Skip To Content

    10 Tax-Filing Mistakes You Should Know About — From People Who Have Made Them

    The federal deadline is May 17 this year, but check your state's due date to avoid paying penalties.

    We hope you love the products and services we recommend! All of them were independently selected by our editors. Just so you know, BuzzFeed may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. Oh, and FYI, prices and rates are accurate as of time of publication.

    Filing your taxes is one of those things you just (hopefully) get better at with experience. It's also one of those things you can only understand by actually going through the process for yourself. Sometimes, though, mistakes get made and while some end up being more expensive than others, you learn what to do differently for next year.

    IFC / Via

    So thanks to the BuzzFeed Community and Reddit, we've rounded up some tax mistakes people have made — so you can avoid them as well. Here's what we found:

    1. Not staying as organized as possible before beginning the tax filing process.

    Getting organized before you go to a tax preparer or before you begin e-filing can make the process feel much less stressful. Come January (which is when employers and other companies and entities start sending out your tax forms), start organizing all your papers into a folder. Keep in mind that in some cases, you might have to log into your online account to print any forms with income info for the past year — like if you have a brokerage account. Staying organized means you won't have to delay your tax filing by putting things on pause to go ransack the living room table for missing forms.

    2. Not being extra cautious when filing your taxes by hand (aka, printing the forms online and filling in the figures by hand).

    Lucasfilm / Via

    "I've never e-filed until this year so I've made the mistake of doing my taxes in black pen and getting it sent back because apparently my signature looked like it had been printed on the form. 🙄"


    Believe it or not, the IRS can be a real stickler for the rules, especially when it comes to filing your taxes by hand. Apparently, those guidelines are so strict that so much as using the wrong pen color could be an issue??? And while this commenter said they used black ink as required on their forms, it seems there may have been another issue (perhaps their signature was *so neat* that it was mistaken for print instead of handwriting, which is just, wow). Also when filing by hand, there's actually quite a bit of room for tiny slip-ups like accidentally formatting your date of birth incorrectly, or writing your employee identification number in a way that makes some numbers hard to read. Giving yourself enough time to file your taxes well before the deadline can make clearing up any errors feel a lot less stressful.

    3. Forgetting to include important income or withholding figures.

    Netflix / Via

    "[I'm] not in the US but a few years ago, I forgot to fill in the amount that had been deducted from my monthly salaries, so the system registered it as if I had not been paying taxes at all that year. I got a HUGE bill in the mail (approximately the amount of four salaries) and I almost fainted. It didn't help that it was a Friday afternoon so the the offices were already closed, and it was a long weekend, and I was leaving to Prague to go to a concert. So that was three days of worrying! It took me a while to figure out what I did wrong but thankfully, I still had time to correct it so the amount payable came out to 0 — phew."


    4. Refusing to shell out the cash for a professional to handle a more complicated tax situation.

    Often times, if you have fairly simple tax filing circumstances — like just a W-2 — people say it's fine to save a few bucks and file your taxes on your own. Sites like H&R Block let you do this for ~free~ online, and have some resources to walk you through the forms along the way. 

    But if you have a business or side hustle, or have situations where you need to file for deductions or tax credits, it may be worthwhile to get help from a professional. A tax professional may help you figure out if you'll owe more than you thought you would, or if you qualify for credits and exemptions you may not have otherwise known about. There are lots of way to go about finding a professional to help you, but H&R Block actually connects you with one online (the pricing starts at $69 and will also include a fee for your state). If you go this route, you'd just have to submit your documents then review and approve your return. At the end of the day, the choice to get help from a pro is up to you.

    5. Not realizing that you actually need to pay taxes on canceled debt.

    Paramount Network / Via

    "I didn’t receive anything for my forgiven debt but apparently, I was expected to request and report it. I ended up owing like $3k after filing."


    Understanding what you need to pay taxes on is simple enough when all the filing forms arrive at your door for you (if only that were always the case). But this doesn't always happen. Sometimes, you'll be expected to report and/or pay taxes on something even if you aren't given a heads-up. In case you didn't know, you must report and file taxes on social security benefits, alimony payments, canceled or forgiven debt, scholarship money (if used for anything other than tuition, books, and school supplies), gambling winnings over $600, found property (like if you find buried treasure at the beach, or buy a cookie jar at the thrift store and realize it's filled with cash), and major prizes (like a free car).

    6. Not double-checking for misplaced commas and periods.

    VH1 / Via

    "I accidentally made a typo that claimed I made $100,000....News flash: I didn't want to make myself look like a criminal by claiming income I couldn't account for. 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️"


    The taxes that come out of your paycheck are just an estimate for how much you should pay (the actual amount could be more or less, but more on that here). It's easier to know how much you should actually pay once you tell the IRS exactly how much money you made the past year (this is where your W-2 and 1099's come in!). So it's a really, really good idea to check over your taxes very carefully to make sure no typos or other mistakes slip in.

    7. And expecting the IRS to correct any errors that sneak by you.

    Everyone (even the IRS) knows that mistakes sometimes happen — it's just important that you try to fix them as soon as they do. If you make a mistake, you may receive a notice about the IRS auditing your tax return with additional details on next steps. But if you *don't* receive a notice, you can submit EITHER a new tax form with the correct info if the deadline HASN'T passed, or an amended tax return with corrections if the deadline has passed.

    8. Misunderstanding how to properly identify which filing status actually applies to you.

    NBC / Via

    "When I started my first full-time job and had just moved out on my own into a single bedroom apartment, I was the only one in the welcome session for 'new' employees who was actually a new employee and not a transfer or promotion. They rushed us through the paperwork and I checked the wrong box on my W-4. I ended up owing several hundred dollars in taxes for three years in a row until I figured it out. A tip: 'Head of household' means you have dependents, not that you're in charge of your own household."


    There are five different tax filing statuses to choose from: Single; Married filing jointly; Married filing separately; Head of household; Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child. If you're unsure of what your filing status should be, you can ask a tax professional or use the handy status tool from the IRS.

    9. Missing out on tax breaks you might actually qualify for.

    If you're a caregiver to someone who is disabled, you might qualify for a tax waiver on income received from Medicaid Home and Community-Based Services. If you aren't sure if you qualify, you can ask a tax professional to help you figure it out.

    10. And, missing out on deductions you might be able to file.

    There are honestly soooo many deductions available out there — it can be so hard to keep up! Policygenius outlines many of them you might consider looking into when filing your taxes this year. But when it doubt, it never hurts to ask a tax professional what you might qualify for.

    Do you have any tax filing tips you think other people would find useful? Let us know in the comments below!

    And if this sounds like music to your ears (and bank account), check out more of our personal finance posts.

    Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

    BuzzFeed Daily

    Keep up with the latest daily buzz with the BuzzFeed Daily newsletter!

    Newsletter signup form