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Tuesday, February 26, 2013
If you were married or divorced and changed your name last year, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration before you file your taxes with the IRS. If the name on your tax return doesn’t match SSA records, the IRS will flag it as an error and that may delay your refund.
Here are five tips for a person whose name has changed. They also apply if your dependent’s name has changed.
1. If you have married and you’re using your new spouse’s last name or you’ve hyphenated your last name, notify the SSA. That way, the IRS computers can match your new name with your Social Security number.
2. If you were divorced and are now using your former last name, notify the SSA of your name change.
3. Letting the SSA know about a name change is easy. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, at your local SSA office or by mail with proof of your legal name change.
4. You can get Form SS-5 on the SSA’s website at www.ssa.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or at local SSA offices. Your new card will have the same number as your former card but will show your new name.
5. If you adopted your new spouse’s children and their names changed, you'll need to update their names with SSA too. For adopted children without SSNs, the parents can apply for an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions, with the IRS. The ATIN is a temporary number used in place of an SSN on the tax return. Form W-7A is available on the IRS.gov website or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, February 22, 2013
The IRS receives thousands of reports every year from taxpayers who receive emails out-of-the-blue claiming to be from the IRS. Scammers use the IRS name or logo to make the message appear authentic so you will respond to it. In reality, it’s a scam known as “phishing,” attempting to trick you into revealing your personal and financial information. The criminals then use this information to commit identity theft or steal your money.
The IRS has this advice for anyone who receives an email claiming to be from the IRS or directing you to an IRS site:
- Do not reply to the message;
- Do not open any attachments. Attachments may contain malicious code that will infect your computer; and
- Do not click on any links in a suspicious email or phishing website and do not enter confidential information. Visit the IRS website and click on 'Identity Theft' at the bottom of the page for more information.
Here are five other key points the IRS wants you to know about phishing scams.
1. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email or social media channels to request personal or financial information;
2. The IRS never asks for detailed personal and financial information like PIN numbers, passwords or similar secret access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts;
3. The address of the official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Do not be misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or anything other than .gov. If you discover a website that claims to be the IRS but you suspect it is bogus, do not provide any personal information on their site and report it to the IRS;
4. If you receive a phone call, fax or letter in the mail from an individual claiming to be from the IRS but you suspect they are not an IRS employee, contact the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 to determine if the IRS has a legitimate need to contact you. Report any bogus correspondence. Forward a suspicious email to email@example.com;
5. You can help the IRS and other law enforcement agencies shut down these schemes. Visit the IRS.gov website to get details on how to report scams and helpful resources if you are the victim of a scam. Click on "Reporting Phishing" at the bottom of the page.
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Most types of income are taxable, but some are not. Income can include money, property or services that you receive. Here are some examples of income that are usually not taxable:
- Child support payments;
- Gifts, bequests and inheritances;
- Welfare benefits;
- Damage awards for physical injury or sickness;
- Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy; and
- Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses.
Some income is not taxable except under certain conditions. Examples include:
- Life insurance proceeds paid to you because of an insured person’s death are usually not taxable. However, if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
- Income you get from a qualified scholarship is normally not taxable. Amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required course books, are not taxable. However, amounts used for room and board are taxable.
All income, such as wages and tips, is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it. This includes non-cash income from bartering - the exchange of property or services. Both parties must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return.
If you received a refund, credit or offset of state or local income taxes in 2012, you may be required to report this amount. If you did not receive a 2012 Form 1099-G, check with the government agency that made the payments to you. That agency may have made the form available only in an electronic format. You will need to get instructions from the agency to retrieve this document. Report any taxable refund you received even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.
For more information and examples, see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income. The booklet is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM
Monday, February 11, 2013
Your children may help you qualify for valuable tax benefits, such as certain credits and deductions. If you are a parent, here are eight benefits you shouldn’t miss when filing taxes this year.
1. Dependents. In most cases, you can claim a child as a dependent even if your child was born anytime in 2012. For more information, see IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information.
2. Child Tax Credit. You may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit for each of your children that were under age 17 at the end of 2012. If you do not benefit from the full amount of the credit, you may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit. For more information, see the instructions for Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, and Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.
