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Wednesday, July 24, 2013
There are many reasons why you should keep a copy of your federal tax return. For example, you may need it to answer an IRS inquiry. You may also need it to apply for a student loan or a home mortgage. If you can’t find your tax return, the IRS can provide a copy or give you a transcript of the tax information you need.
Here’s how to get your federal tax return information from the IRS:
1. Transcripts are free and you can get them for the current year and the past three years. In most cases, a transcript includes all the information you need.
2. A tax return transcript shows most line items from the tax return you originally filed. It also includes items from any accompanying forms and schedules you filed. It does not reflect any changes made after you filed your original return.
3. A tax account transcript shows any changes either you or the IRS made to your tax return after you filed it. This transcript includes your marital status, the type of return you filed, your adjusted gross income and taxable income.
4. You can get transcripts on the web, by phone or by mail. To request transcripts online, go to IRS.gov and use the Order a Transcript tool. To order by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts.
5. To request a 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ tax return transcript by mail or fax, complete Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript. Businesses and individuals who need a tax account transcript should use Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.
6. If you order online or by phone, you should receive your tax return transcript within five to 10 calendar days. You should allow 30 calendar days for delivery of a tax account transcript if you order by mail.
7. If you need an actual copy of a filed and processed tax return, it will cost $57 for each tax year. Complete Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, and mail it to the IRS address listed on the form for your area. Copies are generally available for the current year and past six years. Please allow 60 days for delivery.
8. If you live in a Presidentially declared disaster area, the IRS may waive the fee to obtain copies of your tax returns. Visit IRS.gov and select the ‘Disaster Relief’ link in the lower left corner of the page for more about IRS disaster assistance.
9. Forms 4506, 4506-T and 4506T-EZ are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Monday, July 22, 2013
Whether you roll the dice, play cards or bet on the ponies, all your winnings are taxable. The IRS offers these six tax tips for the casual gambler.
1. Gambling income includes winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races and casinos. It also includes cash and the fair market value of prizes you receive, such as cars and trips.
2. If you win, you may receive a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, from the payer. The form reports the amount of your winnings to you and the IRS. The payer issues the form depending on the type of gambling, the amount of winnings, and other factors. You’ll also receive a Form W-2G if the payer withholds federal income tax from your winnings.
3. You must report all your gambling winnings as income on your federal income tax return. This is true even if you do not receive a Form W-2G.
4. If you’re a casual gambler, report your winnings on the “Other Income” line of your Form 1040, U. S. Individual Income Tax Return.
5. You may deduct your gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The deduction is limited to the amount of your winnings. You must report your winnings as income and claim your allowable losses separately. You cannot reduce your winnings by your losses and report the difference.
6. You must keep accurate records of your gambling activity. This includes items such as receipts, tickets or other documentation. You should also keep a diary or similar record of your activity. Your records should show your winnings separately from your losses.
To learn more about this topic, see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income. Also, see Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. Both are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, July 19, 2013
A vacation home can be a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home or boat. If you own a vacation home that you rent to others, you generally must report the rental income on your federal income tax return. But you may not have to report that income if the rental period is short.
In most cases, you can deduct expenses of renting your property. Your deduction may be limited if you also use the home as a residence.
Here are some tips from the IRS about this type of rental property.
• You usually report rental income and deductible rental expenses on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss.
You may also be subject to paying Net Investment Income Tax on your rental income.
• If you personally use your property and sometimes rent it to others, special rules apply. You must divide your expenses between the rental use and the personal use. The number of days used for each purpose determines how to divide your costs.
Report deductible expenses for personal use on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. These may include costs such as mortgage interest, property taxes and casualty losses.
• If the property is “used as a home,” your rental expense deduction is limited. This means your deduction for rental expenses can’t be more than the rent you received. For more about this rule, see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes).
• If the property is “used as a home” and you rent it out fewer than 15 days per year, you do not have to report the rental income.
Get Publication 527 for more details on this topic. It is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Friday, July 12, 2013
Do you plan to travel while doing charity work this summer? Some travel expenses may help lower your taxes if you itemize deductions when you file next year. Here are five tax tips the IRS wants you to know about travel while serving a charity.
1. You must volunteer to work for a qualified organization. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit IRS.gov and use the Select Check tool to see if the group is qualified.
2. You may be able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses you pay while serving as a volunteer. You can’t deduct the value of your time or services.
3. The deduction qualifies only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel. However, the deduction will qualify even if you enjoy the trip.
4. You can deduct your travel expenses if your work is real and substantial throughout the trip. You can’t deduct expenses if you only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.
5. Deductible travel expenses may include:
- Air, rail and bus transportation
- Car expenses
- Lodging costs
- The cost of meals
- Taxi fares or other transportation costs between the airport or station and your hotel
To learn more see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. The booklet is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Wednesday, July 3, 2013
If you plan to start a new business, or you’ve just opened your doors, it is important for you to know your federal tax responsibilities. Here are five basic tips from the IRS that can help you get started.
1. Type of Business. Early on, you will need to decide the type of business you are going to establish. The most common types are sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, S corporation and Limited Liability Company. Each type reports its business activity on a different federal tax form.
2. Types of Taxes. The type of business you run usually determines the type of taxes you pay. The four general types of business taxes are income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax and excise tax.
3. Employer Identification Number. A business often needs to get a federal EIN for tax purposes. Check IRS.gov to find out whether you need this number. If you do, you can apply for an EIN online.
4. Recordkeeping. Keeping good records will help you when it’s time to file your business tax forms at the end of the year. They help track deductible expenses and support all the items you report on your tax return. Good records will also help you monitor your business’ progress and prepare your financial statements. You may choose any recordkeeping system that clearly shows your income and expenses.
5. Accounting Method. Each taxpayer must also use a consistent accounting method, which is a set of rules that determine when to report income and expenses. The most common are the cash method and accrual method. Under the cash method, you normally report income in the year you receive it and deduct expenses in the year you pay them. Under the accrual method, you generally report income in the year you earn it and deduct expenses in the year you incur them. This is true even if you receive the income or pay the expenses in a future year.
For more information, check out the “Business Taxes” page on IRS.gov. From there, review the special section on Starting a Business. Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records, may also help new business owners with the tax aspects of running a business. The booklet is also available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Monday, July 1, 2013
Late spring and early summer are popular times for weddings. Whatever the season, a change in your marital status can affect your taxes. Here are several tips from the IRS for newlyweds.
- It’s important that the names and Social Security numbers that you put on your tax return match your Social Security Administration records. If you’ve changed your name, report the change to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get this form on their website at SSA.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or by visiting your local SSA office.
- If your address has changed, file Form 8822, Change of Address to notify the IRS. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service if your address has changed. You can ask to have your mail forwarded online at USPS.com or report the change at your local post office.
- If you work, report your name or address change to your employer. This will help to ensure that you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.
- If you and your spouse both work, you should check the amount of federal income tax withheld from your pay. Your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.
- If you didn’t qualify to itemize deductions before you were married, that may have changed. You and your spouse may save money by itemizing rather than taking the standard deduction on your tax return. You’ll need to use Form 1040 with Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You can’t use Form 1040A or 1040EZ when you itemize.
- If you are married as of Dec. 31, that’s your marital status for the entire year for tax purposes. You and your spouse usually may choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately in any given year. You may want to figure the tax both ways to determine which filing status results in the lowest tax. In most cases, it’s beneficial to file jointly.
For more information about these topics, visit IRS.gov. You can also get IRS forms and publications at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).