By Karin Moeller
March is here already and, if you're like most people who haven't yet filed their income tax returns, you're likely starting to feel the anticipatory pangs of the impending April 15th deadline. The current bulk of your tax preparation time-for both your personal and business returns-is probably being consumed compiling receipts, totaling expenses, and itemizing deductions. But when the big moment arrives to finalize your tax returns, be sure you don't forget these three simple, but often overlooked, tax-filing basics:
1. Be sure your name and address are correct. The IRS estimates that more than 96,000 taxpayers have yet to receive their 1995 refund checks. Due to returns filed with incorrect names and addresses, the post office was unable to deliver refund checks totaling more than $62 million.
Make sure that your income tax refund doesn't end up in the long and lonely line of homeless checks. If the address label included in your tax return package displays incorrect information, make your corrections directly on the label. If you've changed your name, make sure to notify your Social Security Administration (SSA) office so the name on your tax return matches the name in the SSA's records. If you change your address after you submit your return, be sure to file Form 8822, Change of Address.
2. Be sure your Social Security Number (SSN) is correct. The IRS can no longer accept temporary numbers, "applied for," or any other designations in lieu of the required numbers. If a tax return has a missing or incorrect identification number, the IRS may disallow the related item(s).
If you need to get a SSN, go to any SSA office to file Form SS-5; nonresident and resident aliens who are not eligible for SSNs may use Form W-7 to request Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) from the IRS.
3. Sign your return. Finally, don't forget the easiest of all your tax preparation tasks: putting your signature on your return. If you're due a refund, it cannot be issued unless the return is signed.