written by Melinda Thurman

As the current year comes to an end, a new tax filing season begins. Mid-April may seem far in the distance, but it is important to start preparing now for your 2015 income tax filing. The IRS expects to receive and process more than 150 million returns during the 2016 filing season. Early planning can help avoid any delays in the filing and processing of your return.

The first step is to gather your records for 2015. A helpful jumping-off point is to review your 2014 return. Your personal situation may be unchanged or it may have changed significantly. Either way, your 2014 return is a good vantage point for assembling the documents needed to prepare your 2015 return.

If your name changed as a result of marital status since filing your 2014 return, you must advise the IRS. Your name as it appears on your return must match the name registered with the Social Security Administration. A mismatch will cause a delay in the return processing.

Forms W-2/1099
Many taxpayers cannot begin preparing their 2015 income tax return until they have their Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement and/or Forms 1099, Miscellaneous Income Statement. Employers have until February 1, 2016 to mail these statements to you. If you do not receive the statements by the deadline, contact your employer.

Filing deadline
The due date for 2015 tax returns is April 15, 2016. If you cannot file your returns by this deadline, you can request an automatic six-month extension of time to file through October 17. However, this extension of time to file does not grant you more time to pay any taxes due. To obtain an extension, you need to file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Retirement savings
Just because the calendar moved from 2015 to 2016 doesn’t necessarily mean you missed out on contributing to a retirement savings plan. You can contribute up to $5,500 to a traditional IRA for 2015 by April 18, 2016. However, if you or your spouse is covered by an employer retirement plan, this will affect how much, if any, of your contribution is tax deductible. Individuals age 50 and older may qualify for a catch-up contribution of $1,000 on top of the $5,500 maximum. Different rules apply to other types of retirement savings plans. Contact our office to discuss these rules in detail.

Affordable Care Act
For 2015, many taxpayers will receive either Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, or Form 1095-B, Health Coverage Statement. The statement will be requested for the preparation of your income tax return.

Tax law changes
Along with gathering records and reviewing activities in 2015, it’s a good idea to review some of the tax law changes in 2015 that may affect your return. Our office can review your 2014 return and see which areas may have been affected by tax law changes for your 2015 return. The popular tax incentives that were available in 2014 have not yet been extended to 2015.

If you have any questions regarding your 2015 income tax return filing, please contact our office at 417-881-0145.