As the April 18th income tax filing deadline approaches, millions of taxpayers are rushing to complete their taxes on time to avoid late penalties. However, this can often result in errors and processing delays if not done correctly. Most who’ve waited until the last-minute end up filing an extension. However, others will take their chances and try to pull everything together before the clock strikes twelve. If you fall into the latter category, here are a few tips to help avoid common last-minute filing mistakes:
- File electronically. Filing electronically vastly reduces tax return errors as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. It also buys some extra time to get your return filed before the 11:59 p.m. deadline since you don’t have to worry about getting to the post office before they close.
- Get to the post office before they close. While most post office locations maintain regular business hours on Tax Day, some do stay open until 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. to give taxpayers a few extra hours to get their returns postmarked before the deadline. Very few stay open until midnight though so don’t count on that as an option. To find your local office's regular hours of operation, visit www.usps.com and select "Find Locations" or call 1-800-ASK-USPS (1-800-275-8777) for a list of locations with extended hours on Tax Day.
- Make sure you have the correct address and postage. To submit a valid return, your envelope must not only make the postmark deadline, it must have the correct address and enough postage as well. Paper filers should check IRS.gov or their tax form instructions for the appropriate address to avoid processing delays.
- Study the tax tables. When browsing the IRS Tax Tables to determine your rate, taxpayers should ensure they’re using the correct column for the filing status claimed. Using a ruler or flat edge is highly recommended as it’s very easy to get lost among all those numbers!
- Fill in all requested information clearly. When entering information on your tax return, including Social Security numbers, take the time to ensure everything is accurate and easy to read. Also, make sure you check only one filing status and the appropriate exemption boxes.
- Review all figures. While software may catch or prevent errors when e-filing, mathematical errors remain common on paper returns. Always double check your numbers and decimal places.
- Use the right bank account and routing numbers. Requesting direct deposit of a federal tax refund into a bank account is convenient and allows taxpayers access to their money faster. Make sure the financial institution account and routing numbers entered on the return are accurate. Incorrect numbers can cause refund delays or deposits into the wrong account.
- Sign and date the return. When filing an individual tax return electronically, you must sign the tax return using a personal identification number (PIN): either the Self-Select PIN or the Practitioner PIN method. If filing jointly, both spouses must sign and date the return.
- Attach all required forms. Paper filers need to attach W-2s and other forms to the front of their returns to document tax withholding. If requesting a payment agreement with the IRS, also attach Form 9465 to the front of the return.
- Keep a copy of the return. Taxpayers should always make a copy of their signed return and all schedules for their records.
- Request a filing extension. For taxpayers who cannot meet the April 18th deadline, requesting a filing extension is easy and will prevent late-filing penalties. Either use IRS Free File or Form 4868. Remember, an extension only grants additional time to file your return – tax payments are still due on April 18!
- Pay your taxes. If you end up owing taxes, several e-payment options are available. You may also send a check or money order payable to the “U.S. Treasury” but make sure you have the correct address before sending.
If you need assistance filing your tax returns before April 18th or would like help filing an extension, please CONTACT US right away. We know how stressful this time of year can be and are here to help!