8 Tips for Avoiding Common Tax Return Errors

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The most common mistakes people make on their federal tax returns are relatively simple. Unfortunately, simple mistakes can cause a lot of grief. A wrong identification number here, a misspelled name there, could cause a delayed refund - or worse.

Here are eight tips for avoiding common errors on your tax return:

  1. Double-check your Social Security numbers.

    Be sure you enter SSNs for yourself and others on your tax return exactly as they are shown on the Social Security cards.

  2. Make sure names are spelled correctly.

    Be sure you enter names of all individuals on your tax return exactly as they are shown on their Social Security cards. Don't use nicknames or alternate names. If your name or your child's name has changed, be sure to report the new name to the Social Security Administration before you file your return.

  3. Choose the best filing status for which you qualify.

    Choose the right filing status. There are five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child.

    If you are married and living with your spouse, you must use the Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately filing status.

    If you are single, you will generally pay less tax if you qualify to file as Head of Household or as a Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child.

    If you're not sure which filing status to choose, see IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information.

  4. Avoid math and calculation mistakes.

    The easiest way to avoid math and calculation mistakes is to let TaxAct do all the calculations for you. The IRS reports that tax returns prepared using software are far less likely to contain errors than returns prepared by hand.

  5. Review all TaxAct Alerts.

    TaxAct can help you find errors and missing information before you file your return. During the review process, red alerts identify incomplete or inconsistent information. Yellow alerts identify potential problems. Green alerts point out potential tax savings.

  6. Review bank account numbers.

    Direct depositing your refund or paying taxes directly from an account is fast, easy, and safe, provided you enter your bank routing and account numbers correctly.

    If you do enter the wrong account numbers, the IRS may not be able to validate the account number. The IRS will then send you a paper refund check. If the number you enter belongs to someone else, your refund may be deposited in their account.

  7. Review your return.

    When your return is ready to be filed, print and read through it carefully. If you don't understand something; for example, if you didn't get a deduction or credit that you expected, you may want to go through the step-by-step interview again and make sure you answered all the questions correctly.

  8. Don't forget to sign your return.

    Your tax return is not valid until you sign it. You and your spouse must both sign a joint return.

    If you e-file your tax return, you'll sign the return electronically using a Personal Identification Number (PIN). Simply follow the easy instructions in TaxAct.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

January 1 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (New Year's Day) Details

January 10 — Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during December, report them to your employer Details

January 15 — Individuals
Make a payment of your estimated tax for 2018 if you did not pay your income tax for the year through withholding (or did not pay in enough tax that way). Use Form 1040-ES Details

January 15 — Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in December 2018

January 15 — Farmers & fishermen
Pay your estimated tax for 2018 using Form 1040-ES Details

January 21 — Everyone
Federal Holiday (Martin Luther King, Jr. Day) Details

January 31 — All Employers
Give your employees their copies of Form W2 for 2018. If an employee agreed to receive Form W2 electronically, have it posted on a website and notify the employee of the posting.

January 31 — Individuals who must make estimated tax payments
If you did not pay your last installment of estimated tax by January 15, you may choose (but are not required) to file your income tax return (Form 1040) for 2017 by January 31. Filing your return and paying any tax due by January 31 prevents any penalty for late payment of the last installment. If you cannot file and pay your tax by January 31, file and pay your tax by April 15.

January 31 — Payers of gambling winnings
If you either paid reportable gambling winnings or withheld income tax from gambling winnings, give the winners their copies of Form W2G.

January 31 — Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
File Form 941 for the fourth quarter of 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter timely, properly, and in full, you have until 02-10 to file the return.

January 31 — Certain small employers
File Form 944 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is $2,500 or more for 2018 but less than $2,500 for the fourth quarter, deposit any undeposited tax or pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

January 31 — Farm employers
File Form 943 to report social security and Medicare taxes and withheld income tax for 2018. Deposit or pay any undeposited tax under the accuracy of deposit rules. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

January 31 — Federal unemployment tax
File Form 940 for 2018. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it is more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year timely, properly, and in full, you have until February 10 to file the return.

January 31 — All businesses
Give annual information statements to recipients of certain payments you made during 2018 Details

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