Category: tax

Checklist [‘tʃeklist]: n. a list of items (names or tasks etc.) to be checked or consulted.

You do not need to answer every question but just to provide tax documents applicable to you, additionally provide a basic info not covered by tax documents. You can create a Google doc after you entered your link by clicking “+ New”, or create your own simple word or text document and upload along with tax documents. Please do not imbed tax documents in the check list info doc.

Are you a resident or nonresident?

  • Were you (or your spouse if married) a citizen, a permanent resident (green card holder), or a professional worker with an H-1B, L1 visa for the entire year of 2020?
  • If you have not been a resident for current year and prior year, please list your (and your spouse’s if married) complete visa (status) history in a format shown below:

    • 20XX F1
    • 20XX F1
    • 20XX-01-01 - 20XX-09-30 F1
    • 20XX-10-01 - 20XX-12-31 H1B

and be sure to provide information in Nonresident section at the end of this checklist.

NB, Special benefit for married couple: if one spouse is a resident at the end of year 2020, you and your nonresident spouse can elect to file jointly as residents.

What is your filing status?

  • Single
  • Married Filing jointly (MFJ)
  • Married filing separately (MFS)
  • Head of Household (HOH)
  • Qualifier window(er) (QW)
  • Not sure, please describe your situation

Personal Information (new client or changed info):

Please provide the following info for taxpayer (and spouse if filing jointly):

  • First name
  • Middle name
  • Last name
  • Pronouns (He/Him/His, She/Her/Hers, They/Them/Theirs)
  • Date of Birth (MM/DD/YYYY)
  • Social Security Numbers (or Tax IDs), see ITIN in SPECIAL SITUATION section if no SSN
  • Email address
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • Occupation

and for EACH dependent:

  • First name
  • Middle name
  • Last name
  • Date of Birth (MM/DD/YYYY)
  • Social Security Numbers (or Tax IDs), see ITIN in SPECIAL SITUATION section if no SSN
  • Relationship (the dependent is your Son Daughter Dad Mom …?)

Bank Information for tax refund or payment only (I do not use it for filing fee, new client or changed info)

  • Bank name
  • Bank routing number (as appeared on your checkbook if you use checking account)
  • Your account number (as appeared on your checkbook if you use checking account)
  • Your account type (Checking or Savings)

Last year taxes if itemized and other carryover items (new client only)

  • Please provide last year’s return (federal and state)

    OR

    answer the following questions (please note the or condition, i.e. if you provide last year’s return then you do not need to answer the following questions, as I can read myself and I prefer that way.

  • If I did not prepare your return and any of the taxpayers itemized last year (nonresidents not from India have to itemize), please list tax owed and paid to, or refund received from EACH of the states in the format below:

    • VA: owed and paid $500
    • DC: refund of $300

    The information is in your last year’s return, 1099-G the state sent out, or your bank record.

  • Stock unallowed loss, investment interest expense, continued depreciation, etc.
  • Federal and state AGI, and tax liability.

Location info

Please list where you were for the entire year in a format as shown below, accurate to the state or country. Vacation within the US without changing state residency needs not to be listed. You can get your travel history outside the United States from the I94 Website.

  • 01/01/2020 - 05/15/2020 MD
  • 05/16/2020 - 08/15/2020 China
  • 08/16/2020 - 12/31/2020 VA

Residents do not need to list travel outside the United States.

Amounts of economic Impact payments (aka stimulus check, COVID-19 assistance) received

  • First round: ($xxxx.xx or describe your situation)
  • Second round: ($xxxx.xx or describe your situation)

NB: The “third round” (“Biden’s money”) is not covered in the 2020 tax return. After you file your 2020 return, you may receive it or it might be recovered in 2021 return, it is not certain at this moment.

Income

  • W-2 wage forms from ALL employers for the year.
  • Pensions, annuities, and retirement plan distributions (1099-R).
  • Social Security benefits (SSA-1099).
  • Independent contractor and other miscellaneous income (1099-MISC).
  • Unemployment compensation (1099-G).
  • Schedule K-1 forms for Partnership, S Corporation, and trust income.
  • Alimony received.
  • Jury duty pay.
  • Gambling and lottery winnings.
  • Prizes and awards.
  • Scholarships and fellowships.
  • State and local income tax refunds (1099-G, only you have itemized).

HSA

If you have HSA (Health Savings Accounts), please provide:

  • Is it a “self-only” plan (insurance only covers yourself) or a family plan? i.e. does the insurance cover only yourself or a family member as well?
  • 1099-SA or the amount spent from HSA. Zero is also a meaningful number.
  • All the spending from the HSA were used for medical purpose and not reimbursed?
  • Amount you contributed yourself by depositing a check or making a bank transfer.
  • 5498-SA if you have it (optional).

