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Mary the Tax
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Mary Lloyd-Jones, Enrolled Agent
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IRS and Partners Look to Start of 2017 Tax Season; Encourage use of IRS.gov and e-File; Warn of Refund Delays

IR-2017-01, Jan. 5, 2017                                                                                                         

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service and partners from the states and tax industry today reminded taxpayers that the nation’s 2017 individual income tax filing season opens Jan. 23.

The IRS expects more than 153 million tax returns to be filed this year and taxpayers have until Tuesday, April 18, 2017, to file their 2016 tax returns and pay any tax due. The deadline is extended because the Emancipation Day, a holiday in Washington, D.C., will be observed on Monday, April 17, pushing the nation’s filing deadline to April 18.

"There are a number of important changes this year involving refunds and tax law changes that we encourage people to keep in mind," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We encourage taxpayers to plan ahead and take a few minutes to review these changes. As we enter the filing season, taxpayers should know that the dedicated workforce of the IRS and the nation's tax community stand ready to help." 

Taxpayers that are e-filing can still submit returns to their software provider before Jan. 23. They will hold the return and transmit it to the IRS when the systems open. The IRS also reminds taxpayers that they don’t have to wait until Jan. 23 to contact their tax professional.

In 2016, the IRS issued 111 million individual tax refunds and expects more than 70 percent of taxpayers to receive a refund in 2017. Also, the IRS reminds taxpayers that a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15.

"We encourage taxpayers to file as they normally would, including returns claiming the EITC or ACTC” Koskinen said. “The IRS and the nation's tax community are committed to making  this another smooth filing season."

e-File and Free File

More than four out of five returns are expected to be filed electronically, with a similar proportion of refunds issued through direct deposit. The IRS encourages taxpayers to plan ahead and take advantage of the online resources available on IRS.gov.

Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund. The IRS anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days from the time returns are received.

Protecting Taxpayers from ID-Theft-Related Refund Fraud

The IRS continues to work with state tax authorities and the tax industry to address tax-related identity theft and refund fraud. As part of the Security Summit, the IRS made significant inroads against fraudulent returns in 2016. While working to stop the issuance of fraudulent refunds, the IRS remains focused on releasing legitimate refunds as quickly as possible in 2017.  Thus far, Summit efforts have led to a 50 percent decline in the number of new reports of stolen identities on federal tax returns.

Late last year, Summit leaders detailed new and expanded safeguards for taxpayers in the upcoming 2017 tax season. The 2017 focus revolves around “trusted customer” features that will help ensure the authenticity of the taxpayer and the tax return - before, during and after a tax return is filed. The additional protections will build on the 2016 successes that prevented fraudulent returns and protected tax refunds.

Health Care Basics

Again this year, meeting the tax obligation of the Affordable Care Act for the vast majority of taxpayers will simply mean checking a box to verify everyone on their return has health coverage. For others, IRS.gov/aca features useful information, tips and interactive online tools to help taxpayers with the premium tax credit, the individual shared responsibility requirement and other tax-related provisions of the ACA.

The Affordable Care Act requires that a taxpayer and each member of their family either has qualifying health coverage for each month of the year, qualifies for an exemption, or makes an individual shared responsibility payment when filing their tax returns.

Assistance Filing the Tax Return

More than 90 percent of all tax returns are prepared using tax return preparation software. This software generally includes tax law help along with reminders and prompts about tax breaks and responsibilities. The IRS reminds taxpayers that a trusted tax professional can also provide helpful information about the tax law. Information on tips about selecting a preparer and national tax professional groups are available on IRS.gov.

The IRS urges all taxpayers to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before they file their return. This includes Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and for those claiming the premium tax credit, Form 1095-A from the Marketplace. Doing so will help avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return later.

Delayed Refunds

The IRS expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act mandates the IRS hold refunds on tax returns claiming the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until mid-February. The change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent tax fraud.

The IRS will begin releasing EITC and ACTC refunds starting Feb. 15, but cautions taxpayers that these refunds likely will not start arriving in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of Feb. 27. The IRS wants taxpayers to know it will take additional time for their refunds to be processed and for financial institutions to accept and deposit the refunds to bank accounts. The IRS reminds taxpayers many financial institutions do not process payments on weekends or holidays, which can affect when refunds reach taxpayers. For EITC and ACTC filers, the three-day holiday weekend involving President’s Day may affect their refund timing.



Tax News


2016 Tax Season Opens Jan. 19 for Nation’s Taxpayers

IR-2015-139, Dec. 21, 2015                                                                            Español

WASHINGTON ― Following a review of the tax extenders legislation signed into law last week, the Internal Revenue Service announced today that the nation’s tax season will begin as scheduled on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016.

The IRS will begin accepting individual electronic returns that day. The IRS expects to receive more than 150 million individual returns in 2016, with more than four out of five being prepared using tax return preparation software and e-filed. The IRS will begin processing paper tax returns at the same time. There is no advantage to people filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for e-file to begin.

“We look forward to opening the 2016 tax season on time,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “Our employees have been working hard throughout this year to make this happen. We also appreciate the help from the nation’s tax professionals and the software community, who are critical to helping taxpayers during the filing season.”

As part of the Security Summit initiative, the IRS has been working closely with the tax industry and state revenue departments to provide stronger protections against identity theft for taxpayers during the coming filing season.

The filing deadline to submit 2015 tax returns is Monday, April 18, 2016, rather than the traditional April 15 date. Washington, D.C., will celebrate Emancipation Day on that Friday, which pushes the deadline to the following Monday for most of the nation. (Due to Patriots Day, the deadline will be Tuesday, April 19, in Maine and Massachusetts.)

Koskinen noted the new legislation makes permanent many provisions and extends many others for several years. "This provides certainty for planning purposes, which will help taxpayers and the tax community as well as the IRS," he said.

The IRS urges all taxpayers to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before filing, including Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and Form 1095-A from the Marketplace for those claiming the premium tax credit.

3/27/14

Alert: New Phishing Scam

The IRS has issued a warning about a new scam.

“We have learned of a new phishing scam in which taxpayers receive emails purporting to be from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (and bearing our logo). The email contains a bogus case number and says:

“Your reported 2013 income is flagged for review due to a document processing error. Your case has been forwarded to the Taxpayer Advocate Service for resolution assistance. To avoid delays processing your 2013 filing contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service for resolution assistance.”

The email contains a link where the recipient can find contact information for the “advocate” assigned to their case that solicits personal information such as the recipient’s legal name and contact information. There’s also a link to review “your reported income” that again solicits this kind of personal information.

If you get one of these messages, please do NOT click on the link! Forward the email to the IRS’s designated address for such e-mails: phishing@irs.gov. Find instructions for forwarding the messages on IRS.gov.


1/2/2014

2014 Tax Season to Open Jan. 31; e-file and Free File Can Speed Refunds

IR-2013-100, Dec. 18, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced plans to open the 2014 filing season on Jan. 31 and encouraged taxpayers to use e-file or Free File as the fastest way to receive refunds.

The new opening date for individuals to file their 2013 tax returns will allow the IRS adequate time to program and test its tax processing systems. The annual process for updating IRS systems saw significant delays in October following the 16-day federal government closure.

“Our teams have been working hard throughout the fall to prepare for the upcoming tax season,” IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said. “The late January opening gives us enough time to get things right with our programming, testing and systems validation. It’s a complex process, and our bottom-line goal is to provide a smooth filing and refund process for the nation’s taxpayers.”

The government closure meant the IRS had to change the original opening date from Jan. 21 to Jan. 31, 2014. The 2014 date is one day later than the 2013 filing season opening, which started on Jan. 30, 2013, following January tax law changes made by Congress on Jan. 1 under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA). The extensive set of ATRA tax changes affected many 2012 tax returns, which led to the late January opening.

The IRS noted that several options are available to help taxpayers prepare for the 2014 tax season and get their refunds as easily as possible. New year-end tax planning information has been added to IRS.gov this week.

In addition, many software companies are expected to begin accepting tax returns in January and hold those returns until the IRS systems open on Jan. 31. More details will be available in January.

The IRS cautioned that it will not process any tax returns before Jan. 31, so there is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date. Taxpayers will receive their tax refunds much faster by using e-file or Free File with the direct deposit option.

The April 15 tax deadline is set by statute and will remain in place. However, the IRS reminds taxpayers that anyone can request an automatic six-month extension to file their tax return. The request is easily done with Form 4868, which can be filed electronically or on paper.

IRS systems, applications and databases must be updated annually to reflect tax law updates, business process changes and programming updates in time for the start of the filing season.

