There are many opportunities to make mistakes on your income tax return. A simple error can make you pay too much, wait longer for a refund or face an IRS audit of your finances. It could even affect your eligibility for tax credits in subsequent years. You can avoid these consequences by taking the time to check your return for these common mistakes.
Form 1040 Errors
1. Falsely identifying yourself as the head of household. This status only applies if your earnings covered over 50 percent of the household expenses, you weren't married at end of the year, and you have a child or parent who meets certain dependency requirements.
2. Improperly claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit: It's relatively difficult to calculate the correct amount and verify that you are eligible for the EITC, so this is a common source of mistakes. Be sure to follow all steps in the directions and double-check your math.
3. Relying too heavily on last year's forms: A copy of the previous year's tax return can be helpful. However, you must use care not to enter dates or amounts of money from last year. Keep in mind that some tax regulations may have changed during the past 12 months.
4. Improperly entering information about your husband or wife on the tax return: Remember that your spouse needs to sign and date a joint return before you submit it to the IRS. If you file separately, don't enter your spouse's Social Security number, name or address.
5. Supplying the wrong personal details: Be sure to confirm that you have provided the correct Social Security number on all forms. Do not inadvertently enter an old phone number or address. Most importantly, supply the correct bank account and routing numbers (for refunds).
The Final Steps
6. Arranging tax forms in the wrong order: This easily-overlooked detail can become a problem if you file a paper tax return. To establish the correct order, refer to the numbers in the upper-right corners of the forms (labeled "Attachment Sequence"). Form 1040 comes first.
7. Waiting until the last minute to finish your tax return: When you make this mistake, it could be difficult to submit your forms on time if there is a power outage, illness, storm or other unexpected event. Try to complete the return by April 10th at the latest.
Consider asking a knowledgeable family member to review your tax return or an actual tax attrney. Another person will often see a mistake or omission that you haven't noticed. If you must proofread the forms on your own, it's best to do this when you have some energy. Don't look for errors when you're feeling exhausted after calculating your income and entering tax information for hours.