Filing Tips

February 20, 2012

It is 11 p.m. on April 15th, and you have finally finished preparing your income taxes. But before you grab your coat and head off the to post office, where you know you will have to wait in line even at this hour, the Internal Revenue Service suggests that you take an extra few minutes to double check certain items to prevent mistakes that could cost you penalties and interest or delay your refund.

Here are a few of the most "popular" tax return filing errors:

  • Did you enter the proper amount as Federal Income Tax Withheld? Form W-2 shows both federal income tax and FICA (Social Security tax) withheld from your paychecks, and if you use the wrong information, your refund or tax owed calculation is incorrect.
  • If you or your spouse are age 65 or older or blind, you must check all appropriate boxes in order to get the additional tax benefits.
  • If you did not have enough deductions to itemize, make sure you used the correct standard deduction chart to find the right amount.
  • Are you entitled to an Earned Income Credit? Taxpayers who have earned income below a certain level may be able to get this refundable credit. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed, and, with a refundable credit, your taxes could be reduced to the point that you would receive a refund rather than owe any taxes.
  • Did you enter the correct amount of tax owed? In order to properly calculate your tax liability for the year, you have to find the line on your return that shows taxable income. In the tax table, find the line that includes your taxable income, then find the column for your particular filing status (married filing jointly, single, head of household, etc.). The amount shown on the line where your taxable income meets your filing status is your tax for the year.
  • Is your math correct? There is nothing more distressing than getting an IRS notice that informs you of a mathematical error.
  • Have you attached all necessary forms and schedules? You must include Copy B of all your W-2's.
  • Did you (and your spouse, if filing jointly) sign and date the return? If not, it will be bounced back to you.
  • Include a check made payable to the "Internal Revenue Service" for any amount due, and print your social security number, phone number, tax form number, and tax year on your check.
  • Make copies for your own records.
  • Use proper mailing procedures. If possible, use the pre-printed envelope and label included in your tax package. If not, make sure you use the address of the correct IRS center for your state.
  • Put enough postage on the envelope. If it is returned to you for insufficient postage, it might not be processed in time.

Copyright 2011 LexisNexis, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.


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