The October closure came during the peak period for preparing IRS systems for the 2014 filing season. Programming, testing and deployment of more than 50 IRS systems is needed to handle processing of nearly 150 million tax returns. Updating these core systems is a complex, year-round process with the majority of the work beginning in the fall of each year.

About 90 percent of IRS operations were closed during the shutdown, with some major work streams closed entirely during this period, putting the IRS nearly three weeks behind its tight timetable for being ready to start the 2014 filing season. There are additional training, programming and testing demands on IRS systems this year in order to provide additional refund fraud and identity theft detection and prevention.

1/21/2013

IRS Plans Jan. 30 Tax Season Opening For 1040 Filers

WASHINGTON — Following the January tax law changes made by Congress under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), the Internal Revenue Service announced that it plans to open the 2013 filing season and begin processing individual income tax returns on Jan. 30.

The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on that date after updating forms and completing programming and testing of its processing systems. This will reflect the bulk of the late tax law changes enacted Jan. 2. The announcement means that the vast majority of tax filers — more than 120 million households — should be able to start filing tax returns starting Jan 30.

The IRS estimates that remaining households will be able to start filing in late February or into March because of the need for more extensive form and processing systems changes. This group includes people claiming residential energy credits, depreciation of property or general business credits. Most of those in this group file more complex tax returns and typically file closer to the April 15 deadline or obtain an extension.

“We have worked hard to open tax season as soon as possible,” IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller said. “This date ensures we have the time we need to update and test our processing systems.”

The IRS will not process paper tax returns before the anticipated Jan. 30 opening date. There is no advantage to filing on paper before the opening date, and taxpayers will receive their tax refunds much faster by using e-file with direct deposit.

“The best option for taxpayers is to file electronically,” Miller said.

The opening of the filing season follows passage by Congress of an extensive set of tax changes in ATRA on Jan. 1, 2013, with many affecting tax returns for 2012. While the IRS worked to anticipate the late tax law changes as much as possible, the final law required that the IRS update forms and instructions as well as make critical processing system adjustments before it can begin accepting tax returns.

The IRS originally planned to open electronic filing this year on Jan. 22; more than 80 percent of taxpayers filed electronically last year.

Who Can File Starting Jan. 30?

The IRS anticipates that the vast majority of all taxpayers can file starting Jan. 30, regardless of whether they file electronically or on paper. The IRS will be able to accept tax returns affected by the late Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) patch as well as the three major “extender” provisions for people claiming the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition and fees deduction and educator expenses deduction.

Who Can’t File Until Later?

There are several forms affected by the late legislation that require more extensive programming and testing of IRS systems. The IRS hopes to begin accepting tax returns including these tax forms between late February and into March; a specific date will be announced in the near future.

The key forms that require more extensive programming changes include Form 5695 (Residential Energy Credits), Form 4562 (Depreciation and Amortization) and Form 3800 (General Business Credit). A full listing of the forms that won’t be accepted until later is available on IRS.gov.

As part of this effort, the IRS will be working closely with the tax software industry and tax professional community to minimize delays and ensure as smooth a tax season as possible under the circumstances.

4/14/2012

Easy Ways to E-Pay

Taxpayers with a balance due IRS now have several quick and easy ways to electronically pay what they owe. They include:

  • Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). This free service gives taxpayers a safe and convenient way to pay individual and business taxes by phone or online. To enroll or for more information, call 800-316-6541 or visit www.eftps.gov.
  • Electronic funds withdrawal. E-file and e-pay in a single step.
  • Credit or debit card. Both paper and electronic filers can pay their taxes by phone or online through any of several authorized credit and debit card processors. Though the IRS does not charge a fee for this service, the card processors do. For taxpayers who itemize their deductions, these convenience fees can be claimed on Schedule A Line 23.

Taxpayers who choose to pay by check or money order should make the payment out to the “United States Treasury.” Write “2011 Form 1040,” name, address, daytime phone number and Social Security number on the front of the check or money order. To help insure that the payment is credited promptly, also enclose a Form 1040-V payment voucher.

More Time to Pay

Taxpayers who have finished their returns should file by the regular April 17 deadline, even if they can’t pay the full amount due. In many cases, those struggling with unpaid taxes qualify for one of several relief programs, including those recently expanded under the IRS "Fresh Start" initiative. These include the following:

  • Most people can set up a payment agreement with the IRS on line in a matter of minutes. Those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to six years. Taxpayers can choose this option even if they have not yet received a bill or notice from the IRS. Alternatively, taxpayers can request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465-FS. This form can be downloaded from IRS.gov and mailed along with a tax return, bill or notice.
  • Most unemployed filers and self-employed individuals whose business income dropped substantially can apply for a six-month extension of time to pay. Eligible taxpayers will not be charged a late-payment penalty if they pay any tax, penalty and interest due by Oct. 15, 2012. Taxpayers qualify if they were unemployed for any 30-day period between Jan. 1, 2011 and April 17, 2012. Self-employed people qualify if their business income declined 25 percent or more in 2011, due to the economy. Income limits and other special rules apply. Apply using Form 1127-A.
  • Some struggling taxpayers may qualify for an offer-in-compromise. This is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. Generally, an offer will not be accepted if the IRS believes the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

Details on all filing and payment options are on IRS.gov.

 

4/12/2012

Need Extra Time to Complete Your Tax Return? File for an Extension 


Even though the tax filing deadline is later than usual this year – April 17 – many taxpayers may still need more time to file their tax return. If you need extra time, you can get an automatic six-month extension of time to file from the IRS.

Here are seven important things you need to know about filing an extension:

1. File on time even if you can’t pay If you completed your return but you are unable to pay the full amount of tax due, do not request an extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. To pay the balance, apply online for a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement application at www.irs.gov or send Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with your return. If you are unable to make payments, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss your options.

2. Extra time to file An extension will give you extra time to get your paperwork to the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April 17 deadline, plus you may owe penalties.

3. Form to file Request an extension to file by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to the IRS. It must be postmarked by April 17, 2012. You also can make an extension-related electronic credit card payment. For more information about extension-related credit card payments, see Form 4868.

4. E-file extension You can e-file an extension request using tax preparation software with your own computer or by going to a tax preparer who has the software. You must e-file the request by midnight on April 17, 2012. The IRS will acknowledge receipt of the extension request if you e-file your extension.

5. Traditional Free File and Free File Fillable Forms You can use both Free File options to file an extension. Access the Free File page at www.irs.gov.

6. Electronic funds withdrawal If you ask for an extension via one of the electronic methods, you can also pay any expected balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. You will need the appropriate bank routing and account numbers. For information about these and other methods of payment, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov or call 800-TAX-1040 (800-829-1040).

7. How to get forms Form 4868 is available for download from the IRS website or you can pick up the form at your local IRS office.



4/5/2012

Tips for Taxpayers Who Can't Pay Their Taxes on Time

If you owe tax with your federal tax return, but can't afford to pay it all when you file, the IRS wants you to know your options and help you keep interest and penalties to a minimum.

Here are five tips:

1. File your return on time and pay as much as you can with the return. These steps will eliminate the late filing penalty, reduce the late payment penalty and cut down on interest charges. For electronic and credit card options for paying see IRS.gov.  You may also mail a check payable to the United States Treasury

2. Consider obtaining a loan or paying by credit card. The interest rate and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be lower than interest and penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Code.

3. Request an installment payment agreement. You do not need to wait for IRS to send you a bill before requesting a payment agreement. Options for requesting an agreement include:
• Using the Online Payment Agreement application  and
• Completing and submitting IRS Form 9465-FS, Installment Agreement Request, with your return
IRS charges a user fee to set up your payment agreement. See www.irs.gov or the installment agreement request form for fee amounts.

4. Request an extension of time to pay. For tax year 2011, qualifying individuals may request an extension of time to pay and have the late payment penalty waived as part of the IRS Fresh Start Initiative. To see if you qualify visit www.irs.gov and get form 1127-A, Application for Extension of Time for Payment. But hurry, your application must be filed by April 17, 2012.

5. If you receive a bill from the IRS, please contact us immediately to discuss these and other payment options. Ignoring the bill will only compound your problem and could lead to IRS collection action.

If you can’t pay in full and on time, the key to minimizing your penalty and interest charges is to pay as much as possible by the tax deadline and the balance as soon as you can. For more information on the IRS collection process go to or see IRSVideos.gov/OweTaxes.

 

3/29/2012

 

Four Things to Know About Bartering

In today’s economy, small business owners sometimes save money through bartering to get products or services they need. The IRS wants to remind small business owners that the fair market value of property or services received through barter is taxable income.

Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Usually there is no exchange of cash. However, the fair market value of the goods and services exchanged must be reported as income by both parties.

