The Top 5 Tax Filing Mistakes
As the saying goes, “To err is human.” When it comes to mistakes and errors, filing one’s taxes is no different. While American taxpayers can get pretty ingenious in coming up with new errors each year, here are the top five tax filing mistakes folks make and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Math errors
Two plus two equals four. We all learned that early on, but that doesn’t keep us from making silly math errors on our returns. One of the most common of tax filing mistakes, math errors on IRS worksheets are a particular problem. An error there can easily be imported into your Form 1040 or other form. Then, even if you check your math on the form, you still have an underlying error. Avoid math errors by double-checking every calculation and transfer entry before filing.
Mistake 2: Inaccurate Social Security and Bank Account Numbers
Transpose one digit in your social security number and your return can get lost in IRS never-never land. Experts say that we see our social security number so often that our eye often just moves past it when we review the return. Take care and check it. Make an error when entering your bank’s routing number or your own checking number and your refund will be delayed for weeks, sometimes even months.
Mistake 3: Improper Filing Status
This one slips up many persons who are separated from their spouse. Should you file as a head of household or as married filing separately? Generally speaking, as long as you are legally married on the last day of the tax year, you must either file jointly or separately. Head of household status is primarily reserved for divorced persons with children. If you share custody of the children, that may complicate matters. Checking the wrong filing status box generally produces other errors on your return since your filing status determines the amount of allowable deductions and credits you can take, as well as your overall tax load.
Mistake 4: Forgetting to Sign the Return
One might be surprised by the number of returns that are filed with the IRS without an appropriate signature. An unsigned return is no return at all, according to IRS rules. Remember also that if you are married, both spouses must sign—not just one of you.
Mistake 5: Failing to Keep a Copy of Your Return
Even when the return has been meticulously prepared, checked and rechecked, many taxpayers make a final mistake—they fail to create and safeguard a copy of the return and all schedules and other backup materials. Each year the USPS must process millions of returns. While the post office has a good track record, some get lost. If your return is one of those sent to the moon, instead of the appropriate IRS office, you won’t want to start over. Make a copy. Better yet, make two copies and store one of them in another location, such as a lock box or a locked file at your office. One more thing: don’t thrown the copy away after a year or so. Some tax experts caution to keep such copies for up to seven years.
Be Careful with Your Returns
Tax returns are filed under penalties of perjury. Simple reporting problems can lead to crippling mistakes that can cost you big. Do you have a tax question? Are you concerned about possible tax filing mistakes or have you been contacted by the IRS regarding an error? If so, contact one of the Upstate New York tax attorneys or New York City tax attorneys at Mackay, Caswell & Callahan, P.C. today. We have more than 30 years of experience in assisting taxpayers with all sorts of tax-related issues. We have offices in Albany, New York City, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Watertown. Don’t delay; we have a New York tax attorney ready to help you with your tax issues.