Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

8 Silly Tax Goof-Ups That Will Delay Your IRS Refund

By Dan Caplinger - Mar 12, 2018 at 8:33AM

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Don't make these unforced errors with your return.

We all want our tax refund as fast as we can get it. You might think that serious mistakes that involve complicated tax laws would be the key factor in delaying tax returns, but surprisingly, the common problems that hold you up in getting your money back from the IRS are mostly silly slip-ups that would be easily preventable.

To try to nip this problem in the bud, the IRS has released a checklist of common errors that taxpayers make when preparing their returns. Following are some of the silliest issues that come up.

1. Getting your name wrong

You know your name, but that doesn't mean you'll enter it correctly on your tax return. The federal government has several databases in which it stores names, and the IRS urges taxpayers to enter their names in the way in which it appears on their Social Security cards. You should contact the Social Security administration if your name changes so that what the SSA and IRS have on file will match up.

2. Incorrect Social Security number information

Your Social Security number is the key to your tax records, because your employer, financial institutions, and other providers of information to the IRS use your Social Security. Often, taxpayers leave out the Social Security entirely, or they enter the incorrect number. That can cause all sorts of red flags to come up because the IRS can't match your return to the information it has on file tied to your Social Security number. Be absolutely sure not to forget to fill in the correct Social Security numbers on your return.

Tax forms with a pencil on top of a spread-out pile of money.

Image source: Getty Images.

3. Bad math

It's shocking how many addition and subtraction mistakes cause problems for tax return processing at the IRS. The move toward tax software and electronic filing has remedied some of this problem, as many programs ensure that your calculations are correct at least for basic math purposes. For those who insist on doing returns by hand, there's no substitute to proofreading to ensure your math is correct.

4. Incorrect bank information

The fastest way to get your refund is to request direct deposit, but to do so, you have to provide a bank routing and account number. If it's wrong, then your refund will bounce back to the IRS, causing delays. Look closely at your check or preprinted deposit slip to find out what your bank routing and account numbers are, and then be careful to plug those numbers in correctly on your return where indicated.

5. Forgetting to put your signature and date on your return

It might seem a bit like a throwback to an earlier time, but signing and dating your return is still a legal requirement for filing with the IRS. Some people simply forget to sign at all, but another common mistake for married couples is that both spouses have to sign the return if they want to file jointly.

6. Bad filing status selection

Determining your filing status can be tricky, but the mistakes that people make are often sillier than just picking the wrong filing status. Some returns include no selection at all, while others have taxpayers claiming two or more filing statuses. Only one status applies to each return, and you can get more information on which one's the best one for you by using this IRS tool.

7. Claiming tax breaks incorrectly

It can be hard to know what credits or deductions you're entitled to claim, and calculating the amount of a tax break also involves the risk of making mistakes. Yet often, the mistakes people make involve just putting the right numbers on the wrong lines or failing to include a form that's necessary for documentation purposes. Read instructions carefully to avoid doing something that you easily could have avoided with a bit of extra effort.

8. Getting the postage right

For those who mail their returns, one of the hardest parts of preparing a return is figuring out how much postage to put on. It's rare that a full return will weigh less than an ounce, so having up-to-date information on extra charges for heavier or larger envelopes is crucial to avoid the risk of having a return sent back to you undelivered.

Be smart about your taxes

No one's perfect. But if you want your refund as quickly as possible, you'll want to get your tax return as close to perfect as it can possibly be. That way, you'll put yourself in the best position to get your refund in timely fashion.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
379%
 
S&P 500 Returns
123%

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 08/09/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.