If you visit the IRS website and read topic 303, you’ll see a list of the most common filing errors people make for all returns filed. One of the first things that struck me is that most of these errors are things you can eliminate by using tax software.
Let’s look at their top five for starters.
Their number one error is missing or incorrect social security numbers. Now, software can’t tell you that you have the wrong social security number, but it can tell if you put the same number in for two people on your return. It also won’t let you finish without entering a number at all.
Error two is incorrect tax entered from the tax tables. This is something the software does for you. How the final tax is calculated can be very confusing. Even tax software has to have a worksheet:
Error number three on their list is really a series of errors, I’ll quote it: “Computation errors in figuring the child and dependent care credit or the earned income credit. Also, missing or incorrect identification numbers for child care providers.” The computation errors software can help you avoid. Getting the identification number for your care provider correct does fall to you. It’s best to get the number while they are providing care for your child (or before) rather than waiting for tax time. I’ve seen many posts where people can no longer find the person who was caring for their child, usually because someone moved.
Error number four is another easily avoided error if you use tax software. It’s entering withholding and estimated tax payments on the wrong line.
Their fifth most common error is the most compelling reason for most of us to use tax software. Simply put, it’s math errors. Even the best of us can hit the wrong button on a calculator.
Here are their errors you can run into even if you use tax software:
Did you enter the names and social security numbers for yourself, your spouse, your dependents, and qualifying children for earned income credit or child tax credit, exactly as they appear on the social security cards? If there have been any name changes be sure to go to www.ssa.gov or call at 1–800–772–1213. (This is because the IRS gets their information from the Social Security Administration.)
Did you sign and date the return? If it is a joint return, did your spouse also sign and date the return? (Not applicable if you efile and sign electronically.)
Did you attach all necessary schedules and forms (W-2 and 1099s, too) in sequence number order given in the upper right–hand corner? (Only for paper filers, so it’s a good reason to consider electronic filing. We print everything in the order you need to attach them.)
Not including all proper information with payment. You can find the full instructions for that here.
When all is said and done–no matter how you chose to do your taxes–be sure and carefully review your return. Everyone makes mistakes. There may be an error in the software or there may be an error in your data entry. If you have any questions about your return or are just interested in learning more about it, you may want to check out Pub 17.