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Boston.com tax guide 2007
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Last-Minute Tax Return Checklist

Mistakes on your tax return can result in processing delays, costly penalties, and unwanted inquiries from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). To avoid the mistakes thousands of taxpayers make each year, the Massachusetts Society of CPAs recommends you use the following checklist.

USE YOUR LABEL

Most people’s tax booklets come with a peel-off label to be attached to their tax return. If the information on this label is incorrect, make your changes directly on the label. If you do not have a label, be sure to clearly print your name and address, including zip code, on your return.

VERIFY SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS

A missing or incorrect Social Security number is one of the most common errors taxpayers make. Many people assume that the peel-off label shows their Social Security number, but it does not. Be sure to list the correct Social Security number for yourself, your spouse, and any dependents. If you are claiming the dependent care credit, also list the Social Security number of your child care provider.

MAKE SURE FORMS AND NUMBERS MATCH

Double-check to be certain the amounts listed on all 1099 forms and W2 statements match with those listed on your tax return. Attach Copy B of your W2 form to your tax return.

CLAIM THE RIGHT NUMBER OF DEPENDENTS

You may claim a dependent exemption for children, parents, and other dependents. To qualify, you must provide more than 50 percent of the dependent’s support, and his or her 2002 gross income must not exceed $3,000. This gross income test does not apply to a dependent child under age 19 or to a full-time student under age 24 at the end of 2002. The dependent also must be a citizen of the United States. Finally, be aware that these exemptions phase-out for high-income taxpayers.

USE THE CORRECT FILING STATUS AND TAX TABLES

Determine that you have used the most beneficial filing status for your situation. Then, verify that you are using the right tax table and the correct column for your filing status.

CHECK YOUR MATH

Simple addition and subtraction errors are very common on tax returns. Other common mistakes include transposing numbers and adding instead of subtracting and vice versa. Always double-check the numbers to ensure your accuracy.

PROVIDE A DAYTIME PHONE NUMBER

By providing a phone number, you help speed up processing should the IRS have questions about items on your return.

BE SURE YOU HAVE ATTACHED ALL REQUIRED SCHEDULES

You should attach all completed schedules behind your Form 1040 or 1040A, using the “Attachment Sequence Number” found in the upper-right hand corner of each form. Be sure your name and Social Security number appear correctly on each page. Any supporting statements should be attached and arranged in the same order as the schedules or forms they support.

DON’T FORGET TO SIGN AND DATE YOUR RETURN

Your tax return is not considered valid unless it is signed. If filing jointly, both you and your spouse must sign the return even if only one of you is reporting income.

An unsigned return will be sent back to you and may be treated as unfiled. This means you could find yourself paying a late penalty or experiencing a delay in your refund.

FILL OUT YOUR PAYMENT CHECK CORRECTLY

Many people continue to make checks for tax payments payable to the IRS, when they should be made out to the United States Treasury. On your check, write your name, address, Social Security number, daytime telephone number, tax year and the type of form filed (1040, 1040A). Be sure to date and sign the check, but do not attach the check to your return. Form 1040V should be completed following the instructions on the form and enclosed in the envelope with your payment.

MAKE COPIES OF EVERYTHING YOU SUBMIT

Generally you should hold onto all your records at least until the chance of an audit passes, typically three years after filing. But if the IRS thinks you have underreported income by 25 percent or more, it has six years to come calling. Also, bear in mind that there are some documents you should keep indefinitely. These include real estate records, documents for your retirement plans, and records representing assets you will sell.

SEND RETURN TO THE CORRECT PROCESSING CENTER

If you did not receive an envelope with your tax package, check the “Where Do You File” section in your tax instruction book to determine the address of the processing center for your area. This is especially important this year since the IRS has changed service centers in some states. Taxpayers who did not receive an instruction booklet in the mail, and are mailing a paper tax return, should take note if they live in one of the following 16 states: Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington.

If you have additional questions concerning your tax return, consult with a CPA. Your CPA can advise you on how to file for an automatic three-month extension if you can’t complete your tax return on time. However, you must pay your tax bill by April 15, or you will incur penalties and interest.
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