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Receipts for Taxes - Tax Documents Needed to File

Updated on December 22, 2014
Box of receipts
Box of receipts | Source

How to Organize your Tax Receipts

Do you need an idea of what receipts and documents to keep for your tax return ? Over the years, especially after going to the same accountant for years, I have learned so much about what to keep and how to organize it.

I have a drawer that is my "tax drawer." I put in this drawer any receipt or other document I get during the year that I know will be information I need for my tax return. At the end of the year, I go through and separate all the documents into different envelopes, labeled as wages, donations, medical, writing expenses, etc . . . .

I'm not an accountant, so please don't take anything I say as tax or legal advice. I can just tell you in layman's terms what items that would be good to keep, particularly if you itemize deductions, I keep anything that I think I might need. Better prepared than sorry.


An old ledger. A ledger is useful for keeping tax records on paper.
An old ledger. A ledger is useful for keeping tax records on paper. | Source

Do you itemize deductions?

If you itemize deductions, then you must save a lot more things to deduct from your taxable income. If your taxes are simple, and you opt for the standardized deduction, then you will basically just need to keep your wage reports (W-2s) and any interest income.

However, if you have mortgage interest, medical expenses, donations, and other expenses, it may save you much more to itemize these deductions rather than take the standard deduction.

Instead of throwing everything you might need in a drawer, a file box might work better, as it allows you to sort into categories as you go through the year. For me, the drawer works. Everything is all in one place, and I can separate it into categories when tax time comes around.

Laws, of course, vary from state to state, so check with your tax adviser for specifics. Here are the basic areas I itemize.


Income & Interest

The most basic tax documents to keep are your W-2 statements from all jobs from the previous year. If you're self-employed, keep track of all income whether through receipts or invoices.

Did you receive unemployment benefits in the past year? Retirement or a pension? What about interest from your savings account or dividends from investments? Keep records of any and all types of income. You may be required to report your previous tax refunds, as well.


Tax question!

How do you handle your income tax return?

See results

Home Mortgage and Rental

If you itemize deductions, you probably know that the interest you pay on your mortgage is tax deductible. Your mortgage company should send you a statement of the total paid for the previous year.

If you have rental property, keep track of everything you spend--mortgage payments, including interest and insurance, as well as repairs and improvements on the property. Keep track of everything related to upkeep of your rental property, just in case you need it, right down to the mileage to and from the place when you have to go over there.

Certain energy-friendly improvements on your primary home may be tax deductible. Keep those receipts when you install energy-efficient appliances, windows and doors, and even insulation. Keep all of these types of receipts . . . just in case they are tax deductible for that particular year.


Donations

Donations of money or items are definitely something you can deduct. Keep track of money given to churches or charitable organizations.

Much of my donations are tangible items, as I'm always going through my things and taking the excess to the local thrift store. Dropping off usable items at such organizations is pretty easy, and you can get a receipt for your items right there.


Medical expenses

Historically, to deduct medical expenses, the total had to add up to 7.5% of one's income. In 2013, however, that amount reportedly went up to 10%.

I always keep receipts for medical expenses, even though I rarely have enough to count. Still, I keep receipts from the doctor's office, as well as those from the dentist, eye doctor, and any other medical providers. I keep receipts for prescriptions and stubs showing what I paid for insurance premiums.

If you have a lot of medical expenses, it might pay off to hang on to anything medically related.


More about Itemized Deductions vs Standard Deduction

Self-employment income and expenses

If you're self-employed, it may be harder to keep track of all your income sources, but it is imperative. Keep track of, too, any expenses related to your self-employment. This is an area where it's good to get a CPA's advice on what you should keep track of.

Job Expenses

Job expenses would include anything you have to spend for your job that is not reimbursed. This might include uniforms, continuing education, licenses, travel, and supplies required for your job. Your best bet is to hang on to everything in case you need anything.


Reminders of Tax Documents & Receipts to Keep

Category
What to keep
Wages
W-2's or other wage record, retirement, social security, dividends, inheritances, savings interest, tax refunds
Home
mortgage interest, energy improvements, closing costs
Rental
mortgage payments/interest, insurance, repairs & improvements, mileage
Medical
doctor, dentist, vision, other bills; insurance premiums; supplies, mileage
Donations
receipts for cash and items donated, mileage
Employment
cost of uniforms, supplies, training, licenses
Misc
child care & education expenses, personal property tax paid
This list it not all-inclusive and may vary from state to state. Your best bet is to keep any expense related to these and similar categories just in case you need it.

