Avoid these common tax-filing mistakes

Tax season can be a stressful time even without the worry of unintentionally making a filing mistake. Of course, hiring a tax prep professional can be one of the surest ways to avoid tax-filing mistakes. However, if you decide to go the do-it-yourself route, there are steps you can take to reduce the chance of making a mistake.

Here are five common tax-filing mistakes and what you can do to avoid them.

1. Filing by mail

While filing by mail was certainly the norm before the rise of e-filing, doing so now could result in unnecessary mistakes. Here are just some of the things that could go wrong if you file by mail:

  • Calculation errors
  • Using the wrong column from tax tables
  • Missing, incomplete or unsigned forms
  • Out-of-order paperwork
  • Mailing to an incorrect address

Filing electronically using an online tax prep program can help prevent many of these mistakes from occurring. If you don’t want to use a third-party tax prep program, the IRS has a Free File Program that makes filing your taxes simple, easy and free for those with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $79,000 or less.

2. Choosing less advantageous filing elections

The tax code is full of legal jargon, and unless you're well-versed in tax law, it’s possible that you may not choose the most advantageous filing elections. To make sure you receive all the deductions you are due, consult with a trusted tax professional or use a reputable online tax prep program that guides you through the filing process using easy-to-understand language. The IRS also has an Interactive Tax Assistant program that can help answer your tax-related questions, including how to determine the most advantageous filing status and whether you qualify for certain deductions and credits.

3. Entering information incorrectly

Even if you use an online tax prep program, entering information incorrectly is still a possibility. For instance, misspelling your name, providing an inaccurate Social Security number or incorrectly entering in your financial information are all mistakes that could result in late fees or auditing by the IRS. Be sure to double- or even triple-check your work before you file.

4. Filing too early or too late

While filing too late can result in a penalty, filing too early can also be risky as filing before you have all your necessary paperwork could result in needing to file amendments to your tax filing. Whether you file electronically or by mail, having a tax-filing checklist can help ensure you have all the documents and information you need to file your taxes.

5. Receiving your refund by check

While this isn’t a mistake per se, electing to receive your refund by check could take much longer than if you did a direct deposit to your bank account. And, if you entered incorrect information such as your mailing address, you could be waiting for months for a check that may never arrive.