10 Tips You Must Read Before Filing Your Taxes

Simple, avoidable mistakes can delay processing of your tax return.

Simple, avoidable mistakes can delay processing of your tax return.

Many people dread tax time and put off doing their taxes until the last minute. Others eagerly file as early as possible to put it behind them. Regardless of the group that describes you, you can take very simple steps to ensure that your return is processed without a hitch and your refund is delivered on time.

Processing Delays

Tip number one: Any mistake you make on your return can cause a processing delay, so above all, double-check your entries to be sure you wrote or typed them correctly. Tip number two: Enter the Social Security numbers of everyone listed on your form -- spouses, children, dependents and child care providers. Make sure the numbers are correct and the names are spelled right. Tip number three: Choose your filing status correctly -- there are five to choose from. If you aren't sure which one to pick, check out IRS Publication 501 for help. Tip number four: Sign and date the return. Both spouses must sign a joint return.

There's a Lot of Math

Taxes are a math-driven exercise, and if you aren't good at it, take Tip number five: File electronically. The software does simple and complex math for you. If you forgot how to do percentages, that's the tip for you. Tip number six: If you do it yourself, check for simple math errors and computational errors, such as figuring your taxable income, withholding, earned income credit and other nonstandard calculations. Tip number seven: If you do your taxes yourself, double-check that you used the right tax table to compute the tax you owe.

Filing the Form

If you file electronically, you can skip these tips, but if you don't, pay attention. Tip number eight: You must sign and date your form. An unsigned form will not be processed. If you file jointly, your spouse must sign it as well. Tip number nine: Send your tax return to the right address. There are several processing centers and sending it to the wrong one will delay processing.

Get Your Refund

Finally, and most importantly, tax Tip number 10: If you get your refund direct deposited, check and recheck your bank's routing numbers and your account number. If they are incorrect, it will delay your refund. Here are a couple more tips for those of you who can't file on time. File a request for an extension on time. It won't prevent you from paying interest on the money you owe, but it will prevent you from getting hit with a late filing penalty. If you're mailing a check to pay your taxes, write the following on it: the Social Security number of the person listed first on the return, the daytime phone number and the tax year and form you filed. Enclose, but don't attach the payment voucher, Form 1040-V.


About the Author

Julie Segraves is a freelance writer and photographer. She has written for several community newspapers in Chicago and authors her own blog. Segraves graduated from Loyola University with a Bachelor's in sociology and a minor in criminal justice. She currently works in the IT field as a mainframe operations analyst and disaster recovery specialist.

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