Here are four facts on bartering :

1. Organized barter exchanges A barter exchange functions primarily as the organizer of a marketplace where members buy and sell products and services among themselves. Whether this activity operates out of a physical office or is internet-based, a barter exchange is generally required to issue Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, annually to their clients or members and to the IRS.

2. Barter income Barter dollars or trade dollars are identical to real dollars for tax reporting purposes. If you conduct any direct barter – barter for another’s products or services – you must report the fair market value of the products or services you received on your tax return.

3. Tax implications of bartering Income from bartering is taxable in the year it is performed. Bartering may result in liabilities for income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax or excise tax. Your barter activities may result in ordinary business income, capital gains or capital losses, or you may have a nondeductible personal loss.

4. How to report The rules for reporting barter transactions may vary depending on which form of bartering takes place. Generally, you report this type of business income on Form 1040, Schedule C Profit or Loss from Business, or other business returns such as Form 1065 for Partnerships, Form 1120 for Corporations or Form 1120-S for Small Business Corporations.

For more information, see the Bartering Tax Center in the Business section at www.irs.gov.


Link:

Bartering Tax Center

 

3/23/12

Deducting Charitable Contributions: Eight Essentials
IRS Tax Tip 2012-57

Donations made to qualified organizations may help reduce the amount of tax you pay.

The IRS has eight essential tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

1. If your goal is a legitimate tax deduction, then you must be giving to a qualified organization. Also, you cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations or candidates. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for rules on what constitutes a qualified organization.
2. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is more than $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
3. If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, tickets to a ball game or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
5. Fair market value is generally the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts.
6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization and the date and amount of the contribution. For text message donations, a telephone bill meets the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution and the amount given.
7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more, you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash, a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more.
8. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.

For more information on charitable contributions, refer to Form 8283 and its instructions, as well as Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information on determining the value of donations, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. All are available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

3/15/12

Helpful Tips for filing 2011 Tax Returns

 

When to File

 

This year, the filing deadline is April 17, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday in the District of Columbia—even if you do not live in the District of Columbia. Taxpayers who are granted a six month extension will have until October 15th to file.

 

Tax Law Changes

 

Tax laws sometimes change, expire or get extended. The list below is not exhaustive, but is a useful reminder as we file 2011 tax returns and plan our 2012 withholding.

 

·        Although most of us can no longer claim the First-time homebuyer credit, the law granted certain members of the Armed Forces, certain members of the Foreign Service of the United States, and certain employees of the intelligence community additional time to buy a qualifying home.

 

Remember: taxpayers may be required to repay the First-time homebuyer credit.

 

·        The additional tax on distributions from HSAs and Archer MSAs not used for qualified medical expenses has increased to 20% for distributions after 2010.

 

·        If you had foreign financial assets in 2011, you may have to file new Form 8938 with your return.

 

·        You cannot claim the alternative motor vehicle credit for a vehicle you bought after 2010, unless the vehicle is a new fuel cell motor vehicle.

 

·        The Standard mileage rate applicable to 2011 for business use of your vehicle is increased to 51 cents a mile (55½  cents a mile after June 30, 2011). The 2010 rate for use of your vehicle to get medical care or to move is increased to 19 cents a mile (23½ cents a mile after June 30, 2011). In addition, beginning in 2011, you may use the business rate for a vehicle used for hire, such as a taxicab.

 

·        A limited Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit is available in 2011. This credit generally equals 10 percent (down from 30 percent the past two years) of what a homeowner spends on eligible energy-saving improvements, up to a maximum tax credit of $500 (down from the $1,500 combined limit that applied for 2009 and 2010). The efficiency standards for qualifying property have been increased. The cost of certain high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters and stoves that burn biomass qualify, along with labor costs for installing these items. In addition, the cost of energy-efficient windows and skylights, energy-efficient doors, qualifying insulation and certain roofs also qualify for the credit, though the cost of installing these items do not. See Form 5695 and its instructions for details.

 

·        The adoption tax credit offsets qualified adoption expenses. Taxpayers who adopt a child may qualify for an enhanced adoption tax credit for tax year 2011. The amount of the tax credit is as much as $13,360 for 2011. To claim the credit for 2011, both Form 8839 and the required adoption-related documentation must be attached to the federal tax return. For that reason, claimants cannot file electronically. More information is available on www.IRS.gov.

 

·        Several Education Credits are available:

·        American Opportunity Tax Credit:  This credit is available through 2012. The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student and is available for the first four years of post secondary education. The student must be enrolled at least as a half-time student. Educational institutions are required to file and provide you with a Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, for each enrolled student.

·        Lifetime Learning Credit: In 2011, taxpayers may be able to claim a Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2,000 per return for qualified education expenses paid for one or more students enrolled in eligible educational institutions.

·        Tuition and Fees Deduction: Taxpayers may also be eligible to claim the tuition and fees deduction.

For more information, visit the IRS’ Tax Benefits for Education Information Center or download Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education (or can also order it by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

Extensions: Taxpayers who cannot meet the April filing deadline should file a Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File. The extension provides most taxpayers until October 15, 2012, (an additional six months) to file a return. An extension of time to file is NOT an extension of time to pay.

 


 

 

Payment Options

 

You can pay by check, money order, credit or debit card, or EFTPS. For details on electronic payment options see http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=97400,00.html.

 

Taxpayers who file electronically can e-pay in a single step by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal or by credit or debit card. For paper-filed returns, taxpayers can pay by phone or Internet using a credit or debit card.

 

Electronic Funds Withdrawal: There is no IRS fee for this service. Electronic funds withdrawals cannot be initiated after the return is filed.

 

Credit Cards: Payments may be made electronically through tax preparation software or a credit card payment service provider (via phone or Internet). The companies that have contracted to provide credit card services impose user fees. Credit card payments can be used for some past-due taxes. Most major credit cards are accepted.

 

EFTPS: a tax payment system provided free by the U.S. Department of Treasury. Pay all kinds of federal taxes electronically, on-line or by phone, 24/7. Visit www.EFTPS.gov to enroll.

 

Online Payment Agreement: Many individuals who owe federal income taxes can apply online for a payment agreement. The Online Payment Agreement application provides an easy way to resolve tax liabilities voluntarily. For details, see http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=149373,00.html.

 

Installment Agreement User Fees: User fees for installment agreements are currently:

        new direct debit installment agreements, $52.

        other new installment agreements, $105.

 

The IRS may reduce the fee for new installment agreements submitted by low-income taxpayers. Information about requesting a reduction will be included with the installment agreement acceptance letter sent to the taxpayer.

3/8/12

Tax Credits Available for Certain Energy-Efficient Home Improvements

The IRS would like you to get some credit for qualified home energy improvements this year. Perhaps you installed solar equipment or recently insulated your home? Here are two tax credits that may be available to you:
1. The Non-business Energy Property Credit  Homeowners who install energy-efficient improvements may qualify for this credit. The 2011 credit is 10 percent of the cost of qualified energy-efficient improvements, up to $500. Qualifying improvements include adding insulation, energy-efficient exterior windows and doors and certain roofs. The cost of installing these items does not count. You can also claim a credit including installation costs, for certain high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters and stoves that burn biomass fuel. The credit has a lifetime limit of $500, of which only $200 may be used for windows. If you've claimed more than $500 of non-business energy property credits since 2005, you cannot claim the credit for 2011. Qualifying improvements must have been placed into service in the taxpayer’s principal residence located in the United States before Jan. 1, 2012.
2. Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit This tax credit helps individual taxpayers pay for qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, solar electricity equipment and wind turbines. The credit, which runs through 2016, is 30 percent of the cost of qualified property. There is no cap on the amount of credit available, except for fuel cell property. Generally, you may include labor costs when figuring the credit and you can carry forward any unused portions of this credit. Qualifying equipment must have been installed on or in connection with your home located in the United States; geothermal heat pumps qualify only when installed on or in connection with your main home located in the United States.
Not all energy-efficient improvements qualify so be sure you have the manufacturer’s tax credit certification statement, which can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website or with the product packaging.
 
If you're eligible, you can claim both of these credits on Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits when you file your 2011 federal income tax return. Also, note these are tax credits and not deductions, so they will generally reduce the amount of tax owed dollar for dollar. Finally, you may claim these credits regardless of whether you itemize deductions on IRS Schedule A.

3/1/2012

IRS Has $1 Billion for People Who Have Not Filed a 2008 Income Tax Return

 WASHINGTON — Refunds totaling more than $1 billion may be waiting for one million people who did not file a federal income tax return for 2008, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. However, to collect the money, a return for 2008 must be filed with the IRS no later than Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

 The IRS estimates that half of these potential 2008 refunds are $637 or more.

