The NFL playoffs aren't the only thing that kickoff in January. It's also the start of tax season. Now's the time to gather and organize the information you'll need to file your 2017 taxes.
As you get started, be sure to keep these five things in mind to help make the process more efficient.
1. Key Dates for 2018
There are two big days—the actual tax deadline and extension dates, said Danielle Erickson, tax systems manager at TD Ameritrade. Filers get a couple of extra days this year because of calendar quirks. April 15 falls on a Sunday in 2018, and on Monday April 16, the District of Columbia celebrates Emancipation Day. That will push the tax deadline to April 17.
If you request an extension, your deadline will be October 15. For a complete listing of important dates, check out the tax calendar in the Tax Resource Center.
2. Forms Are Coming
Keep an eye on your mailbox and inbox. Soon, your employer, investment provider(s) and the government will start sending tax forms detailing your activities for the year. For example, you may receive a W2 Form that reflects your wages for 2017 or 1099-DIV that shows your investment income. Use this checklist to help you track the forms you need to complete your return. If you're a TD Ameritrade client, you can generally access the 1099 for your account online, giving you quick access to the information you need.
3. A Word on Corrections
It's possible you may receive a corrected 1099 Form due to:
- A reporting error
- Reallocation of income by the issuer (e.g., mutual fund company)
- Receipt of updated information
Corrected forms may be sent as soon as February 8 and typically continue through September. Investments that often see capital reallocated include mutual funds, regulated investment companies (RICs), and real estate investment trusts (REITs) because they have so many different investments. Simple equity or options investments, which typically don’t reallocate their income, don’t usually send out corrected forms.
So what happens if you receive a corrected form after you file? You may need to amend your tax return. To help reduce the chance of this occurring, consider waiting until at least the end of February to file your taxes.
4. Your Investment Activities
If you sold any investments last year and have capital gains or losses to report, you’ll need to file a Schedule D. To complete this schedule, you'll need to know:
- Your cost basis, which is generally the initial purchase price of the investment
- The buy and sell dates to determine if the gain/loss is long-term or short-term
- If the transaction qualifies as a "wash sale," meaning you sold the investment and then bought it or a substantially similar investment within 30 days
You could keep track of all of this information yourself, but if you have a lot of different securities in your account, with a lot of buying and selling, deciphering cost basis can be a tricky thing. TD Ameritrade clients have access to Gainskeeper®, a transaction monitoring and reporting service that will track it all for you.
5. Understand the Changes
A sweeping tax reform bill was signed into law in December 2017 that includes new tax brackets, an expanded child care tax credit, a higher standard deduction, limits on state and local tax deductions, and a lower threshold for mortgage interest deductibility. While the new rules won't affect your 2017 taxes, it's not too soon to think about steps you may want to take to address the changes.
It's true that tax filing is never going to crack the top ten list of "favorite things to do in the spring." But if you take a methodical approach, you may be able to whittle down the amount of time you spend completing and filing your return.
TD Ameritrade does not provide tax advice. Clients should consult with a tax advisor with regard to their specific tax circumstances.
Tax Time Ahead
The Tax Resources page is chock full of tax calculators, guides, an archive of relevant content, and a link to IRS and tax forms.