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Here's what you need to file your tax return this year

Stephanie Ruhle explains how to prepare your documents for filing.
/ Source: TODAY

The tax deadline may have been extended until May 17 but according to NBC News senior business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle that doesn't mean we get a free pass on doing our taxes. In fact, the sooner you can get them done the better. Ruhle shared her tips on how to get your taxes done, starting with making sure you have all the forms and documents you need on hand to get started.

When it comes to the task of filing taxes, most of us need a beginner's guide or a refresher. In addition to your social security number or tax ID number, there are certain documents you must have to get started, Ruhle said. The first step is to gather your employment forms which could include:

1. W-2

This comes from employers and details what you earned as well as the income tax withheld from your paychecks. If you work a full or part-time job, you'll be receiving this form, likely in the mail.

2. 1099 forms

This form report income from sources outside of regular work. You'll get a 1099 if you earn income as a contractor or freelancer, or if you make money from things like rental real estate, interest from investments or a savings account.

3. 1095 form

If you enrolled in a qualified health plan through the Obamacare Insurance Marketplace, you will also get a 1095 form.

4. 1098 form

This form reports any interest payments you made on your student loans or mortgage.

If you don't have these documents and you can't get them from your employer, contact the IRS for assistance, advised Ruhle. "The number is on their website. The IRS will then contact the employer/payer for you and request the missing or corrected form. The IRS will also send you a form and a letter containing instructions for you."

If there are other missing forms, there's a chance it could be because you signed up to go paperless. Go to your online accounts to look for them, Ruhle explained. For example, your e-student loans interest statement will be available in your online account.

3 common tax questions — answered

Ruhle also answered some burning questions that people have about filing taxes.

How do you file electronically for free?

Ruhle said that if you make $72,000 or less the IRS Free File lets you prepare and file your federal income tax online for free with additional guided preparation. If you make more than $72,000 you can still use the IRS Free File forms but you should know how to prepare your own tax return since the additional help isn't offered here.

For small businesses, you can also go to to take advantage of their free E-file for business service. Both individuals and small businesses can also use privately owned tax software like TurboTax or TaxSlayer.

When should you hire a tax professional?

It may be smart to hire a tax professional if:

  • You are self-employed.
  • You had a major life event such as buying a house.
  • You had a child or moved.
  • You own rental property,
  • You are an active stock trader.

What if you need more time to file?

If you can't meet the current tax filing deadlines request a six-month extension by submitting Form 4868 electronically or via mail. You can download this form from

For more advice on getting through tax season, head to On the Money TODAY with Stephanie Ruhle.