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William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Posts Tagged ‘tax return’

Tax Facts for Choosing the Right Tax Filing Status

Posted by William Byrnes on December 14, 2015


Using the correct filing status is very important when filing a tax return. The right status affects how much is owed in taxes. It may even affect whether a tax return must be filed.

When choosing a filing status, keep in mind that marital status on Dec. 31 is the status for the entire year.  If more than one filing status applies, choose the one that will result in the lowest tax.

Note for same-sex married couples that new rules apply if legally married in a state or foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage.  The same sex spouses generally must use a married filing status on the 2015 federal tax return and forward.  This is true even if the same sex spouses now live in a state or foreign country that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Here is a list of the five filing statuses to help you choose:

1. Single.  This status normally applies if you aren’t married or are divorced or legally separated under state law.

2. Married Filing Jointly.  A married couple can file one tax return together. If your spouse died in 2013, you usually can still file a joint return for that year.

3. Married Filing Separately.  A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns instead of one joint return. This status may be to your benefit if it results in less tax. You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax.

4. Head of Household.  This status normally applies if you are not married. You also must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Some people choose this status by mistake. Be sure to check all the rules before you file.

5. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child.  If your spouse died during 2014 or 2015 and you have a dependent child, this status may apply. Certain other conditions also apply.

Tax Facts Online is the premier practical, useful, actionable, and affordable reference on the taxation of insurance, employee benefits, investments, small tax-facts-online
business and individuals. This advisory service provides expert guidance on hundreds of the most frequently asked client questions concerning their most important tax issues.

Many ongoing, significant developments have affected tax law and, consequently, tax advice and strategies. Tax Facts Online is the only source that is reviewed daily and updated regularly by our expert editors.

In addition to completely current content not available anywhere else, Tax Facts Online gives you exclusive access to:

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Tax Facts Online Core Content

Tax Facts on Insurance provides definitive answers to your clients’ most important tax-related insurance questions, while offering insightful analysis and illustrative examples. Numerous planning points direct you to the most recent and important insurance solutions.

Tax Facts on Employee Benefits provides current in-depth coverage of important client-related employee benefits questions. Employee benefits affect most2015_tf_triple_combo_cover-meveryone, and your clients must know how to deal with often complex issues and problems. Tax Facts on Employee Benefits provides the answers in a direct, concise, and practical manner.

Tax Facts on Investments provides clear, detailed answers to your difficult tax questions concerning investments. You must know what investments best suit your clients from a tax standpoint. You will discover questions that directly provide insightful answers, comparison of investment choices, as well as how investments have changed in recent years.

Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business focuses exclusively on what individuals and small buisnesses need to know to maximize opportunities under today’s often complex tax rules.  It is the essential tax reference for financial advisors, & planners; insurance professionals; CPAs; attorneys; and other practitioners advising small businesses and individuals.

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Tax Information for Students Who Had a Summer Job

Posted by William Byrnes on September 3, 2014


In IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-13, it discussed the tax issues of students who work summer jobs.  Many students take a job in the summer after school lets out. The IRS provided eight tax tips for students who take a summer job.

1. The IRS stated that a student should not be surprised when an employer withholds taxes from the paycheck.  But if the student is self-employed, then he or she may have to pay estimated taxes directly to the IRS on certain dates during the year. This is called a “pay-as-you-go” tax system.

2. As a new employee, a student must complete a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.  An employer will use it to figure how much federal income tax to withhold from the paycheck. The IRS Withholding Calculator tool on IRS.gov can help a student fill out the form.

3. Keep in mind that all tip income is taxable. If a student receives tips, then the student must keep a daily log so that he or she can report them to the IRS.  A student must report $20 or more in cash tips in any one month to the employer.  All yearly tips must be reported on the tax return.

4. Money earned doing work for others is taxable.  Some work may count as self-employment. This can include jobs like baby-sitting and lawn mowing. Keep good records of expenses related to this work.  Some expenses may be deducted from the income on the tax return. A deduction may help lower the final tax due.

5. If a student is ROTC, then active duty pay, such as pay received for summer camp, is taxable.  But the subsistence allowance while in advanced training is not taxable.

