7 Ways To Avoid Last-Minute Tax Filing Errors – Forbes

I know this probably isn’t keeping you up at night, but there are ways to goof up your tax return. The good part: If you’re careful, they are totally avoidable.

Whether you do your own return or use a preparer, there are certain items that always trip up taxpayers. Here are the most common mistakes, according to the IRS:

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1. Missing or Inaccurate Social Security Numbers. Be sure to enter each SSN on a tax return exactly as printed on the Social Security card. A wrong Social Security number won’t match up with the IRS system and it will result in a delay of your filing and return.

2. Misspelled Names. Spell all names listed on a tax return exactly as listed on that individual’s Social Security card. Note: My wife and I got tripped up on our joint return one year because her name wasn’t in the IRS system as a hyphenated maiden-surname.

3. Math Mistakes. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex items. Transactions like figuring the taxable portion of a pension, IRA distribution or Social Security benefits are more difficult and result in more errors.

Double check your math. Better yet, tax preparation software does it automatically, so file electronically.

4. Errors in Figuring Tax Credits/Deductions of Filing Status Errors. Filers can make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, the standard deduction and other items.

For example, if a taxpayer is age 65 or older, or blind, they should be sure to claim the correct, higher standard deduction. The IRS Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible for tax credits or deductions (see below).

You should also check if you’re single, or filing joint returns. Status matters a lot in determining your tax rates. Some people claim the wrong filing status, such as Head of Household instead of Single.

5. Incorrect Bank Account Numbers. The IRS strongly urges all taxpayers who have a refund due to choose direct deposit. It’s easy and convenient. Be careful to use the right 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.

6. Forms Not Signed. An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it’s not valid. Both spouses must sign a 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.

7. PIN Errors. When e-filing, the taxpayer signs and validates the tax return electronically with a prior-year Self-Select Personal Identification Number (PIN).

If you do not have or know your PIN, you should enter your Adjusted Gross Income from your 2015 tax return originally filed with the IRS. Always keep a copy of your tax return in a safe place.

To avoid cyberthievery, don’t share your PIN with anyone or email it to your preparer. Also be aware that if you’re emailing your return to anyone but the IRS — and it’s unencrypted — it could be stolen. And if anyone calls you and says they will arrest you — and says they’re from the IRS — hang up immediately.

For more help on filing status and standard deduction, check out the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant.

John F. Wasik is the author of  “Lightning Strikes,” “The Debt-Free Degree,” “Keynes’s Way to Wealth“and 13 other books on innovation, money and life. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.  

7 Ways To Avoid Last-Minute Tax Filing Errors – Forbes

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