Top Four Common Excel Mistakes

Tax Professionals' Resource
November 1, 2012 — 1,488 views  
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Top Four Common Excel Mistakes

Ask any accountant or tax professional, and she will tell you that Excel is an invaluable tool in doing her work. At the same time, there are several Excel mistakes to watch out for. Here are four of the most common.

1. Copy and paste errors
It is generally more difficult to copy and paste data into Excel than it is with other types of programs. Often, when you copy information from some other spreadsheet and then select a cell to paste it into, the information ends up in only the cell that you selected. To avoid this mistake, select the destination cell, then click "Edit," and finally, "Fill." Your data will then fill not just one cell but a cell range.

2. Formula errors or violations
When one of your formulas has an error, you will see a tiny triangle (green in color) on the top corner of the cell's left edge. Click on that triangle, and you will see several options to help you fix the problem.

3. Cells that contain a pound sign
When the length of a number exceeds the space available in the cell, you will see a pound sign (or several of them) in place of the actual numbers. You can resolve this problem by expanding the size of the cells. To do so, select the heading of the column and drag it toward the right-hand side of the screen. When there is enough room to show the complete number, Excel will display the number instead of the pound signs.

4. Function references that are invalid
If you assign a formula to quantify numbers by rows and columns instead of using data ranges, and then you remove or change a value, you will often encounter problems. For example, you will see "#REF!" errors instead of calculations if you delete the data that an equation depends on. To avoid this mistake, either enter replacement data or adjust your formula so that it now relies on the updated range.

The foregoing list may help you to avoid some common mistakes that accountants and tax professionals often encounter in using Excel. Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list of mistakes. For additional tips, you might check with co-workers and others who have experience in the field. As the saying goes, forewarned is forearmed. May this knowledge help you to avoid common Excel spreadsheet mistakes!


Tax Professionals' Resource