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Tax Strategies

How to avoid tax-time errors on returns


Mistakes on tax returns mean they take longer to process, which in turn, may cause your refund to arrive later. The IRS cautions against these common errors so your refund is timely:

1) Incorrect and missing Social Security numbers. When entering SSNs for anyone listed on your tax return, be sure to enter them exactly as they appear on the Social Security cards. The IRS will automatically reject your tax return, tax credits and deductions if your Social Security number is wrong.

2) Forgetting dependents. Don’t forget to claim dependents. In many cases, college students can be claimed by parents. Also, if you are caring for an aging parent, you can often claim him or her as a dependent.

3) Filing-status errors. Make sure you choose the correct filing status for your situation. Changing living arrangements, from childbirth to divorces to adult children moving back home, can have a major impact on tax-filing status. Claiming the wrong status could negate your ability to claim the child-tax credit, the earned-income credit or dependent exemptions.

4) Using the wrong tax table. If you use the IRS tax tables, make sure you use the correct column for your filing status.

5) Report all income. The IRS can easily check how much income you received based on your SSN and 1099 forms financial institutions are required to submit.

6) Math errors. When preparing paper returns, review all math for accuracy. Math mistakes are one of the leading reasons the IRS adjusts returns. If you file electronically, the software does the math for you!

7) Computation errors. Take your time. Many taxpayers make mistakes when figuring their taxable income, withholding and estimated-tax payments, Earned Income Tax Credit, Standard Deduction for age 65 or over, the taxable amount of Social Security benefits and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.

8) Failure to take tax credits and deductions. Each year the IRS collects millions of dollars thanks to taxpayers who don’t claim all the deductions and tax credits available to them whether they itemize or not. Such tax credits and deductions include child- and dependent-care and student-loan interest.

9) Incorrect bank-account numbers for direct deposit. If you are due a refund and requested direct deposit, review the routing and account numbers for your financial institution. One incorrect number can mean several weeks of waiting for your refund.

10) Forgetting to sign and date the return. An unsigned tax return is invalid. Remember, on joint returns both taxpayers must sign the return. If you file electronically, you must sign using a Personal Identification Number.

11) Sending the IRS your only copy. Be sure to make a copy of your return and keep all documentation for your records in case you are audited by the IRS.

When preparing your taxes there are a lot of simple and easy errors you can avoid with a little double-checking and extra diligence. An error-free return means faster processing and a faster refund check for you.

Barry Lisak is an IRS enrolled agent specializing in personal and small business taxes for 30 years. Any questions can be directed to him at 516-829-7283, or mrbarrytax@aol.com.


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