10-Point Tax Checklist

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:50pm.

If you use tax preparation software to complete your forms, the program should help you catch some of these oversights.

But if you're one of the more than 60 million filers still sending in paper forms, you need to pay special attention to your taxes.

The wrong filing status could cheat you out of tax savings. Missing or incorrect Social Security numbers could invalidate a credit and increase your tax bill. And a forgotten attachment will definitely slow IRS processing of your return, meaning you'll wait longer for your refund.

Here's a 10-point last-minute checklist to make sure your tax paperwork is error-free:

1. Use the peel-off label, even if it's wrong. About half of taxpayers still send in paper returns. If you're one of them, use the label. If anything on it is wrong, simply strike through the bad information and make corrections right on the label. If you don't have the label, write in the requested information clearly.

2. Be sure to enter your Social Security number in the box provided on the return. If it is not there, the IRS won't process your return. If you and your spouse are filing a joint return, enter both tax ID numbers.

3. Check only one filing status. And make sure it's the status that gives you the most tax advantage.

4. Count all your allowable exemptions. Each dependent you claim on your return directly translates into an exemption, a specific dollar amount you can subtract from your adjusted gross income. The lower your income amount, the less there is for the IRS to tax. And be sure you include each listed person's correct Social Security number. Without it, the IRS could disallow an exemption -- and the $3,400 that goes with it.

5. If you're filing a paper return, attach all of your W-2 wage statements, as well as any 1099 forms if they show you had tax withheld from those accounts. If you e-file, make sure you correctly entered the amounts from these forms. If you're e-filing, make sure you enter the information correctly in the computer software program. The IRS will be checking your payment statments it receives from your employers against what you enter on your 1040.

6. If you're filing a paper 1040 or 1040A and have used schedules with them, assemble them in the right order. Each attachment has a sequence number in its upper-right-hand corner. Put them in that order and staple them to your return.

7. Do you owe tax? Make your check or money order payable to the United States Treasury, not the IRS. In addition to the Treasury being the technically correct recipient of our money rather than the IRS, which is simply the agency that collects it, it makes the "pay to" entry more secure, for you and the IRS. It only takes a few pen strokes for a crook who stole your tax check to turn IRS into I.R. Sims or change the "I" to an "M" so Mrs. Criminal can cash your tax payment.

Also put on the check, your name, address, Social Security number, daytime phone number and note in the memo area that it's payment for 2007 Form 1040 (or 1040A or 1040EZ). Put your payment (along with the voucher from your tax package if you're a 1040 filer) in your return envelope, but don't staple it to the return itself.

The IRS cashes your check before it examines your return. That means your check is removed and sent to one office for deposit, while your return goes to another for review. When a stapled check is pulled off, other attachments could come loose, too. Tracking them down will slow the processing of your return or force the IRS to come back to you for duplicates.

8. Sign and date the return. If you file a joint return, both spouses must sign, even if only one had income. Both signatures are required on paper forms and e-filed returns.

9. Provide a daytime phone number. It could speed the processing of your return if the IRS has questions. Joint filers can use the contact phone number for either spouse. If you paid a professional to do your return, make sure that person's contact information is complete. And you can now refer questions about your tax return to anyone you choose, tax professional or not. Simply fill out the third party designee line (name, tax ID number and phone number) to give the IRS permission to call that person for answers.

10. Use the envelope included with your tax package to mail your return. In the last few years, as the IRS has reorganized and consolidated its services, some of its return processing and service center locations have changed. If you aren't using a pre-addressed IRS envelope or label, make sure you are sending your return to the proper place. Use the IRS's locator map to double-check the centers' mailing addresses in your state.

Also, some taxpayers will find they have a choice of mailing label depending on whether they're paying a tax bill or getting money back. Use the correct one, because these color-coded labels go to different places to help the IRS more quickly process returns. If you don't have a pre-addressed envelope, check inside the back cover of your tax instruction booklet for the correct mailing address for your return or use the locator map to find the address.

Did your return pass final inspection? Great! Send it on its way.

If not, it's better that you, rather than the IRS, caught the mistake. The few extra minutes you just spent finding and fixing the error headed off a tax encounter later. And you are now done, correctly, with your taxes until next year.


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Kay Bell - April 12, 2008 - posted at http://finance.yahoo.com/taxes/

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Mon, 04/14/2008 - 1:50pm.