Most of the common errors taxpayers make on their tax returns are easily avoidable. By carefully reviewing their return, taxpayers can save time and effort by not having to correct it later. Filing electronically also helps prevent mistakes. Tax software does the math, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. It can also help taxpayers claim valuable credits and deductions. Taxpayers who qualify may use IRS Free File to file their return electronically for free.
Here are some of the mistakes to avoid:
- Filing too early. While taxpayers should not file late, they also should not file prematurely. They should wait to file until they’re certain they’ve received all their tax reporting documents, or they risk making a mistake that may lead to a processing delay.
- Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. Each SSN on a tax return should appear exactly as printed on the Social Security card.
- Misspelled names. The names of all taxpayers and dependents listed on the return should match the names on their Social Security cards.
- Inaccurate information. Taxpayers should carefully enter any wages, dividends, bank interest and other income they received to make sure they report the correct amounts. This includes any information taxpayers need to calculate credits and deductions.
- Incorrect filing status. Some taxpayers choose the wrong filing status. Publication 501 has detailed information about filing statuses.
- Math mistakes. Math errors are some of the most common mistakes. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex calculations. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax prep software will check it automatically.
- Figuring credits or deductions. Taxpayers can make mistakes figuring things like their earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit and child tax credit. Tax software will calculate these credits and deductions and include any required forms and schedules.
- Incorrect bank account numbers. Taxpayers who are due a refund should choose direct deposit. This is the fastest way for them to get their money. However, taxpayers need to make sure they use the correct routing and account numbers on their tax return.
- Unsigned forms. An unsigned tax return isn’t valid. In most cases, both spouses must sign a joint return. Exceptions may apply for members of the armed forces or other taxpayers who have a valid power of attorney.
- Disreputable tax preparers. Taxpayers should remember they, not the tax preparer, are responsible for the information on their tax return. The IRS has resources to help taxpayers find someone to prepare their tax return. Some taxpayers may even be able to get free help from IRS-certified volunteers. Certified public accountants, enrolled agents or other tax professionals can also help taxpayers avoid errors.