As April 15 quickly approaches, many Americans are reminded once again of how stressful the tax season can be – and it can be especially tough for those who are struggling with debt or financial hardship. Perhaps the question that causes the most worry: “will I be one of the few people who are selected for an audit?” There is no way to guarantee you’ll be passed by for the dreaded examination, but there is one action that has tremendous impact – an error-free tax return. Mistakes will focus attention on your return, which may trigger an audit or delay processing. Here are common tax filing mistakes you need to watch for:
• Personal Identification – Your tax return cannot be processed without a Taxpayer Identification number (TIN) that matches your name, which for most of us is our Social Security number. Omitting the number completely or transposing the numbers incorrectly is an easy mistake. Take a few moments to double check that it is complete and correct to avoid further scrutiny of your return.
• Mathematical Errors – The most common error cited by the IRS on tax returns is miscalculating the numbers. Use a calculator to provide the totals and be sure you input the correct numbers. Double check your math before submitting your return. In addition, be sure you are inserting the correct figures into the proper areas, taxable income versus adjusted gross income, for example.
• Changes in Status – If you’ve married, divorced or changed your name but haven’t requested that the Social Security Administration update their records, the IRS may consider it an error. Take the steps necessary to ensure that government organizations have your correct name on file. Also, be sure you choose the right filing status: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. Your status defines how your taxes are calculated.
• Supporting Documents – The IRS will be using all supporting documents to verify your return. Neglecting to include all your W-2s, dividend and interest statements, etc. may cause the rejection of your return until the proper documents are included. Forgetting to include tax payments paid throughout the year or last year’s refund designated for this year’s payment will complicate your return.
• Direct Deposit Account – Filing electronically or having your tax refund deposited directly into your bank account means you’ll get your money faster. Providing an incorrect direct deposit account number will delay your refund and draw attention to your return.
• Signature Authorization – A seemingly minor infraction when filling out your tax return may bring unwanted attention. Submitting your return without a proper signature and date will result in it being returned. Keep in mind that a joint tax return requires the signature of both parties.
• Payment or Refund Addresses – The IRS frequently makes changes to the district addresses for refunds and tax payments, so it’s important to check that you have the correct one. And don’t forget to include the correct amount of postage, especially when mailing a larger envelope.
Take a deep breath and relax. Tax season is almost over and by taking a little time to review your return before you send it; you may be saving yourself the aggravation of a declined refund submission or even worse, a letter requesting an audit. Plus, it’s much easier to prevent errors than to have to fix them.
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