taxes

10 common tax-filing mistakes to avoid

6. Filing status errors

Make sure you choose the correct filing status for your situation. You have five options, and each could make a difference in your ultimate tax bill.

If this is the first tax-filing season since your divorce and you now are a single parent, writing "head of household" probably will be more beneficial. And what if you're still married, but you and your spouse are thinking about filing separate tax returns? That works in some cases, but not all.

Make sure you know what each tax-filing status entails, and choose the one that best fits your personal and tax situation.

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, as well as ones for educational expenses and dependent care costs.

8. Complete charitable contributions

Did you give to charitable groups last year? All types of donations, from cash to cars, could be valuable tax deductions, so make sure you count them all when you file. Be sure to follow the donation tax rules, the most important being that you give to a qualified organization -- that is, one that has tax-exempt status with the IRS. Also be careful when calculating any gifts of clothing and household items. Tax law now requires that these donations be in good or better condition or the deduction is disallowed. And remember that the amount you can claim for donated goods is the fair market value of the items; that's what a willing buyer would pay for it in its current condition, not what you paid for it.

9. Signature required

Sign and date your return. The IRS won't process it if it's missing a John Hancock, and that means on e-filed returns, too. Taxpayers filing electronically must sign the return electronically using a personal identification number, or PIN. To verify your identity, you'll have to provide the PIN you used last year or your adjusted gross income from your previous year's tax return.

Your tax software should walk you through the e-signature process, but if you're still mailing your return, don't be in such a hurry that you stuff your 1040 in the pre-addressed IRS envelope without signing it. And if it's a joint filing, both you and your spouse must sign.

10. Missing the deadline

Millions of taxpayers put off filing until the very last minute by filing Form 4868 to get a six-month extension. But you can't miss the Oct. 15 date. If you fail to send in your tax return and any additional tax you discover that you owe, you could face late- or non-filing penalties. Nobody wants to pay Uncle Sam a penny more than necessary, so don't make the mistake of missing the extended filing deadline.

advertisement

Show Bankrate's community sharing policy
          Connect with us
REFINANCE HOME EQUITY AUTO CDs CREDIT CARDS
Product Rate Change Last week
30 year fixed refi 4.17%  0.11 4.06%
15 year fixed refi 3.21%  0.12 3.09%
10 year fixed refi 3.26%  0.15 3.11%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
30K FICO-based HELOC 4.67%  0.35 4.32%
50K FICO-based HELOC 4.04%  0.05 3.99%
100K FICO-based HELOC 3.88%  0.05 3.83%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
60 month used car loan 2.99%  0.19 2.80%
48 month used car loan 2.91%  0.09 3.00%
60 month new car loan 3.07%  0.10 3.17%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
1 Year CD 0.99%  0.01 0.98%
2 Year CD 1.20%  0.01 1.19%
5 Year CD 1.82% --0.00 1.82%
 
View Rates in your area Next
Product Rate Change Last week
Balance Transfer Cards 15.80% --0.00 15.80%
Cash Back Cards 16.42% --0.00 16.42%
Low Interest Cards 11.09% --0.00 11.09%
 
Next
advertisement
WEEKLY TAX TIP NEWSLETTER

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

advertisement

Connect with us