Avoid These Tax Headaches

Here's how to steer clear of five big problem areas for taxpayers.

Some of the most common mistakes taxpayers make, the IRS says, are simple ones, such as:

  • Incorrect or missing social security numbers, or identification numbers for child care providers.
  • Incorrect tax entered from the tables.
  • Math errors.
  • Withholding and estimated tax payments entered on the wrong line.

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To err is human; file correctly online
A simple mistake rarely triggers an audit. Typically, errors are handled through correspondence with the taxpayer, IRS spokesman Tim Harms says.If there's a math error, the IRS usually corrects it and sends a letter explaining the change. A wrong social security number can complicate things more, especially if a couple is trying to claim a credit for a child and enters the wrong number (they can lose the credit).To avoid simple errors, consider e-filing. IRS computers can instantly catch many mistakes. The error rate for paper returns hovers around 20%, while it's only 1% for electronic returns.

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Cameron Huddleston
Former Online Editor, Kiplinger.com

Award-winning journalist, speaker, family finance expert, and author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk.

Cameron Huddleston wrote the daily "Kip Tips" column for Kiplinger.com. She joined Kiplinger in 2001 after graduating from American University with an MA in economic journalism.