 Some people may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim a refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

 For 2008 returns, the window closes on April 17, 2012. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by that date. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

 The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2008 refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2009 and 2010. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

 By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 2008. Some people, especially those who did not receive an economic stimulus payment in 2008, may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit. In addition, many low-and moderate-income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2008 were:

     $38,646 ($41,646 if married filing jointly) for those with two or more qualifying children,

    $33,995 ($36,995 if married filing jointly) for people with one qualifying child, and

    $12,880 ($15,880 if married filing jointly) for those with no qualifying children.

    For more information, visit the EITC Home Page on IRS.gov.

 Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2008, 2009 or 2010 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. If these efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by ordering it on IRS.gov, filing Form 4506-T, or by calling 800-908-9946.

 Over 14,000 people in Wisconsin are due refunds averaging almost $600.

2/23/2012

Dirty Dozen Tax Scams

The Internal Revenue Service has issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” tax scams list, reminding taxpayers to use caution during tax season to protect themselves against a wide range of schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud.

The Dirty Dozen listing, compiled by the IRS each year, lists a variety of common scams taxpayers can encounter at any point during the year. But many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division works closely with the Department of Justice to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Here are five of the Dirty Dozen tax scams for 2012:

Identity theft  In response to growing identity theft concerns, the IRS has embarked on a comprehensive strategy focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible. In addition to the law-enforcement crackdown, the IRS has stepped up its internal reviews to spot false tax returns before tax refunds are issued and is working to help victims of identity theft refund schemes.

Identity theft cases are among the most complex ones the IRS handles, but the agency is committed to working with taxpayers who have become victims of identity theft.

The IRS is increasingly seeing identity thieves looking for ways to use a legitimate taxpayer’s identity and personal information to file a tax return and claim a fraudulent refund.

An IRS notice informing a taxpayer that more than one return was filed in the taxpayer’s name or that the taxpayer received wages from an unknown employer may be the first tip off the individual receives that he or she has been victimized. Anyone who believes his or her personal information has been stolen and used for tax purposes should immediately contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit. For more information, visit the special identity theft page on this website.

Phishing  These scams are typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure potential victims into providing valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft.

If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

It is important to keep in mind the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS has information that can help you protect yourself from email scams.

Return preparer fraud  About 60 percent of taxpayers will use tax professionals this year to prepare and file their tax returns. Most return preparers provide honest service to their clients. But as in any other business, there are also some who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers.

Questionable return preparers have been known to skim off their clients’ refunds, charge inflated fees for return preparation services and attract new clients by promising guaranteed or inflated refunds. Taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring a tax preparer. Federal courts have issued hundreds of injunctions ordering individuals to cease preparing returns, and the Department of Justice has pending complaints against many others.

In 2012, every paid preparer needs to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and must enter it on the returns he or she prepares.

Signals to watch for when you are dealing with an unscrupulous return preparer would include that they:

  • Do not sign the return or will not include a Preparer Tax identification Number on it.
  • Do not give you a copy of your tax return.
  • Promise larger-than-normal tax refunds.
  • Charge a percentage of the refund amount as preparation fee.
  • Require you to split the refund to pay the preparation fee.
  • Add forms to the return you have never filed before.
  • Encourage you to place false information on your return, such as false income, expenses and/or credits.

For advice on how to find a competent tax professional, see Tips for Choosing a Tax Preparer.

Hiding income offshore  Over the years, numerous individuals have been identified as evading U.S. taxes by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or nominee entities and then using debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access the funds. Others have employed foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans for the same purpose.

The IRS uses information gained from its investigations to pursue taxpayers with undeclared accounts, as well as the banks and bankers suspected of helping clients hide their assets overseas. The IRS works closely with the Department of Justice to prosecute tax evasion cases.

While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements that need to be fulfilled. U.S. taxpayers who maintain such accounts and who do not comply with reporting and disclosure requirements are breaking the law and risk significant penalties and fines, as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution.

“Free money” from the IRS & tax scams involving Social Security  Fliers and advertisements for free money from the IRS, suggesting that the taxpayer can file a tax return with little or no documentation, have been appearing in community churches around the country. These schemes are also often spread by word of mouth as unsuspecting and well-intentioned people tell their friends and relatives. Scammers prey on low-income individuals and the elderly. They build false hopes and charge people good money for bad advice. In the end, the victims discover their claims are rejected. Meanwhile, the promoters are long gone. The IRS warns all taxpayers to remain vigilant.

There are a number of tax scams involving Social Security. For example, scammers have been known to lure the unsuspecting with promises of non-existent Social Security refunds or rebates. In another situation, a taxpayer may really be due a credit or refund but the scammer uses inflated amounts to complete the return for a larger refund they'll run off with.

These are some of the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012. For a complete list, see IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012.


Links:

YouTube Videos:

The Dirty Dozen English | Spanish | ASL   

2/16/2012

Tax Tips for the Self-employed 

There are many benefits that come from being your own boss. If you work for yourself, as an independent contractor, or you carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor, you are generally considered to be self-employed.

Here are six key points the IRS would like you to know about self-employment and self- employment taxes:

1. Self-employment can include work in addition to your regular full-time business activities, such as part-time work you do at home or in addition to your regular job.

2. If you are self-employed you generally have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax. Self-employment tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners. You figure self-employment tax using a Form 1040 Schedule SE. Also, you can deduct half of your self-employment tax in figuring your adjusted gross income.

3. You file an IRS Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040.

4. If you are self-employed you may have to make estimated tax payments. This applies even if you also have a full-time or part-time job and your employer withholds taxes from your wages. Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding. If you fail to make quarterly payments you may be penalized for underpayment at the end of the tax year.

5. You can deduct the costs of running your business. These costs are known as business expenses. These are costs you do not have to capitalize or include in the cost of goods sold but can deduct in the current year.

6. To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your field of business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business. An expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary.

For more information see the Self-employment Tax Center, IRS Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses and Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, available at www.irs.gov or by calling the IRS forms and publications order line at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


Links:

2/9/2012

Four Tax Tips Regarding Tip Income

If your pay from work involves compensation through tips, then the IRS would like you to be aware of a few facts about tip income. Here are four key points to keep in mind:

1. Tips are taxable Tips are subject to federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes.  The value of non-cash tips, such as tickets, passes or other items of value, is also considered income and subject to tax.

2. Include tips on your tax return You must include in gross income all cash tips you receive directly from customers, tips added to credit cards, and your share of any tips you receive under a tip-splitting arrangement with fellow employees.

3. Report tips to your employer If you receive $20 or more in tips in any one month, you should report all of your tips to your employer. Your employer is required to withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes.

4. Keep a running daily log of your tip income. You can use IRS Publication 1244, Employee's Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer, to record your tip income.

For more information see IRS Publication 531, Reporting Tip Income, and Publication 1244 which are available at www.irs.gov. Both can be ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

 

2/2/2012

Tax Tips for the Self-employed 

There are many benefits that come from being your own boss. If you work for yourself, as an independent contractor, or you carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor, you are generally considered to be self-employed.

Here are six key points the IRS would like you to know about self-employment and self- employment taxes:

1. Self-employment can include work in addition to your regular full-time business activities, such as part-time work you do at home or in addition to your regular job.

2. If you are self-employed you generally have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax. Self-employment tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners. You figure self-employment tax using a Form 1040 Schedule SE. Also, you can deduct half of your self-employment tax in figuring your adjusted gross income.

3. You file an IRS Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040.

4. If you are self-employed you may have to make estimated tax payments. This applies even if you also have a full-time or part-time job and your employer withholds taxes from your wages. Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding. If you fail to make quarterly payments you may be penalized for underpayment at the end of the tax year.

5. You can deduct the costs of running your business. These costs are known as business expenses. These are costs you do not have to capitalize or include in the cost of goods sold but can deduct in the current year.

6. To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your field of business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business. An expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary.

For more information see the Self-employment Tax Center, IRS Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses and Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, available at www.irs.gov or by calling the IRS forms and publications order line at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).


Links:

1/26/2012

Welcome to tax season 2012! Personally, I’m happy to see the new year because 2011 was one of the worst years I can remember- at least physically. I lost most of the summer to Lyme Meningitis &, just when I thought I was mostly recovered, I fell & tore all the muscles in my right shoulder. I’m now finally back in my office full time & ready to get some work done! So get your stuff together & call or e-mail for an appointment!

4/22/2011

 

Thank you all!

Thanks to my wonderful clients for allowing me to assist you, to my friends and family for putting up with me (or with my absence). And for those of you who are both clients and friends – you’re the best!