6. A student may not earn enough from a summer job to owe income tax.  But an employer usually must withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from any pay. If a student is self-employed, then the student must pay these directly to the IRS.  Yet, these count toward coverage under the Social Security system.

7. If a student is a newspaper carrier or distributor, special rules apply. If certain conditions, then the student is considered self-employed.  But if those conditions are not met and the student is under age 18, then the student is usually exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.

8. The student may not earn enough money from a summer job to be required to file a tax return. Even if that is true, the student will probably want to file.  For example, if an employer withheld income tax from the paycheck, then the employee will need to file a return to receive a refund of those taxes.  The student can prepare and e-file a tax return for free using IRS Free File.

Finally, see tax rules for students.

2014_tf_on_individuals_small_businesses-m_1Due to a number of recent changes in the law, taxpayers are currently facing many questions connected to important issues such as healthcare, home office use, capital gains, investments, and whether an individual is considered an employee or a contractor. Financial advisors are continually looking for updated tax information that can help them provide the right answers to the right people at the right time. This book provides fast, clear, and authoritative answers to pressing questions, and it does so in the convenient, timesaving, Q&A format for which Tax Facts is famous.

Anyone interested can try Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business, risk-free for 30 days, with a 100% guarantee of complete satisfaction.  For more information, please go to www.nationalunderwriter.com/TaxFactsIndividuals or call 1-800-543-0874.

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5 Tax Facts about IRS Notices and Letters

Posted by William Byrnes on June 25, 2014


In Tax Tip 2014-60, the IRS disclosed that it sends millions of notices and letters to taxpayers.   Not surprising, given that over 150 million returns are filed each year.   The IRS informed taxpayers of 6 important tips about such notices and letters:

1. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail, never by email nor by social media.  Each notice has specific instructions about what the taxpayer must do to respond.  Often, a taxpayer only needs to respond by mail to deal with whatever the notice requests.  Keep copies of any notices and responses with the annual tax records.

2. The IRS may send a letter or notice for a variety of very different reasons.  Typically, a letter or notice is only about one specific issue on a taxpayer’s federal tax return or about the taxpayer’s tax account.   A notice may simply inform the taxpayer about changes to the tax account or only ask you for more information about an item on the tax return.  However, it may inform the taxpayer that a tax payment is due.

3. A taxpayer may receive a notice that states the IRS has made a change or correction to the tax return.  In this case, the taxpayer should review the information received and then compare it with the original tax return.  If the taxpayer agrees with the IRS notice, then the taxpayer usually does not need to reply except to make a payment.

4. However, if the taxpayer does not agree with the notice, then the taxpayer must respond.  The taxpayer must write a letter to explain why the taxpayer disagrees with the IRS notice, including any information and documents that supports the taxpayer’s position.  The taxpayer must mail a reply, with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice, to the address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice.  Allow at least 30 days for a response.

5. A taxpayer does not need to call or visit an IRS office for most notices.  However, if a taxpayer has questions, then call the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of the tax return and the notice for the call.

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Robert Bloink, Esq., LL.M., and William H. Byrnes, Esq., LL.M., CWM®—are delivering real-life guidance based on decades of experience.” said Rick Kravitz.  The authors’ knowledge and experience in tax law and practice provides the expert guidance for National Underwriter to once again deliver a valuable resource for the financial advising community.

Anyone interested can try Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business, risk-free for 30 days, with a 100% guarantee of complete satisfaction.  For more information, please go to www.nationalunderwriter.com/TaxFactsIndividuals or call 1-800-543-0874.

 Authoritative and easy-to-use, 2014 Tax Facts on Insurance & Employee Benefits shows you how the tax law and regulations are relevant to your insurance, employee benefits, and financial planning practices.  Often complex tax law and regulations are explained in clear, understandable language.  Pertinent planning points are provided throughout.

2014 Tax Facts on Investments provides clear, concise answers to often complex tax questions concerning investments.  2014 expanded sections on Limitations on Loss Deductions, Charitable Gifts, Reverse Mortgages, and REITs.

