You’re probably somewhat stressed if you’re in the throws of finishing your federal income tax return. After all, Monday, April 15, 2013 is the tax-filing deadline to get that 1040 for the 2012 tax year shipped off to Uncle Sam.
But just because you’re under time constraints doesn’t mean the IRS is going to give you a pass if you make any number of blunders when filing your taxes.
Here are 10 common tax mistakes the IRS wants you to avoid if you’re completing a last-minute tax return:
1. Filing a paper return with math errors.
In recent years, the IRS has been encouraging everyone to file electronically, whether through e-file or IRS Free File, or other commercial software programs that do your taxes. Filing electronically greatly reduces tax return errors, since the tax software handles all your calculations, flags common errors and prompts you for missing information.
2. Sending your tax return to the wrong address.
If you absolutely must mail a paper return – and some people have to, like those claiming the adoption tax credit – make sure you at least send your 1040 to the right address. Find the correct address where to file in IRS.gov or their form instructions to avoid processing delays.
3. Using incorrect tax tables.
When figuring tax using the tax tables, don’t rush through the process. If so, you could goof and enter a tax figure that’s incorrect. Slow down at this stage and double-check your work. Be absolutely sure that you’re using the correct column for the filing status claimed.
4. Failing to provide all requested information clearly.
As you enter data on your tax return, such as 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.
5. Forgetting to double-check all figures.
Although software catches and prevents many errors on e-file returns, math errors remain common on paper returns. In fact, IRS data show that paper returns have an error rate of about 20%; returns that are e-filed have an error rate of less than 1%.
6. Flubbing your routing and account numbers.
In your haste to file taxes, especially when you anticipate a big tax refund check, you could accidentally give the IRS wrong information about your bank accounts. Requesting direct deposit of a federal refund into one or more accounts is convenient and gets you a speedier tax refund. Just don’t blow it by providing inaccurate routing and account numbers for your bank, credit union or financial institution. Otherwise, your refund will wind up delayed, or possibly deposited into someone else’s account.
7. Forgetting to sign and date the return.
This mistake often happens when individuals are rushing to complete a tax return. But it can also impact couples if only one of them signs the 1040. By law, if filing a joint return, both spouses must sign and date the return. If you’re e-filing, you will “sign” using a self-selected personal identification number (PIN).
8. Neglecting to attach all required forms.
Those filing a paper return must attach W-2s and other forms that reflect tax withholding, to the front of their returns. All other necessary schedules and forms should be placed in sequence number order, and shown in the upper right-hand corner.
Also, if you need to enter into a payment agreement with the IRS, don’t forget to attach Form 9465 or Form 9465-FS to the front of the return. And do keep a copy of everything, including your signed 1040
9. Not request an Extension on time.
If, for any reason, you can’t file your taxes by the April 15 deadline, don’t make the mistake of neglecting to seek an extension. The process is quick and easy, plus filing extension will keep you from getting hit with late filing penalties.
To get an extension, use Free File or Form 4868. Realize, however, that the extension only gives you six months’ extra time to file your taxes; it doesn’t give you extra time to actually pay any taxes due. Any taxes owed for are still due April 15.
10. Failing to pay up when you owe taxes.
If you owe and you intend to pay up immediately, don’t forget to enclose your check or send off payment to the IRS when you file. If you’re filing electronically, many e-payment options are available.
And by the way, you should never make a check or money order payable to the IRS. Instead, make your taxes owed payable to the “United States Treasury.”
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