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Thursday, December 6, 2012
December is traditionally a month for giving generously to charities, friends and family. But it’s also a time that can have a major impact on the tax return you’ll file in the New Year. Here are some “Season of Giving” tips from the IRS covering everything from charity donations to refund planning:
Contribute to Qualified Charities. If you plan to take an itemized charitable deduction on your 2012 tax return, your donation must go to a qualified charity by Dec. 31. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit IRS.gov and use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool to check if your favorite charity is a qualified charity. Donations charged to a credit card by Dec. 31 are deductible for 2012, even if you pay the bill in 2013. A gift by check also counts for 2012 as long as you mail it in December. Gifts given to individuals, whether to friends, family or strangers, are not deductible.
What You Can Deduct. You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified charity. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.
Keep Records of All Donations. You need to keep a record of any donations you deduct, regardless of the amount. You must have a written record of all cash contributions to claim a deduction. This may include a cancelled check, bank or credit card statement or payroll deduction record. You can also ask the charity for a written statement that shows the charity’s name, contribution date and amount.
Gather Records in a Safe Place. As long as you’re gathering those records for your charitable contributions, it’s a good time to start rounding up documents you will need to file your tax return in 2013. This includes receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you will claim on your tax return. Be sure to store them in a safe place so you can easily access them later when you file your tax return.
Plan Ahead for Major Purchases. If you are making major purchases during the holiday season, don’t base them solely on the expectation of receiving your tax refund before the bills arrive. Many factors can impact the timing of a tax refund. The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days after receiving a tax return. However, if your tax return requires additional review, it may take longer to receive your refund.
For more information about contributions, check out Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. The booklet is available on IRS.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Thursday, October 25, 2012
The Internal Revenue Service is issuing a warning about a new tax scam that uses a website that mimics the IRS e-Services online registration page.
The actual IRS e-Services page offers web-based products for tax preparers, not the general public. The phony web page looks almost identical to the real one.
The IRS gets many reports of fake websites like this. Criminals use these sites to lure people into providing personal and financial information that may be used to steal the victim’s money or identity.
The address of the official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Don’t be misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.
If you find a suspicious website that claims to be the IRS, send the site’s URL by email to email@example.com. Use the subject line, 'Suspicious website'.
Be aware that 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.
If you get an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS, report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IRS has information at www.irs.gov that can help you protect yourself from tax scams of all kinds. Search the site using the term “phishing.”
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Whether you roll the dice, bet on the ponies, play cards or enjoy slot machines, you should know that as a casual gambler, your gambling winnings are fully taxable and must be reported on your income tax return. You can also deduct your gambling losses…but only up to the extent of your winnings.
Here are five important tips about gambling and taxes:
1. Gambling income includes, but is not limited to, winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, and casinos. It includes cash winnings and the fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips.
2. If you receive a certain amount of gambling winnings or if you have any winnings that are subject to federal tax withholding, the payer is required to issue you a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings. The payer must give you a W-2G if you receive:
- $1,200 or more in gambling winnings from bingo or slot machines;
- $1,500 or more in proceeds (the amount of winnings minus the amount of the wager) from keno;
- More than $5,000 in winnings (reduced by the wager or buy-in) from a poker tournament;
- $600 or more in gambling winnings (except winnings from bingo, keno, slot machines, and poker tournaments) and the payout is at least 300 times the amount of the wager; or
- Any other gambling winnings subject to federal income tax withholding.
3. Generally, you report all gambling winnings on the “Other income” line of Form 1040, U.S. Federal Income Tax Return.
4. You can claim your gambling losses up to the amount of your winnings on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, under ‘Other Miscellaneous Deductions.' You must report the full amount of your winnings as income and claim your allowable losses separately. You cannot reduce your gambling winnings by your gambling losses and report the difference. Your records should also show your winnings separately from your losses.
5. Keep accurate records. If you are going to deduct gambling losses, you must have receipts, tickets, statements and documentation such as a diary or similar record of your losses and winnings. Refer to IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, for more details about the type of information you should write in your diary and what kinds of proof you should retain in your records.
For more information on gambling income and losses, see IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, or Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, both available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Receiving a notice from the Internal Revenue Service is no cause for alarm. Every year the IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers. In the event one shows up in your mailbox, here are eight things you should know.
1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with very simply.
2. There are a number of reasons the IRS sends notices to taxpayers. The notice may request payment of taxes, notify you of a change to your account or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.
3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.
4. If you receive a notice about a correction to your tax return, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
5. If you agree with the correction to your account, usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due.
6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. Respond to the IRS in writing to explain why you disagree. Include any documents and information you wish the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the lower left corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response from the IRS.
7. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right corner of the notice. When you call, have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available.
8. Keep copies of any correspondence with your tax records.
For more information about IRS notices and bills, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. For information about penalties and interest charges, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals. Both publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Monday, August 20, 2012
Contributing money and property are ways that you can support a charitable cause, but in order for your donation to be tax-deductible, certain conditions must be met. Read on for six things the IRS wants taxpayers to know about deductibility of donations.
1. Tax-exempt status. Contributions must be made to qualified charitable organizations to be deductible. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status, or look for it on IRS.gov in the Exempt Organizations Select Check, an online search tool that allows users to select an exempt organization and check certain information about its federal tax status as well as information about tax forms an organization may file that are available for public review. This search tool can also be used to find which charities have had their exempt status automatically revoked.
