If you’re in a hurry to get your tax refund faster (and who isn’t?), make sure your tax return won’t be delayed by common mistakes.
There are a handful of common errors that the IRS regularly deals with. These mistakes signal an immediate red flag and cause your refund to be delayed by weeks or months as the IRS tries to sort things out or asks you to re-file.
Especially if you file on paper, make sure to double-check these easily overlooked items.
1. Check All Social Security Numbers
Make sure all social security numbers that you enter for yourself, your spouse, and your children or other dependents are correct. This is the single most common error. Get out the individual social security cards if you have to, since this is one thing TurboTax can’t check for you. If you’re doing it on paper, make those numbers as clear and easy to read as possible.
2. Use Your Own Name and Social Security Number
If you’re married filing separately, don’t put your spouse’s name on your return. Only put your own name and social security number.
3. Make Sure Names Are Updated
It’s important to double-check that the name of the person filing matches the name on the social security card. For instance, if you have changed your name, you must file the name change with the Social Security Administration and get a new card. Otherwise, the federal government won’t have it on file.
4. Select Only One Filing Status
This is a very common mistake on paper returns, since online tax preparation software will only allow you to choose one. If filing on paper, make sure you’ve clearly checked off which filing status you want.
5. Make Sure to Sign Your Return
If you are filing as married filing jointly, your spouse must also sign the return. If this simple step is overlooked, your return will have to be re-filed and can be held up for weeks.
6. Double Check Current Tax Tables
Make sure you’re calculating the amount of tax due correctly – especially if you’re calculating by hand. Double check that you’re using the most up-to-date version of the tax tables and triple check your math.
7. Check for Earned Income Credit Eligibility
Eligibility for this credit is based off your income and income limits have risen each year. If you didn’t qualify last year, but were unemployed at any time this year, you might qualify. Also, if you have children in college, you may qualify since the tuition and fees deduction will reduce your adjusted gross income (AGI), and the Earned Income Credit is determined using your AGI. The same goes for any tax deductions for self employed freelancers and small business owners.
Note though, that you aren’t eligible to take the Earned Income Credit if you are under 25 or over 64, even if your income is low enough to meet the limits. The exception to this is if you have a qualifying child.
8. Check for Age Specific Deductions
If you checked off that you’re over 65, make sure you’re aware of the special instructions for taking the standard tax deduction. You’re generally able to claim a larger standard deduction. There is a worksheet in the 1040 instructions to help you figure it out.
9. Check Routing and Account Numbers
If you’ve requested for a direct deposit refund from the IRS, make sure you double-check the routing and account numbers for your bank account. This is also a very common error, and easy to correct.
10. Make Sure You’re Eligible to Claim Dependents
When claiming qualifying dependents on your taxes, make sure that the dependents are actually able to be claimed. If they make any of their own money and support themselves, they may not be your dependent and may need to file on their own. Children who live with you may not be your dependents, for example, if they purchase their own food and clothing, and only receive a place to live and utilities from you.
11. File on Time or Get an Extension
And last, but not least, make sure you file on time by the tax filing deadline. If you think you might need more time to get your taxes together, you can file for a tax extension. This will give you until October to file your return. Keep in mind that an extension on filing the return doesn’t mean an extension on paying the taxes, so if you’re hoping an extension will give you time to come up with the cash, you’re better off simply calling the IRS and telling them you’re not able to pay right now. You can then work on getting some sort of installment plan set up with them. The last thing you want is the IRS coming after you for tax evasion fraud.
Give the IRS a helping hand, and don’t be one of the millions of taxpayers whose returns have to be sent back because of minor errors. In return, they’ll thank you by sending you your refund as swiftly as possible!
Do you have any tips for accurately and easily filing your taxes? Are there any programs or methods that you think work well for fixing common errors? Share your thoughts in the comments below.