Five tips for filing your taxes

If you’re a tax procrastinator like me, you may not have filed your 2014 tax return yet. If taxes are still on your to-do list, here are a few tips to avoid common tax filing errors.

  1. Proofread, proofread, proofread. Some of the most common errors made on electronic tax filings are misspelled names and transposed Social Security numbers. Errors like this are more common when you are rushing to file at the last minute, so fill out your forms ahead of the filing deadline so you have time to review them carefully before you submit them.
     
  2. Check your math. If you file on paper, double-check your math before you mail your return. If you file electronically, the software will do the calculations for you, but they’ll only be right if you entered the numbers correctly in the first place, so double-check all the dollar amounts you enter. And if you have a negative number (a loss) on your form, use brackets instead of a minus sign to indicate that the number is a negative number.
     
  3. Sign the form. Your return – and thus refund, if you are owed one – will be delayed if you don’t sign your paper return. If you e-file, you need to “sign” electronically by providing a PIN or last year’s adjusted gross income (AGI). If you’re like me and you use last year’s return as a guide when preparing this year’s forms, keep it handy after you’ve finished your return so you can use your 2014 AGI to sign your 2015 return when you file. 
     
  4. Don’t miss deductions and credits.* Many filers don’t realize they may be eligible to deduct job search expenses, some costs of job-related moves, portions of the student loan interest they paid, medical costs over 10% of your AGI (7% if you’re over 65) or other deductible expenses. Credits for education expenses are also often missed. A few years back, I might have forgotten to claim a credit for the energy efficient windows I had installed the previous spring had my brother not reminded me, and it added hundreds of dollars to my refund. 
     
  5. Don’t forget the new Affordable Care Act requirements. Remember that this is the first year in which the Affordable Care Act (ACA) healthcare requirements are part of our tax returns. If you’re like me and get your healthcare coverage from your employer, you’ll need to check the box that indicates that you had health insurance in 2014. If you did not have healthcare coverage, purchased healthcare on your own or purchased your coverage from an ACA exchange, there are other filing requirements that you must meet related to the ACA.

 

*Consult your tax advisor about potential tax savings. Sources: mainstreet.com, CNBC.com, KOLO-TV and IRS.govĀ