Miscellaneous Deductions

There may be other deductions out there for you, so keep expense information on such things as

  • college loans
  • child care expenses
  • sales on investments
  • inheritances
  • closing statements for buying, selling, or refinancing a home
  • personal property tax paid

Really, I keep anything and everything that I think I might need for my tax return.


Need help with taxes?

If your taxes are very complicated, you may need to hire an accountant to help you with them. However, these days there is a variety of tax software to help you. There are free ones for simpler returns and more complicated ones for more complex returns. There are a variety of tax software programs based on different needs, even including software for those who are self-employed.

TurboTax is a well-known software with many different versions for particular needs, but there are other programs, such as Quicken, that may fill a need. You can scout the different programs out online. Consider using TurboTax discount codes or other tax software program discounts when you shop online.

Remember that the tax deadline is April 15th!


Thank you for your comments!

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    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Hey, Jim! Glad you enjoyed the article! And thanks for the follow, too. I thought I was following you but wasn't sure. I checked, and I am. It's hard to get around to everyone, isn't it? Thanks again! :-)

    • Jlbowden profile image

      James Bowden 

      5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Hi Vickie:

      Very timely article, as far as getting this years taxes ready. Almost forgot myself and am also tempted to get the software in a box this Time around. Again thanks for a very interesting article, as well as a useful one. Definitely a lot of good information for everyone here and a lot of friendly reminders to boot. As far as what you can and cannot claim. Take care!

      Jim

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      truthfornow--Good point about paying taxes! I've been fortunate for the past few years to get a refund, so that helps. Yes, keeping records is a must for itemizing deductions. Thanks for the input and votes!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Ruchira--Well, I try to be timely--haha. Thanks! An app for that? :-) Yes, we get more and more things to simplify things b/c life can be so complicated. Thanks for the great comments!

    • truthfornow profile image

      truthfornow 

      5 years ago from New Orleans, LA

      I don't mind doing my taxes. It is the paying of the taxes that I have a problem with lol. This is a great list of stuff to get together. People always ask me if I can help them with their taxes, and I have to say do you have this, and this and this and this . . . you need to keep your records, it is a must. Voted up and Useful!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Kathryn--The medical expenses have to be a certain % of income; I've only been able to deduct some one time, and it didn't add up to much. If your taxes are simple and you don't have a lot of deductions to itemize, then taking the standard deduction might get you a better return (or less to pay), anyway. It sounds like your may be pretty simple, which has its own advantages. Thanks for reading!

    • Ruchira profile image

      Ruchira 

      5 years ago from United States

      Vicki,

      You are well known to do timely hubs...love ya for that!

      Good advises esp for this time of the year.

      People who have their own business, there is an app which helps you record your expenses, mileage etc. Just came to know about it...life sure is getting simpler year after year ;)

      voted up as useful hub!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      Susan--I've been procrastinating, too. I throw everything I need for taxes in my "tax drawer" throughout the year. Now I'm working on separating it into different envelopes for different categories. Then I type up a summary of all the receipts and such to give my accountant. It's a process, but it feels good when I'm finished.

      Glad I reminded you! Thanks for the votes!

    • Kathryn Stratford profile image

      Kathryn 

      5 years ago from Manchester, Connecticut

      I didn't know there were deductions for medical expenses. That would have come in handy years ago. Maybe.

      My taxes are so simple. I could have probably gotten a little more back this past year by itemizing, but not enough for me to deal with it.

      This is a very useful and timely article. Thanks for sharing it with us.

      HR Block online is what I use. It's free (for Federal) if your taxes are pretty simple. I do my own state taxes, though, because I can't find any company that does those for free.

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      CC--I know. They're icky. I'm going to summarize all the stuff this weekend in an organized manner for the accountant who has been doing mine since I bought my house years ago. He's great and he doesn't charge me as much that way--if I do a lot of the work! We've still got time!

    • Just Ask Susan profile image

      Susan Zutautas 

      5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Thanks Vicki, you just had to remind me, didn't you :)

      Thank goodness I'm sort of organized and can get all of this done in about two days. Once I stop procrastinating that is.

      Voted up and more.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      5 years ago from Western NC

      Oh man, I dread doing taxes. Not that I'm not organized or that they're relatively simple, it's just an icky, icky chore. When I can, I pay someone else to do them, LOL. If someone wants to get paid to do my taxes, then they are MORE than welcome to. Haha!

    • Victoria Lynn profile imageAUTHOR

      Victoria Lynn 

      5 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      rfmoran--You're right! Keeping documentation (where you can find it!) is key in putting together a correct tax return. Thanks for the comments!

    • rfmoran profile image

      Russ Moran - The Write Stuff 

      5 years ago from Long Island, New York

      Good timely hub. Whether you do your own taxes or have them prepared, all documentation is absolutely necessary

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