2. Itemizing. Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.
3. Fair market value. Cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization are usually deductible. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including cars, boats, clothing and household items. If you receive something in return for your donation, such as merchandise, goods, services, admission to a charity banquet or sporting event only the amount exceeding the fair market value of the benefit received can be deducted.
4. Records to keep. You should keep good records of any donation you make, regardless of the amount. All cash contributions must be documented to be deductible – even donations of small amounts. A cancelled check, bank or credit card statement, payroll deduction record or a written statement from the charity that includes the charity’s name, contribution date and amount usually fulfill this record-keeping requirement.
5. Large donations. All contributions valued at $250 and above require additional documentation to be deductible. For these, you should receive a written statement from the charity acknowledging your donation. The statement should specify the amount of cash donated and/or provide a description and fair market value of the property donated. It should also say whether the charity provided any goods or services in exchange for your donation. If you donate non-cash items valued at $500 or more, you must also complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attach the form to your return. If you claim a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000, you typically must obtain a property appraisal and attach it to your return along with Form 8283.
6. Timing. If you pledge to donate to a qualified charity, keep in mind that for most taxpayers contributions are only deductible in the tax year they are actually made. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity just $200 by Dec. 31 of that same year, only $200 of the pledged amount may qualify as tax-deductible for that tax year. End-of-year donations by check or credit card usually qualify as tax-deductible for that tax year, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until after Dec. 31.
Bottom line: your support of a qualified charitable organization may provide you with a money-saving tax deduction, but conditions do apply. For more information, see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, August 17, 2012
If you’ve recently updated your status from single to married, you’re not alone – late spring and summertime is a popular period for weddings. Marriage also brings about some changes with your taxes. Here are several tips for newlyweds from the IRS.
Notify the Social Security Administration It’s important that your name and Social Security number match on your next tax return, so if you’ve taken on a new name, report the change to the Social Security Administration. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The form is available on SSA’s website at www.ssa.gov, by calling 800-772-1213, or visiting a local SSA office.
Notify the IRS if you move IRS Form 8822, Change of Address, is the official way to update the IRS of your address change. Download Form 8822 from IRS.gov or order it by calling 800-TAX-FORM
Notify the U.S. Postal Service To ensure your mail – including mail from the IRS – is forwarded to your new address, you’ll need to notify the U.S. Postal Service. Submit a forwarding request online at www.usps.com or visit your local post office.
Notify your employer Report your name and/or address change to your employer(s) to make sure you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.
Check your withholding If you both work, keep in mind that you and your spouse’s combined income may move you into a higher tax bracket. You can use Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, to help determine the correct amount of withholding for your marital status, and it will also help you complete a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. Fill out and print Form W-4 online and give it to your employer(s) so the correct amount will be withheld from your pay.
Select the right tax form Choose your individual income tax form wisely because it can help save you money. Newlywed taxpayers may find that they now have enough deductions to itemize on their tax returns rather than taking the standard deduction. Itemized deductions must be claimed on a Form 1040, not a 1040A or 1040EZ.
Choose the best filing status A person’s marital status on Dec. 31 determines whether the person is considered married for that year for tax purposes. Tax law generally allows married couples to choose to file their federal income tax return either jointly or separately in any given year. Figuring the tax both ways can determine which filing status will result in the lowest tax, but filing jointly is usually more beneficial.
Bottom line: planning for your wedding may be over, but don’t forget about planning for the tax-related changes that marriage brings. More information about changing your name, address and income tax withholding is available on IRS.gov. IRS forms and publications can be obtained from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Thursday, August 16, 2012
College-bound students and their parents sometimes face last minute requests to complete or provide additional information for financial aid applications.
The Internal Revenue wants to help by minimizing time spent on the completion of the Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). By using the IRS Data Retrieval Tool, applicants can automatically transfer required tax data from their federal tax returns directly to their FAFSA form.
This IRS tool is a free, easy and secure way to access and transfer tax return information onto the FAFSA form. Using the tool saves time, improves accuracy and may reduce the likelihood of the school’s financial aid office requesting that you verify the information.
Here are some tips on using the IRS DRT:
Eligibility Criteria To use the IRS DRT to complete their 2012 -2013 FAFSA form, taxpayers must:
o have filed a federal 2011 tax return,
o possess a valid Social Security Number,
o have a Federal Student Aid PIN (individuals who don’t have a PIN will be given the option to apply for one through the FAFSA application process), and
o have not changed marital status since Dec. 31, 2011.
Exceptions If any of the following conditions apply to the student or parents, the IRS Data Retrieval Tool cannot be used for the 2012 FAFSA application:
o an amended tax return was filed for 2011,
o no federal tax return was filed for 2011,
o the federal tax filing status on the 2011 return is married filing separately or
o a Puerto Rican or other foreign tax return has been filed.
Applicants who cannot use the IRS DRT to meet college requests for verification, may need to obtain an official transcript from the IRS. Transcripts are not available until the IRS has processed the related tax return. To order tax return or tax account transcripts, visit IRS.gov and select "Order a Transcript" or call the toll-free Transcript line at 1-800-908-9946.
In addition, the IRS offers money-saving information for college students and their parents about tax credits and deductions for qualifying tuition, materials and fees.
Monday, July 30, 2012
If you are opening a new business this summer, the IRS has some basic federal tax information to help you get started.
Here are some things to consider when starting a business:
Type of Business One of the first decisions you need to make is what type of business you are going to establish. The most common types of businesses are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S corporation, and Limited Liability Company. The type of business you establish determines which tax forms you will need to file.
Types of Taxes The type of business you operate also determines what types of taxes you will pay and how you will pay them. The four general types of business taxes are income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax and excise tax.
