Tax Time Tips: Avoid Common Errors When Preparing Your Tax Returns

The filing deadline to submit your 2017 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tax Time Tips: Avoid Common Errors When Preparing Your Tax Returns
Image: Pixabay
February 22, 2018

The 2018 tax filing season is well underway. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says that it expects to receive more than 155 million individual tax returns by the filing deadline, which falls this year on Tuesday, April 17.

The vast majority of those returns—about 90 percent—are expected to be prepared electronically using tax return preparation software.

Tax Preparation and Filing Tips

For taxpayers that have yet to file their returns, the IRS offers the following helpful tips and reminders:

File electronically. Filing electronically, whether through e-file or IRS Free File, vastly reduces tax return errors, as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. And best of all, there is a free option for everyone.

Mail a paper return to the right address. Paper filers should check IRS.gov or their form instructions for the appropriate address where to file to avoid processing delays.

Take a close look at the tax tables. When figuring tax using the tax tables, taxpayers should be sure to use the correct column for the filing status claimed.

Fill in all requested information clearly. When entering information on the tax return, including Social Security numbers, take the time to be sure it is correct and easy to read. Also, check only one filing status and the appropriate exemption boxes.

Review all figures. While software catches and prevents many errors on e-file returns, math errors remain common on paper returns.

Get the right routing and account numbers. Requesting direct deposit of a federal refund into one, two or even three accounts is convenient and allows the taxpayer access to his or her money faster. Make sure the financial institution routing and account numbers entered on the return are accurate. Incorrect numbers can cause a refund to be delayed or deposited into the wrong account.

Sign and date the return. If filing a joint return, both spouses must sign and date the return. E-filers can sign using a self-selected personal identification number (PIN).

Attach all required forms. Paper filers need to attach W-2s and other forms that reflect tax withholding, to the front of their 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.

Keep a copy of the return. Once ready to be filed, taxpayers should make a copy of their signed return and all schedules for their records.

Request a Filing Extension. For taxpayers who cannot meet the April 17 deadline, requesting a filing extension is easy and will prevent 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.

Owe tax? If so, a number of e-payment options are available. Or send a check or money order payable to the "United States Treasury."

Additional Tax Help

Additional help and resources for taxpayers is available on the IRS website.

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