Retirement, Investments, & Insurance for Individuals Build your knowledge Tax prep checklist: 4 things you can do right now

Tax prep checklist: 4 things you can do right now

Use this tax prep checklist to cross a few tasks off your to-do list so you’re ready when it’s time to file.

Man and woman reviewing paperwork needed to prepare taxes
5 min read |

No matter whether you file a tax return the first day you can, or wait until the last minute to hit “send” on your e-file, these steps can help you cross off to-dos in your tax prep.

1. Organize your tax documents.

Most tax-related forms are sent to you in January; some may be available as electronic documents that you can download at your convenience. In addition to key documents, you’ll also need some personal details.

  • W-2s (must be distributed by January 31)
  • Social Security numbers for you, your spouse, and your dependents (if applicable)
  • Last year’s federal and state tax returns
  • Bank statements from this year
  • Mortgage interest statement from this year
  • 1099 forms (must be distributed by January 31)
  • Charitable donations (monetary or in-kind) from the tax year
  • Information on any eligible tax credits or deductions

One idea to help minimize stress? Collect receipts and other documentation each month in a file (paper or digital).

It’s easy to sign up for e-delivery of your tax documents from Principal.® The most likely one you may receive is a 1099R. Here’s how:

  • Do you have a account?
    • Log in and click on “My profile” on the top right.
    • Select “Manage delivery preferences,” and check the box for “Tax documents.” 
    • Click the “View terms (PDF)” button, select email notification, and select the email address where you want notifications sent. Your e-documents should be available the next day. 
  • Don’t have a account yet? No problem. To get started, view Then, follow the steps above.

As you set up or update your account, we recommend using an email that you’ll potentially have forever—not one associated with a work account.

2. Choose a tax prep method.

You have several options.

  • Prepare your tax return yourself using software such as TurboTax, H&R Block, or TaxAct, and file electronically.
  • Prepare your tax return by filing out a paper form that you submit via mail.
  • Work with a tax preparer. 

Two reasons to switch to electronic filing: It saves time and gets you a faster refund, if applicable.

3. Make plans for income tax you owe, or a refund you’ll receive.

If you’ll get money back from your tax return, you have options such as:

If you consistently receive a big refund, you may want to consider adjusting your withholdings so that you receive more of each paycheck. If you’ll have a tax bill, think about how you’ll pay for it. And, consider adjusting your withholdings to set more aside throughout the year, too.

4. Use this year’s tax return results to plan for next year.

Beyond your withholding decisions, you can also review what happened in your life, or what will happen next year, that might demand a rethink in your tax strategies. For example, are you retiring? Paying off your mortgage? Did you experience divorce or death in your family? All of these have an impact. Consult your tax advisor before you make any final decisions.

What’s next?

The amount you contribute to a retirement account you have through your employer is pre-tax, which means it lowers your taxable income. Do you want to boost what you’re saving? Log in to to check your savings rate. Don’t have an employer-sponsored retirement account or want to save even more? We can help you set up your retirement savings with an individual retirement account (IRA). Ready to learn more ways you can build your financial foundation? Our learning library can help.