Employer Identification Number A business typically needs to get an Employer Identification Number to use as an identifier for tax purposes. Check IRS.gov to find out whether you will need this number, and, if so, you can apply for an EIN online.
Recordkeeping Good records will help you keep track of deductible expenses, prepare your tax returns and support items that you report on your tax returns. Good records will also help you monitor the progress of your business and prepare your financial statements. You may choose any recordkeeping system that clearly shows your income and expenses.
Tax Year Every business taxpayer must figure taxable income on an annual basis called a tax year. Your tax year can be either a calendar year or a fiscal year.
Accounting Method Each taxpayer must also use a consistent accounting method, which is a set of rules for determining when to report income and expenses. The most commonly used accounting methods are the cash method and accrual method. Under the cash method, you generally report income in the tax year you receive it and deduct expenses in the tax year you pay them. Under an accrual method, you generally report income in the tax year you earn it and deduct expenses in the tax year you incur them.
Visit the IRS.gov website and click on the ‘Businesses’ tab for more information and resources, including a special section on starting a business. Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records, can also help new business owners understand their federal tax responsibilities. The publication is also available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Monday, July 23, 2012
Income that you receive for the rental of your vacation home must generally be reported on your federal income tax return.
However, if you rent the property for only a short time each year, you may not be required to report the rental income.
The IRS offers these tips on reporting rental income from a vacation home such as a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home or boat:
•Rental Income and Expenses Rental income, as well as certain rental expenses that can be deducted, are normally reported on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss.
•Limitation on Vacation Home Rentals When you use a vacation home as your residence and also rent it to others, you must divide the expenses between rental use and personal use, and you may not deduct the rental portion of the expenses in excess of the rental income.
You are considered to use the property as a residence if your personal use is more than 14 days, or more than 10% of the total days it is rented to others if that figure is greater. For example, if you live in your vacation home for 17 days and rent it 160 days during the year, the property is considered used as a residence and your deductible rental expenses would be limited to the amount of rental income.
•Special Rule for Limited Rental Use If you use a vacation home as a residence and rent it for fewer than 15 days per year, you do not have to report any of the rental income. Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, may be used to report regularly deductible personal expenses, such as qualified mortgage interest, property taxes, and casualty losses.
IRS Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes), is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). The booklet offers more information about rental property, including special rules about personal use and how to report rental income and expenses.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
Summertime is the season that often leads to major life decisions, such as buying a home, moving or a job change. If you are looking for a new job that is in the same line of work, you may be able to deduct some of your job hunting expenses on your federal income tax return.
Here are seven things the IRS wants you to know about deducting costs related to your job search:
1. To qualify for a deduction, your expenses must be spent on a job search in your current occupation. You may not deduct expenses you incur while looking for a job in a new occupation.
2. You can deduct employment and outplacement agency fees you pay while looking for a job in your present occupation. If your employer pays you back in a later year for employment agency fees, you must include the amount you received in your gross income, up to the amount of your tax benefit in the earlier year.
3. You can deduct amounts you spend for preparing and mailing copies of your résumé to prospective employers as long as you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.
4. If you travel to look for a new job in your present occupation, you may be able to deduct travel expenses to and from the area to which you travelled. You can only deduct the travel expenses if the trip is primarily to look for a new job. The amount of time you spend on personal activity unrelated to your job search compared to the amount of time you spend looking for work is important in determining whether the trip is primarily personal or is primarily to look for a new job.
5. You cannot deduct your job search expenses if there was a substantial break between the end of your last job and the time you begin looking for a new one.
6. You cannot deduct job search expenses if you are looking for a job for the first time.
7. The amount of job search expenses that you can claim is limited. To determine your deduction, use Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Job search expenses are claimed as a miscellaneous itemized deduction and the total of all miscellaneous deductions must be more than two percent of your adjusted gross income.
For more information about job search expenses, see IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. This publication is available on www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Tuesday, July 17, 2012
You will need to fill out the IRS Identity Theft Affidavit, Form 14039. Please be sure to write legibly and follow the instructions on the back of the form.
Here are other places that can assist identity theft victims.
Federal Trade Commission: You may also use the FTC's Complaint Assistant
Social Security Administration: Actions to take in the case of identity theft
Internet Crime Complaint Center: IC3 is a partnership among the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National White Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance.
Friday, June 29, 2012
Từ miễn phí vắc-xin cho trẻ em, thuốc rẻ hơn cho người cao tuổi và nhiều lợi ích khác của pháp luật chăm sóc sức khỏe của Tổng thống Barack Obama đã có. Đến, quyền được bảo đảm mua bảo hiểm y tế ngay cả đối với những bệnh nhân với nhiều vấn đề
sức khỏe nghiêm trọng. Nhiều doanh nghiệp và người nộp thuế giàu có, tuy nhiên, sẽ thấy chi phí của họ tăng lên.
Và hầu hết người Mỹ do dự ý tưởng của chính phủ làm cho mọi người mua bảo hiểm hoặc phải trả tiền phạt trên tờ khai thuế liên bang của họ.
