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10 Most Common Tax Mistakes for Individuals (& How to Avoid Them)

Tax season can be a stressful time. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) deadlines are looming, paperwork is piling up, and the math gets complicated. And when it’s time to file your tax return, any mistake can lead to delays, penalties, or even a tax audit.

To prepare for tax season, it’s important to be familiar with common tax filing mistakes, learn how to avoid them, and work with an experienced tax professional to set yourself up for success.

10 Common Tax Mistakes to Avoid

An error on your tax return can lead to hassle and potentially months of delays when it comes to getting your refund. Let’s review some of the most common mistakes taxpayers make during the tax filing process so you are better prepared to identify and avoid them.

Tax Mistake #1:
Misspelling Names or Entering Incorrect Social Security Numbers

It may seem simple, but a misspelled name or an incorrect Social Security Number (SSN) on your tax return is an extremely common mistake. Your name and SSN, as well as the name and SSNs of your spouse and dependents (if applicable), must exactly match what is written on the Social Security cards. Any mismatch will result in the IRS rejecting your tax return.

If you’ve changed your legal name, be sure to contact the Social Security Administration to get an updated card before filing your taxes.

Tax Mistake #2:
Choosing the Incorrect Filing Status

Selecting the wrong tax filing status on your tax return has a significant impact on the credits you are eligible for, your standard deduction, and your overall tax burden, so it’s essential to choose the right filing status.

The IRS offers five filing statuses:

  • Single
  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately
  • Head of household
  • Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child

Each filing status has its own set of rules to determine whether you can select that option. In some cases, you may be eligible for more than one tax filing status; since the choice you make will have a direct impact on the amount of tax you pay, consider talking to a tax accountant to review your options.

Tax Mistake #3:
Entering the Wrong Bank Account or Routing Numbers

Are you expecting your tax refund to be directly deposited into your bank account? Then you need to make sure you enter the right bank account information and routing numbers on your tax return—because if your numbers are wrong, it will take much longer to get your tax refund.

The IRS runs routing numbers and bank account numbers through a validation check. If your numbers don’t pass validation, they will most likely send you a paper check instead. If you accidentally entered someone else’s account or routing numbers, they might receive your refund instead, and you will have to communicate with the bank directly to get your money back.

Tax Mistake #4:
Making Paperwork or Filing Errors

Paperwork or filing errors are common when submitting tax returns on paper. Forgetting to sign and date the return, leaving out  necessary forms, or putting forms in the wrong order can all lead to a rejected tax return. Logistical errors, such as mailing your tax return to the wrong IRS office or not including enough postage on the envelope, can also slow things down significantly. For these reasons, many taxpayers prefer to use tax software so they can e-file their return.

Tax Mistake #5:
Forgetting Important Documentation

Not all tax documents come in at the same time—and if you file too early, you may have to amend your return later when missing forms come in. Before filing your tax return, make sure you have all the documents you need. Think about the institutions, organizations, or places of work that might issue you a tax document, and don’t file your return before you have everything in hand.

Tax Mistake #6:
Missing Out on Tax Credits or Deductions You Quality For

If you forget to claim tax credits or deductions you qualify for, you could be leaving money on the table. A tax professional can help you search for the credits and deductions you qualify for so you can minimize your tax burden and get the highest possible refund.

Tax Mistake #7:
Claiming Tax Credits or Deductions You Don’t Qualify For

With so many different tax credits and deductions available, you can easily get confused when it comes to determining which opportunities  apply to you. Every person’s situation is different and may change year by year, so work with an experienced accountant to make sure you aren’t claiming credits or deductions that you are not eligible for.

Tax Mistake #8:
Making Math Errors

According to statistics for the agency’s 2022 fiscal year, the IRS found almost 17 million math errors on 2021 individual income tax returns. From making a simple addition or subtraction mistake to entering a number in the wrong table, math errors are easy to miss.

Most of the time, the IRS will catch and fix math errors and then send you a notice with any changes to your refund. However, resolving these mistakes can delay the processing of your return.

Using tax software will eliminate many  math errors.

Tax Mistake #9:
Filing a Late Tax Return

Waiting until the last minute to file your tax return is another common mistake. Why? Because if problems arise, you won’t have any time to address them. If you end up owing the IRS money, late fees could then start to accrue.If you think you might not meet the April tax deadline, you can request a six-month extension by filing Form 4868: Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Keep in mind, however, that the extension gives you more time to file, but it does not give you more time to pay any tax due.

Tax Mistake #10:
Not Filing a Tax Return

In situations where you can’t pay your full tax bill when it is due, it may be tempting to not file a return at all. Unfortunately, failing to file your tax return can result in penalties and possibly even tax evasion charges. It’s essential that you file a return, and you can then contact the IRS about an installment payment plan, which will generally have a low interest rate. 

How to Avoid Common Tax Mistakes

Follow these tips to avoid common tax mistakes when filing your tax return this year.

Take It Slow

Don’t rush through the tax filing process—that’s when mistakes happen. Instead, take your time and carefully go through the steps. If necessary, you can file for an extension. It’s better to take extra time and file a complete and correct tax return than to file a mistake-riddled tax return by the deadline.

Use Online Tax Software

Online  tax software can make it easy to file your taxes quickly. These systems are also great at checking for or avoiding a variety of mistakes, including math errors, inconsistencies, missing signatures, and forgotten forms. With the right online software, you can painlessly file your taxes and get your refund back quickly.

Plan Ahead

Preparation is key. Before you jump into your tax return, make sure you have everything you need to file, like last year’s tax returns, the SSNs of your dependents and spouse, your W-2s, etc. Having this information ahead of time will streamline the tax filing process.

Read the Instructions

The tax system is complex and can be tricky—and the IRS is aware of it. That’s why the IRS has created publications and shared instructions for how to fill out tax return forms. If you aren’t sure how to fill out a form or if you want to confirm you’re taking the right approach, read the documentation.

Double-Check Your Work

Make a list and check it twice.

You can catch many mistakes on your tax return by double-checking what you’ve entered. Look over your work and ensure your math is correct, your signature is in all the right spots, and your return has all the necessary forms  included before filing.

Get Help from a Tax Professional

The best way to avoid common tax mistakes and ensure your tax return is filed correctly (and on time) is to work with a qualified tax professional or accountant. These experts can review your finances, let you know what credits or deductions you are eligible for, and take care of your paperwork so you don’t have to worry about accidentally making a mistake.

What to Do If You Make One of These Common Tax Mistakes

No matter how careful you are or how well you prepare for tax season, mistakes can happen.

The good news? Mistakes can be corrected.

In some cases, the IRS will fix your mistakes for you or inform you of missing items. If, for example, you made a minor math error, the IRS will generally go ahead and correct it. Or, if you forgot to include a W-2 form when you filed, the IRS will often send you a request for the form. In other cases, it is your responsibility to file an amended return.

Fisher Accountants

To get help with fixing tax errors or filing an amended return, talk to an experienced tax accountant.

Contact the Expert Tax Professionals at Fisher, P.A. & Avoid Common Tax Mistakes

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