A pre-taxday guest post from Home Daddys’ Mike Freidberg -
Save yourself time and money
April is upon us, and as usual, a majority of Americans are scrambling to get their taxes figured out so they can file on time. As we near the big day, here are 10 of the most common mistakes made by Americans that you shouldn’t be making.
One of the biggest mistakes Americans seem to make every year is that they file their taxes late. It’s one of the most talked about dates during the year, rivaling Christmas and New Years in media attention every season. While exact numbers of how many Americans forget to file on time is hard to pin down, the IRS apparently thinks it’s a big enough issue that last year they decided to increase the penalty for filing late, and hire scores of new employees to help enforce it.
Avoiding filing because you can’t pay
You should know that the IRS sets the penalty for not paying and the penalty for not filing separately—meaning even if you can’t pay, you can avoid significant penalties by applying for an “offer in compromise”, or making monthly installments on your tax bill. None of these options are particularly attractive, so you’re better off saving up for tax day, but there’s never a good reason to put off filing.
Under-reporting your income
Whether you use a W-2 or a 1099, there’s absolutely no point in reporting less earnings than you actually received. Your employers and clients have to report what they’ve paid you, and they’ll be sure to declare every penny to keep their own taxes low—so if your numbers don’t match theirs, the government won’t have any trouble finding out about it. Snag every possible deduction you can, but never lie to the IRS.
Incorrect business deductions
The IRS spells it out pretty clearly on their website what can be used as a deduction for your business. Take some time to review it and figure out what deductions apply to you. If you do operate your own business, be prepared by ensure that whoever you use for your merchant card services provides you with annual or quarterly statements for your records.
Claiming phony dependents
It’s hard to see your children leave the home and head off to college, but it’s even harder a couple years later when you realize you can’t claim them anymore. It’s not difficult for the government to cross check your tax returns with those of your dependents, so do yourself a favor and stop claiming them they start paying their own income taxes.
Missing charitable contributions
Turns out America is a pretty generous country when it comes to charitable giving, but many filers forget or neglect to fill out this portion of their taxes. It’s an easy write off and a great way to ensure your money is going to the exact causes you want. Be sure to include any donations you make to Goodwill, as well as any religious organizations or non-profits you support.
Getting your math wrong
Use a calculator. Better yet, e-file. Bad math can not only cost you on getting back all your refund, but it can even spur an audit if you mess up badly enough. Have someone else double check your figures before you file.
Mike Freiberg is a staff writer for HomeDaddys, a resource for stay-at-home dads, work-at-home dads, and everything in between. He’s a handyman, an amateur astronomer, and a tech junkie, who loves being home with his two kids. He lives in Austin.