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Tax Tips for Avoiding E-file Rejections

Updated for Tax Year 2015


The Internal Revenue Service can reject your e-filing for a wide range of reasons. However, if you implement some basic tips, you may be able to avoid unnecessary e-file rejections.

Sometimes the most frustrating part of preparing your tax return is dealing with unsuccessful attempts to e-file. E-filing your return instead of mailing definitely has some benefits, especially receiving your refund much faster. The Internal Revenue Service can reject your e-filing for a wide range of reasons, which means you’ll need to figure out what went wrong and try again. However, if you implement some basic tips, you may be able to avoid unnecessary e-file rejections.

Taxpayer SSN mismatching

One of the easier e-file rejections to fix is the names reported on your tax forms. When you e-file, the IRS will check to ensure that your name matches the Social Security number (SSN) reported on the form. Therefore, you should always check your return for typos to avoid this type of e-file rejection. Moreover, if you file a joint return, you need to make sure that the SSN you report is for the primary taxpayer. For example, if you list your spouse as the primary taxpayer but use your SSN on all tax forms, you may encounter an e-file rejection since the name won’t match the SSN.

Another frequent mismatch occurs when there is a name change due to marriage or divorce. If you change your last name, you need to notify the Social Security Administration to get your SSN reassigned to your new name, or risk your e-file being rejected. If you aren’t able to get your SSN reassigned before preparing your taxes, you can avoid an e-file rejection by simply using the name that currently matches the number on your Social Security card, even if it is not the name you are using regularly.

Incorrect dependent information

When you take exemptions for your dependents, your tax form requires their full names, SSNs and the relationship you have with each of them. The IRS e-file system will verify that each dependent’s name matches the corresponding SSN by comparing the information to IRS master files. If it doesn’t match, the IRS will reject your e-filing. The only way to prevent this type of rejection is to verify the accuracy of your dependent information throughout the entire return before you make your first e-file attempt.

Dependent claimed on another tax return

This frustrating situation is actually common. The IRS won't accept an e-filed tax return that reports a Social Security number already claimed on an e-filed tax return. Typically it occurs when your child e-files a tax return to recover withheld wages before you claim that child as a dependent on your tax return, or an ex-spouse, other parent or caregiver claims the same dependent child and e-files before you do.

To avoid the first situation, before you file ask your dependent if they have already electronically filed their return. If they have, you will need to mail your return. If you are filing returns for both you and your child the same rules apply. Only one of the returns can be electronically filed, the other must be mailed.

To avoid an e-file rejection when someone else has claimed the dependent, ask your ex-spouse, other parent or caregiver if they have already filed their return and claimed the dependent. If they have and you were claiming the dependent in error, simply remove the dependent from your return and e-file your return. If they have and you believe you have the right to claim the dependent instead, file your return by mail. The IRS will later determine who is entitled to claim the dependent deduction. The taxpayer who incorrectly claimed the dependent will be assessed any additional taxes and penalties, and be required to file an amended return.

Filing status problems

Certain tax return filing statuses require additional information on the return other than just marking the appropriate status box. If filing as head of household, for example, one of the eligibility requirements is that you claim at least one dependent on your return. Thus, if you forget to list your dependent or report your dependent's name or SSN incorrectly, the e-filing system will catch this error and reject your e-file submission. Again, the only way to avoid this type of rejection is to review your return for accuracy and completeness prior to filing. Similarly, if you choose to file a joint return but fail to report information for your spouse, an e-file rejection awaits you.

Income doesn't reconcile

To e-file your tax return, you’ll need to submit all your W-2 information electronically. The IRS will not reject your return because the total income you report on the return doesn’t match the amounts on your W-2; instead, it will reject it if the sum of your W-2 wages is more than the amount you report on the return. If you encounter this type of rejection, the problem can lie in various parts of your return. Possible reasons for the rejection include reporting the wrong amount on your tax return, inputting the wrong W-2 amounts when transferring the information electronically or just math errors. As is the case with most e-file rejections, some preliminary reviews, such as double-checking your math, is the only way to avoid an e-file rejection.

When you use TurboTax to prepare your taxes, you’ll have the opportunity to import your W-2 directly into your tax return from thousands of employers. Directly importing your W-2 can reduce the opportunity for errors that would lead to an e-file rejection.

TurboTax also performs error checks before you file your return, to identify any areas that might cause a rejection.

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The above article is intended to provide generalized financial information designed to educate a broad segment of the public; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other business and professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other business and professional matters that affect you and/or your business.

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