tax return check on 1040 form background

Don’t Make These Tax Filing Mistakes

Here we are at tax season. Again. Hopefully, you’ve rounded up your receipts, figured out allowable deductions, and loaded all of that onto the proper tax forms. And if not, it’s not too late. You have time.

But this is not the time to get sloppy. Make sure you don’t run any of these red flags up the flagpole of your tax return and you will greatly reduce the chances of getting hit with the most dreaded of all tax events—the audit.

tax return check on 1040 form background

Messed-up math

Double-check to make sure your arithmetic is correct. Math errors are not limited only to miscalculations. They could also be truncated numbers—dropping decimal places. Negative numbers need to have brackets around them. Consider attaching a spreadsheet or adding machine tape. Messed up math is the number one tax filing mistake so double-check everything. E-filing makes sure that math calculation errors don’t occur.

Sloppy records

If you are self-employed your deductions need to be very carefully documented. As a member of this group, don’t be tempted to blur the line between personal and business expenses, especially mileage deductions and home-office usage.

Missing mileage

Automobile logs are one of the most commonly audited items. If you take this deduction, make sure your records are detailed with a beginning and ending odometer readings, location and reason for the trip.

Overstating contributions

Charitable deductions that are more generous than the IRS’ average guidelines could give an auditor reason to pause. Taking deductions for large, non-cash contributions are particularly suspect. Be sure to have all receipts showing the date of donation, the receiving organization and the valuation of the donated items to document these contributions.

Wrong tax figures

If you are preparing your own taxes, be sure to pull the correct numbers from the tax tables. E-filing will automatically pull the right numbers, so this is something to consider if you are opting to go it on your own, without an accountant or tax preparation professional.

Incorrect ID numbers

The most common mistakes, according to the IRS, have to do with Social Security numbers. Make sure they are accurate and match the name(s) given. If you show dependents, you must include their Social Security numbers. Failing to include a dependent’s name and Social Security number can result in underpayment or being denied the Earned Income Credit.

Missing attachments

Attaching the required documentation, such as W2s and 1099s is critical. All necessary forms and schedules should be included with the sequence order given in the upper right-hand corner.

Failure to sign

Be sure to sign your return (both spouses, if filing jointly) and make a copy of it and all supporting documents for your records. Remember, being audited isn’t always bad. Sometimes the IRS will discover they owe you money. If you E-File, you will sign your return digitally.

Receiving sizable refund

This is not a red flag to signal an audit, but it’s a sign that you’re making a colossal mistake. It means you overpay your taxes. Part of your paycheck goes missing every payday and you need to find it.

It makes no sense to overpay your taxes and then find yourself running to the credit cards because you can’t make your paycheck stretch far enough. Fix your withholding. And if you want that big annual refund, automatically deposit the difference to a savings account every payday.

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7 replies
  1. Imogene Leslie says:

    A couple of years ago, we were audited because they said I didn’t pay tuition in the middle of my second year of college. The IRS gets a record from the school but we kept sending in the form that says we paid. Finally I went on line and was still able to get into a long forgotten school account and prove payment. After months they agreed but still wanted me to pay a large penalty! Our accountant asked it to be dropped and they said they would but only once. Not my mistake and they still wanted blood.

  2. Linda Radosevich says:

    I just wanted to give you a huge thanks for the Potato Ham Soup and for the Cinnamon Rolls (Almost Homemade) recipes. They are outstanding! But you should add a disclaimer to the Cinnamon Rolls that they will put you into sugar-shock in ten seconds flat!! Thanks so much for your daily observations and suggestions.

  3. Jean Barnett says:

    Now that the company that made the book on deductions no longer makes the book
    How do you now value your donated clothes and household items??

  4. Lynn Smith says:

    Not everyone can change their withholding to get more money during the year. People with children who are allowed child credits and earned income credits get huge payments from the IRS which are more welfare benefits than refunds. They may not pay a penny in as taxes. But this is known as a refund. I nearly begged my former clients to put their money into a savings account and spread it out over the year, holding back enough to pay to have their taxes done next year. And avoid borrowing money to go Christmas shopping. Saving lots of fees.

    FYI I am a retired CPA


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