If this is the first tax-filing season you've been divorced and you now are a single parent, head-of-household probably will be more beneficial. And 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.
And make sure the names associated with the Social Security numbers match Social Security Administration records. A difference here also will cause the IRS to kick out or slow down your return.
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.
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 preaddressed IRS envelope without signing it. And if it's a joint filing, you and your spouse must sign.
10. Missing the deadline
This is your last chance. If you miss the Oct. 15 filing extension due date, you could face late- or non-filing penalties. You should have paid most of any tax you owe when you got your extension earlier in the year. Any amount still due with your Oct. 15 filing will be used to calculate your possible penalty amount.