                                Mary 

4/14/2011

Eight Facts on Penalties 

When it comes to filing a tax return – or not filing one - the IRS can assess a penalty if you fail to file, fail to pay or both. Here are eight important points the IRS wants you to know about the two different penalties you may face if you do not file or pay timely.

  1. If you do not file by the deadline, you might face a failure-to-file penalty. If you do not pay by the due date, you could face a failure-to-pay penalty.
  2. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. So if you cannot pay all the taxes you owe, you should still file your tax return on time and explore other payment options in the meantime. The IRS will work with you.
  3. The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
  4. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.
  5. If you do not pay your taxes by the due date, you will generally have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
  6. If you timely filed a request for an extension of time to file and you paid at least 90 percent of your actual tax liability by the original due date, you will not be faced with a failure-to-pay penalty if the remaining balance is paid by the extended due date.
  7. If both the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty apply in any month, the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty is reduced by the failure-to-pay penalty. However, if you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100% of the unpaid tax.
  8. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show that you failed to file or pay on time because of reasonable cause and not because of willful neglect.

4/7/2011

Three Ways to Pay Your Federal Income Tax

If you owe taxes but can’t pay the full amount by the April 18 deadline you should still file your return on time and pay as much as you can to avoid penalties and interest. You should also contact the IRS to ask about alternative payment options. Here are three alternative payment options you may want to consider:

1. Additional Time to Pay Based on your circumstances, you may be granted a short additional time to pay your tax in full. A brief additional amount of time to pay can be requested through the Online Payment Agreement application at http:www.IRS.gov or by calling 800-829-1040. Taxpayers who request and are granted an additional 60 to 120 days to pay the tax in full generally will pay less in penalties and interest than if the debt were repaid through an installment agreement over a greater period of time.

2. Installment Agreement You can apply for an IRS installment agreement using the Web-based Online Payment Agreement application on IRS.gov. This Web-based application allows taxpayers who owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest to self-qualify, apply for, and receive immediate notification of approval. You can also request an installment agreement before your current tax liabilities are actually assessed by using OPA. The OPA option provides you with a simple and convenient way to establish an installment agreement and eliminates the need for personal interaction with IRS and reduces paper processing. You may also complete and submit a Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, make your request in writing, or call 1-800-829-1040 to make your request. For balances over $25,000, you are required to complete a financial statement to determine the monthly payment amount for an installment plan. For more complete information see Tax Topic 202, Tax Payment Options on http.www.IRS.gov.

3. Pay by Credit Card or Debit Card You can charge your taxes on your American Express, MasterCard, Visa or Discover credit cards. Additionally, you can pay by using your debit card. However, the debit card must be a Visa Debit Card, or a NYCE, Pulse or Star Debit Card. To pay by credit card or debit card, contact one of the service providers at its telephone number or Web site listed below and follow the instructions. There is no IRS fee for credit or debit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee or flat fee. If you are paying by credit card, the service providers charge a convenience fee based on the amount you are paying. If you are paying by debit card, the service providers charge a flat fee of $3.89 to $3.95.  Do not add the convenience fee or flat fee to your tax payment.

The processing companies are:

Link2Gov Corporation:

To pay by debit or credit card: 888-PAY-1040 (888-729-1040), www.pay1040.com

RBS WorldPay, Inc.

To pay by debit or credit card: 888-9PAY-TAX (888-972-9829), www.payUSAtax.com Official Payments Corporation:

To pay by debit or credit card: 888-UPAY-TAX (888-872-9829), www.officialpayments.com/fed

3/31/2011

Eight Tips from the IRS to Help you Determine if your Gift is Taxable 

If you give someone money or property during your life, you may be subject to the federal gift tax. Most gifts are not subject to the gift tax, but the IRS has put together the following eight tips to help you determine if your gift is taxable.

1. Most gifts are not subject to the gift tax. For example, there is usually no tax if you make a gift to your spouse or to a charity. If you make a gift to someone else, the gift tax usually does not apply until the value of the gifts you give that person exceeds the annual exclusion for the year. For 2010, the annual exclusion is $13,000.

2. Gift tax returns do not need to be filed unless you give someone, other than your spouse, money or property worth more than the annual exclusion for that year.

3. Generally, the person who receives your gift will not have to pay any federal gift tax because of it. Also, that person will not have to pay income tax on the value of the gift received.

4. Making a gift does not ordinarily affect your federal income tax. You cannot deduct the value of gifts you make (other than gifts that are deductible charitable contributions).

5. The general rule is that any gift is a taxable gift. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. The following gifts are not taxable gifts:

  • Gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year,
  • Tuition or medical expenses you pay directly to a medical or educational institution for someone,
  • Gifts to your spouse,
  • Gifts to a political organization for its use, and
  • Gifts to charities.

6. Gift Splitting – you and your spouse can make a gift up to $26,000 to a third party without making a taxable gift. The gift can be considered as made one-half by you and one-half by your spouse. If you split a gift you made, you must file a gift tax return to show that you and your spouse agree to use gift splitting. You must file a Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, even if half of the split gift is less than the annual exclusion.

7. Gift Tax Returns – you must file a gift tax return on Form 709, if any of the following apply:

  • You gave gifts to at least one person (other than your spouse) that are more than the annual exclusion for the year.
  • You and your spouse are splitting a gift.
  • You gave someone (other than your spouse) a gift of a future interest that he or she cannot actually possess, enjoy, or receive income from until some time in the future.
  • You gave your spouse an interest in property that will terminate due to a future event.

8. You do not have to file a gift tax return to report gifts to political organizations and gifts made by paying someone’s tuition or medical expenses.



3/24/2011

Eight Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions

Charitable contributions made to qualified organizations may help lower your tax bill. The IRS has put together the following eight tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

  1. If your goal is a legitimate tax deduction, then you must be giving to a qualified organization. Also, you cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for rules on what constitutes a qualified organization.
  2. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.
  3. If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, tickets to a ball game or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
  4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
  5. Fair market value is generally the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts.
  6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For text message donations, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
  7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
  8. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.


3/17/2011

Work From Home? Consider the Home Office Deduction 

Whether you are self-employed or an employee, if you use a portion of your home for business, you may be able to take a home office deduction.  Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about the Home Office deduction

1. Generally, in order to claim a business deduction for your home, you must use part of your home exclusively and regularly:

  • as your principal place of business, or
  • as a place to meet or deal with patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your business, or
  • in any connection with your trade or business where the business portion of your home is a separate structure not attached to your home.

2. For certain storage use, rental use, or daycare-facility use, you are required to use the property regularly but not exclusively.

3. Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home used for business. Your deduction for certain expenses will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

4. There are special rules for qualified daycare providers and for persons storing business inventory or product samples.

5. If you are self-employed, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home to figure your home office deduction and report those deductions on line 30 of Form 1040 Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

6. If you are an employee, additional rules apply for claiming the home office deduction. For example, the regular and exclusive business use must be for the convenience of your employer.

3/10/2011

Spring Ahead!  Don’t forget! Don’t delay! Don’t be late!

Have you filed your 2007 tax return?  Time is running out!

Nearly 1.1 million people who did not file a federal income tax return for 2007 may have refunds totaling more than $1.1 billion waiting for them. However, to collect the money, a properly addressed, mailed and postmarked return for 2007 must be filed with the IRS no later than Monday, April 18, 2011.

The IRS estimates that half of these potential 2007 refunds are $640 or more from taxes withheld or estimated payments made during 2007. In addition, many low and moderate income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

The IRS will keep a 2007 refund if you have not filed your 2008 and 2009 returns or paid any amounts owed to the IRS, or if you have unpaid child support or past due federal debts.

3/3/2011

Ten Facts for Mortgage Debt Forgiveness 

If your mortgage debt is partly or entirely forgiven during tax years 2007 through 2012, you may be able to claim special tax relief and exclude the debt forgiven from your income. Here are 10 facts the IRS wants you to know about Mortgage Debt Forgiveness.

  1. Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence.
  2. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.
  3. You may exclude debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in a foreclosure.
  4. To qualify, the debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and be secured by that residence.
  5. Refinanced debt proceeds used for the purpose of substantially improving your principal residence also qualify for the exclusion.
  6. Proceeds of refinanced debt used for other purposes – for example, to pay off credit card debt – do not qualify for the exclusion.
  7. If you qualify, claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and attach it to your federal income tax return for the tax year in which the qualified debt was forgiven.
  8. Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the tax relief provision. In some cases, however, other tax relief provisions – such as insolvency – may be applicable. IRS Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.
  9. If your debt is reduced or eliminated you normally will receive a year-end statement, Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property foreclosed.
  10. Examine the Form 1099-C carefully. Notify the lender immediately if any of the information shown is incorrect. You should pay particular attention to the amount of debt forgiven in Box 2 as well as the value listed for your home in Box 7.

