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Friday, February 28, 2014
Some people must pay taxes on part of their Social Security benefits. Others find that their benefits aren’t taxable. If you get Social Security, the IRS can help you determine if some of your benefits are taxable.
Here are seven tips about how Social Security affects your taxes:
1. If you received these benefits in 2013, you should have received a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, showing the amount.
2. If Social Security was your only source of income in 2013, your benefits may not be taxable. You also may not need to file a federal income tax return.
3. If you get income from other sources, then you may have to pay taxes on some of your benefits.
4. Your income and filing status affect whether you must pay taxes on your Social Security.
5. The best, and free, way to find out if your benefits are taxable is to use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file your tax return. If you made $58,000 or less, you can use Free File tax software. The software will figure the taxable benefits for you. If your income was more than $58,000 and you feel comfortable doing your own taxes, use Free File Fillable Forms. Free File is available only at IRS.gov/freefile.
6. If you file a paper return, visit IRS.gov and use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool to see if any of your benefits are taxable.
7. A quick way to find out if any of your benefits may be taxable is to add one-half of your Social Security benefits to all your other income, including any tax-exempt interest. Next, compare this total to the base amounts below. If your total is more than the base amount for your filing status, then some of your benefits may be taxable. The three base amounts are:
- $25,000 - for single, head of household, qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child or married individuals filing separately who did not live with their spouse at any time during the year
- $32,000 -for married couples filing jointly
- $0 - for married persons filing separately who lived together at any time during the year
For more on this topic visit IRS.gov.
Friday, February 21, 2014
If you worked as an employee last year, your employer must give you a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. This form shows the amount of wages you received for the year and the taxes withheld from those wages. It’s important that you use this form to help make sure you file a complete and accurate tax return.
Most employers give Forms W-2 to their workers by Jan. 31. If you haven’t received yours by mid-February, here’s what you should do:
1. Contact your employer. You should first ask your employer to give you a copy of your W-2. You’ll also need this form from any former employer you worked for during the year. If employers send the form to you, be sure they have your correct address.
2. Contact the IRS. If you exhaust your options with your employer and you have not received your W-2, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. You’ll need the following when you call:
- Your name, address, Social Security number and phone number;
- Your employer’s name, address and phone number;
- The dates you worked for the employer; and
- An estimate of the amount of wages you were paid and federal income tax withheld in 2013. If possible, you can use your final pay stub to figure these amounts.
3. File on time. Your tax return is due by April 15, 2014. If you don’t get your W-2 in time to file, use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Estimate your wages and withheld taxes as accurately as you can. The IRS may delay processing your return while it verifies your information.
If you need more time, you can apply for a six-month extension to file your federal tax return. The easiest way to apply is to visit IRS.gov and use IRS Free File to e-file the extension. You can also mail Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Make sure you file your request by midnight on April 15.
You may need to correct your tax return if you get your missing W-2 after you file. If the tax information on the W-2 is different from what you originally reported, you may need to file an amended tax return. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to make the change.
Find all the forms and instructions you need on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
If you get tips on the job from customers, the IRS has a few important reminders:
Tips are taxable. You must pay federal income tax on any tips you receive. The value of non-cash tips, such as tickets, passes or other items of value are also subject to income tax.
Include all tips on your return. You must include the total of all tips you received during the year on your income tax return. This includes tips directly from customers, tips added to credit cards and your share of tips received under a tip-splitting agreement with other employees.
Report tips to your employer. If you receive $20 or more in tips in any one month, from any one job, you must report your tips for that month to your employer. The report should only include cash, check, debit and credit card tips you receive. Your employer is required to withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on the reported tips. Do not report the value of any noncash tips to your employer.
Keep a daily log of tips. Use Publication 1244, Employee's Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer, to record your tips.
For more information, see Publication 1244 or Publication 531, Reporting Tip Income. You can get them on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Are you looking for a hard and fast rule about what income is taxable and what income is not taxable? The fact is that all income is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it.
Taxable income includes money you receive, such as wages and tips. It can also include noncash income from property or services. For example, both parties in a barter exchange must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return.
Some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:
- Life insurance proceeds paid to you are usually not taxable. But if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
- Income from a qualified scholarship is normally not taxable. This means that amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required books, are not taxable. However, amounts you use for room and board are taxable.
