The deadline for filing your personal income tax return is less than three months away. For the weeks leading up to April 15, Your Money will provide tax tips designed to help you file your 2003 return. Here is the first.Sometimes the simplest things can trip up your tax return, and none is as common as a muddled or missing Social Security number.
It's one of several common clerical errors, including bad math and unsigned returns, that can delay your refund if you're owed one.
Incorrect or missing Social Security numbers accounted for the most frequent math or data entry errors on 2002 returns. Of the nearly 3.3 million returns with incorrect entries, 26 percent contained missing and erroneous Social Security numbers.
Slip-ups are easy. Sometimes it's transposing numbers or accidentally entering your number on the form next to your spouse's name.
"It usually happens with kids or when someone gets married and changes their name and puts a different name on the return that doesn't match with the Social Security number," said Mark Luscombe, an analyst at CCH Inc., a provider of tax information and software.
"You can keep your same number," Luscombe said. "But you have to let the Social Security Administration know about the name change."
If a child was born last year, you'll need to have a Social Security number to claim the child as a dependent. These days many hospitals provide parents with application forms.
"You should not file a tax return unless you have a Social Security number for your child," said Gloria Wajciechowski of the Internal Revenue Service. "You can file an extension." You'll still need to pay your tax bill, if you owe money, by April 15, but you can get more time to file the paperwork.
Next week: How advances for the child tax credit received last year will affect your calculations on 2003's return.