If you're due a refund, you'll want to file your taxes as soon as possible. The IRS hasn't even said when it expects to start the new tax season, but most people can't really finalize their returns until they get all the tax forms they need from employers, financial institutions, and other sources of vital tax reporting information. Here are the deadlines that apply to many popular tax forms in 2018 for help preparing your 2017 tax returns.
Jan. 31: W-2s and most 1098 and 1099 forms
Jan. 31 is the most important date for taxpayers, because that's the day on which employers must deliver W-2 forms to their employees. Form W-2 has your gross income, taxable income, and amount of federal and state income tax withheld from your paychecks during 2017, and so it's instrumental in figuring how much of a refund you'll get. W-2s also have information broken out on various tax breaks, including 401(k) contributions, employer-provided health insurance, flex plans, and more. Be sure to check with your employer if you don't get a W-2 by the end of January. If you're an independent contractor rather than an employee, you can also expect to get 1099-MISC forms by Jan. 31.
Also, you'll get most of the forms you need from financial institutions like banks and brokerage companies by the end of January. This includes interest income reporting on Form 1099-INT, dividends on Form 1099-DIV, retirement plan distributions on Form 1099-R, among others. In addition, Form 1098, which includes mortgage interest and other mortgage servicing information, is also due by Jan. 31.
Feb. 15: Some 1099 forms
A few 1099 information returns take a little longer for financial institutions to produce, and the IRS acknowledges that by setting later deadlines for sending out those tax forms. For instance, Form 1099-B reports sales of investments over the course of the year, with breakdowns provided according to holding period that provide vital tax basis information for use in determining capital gains and losses. Brokers must provide 1099-Bs by mid-February. Similar rules apply to real estate sales information on Form 1099-S, as well as certain 1099-MISC forms for cases not involving nonemployee compensation.
March 15: Most Schedule K-1s
Those who are involved in a partnership, limited liability company, or other association that elects to be taxed as a partnership typically get information reporting on Schedule K-1. This includes not only professionals doing business using one of these entities but also investors who own equity units of a master limited partnership or similar investment vehicle. If the entity that you own an interest in qualifies as an electing large partnership, you must get your copy of Schedule K-1 by mid-March.
April 15: Other K-1s
If you have an interest in a partnership or similar entity that doesn't elect treatment as a large partnership, then the deadline for K-1s to get to you is April 15. That obviously doesn't give you any time to prepare your actual return in a timely manner, so those taxpayers who fall into this category routinely have to make their best guess and then file an extension before filing their final tax return.
Form late? Here's what to do
If you don't receive a form by the deadlines above, get in touch with the employer or financial institution that was responsible for getting it to you. You should expect prompt action in response, as these institutions have legal responsibilities to report in a timely manner and can owe penalties to the IRS if they don't.
The biggest mistake you can make is not to report income that you know about just because you didn't get a tax form reflecting the amount you received. More often than not, the IRS has other ways of determining the income you received, and leaving it off can trigger red flags that will lead to an audit.
Knowing when to expect your tax forms can give you a better sense of when you'll be able to file, and therefore when to expect your refund. Also, if you're missing a form you expected, these dates will tell you when it's time to take action.