Common IRS Filing Mistakes That Could Cost a Pretty Penny


They say that the only things promised in life are death and taxes. Every time tax season rolls around, our shoulders get stiffer, and our jaws clench with frustration because of the information we need to provide.

You’re going over your yearly income and outgoing expenses, which can be overwhelming, especially when Covid-19 has thrown everyone for a loop. As a result, it’s possible to make mistakes when filing taxes.

Don’t worry; it isn’t the end of the world. But you will suffer a minor penalty depending on your infraction. To avoid any more hiccups in the future, check out these common IRS filing mistakes.

1. Missing the Filing Deadline

When the tax deadline rolls around, it’s probably the last thing on your mind. You’re not intentionally dismissing doing your taxes, but it’s a task you’ll get back to when you have the time.

However, when you procrastinate, you could end up missing the deadline altogether because your documents aren’t in order. If you need more time, you can get a filing extension from the IRS.

You’ll still have to pay the taxes you owed from the original deadline. Also, if payments don’t get made by the extension deadline, you’ll get charged interest.

2. Not Keeping Tax Return Copies

When you file your tax returns for a specific year, it doesn’t mean you can put it behind you. The first thing you should do is make copies of those returns for your documents.

Why? A situation may arise where your previous tax information is needed. If you don’t have the documents, you can always order a copy from the IRS for a small fee.

3. Math Errors

Why is filing tax forms a daunting task? It’s because of all of the math calculations that need to get done.

The questions on the form don’t make it any easier for you either. For example, you may see a question like:

” Add line 3 to line 12 and multiply by x if your AGI is under a certain amount”.

Answering this question by hand may present some challenges resulting in human error. Instead of stressing out over the calculations, use tax preparation software.

These applications perform tax calculations for you, saving you time and money. Also, they keep you from overpaying the IRS because of your mishap.

4. Incorrect Filing Status

There are different income tax rates and deductions for everyone who files taxes. The amount gets determined by your filing status, which should fall under one of these categories:

  • Single
  • Married filing jointly
  • Married filing separately
  • Qualifying widow(er) with child dependent
  • Head of household

Let’s dive further into the requirements of each below.


To qualify as a single tax filer, you must be unmarried, divorced, legally separated according to your state’s laws. You’ll also need to ensure your situation is solidified before the end of the year so you can file correctly.

You can’t use this filing status if you’re a head of household filer or widowed since you have dependents.

Married Filing Jointly

If you’ve gotten married before the end of the year, you and your partner can file your taxes together. That means you’ll record your exemptions, incomes, and deductions on the same form.

You’ll typically get a larger return when you file taxes together than filing them yourself. However, this is only beneficial if one partner earns significantly more than the other.

It’s also important to note that you can take advantage of this tax status if you’re a surviving spouse. But to do so, you can’t remarry in the year of your partner’s death.

Married Filing Separately

What happens if you and your partner have a high annual income but filing together in the past wasn’t beneficial? If you’re married, you can still file your taxes separately.

Although it can help limit your deductions, you’ll need to be responsible for your own taxes. Furthermore, it’s an excellent option for couples if you want to distance yourself from any tax liability your partner may have.

Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child

As we mentioned above, when your partner dies, you’ll be able to file a joint tax return in the year of their death. However, you can file as a qualifying widow or widower for the following two years.

There are specific criteria you need to meet to use this tax status, such as:

  • Claiming the dependants, if applicable
  • Living in the deceased’s home for at least a full year
  • The surviving spouse has made a significant contribution to maintaining the home

Death is a transition that isn’t easy to make, especially when you need to take care of people. But by using this classification, you can help lessen the impact of some financial burdens.

Head of Household

A head of household tax filer is a single or unmarried individual who pays up to 50% of their home’s costs. These include:

  • Groceries
  • Utility Bills
  • Rent or mortgage
  • General maintenance

To use this tax status, you’ll also show you’re living with other family members that need support. As a result, one of the benefits of this classification is a lower tax rate.

5. Wrong Bank Details

After filing your taxes, the next step is waiting for your return. The receipt will vary depending on when you filed.

But you could be waiting for an extended period if you entered the wrong bank details. It’s a common mistake among taxpayers, although it seems like common sense.

The IRS issues your refund directly to your bank account. If you made an error on your bank information, it could take weeks or months to receive your money.

6. Failure to Sign Forms

Did you sign all of the necessary documentation before sending it off? If not, expect to receive it back in the mail.

