurance premiums
  • Form 1095-A, if you enrolled for insurance through the marketplace

Child care costs

  • Child care costs paid to a licensed daycare center or family daycare
  • Fees you paid to a babysitter or child care provider for your child under 13 while you worked
  • Care expenses paid through a dependent care flexible spending account

Week 8: Deductions, part 3

Unless you’re a student or educator, this will be another easy week for you.

Educational expenses

  • Form 1098-E, student loan interest
  • Records of scholarships or fellowships you received
  • Receipts itemizing qualified educational expenses
  • Form 1098-T from educational institutions

K-12 educator expenses

  • If you’re a K-12 educator, you’ll want to gather receipts for classroom expenses.

Week 9: Deductions, finishing up

Once you’ve organized the following documents, you’re good to go.

State and local taxes

  • State and local income tax paid (not associated with income paid on wages)
  • Sales tax paid
  • Vehicle sales tax paid
  • Personal property tax paid on vehicles

Retirement and other savings

Federally declared disaster

  • Insurance reimbursements
  • Records of repair or rebuilding costs
  • Records supporting property losses
  • FEMA assistance records

Whether you fill out your tax return yourself or hand it off to a professional, gathering the information you’ll need ahead of time is sure to reduce tax-time stress. It’s also a great way to begin a file for each category, a practice that will ultimately make it easier to keep your 2024 tax records organized.

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