If you want to get your tax refund as quickly as possible, it's critical to avoid making mistakes that will delay the processing of your return. Yet every year, millions of taxpayers make tax errors that hold up their refunds and can trigger closer examinations of their taxes. The IRS has identified the most common errors taxpayers make, and fortunately, it's pretty easy to steer clear of them once you know they're there.
1. Wrong or missing Social Security numbers
All of the tax information that gets reported to the IRS is tied to your Social Security number. Therefore, if you provide the wrong number, then the IRS won't be able to match up your return with the information that your employer and financial institutions have provided. To avoid problems, make sure that the Social Security numbers that you provide match up correctly to what appears on your Social Security card.
2. Wrong names
You'd think this wouldn't be a major problem, but the IRS receives many returns on which people's names are incorrect. Again, your Social Security card is the best place to cross-check your name, and you should make sure you spell everything consistently so that it matches with other records. One particularly common issue is that if you change your name because of marriage or divorce, then you should be sure to notify the Social Security Administration so that its records will match what you report to the IRS.
3. Filing status errors
Some filing statuses can give additional tax breaks, but it's critical to choose the right one for your particular situation. Often, taxpayers make mistakes in choosing a filing status for which they don't qualify, such as head of household status for unmarried individuals. Using the interactive tax assistant on the IRS website can make sure that you pick the right status.
4. Math errors
Simple mistakes in arithmetic make up a substantial portion of the errors that show up on tax returns, especially for those who prepare their returns by hand. Tax software typically catches errors in math, although software won't necessarily pick up simple data-entry mistakes like switching two digits around. Double-checking with a calculator can be a good way to avoid problems.
5. Errors in figuring credits or deductions
Some tax breaks are complicated, and the IRS says that errors in figuring the earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit, and the standard deduction are particularly common. The best way to avoid these errors is to follow instructions carefully in calculating these credits and deductions, or else you'll risk shortchanging yourself out of a bigger tax break.
6. Incorrect bank account numbers
If you use direct deposit to get your refund, you'll get it faster than if the IRS has to mail a paper check. But you have to provide the correct routing number and account number for your bank account, or else your refund won't get processed correctly. Be sure to look on a check or get routing and account information from your financial institution to make sure your refund goes where it's supposed to go.
7. Not signing or dating your tax forms
After spending hours or days preparing your return, it's easy to forget the key final step of signing and dating your tax forms. However, an unsigned tax return isn't valid, and if you're filing a joint return, both spouses have to sign. Also, you'll want to put the correct date as evidence that you filed your return in a timely fashion.
8. Errors with validating an electronically filed tax return
Those who file electronically have to select a personal identification number or use their prior-year adjusted gross income to validate your electronic tax return. Often, taxpayers don't understand the procedure, or they fail to provide the correct number. Being certain about providing correct figures makes tax preparation and electronic filing simpler.
9. Not correcting erroneous tax information forms
If there are errors on your Form W-2 from your employer, or on 1099 forms from financial institutions and other providers, then you shouldn't simply ignore them. Rather, talk to the reporting party and ask them to correct the error. Otherwise, the IRS will flag a mismatch between what you said and what the other party said, and it'll be up to you to prove that you're right.