Tips for Preparing Your 2020 Taxes

Learn how to do your taxes

The 2020 tax season will be different for many. The two stimulus payments many individuals received may impact how and when you will be able to file your tax return. And the IRS has delayed the start of the tax filing season until Feb. 12 this year, about two weeks later than the normal start of the tax season.

Let's look at tips to get you started with your tax return.

Tax Forms You Need

You will need copies of all of your tax forms prior to filing your taxes. In most cases, this will include those showing your income, tax deductions, health insurance verification forms, etc.

Most of these forms are available starting in mid-January. Here is the military tax form release schedule for payments issued through the Defense Finance Accounting Service, or DFAS.

  • Retiree 1099R -- Dec. 15, 2020
  • Annuitant 1099R -- Dec. 19, 2020
  • Navy Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) W-2 -- Jan. 5, 2021
  • Army Non-Appropriated Fund Employee W-2 -- Jan. 7, 2021
  • Reserve Army, Navy, Air Force W-2 -- Jan. 8, 2021
  • Marine Corps Active/Reserve W-2 -- Jan. 13, 2021
  • Federal Civilian Employee 1095 forms -- Jan. 14, 2021
  • Federal Civilian Employee W-2 (DoD/Non-DoD) -- Jan. 20, 2021
  • Savings Deposit Program (SDP)1099INT -- Jan. 23, 2021
  • Army Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) W-2 -- Jan. 25, 2021
  • Active Army, Navy, Air Force W-2 -- Jan. 25, 2021
  • Military/Military Retiree 1095 forms -- Jan. 31, 2021
  • Travel/Vendor/Misc. W-2 -- Jan. 31, 2021

Some other common forms needed to file your tax returns might include:

  • W-2 (wages from your employer)
  • Form 1095 (health insurance verification forms)
  • Form 1098 (mortgage interest)
  • Form 1099 Consolidated (a combination of interest and dividends)
  • Form 1099-DIV (dividends earned from investments)
  • Form 1099-INT (interest earned)
  • Form 1099-G (unemployment income; issued by the state that provided unemployment benefits)
  • 1099-MISC (miscellaneous income)
  • 1099-NEC (non-employee compensation. (This is a new form used for contract and freelance work.)
  • Other forms as needed. (Each situation is unique, so please consult with a tax professional or your tax software for more information regarding required forms.)

You should also gather copies of receipts for charitable contributions. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, taxpayers are able to receive the standard deduction, as well as deduct up to $300 in charitable contributions without having to itemize deductions.

Did You Miss Out on a Stimulus Payment When You Should Have Received One?

Many individuals received stimulus checks in 2020 and early 2021. These payments were based on the individual's or couple's 2018 or 2019 tax returns. In some cases, the taxpayers' income changed in 2020, making them eligible for a stimulus payment. Some individuals may have also had a baby or adopted a child during the year, which may make them eligible for an additional payment.

If your situation changed, you may be able to request a stimulus payment when you file your taxes this year. Your tax software program or a tax professional should guide you through the process.

And there is some good news: If your income situation changed and you earned too much to qualify for the stimulus payment, the IRS will not claw back that money if you have already received it.

Related: Free Tax Preparation for Military Members Available Through Military OneSource

File Your Tax Return as Soon as Possible

The IRS delayed the start of the tax year due to the complexities of the recent changes to the tax code. Expect there to be a slightly longer turnaround time for many tax returns to be processed. That also means there could be delays in tax refunds if you are owed one this year.

Filing early will help ensure that your return is processed more quickly, and any refunds will be processed faster as well.

Here are some free and discounted ways for military members to file their tax returns. Current service members can also use MilTax through Military OneSource.

Finally, tax-related identity theft is a growing crime. Some criminals file false tax returns using unsuspecting victims' information. These criminals claim a false tax refund and make off with the money, leaving the victims to hash things out with the IRS. Cleaning up the resulting mess could take weeks or months. Meanwhile, the victims are left out in the cold, awaiting their tax refund.

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