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How to Double-Check a Completed IRS Tax Return for Mistakes

You’ve spent hours reconciling bank statements, double-checking your petty cash records, hunting down invoices and receipts, filling out obscure tax forms, and making sure all of the deductions you’re claiming on this year’s tax return are accounted for.

All that’s left to do now is to double-check your work.

Here’s how to review a completed IRS tax return properly, some common mistakes to look out, and what to do if you spot a mistake.

Check the simple stuff first

No matter how many times they remind people to double check their returns before sending them in, the IRS says thousands of filers still write down the wrong social security number on their return every year, making it the most common tax filing mistake in America.

Thousands more make basic math errors, put down the wrong filing status, write down the wrong address, or forget to sign their physical returns altogether.

Too often, it’s the little stuff that gets us in trouble around tax time. Before pressing send, make sure to check the basic stuff.

  • Check all names you include in your return for their correct spelling (this includes any taxpayers mentioned in the return, any dependents you name, and any official company names you reference).

  • Confirm that all addresses are correct (including city, state, and zip code).

  • Check all identification numbers (i.e. Social Security Numbers, Employer Identification Numbers, Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, Preparer Tax Identification Numbers, etc.)

Make sure to also check only one filing status on your return.

If you’re filing jointly, remember to include your spouse’s social security number, and make sure you and your spouse have both signed the return.

If you got a tax preparer to help you, double check to make sure they didn’t indicate that the return was “self-prepared.”

Compare it to your previous returns

Another way to quickly zero in on potential mistakes is to compare the forms and information in the current year return to ones from past years.

If you see any big changes or discontinuities, think about why that might be the case. If you claimed deductions last year, compare them to this year’s deductions and think about why they changed. Do you have the records to justify all of those changes?

Remember that the IRS requires you to keep your returns (and the records supporting them) for at least three years from the date the return was filed, or from the due date of the tax return (whichever is later).

Look for ‘reasonableness’ on your return

Look at what your income would be if you hadn’t subtracted all of those deductions. Is the income you’re claiming reasonable? Look at the amount owing. Is it reasonable compared to last year?

If anything fails the reasonable test, double check the math you did to come to that figure and make sure you have records to back it up.

Double-check estimated payments and state withholding taxes

If you’re self-employed or run an incorporated business and owe at least $1,000 in taxes, the IRS requires you to pay your taxes in quarterly “estimated” payments, rather than in one lump sum. Some states also require these too.

You can calculate your estimated taxes on the IRS’ Estimated Tax Worksheet found in Form 1040-ES for individuals or Form 1120-W for corporations, will guide you through these calculations in detail.

Double check that you’re calculating these properly and that you’ve paid all of them. If you’re an individual make sure that your federal and state withholding is correctly being reflected on your tax return.

Figure out your payment situation

If you have any tax due on your end, confirm whether or not you’ll be making that payment online (through your tax software, your state website or the IRS website) with your bank account information, or whether you need to mail any checks in.

If you’re paying online

If you’re an individual or sole proprietor paying online, you can sign up for electronic payments online or by phone via the IRS Payments Gateway.

If you’re incorporated, mpayments must be filed through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.

If you’re mailing in

Just fill out form 1040-ES and mail it along with a check to the IRS office closest to you.

If you have employees

You need to sign up for payroll payments, which you can do over the phone by calling the IRS directly at 1-800-555-3453 (EFTPS Pin and bank account info ready), or online here.

You’ll also have to create a password for your Electronic Federal Tax Payment System account, which you’ll then have to log into here.

Make sure you’ve got direct deposit set up

If you have a refund due, make sure you’re using the direct deposit option.

Confirm that the correct routing and bank account number are on your tax return, and that the amount owed is going to be refunded and not carried over as an estimate to next year.

You can check your tax refund status online using the IRS’s handy Where’s My Refund? Tool. (If you e-file your return, you should be able to check the status of your return as little as 24 hours after you file.)

If your status changes to “Refund Sent,” that means the IRS has sent your refund to your financial institution for direct deposit, or mailed a check. If you don’t receive it within a week, that might mean your banking information was inputted incorrectly and might need updating.

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This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

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