Phán quyết này ảnh hưởng đến hầu như mọi người Mỹ. Luật chăm sóc sức khỏe của Obama đề xuất hầu như tất cả mọi người phải được bảo hiểm, và đảm bảo rằng bảo hiểm sẽ có sẵn cho họ ngay cả khi họ đã bị bệnh hoặc cần được chăm sóc cực kỳ đắt tiền. Nó giúp người nghèo và tầng lớp trung lưu đủ khả năng chi phí. Và nó đòi hỏi doanh nghiệp bảo hiểm cung cấp các lợi ích cơ bản nhất định, giống như chăm sóc phòng ngừa không đồng chi trả (without co-pays) từ bệnh nhân. Hiện nay các tòa án tán thành hầu như tất cả các quy định của pháp luật, bao gồm cả các tranh chấp nhất: yêu cầu mà hầu như tất cả người Mỹ có bảo hiểm y tế hoặc phải trả tiền phạt. Tòa án cho biết hình phạt chủ yếu là thuế, và đó là lý do tại sao chính phủ có sức mạnh để áp đặt nó.
Doanh nghiệp bảo hiểm sẽ bị cấm từ chối bảo hiểm cho người dân với các vấn đề y tế hoặc tính phí những người này cao hơn. Họ sẽ không thể tính phí phụ nữ nhiều hơn nam giới. Trong quá trình chuyển đổi đến năm 2014, một chương trình đặc biệt cho những người đã có trước vấn đề sức khỏe, sẽ giúp những người này nhận được bảo hiểm.
Monday, June 11, 2012
Hurricane season has started and the IRS encourages individuals and businesses to safeguard their tax records against natural disasters by taking a few simple steps.
Here are four tips from the IRS to help you prepare in case a disaster strikes.
1. Backup records electronically Taxpayers should keep a set of backup records in a safe place away from the original set. Keeping a backup set of records, bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, etc is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically. Even if the original record is only available on paper, it can be scanned into an electronic format. With documents in electronic form, taxpayers can download them to a portable backup storage device such as an external hard drive, CD or DVD that you can take with you in the event that you need to evacuate.
2. Document valuables Taxpayers should photograph or videotape the contents of their home, especially items of higher value. A photographic record can help an individual prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims. Photos should be stored at an outside location.
To document your valuables, the IRS has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster and Theft Loss Workbook, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings.
3. Update Emergency Plans Emergency plans should be reviewed at least once a year. Personal and business situations change over time as do preparedness needs. When employers hire new employees or when a company changes functions, plans should be updated and employees should be informed.
4. IRS Ready to Help If a disaster strikes, affected taxpayers can call 1-866-562-5227 to speak with IRS specialists trained to handle disaster-related issues. Taxpayers can request copies of previously-filed tax returns by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. Taxpayers can also request transcripts showing most line items on a return online at IRS.gov, by calling 1-800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Return.
More information on preparing for disasters can be found at IRS.gov. Forms and publications can be downloaded at IRS.gov or ordered by calling 1-800-829-3676.
Tuesday, May 22, 2012
IR-2012-53, May 21, 2012
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced another expansion of its "Fresh Start" initiative by offering more flexible terms to its Offer in Compromise (OIC) program that will enable some of the most financially distressed taxpayers to clear up their tax problems and in many cases more quickly than in the past.
"This phase of Fresh Start will assist some taxpayers who have faced the most financial hardship in recent years," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. "It is part of our multiyear effort to help taxpayers who are struggling to make ends meet."
Today’s announcement focuses on the financial analysis used to determine which taxpayers qualify for an OIC. This announcement also enables some taxpayers to resolve their tax problems in as little as two years compared to four or five years in the past.
In certain circumstances, the changes announced today include:
Revising the calculation for the taxpayer’s future income.
Allowing taxpayers to repay their student loans.
Allowing taxpayers to pay state and local delinquent taxes.
Expanding the Allowable Living Expense allowance category and amount.
In general, an OIC is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. An OIC is generally not accepted if the IRS believes the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or a through payment agreement. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination of the taxpayer’s reasonable collection potential. OICs are subject to acceptance on legal requirements.
The IRS recognizes that many taxpayers are still struggling to pay their bills so the agency has been working to put in place common-sense changes to the OIC program to more closely reflect real-world situations.
When the IRS calculates a taxpayer’s reasonable collection potential, it will now look at only one year of future income for offers paid in five or fewer months, down from four years, and two years of future income for offers paid in six to 24 months, down from five years. All offers must be fully paid within 24 months of the date the offer is accepted. The Form 656-B, Offer in Compromise Booklet, and Form 656, Offer in Compromise, has been revised to reflect the changes.
Other changes to the program include narrowed parameters and clarification of when a dissipated asset will be included in the calculation of reasonable collection potential. In addition, equity in income producing assets generally will not be included in the calculation of reasonable collection potential for on-going businesses.
Allowable Living Expenses
The Allowable Living Expense standards are used in cases requiring financial analysis to determine a taxpayer’s ability to pay. The standard allowances provide consistency and fairness in collection determinations by incorporating average expenditures for basic necessities for citizens in similar geographic areas. These standards are used when evaluating installment agreement and offer in compromise requests.
The National Standard miscellaneous allowance has been expanded to include additional items. Taxpayers can use the miscellaneous allowance for expenses such as credit card payments and bank fees and charges.
Guidance has also been clarified to allow payments for loans guaranteed by the federal government for the taxpayer's post-high school education. In addition, payments for delinquent state and local taxes may be allowed based on percentage basis of tax owed to the state and IRS.
This is another in a series of steps to help struggling taxpayers under the Fresh Start initiative.
In 2008, IRS announced lien relief for taxpayers trying to refinance or sell a home. The IRS added new flexibility for taxpayers facing payment or collection problems in 2009. The IRS made changes to lien policies in 2011 and expanded the threshold for small businesses to resolve tax issues through installment agreements. And, earlier this year, the IRS increased the threshold for a streamlined installment agreement allowing individual taxpayers to set up an installment agreement without providing a significant amount of financial information.
