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6 Common Mistakes When Filing Taxes That are Easy to Avoid

Updated for Tax Year 2020


OVERVIEW

Tax season might feel a little daunting sometimes. Mistakes might happen unintentionally when filing. We’ll review some of the most common filing mistakes so you know what to look out for.


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Depending on your situation, tax season can either be a relatively straightforward process or one that requires a heavier lift on your time and energy. In order to make your taxes as stress-free as possible, here are some of the most common mistakes taxpayers make when filing and how you can avoid them.

1.  Math errors

The IRS found nearly 2.5 million math errors  on returns filed for the 2017 tax year, according to statistics for the agency's 2018 fiscal year. The errors range from a simple mistake in addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division to selecting the wrong number from a tax table or schedule.

IRS software usually catches those mistakes and would typically send you a notice explaining the error and letting you know that your refund has changed (or that you owe more money). So, resolving math errors is pretty simple, but they can delay the processing of your return.

Fortunately, avoiding simple math errors is easy. If you use tax software such as TurboTax, the program will automatically handle most calculations for you and catch any errors before sending your forms to the IRS.

2.  Choosing the right filing status for you

Selecting the correct filing status is an essential part of filing your tax return. It can impact your tax bracket, the tax credits and deductions you can claim, and the amount of tax you pay.

There are five filing statuses:

  1. single,
  2. head of household,
  3. married filing jointly,
  4. married filing separately, and
  5. qualifying widow(er).

Each filing status comes with its own rules for who can select that option. If you're eligible for more than one tax filing status — say single and head of household — the choice you make could be the difference in a higher tax refund or having to pay more.

3.  Missing out on tax deductions

You might miss out on valuable tax-saving opportunities because you aren't aware of your eligibility for certain tax deductions and credits.

While the IRS will likely catch your missing W-2 income or if you've claimed someone as a dependent who's already been claimed by someone else, they won't fix your return if you forgot to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit or the home office deduction. That means you could be leaving some serious money on the table.

The good news is TurboTax will ask you simple questions and guide you through filling out the right tax forms and help you search for the deductions you qualify for to help you get the highest possible refund or lowest amount of tax due.

4.  Forgetting important paperwork

Many taxpayers can't wait to file their tax returns because filing early means getting their refund early, and who doesn't want that? But filing too early or rushing through the process can lead to mistakes that require you to amend your tax return later.

For example, institutions and organizations issuing tax forms may sometimes send them late or send amended versions of forms a few weeks after sending the initial document.

  • Before you file, think carefully about all the activities you did that might result in someone issuing you a tax document.
  • Did you open a new investment account, make a charitable donation, pay for school tuition, or pay a student loan?
  • Make sure you have all the documents you need before filing.

5.  Entering the wrong routing or account number

If you're waiting on your refund to be direct deposited into your bank account, you'll be waiting a long time if you entered the wrong routing or account number.

  • The IRS attempts to verify routing and account numbers before depositing refunds.
  • If the number you entered doesn't pass the validation check, the IRS will usually send you a paper check instead of a direct deposit.
  • But if you enter an account number that belongs to someone else, they might receive your refund and you'll have to work with the bank to recover your refund.

Avoid the hassle and double-check your numbers before filing.

6.  Paper filing blunders

Some of the most common tax filing mistakes happen when people paper file their tax returns. For example, you might,

  • forget to sign and date your return,
  • not put enough postage on the envelope,
  • send your tax return to the wrong IRS office,
  • forget to include the necessary forms, or
  • arrange tax forms in the wrong order.

You can avoid all of these mistakes and more by e-filing your return using tax software such as TurboTax. According to the IRS , the error rate for paper returns is 21%, compared with less than 1% among e-filed returns. So, take human error out of the equation and e-file whenever possible.

Filing your tax return can be simple and easy. TurboTax will ask you simple questions and help ensure that you’ve filled out the correct forms and completes most calculations for you so you don’t have to worry about any of the common mistakes when filing.

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