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Tax Mistakes: Avoid These Common Tax Errors to Get Your Tax Refund on Time

Sometimes the simplest tax mistakes can cause the biggest problems.

Peter Butler Writer
Peter is a writer and editor for the CNET How-To team. He has been covering technology, software, finance, sports and video games since working for @Home Network and Excite in the 1990s. Peter managed reviews and listings for Download.com during the 2000s, and is passionate about software and no-nonsense advice for creators, consumers and investors.
Expertise 18 years of editorial experience with a current focus on personal finance and moving
Peter Butler
5 min read
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Double checking your tax returns for common mistakes could help you avoid major pitfalls.

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While the tax deadline of April 18 looms less than two weeks away, there's no need to panic. The best tax software will help you file your tax return quickly and get your tax refund promptly.

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As tax day draws ever nearer, don't let the stress of filing your taxes lead to careless mistakes. Accidental errors made in haste can get your tax return rejected or your tax refund delayed, sometimes for months.

If you want to receive your full tax refund on time, double-check our list of common tax return errors below. Mistakes aren't the end of the world -- if your tax return is rejected and you've filed your taxes on time, the IRS will give you five days to correct your information and refile.

Read on to learn how to avoid the most common mistakes made when filing taxes. For more tax tips, learn how to file your taxes for free and how to claim the child tax credit.

Mistake No. 1: Filing a late tax return

The IRS estimates that about 20% of taxpayers wait until the week before the deadline to file their tax returns. If you owe the IRS money, that's not necessarily a bad tactic, but if you have a refund coming, that's playing with fire.

Procrastinating on your taxes leaves little wiggle room if problems arise, and not filing your return on time will definitely complicate the status of your tax refund. If you owe the IRS money, you'll need to pay a late filing fee and other penalties will start to accrue.

It's free to file a six-month tax extension until Oct. 18, but you'll have to pay estimated taxes owed and you're losing money if you're expecting a refund.

Mistake No. 2: Misspelling names or entering wrong Social Security numbers

This mistake might seem ridiculous, but it's more common than you might think. Be sure to enter your full name exactly as it is spelled on your Social Security card, as well as the exact Social Security number. If either are not exactly the same, your tax return will be rejected. 

If your legal name has changed, you'll need to contact the Social Security Administration first to update it, and then file your taxes with your proper name.

Mistake No. 3: Entering the wrong AGI from last year

When you file your tax return electronically, the IRS uses your adjusted gross income, or AGI, from the prior year to verify your identity. That means you need your exact AGI from your 2021 tax return to file your 2022 taxes online. If you don't match last year's AGI, your tax return will be rejected and you'll have to file again.

If you've lost your tax return from last year, you can look up your AGI from 2021 by requesting an instant transcript on the IRS website, though you'll need to create a free online IRS account first. If you didn't file taxes last year, you should enter $0 for your 2021 AGI while filing this year's return. 

Mistake No. 4: Using an incorrect filing status

US taxpayers can file their tax returns as Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. Your filing status determines your standard deduction, eligibility for tax credits and your overall tax burden. 

The IRS' What Is My Filing Status? tool will help you determine your own situation and make the proper selection. If your filing status is incorrect, at best you'll need to file an amended return with Form 1040-X. At worst, the IRS may suspect tax fraud and investigate.

Mistake No. 5: Making math errors with credits or deductions

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Don't let arithmetic mistakes bring you down.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Child tax credit, earned income tax credit, mortgage interest deduction, child care deduction -- the worksheets and rules for many such tax items can be tricky to calculate on your own. A mistyped number or wrong calculation can result in an inaccurate tax refund, meaning you're either losing possible money or will have to pay an overage back with fees and penalties.

Quality tax software will nearly eliminate these sorts of errors, collecting and calculating all of the numbers you need to file your taxes correctly. All the top tax products offer accuracy guarantees that will pay for any losses or penalties if their software makes calculation errors. You'll still need to enter correct information in order for tax software to work successfully, so be sure to double-check all your numbers before filing.

If you prefer to do your taxes yourself the old-fashioned way, the IRS' Interactive Tax Assistant can help with a wide range of credit and deduction calculations.

Mistake No. 6: Getting bank account or routing numbers wrong

File electronically with direct deposit and you'll get your refund in about 21 days, according to the IRS. However, it won't work if you enter the wrong bank account or routing numbers when you file your tax return. Once the IRS has accepted your return, it's too late to change your banking info.

If the IRS cannot deposit your refund electronically into your bank account, it will send you a paper check at the mailing address listed on your tax return, which the IRS says will take six to eight weeks, though you can set up alerts with the Postal Service to know when it will arrive.

If you accidentally enter valid account and routing numbers that aren't yours on your tax return, the IRS may deposit your tax refund money into someone else's bank account. In that case, you'll need to contact the bank and likely visit an office in person to prove your identity and explain the situation with documentation. After you get the bank to return the money, you'll receive a paper check in the mail from the IRS.

Mistake No. 7: Forgetting to sign your tax return

Filing a paper tax return will slow down your tax refund considerably. Filing it without a signature will cause the IRS to reject your return and ask you to file again, making the process considerably slower.

If you're married filing jointly, both partners need to sign the tax return. There are exceptions for active military members overseas and others needing to use a third party with power of attorney.

File electronically, sign your return digitally and you'll never have to worry about this mistake ever.

For more tax tips, learn about all the possible tax breaks for homeowners and all the benefits you get when you file taxes early.