For more information about the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, visit IRS.gov. A good resource is IRS Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. Taxpayers may obtain a copy of this publication and Form 982 either by downloading them from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

3/1/2011

Happy St. David’s Day!

 March first is St. David’s Day.  Dewi Sant (Welsh for St. David), Patron Saint of Wales, died March 1st, 589.
I know this really has nothing to do with taxes (although my cousin could probably expound on the tax situation in Wales or the historical circumstances that led our ancestors to come to this country) but it’s an excuse to change the subject.
My dad wrote a poem several years ago that I just love & I’ll share it here. 
 
St. David
Died March 1, 589

 

Dewi Sant, dying, told his monks,
“Do the little things I’ve shown you.”
Brush your teeth, comb your hair,
Eat your leeks, drink lots of water,
Make a will, pay your bills,
Sleep beneath the sparkling stars,
Love your family.
 
Dewi, dying, preached his sermon.
“Be joyful and keep the faith.”
Rake the ground in the sacred grove,
Raise up a hill to be a pulpit,
Calm quibbling theocrats,
Feed the hungry, comfort the sick,
Love your neighbors.
 
“Do the little things I’ve shown you,”
Dewi, dying, advised us all.
Plant daffodils at your doorstep,
Sing poems of passionate boys and girls,
Walk gently on the wartorn pathways,
Laugh with the playful child,
Love your enemies.

2/17/2011

Four Facts About Bartering 

In today’s economy, small business owners sometimes look to the oldest form of commerce – the exchange of goods and services, or bartering. The IRS wants to remind small business owners that the fair market value of property or services received through barter is taxable income.

Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Usually there is no exchange of cash. However, the fair market value of the goods and services exchanged must be reported as income by both parties.

Here are four facts about bartering that the IRS wants small business owners to be aware of:

  1. Barter Exchange A barter exchange functions primarily as the organizer of a marketplace where members buy and sell products and services among themselves. Whether this activity operates out of a physical office or is internet based, a barter exchange is generally required to issue Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, annually to their clients or members and to the IRS.
  2. Barter Income Barter dollars or trade dollars are identical to real dollars for tax reporting. If you conduct any direct barter - barter for another’s products or services - you will have to report the fair market value of the products or services you received on your tax return.
  3. Taxes Income from bartering is taxable in the year it is performed. Bartering may result in liabilities for income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax, or excise tax. Your barter activities may result in ordinary business income, capital gains or capital losses, or you may have a nondeductible personal loss.
  4. Reporting The rules for reporting barter transactions may vary depending on which form of bartering takes place. Generally, you report this type of business income on Form 1040, Schedule C Profit or Loss from Business, or other business returns such as Form 1065 for Partnerships, Form 1120 for Corporations, or Form 1120-S for Small Business Corporations.

For more information see the Bartering Tax Center in the Business section at http://www.irs.gov.

 

2/10/2011

Here is What to do If You Are Missing a W-2 

Before you file your 2010 tax return, you should make sure you have all the needed documents including all your Forms W-2. You should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from each of your employers. Employers have until January 31, 2011 to send you a 2010 Form W-2 earnings statement.

If you haven’t received your W-2, follow these four steps:

1. Contact your employer - If you have not received your W-2, contact your employer to inquire if and when the W-2 was mailed. If it was mailed, it may have been returned to the employer because of an incorrect or incomplete address. After contacting the employer, allow a reasonable amount of time for them to resend or to issue the W-2.

2. Contact the IRS - If you do not receive your W-2 by February 14th, contact the IRS for assistance at 800-829-1040. When you call, you must provide your name, address, city and state, including zip code, Social Security number, phone number and have the following information:

  • Employer’s name, address, city and state, including zip code and phone number
  • Dates of employment
  • An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and when you worked for that employer during 2010. The estimate should be based on year-to-date information from your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if possible.

3. File your return - You still must file your tax return or request an extension to file April 18, 2011, even if you do not receive your Form W-2. If you have not received your Form W-2 by the due date, and have completed steps 1 and 2, you may use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Attach Form 4852 to the return, estimating income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible.  There may be a delay in any refund due while the information is verified.

4. File a Form 1040X - On occasion, you may receive your missing W-2 after you filed your return using Form 4852, and the information may be different from what you reported on your return. If this happens, you must amend your return by filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

 

2/3/2011

How to Choose a Tax Return Preparer and Avoid Preparer Fraud

  Taxpayers who decide they need assistance when preparing a tax return should choose a tax preparer with care and caution. Even if a return was prepared by an outside individual or firm, taxpayers should remember that they are legally responsible for what they file with the Internal Revenue Service.

Most return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients, but some engage in fraud and other illegal activities. Return preparer fraud involves the preparation and filing of false income tax returns by preparers who claim inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits or excessive exemptions on returns prepared for their clients.

Preparers may, for example, manipulate income figures to fraudulently obtain tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. In some situations, the client, or taxpayer, may not even know of the false expenses, deductions, exemptions and/or credits shown on his or her tax return.

However, when the IRS detects a fraudulent return, the taxpayer — not the return preparer — must pay the additional taxes and interest and may be subject to penalties.

While most preparers provide honest service to their clients, the IRS urges taxpayers to be careful when choosing a preparer –– as careful as they would be choosing a doctor or lawyer. Even if someone else prepares a tax return, the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for all the information on the return. For that reason, taxpayers should never sign a blank tax form. And they should review the return before signing it and ask questions on entries they don't understand.

Helpful Hints When Choosing a Return Preparer

  • Be cautious of tax preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the refund. Use a reputable tax professional who signs the tax return and provides a copy.
  • Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of the tax return months, or even years, after the return has been filed.
  • Check the person’s credentials. Only attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs) and enrolled agents (EAs) can represent taxpayers before the IRS in all matters, including audits, collection and appeals. Other return preparers may only represent taxpayers for audits of returns they actually prepared.
  • Find out if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.

Reputable preparers will ask if you have receipts and will ask multiple questions to determine whether expenses, deductions and other items qualify. By doing so, they are trying to help their clients avoid penalties, interest or additional taxes that could result from an IRS examination.

Tax evasion is a risky crime, a felony, punishable by five years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine.

1/27/2011

Social Media

Because you… or someone… asked for it, you can now follow the IRS on Twitter & watch IRS videos on YouTube!  There’s also a new iPhone app where you can check the status of your refund and get tax updates.  ‘cause I know you want to.

1/20/2011

Two Tax Credits to Help Pay Higher Education Costs

There are two federal tax credits available to help you offset the costs of higher education for yourself or your dependents.  These are the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

To qualify for either credit, you must pay postsecondary tuition and fees for yourself, your spouse or your dependent. The credit may be claimed by the parent or the student, but not by both. If the student was claimed as a dependent, the student cannot file for the credit.

For each student, you can choose to claim only one of the credits in a single tax year. You cannot claim the American Opportunity Credit to pay for part of your daughter's tuition charges and then claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for $2,000 more of her school costs.

However, if you pay college expenses for two or more students in the same year, you can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. You can claim the American Opportunity Credit for your sophomore daughter and the Lifetime Learning Credit for your senior son.

Here are some key facts the IRS wants you to know about these valuable education credits:

1. The American Opportunity Credit

  • The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student.
  • It is available for the first four years of post-secondary education.
  • Forty percent of the credit is refundable, which means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if you owe no taxes.
  • The student must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or other recognized educational credential.
  • The student must be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period.
  • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment.
  • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers who make less than $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

2. Lifetime Learning Credit

  • The credit can be up to $2,000 per eligible student.
  • It is available for all years of postsecondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills.
  • The maximum credited is limited to the amount of tax you must pay on your return.
  • The student does not need to be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential.
  • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment.
  • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers who make less than $60,000 or $120,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

1/13/2011

Points to Keep in Mind When Choosing A Tax Preparer
 


The IRS urges you to choose that preparer wisely. Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. So, it is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Most return preparers are professional, honest and provide excellent service to their clients.

Here are a few points to keep in mind when choosing someone else to prepare your return:

   1. Check the person’s qualifications. Ask if the preparer is affiliated with a professional organization that provides its members with continuing education and resources and holds them to a code of ethics.New regulations require all paid tax return preparers including attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents to apply for a Preparer Tax Identification Number — even if they already have one — before preparing any federal tax returns in 2011.

