The Most Common Income Tax Return Errors and How You Can Avoid Them When Filing Your Return
Image: Pixabay

The Most Common Income Tax Return Errors and How You Can Avoid Them When Filing Your Return

Many income tax return errors are caused by carelessness or failing to double check the information you enter, even with electronic filing

January 13, 2020

Have you started preparing your 2019 income taxes? The deadline to file your return is Wednesday, April 15, 2020. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) expects that the vast majority of income tax returns, about 90 percent, will be prepared electronically using tax return preparation software. But there are a number of common tax return errors you should look for regardless of how you file your taxes.

Missing the due date

The due date for 2019 income tax returns is April 15, 2020. Individual income tax returns need to be filed electronically on or before this date or printed forms postmarked on or before this date. Fines and penalties start accruing immediately.

entering the wrong social security number and other information

It may sound like common sense, but putting inaccurate information on a tax return is fairly common. Whether you complete your tax return online, pay a tax return preparer, or complete the tax return by hand, having the right information is crucial. Double check your personal information. If your personal information, you might not get your tax refund or your tax payment might nor get credited properly.

illegible information of your tax return

Many people have bad handwriting, but that's no excuse to take your time to write clearly. If the person accepting your return can't read it, your tax return might get entered incorrectly. But it doesn't affect just handwritten tax returns. It could affect a printed tax return, too. If your tax return was printed from the computer using ink, make sure it's not smudged.

checking multiple boxes

In case you didn't know, you can't select multiple filing statuses or exemption boxes. You can't file as Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow / Widower With Dependent Child at the same time, so check only one box. Hey. It happens a lot. The good news is that using tax software virtually eliminates this kind of error.

wrong names entered on the tax return

Spelling your own name might seem silly, but it does happen. More often than not you'll misspell the name of a spouse or dependent, so make sure you take a moment to check the information. The name should match the name on the Social Security Card.

bad math can put the brakes on your tax return

The math on a tax return should be fairly straightforward, but math mistakes happen a lot. If you are preparing a tax return by hand, make sure all the numbers are correct. One advantage to using tax software or a paid professional tax preparer is that you don't have to worry about getting the math done right.

mailing a tax return to the wrong address

Paper filers should check the form instructions for the appropriate address. If you send a tax return to the wrong address, you'll get delayed. When using tax software and filing by mail, you'll receive instructions for where to send each form. Make sure you send the right tax form to the right address. Just because you sent your returns to one address last year doesn't mean your tax return will be accepted there this year.

not double checking your bank information for you tax refund or tax payment

Routing numbers and account numbers on checks can be long, but take a second to verify the numbers are correct. You may end up having your refund deposited to someone else's account! It does happen. This is especially important if you are depositing your tax refund into multiple accounts.

not requesting a tax extension when you should and not paying the tax by the deadline

If you can't meet the April 17 tax return deadline, request an extension now to avoid late filing penalties. Either use Free File or Form 4868. But keep in mind that while an extension grants additional time to file, tax payments are still due by or on Tuesday, April 17.

missing tax forms when submitting your tax return

Attach all required forms. Paper filers need to attach W-2s and other forms that reflect tax withholding to the front of their tax returns. If requesting a payment agreement with the IRS, also attach Form 9465 to the front of the return. Attach all other necessary schedules and forms in the sequence number order shown in the upper right-hand corner.

errors in tax credits or tax deductions

There are a lot of tax credits and tax deductions available. You may select a tax credit or tax deduction that seems appropriate when in fact it doesn't apply to you. You might not be eligible due to income or other restrictions. You may have already claimed the tax credit or tax deduction in previous years or it might have been phased out. This is where completing your tax return online or paying a professional tax return preparer can be beneficial.

not signing or dating the tax return

If your tax return isn't signed or dated, it's going to get kicked back to you. So make sure you aren't missing this step. And make sure the date is correct!

no postage or insufficient postage

When you're in a hurry, you might forget to put a stamp on the envelope or you might not put enough postage for the weight. Keep in mind that postage rates increased in 2018.

no check or the check isn't written correctly

If you have to pay when you file your tax return, make sure to include the check and make sure the check is written correctly. Checks should be made payable to "United States Treasury" and including your full name, address, taxpayer ID, daytime phone number, tax form number and the tax year.