Friday, April 13, 2012
If you discover an error on your federal income tax return after you e-filed or mailed it, you may want or need to amend your return. Perhaps you are eligible for a deduction or credit and you missed it the first time?
Here are eight key points the IRS wants you to know about when considering whether to file an amended federal income tax return.
1. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to file an amended income tax return.
2. Use Form 1040X to correct previously filed Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. An amended return cannot be e-filed; you must file it by paper.
3. Generally, you do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors. The IRS will automatically make that correction. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will send a request asking for those.
4. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. Generally, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
5. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS campus. The 1040X instructions list the addresses for the campuses.
6. If the changes involve another schedule or form, you must attach that schedule or form to the amended return.
7. If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X. You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund.
8. If you owe additional 2011 tax, file Form 1040X and pay the tax before the due date to limit interest and penalty charges that could accrue on your account. Interest is charged on any tax not paid by the due date of the original return, without regard to extensions.
Friday, April 6, 2012
If you need to make a payment with your tax return this year, the IRS wants you to know about its payment options. Here are 10 important facts to help you make your tax payment correctly.
1. Never send cash!
2. If you file electronically, you can file and pay in a single step by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal via tax preparation software or a tax professional.
3. Whether you file a paper return or electronically, you can pay by phone or online using a credit or debit card.
4. Electronic payment options provide an alternative to checks or money orders. You can pay taxes or user fees 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov and search e-pay, or refer to Publication 3611, Electronic Payments for more details.
5. If you itemize, you may be able to deduct the convenience fee charged for paying individual income taxes with a credit or debit card as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Form 1040, Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The deduction is subject to the 2 percent limit.
6. If you file on paper, you can enclose your payment with your return but do not staple it to the form.
7. If you pay by check or money order, make sure it is payable to the “United States Treasury.”
8. Always provide on the front of your check or money order your correct name, address, Social Security number listed first on the tax form, daytime telephone number, tax year and form number.
9. Complete and include Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, when mailing your payment to the IRS. Double-check the IRS mailing address. This will help the IRS process your payment accurately and efficiently.
10. For more information, call 800-829-4477 and select TeleTax Topic 158, Ensuring Proper Credit of Payments. You can also find out more in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax and Form 1040-V, both available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
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.
Friday, March 30, 2012
If you gave money or property to someone as a gift, you may owe federal gift tax. Many gifts are not subject to the gift tax, but the IRS offers the following eight tips about gifts and the gift tax.
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 2011 and 2012, 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 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 do not exceed 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. 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. 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.
For more information see Publication 950, Introduction to Estate and Gift Taxes. Both Form 709 and Publication 950 are available at www.IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
You may be an injured spouse if you file a joint tax return and all or part of your portion of a refund was, or is expected to be, applied to your spouse’s legally enforceable past due financial obligations.
Here are seven facts about claiming injured spouse relief:
1. To be considered an injured spouse; you must have paid federal income tax or claimed a refundable tax credit, such as the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on the joint return, and not be legally obligated to pay the past-due debt.
2. Special rules apply in community property states. For more information about the factors used to determine whether you are subject to community property laws, see IRS Publication 555, Community Property.
3. If you filed a joint return and you're not responsible for the debt, but you are entitled to a portion of the refund, you may request your portion of the refund by filing Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.
4. You may file form 8379 along with your original tax return or your may file it by itself after you receive an IRS notice about the offset.
5. You can file Form 8379 electronically. If you file a paper tax return you can include Form 8379 with your return, write "INJURED SPOUSE" at the top left of the Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. IRS will process your allocation request before an offset occurs.
6. If you are filing Form 8379 by itself, it must show both spouses' Social Security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. You, the "injured" spouse, must sign the form.
7. Do not use Form 8379 if you are claiming innocent spouse relief. Instead, file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief. This relief from a joint liability applies only in certain limited circumstances. However, in 2011 the IRS eliminated the two-year time limit that applies to certain relief requests. IRS Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief, explains who may qualify, and how to request this relief.
For complete information on Injured and Innocent Spouse Tax Relief, visit IRS.gov
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Tax preparation doesn't need to give you a headache. There are several ways to make it easier on yourself. The IRS offers six tips to help make your tax-filing experience a breeze this year.
1. Don’t procrastinate. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the very last minute. Rushing to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error.
2. Visit the IRS website. More than 322 million visits were made to www.irs.gov in 2011. Make “1040 Central” your first stop to check for the latest news and find answers to your questions about tax filing.
3. Use Free File. Let Free File do the hard work with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It's available exclusively at www.irs.gov. Everyone can find an option to prepare their tax return and e-file it for free. If you made $57,000 or less, you qualify for free tax software that is offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more than $57,000 and/or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile for options.
4. Try IRS e-file. Last year, 79 percent of taxpayers - 106 million people - used IRS e-file, which is the safest, easiest and most common way to file a tax return. If you owe taxes, you can file immediately and pay later (by the April 17 tax deadline). Best of all, when you combine e-file with direct deposit the IRS can generally issue your refund in as few as 10 days.
5. Don’t panic if you can’t pay. If you can’t pay the full amount of taxes you owe by the mid-April deadline, you should still file your return by the deadline and pay as much as you can to avoid penalties and interest. More than 75 percent of taxpayers eligible for an Installment Agreement can apply using the web-based Online Payment Agreement application available at www.irs.gov. To find out more about this simple and convenient process, type “Online Payment Agreement” in the search box at www.irs.gov. You can also contact the IRS to discuss your payment options.