   2. Check on the preparer’s history. Check to see if the preparer has a questionable history with the Better Business Bureau and check for any disciplinary actions and licensure status through the state boards of accountancy for certified public accountants; the state bar associations for attorneys; and the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility for enrolled agents.

   3. Find out about their service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.

   4. Make sure the tax preparer is accessible.Make sure you will be able to contact the tax preparer after the return has been filed, even after the April due date, in case questions arise.

   5. Provide all records and receipts needed to prepare your return. Most reputable preparers will request to see your records and receipts and will ask you multiple questions to determine your total income and your qualifications for expenses, deductions and other items.

   6. Never sign a blank return. Avoid tax preparers that ask you to sign a blank tax form.

   7. Review the entire return before signing it.Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions. Make sure you understand everything and are comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

   8. Make sure the preparer signs the form and includes their PTIN.A paid preparer must sign the return and include their PTIN as required by law. Although the preparer signs the return, you are responsible for the accuracy of every item on your return.The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.

You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS on Form 3949-A, Information Referral or by sending a letter to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Download Form 3949-A from http://www.irs.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).            

     

12/23/2010

I guess there's no great hurry....

Following last week’s passage of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010, the Internal Revenue Service announced today the upcoming tax season will start on time for most people, but taxpayers affected by three recently reinstated deductions need to wait until mid- to late February to file their individual tax returns. In addition, taxpayers who itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A will need to wait until mid- to late February to file as well.

People claiming any of these three items — the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition and fees deduction, and educator expenses deduction as well as those taxpayers who itemize deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A — will need to wait to file their tax returns until the IRS can reprogram it’s tax processing systems, which they estimate will be in mid- to late February.

4/1/2010

Ten Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions

When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. If you made qualified donations last year, you may be able to take a tax deduction if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.

The IRS has put together the following 10 tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

  1. Contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates.
  2. You cannot deduct the value of your time or services. Nor can you deduct the cost of raffles, bingo or other games of chance.
  3. If your contributions entitle you to merchandise, goods or services, including admission to a charity ball, banquet, theatrical performance or sporting event, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
  4. Donations of stock or other property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Special rules apply to donation of vehicles.
  5. Clothing and household items donated must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible.
  6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the organization receiving your donation, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
  7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more.
  8. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
  9. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.


3/19/2010

Nine Things You Should Know about Penalties

The tax filing deadline is approaching. If you don’t file your return and pay your tax by the due date you may have to pay a penalty. Here are nine things the IRS wants you to know about the two different penalties you may face if you do not pay or file on time.

  1. If you do not file by the deadline, you might face a failure-to-file penalty.
  2. If you do not pay by the due date, you could face a failure-to-pay penalty.
  3. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. So if you cannot pay all the taxes you owe, you should still file your tax return and explore other payment options in the meantime.
  4. The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
  5. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.
  6. You will have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
  7. If you filed an extension and you paid at least 90 percent of your actual tax liability by the due date, you will not be faced with a failure-to-pay penalty if the remaining balance is paid by the extended due date.
  8. If both the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty apply in any month, the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty is reduced by the failure-to-pay penalty. However, if you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100% of the unpaid tax.
  9. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show that you failed to file or pay on time because of reasonable cause and not because of willful neglect.

2/26/2010

Six Facts on How to Get Credit for Retirement Savings Contributions 

If you make eligible contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or to an individual retirement arrangement, you may be eligible for a tax credit.  Here are six things you need to know about the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit:

1. Income Limits The Savers Credit, formally known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, applies to individuals with a filing status and income of:

  • Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er), with  income up to $27,750
  • Head of Household, with income up to $41,625
  • Married Filing Jointly, with income up to $55,500

2. Eligibility requirements To be eligible for the credit you must have been born before January 2, 1992, you cannot have been a full-time student during the calendar year and cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person’s return.

3. Credit amount If you make eligible contributions to a qualified IRA, 401(k) and certain other retirement plans, you may be able to take a credit of up to $1,000 or up to $2,000 if filing jointly. The credit is a percentage of the qualifying contribution amount, with the highest rate for taxpayers with the least income.

4. Distributions When figuring this credit, you generally must subtract the amount of distributions you have received from your retirement plans from the contributions you have made. This rule applies to distributions received in the two years before the year the credit is claimed, the year the credit is claimed, and the period after the end of the credit year but before the due date - including extensions - for filing the return for the credit year.

5. Other tax benefits The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit is in addition to other tax benefits which may result from the retirement contributions. For example, most workers at these income levels may deduct all or part of their contributions to a traditional IRA. Contributions to a regular 401(k) plan are not subject to income tax until withdrawn from the plan.

6. Forms to use To claim the credit use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.

2/19/2010

Is this Income Taxable?  

While most income you receive is generally considered taxable, there are some situations when certain types of income are partially taxed or not taxed at all.

To ensure taxpayers are familiar with the difference between taxable and non-taxable income, the Internal Revenue Service offers these common examples of items that are not included in your income:

  • Adoption Expense Reimbursements for qualifying expenses
  • Child support payments
  • Gifts, bequests and inheritances
  • Workers' compensation benefits
  • Meals and Lodging for the convenience of your employer
  • Compensatory Damages awarded for physical injury or physical sickness
  • Welfare Benefits
  • Cash Rebates from a dealer or manufacturer

Some income may be taxable under certain circumstances, but not taxable in other situations. Examples of items that may or may not be included in your income are:

  • Life Insurance If you surrender a life insurance policy for cash, you must include in income any proceeds that are more than the cost of the life insurance policy. Life insurance proceeds, which were paid to you because of the insured person’s death, are not taxable unless the policy was turned over to you for a price.
  • Scholarship or Fellowship Grant If you are a candidate for a degree, you can exclude amounts you receive as a qualified scholarship or fellowship. Amounts used for room and board do not qualify.
  • Non-cash Income Taxable income may be in a form other than cash. One example of this is bartering, which is an exchange of property or services. The fair market value of goods and services exchanged is fully taxable and must be included as income on Form 1040 of both parties.

All other items—including income such as wages, salaries and tips—must be included in your income unless it is specifically excluded by law.

 

2/12/2010

Four Steps to Follow If You Are Missing a W-2 

Getting ready to file your tax return?  Make sure you have all your documents before you start. You should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement from each of your employers.  Employers have until February 1, 2010 to send you a 2009 Form W-2 earnings statement. If you haven’t received your W-2, follow these four steps:

1. Contact your employer If you have not received your W-2, contact your employer to inquire if and when the W-2 was mailed.  If it was mailed, it may have been returned to the employer because of an incorrect or incomplete address.  After contacting the employer, allow a reasonable amount of time for them to resend or to issue the W-2.

2. Contact the IRS If you do not receive your W-2 by February 16th, contact the IRS for assistance at 800-829-1040. When you call, you must provide your name, address, city and state, including zip code, Social Security number, phone number and have the following information:

  • Employer’s name, address, city and state, including zip code and phone   number
  • Dates of employment
  • An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and when you worked for that employer during 2009. The estimate should be based on year-to-date information from your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if possible.

3. File your return You still must file your tax return or request an extension to file by April 15, even if you do not receive your Form W-2. If you have not received your Form W-2 by April 15th, and have completed steps 1 and 2, you may use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Attach Form 4852 to the return, estimating income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible.  There may be a delay in any refund due while the information is verified.

4. File a Form 1040X On occasion, you may receive your missing W-2 after you filed your return using Form 4852, and the information may be different from what you reported on your return. If this happens, you must amend your return by filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

 

2/5/10

The IRS is on YouTube!  For those of you with nothing better to do, or those completely addicted to YouTube, take a look!
IRS on YouTube


1/28/10

Ten Facts About Claiming Donations Made to Haiti 

If you are donating to charities providing earthquake relief in Haiti, you may be able to claim those donations on your 2009 tax return. Here are 10 important facts the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about this special provision.

  1. A new law allows you to claim donations for Haitian relief on your 2009 tax return, which you will be filing this year.
  2. The contributions must be made specifically for the relief of victims in areas affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.
  3. To be eligible for a deduction on the 2009 tax return, donations must be made after Jan. 11, 2010 and before March 1, 2010.
  4. In order to be deductible, contributions must be made to qualified charities and can not be designated for the benefit of specific individuals or families.
  5. The new law applies only to cash contributions.
  6. Cash contributions made by text message, check, credit card or debit card may be claimed on your federal tax return.
  7. You must itemize your deductions in order to claim these donations on your tax return.
  8. You have the option of deducting these contributions on either your 2009 or 2010 tax return, but not both.
  9. Contributions made to foreign organizations generally are not deductible. You can find out more about organizations helping Haitian earthquake victims from agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development ( www.usaid.gov).
  10. Federal law requires that you keep a record of any deductible donations you make. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the organization receiving your donation, the date of the contribution, and the amount given. For cash contributions made by other means, be sure to keep a bank record, such as a canceled check or a receipt from the charity. Receipts should show the name of the charity, the date and amount of the contribution.

