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Published: January 27, 2020   |   Last Updated: November 18, 2020

Before you file that federal tax return: Stop and follow these tips to help avoid unnecessary delays

The Taxpayer Advocate Service wants to help you avoid delays this filing season, including refund delays.

If you missed attending one of our local events and you prepare your own tax return, whether it’s through software or on paper, STOP and follow these tax tips (English/Spanish), or watch our video, before you file that federal tax return.



Be aware of tax software that imports prior year data automatically

Make sure you’re using current tax year data to avoid mistakes. Be very careful that you update any prior year information and dollar amounts automatically pulled in before you submit your return. Incorrect information automatically pulled into your current year return can cause processing delays or rejection of your return.

Double check that your information is correct for yourself, spouse and your dependents

Check all name spellings, taxpayer identification numbers (e.g. SSNs or ITINS), dates of birth, addresses, and your bank account information.

Don’t file the return until you have all required income forms

The IRS cross-checks income amounts you claim with the actual forms filed by others such as your employer or your bank. This includes: wages, interest, and other income amounts reported on returns.

W-2, Wage and Tax Statement: In the past you may have used your last pay stub to file, but it’s always better to wait until you receive your W-2 to file your tax return, as sometimes corrections or adjustments are made.

Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement: To be eligible to claim education tax credits, such as the American Opportunity credit or the Lifetime Learning credit, the law requires a taxpayer (or a dependent) to have received Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from an eligible educational institution (domestic or foreign).

Your employer and the educational institution have until January 31 to send your W-2, Form 1099, Form 1098-T, etc. (Some exceptions may apply)

Didn’t get one of these forms and still need help?

Make sure you attach all required forms and schedules

Many tax credits and some calculations of taxable income amounts require specific supporting forms or schedules. The Form 1040 Instructions are the best place to check for what forms and schedules need to be attached. Be sure to follow the related instructions for when you are required to attach a supporting form.

If any of the above items don’t match what was filed by your employer or financial institution, social security records, etc., processing your tax return will be held until those discrepancies are corrected.

Save or print these tax tips

These tax tips have been consolidated for you into an easy guide in the attached flyer. Save or print this guide. Use it when you complete your tax return this year to avoid unnecessary delays with filing, processing, and ultimately your refund, if you are due one.

Need more help?

Thousands of taxpayers struggle through the IRS processes each year. Our Taxpayer Roadmap shows what a complex and confusing journey it can be if your tax return has errors. Review your return more than once before filing to hopefully catch any errors. But if the IRS determines your return wasn’t accurate when filed, use our Get Help pages and TAS Tax Tips to help you navigate through many common tax situations.

If you are already experiencing a federal tax related issue that you have been unable to resolve or if you are experiencing or about to experience a financial hardship because of an IRS action, then come see us at a local Problem Solving Day or contact us by calling 1-877-777-4778. Read more about the kinds of cases we accept and how we have helped others.