taxes

10 common tax-filing mistakes to avoid

3. Misspelled or different names

The IRS is all about numbers, but words, specifically names, are important, too. When the names of a taxpayer, his or her spouse or their children don't match the tax identification number that the Social Security Administration has on record, that difference will cause the IRS to kick out or slow down processing of the tax return.

This often is a problem for new wives. Many women change their surnames when they marry. That's also an option for spouses in same-sex marriages, which the IRS now recognizes. If you didn't alert the Social Security Administration of your name change soon after your wedding, do so now so that your new name won't cause a problem when you file your first joint tax return.

And if marital bliss doesn't last and you change your name after a divorce, make sure Uncle Sam's appropriate agencies know that, too.

4. Direct deposit dangers

Taxpayers can have a refund directly deposited into multiple bank accounts. This option is a great way to save your refund money, but the more numbers you enter on a tax form, the more chances you have to enter them incorrectly. And a wrong account or routing number could cause you to lose your refund entirely.

You can divide your refund into three accounts by filing Form 8888 along with your individual return. It's not a difficult document to complete, but if you put in wrong account numbers, your refund could end up in someone else's account or 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.

Incorrect account numbers aren't just a problem when a refund is split multiple ways. Even if your refund is going to just one account, make very sure you enter your account and bank routing numbers correctly.

5. Additional income, additional filing work

Did you have a side job this year? If so, as a contractor you probably received a Form 1099-MISC detailing the extra earnings.

What about savings and investment accounts? For these, you should have received Form 1099-INT and Form 1099 DIV statements.

In each 1099 instance, the IRS knows precisely how much extra money, either as wages or unearned investment income, you made as soon as you did, thanks to the copies of your 1099 forms that went to the tax agency.

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.

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Our tax expert Kay Bell provides resourceful tips and advice to help you stay prepared for filing.

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