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Navigating Tax Time: Tips to Avoid Common Pitfalls and Maximize Savings

Tax season can be a stressful time for many Americans, but with a little knowledge and preparation, you can navigate it with confidence. Here are some practical tips to help you avoid common pitfalls and maximize your tax savings.


  • Avoid Simple Mistakes: The IRS reports that simple miscalculations are among the most common issues on tax returns. Double-check your math and ensure you've entered all information correctly, especially regarding filing status, Social Security numbers, and bank account details.

  • Don't Miss Investment Income: Remember to report all investment income, including dividends and capital gains. Failing to do so can result in penalties and fees from the IRS. Keep track of any 1099 forms you receive from investment firms and ensure they're accurately reflected in your tax return.

preparing US income tax return
Navigating Tax Time: Tips to Avoid Common Pitfalls and Maximize Savings


  • Understand Capital Gains: Be mindful of your investment holding periods, as they determine your tax rates. Short-term gains are taxed as ordinary income, while long-term gains may qualify for lower tax rates. High earners may also be subject to additional Medicare surtax on investment income.

  • Maintain Good Recordkeeping: Keep detailed records of your investment transactions, including purchase prices and sale proceeds. This information is crucial for accurately calculating gains and losses, which can impact your tax liability.

  • Utilize Tax-Loss Harvesting: Consider offsetting realized gains with losses through tax-loss harvesting. This strategy can help reduce your tax bill by maximizing deductions on investment losses.

  • Beware of Wash Sales: Avoid engaging in wash sales, which occur when you sell an investment at a loss and repurchase a substantially identical asset within 30 days. This can invalidate your loss for tax purposes and complicate your tax reporting.

  • Take Advantage of Tax Breaks: Don't overlook available tax credits and deductions, such as the Child Tax Credit or charitable contributions. These can significantly reduce your tax liability or taxable income, providing valuable savings.

  • Mind Deadlines: Be aware of tax deadlines for various deductions and contributions. Missing deadlines could result in missed opportunities for savings or penalties for late filings.


In conclusion, while tax season may seem daunting, taking proactive steps to understand your tax obligations and opportunities can lead to significant savings. Whether you're filing your taxes independently or with the help of a professional, attention to detail and awareness of potential pitfalls are key. By staying informed and organized, you can navigate tax time with confidence and optimize your financial outcomes. Remember, every dollar saved in taxes is a dollar that can contribute to your future financial security.


About the author

Mark W. Sullivan, EA founded Sullivan Consulting in 1998 in St. Louis, MO and relocated to Scottsdale, AZ in 2020. He specializes in federal tax controversy representation, appeals and consulting on behalf of individuals, businesses, law, and accounting firms nationwide. In addition, he has served as the consulting and expert witness in numerous civil and criminal cases in multiple federal district courts.

Mark has an unlimited Enrolled Agents license and is admitted to practice before the Internal Revenue Service based on his extensive experience as a Revenue Officer in New York, NY, St. Louis, MO and Washington, D.C.


Copyright 2024 Mark Sullivan Consulting, PLLC.


Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and cannot be cited as precedent or relied upon in a tax dispute before the IRS.



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