As Tax Day creeps closer, it can be tempting to dash through your return. Don’t. Rushing tends to result in mistakes – and those errors can slow processing of your tax return, resulting in delayed tax refunds or worse, a second glance from Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
The IRS has identified the nine errors that they see at tax time. The most common tax-filing errors to avoid are:
- Wrong or Missing Social Numbers. Transposing numbers can be as simple as typing faster than you think. And attempting to recall Social Security number (SSN) for your kids (I’ll be honest: I don’t know my kids’ SSNs by heart) can result in mistakes. Make sure you enter the correct numbers and then double-check them against the actual Social Security cards.
- Wrong Names. It’s not terribly likely that you’ll get your own name wrong – but you’d be surprised at how many taxpayers misspell the names of their spouse and/or dependent. It’s not always on purpose: the names on the tax return should match the names as they appear on your Social Security card and sometimes, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will get it wrong (my husband’s name was backwards on his card). Sometimes, there is simply an error on the card which means that when you enter the “right” name on your tax return, it will conflict with the information in the IRS’ system. Use the name which appears on your Social Security card. If you need to make a name change, you may need to contact SSA. For more on name changes, click here.
- Filing Status Errors. It’s important to choose the right filing status. There are five filing statuses to choose from: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child. Each has a specific definition for tax purposes: you need to select the one most appropriate for your circumstances. For more on filing status, click here.
- Math Mistakes. One of the first things that the IRS checks on a tax return is math. In particular, the figures on those first two pages of your tax return need to add up. If you file a paper tax return, it’s easy to miss a number or two, so go slowly and double-check your math. One advantage of using software (or a tax professional) is that you don’t have to do the math on your own – which most people prefer unless you’re a math geek like me.