Before filing your return, be sure to review it carefully to make sure that the data is complete and correct. It is important that you review your entire return, because any errors may delay the processing of your return, and of course, any refund you may be due.
Here are the most common errors when preparing and filing income tax returns are:
Missing or Inaccurate Social Security Numbers. Be sure to enter each SSN on a tax return exactly as printed on the Social Security card.
Misspelled Names. Spell all names listed on a tax return exactly as listed on that individual’s Social Security card.
Filing Status Errors. Some people claim the wrong filing status, such as Head of Household instead of Single. The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help taxpayers choose the correct status. E-file software also helps prevent mistakes.
Math or Computation Errors. Many errors occur when simply adding or subtracting incorrectly. Some of the other computations are more difficult to do and can result in errors, such as determining the taxable portion of a pension, IRA distribution, or Social Security benefits. Always double-check the math. Better yet, tax preparation software does it automatically, so file electronically. IRS e-file is the most accurate way to file a tax return. All taxpayers can use IRS Free File at no cost.
Errors in Figuring Tax Credits or Deductions. Filers can also make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, the standard deduction and other items. Taxpayers need to follow the instructions carefully. For example, if a taxpayer is age 65 or older, or blind, they should be sure to claim the correct, higher standard deduction. Again, the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible for tax credits or deductions.
Incorrect Bank Account Numbers. The IRS strongly urges all taxpayers who have a refund due to choose direct deposit. It’s easy and convenient. But, be very careful to use the correct bank routing and account numbers on the tax return. The fastest and safest way to get a refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit.
Forms Not Signed. Like an unsigned check, an unsigned tax return is not valid. when filing jointly, both spouses must sign the joint return. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically. Sign an e-filed tax return digitally before sending it to the IRS.
Electronic Filing PIN Errors. When e-filing, the taxpayer signs and validates the tax return electronically with a prior-year Self-Select Personal Identification Number. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.
Filing with an expired ITIN. A tax return filed with an expired Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) will be processed and treated as timely filed, but will be processed without any exemptions or credits claimed. Taxpayers will receive a notice from the IRS explaining that an ITIN must be current before any refund is paid. Once the ITIN is renewed, exemptions and credits are processed and any allowed refund paid. ITIN information is available on IRS.gov.
Not filing electronically. Avoid many common errors by filing electronically. IRS e-file is the most accurate way to file a tax return. All taxpayers can use IRS Free File at no cost.
Not paying taxes. Well, this isn’t a common error. However, sometimes people contemplate not paying income taxes by arguing on legal grounds, such as religious or moral grounds by invoking the First Amendment. If this is you, read The Truth about Frivolous Tax Arguments, published by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
“The IRS and the courts hear many arguments to avoid filing returns or paying taxes” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should be on the lookout for scam artists and scheme promoters peddling outlandish arguments.”
Tax scams. Some people fall victim to scams targeting taxpayers, which can lead to significant penalties, interest, and possible criminal prosecution. Scams increase during income tax filing season, especially as people hire someone to help with income tax preparation. Some of the most recent schemes include claiming erroneous tax credits or business credits, inflating deductions or expenses on tax returns, unscrupulous tax return preparers touting inflated tax refunds, aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents and demanding immediate payment, groups masquerading as charitable organizations to attract supposedly taxable donations, identity theft of client data from tax professionals. These types of scams may be used over the phone, in person, using fake emails, or fake tax preparation websites. Like all scams, don’t fall for income tax advice or assistance that sounds “too good to be true” and work with reliable professionals whose credentials you can verify. The IRS publishes some helpful documents, including the Dirty Dozen list, which describes many of the worst tax scams, and other helpful IRS fact sheets, such as How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door and Understanding Your Paid Tax Return Preparer.
Visit IRS.gov for a more detailed Checklist of Common Errors When Preparing Your Tax Return.
If you file income taxes jointly, work together with your partner to double-check these types of common errors when preparing an income tax return. And of course, use common sense when preparing and filing your tax return.
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