6. Request an extension of time to file – but pay on time. If the deadline clock is ticking, you can get an automatic six-month extension through Oct. 15. However, this extension of time to file, which must be filed or postmarked by the April 17 deadline, does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. If you have not paid at least 90 percent of the total tax due by the April deadline you may also be subject to an estimated tax penalty. You can obtain an extension through Free File at www.irs.gov/freefile. Or, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, available for downloading at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to have a paper form mailed to you. Allow at least 10 days for mailed forms and publications.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
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 includeadding 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 can not 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.
You can find Form 5695 at IRS.gov or order it by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, March 2, 2012
If you paid expenses to adopt an eligible child in 2011, you may be able to claim a tax credit of up to $13,360.
Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about the expanded adoption credit.
1. The Affordable Care Act increased the amount of the credit and made it refundable, which means you can get the credit as a tax refund even after your tax liability has been reduced to zero.
2. For tax year 2011, you must file a paper tax return, Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses, and attach documents supporting the adoption. Taxpayers claiming the credit will still be able to use IRS Free File or other software to prepare their returns, but the returns must be printed and mailed to the IRS, along with all required documentation.
3. Documents may include a final adoption decree, placement agreement from an authorized agency, court documents and/or the state’s determination for special needs children.
4. Qualified adoption expenses are reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the legal adoption of the child. These expenses may include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and travel expenses.
5. An eligible child must be under 18 years old, or physically or mentally incapable of caring for himself or herself.
6. If your modified adjusted gross income is more than $185,210, your credit is reduced. If your modified AGI is $225,210 or more, you cannot take the credit.
For more information see the Adoption Credit FAQ page available at www.irs.gov or the instructions to IRS Form 8839, which can be downloaded from the website or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Thursday, March 1, 2012
A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed. Some tax credits are refundable meaning if you are eligible and claim one, you can get the rest of it in the form of a tax refund even after your tax liability has been reduced to zero.
Here are four refundable tax credits you should consider to increase your refund on your 2011 federal income tax return:
1. The Earned Income Tax Credit is for people earning less than $49,078 from wages, self-employment or farming. Millions of workers who saw their earnings drop in 2011 may qualify for the first time. Income, age and the number of qualifying children determine the amount of the credit, which can be up to $5,751. Workers without children also may qualify. For more information, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit.
2. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is for expenses paid for the care of your qualifying children under age 13, or for a disabled spouse or dependent, while you work or look for work. For more information, see IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
3. The Child Tax Credit is for people who have a qualifying child. The maximum credit is $1,000 for each qualifying child. You can claim this credit in addition to the Child and Dependent Care Credit. For more information on the Child Tax Credit, see IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.
4. The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, also known as the Saver’s Credit, is designed to help low-to-moderate income workers save for retirement. You may qualify if your income is below a certain limit and you contribute to an IRA or workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan. The Saver’s Credit is available in addition to any other tax savings that apply. For more information, see IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).
There are many other tax credits that may be available to you depending on your facts and circumstances. Since many qualifications and limitations apply to various tax credits, you should carefully check your tax form instructions, the listed publications and additional information available at www.irs.gov. IRS forms and publications are available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov and by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Free tax return preparation assistance is available for eligible military members and their spouses. The IRS and U.S. Armed Forces participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, which provides free tax advice, tax preparation, return filing and other tax assistance to military members and their families.
Here are five things you need to know about free military tax assistance:
1. Armed Forces Tax Council The Armed Forces Tax Council oversees the operation of the military tax programs worldwide, conducting outreach with the IRS to military personnel and their families. The AFTC consists of tax program coordinators for the Marine Corps, Air Force, Army, Navy and Coast Guard.
2. Volunteer tax sites Volunteer assistors at military-based VITA sites are trained to address military-specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits and the Earned Income Tax Credit guidelines.
3. What to bring To receive free tax assistance, bring the following records to your military VITA site:
- Valid photo identification
- Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration
- Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents
- Wage and earning statement(s) like Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R
- Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099)
- A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available
- Checkbook for routing and account numbers for direct deposit
- Total amount paid for day care and day care provider’s identifying number
- Other relevant information about income and expenses
4. Joint returns If your filing status is Married Filing Jointly and you wish to file your tax return electronically, both you and your spouse should be present to sign the required forms. If it isn’t possible for both of you to be present, a valid power of attorney that allows tax preparation can be used to sign and file the return.
5. Special exception There is a special exception to using a power of attorney for spouses in combat zones. The exception allows the filing spouse to e-file a joint return with only a written statement stating the other spouse is in a combat zone and unable to sign.
For more information, review IRS Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, available on the IRS Web site at www.irs.gov or order a free copy by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
Canceled debt is normally taxable to you, but there are exceptions. One of those exceptions is available to homeowners whose mortgage debt is partly or entirely forgiven during tax years 2007 through 2012.
The IRS would like you to know these 10 facts 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 www.irs.gov. IRS Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments, is also an excellent resource.
You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant available on the IRS website to determine if your cancelled debt is taxable. The ITA takes you through a series of questions and provides you with responses to tax law questions.
Finally, you may obtain copies of IRS publications and forms either by downloading them from www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Monday, February 27, 2012
The IRS offers free assistance by computer, telephone and in person. The easiest and fastest way to get free tax help is through the IRS website – www.irs.gov. The IRS can also help find free tax preparation sites for those who qualify. Here are four easy ways to get the help you need to file your tax return.
