Any time you're handling sensitive personal or financial documents, double-checking your work is always a good idea. When you're preparing your taxes, taking a second look at everything should simply be part of your process. Making a mistake can cost you, not to mention drawing the attention of the IRS.
Take a close look at all the information on your tax return before you submit it; then, look again. Some of the simplest mistakes you'll make lead to the most complicated issues down the road. If you're thorough in your filing adventures, though, you might just be able to head off what's sure to be an unpleasant experience with the IRS.
It might sound silly to verify that your name is spelled correctly and your Social Security number is accurate, but the IRS gets plenty of returns with just these types of errors. The problem is that a mistake made with something like your name can sound an alarm with the IRS, which may result in a more comprehensive look at your return. And while you likely have nothing to hide, you would probably like to avoid talking to a revenue agent.
Once you've confirmed that all of your essential personal details are correct, you can move on to verifying your income information. This may take just a minute, particularly if you had only one job last year and no additional income sources. But if you had multiple employers or had extensive side work, you'll want to double-check that you've included all of them and the income for each exactly matches what was provided on your various wage summaries. And don't forget to include any unusual income info for gambling winnings, a forgiven debt, a court settlement or even illegal earnings (yes, money from criminal enterprises must be reported).
Deductions and Credits
There's a chance that you took the standard deduction and you've claimed zero credits and, if so, this should require little verification. However, if you are claiming tax credits and/or itemizing your deductions, take a few minutes to substantiate everything on your return. This process should include confirming individual amounts you're reporting, rechecking eligibility requirements and looking back over all of your supporting documentation. When it comes to your deductions, every expense should have a corresponding, valid receipt.
In the event that you're due a tax refund and you're doing direct deposit, you'll want to take the time to review your banking info. Again, you'll want to check the spelling of your name, as well as your address and the routing number for the account that you've designated for your refund deposit. Taking these small but crucial retracing steps can ensure that your money arrives without incident or delay. The last thing you want is for your refund to be sent to the wrong account or not at all because a minor banking detail was overlooked.
Cause and Effect
If you've double-checked every last item on your tax return, you should have little reason to worry about any negative reactions from the IRS. However, if you've verified all of your information and you still receive a notice in the mail, you'll want to take prompt action. Consult with a licensed tax professional regarding any IRS notice of audit or assessment. Exercising caution with your return won't guarantee a favorable outcome, but a tax professional can ensure that any ill effects will be quickly remedied.