Tax-filing tips: 8 tax mistakes to avoid

The April 17 tax filing deadline is less than a month away, so if you haven't submitted your return, it's time to get...

Posted: Mar 22, 2018 4:47 PM
Updated: Mar 22, 2018 4:47 PM

The April 17 tax filing deadline is less than a month away, so if you haven't submitted your return, it's time to get moving.

But that's no reason to rush through it.

Whether you decide to go it alone or hire a tax preparer to help, make sure you avoid these costly mistakes.

1. Making careless errors

Blame it on fat fingers, deadline pressure or plain carelessness, technical errors like the wrong Social Security number, name misspellings or a simple math error can cause problems and delays with your return.

Tax software programs can flag errors like this, but every filer should still pay close close attention when reviewing their returns before sending them in, particularly pen-and-paper filers.

2. Using the wrong filing status

There are five filing options: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household and qualifying widow/widower with dependent child.

Choosing the right status is important as it affects how much you pay in taxes. For instance, filing as head of household provides more benefits than married filing separately, explained Mark Steber, chief tax officer of Jackson Hewitt Tax Services.

3. Forgetting to report income

Uncle Sam needs to know about all your sources of income last year: your salary, side-hustle cash, retirement withdrawals and gambling winnings. All of it.

So don't leave anything out. If you get caught with unclaimed income, you could get hit with major penalties.

4. Hiring a pro when you can DIY

Some people have very complicated tax situations where an expert needs to be brought in. But many Americans have simple filings that might not require professional assistance, the experts said.

If you have an adjusted gross income of $66,000 or less, check if you can file your federal taxes for free using the IRS's Free File software options.

Related: 3 tax preparation tools to tame your taxes

5. Not taking all eligible deductions

Don't leave money on the table or pay more in taxes than you have to.

Take the time to figure out which credits and deductions you're eligible for to reduce your tax liability and get as much back as possible. The IRS isn't going to tell you if you missed a valuable credit you could have claimed, said Steber.

The Earned Income Tax Credit, for example, is commonly overlooked, with about one in five eligible taxpayers missing out on it, according to H&R Block. It's a sizeable credit with an average amount of more than $2,400.

Related: 11 tax deductions and other ways to cut your 2017 tax bill

6. Being disorganized

Tax forms tend start rolling in at the start of the year that detail your sources of income.

Some forms will come in the mail, while others can be retrieved electronically. Just be sure to collect them all before you file.

Lisa Greene-Lewis, a CPA and tax expert from Turbo Tax, suggested keeping a folder by your mail so you can instantly drop the paperwork in and keep everything in one place.

It's also helpful to keep an updated log throughout the year for things like mileage and charitable donations that you plan to claim on your return.

7. Procrastinating

Tax season comes every year, there's no escaping it.

While the actual deadline may vary (read why here), you know you have to send in your taxes every April. Yet many Americans scramble to get their returns in.

By waiting until the last minute, you increase your risk of mistakes.

Related: What's the penalty for filing taxes late?

8. Not filing a return

Not everyone has to file a tax return. But even if you don't have any tax liability, it could be in your best interest to file anyway.

The IRS will only issue refunds to filers. So if you had too much federal taxes withheld from your paycheck or are eligible for other credits, you have to file a return to get the money.

Earlier this month, the IRS said it had $1.1 billion in unclaimed federal income tax refunds for around 1 million people who didn't file a tax return in 2014.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26980

Reported Deaths: 1159
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin9099657
Ramsey3351149
Stearns205614
Nobles15775
Anoka152779
Dakota144664
Washington70035
Olmsted68911
Rice5243
Kandiyohi5141
Scott4712
Clay44930
Mower4462
Wright3492
Todd3441
Sherburne2492
Carver2402
Benton1853
Steele1700
Freeborn1590
Blue Earth1490
Martin1355
St. Louis11914
Lyon1012
Unassigned9611
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Cottonwood820
Winona8115
Crow Wing815
Watonwan790
Carlton750
Goodhue736
Otter Tail731
Chisago691
Polk632
Itasca5610
Dodge540
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur471
Douglas460
Meeker460
Becker440
Jackson420
Murray410
McLeod410
Isanti360
Pennington300
Waseca290
Mille Lacs241
Rock230
Faribault220
Wabasha200
Swift191
Beltrami180
Sibley170
Brown172
Fillmore171
Norman150
Pipestone130
Kanabec121
Aitkin120
Marshall120
Cass112
Big Stone110
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Redwood70
Yellow Medicine70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Red Lake40
Traverse40
Grant40
Clearwater30
Houston30
Hubbard30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Stevens10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21114

Reported Deaths: 593
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4614140
Woodbury286137
Black Hawk178849
Buena Vista10672
Linn97879
Dallas95226
Marshall91418
Wapello63615
Johnson6198
Muscatine56741
Crawford5512
Tama41129
Scott38510
Dubuque35921
Louisa35011
Pottawattamie31910
Sioux3060
Jasper26917
Wright2210
Washington1968
Warren1671
Plymouth1522
Story1311
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9913
Poweshiek928
Hamilton760
Webster741
Henry732
Boone720
Bremer716
Clarke690
Des Moines681
Taylor660
Clinton651
Guthrie553
Cedar501
Benton431
Cherokee410
Monroe415
Jones370
Shelby370
Osceola360
Jefferson360
Marion350
Dickinson350
Buchanan341
Iowa340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Madison292
Lee290
Sac280
Davis280
Emmet270
Fayette270
Clay270
Monona260
Harrison260
Hardin240
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Lucas222
Mills200
Grundy200
Franklin200
Humboldt201
Pocahontas200
Delaware191
Floyd191
Hancock180
Appanoose173
Butler161
Kossuth160
Carroll151
Ida150
Greene150
Keokuk140
Jackson140
Page140
Audubon131
Cass130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Winnebago110
Calhoun100
Union100
Van Buren90
Adair90
Montgomery92
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Unassigned20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Scattered Clouds
73° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 73°
Mason City
Broken Clouds
78° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Albert Lea
Scattered Clouds
79° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 79°
Austin
Scattered Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 78°
Charles City
Scattered Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 78°
Weekend looks nice
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Chris' PM Weather Forecast 6/5

Image

Gyms, fitness centers set to reopen

Image

Easing restrictions for MN restaurants and gyms

Image

Charles City vigil for George Floyd

Image

Hawkeye Harvest Foodbank partnership

Image

Next phase of Minnesota reopening

Image

Rental Assistance program for Rochester

Image

IA Care Homes Could Reopen to Visitors

Image

'Color Me Mine' Location Closes for Good

Image

Getting Your Fair Food Fix During the Pandemic

Community Events