How to Win the 2018 Tax Season
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How to Win the 2018 Tax Season

February 13th, 2019 | 5 min. read

Set yourself up for hassle-free tax filing with this five-part plan.

‘Tis the season—tax season, that is. That means it’s time to brush up on the new tax law, get your records in order and map out a plan to hit the April 15 filing deadline. 

One of the objectives of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which took effect for the 2018 year, was to simplify the tax code. However, studies have shown that the majority of Americans still don’t understand the nuances of the tax rules or how to make the most of potential deductions and credits. The good news is that the most common filing mistakes are easily avoided.

According to the IRS, roughly 80 percent of Americans receive an annual tax refund. If you’re lucky enough to be one of them, the last thing you want to do is delay the processing of your return and, as a result, the refund that is coming your way. We’re offering five tips to keep errors at bay, ensure the safety of your information and make sure you’re in the know on all things tax-related.

1. Embrace technology. Tax returns submitted electronically are much more likely to be accurate than paper returns. In fact, more than 20 percent of paper returns have math errors, compared to less than one percent of electronic returns. Electronic filing programs not only handle calculations, but they prompt you to enter information and assist you with finding deductions and credits. Best of all, the turnaround on e-filing is about two weeks. And while you’re at it, go ahead and sign up for direct deposit with the IRS—it’s the fastest way to get your refund, and it eliminates the possibility of mail fraud.

2. Know your names and numbers. Any name listed on your return—whether it’s yours, your spouse’s or your children’s—needs to exactly match what the Social Security Administration (SSA) has on record. This sounds simple enough, but if a family member has opted to change their name due to marriage or divorce, make sure they have also notified the SSA. 

3. Make it official. Signing your tax return sounds like another no-brainer, but believe it or not, this is a common reason for processing delays. If you’re filing jointly, remember that each spouse’s signature is required. This is another great argument for e-filing, since you will be guided on who, where and when to sign. In addition, you can use a PIN as your electronic signature. 

4. Protect your personal information. IRS.gov offers an abundance of information about potential scams and how to avoid them, but the biggest takeaway is the IRS will never contact you by email, text or social media—their first point of contact will always be via U.S. mail. In addition, the IRS will never demand immediate payment or threaten to contact local law enforcement. If you receive a dubious phone call, the best course of action is to hang up and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040. If you receive a suspicious email, do not reply or click on any links—simply forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

5. Give the IRS a follow. We concede that their accounts may not have the same buzz as those of Kim Kardashian or Doug the Pug, but you may be surprised. The IRS rolled out its new Instagram account (IRSNews) in December, and it’s full of fun, colorful images with easy-to-digest information. There’s also a wealth of information on their Facebook, Twitter and YouTube accounts, including tax tips in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.

As a supplement to the above tips, here is a quick reference guide to keep handy as you begin to gather information for 2018 tax filing. 

First Command does not provide legal or tax advice, and this [report] does not contain any legal or tax advice. Should you require legal or tax advice, you should consult with your attorney or tax advisor. The information provided to you herein is provided for informational purposes only, is not intended to be tax advice, and should not be used for the purpose of avoiding tax-related penalties under the Internal Revenue Code.

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