An ounce of prevention can prevent you a lot of IRS grief later on, or at least can minimize the grief and stress of a possible encounter with the IRS.
- Clean, correct, current, and complete. Use good recordkeeping habits and a computer to complete your return and you will have gotten yourself off to a fabulous start.
- The right forms in the right order. Using the right forms and putting them in sequential order makes it easier for the IRS to quickly read and review — which is what you want! Busy IRS bureauracrats need all the help they can get.
- Use the correct filing status. The wrong tax category could cost you plenty in credits and deductions.
- Claim all of your allowable exemptions. At $3,500 per exemption, that is a pretty penny to kiss away.
- Don’t use round numbers. Rounded numbers are a big red flag that the taxpayer is estimating the numbers and may increase your chance for an audit.
- Check your math. I know you want to finish the task of preparing your taxes as soon as possible, and the last thing you want to do is to check your math, but you need to “Just Do It”. Make sure to pay special attention to any Earned Income tax credit and Child tax credit calculations — they are most often calculated incorrectly.
- Sign your return. Yes, it seems like an obvious point. But the IRS says unsigned tax returns are one of the most common taxpayer miscues.
- File and pay on time. There are two terrible tax penalties – the Failure to Pay Penalty, and the Failure to File Penalty. If you can’t pay your taxes on time, at least file the tax return on time. It’ll save you a lot of money in penalties.
- If you’re not ready, file an extension. File IRS Form 4868 and you will get until October 15 to file and avoid a late filing penalty. But remember, you’re still supposed to pay all the income tax by April 15th.
- Keep a copy of your return For at least 6 years after filing your return, retain a copy just in case. I’ll keep mine for 20 years. I’ve had clients who have had the IRS claim they didn’t file nearly 20 years ago. The burden is on the taxpayer to prove they filed, and filed on time! The IRS is getting desperate for money, and it’s your job to protect yourself.
While a lot of the suggestions listed below are simple, that’s good news because that makes them easier to implement in your busy life.