1. IRS website The IRS website at www.irs.gov is a one-stop shop for a wide array of tax information. You can even prepare and file your federal tax return – for free – through Free File, a service offered by IRS and its partners who offer free tax preparation software and free electronic filing. But you must go through www.irs.gov to use Free File. Have some tax questions? Check out 1040 Central on the Individuals page for the latest news. You can even check the status of your refund with Where’s My Refund?
2. Community resources Free tax preparation is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs in many communities. Volunteer return preparation programs are provided through partnerships between the IRS and community based organizations. They offer free help in preparing simple tax returns for low-to-moderate-income taxpayers. To find a site near you, visit www.irs.gov, or call 800-906-9887. Qualified taxpayers (age 60 or older) can also find help at a local TCE site by visiting www.aarp.org or calling 888-227-7669.
3. Telephone Call the IRS Tax Help Line for Individuals, 800-829-1040, to get answers to your federal tax questions, To hear pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics or to check the status of your refund, call 800-829-4477. To order free forms, instructions and publications, call 800-829-3676. TTY/TDD users may call 800-829-4059 to ask tax questins or to order forms and publications.
4. Taxpayer Assistance Centers When you believe your tax issue cannot be handled online or by phone and you want face-to-face assistance, you can find help at a local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Locations, business hours and an overview of services are available at www.irs.gov. Just go to the Individuals tab and click on the Contact My Local Office link on the left under IRS Resources.
Even though the IRS offers many options for assistance, remember the easiest and fastest way to get help is through the IRS website – www.irs.gov.
For more information about free services provided by the IRS, review Publication 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, February 24, 2012
Two federal tax credits may 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 either the parent or the student, but not both. If the student was claimed as a dependent, the student cannot file for the credit.
For each student, you may 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 spouse's graduate school tuition.
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 postsecondary 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, coursed related books supplies and equipment.
- The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is 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 whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $60,000 or $120,000 for married couples filing a joint return.
If you don't qualify for these education credits, you may qualify for the tuition and fees deduction, which can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000. However, you cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.
For more information about these tax benefits, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education available at www.irs.gov or by calling the IRS forms and publications order line at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Thursday, February 23, 2012
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, depending on your age and income.
Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about the Savers Credit:
1. Income limits The Savers Credit, formally known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, applies to individuals with a filing status and 2011 income of:
- Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er), with income up to $28,250
- Head of Household with income up to $42,375
- Married Filing Jointly, with incomes up to $56,500
2. Eligibility requirements To be eligible for the credit you must be at least 18 years of age, 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 ($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 distributions you received from your retirement plans from the contributions you 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 you may receive for 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.
For more information, review IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), Publication 4703, Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, and Form 8880. Publications and forms can be downloaded at www.irs.gov or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Taxpayers may sometimes find themselves in situations when they need to withdraw money from their retirement plan early. What they may not realize is that that transaction may mean a tax impact when they file their return.
Here are 10 facts from the IRS about the tax implications of an early distribution from your retirement plan.
1. Payments you receive from your Individual Retirement Arrangement before you reach age 59 ½ are generally considered early or premature distributions.
2. Early distributions are usually subject to an additional 10 percent tax.
3. Early distributions must also be reported to the IRS.
4. Distributions you roll over to another IRA or qualified retirement plan are not subject to the additional 10 percent tax. You must complete the rollover within 60 days after the day you received the distribution.
5. The amount you roll over is generally taxed when the new plan makes a distribution to you or your beneficiary.
6. If you made nondeductible contributions to an IRA and later take early distributions from your IRA, the portion of the distribution attributable to those nondeductible contributions is not taxed.
7. If you received an early distribution from a Roth IRA, the distribution attributable to your prior contributions is not taxed.
8. If you received a distribution from any other qualified retirement plan, generally the entire distribution is taxable unless you made after-tax employee contributions to the plan.
9. There are several exceptions to the additional 10 percent early distribution tax, such as when the distributions are used for the purchase of a first home (up to $10,000), for certain medical or educational expenses, or if you are totally and permanently disabled.
10. For more information about early distributions from retirement plans, the additional 10 percent tax and all the exceptions, see IRS Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income and Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). Both publications are available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, February 17, 2012
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 email@example.com.
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.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Millions of taxpayers qualify for free tax preparation assistance from IRS-sponsored community-based, volunteer programs.
Here are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about these volunteer programs.
1. The IRS sponsors both the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs.
2. The IRS VITA program offers free tax help to people who earn less than $50,000. Most locations offer free electronic filing.
3. The TCE program offers free tax help to people who are age 60 or older.
4. The IRS certifies community volunteers so they can help eligible persons with tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, the Child Tax Credit and the Credit for the Elderly.
5. Some volunteer sites have language specialists to assist people with limited English proficiency.
6. More than 12,000 free tax preparation sites are open nationwide this year as the IRS continues to expand its partnerships with nonprofit and community organizations performing these vital tax preparation services.
7. As part of the TCE program, AARP operates the Tax-Aide free tax preparation program during the filing season. Trained and certified AARP Tax-Aide volunteers help taxpayers with low-to-moderate income, with special attention paid to those 60 and older.
8. IRS partners with the military to provide free tax assistance to military personnel and their families. The Armed Forces Tax Council consists of the tax program coordinators for the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. Volunteers are trained and equipped to address military-specific tax issues, such as combat zone tax benefits.
9. Taxpayers can typically find locations and hours for these volunteer tax preparation services through city information hotlines and local community organizations.