Financial Assets

Landlord

  • Rent received.
  • Advertising.
  • HomeOwner Association (HOA) fees.
  • Auto and travel.
  • Cleaning and maintenance.
  • Commissions.
  • Gardening
  • Home insurance.
  • Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI).
  • Legal and other professional fees (tax preparation fee).
  • Management fees.
  • Mortgage interest paid to banks, etc.
  • Other interests.
  • Painting and decorating.
  • Pest control.
  • Plumbing and electrical.
  • Repairs.
  • Supplies.
  • Taxes.
  • Telephone and internet (provided to tenants).
  • Utilities.
  • FIRST YEAR RENTAL: Rental starting date (MM/DD/YYYY).
  • FIRST YEAR RENTAL: Closing document, aka settlement doc, HUD-1, ALTA, which is 2-3 pages with numbers (I do not words for lawyers).
  • FIRST YEAR RENTAL: Term of loan (e.g. 15 years, 30 years).
  • FIRST YEAR RENTAL: Assessment near the rental starting date from the county website.
  • MIXED (RENTAL AND PRIMARY RESIDENT TOGETHER): Rental ratio.
  • PARTIAL YEAR AND MIXED: Specify expenses for what time period, for what space (entire house or the rental rooms).

Sale of a real estate property

Cash donations up to $300

  • Please upload your receipts.

Homeowner and itemizing items

Provide the information when:

  • You have a large home mortgage payment (close to or over 14,800), or
  • You live in a state which allows state itemized deduction while using federal standard deduction

    The states that allow separate state itemized deduction:

    • CA
    • DE
    • NY

    The states that do not allow separate state itemized deduction:

    • MD
    • VA

Generally you itemize expenses if you own a home, or have large deductible items such as donation, medical expense, state tax paid.

Filing Status Standard Deduction Amount
Single $12,400
Married Filing Jointly & Surviving Spouse $24,800
Married Filing Separately $12,400
Head of Household $18,650

The itemized deduction items:

  • Mortgage and home equity interests Form 1098.
  • Closing document if you bought, sold, or re-financed your home or other real estate in the year.
  • Real Estate Tax, most likely on Form 1098 as well.
  • Energy property based on manufacturer’s certification document.
  • Personal Property Tax (car tax).
    • CA: Vehicle license fee is deductible, use this page to find the vehicle license fee.
    • MA: Vehicle excise tax.
    • VA: Car tax is deductible. If your car is in Fairfax county, use this page to get your car tax. In Fairfax city, use this page.
    • WA: In most major metropolitan areas of Pierce, King, and Snohomish counties of Washington state, Regional Transit Authority tax RTA excise tax which is a line item in car registration is deductible, use this page to find the RTA tax.
  • Gifts to charity (cash and non-cash).
  • Un-reimbursement expenses related to volunteer work.
  • Investment interest (margin interest).
  • Medical expenses (prescription, insurance premiums, medical supplies, eye exams, glasses, contacts, co-pays, medical transportation (miles), other) above 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.
  • Long term care insurance premium.

Other separately accounted expenses

  • Adoption expenses.
  • Alimony paid.
  • Moving expenses (for military move, and move to followingstates) if you drove, you can use mileage plus hotel; if you flew, the air ticket.

    The states that allows moving expenses include:

    • CA
    • MA

Child care

  • Name of the provider.
  • Address of the provider.
  • Tax ID or SSN of provider.
  • Amount you paid.

Education expenses of you or your dependents

  • Tuition and Education fees: 1098-T, if box 1 (payments received) is empty also student account statement or bank transfer showing amount paid).
  • Student Load interest: 1098-E.
  • Educator Expense Deduction up to $250 for K-12 teachers.

Self Employed Business

  • Business income (1099-MISC and own records).
  • Partnership SE income (Schedules K-1).
  • Employment taxes and other retirement plan contributions.
  • Auto loans and leases if for business use.
  • Auto repairs and expenses if for business use. Information needed to claim by mileage (Most people use):
    • Description of vehicle.
    • Date placed in service.
    • Total mileage.
    • Business mileage.
    • Personal property tax.
    • Car loan interest.
  • Entertainment and meals.
  • Job hunting expenses.
  • Lodging.
  • Home office.
  • Professional dues.
  • Union dues.
  • Publications.
  • Research expenses.
  • Safety equipment.
  • Supplies.
  • Telephones.
  • Tools and equipment.
  • Travel.
  • Uniform and cost of cleaning.
  • Internet expenses if for business use.

Medical Insurance Documents

Miscellaneous Documents

  • Last year’s federal, state tax returns (helpful but not required).
  • IRA, KEOGH, and other retirement plan contributions (if self-employed, identify as for self or employees).
  • Records to document casualties or theft losses.
  • Records for any other expenditures that may be deductible.
  • Records for any other revenue for sales of property that may be taxable or reportable.
  • Federal, state, and local estimated income tax paid for the tax year.
  • Employment taxes and other business taxes paid for the tax year.

