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33% of Filers Worry About Botching Their Tax Returns. Here's How to Avoid Doing That

By Maurie Backman - Mar 7, 2020 at 9:49AM

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These tips will help you steer clear of headache-causing errors.

Filing taxes can be a daunting prospect, especially if your tax situation is complex or if you're new to the workforce and therefore new to the process. In fact, 33% of filers are worried about making a mistake on their taxes this season, according to a recent survey by Offers.com. If you're concerned about botching your taxes, here are a few tips that will help.

1. Check your Social Security number carefully

You might think you have your Social Security number memorized or your spouse's number memorized, as well, but entering the wrong information on your taxes is a good way to get your return rejected. As such, be sure to check that detail carefully before submitting your return. And if you're filing jointly with a spouse, have him or her review it, as well.

Man at laptop covering his face

IMAGE SOURCE: GETTY IMAGES.

2. Make sure to report all of your income

Some tax filers assume that they don't need to report small amounts of income to the IRS, like the $40 they collected in interest from a bank account or the $90 in dividend payments they received from an investment. But each time you get a 1099 form, which is the form that summarizes those different payments, the IRS gets a copy, as well, and if the agency's records don't match the information you put on your taxes, your return could get flagged for an audit. Clearly, that's not what you want, so make a point to round up those 1099s and include them -- even if the amounts they report seem trivial.

3. Don't just assume you shouldn't itemize

The standard deduction has been much higher in recent years than it's been in the past. For 2019 (the return you're filing this year), the standard deduction is:

  • $12,200 for singles and married couples filing separately
  • $18,350 for heads of household
  • $24,400 for married couples filing jointly

You might therefore assume that sticking with the standard deduction is your best bet, but before you do, run the numbers to see how you fare itemizing. If you pay a lot of mortgage interest and have high property taxes, you may find that itemizing makes more sense.

4. File your taxes electronically

If you're used to submitting a paper tax return, the idea of filing electronically may seem foreign. But the benefit of filing electronically is that you're less likely to make a mistake. The error rate for paper tax returns is 21%. For electronic returns, it's less than 1%. And when you file electronically, you're less likely to miss out on value tax credits and deductions that could save money. Not only that, but refunds for electronic returns are processed more quickly than those associated with paper returns, so if you're owed money from the IRS, you'll get it sooner.

It's natural to worry about messing up on your taxes, but if you give yourself enough time to get the job done, you're less likely to make mistakes. The good news is that the April 15 tax-filing deadline is still over a month away, and if you get moving in the next week or so, you should have plenty of opportunity to review your return thoroughly and ensure that it's accurate.

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