With tax season in our rear-view mirror, let’s take a moment and review the top ten tax filing mistakes from this past filing period, so you can avoid the same traps in 2019. Since most Americans prepare their own taxes, with a high percentage of using an online tax service, these mistakes continue to be made.
1. Incorrect amount of tax entered. Transposing numbers is the number one tax error that continues to occur. This could be from a mild or severe case of dyslexia, or it could be you are rushed and you aren’t verifying the numbers as they are being entered. Unfortunately, transposing numbers is also the leading reason returns are pulled for audits. The best thing you can do is slow down, keep distractions to a minimum, and walk away after completing your taxes and then rechecking them before submitting.
2. Error in the credit for a child or children and dependent care expenses. This is Form 2441. You could be limited in the child-care credit if you are subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax.
3. The earned income credit is not claimed. If you are a low-income taxpayer, you may be entitled to a credit on your return. Most errors happen on returns by taking more of a deduction than you should, but this one is a credit that a lot of tax payers don’t take advantage of.
4. Wrong social security number entered. If you are filing jointly, a common mistake is to switch the social security numbers.
5. If you own your own business and marking that an overpayment in estimated tax should be credited to future estimated taxes when you really want a refund instead.
To crutch of using online software has led to more filing mistakes than before they were an option. Even if the tax software makes a mistake, you are liable for it. Remember that software is only as good as the information that is inputted into it, and if the information is incorrect, the return is going to be incorrect.
If you are up against the wall in the filing deadline, there is nothing wrong with filing for an extension. Your health, peace of mind, and ensuring you fill out the return properly are more important.
Laura Bushnell is Editor in Chief for National Review Brand Foundation of Consumer Updates and based in Boston. Previously, she held senior VP level positions in corporate finance and consumer financial planning firms.