State specific deductions

  • All states: 529 college savings plan.
  • MA: rent paid: the total amount for the year, name, address of the landlord.
  • MA: commuter expense (MBTA, EzPass).
  • NJ: rent or property tax paid.
  • NY: requires driver’s license ID, issuing state, expiration date, and issue date, or simply upload images of front and back of your driver’s license.
  • VA: Long term insurance premium is a state deduction.

SPECIAL SITUATIONS

ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number) applicant (the person who needs ITIN) only:

  • Country of birth:
  • Country of citizenship:
  • Type of US visa:
  • Visa number (red letter on the visa):
  • Visa expiration date (MM/DD/YYYY):
  • Passport issued by:
  • Passport Number:
  • Passport Expiration date (MM/DD/YYYY):
  • Date of entry into the United States (MM/DD/YYYY):
  • The photo page of the applicant’s passport.
  • The visa page of the applicant’s passport.
  • The most recent entry stamp page of the applicant’s passport.
  • The most recent school transcript (For child under 18).

Nonresident

  • Which country are you a citizen of (China, India, or other country)?
  • If status ever changed in the current year or a prior year, the date of change (MM/DD/YYYY). For example, “10/01/2020 from F1 to H1B.”
  • How many days (including partial days) have you stayed in the US in 2020, 2019, 2018 respectively? You can get your travel history outside the United States from the I94 Website and use the Days Calculator to compute days between two dates.
  • Is the number of days in the US in 2020 consistent with the location information provided earlier?
  • Have you applied for a green card?
  • Have you received form 1042-S?
  • Does any wage document include treaty deduction (we cannot deduct twice)?
  • [New client only] Did you file last year? If so, what form used (1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040NR, 1040NR-EZ)?
  • [New client only] In what years have you filed federal taxes claiming US-China tax treaty 20(c)? You do not need to answer the question if you have provided last year’s return.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion (FEIE) / Foreign Tax Credit (FTC)

  • Of what country are you a citizen/national?
  • Visa in foreign country, how long does it need to renew?
  • Foreign residency first established (i.e. when did you establish the foreign residency)?
  • Your foreign home address including postal code. Own or rent?
  • Employer’s name.
  • Employer’s foreign address including postal code.
  • Employer’s U.S. address if it has one.
  • Income earned in U.S. dollars, use IRS published conversion rate.
  • Do you pay income tax to foreign country on the foreign earned income? If so, please provide document showing taxable income and tax paid.
  • List travel history to and from the US in format below from 01/01/2018 until now.
    • 11/01/2019 - 06/31/2020 in China.
    • 07/01/2020 - 07/15/2020 in US, earned $0.
    • 07/16/2020 - 02/19/2021 in China.
  • Did you maintain a home in the United States while living abroad?
    • If yes, please provide the address of your home, rented or not, the names of the occupants, and their relationship to you.
  • The last year you filed foreign earned income exclusion (Form 2555)?
  • Qualified foreign housing expenses:
    • Rent
    • Utilities (except for telephone, TV services, and internet)
    • Personal property insurance (such as homeowner’s or renter’s insurance)
    • Leasing fees
    • Furniture rental
    • Parking rental
    • Repairs
  • Qualified foreign housing expenses do NOT include:
    • Mortgage payments
    • Domestic labor (maids, housekeepers, etc.)
    • Purchased furniture
    • Anything deemed “lavish or extravagant”

Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (aka FBAR, FinCen Form 114, FATCA) and Form 8938

If meet the reporting requirement, please provide information on EACH of the accounts as follows:

  • Bank name.
  • Type (Bank, Securities, Other - Please specify).
  • Owner if married file jointly (Taxpayer - the person listed first on the tax form, Spouse, or Joint).
  • Address in English including postal code (can use head quarter’s address).
  • Account number.
  • Maximum value of account during calendar year in US dollars (not taxable).
  • Interest generated from the account in US dollars (taxable).
  • Dividend generated from the account in US dollars (taxable).

Please convert to U.S. dollars using the end of the calendar year exchange rate and report in U.S. dollars, you can use the x-rates. These are the selected exchange rates on 12/31/2020:

Country 1.00 USD
Canadian Dollar 1.275410
Chinese Yuan Renminbi 6.528628
Euro 0.817788
Hong Kong Dollar 7.753623

Resident received more than $100,000 from nonresident to file Form 3520

You do not pay tax, but need to report. You need to provide list of dates and amounts of gifts. Example:

Date Description Amount
07/04/2020 Cash from Uncle Sam $8,888
12/25/2020 Cash from Santa Claus $880,000
Total   $888,888

Given gift more than annual exclusion list $15,000 (2020) to file Form 709

  • Donee’s name and address
  • Relationship to donor (if any)
  • Description of gift
  • If the gift was of securities, give CUSIP no.
  • If closely held entity, give EIN

I hope this checklist helps you to prepare your tax documents.