3. Child and Dependent Care Credit. You may be able to claim this credit if you paid someone to care for your child or children under age 13, so that you could work or look for work. See IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
4. Earned Income Tax Credit. If you worked but earned less than $50,270 last year, you may qualify for EITC. If you have qualifying children, you may get up to $5,891 dollars extra back when you file a return and claim it. Use the EITC Assistant to find out if you qualify. See Publication 596, Earned Income Tax Credit.
5. Adoption Credit. You may be able to take a tax credit for certain expenses you incurred to adopt a child. For details about this credit, see the instructions for IRS Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses.
6. Higher education credits. If you paid higher education costs for yourself or another student who is an immediate family member, you may qualify for either the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. Both credits may reduce the amount of tax you owe. If the American Opportunity Credit is more than the tax you owe, you could be eligible for a refund of up to $1,000. See IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.
7. Student loan interest. You may be able to deduct interest you paid on a qualified student loan, even if you do not itemize your deductions. For more information, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.
8. Self-employed health insurance deduction - If you were self-employed and paid for health insurance, you may be able to deduct premiums you paid to cover your child. It applies to children under age 27 at the end of the year, even if not your dependent. See IRS.gov/aca for information on the Affordable Care Act.
Forms and publications on these topics are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, February 8, 2013
It’s a good idea to have all your tax documents together before preparing your 2012 tax return. You will need your W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, which employers should send by the end of January. Give it two weeks to arrive by mail.
If you have not received your W-2, follow these three steps:
1. Contact your employer first. Ask your employer – or former employer – to send your W-2 if it has not already been sent. Make sure your employer has your correct address.
2. Contact the IRS. After February 14, you may call the IRS at 800-829-1040 if you have not yet received your W-2. Be prepared to provide your name, address, Social Security number and phone number. You should also have the following information when you call:
• Your employer’s name, address and phone number;
• Your employment dates; and
• An estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld in 2012, based upon your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if available.
3. File your return on time. You should still file your tax return on or before April 15, 2013, even if you have not yet received your W-2. File Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, in place of the W-2. Use the form to estimate your income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible. The IRS may delay processing your return while it verifies your information.
If you need more time to file you can get a six-month extension of time. File Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File US Individual Income Tax Return. If you are requesting an extension, you must file this form on or before April 15, 2013.
If you receive the missing W-2 after filing your tax return and the information on the W-2 is different from what you reported using Form 4852, then you must correct your tax return. File Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to amend your tax return.
Forms and instructions are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Thursday, February 7, 2013
While each individual tax return is unique, there are some tax rules that affect every person who files a federal income tax return. These rules involve dependents and exemptions. The IRS has six important facts about dependents and exemptions that will help you file your 2012 tax return.
1. Exemptions reduce taxable income. There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. You can deduct $3,800 for each exemption you claim on your 2012 tax return.
2. Personal exemptions. You usually may claim one exemption for yourself on your tax return. You also can claim one for your spouse if you are married and file a joint return. If you and your spouse file separate returns, you may claim the exemption for your spouse only if he or she had no gross income, is not filing a joint return and was not the dependent of another taxpayer.
3. Exemptions for dependents. Generally, you can claim an exemption for each of your dependents. A dependent is either your qualifying child or qualifying relative. If you are married, you may not claim your spouse as your dependent. You must list the Social Security Number of each dependent you claim on your return. See Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, for information about dependents who do not have Social Security numbers.
4. Some people do not qualify as dependents. While there are some exceptions, you generally may not claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return with their spouse.
5. Dependents may have to file. If you can claim someone else as your dependent on your tax return, that person may still be required to file his or her own tax return. Whether they must file a return depends on several factors, including the amount of their gross income (both earned and unearned income), their marital status and any special taxes they owe.
6. Dependents can’t claim a personal exemption. If you can claim another person as a dependent on your tax return, that person may not claim a personal exemption on his or her own tax return. This is true even if you do not actually claim that person as your dependent on your tax return. The fact that you could claim that person disqualifies them from claiming a personal exemption.
Remember that a person must meet several tests in order for you to claim them as your dependent. See Publication 501 for the tests you will use to determine if you can claim a person as your dependent.
You can view or download Publication 501 at IRS.gov or order it by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant at IRS.gov to find out if a person qualifies as your dependent. The ITA is a helpful tool that can answer many of your tax law questions.