For more information see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions and Publication 3833 , Disaster Relief: Providing Assistance through Charitable Organizations. To determine if an organization is a qualified charity visit IRS.gov, keyword "Search for Charities". Note that some organizations, such as churches or governments, may be qualified even though they are not listed on IRS.gov.

This does NOT apply to Wisconsin Tax Returns!  You can only claim a deduction on your Wisconsin  Return in the year the contribution was made.  Contributions made in 2010 can only be deducted on your 2010 return (filed in 2011).



1/15/10

2009 Tax Law Changes Provide Saving Opportunities for Nearly Everyone (so says the IRS)

Here is a link to their summary of several of those changes:

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=217792,00.html?portlet=7



1/8/10

Here we go again!  There have been many changes this year (and the changes keep coming!) so, as you are gathering your tax information don't hesitate to call or email me with your questions.



4/02/2009

The Internal Revenue Service announced today that taxpayers who buy a new passenger vehicle this year may be entitled to deduct state and local sales and excise taxes paid on the purchase on their 2009 tax returns next year.

The deduction is limited to the state and local sales and excise taxes paid on up to $49,500 of the purchase price of a qualified new car, light truck, motor home or motorcycle.

The amount of the deduction is phased out for taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is between $125,000 and $135,000 for individual filers and between $250,000 and $260,000 for joint filers.

IRS also alerted taxpayers that the vehicle must be purchased after Feb. 16, 2009, and before Jan. 1, 2010, to qualify for the deduction.

The special deduction is available regardless of whether a taxpayer itemizes deductions on their return. The IRS reminded taxpayers the deduction may not be taken on 2008 tax returns.



3/26/2009

Hope Credit

This credit has been available for several years now.  In its current form, students in the first 2 years of post-secondary (after high-school) education can claim a credit of up to 100% of the first $1200 of tuition paid and 50% of the second $1200, for a maximum credit of $1800.  There are (as usual) income limits and other requirements.  For 2009 and 2010 the credit is expanded to 100% of the first $2000 and 25% of the next $2000 of qualified expenses for a maximum credit of $2500.  Qualifying expenses are expanded to include required course materials instead of only tuition.  Income limits have been raised significantly and, if your tax liability is already zero, up to 40% of the credit will be refunded!  Under the old rules if your tax was zero you just lost the credit.



2/28/2009

Energy credits

These have changed a lot lately, but for now….

Home Improvements

Home Improvements that you make to your existing (not newly constructed) main home between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2010 can qualify for a credit of 30% of the cost up to a lifetime maximum of $1500.  These improvements include exterior windows and doors, insulation, roofing, furnaces & hot water heaters.  Biomass stoves, such as pellet stoves, also qualify.  Each item has different standards it has to meet, such as energy star labeled or a specific energy rating.

Solar and wind energy systems

Geothermal heat pumps, solar energy systems (water heaters, photovoltaic systems), small wind energy systems, and fuel cells qualify for a credit of 30% of the cost with no maximum.  These can be installed in your existing home or a newly constructed one, as long as it is your main home.  They must be installed and ready to use between January 1, 2009 and December 31, 2016.

You can find more information at:

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=products.pr_tax_credits

... or call or email me with questions!




2/19/2009

More on the “Making work pay” credit.

“Making Work Pay” tax credit.  This is a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals & $800 for working couples.  Taxpayers will not get a separate, special check mailed to them like last year’s economic stimulus payment.  For people who receive a paycheck, the credit will typically be handled by their employers through automated withholding changes. For others, the credit can be claimed when they file their 2009 tax return next year.  Certain retirees will get $250, either as a check or a tax credit.


For most people, the employer will take out less tax than before (new withholding tables will be sent to employers soon) and if the amount isn’t exactly right the difference will be settled up on next year’s tax return.   Since the tables for withholding are based on the taxpayer’s marital status as shown on the Form W4 filed with the employer, the lower withholding may mean taxpayers could end up owing at the end of the year.

For example, a married couple who both use MARRIED on their W4 will each have $800 less withholding during the rest of the year ($1,600 combined), when their credit on the 2009 return will only be $800 total.  This will result in a lower refund by the extra $800, or even a balance due (and possibly underpayment penalties).

Additional example, a taxpayer who has two jobs would have $400 withholding from EACH job for a total less withholding of $800.  The credit on the 2009 return will only be $400.  This will result in a lower refund by the extra $400.

Any taxpayer who receives the $250 One Time Emergency Payments (Social Security recipients) is required to reduce the Making Work Pay Credit by the $250, leaving a net Making Work Pay Credit of $150.  Any taxpayer receiving the $250 CREDIT (other retired government employees not eligible for Social Security) must reduce the Making Work Pay Credit by the $250.

For example, a taxpayer collecting SS benefits and earning $10,000 in wages will receive the $250 payment and have $400 less withholding on the wages.  The Making Work Pay Credit this taxpayer will receive is $150, leading these people to a smaller refund/larger balance due when the 2009 return is prepared.

Come in this Spring for a check-up on your withholding!




2/18/2009

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009

Mostly this will not affect 2008 tax returns.  There are a few little changes for small businesses but most people will file 2008 returns as before.  Most of these changes are available for 2009 and 2010 only.

  • "Making Work Pay" tax credit.  This is a refundable tax credit of up to $400 for working individuals & $800 for working couples.  Taxpayers will not get a separate, special check mailed to them like last year’s economic stimulus payment.  For people who receive a paycheck, the credit will typically be handled by their employers through automated withholding changes. For others, the credit can be claimed when they file their 2009 tax return next year.  Certain retirees will get $250, either as a check or a tax credit.

  • First time home buyers credit.  This is unchanged for anyone who purchased a home in 2008.  For first time home purchases (if you didn’t own a home in the last 3 years) made during 2009 the credit has increased from a maximum of $7,500 to a maximum of $8,000 and the requirement to pay it back over 15 years has been eliminated.  This means it’s no longer an interest free loan and is now a real credit.  You only have to pay it back if you sell within 3 years.
  • Addendum: Currently the IRS seems to have a purchase cut-off date of December 1, 2009.  

  • The Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit will both increase or be easier to claim.  Education credits will increase and the cost of books will be eligible for the credit.   Sales tax on a new car, light truck, motorcycle or RV is deductible, even if you don’t itemize.  For 2009 only, the first $2,400 of unemployment benefits is not taxable.



2/05/2009

Claiming your child

Several people lately have asked if they can claim their college-age child on their tax return this year.  My students complain that my answer is always “it depends”.  But it does!  If it’s your child, under age 18 (or under 24 if they are a full-time student), they lived with you for more than half the year (temporary absences while away at school don’t count against you), and they did not provide more than half of their own support (more about that in a minute), you can claim them.  There are a few other wrinkles and exceptions but that’s the gist of it.

Support.  Total up everything spent on this person – housing (rent paid or, if you own your home, what it would rent for), food, clothing, entertainment, tuition, medical - everything - and compare it to the person’s income.  You can subtract from the income everything they put in the bank and didn’t spend.  If what’s left of the income is less than half of the expenses you can claim them.

This is not optional.  If you are eligible to claim them (you meet all these tests) they can NOT claim themselves.  Talk to your kids and make sure they understand this before they file their own tax returns.



1/30/2009

The new, First Time Homebuyers Credit allows a refundable credit (you get the money even if you don’t have any tax liability) of up to $7,500.  You can’t have owned a home in the last 3 years, you have to buy a home between April 8, 2008 and July 1, 2009, and your income has to be below certain limits.  Even though they call it a credit, it’s really a no-interest loan because you have to start paying it back after 2 years - $500 each year for 15 years.  There are other restrictions and qualifications (this is the IRS we’re talking about here!)  so check first before you count on this.  And I don’t want to raise false hopes but the new stimulus package that just passed the House (but not yet the Senate) includes a provision that if you buy the house in 2009 (but not 2008) you may not have to pay it back – so it does become a real credit!  Stay tuned!




12/09/2008

Heartland Disaster Tax Relief Act

A new change to the tax law now lifts the cap on charitable contributions to victims of the Midwest floods.  What this really means is that if your income is $50,000, and you gave all of it to charity, normally you could only deduct $25,000 of it in the current year.  Now, if you give that $50,000 to a public charity for disaster relief efforts before 12/31/2008 you can deduct the whole amount!  I’m sure many of us will be able to make use of that provision!