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Published:   |   Last Updated: February 7, 2024

Follow these tips to help prevent common tax return filing issues and refund delays

Taxpayer Advocate Service Tax Awareness Events

Ready to file your tax return? Stop and check out these tax tips before you file to avoid delays and pass “go” with confidence.

Use your Form W-2, not your pay stub, to verify your income. Your employer generally has until February 1 to issue your Form W-2, and you should wait to receive it before you file. In case you didn’t know, IRS computer systems compare the income that is reported on your tax return to what has been reported to IRS. When income and/or federal income tax withholding don’t match, this can cause a delay in the processing of the return and any refund.

Double check that your information is correct for yourself and your dependents. Check name spellings, taxpayer identification numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and your bank account information for accuracy. Be aware that you must have valid Social Security numbers for all your dependents before filing or that may not only delay processing of your tax return, but in certain instances disqualify you for some refundable credits, like the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Don’t forget your W-2s, 1099s, and other attachments. This includes Form 8962 if you are claiming the Premium Tax Credit and Form 1099-G if you received unemployment benefits. Any income document that shows federal income tax was withheld must be attached to your return, if you are filing by paper. If you are filing electronically, follow the software provider’s instructions. If you are unable to obtain your W-2 (or other information returns like Form 1099, K-1, etc.) from your employer, because they closed, you can call the IRS for assistance at 1-800-829-1040, but you must wait until after February 1.

In January, some people who received unemployment benefits in 2020 will get a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments, from the agency paying the benefits. The agency will either automatically send a hard copy or, if the agency does not mail the form, recipients will need to visit the agency’s website to get an electronic version of the form.

Also, taxpayers who received a federal tax refund in 2020 may have been paid interest. Refund interest payments are taxable and must be reported on federal income tax returns. In January 2021, the IRS will send Form 1099-INT to anyone who received interest totaling $10 or more.

You need a Form 1098-T from an eligible educational institution to claim education expenses. Eligible educational institutions have until January 31, to provide this form on paper or electronically to students. If not received by January 31, you’ll need to contact the Institution.

Be aware of tax software that imports prior year data automatically. If you are using the same software as the prior year, you’ll want to check that only the current year information is present, and that prior year data didn’t transfer over which may cause an error. So, double check your figures before hitting submit.

Find a free event

Our local Taxpayer Advocate offices around the country are offering virtual events, during January 2021, that go over these tips in more detail. In addition, some events will include more information about us and how we can help, should you need it throughout the year. Don’t worry if you can’t make one of these scheduled events though, as you can always download our one-page flyer showing these tips or print this page to review as you complete your tax return.

If you want to learn more about us and our services, at any time, just visit us at: https://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov.

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