Any unsigned tax return is invalid, according to the IRS. So that means if you and your spouse are filing jointly, both signatures need to be on the paperwork.

However, there are certain exceptions to this rule, such as military personnel or individuals who have power of attorney.

7. Sending Your Tax Return to the Wrong Office

We’re living in an age full of technological advancements. But it doesn’t stop some individuals from sending their returns through the postal service.

Unfortunately, a standard error with this approach is when filers send their returns to the wrong IRS office. Don’t assume that because you live in a specific area, all files are going to the same place.

Your address’s location will determine the office you need to send your paperwork to. For example, you and another person may live in the same state but have two different zip codes, which means filing with separate IRS offices.

8. Wrong Envelope Postage

Another error individuals who mail their returns make is using the incorrect envelope postage. Tax forms are usually multiple pages, so you’ll need to ensure the postage matches the weight of the envelope.

If it doesn’t, your documents will get returned to you and create a further delay in your filing process.

9. Forgetting To File Your 1099-Misc

Independent contractors can sometimes be an afterthought for businesses depending on the nature of the service. However, if you own a company using independent contractors, you’ll need to file a 1099-MISC.

It’s essentially the equivalent of what a W-2 form would be for standard employees. But it can be easy to forget since it’s not part of your payroll. You can read this article for insight about forgetting to send in your 1099-MISC.

10. Not Including All W-2 Forms

Like we spoke about above, when you’re a standard employee at a company, you’ll receive a W-2 form towards the end of the year. It’s a necessary document that shows how much you’ve made from your employer.

But if you work more than one job, you’ll need to ensure income information about both gets filed in your return. If not, your return can get delayed, or you may have interest charges and penalties.

11. Disregarding Negative Amounts in Brackets

According to recent data, Americans are currently responsible for $14 trillion in debt. Unfortunately, if you have some form of debt, you’ll need to include those amounts on your tax returns.

Standard practice is to enclose these negative amounts in brackets to clarify expenses further. However, a common mistake among filers includes forgetting to have those numbers in brackets.

The IRS won’t know the difference unless you label your data correctly. Failure to do so will result in additional taxes.

12. Incorrectly Listing Your Dependents

Depending on your filing status, you must name all of your dependents along with their tax identification number. If the individuals have a social security number, you can provide that information instead.

However, you’ll need to list their names exactly as it appears on their social security card. Any error could hinder how quickly your application gets processed.

13. Using the Wrong Column for Calculations

We know that people can make errors when adding up all of their numbers. But some mistakes involve the use of the wrong column.

When you opt to do taxes yourself, a corresponding table is there to help you throughout the process. All you have to do is look at the column that applies to you and fill it in.

Anyone can get distracted easily, which can lead to a filing error. So as you fill out this information, ensure you review each column before continuing the process.

14. Failure to Use an IP PIN

An IP or identity protection pin is a six-digit number given to taxpayers to protect their social security from fraudulence. These pins are usually valid for one calendar year,

However, not everyone is eligible to receive these pins. You need to have:

  • Access to a phone
  • A valid social security number
  • An adjusted gross income of $72,000 or less

Once you get your PIN, you must use it when filing your returns. Individuals with this extra layer of security have different filing protocols. Failure to follow them will result in a delay in your tax return.

15. Documents Aren’t in the Correct Order

There’s no room for error when filing tax returns. That means even your paperwork needs to be in the correct order.

There are sequencing numbers on the forms to show you which documents belong where. If they’re in the wrong order, you won’t see your refund for quite some time.

16. Having Illegible Handwriting

Another reason why people choose to send their tax returns electronically is because of their handwriting. If you know that yours isn’t the best, it’s probably wise to use an online filing tool.

What happens if you send illegible tax documents to the IRS? They will either disregard your file or return the paperwork to you.

17. Entering Income in the Wrong Box

You will most likely have to fill out your income multiple times as you prepare to file your taxes. However, make sure you write in on the correct line.

Yes, it’s a simple task, but it’s also one of the top reasons why the IRS delays tax returns.

Avoid These Mistakes When Filing Your Next Tax Return

Tax season is a strenuous time for all parties involved, meaning there’s plenty of room to make mistakes. However, it’s essential to make a checklist to ensure you’ve made no errors.

Before you file your return, please review our guide to double-check your paperwork. After completing your checklist, you can file your return with no worries.

Hopefully, you’ve learned a little bit more about taxes after reading our article today. If you’re interested in related content, feel free to check out our other blog posts.