Watch CBSN Live

Here's a last-minute tax return checklist

5 tax tips

This year’s April 18 deadline to file your 2016 federal tax returns is coming up fast. If you’ve waited until now to work on your taxes, you’re probably scrambling to finish. But before you file, check this list to ensure you don’t make some common mistakes.

  • Make sure all Social Security numbers included on your return are correct.
  • If your refund will be automatically deposited, double-check the bank account information (bank name, type of account, routing number and account number).
  • If you owe tax, you can have that amount automatically debited from a bank account. In addition to double-checking the bank account information, make sure to specify a date for the debit that’s no later than April 18, the last day you can pay what you owe without incurring additional interest and penalties.
  • If you’re paying a tax owed by check, don’t attach it to your tax return. Mail it (payable to “United States Treasury”) in a separate envelope with a Form 1040-V Payment Voucher and send it to the appropriate IRS address. The mailed payment must be postmarked no later than April 18 to avoid any additional interest and penalties.
  • If you’ve been covered by a health insurance plan for all of 2016, make sure to check the box for full-year coverage on line 61 of Form 1040 (or line 38 of Form 1040A and line 11 of Form 1040EZ.) If you don’t, you’ll receive a notice from the IRS saying you owe a penalty of up to $695 per adult and $347.50 per child for not having health insurance as required under the Affordable Care Act.    
  • If filing paper tax returns, you must sign and date your returns. Both spouses must sign a joint return, even if only one spouse had income to report. Also, use the bar-coded envelopes and labels provided by the IRS.
  • When you file a paper return, you’ll also need to attach the IRS-required copies of W-2s, 1099s, etc., which include the federal taxes withheld from the income.
  • If you’ve moved since filing your last return, you must notify the IRS. Just using your new address on your 2016 tax return isn’t enough. You should also include a completed Form 8822, Change of Address with your 2016 return. This ensures the IRS is notified to update its records for sending future notices.
  • If you’re claiming an adjustment for a contribution to an IRA or a retirement plan such as a Solo 401(k) plan or a SEP IRA, you must deposit the contribution to that account no later than the date you file your tax return.

Even if you’re not required to file a return, there may be a good reason to do so. In certain situations -- such as if you’re eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit -- you can get a tax refund that’s more than the taxes withheld from your earnings. But to claim these credits, you must file a tax return.

Finally, if you don’t have time to file your return by the April 18 deadline, you should file a Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension for Time to File. In a few days, I’ll walk through the steps involved to do that.