When filing a tax return, mistakes such as the common errors listed below can result in a processing delay – and increase the amount of time it takes to receive a tax refund. Using a reputable tax preparer such as a certified public accountant, enrolled agent or another knowledgeable tax professional is usually the best way to avoid this. With this in mind, here are eight of the most common errors taxpayers make when filing their returns:
1. Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. Each SSN on a tax return should appear exactly as printed on the Social Security card.
2. Misspelled names. Likewise, a name listed on a tax return should match the name on that person’s Social Security card. This applies to spouses and dependents as well.
3. Incorrect filing status. Some taxpayers choose the wrong filing status. A tax professional can help taxpayers choose the correct status, especially if more than one filing status applies.
4. Math mistakes. Math errors are one of the most common mistakes. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex calculations. Using a professional tax preparer ensures an accurate return.
5. Figuring credits or deductions. Taxpayers can make mistakes figuring things like their earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit, and the standard deduction. Taxpayers should always follow the instructions carefully. For example, a taxpayer who’s 65 or older, or blind, should claim the correct, higher standard deduction if they’re not itemizing. Also, remember to attach any required forms and schedules.
6. Incorrect bank account numbers. Taxpayers who are due a refund should choose direct deposit because it is the fastest way to get their money. They should remember, however, to include the correct routing and account numbers on the tax return. No bank account number means no direct deposit.
7. Unsigned forms. An unsigned tax return isn’t valid under any circumstance. Also, keep in mind that when filing a joint return, in most cases, both spouses must sign. Exceptions may apply, however, for members of the armed forces or other taxpayers who have a valid power of attorney. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically and digitally signing it before sending it to the IRS.
8. Filing with an expired individual tax identification number. If a taxpayer’s ITIN is expired, a tax return should be filed using the expired number. The IRS will process that return and treat it as a return filed on time; however, be aware that the IRS won’t allow any exemptions or credits to a return filed with an expired ITIN. Taxpayers will receive a notice telling the taxpayer to renew their number. Once the taxpayer renews the ITIN, the IRS will process a return normally.
If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, a tax professional can help expedite the process and ensure you file an accurate tax return. If you need help with your tax return, don’t hesitate to call.