Retirement, Investments, & Insurance for Individuals Build your knowledge Tax prep checklist: 5 things you can do right now
Tax prep checklist: 5 things you can do right now

Check off a few tasks for the 2022 tax season, so you’re ready when it’s time to file.

Photo of woman preparing her files for tax season.
5 min read |

Some people wait until the last minute to work on their income taxes. Not you. You want to be ready to roll so you can cross taxes off your “to do” list and make the most of the money you earn.

Graphic of a calendar  Deadline for filing 2022 taxes: April 18, 2023

Here’s what you can do now to prepare to file your income taxes in 2023 and help make the whole process less stressful.

1. Organize your tax documents.

Start compiling your tax-related forms and information, so everything’s organized in one spot. Here’s a list to get you started:

  • W-2s
  • Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and your dependents (if applicable)
  • Last year’s federal and state tax returns
  • Bank statements
  • Mortgage interest statement
  • 1099 forms (for income outside of your regular salary)
  • Charitable donations (monetary or in-kind)
  • Information on any tax credits or deductions you may be eligible for


Why file your taxes early?

  • If you’re getting a refund, you get it sooner. And if you’re using it to pay off debt, sooner means less interest. If you think you’ll owe, filing early gives you a little more time to save for the payment.
  • It can help protect you from identity theft/fraud. Yes, it’s possible someone could file a return on your behalf and bank the cash.
  • Your tax preparer may not be as busy in February, meaning there could be more time and attention for you.


Want to make it easier next year? Set up a system to gather this information monthly or quarterly throughout the year. Collect receipts and any documentation and put it in your tax folders, whether that’s a paper or digital file.

“Some people prefer to use a smartphone app to help scan, track, and store receipts—especially for business expenses,” says Heather Winston, director of individual solutions at Principal®. “This not only helps you prepare your taxes, but digital copies could come in handy if you’re ever audited by the IRS.”

2. What tax forms do you need? Start a folder.

Companies have until January 31 to deliver W-2 forms to their employees. This is also the deadline for businesses to send Form 1099 statements that report non-employee compensation, bank interest, dividends, and distributions from a retirement plan.

Whether you receive statements via snail mail or email/online, gather and keep them in a safe place. Get a folder or large envelope, make a checklist on the outside of all the financial institutions that’ll send you tax documents, and add your statements as they arrive.

Graphic of a thumbtack.  Tip: Receiving tax forms digitally tends to be quicker and more secure. Sign up to have your Principal® tax forms delivered electronically.

Here’s a list of some of the tax forms you may receive, depending on your personal tax situation:

  • Wages and earnings statements such as the Form W-2, W2G, SS-1099, 1099-R, and 1099-MISC
  • Interest and dividend income statements for bank accounts and investments (Forms 1099-INT and 1099-DIV)
  • Statements needed to adjust your income, such as Form 1098-E and 1098-T

Photo of woman sitting in her kitchen, filing her taxes on her laptop.

Want to brush up on tax brackets and deductions that could impact you? Read: “What to remember.”

3. Decide how to do your taxes.

You have several options.

  • Prepare your tax return yourself using software such as TurboTax, H&R Block, or TaxAct, and file electronically.
  • Work with a tax preparer. If you choose this option, you could book your appointment now with a CPA or tax-prep service.
  • Do it yourself the old-fashioned way. Meaning, fill out the tax forms on paper and submit via mail (or scan and e-file).

However you get your taxes done, consider filing electronically. It saves time, tends to be more accurate, and gets you a refund faster, if applicable.

4. Figure out how to pay your income tax bill or what to do with a refund.

Consider using an income tax calculator to estimate what you'll receive or owe.

If you think you may receive a refund (lucky you), start thinking about what you’ll do with the money. You could:

And if you think you’ll owe Uncle Sam, you have time to save the money if you don’t have it set aside already.

Picture of a woman discussing ways to save on her taxes.

Tax credits and savings strategies may help trim what you owe. Read: “8 ways you can save on taxes in 2023.”

5. Tax planning: Always consider taxes, not just at tax time.

A little tax planning now can go a long way toward helping you keep more of your money next year.

“Review your withholdings so you don’t have an unexpected tax bill next year. The IRS Tax Withholding Estimator only takes a few minutes to complete and will help you know if you need to make changes,” Winston says.

“The other key thing to think about is what changes have happened in your life, or will happen this year or next, that may require you to rethink your tax strategies,” Winston says. For example, are you retiring? Paying off your mortgage? Did you experience divorce or death in your family? All of these things will have an impact when you file, so use the time now to read up on the implications through

Taxes can be complicated, and everyone's situation is different. Consult your tax advisor before you make any final decisions.

What’s next?

Could you put more away in your retirement account to help reduce your taxable income? Log in to your account and adjust your contributions. First time logging in? Get started by creating an account.