Bankrate's 2009 Tax Guide
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10 common tax-filing mistakes to avoid

7. Social Security number oversights

Because the IRS stopped putting taxpayer Social Security numbers on tax package labels in response to privacy concerns, some taxpayers forget to write in their identification numbers. Your tax ID number is crucial because there are so many transactions -- income statements, savings account interest, retirement plan contributions -- keyed to this number. The nine-digit sequence also is vital to claim several tax credits, such as the Child Tax and Additional Child Tax credits and ones for educational expenses and dependent care costs. Without the numbers, or with wrong ones, the IRS will disallow these tax breaks.

8. Ignoring IRS-provided mailing material

Almost 90 million people filed electronically last year, but around 66 million others sent in paper forms. If you plan to fill out your return by hand this year, be sure to use the preprinted label and the envelope that came with your tax packet.

The label will ensure that IRS employees can easily and accurately read your personal information. Even if it's not correct because, for example, you moved, go ahead and stick it on your return; just cross out the wrong information and correct it by hand. The label is not a way for the agency to more easily track and audit you -- honest!

In fact, if you're expecting a refund, you'll probably get it sooner if you use the label. And using the preaddressed envelope will ensure that your return goes to the proper processing site. The IRS has reorganized its Service Center operations in recent years, so it's possible your return could be handled at a different location than where it went last year. Your envelope has the correct delivery data.

9. Signature required

Sign and date your return. The IRS won't process it if it's missing a John Hancock. If you're filing electronically, this shouldn't be a problem. The software packages won't let you send a document until you complete every step. But if you're still mailing your return, don't be in such a hurry that you stuff your 1040 in the preaddressed IRS envelope without signing it. And if it's a joint filing, you and your spouse both must sign.

10. Missing the deadline

If the impending April 15 tax deadline is a problem for you, make sure you buy yourself six extra months by simply asking the IRS for more time to complete your tax paperwork. All you have to do is submit Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, by the regular filing deadline. Remember, though, that the extension is only for the forms; you still have to pay any tax you may owe by April 15.

If you make the mistake of not filing or paying on time, you'll end up facing even more costs in late-filing penalties and interest fees.


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