Mail Call: Organizing Year-End Tax Forms

As a practicing CPA, when tax season rolls around, sometimes I feel like Bill Lumbergh helping people fill out their TPS reports. “Did you see the memo about this?” In January, taxpayers will receive an alphabet soup of tax forms in the mail that are all important, but the sheer volume becomes overwhelming. Their importance diminishes with each receipt as they are added to the pile for delivery to whoever is lucky enough to sort through it all and prepare the return.

Most firms send out organizers to help clients keep track of all this information. And while this package may seem too overwhelming to deal with, it usually highlights the information used to prepare the prior year return, so you can at least use that as a guide to begin sorting through this year’s tax forms. Regardless, I wanted to provide a high level guide of some forms you may receive and what they mean so that you feel less overwhelmed when your mailbox starts filling up in January.

W-2:  As the most common form, anyone with a normal job gets a W-2. It shows taxable income, retirement contributions, federal withholding, state withholding, cafeteria plan withholding, and other employer sponsored plans that may be needed to make sure your taxable income is correctly calculated, as well as applicable credits and deductions.

1099-MISC:  If you are self-employed or have a part-time gig, most of your clients will send you one of these. Although, clients who paid less than $600 for the year are not required to send a 1099, but the amount is still taxable. This type of contract wage generally triggers self-employment tax, so be prepared when you file your taxes.

1099-DIV / 1099-INT / 1099-B:  These forms typically come in one tax statement from wherever your investments are held. In many cases, it is included with your fourth quarter investment report and details dividends, interest, and stock sales for the year. However, you should be aware that it is extremely common for financial institutions to send out corrected 1099s a couple of months later. These companies must send out 1099s before the January 31st deadline, but all too often, these forms are prepared before all the relevant information has been received.

1099-R: If you receive a distribution from any type of retirement account, this form will report the distribution and any taxes withheld. Even if you rolled a 401(k) into an IRA and received no actual distribution, you will still get a 1099-R that shows the amount rolled over. In this case, you should not owe taxes, but you must still report it on your return as a rollover to avoid receiving a notice from the IRS.

SSA-1099: This form reports social security payments for the year, as well as payments withheld for Medicare and federal income taxes. It may or may not be taxable depending on your other income for the year.

K-1:  If you own an interest in a partnership or subchapter S corporation, or if you are the beneficiary of a trust or estate, then you will receive this form to report your distributive share of the entity’s income for the year. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you received cash in this amount; they are either completely pass through (partnership or subchapter S corporation) or quasi-conduit (trust or estate), which means that you will pay taxes on income earned by the entity, credited to you, and not taxed at the entity level.

1098:  These forms come from your mortgage lender and report interest paid for the year, and if you utilize escrow payments, they may also list property taxes and mortgage insurance. All of these items are eligible for itemized deductions and may reduce your tax liability.

Giving Statements: If you report charitable contributions of over $250 to any one entity, they must send you a written acknowledgment of receipt before you file your return. Copies of cancelled checks and after-the-fact acknowledgment will not hold up under an IRS audit. This guideline is somewhat new and departs from prior year practices, so be sure to include these statements with your tax documents.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but hopefully it will help you get everything organized in the New Year. Also, since you already have to gather your financial statements, tax season is also a good time to revisit your current financial plan or contact a financial professional to discuss goals and create a new one.


Josh Norris is an Investment Advisory Representative of LeFleur Financial. Josh can be reached at