- If you got a state or local income tax refund, the amount may be taxable. You should have received a 2013 Form 1099-G from the agency that made the payment to you. If you didn’t get it by mail, the agency may have provided the form electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Report any taxable refund you got even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.
Here are some types of income that are usually not taxable:
- Gifts and inheritances
- Child support payments
- Welfare benefits
- Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
- Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
- Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses
For more on this topic see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income. You can get it at IRS.gov or call to have it mailed at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Thursday, February 6, 2014
Did you change your name last year? Did your dependent have a name change? If the answer to either question is yes, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration before you file your tax return with the IRS.
This is important because the name on your tax return must match SSA records. If they don’t, you’re likely to get a letter from the IRS about the mismatch. And if you expect a refund, this may delay when you’ll get it.
Be sure to contact SSA if:
- You got married or divorced and you changed your name.
- A dependent you claim had a name change. For example, this would apply if you adopted a child and that child’s last name changed.
File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, with the SSA to let them know about a name change. You can get the form on SSA.gov by calling 800-772-1213 or at an SSA office.
You can file Form SS-5 at an SSA office or by mail. Your new card will have the same SSN as before but will show your new name.
If you have an adopted child who does not have a SSN, use a temporary Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on your tax form. You can apply for an ATIN by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions, with the IRS. Get the form on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Many people hire a professional when it’s time to file their tax return. If you pay someone to prepare your federal income tax return, the IRS urges you to choose that person wisely. Even if you don’t prepare your own return, you’re still legally responsible for what is on it.
Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:
1. Check the preparer’s qualifications. All paid tax preparers are required to have a Preparer Tax Identification Number or PTIN. In addition to making sure they have a PTIN, ask the preparer if they belong to a professional organization and attend continuing education classes.
2. Check the preparer’s history. Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if the preparer has a questionable history. Check for disciplinary actions and for the status of their licenses. For certified public accountants, check with the state board of accountancy. For attorneys, check with the state bar association. For enrolled agents, check with the IRS Office of Enrollment.
3. Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can. Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account.
4. Ask to e-file your return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Any paid preparer who prepares and files more than 10 returns for clients generally must file the returns electronically. IRS has safely processed more than 1.2 billion e-filed tax returns.
5. Make sure the preparer is available. Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return - even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
6. Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not use a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
7. Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.
8. Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
9. Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
10. Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Monday, February 3, 2014
For nearly 40 years, the Earned Income Tax Credit has been helping low- to moderate-income workers by giving them a boost to their income. Four out of five eligible workers claim EITC, but the IRS wants every eligible worker to claim and get this credit.
Here are some things the IRS wants you to know about this important credit:
Review your eligibility. If you worked and earned under $51,567, you may be eligible for EITC. If your financial or family situation has changed, you should review the EITC eligibility rules. You might qualify for EITC this year even if you didn’t in the past. Workers who qualify for EITC must file a federal income tax return and specifically claim the credit to get it, even if they do not have a requirement to file a return.
Know the rules. Before claiming EITC, you need to understand the rules to be sure you qualify. It’s important to get it and get it right. There are several factors to consider:
- Your filing status can’t be Married Filing Separately.
- You must have a valid Social Security number for yourself, your spouse if married, and any qualifying child listed on your tax return.
- You must have earned income. Earned income includes earnings such as wages, self-employment and farm income.
- You may be married or single, with or without children to qualify. If you don’t have children, you must also meet age, residency and dependency rules.
- If you are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving in a combat zone, special rules apply.
Lower your tax or get a refund. The EITC reduces your federal tax and could result in a refund. If you qualify, the credit could be worth up to $6,044. The average credit was $2,355 last year.
Use free services. Don’t guess about your EITC eligibility. Use the EITC Assistant tool . on IRS.gov. The tool helps you find out if you qualify and will estimate the amount of your EITC. The best way to file your return to claim EITC is to use IRS Free File. Free brand-name software will figure your taxes and EITC for you. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get your refund. Free File is available exclusively on IRS.gov/freefile. Free help preparing and e-filing your return to claim your EITC is also available at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites around the country.
If you are a member of the U.S. Armed Forces serving in a combat zone, special rules apply. For more information, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. It’s available in English and Spanish on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).