10. Local VITA site information is also available through a new online tool on the IRS Website - www.irs.gov Taxpayers can search the word “VITA” in IRS.gov and click on the option “Free Tax Return Preparation For You by Volunteers,” followed by ”Find a VITA site near you” to access the tool. Site information is also available by calling the IRS toll-free number 1-800-906-9887. To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, visit www.aarp.org or call 1-888-227-7669.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
Unemployment can be stressful enough without having to figure out the tax treatment of the unemployment benefits you receive.
Unemployment compensation generally includes, among other forms, state unemployment compensation benefits, but the tax implications depend on the type of program paying the benefits. You must report unemployment compensation on line 19 of Form 1040, line 13 of Form 1040A, or line 3 of Form 1040EZ.
Here are four tips from the IRS about unemployment benefits.
1. You must include all unemployment compensation you receive in your total income for the year. You should receive a Form 1099-G, with the total unemployment compensation paid to you shown in box 1.
2. Other types of unemployment benefits include:
- Benefits paid by a state or the District of Columbia from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
- Railroad unemployment compensation benefits
- Disability payments from a government program paid as a substitute for unemployment compensation
- Trade readjustment allowances under the Trade Act of 1974
- Unemployment assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act
For complete information on each of the benefits listed, see chapter 12 in IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, or Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.
3. You must report benefits paid to you as an unemployed member of a union from regular union dues. However, if you contribute to a special union fund and your payments to the fund are not deductible, you only need to include in your income the unemployment benefits that exceed the amount of your contributions.
4. You can choose to have federal income tax withheld from your unemployment compensation. To make this choice, complete Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request, and give it to the paying office. Tax will be withheld at 10 percent of your payment. If you choose not to have tax withheld, you may have to make estimated tax payments throughout the year.
For more information on unemployment compensation see IRS Publications 17 and 525. Forms and publications can be downloaded from the IRS Website at www.irs.gov or can be ordered by calling 1-800-829-3676.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
If you, your spouse or dependents had significant medical or dental costs in 2011, you may be able to deduct those expenses when you file your tax return. Here are eight things the IRS wants you to know about medical and dental expenses and other benefits.
1. You must itemize You deduct qualifying medical and dental expenses if you itemize on Form 1040, Schedule A.
2. Deduction is limited You can deduct total medical care expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income for the year. You figure this on Form 1040, Schedule A.
3. Expenses must have been paid in the tax year You can include the medical and dental expenses you paid during the year, regardless of when the services were provided. You’ll need to have good receipts or records to substantiate your expenses.
4. You can’t deduct reimbursed expenses Your total medical expenses for the year must be reduced by any reimbursement. Normally, it makes no difference if you receive the reimbursement or if it is paid directly to the doctor or hospital.
5. Whose expenses qualify You may include qualified medical expenses you pay for yourself, your spouse and your dependents. Some exceptions and special rules apply to divorced or separated parents, taxpayers with a multiple support agreement or those with a qualifying relative who is not your child.
6. Types of expenses that qualify You can deduct expenses primarily paid for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment or prevention of disease, or treatment affecting any structure or function of the body. For drugs, you can only deduct prescription medication and insulin. You can also include premiums for medical, dental and some long-term care insurance in your expenses. Starting in 2011, you can also include lactation supplies.
7. Transportation costs may qualify You may deduct transportation costs primarily for and essential to medical care that qualify as medical expenses. You can deduct the actual fare for a taxi, bus, train, plane or ambulance as well as tolls and parking fees. If you use your car for medical transportation, you can deduct actual out-of-pocket expenses such as gas and oil, or you can deduct the standard mileage rate for medical expenses, which is 19 cents per mile for 2011.
8. Tax-favored saving for medical expenses Distributions from Health Savings Accounts and withdrawals from Flexible Spending Arrangements may be tax free if used to pay qualified medical expenses including prescription medication and insulin.
For additional information, see Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses or Publication 969, Health Savings Accounts and Other Tax-Favored Health Plans, available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Monday, February 13, 2012
The Child Tax Credit is available to eligible taxpayers with qualifying children under age 17. The IRS would like you to know these eleven facts about the child tax credit.
1. Amount With the Child Tax Credit, you may be able to reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under age 17.
2. Qualification A qualifying child for this credit is someone who meets the qualifying criteria of seven tests: age, relationship, support, dependent, joint return, citizenship and residence.
3. Age test To qualify, a child must have been under age 17 – age 16 or younger – at the end of 2011.
4. Relationship test To claim a child for purposes of the Child Tax Credit, the child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of these individuals, which includes your grandchild, niece or nephew. An adopted child is always treated as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
5. Support test In order to claim a child for this credit, the child must not have provided more than half of his/her own support.
6. Dependent test You must claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return.
7. Joint return test The qualifying child can not file a joint return for the year (or files it only as a claim for refund).
8. Citizenship test To meet the citizenship test, the child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien.
9. Residence test The child must have lived with you for more than half of 2011. There are some exceptions to the residence test, found in IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.
10. Limitations The credit is limited if your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. The amount at which this phase-out begins varies by filing status. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the phase-out begins at $110,000. For married taxpayers filing a separate return, it begins at $55,000. For all other taxpayers, the phase-out begins at $75,000. In addition, the Child Tax Credit is generally limited by the amount of the income tax and any alternative minimum tax you owe.
11. Additional Child Tax Credit If the amount of your Child Tax Credit is greater than the amount of income tax you owe, you may be able to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit.
For more information, see IRS Publication 972, available at www.IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant on the IRS website to determine if you’re eligible for the Child Tax Credit. The ITA is a tax law resource that takes you through a series of questions and provides you with responses to tax law questions.