Netflix Tudum: Rewatch all the peeks Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba Season 2 Stranger Things season 4 teaser China: All cryptocurrency transactions illegal Elon Musk and Grimes 'semi-separated'

9 of the biggest tax myths you should never fall for

Not everything you read about taxes is true. There are some things you might believe about taxes that are completely false. Here are the big ones.

tax myths busted
Getty images

Tax time is hard on most of us. Whether we're stuck paying a tax bill or we aren't sure if we're filing right, completing tax returns can get frustrating. 

From what you can claim to who can file, here are the biggest tax myths you might think are true -- but shouldn't.

Read moreThe best tax software for 2020: TurboTax, H&R Block, TaxSlayer and more

1. If you can't afford to pay, you don't need to file

Some people are stuck owing the government money. There are many reasons why this happens -- you didn't withhold enough using your W-4, you were subject to income (like selling shares) that's not subject to tax withholding, or there were big changes in your tax return. If you owe a tax bill -- whether it's a little or a lot, you're still required to file your taxes, but you might have more options than you realize. If you don't have the cash to pay it, you should file your taxes and then contact the IRS. You might qualify for a payment plan or even an extension.

2. Married filing separately is better than jointly

If you thought you'd be saving money by filing separately from your spouse, think again. Married filing jointly qualifies you for certain credits and deductions that your "married filing separately" friends might not qualify for. For instance, you're eligible for a larger standard deduction through a "married filing jointly" return. Filing separately also omits you from tax deductions that could give you significant relief, like the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependant Care Tax Credit. You're also eligible to deduct more in capital losses than if you were to file separately. If you earn significantly more than your spouse, filing jointly could put you in a lower tax bracket than if you were to file separately.

If you don't think you'll take advantage of any of the tax benefits of filing jointly -- which is rare -- you could then consider filing separately. Some benefits include safeguarding against being responsible for your spouse's financials, or being able to deduct significant medical expenses. Consider preparing your taxes both ways -- jointly and separately -- to see which scenario gives you the biggest tax breaks. 

3. No income means no filing

Some believe that students and retirees don't need to file taxes, usually because income for these groups tends to be very low. But low-income earners aren't exempt from filing, although there are some cases where you might be. If you earn below a certain threshold or you've hit a specific age bracket, you might qualify for free tax help

4. Filing is optional

Unless the IRS told you otherwise, almost everyone is required to file a tax return. If you're unsure, the IRS can help you determine if you need to file taxes or not. You'll need to know your filing status, federal income tax withheld and some basic information to help determine your gross income. Generally, you don't need to file a tax return if your standard deduction is greater than your income. The IRS' tool can help streamline the math to determine this. That said, if you think you overpaid taxes through your paychecks, the only way to get a tax refund is to file a tax return.

It's better to ask if you qualify to skip filing a return instead of jumping to that conclusion and risk getting penalized.

Read more: How student loans affect your taxes

5. Making mistakes will crush your credit

Filing your taxes is important. Your credit score is important. But a mistake on your tax return isn't going to demolish your credit score. Credit score calculations are separate and tax liens are excluded from credit scores

That said, not paying your taxes could have a direct impact on your credit score. For instance, if you don't pay your taxes on time and rack up penalty charges and fees, you may not be able to stay current on other bills. Falling behind on those payments could cause your credit score to drop. 

6. A federal filing is enough

While filing federal taxes is required, only a handful of states don't require you to file a state tax return:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Unless you live in one of these states, a federal filing isn't enough and you'll be required to file a separate state tax return.

7. An extension to file means you can pay later 

If you need more time to get some outstanding paperwork in order, you can file an extension with the IRS. But a file extension doesn't mean a tax bill extension. For the most part, you're still required to pay the IRS by Tax Day. If you don't pay up, you might face penalties, fees and interest charges until you do. 

It might be difficult to guess how much you owe if you haven't completed a return, but you can estimate this figure and make that payment while still preparing an official tax filing. If you don't need the extra time to file, you should complete your return by Tax Day. But if you're missing key documents to complete your return, you can complete a file extension form. If you do get an extension to file, you have until Oct. 15 to complete your return.

8. Your withholdings are fine as is

There's a chance you haven't changed your tax withholdings -- or the amount of money your employer withholds from your paycheck to pay taxes -- since you got hired at your current job. Checking your W-4 withholdings could end up saving you a hefty tax bill, since you'll ensure that the right amount of taxes are being withheld throughout the year. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act -- the most recent overhaul to the US tax code -- went into effect in 2018. It changed individual income tax, the standard deduction and some tax credits. This means when you filed in 2019, there was some learning and adjusting to your filing. 

Even if you checked your withholdings last year, you may want to give them a look again. There's a chance you're paying too little to the government. This means come tax time, you might owe the IRS a large tax bill, or notice your return has seriously decreased. By checking your withholdings, you'll know how much you're paying into taxes, as well as if you're on the hook for paying taxes on Tax Day.

9. Side-hustle income is tax-free

If you earn cash from your side gig, you'll need to report that on your taxes. Even if you didn't get a W-2 from your side hustle employer, the government needs to know how much money you took home last year through every revenue stream you have, including cash transactions. 

Income from your side hustle can both help and hurt your taxes. You might spend more time filing your taxes and you may even end up paying self-employment tax, but there are some credits and deductions you could qualify for. Self-employed people can deduct some of their home or vehicle expenses if they're used for business. You might also be able to claim educational expenses and health insurance costs if your day job doesn't cover those for you.

Read more: 12 of the best tax deductions in 2020