Check These Things Before the End of the Year to Be Ready to File Your Taxes

Although the filing deadline is months away, there are things you should do now to prepare

Ready, Set, File! Use This Checklist to Make Sure You're Ready to File Your Taxes
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December 12, 2018

With Christmas just two weeks away, the last thing on everyone's mind is filing taxes. But even though the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax filing deadline is still months away, there are a few things you should look at now to make sure you're ready before the year ends. Once the new year begins, your ability to influence your 2018 taxes is very limited.

Make a donation

Any donation you make to a recognized charity is deductible in the year that you make it. For credit cards, if the charge is made in 2018, it is deductible for the 2018 tax year even if you don't pay the bill until 2019. For cash and in-kind donations, etc, the donation should be received by the charity in the 2018 tax year. Checks are typically deductible for the current year if they are postmarked in 2018, but the charity might give a receipt for the following year. So it's a good idea to get donations in to charities early.

Please consider making a charitable donation to us before the end of the year. Your donations fund the valuable work we do.

Contribute to your retirement account

Most contributions to workplace retirement accounts should be made by the end of the year. However, you can make contributions to an IRA that will count for 2018 until April 15, 2019. If you are under age 50, you can contribute $18,500 annually in 2018 ($19,000 in 2019). If you are age 50 or older, you can contribute an additional $6,000 in catch up contributions.

Tell the government if you moved

If you moved at some point this year, you should notify the U.S. Postal Service, your employer, and the IRS. To inform the IRS, mail IRS Form 8822 (Change of Address) to the address listed in the form's instructions. If you bought health insurance through the Marketplace, you should inform the Marketplace if you moved out of the area covered by your current plan.

Tell the Social Security Administration about name changes

Did you change your name due to marriage or divorce? If so, you need to inform the Social Security Administration (SSA) so that your new name will match IRS and SSA records. If you have a dependent whose name changed, you also need to inform the SSA about that change. If there is a mismatch between the name on your tax return and the name in the SSA records, it may lead to problems in processing your return and might even delay your refund.

update your ITIN

Your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) may expire before you file a tax return in 2019. All ITINs not used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three years will expire on December 31, 2018. Additionally, all ITINs issued before 2013 with middle digits of 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81, or 82 will also expire at the end of the year. Start the renewal process (Form W-7) now so you won't run into any delays.

The IRS has seven weeks from January 1 or from the date Form W-7 is mailed, whichever is later, to inform you about the status of your ITIN application. If you wait to submit Form W-7 until the peak filing season, or if you send it from overseas, allow up to 11 weeks. If you do not renew your ITIN before you file a return, the return may be delayed and you may not be eligible for some important tax credits.

Dig out your old tax returns

You should always keep copies of old tax returns, even if the returns were filed electronically or filed on your behalf. After all, transmission errors happen and sometimes tax professionals drop the ball and either lose your return or transmit late.

When you file your return, you may need to verify your Adjusted Gross Income from a previous year in order to confirm your identity with the IRS. This is a step to combat tax return fraud.

Adjust your withholding amounts

Since tax laws change every year, now is the time to submit updated withholding forms for both your federal and North Carolina taxes to your employer. The IRS has an online withholding calculator to assist you in estimating what your withholding amounts should be.

You can give these forms to your employer anytime during the tax year. But forms should be turned in as soon as possible so that withholding amounts are accurate starting with your first pay in the new year.