Sharon Davis

Lions and tigers and taxes-Oh my!

March 08, 2017 | Star 99.1 Staff

Finances

Income taxes.  Yes, those words make me groan a little, too. 

Just a few days ago, I received a notice in the mail from New Jersey's Department of Taxation. Hmmm... What could this be? A looking-forward-to-hearing-from-you-this-year greeting?  Or a thank you note for my years of being a loyal tax payer?  It certainly wasn't going to be a refund, I was sure of that.

It was a notice of underpayment.  Ouch.  My math was fine. (The tax software's math, actually.) But after pouring over W-2's, bank statements, and other info looking for the problem, I finally realized I had inserted the wrong number under wages because the state and federal amounts were different.  I caught this other years, but for some reason I did not in 2013. Yes, 2013. So in addition to the underpayment amount, three years of interest was tacked on to the total owed.  

My purpose in telling you this goes beyond the opportunity for me to vent.  Maybe this little discussion will help you avoid a similar fate this tax season.  My burden has been lifted somewhat because I began using the services of a tax preparer last year.  But it's still my responsibility to bring her the correct information she needs to prepare my return.

The IRS says returns are often flagged for the most simple of reasons. They list eight common tax-filing errors:

Wrong or missing Social Security numbers.  Be sure you enter all SSNs on your tax return exactly as they are on the Social Security cards.

  1. Wrong names.  Be sure you spell the names of everyone on your tax return exactly as they are on their Social Security cards.
  2. Filing status errors.  Some people use the wrong filing status, such as Head of Household instead of Single.
  3. Math mistakes.  Double-check your math.
  4. Errors in figuring credits or deductions. Like Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit, and the standard deduction. If you’re not e-filing, follow the instructions carefully when figuring credits and deductions.
  5. Wrong bank account numbers.  It's best to receive your refund by direct deposit. Double and triple check the account numbers on your return. The fastest and safest way to get a tax refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit.
  6. Forms not signed or dated.  If it's not signed, it’s not valid. Remember that both spouses must sign a joint return.
  7. Electronic filing PIN errors.  When you e-file, you sign your return electronically with a Personal Identification Number. If you know last year’s e-file PIN, you can use that.

And a few from me:

  • Do I have all my W2's and 1099's?  It's not too difficult to forget about that little part time job you did for a short time back in January, 2016.
  • If you're not e-filing your return, do make your own copies of everything you're mailing to the IRS.
  • And of course, as with my mistake, different wage amounts for federal and state.

If you want to see a more detailed check list that might make your head spin a little, here's an IRS.gov link:
https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc303.html

I was a little relieved that the state tax return mistake was mine, instead of some colossal, complex confusion on the part of the New Jersey Division of Taxation.  Just the thought of grappling with bureaucracy left me in a cold sweat.  Although if anyone from the Division is reading this, well, I'm sure it would have been a charming experience.  

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