Common Mistakes When Preparing and Filing Your Tax Return

February 29, 2016 By Josh Tillotson

It is a new year and as the month of January comes to a close, taxpayers start to receive tax documents like W-2s and 1099s, reminding them that they need to file their tax returns soon. This can start to cause many to feel stress and anxiety or anticipation that they will receive a refund. No matter where you are on the spectrum of thoughts or feelings, there are some things that can be done to minimize problems and stress when preparing for filing your tax return. In my years of preparing tax returns of all types, I have put together a list of common mistakes that can be avoided with a little extra time  and attention.

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They are listed below:


1. Failure to Verify Correct Name, Social Security Number, and Date of Birth

This may seem obvious, but it is one of the top errors when filing with the IRS. Take the extra time to check that all names are spelled correctly, that the social security number is accurate for each person and that the date of birth is correct. Do this after the tax return is  ready to be mailed or e-filed – sometimes you can bump a key when cycling through input screens (when using tax software) and change a social security number by accident.

2. Incorrect Direct deposit information

If you are lucky enough to be receiving a refund, you can have that amount deposited directly into your bank account. This can speed up the time that you receive funds back from the IRS, that is, if you have your bank account and routing numbers correct on your tax return. If you have a wrong account or routing number you could cause you to lose your refund entirely. Your refund could end up in someone else's account. It might be sent back to the IRS. Either way, you might not be able to retrieve your refund because there is no IRS procedure for replacing lost electronically transferred funds.Take the extra time to double check your account number and routing number.

3. Failure to Report All Income

Did you bring in extra income that was not reported/reportable on a W-2? You may have received a Form 1099-MISC, but even if you didn’t, it is important to report it. By not reporting that income, you may leave the statute of limitations open – meaning the IRS can go back as many years as they need to and open an audit. When a tax form such as a 1099 (INT, DIV, MISC, R, etc.), W-2, and others are issued to you, that same information is sent to the IRS. The IRS will know exactly how much money you earned. If you forget to include any of these earnings on your return, the IRS examiners will let you know you owe taxes on them, too. And depending on when your oversight is discovered, you also could owe penalties and interest on the unreported earnings. If you have a “business” (closely resembles a hobby) that is reported on Schedule C and it shows a loss, don’t show it at all. You are likely to get an instant audit if you show a loss on a Schedule C. Please consult a tax advisor on this topic.

4. Failure to Take Tax Credits and Deductions

There are so many different tax credits and deductions that may be available you. Deductions and Credits can greatly reduce or eliminate your tax burden. All of these credits and deductions cannot be addressed here - The tax code covers 18,500 pages! Everyone’s tax situation is different because everyone’s life is different. There are times where simple tax questions may searched and answered online. Use caution when doing this. My disclaimer: Please consult your tax advisor.


5. Complete charitable contributions

Did you make charitable contributions of cash or property? All types of donations, from
cash to cars, could be valuable tax deductions. You need to make sure you count them all when you file. When you make a donation of any kind, get the tax information you will need at the time of donation, such as the name, address and tax identification numbers of the organization, the value of the donation and the date. Also be careful when calculating the value of any gifts of clothing and household items – use a thrift store value or similar. Lastly, do not claim a donation of more than $5,000 without an official appraisal.

6. Incomplete/Missing Documentation

Always have complete documentation for any position you take on a tax return. Meaning, if you are claiming charitable deductions, have the documentation of donation. If you have expenses that you are claiming from unreimbursed business expenses, have proof of the expenses. You never know when you may be selected by the IRS and your return is flagged. It is even more difficult to find documentation for an expense 3 years after the fact, than it is when you are assembling your tax return. Gather your documentation when you prepare the return and keep it with the return.

7. Failure to make a copy of the signed return and all schedules

Before mailing or e-filing your return, print it, sign it, and then put it with your important papers. I also recommend scanning and saving it with your other important electronic files. By keeping a complete copy of your tax returns, you accomplish a number of things: 1) you know exactly what was filed with the IRS, so if they lose it, you have an exact copy. 2) Have you ever applied for a mortgage? You will have a copy ready. 3) You can compare your current tax return to prior years and see how you are doing. Also, if you decide to begin using a CPA firm or paid tax preparer, they can make sure any carryovers (losses, etc.) are still accounted for and not lost in the transition.Click to edit your new post.

 


 

Conclusion

Contact Cook Martin Poulson for assistance with filing your tax returns.

Josh Tillotson

Josh Tillotson

Josh Tillotson is a Senior Associate in the firm’s Salt Lake City office. Josh focuses his practice on tax planning and compliance for estates, businesses, and individuals; estate and succession planning for high net worth individuals and families; and assisting businesses with outsourced CFO services.

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