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Avoid Making These Common Mistakes When Filing Your Taxes

4 minute read

By Heather Fishel

Everyone worries when tax season arrives. Filing your taxes is time-consuming, and there’s a lot of information involved – which means it’s easy to make a mistake. And even a small mistake could wind up costing you money or putting you at risk for an audit. But if you know what kinds of mistakes tend to happen during tax season, you can do your best to avoid them and alleviate your tax stress. The only way to file a flawless tax return is to double- and triple-check your information thoroughly. With a little bit of research, you may be able to avoid errors of any kind, and you will have no problem filing, and then getting your refund, in no time. 

Make sure to be on the lookout for these very common mistakes when you’re preparing your tax return.

Using the Wrong Name

This might sound like the easiest part of filling out your tax return: entering your full name. But it’s actually one of the most common ways people make mistakes.

Each year, the IRS receives plenty of tax returns that have the wrong name on them. This happens in two ways. Some people mix up who the taxpayer is – and they might accidentally enter their spouse’s name in the wrong place. Or, individuals who’ve changed their name over the last year will use their previous name when filing.

When filling out your tax forms, make sure you’re putting your own name down as the primary taxpayer. Additionally, if you’ve recently changed your name, you’ll want to double-check that the information you enter is correct. For example, don’t use your maiden name if you recently got married and legally changed your last name. 

Mistakes can also happen if you changed your name and failed to notify the Social Security Administration. You need to make sure that the name you file your taxes under matches the name – and Social Security number – of the name the government has on record.

Filing Under the Wrong Social Security Number

Here’s another mistake that almost sounds too obvious to be true. Using the wrong Social Security number (SSN) on your tax return will cause problems with the IRS. 

And this is a really common mistake. People misreport their Social Security numbers all the time – and it’s often an accident. You might swap a number or two, or enter the incorrect number for your spouse or child. However, if you enter an incorrect Social Security number, the IRS can’t process your return.

Tax preparation software also can’t catch this mistake when it happens. You’re the only one who can verify that your SSN is accurate, so make sure to double-check this detail before sending your return in.

Choosing the Wrong Filing Status

One of the tricker parts of filing your taxes is choosing your filing status. It might seem as simple as choosing the status that matches your marriage status, but it’s actually more complicated than this.

Your filing status actually determines your tax rate, your standard deduction, and potentially your refund. Different filing statuses offer different benefits – and different disadvantages. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you’re choosing the right one. 

There are a few different statuses you can file under. You can choose to file as single, head of household, married (filing jointly), married (filing separately), and widow or widower. 

Though these categories seem straightforward, they do determine how much you owe and how much you may get back as a refund. If you don’t choose the right status, it will affect your money. For example, filing as single when you qualify as head of household could cause you to miss out on a better tax rate. Filing separately when you’re married could result in a bigger tax bill. 

Make sure to read up on each status to see which one will benefit you – and suit you – the best.

Automatically Taking the Standard Deduction

Taking the standard deduction is an easy way to calculate your potential refund and get money back into your pocket. However, for some individuals, taking the standard deduction is a big mistake. 

The standard deduction is seen as the simpler choice because it doesn’t require effort. When you choose the standard deduction, you get to deduct a set amount from your taxes. And that amount is based on a set number within current tax law. Recently, the standard deduction nearly doubled – which makes it an even more appealing choice.

However, the standard deduction isn’t the right choice for every taxpayer. It doesn’t take into account your various potential write-offs. And that means you could be leaving money on the table. For some people, itemizing deductions could lead to a bigger tax break and bigger refund. 

It’s a smart idea to calculate your potential itemized deductions and compare them to the standard deduction before making a decision.

Enlist a Tax Professional to Avoid Mistakes Like These

If you’re hoping to avoid any mistakes or issues on your tax return this year, it’s a smart idea to get help. While filing your taxes might seem easy, it can be more complicated than you expect. And even the simplest mistake, like switching a few numbers or using the wrong type of deduction, could wind up causing significant problems.

To make sure your taxes are filed correctly, you should consider working with a tax prep professional. These experts know all of the ins and outs of filing taxes – and they’re up to date on the latest tax laws and requirements. And using their advice can help you file a tax return that’s correct and easily accepted by the IRS.

Heather Fishel



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