Top 5 Tax Mistakes that People Make

Written By Jeff Hindenach
Last updated February 2, 2021

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Personal Finance
March 18, 2015

Simple. Thrifty. Living.

When it comes to taxes, most people get a little nervous, and rightly so. Taxes can be complicated for many Americans, and knowing the right strategies can save you tons of money. Unfortunately, most people make at least one of the following common mistakes. Learn what they are now, so that next tax season you’ll be prepared.

You might not believe it, but IRS employees are only human. They are not all-knowing and all-seeing, and on occasion, they do make mistakes. Never blindly pay any notice without rechecking your own calculations. If you believe an error has been made, send a written statement back to the IRS explaining your reasons and enclose a copy of your calculations.

When it comes to making tax-deductible clothing donations, you must be absolutely accurate. Having complete records that are accurate can help you defend yourself in an audit. If your clothing donation is less than $250, you should save the receipt and take a photo of the clothes to keep on hand. Also, if you donate an item or items worth more than $250, these donations have another list of rules.

If you’ve not been funding your 401(k) plan, this is a mistake for many reasons. For instance, if your company offers matching funds, you’re walking away from free money. Also, 401(k) contributions are assessed before taxes, which means that when you contribute to this type of money saving plan, you’re lowering how much taxes you’ll end up paying on your income.

If you’re dipping into 401(k) and 403(b) funds to finance things outside of your retirement, you’re going to suffer some financial repercussions. It’s always better to have an emergency fund available to handle unexpected costs, and if your child or grandchild needs college funds, a student loan is the best option for them, because you won’t have similar options during your retirement.

If both parties in a marriage work and you earn higher than the 15% tax bracket, then the thresholds for higher tax rates are less than double of those for filers who are not married. Of course, if one person doesn’t work, this penalty can quickly turn into an asset.

Lots of people make these mistakes when it comes to taxes, but not knowing any better is no excuse. It’s imperative to avoid these mistakes because they can come with hefty penalties. If you’ve made these mistakes in the past, just make sure you do better going forward.

About the Author

Jeff Hindenach

Jeff Hindenach is the co-founder of Simple. Thrifty. Living. He graduated from Bowling Green State University with a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism. He has a long history of financial journalism, with a background writing for newspapers such as the San Jose Mercury News and San Francisco Examiner, as well as writing on personal finance for The Huffington Post, New York Times, Business Insider, CNBC, Newsday and The Street. He believes in giving readers the tools they need to get out of debt.

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