It's that time of the year again when we're all bringing out our calculators and sharpening our pencils to fill out our tax returns. But the last thing we want to do is to wind up making a mistake that could jeopardize your finances by delaying your refund, make you accountable for a fee or, even worse, force you to do that dreaded paperwork and math all over again! Whether you choose to go it alone, use a tax-prep computer program or hand it all over to an accountant, begin by checking out this list of common mistakes people make when filing their tax returns.
1.) Faulty math
Believe it or not, one of the most common errors on filed taxes is simple math mistakes. A small miscalculation can throw off all your numbers and get you into trouble with the IRS. Using an online program or a number-loving accountant may mitigate this problem, but it won’t assure you of anything. However you choose to prepare your taxes, be sure to triple-check all the math before filing. In fact, once you've completed your return, step away for a while and come back to check your calculations. The time away will give you "fresh eyes" for a better review.
2.) Ensure social security numbers are entered correctly.
It’s so easy to transpose numbers, especially if you’re in a hurry. Take just a few minutes to double check each social security number.
3.) Name changes and misspellings
When preparing your taxes, you’re thinking numbers. It’s true that most of the information you’re submitting is in numerical form, but don’t forget to pay attention to everything else on your form. If you use a name that’s different than the one the IRS has on file for your Social Security number, your refund may be delayed or not processed at all. Similarly, if you spell your name wrong, it won’t match the one the IRS has in its system and it could mean trouble for you and your taxes.
If you’ve recently changed your legal name because of a marriage or divorce, be sure to let the Social Security Administration know. Otherwise, remember to use the correct spelling of your legal name on all your tax forms.
4.) Neglecting to include extra income
Detailing your earnings from your day job may be a given. Most of us even remember to include bonuses and extra commission earnings. But many people neglect to include other sources of income, such as freelance work, moonlighting as a consultant and any other side work they may have done throughout the year. If you’ve taken any side jobs in 2018, be sure to fill out any necessary forms and count the income.
5.) Using the most recent tax laws
Most are aware the current administration made changes to the tax code. Here are some changes that are effective for this year. See a full list and details of 2019 changes in our previous blog post here.
6.) Don’t forget to sign your forms
Last, but not least, don’t forget the most basic step of signing your name. If you’re filing through USPS, sign wherever necessary (and get a receipt for it.) If filing online, you can use a PIN instead. Most signature lines will need to be dated as well.
Read through all of your forms before submitting them to be sure you haven’t overlooked anything or made mistakes. Taking the care now to ensure accuracy will help you avoid any future aggravation. And when you’re done filing, you can relax…until next year.