Don’t let these tax filing missteps put your tax refund on hold.

3 minute read

Now that tax time is here, you’re probably eager to file your income taxes if you’re expecting a refund. Maybe you’ve already allocated money from an expected refund to purchase an expensive item, pay off debt or reward yourself with a well-deserved vacation.

The IRS announced in January that it would begin processing tax returns on January 24 and encouraged taxpayers to be careful and diligent when filing to avoid refund delays.

“The pandemic continues to create challenges, but the IRS reminds people there are important steps they can take to help ensure their tax return and refund don’t face processing delays,” says the IRS.

If your federal income tax refund gets delayed, that delay could put your plans on how to spend that money on hold. Some delays can’t be avoided. For example, taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Credit or the additional Child Tax Credit, the IRS can’t issue refunds before mid-February, and you won’t receive your tax refund until at least March 1, 2022.

But you can sidestep many refund delays by avoiding these six tax filing mistakes.

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1. Incorrect or missing Social Security Number

Forgetting to enter your Social Security number (SSN) on your income tax form or inverting digits so the SSN is wrong can delay your refund, according to the IRS. Filing with an incorrect or missing SSN could even increase your tax or reduce your refund. Also make sure all Social Security numbers for any dependents claimed in the dependents section are correct.

Before filing your federal tax return, double-check your SSN to make sure it’s correct to avoid processing and refund delays.

Find out: How to File Taxes to Maximize Your Refund and Avoid Audits

2. Not reporting a name change

If you changed your name due to marriage, divorce or for another reason in 2021, make sure you report the name change to the Social Security Administration (SSA) before filing your 2021 income taxes. Not doing so could cause delays in processing your tax return and receiving a refund. Failing to notify the SSA could also affect income reported for your Social Security retirement benefits.

Find out: What Happens if You Don’t Pay Your Taxes?

3. Filing a paper return

Mistakes on your return can result in the IRS sending notices you must address and delays in any refund you’re owed. If you’re filing your own taxes, the IRS recommends filing electronically to catch errors that can trip up processing and your tax refund. “Tax software does the math for you and will help you avoid mistakes,” says the IRS.

You can purchase tax software or you may be eligible to file for free using IRS Free File.

Find out: What Happens if I Can’t Pay My Taxes? Should I File Anyway?

4. Filing more than one original return

If you file more than one original return for the same year or send the IRS more than one copy of the same return without being asked to do so by the IRS, that extra paperwork can create confusion, result in IRS notices and delay your refund, according to the IRS.

Find out: 7 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Tax Preparer

5. Not properly labeling deceased taxpayer returns

If you are a court-appointed representative or spouse of someone who died in 2021, you may have to file a return for that taxpayer. But if you leave out the important step of entering “deceased,” the deceased taxpayer’s name and the date of death across the top of the tax return, that omission may delay processing of the return and any refund owed.

Find out: Where to Get FREE Tax Advice

6. Failing to choose direct deposit

Authorizing direct deposit of your refund on your tax return will expedite your refund. “Overall, the IRS anticipates most taxpayers will receive their refund within 21 days of when they file electronically if they choose direct deposit and there are no issues with their tax return,” according to the IRS.

Find out: The 9 Best Tax Software Solutions For You

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About the Author

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp

Deb Hipp is a full-time freelance writer based in Kansas City, Mo. Deb went from being unable to get approved for a credit card or loan 20 years ago to having excellent credit today and becoming a homeowner. Deb learned her lessons about money the hard way. Now she wants to share them to help you pay down debt, fix your credit and quit being broke all the time. Deb's personal finance and credit articles have been published at Credit Karma and The Huffington Post.

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