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Avoid These Common Errors and Audit Triggers

Steer clear of these potential red flags.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

No business wants to have its tax returns examined any more closely than necessary. Below are some of the most common errors businesses make when filing their taxes. Be sure you steer clear of these potential red flags.

Preliminary Information, Filing Status, and Exemptions

  • Include the correct Social Security number for you and your dependents.
  • If you plan to be out of the country on vacation on April 15, don't assume you're entitled to an automatic filing extension. You must request an extension on Form 4868.

Gross Income

  • If you're reporting any income differently than it was reported to you on Form 1099, be sure to note the amount of income from the 1099 on your return then adjust it attaching your own statement explaining the adjustment.
  • If you rolled over a regular IRA to a Roth IRA in 1998, include one-quarter of the resulting income on your return (unless you opted to include it all in 1998).

Adjusted Gross Income

  • You can't make an IRA contribution for 2001 after April 15, 2002, even if you receive a filing extension.
  • You can't take a deduction for an IRA rollover.
  • You can't base IRA contributions on unearned income (such as dividends, interest, rents from rental property).
  • Don't deduct IRA contributions you made between January 1, 2001 and April 16, 2001, which you treated as 2000 contributions (deductible on your 2000 return).
  • You can't convert your regular IRA to a Roth IRA if your income is over a threshold amount.
  • Don't deduct any Roth IRA contributions.

Deductions and Tax Computation

  • Don't deduct 2001 state and local taxes you paid in 2002 (for example, don't deduct your fourth-quarter state estimated tax payment for 2001 made in 2002).
  • Don't take a deduction for your commuting expenses.
  • Make sure to look under the correct column for your filing status when you look up your tax liability in the tax tables.

Other Taxes

  • If you had self-employment income of $400 or more, be sure to figure self-employment tax. You must include in self-employment income directors fees and income from a partnership or limited liability company.
  • If you exercised an incentive stock option in 2001 or owned private activity bonds, check to see whether you owe any alternative minimum tax.


  • Make sure you attach your Form W-2s (and any 1099s showing tax withholding) to your return.
  • Recheck your math.
  • Be sure to sign your return. If you file jointly, both spouses must sign the return.
  • If your return is more than five pages, add extra postage to ensure proper delivery to the IRS.
  • If you apply for an extension, don't forget to include a check for any estimated balance due.
  • Send your estimated taxes separately from your income tax return.

The views and opinions contained herein are not necessarily those of American Express and are intended as a reference and for informational purposes only. Please contact your attorney, accountant or other business professional for advice specific to your business.

Copyright © 2002 American Express Company. All Rights Reserved

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