 

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IRS Reports 131 Million Tax Returns Filed but Many Amended Returns Expected

Posted by William Byrnes on April 29, 2014


The IRS reported in its 2014-56 NewsWire that 131 million tax returns were filed by the deadline of April 15 for the tax year of 2013.  88% of these tax returns were e-filed of which 35% (almost 46 million returns) were filed by taxpayers from home computers.

But the IRS disclosed that it expects nearly 5 million of these taxpayers to file amendments to their returns by filing Form 1040X during 2014.  Generally, for a credit or refund, taxpayers must file Form 1040X within 3 years, including extensions, after the date they filed their original return or within 2 years after the date they paid the tax, whichever is later. For most people, this means that returns for tax-year 2011 or later can still be amended.

Thus far, the IRS has released 94,809,000 refunds averaging $2,686 each.  In all, the IRS has had to return almost $255 billion to taxpayers in the form of refunds of access tax withholdings.

Same Sex Couples Amending Returns

The IRS alerted same-sex couples to consider filing amended returns for past years.  A same sex couple, legally married in a state or foreign country that recognizes their marriage, is now considered married for tax purposes. This is true regardless of whether or not the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage.

For returns originally filed before Sept. 16, 2013, legally married same sex couples have the option of filing amended return to change their filing status to married filing separately or married filing jointly. But they are not required to change their filing status on a prior return, even if they amend that return for another reason. In either case, their amended return must be consistent with the filing status they have chosen.

If a taxpayer still owes tax for the year 2013, then read https://profwilliambyrnes.com/2014/04/15/4-tax-tips-if-you-cant-pay-the-full-amount-of-taxes-on-time/

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6 Tax Facts About Filing The Tax Return Today (April 15) and What To Do If You Can’t Pay the Full Amount of Taxes

Posted by William Byrnes on April 15, 2014


The IRS Tax Tip 2014-53 provided a series of Tax Facts of what to do if a taxpayer cannot pay the full amount of taxes owed, which I have supplemented with a couple Tax Facts from the U.S. Post Office.

1. File the Tax Return on Time to Avoid Late Filing Penalty.  File on time to avoid a late filing penalty.  By mailing or electronically filing the tax return with the postmark before or on Wednesday April 15, a taxpayer will avoid the late-filing penalty, normally 5% per month based on the unpaid balance, that applies to returns filed after the deadline.

2. Can’t File the Tax Return Today? Then File an Extension until October 15!  A taxpayer can use IRS Free File to e-file Form 4868 (PDF) Application For Automatic Extension of Time To File U.S. Individual Tax Return. The extension request must be filed by midnight on April 15.  E-filed extension request will receive an IRS receipt.  A taxpayer may still mail the request for an extension Form 4868, as long at the postmark is before or on April 15.

3. Mail must be Postmarked before or on April 15!  Gone are the days that the post office accepts a 11.59 pm tax return and tax extension letter, postmarking it by midnight April 15.  Thus, the taxpayer must drop off at the post office or post office approved provider before the last pick up time of April 15 to ensure a postmark of April 15.  See https://tools.usps.com/go/POLocatorAction!input.action for the closest post office or post service drop off approved provider within a zip code.

4. Pay as Much of the Tax Due as Possible to Avoid Interest and Late Payment Penalties. In addition, any payment made with an extension request will reduce or eliminate interest and late-payment penalties that apply to payments made after April 15.  The interest rate is currently 3% per year, compounded daily, and the late-payment penalty is normally 0.5 % per month.  Pay as much as possible to reduce interest charges and a late payment penalty.

5. Use a Credit Card to Pay the Tax. The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be less than IRS interest and penalties. See credit card options

6. Use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  Ask for a payment plan before the IRS sends a bill.  The best way is to use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  File Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with the tax return.

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Because of the constant changes to the tax law, taxpayers are currently facing many questions connected to important issues such as healthcare, home office use, capital gains, investments, and whether an individual is considered an employee or a contractor. Financial advisors are continually looking for updated tax information that can help them provide the right answers to the right people at the right time. For over 110 years, National Underwriter has provided fast, clear, and authoritative answers to financial advisors pressing questions, and it does so in the convenient, timesaving, Q&A format.

“Our brand-new Tax Facts title is exciting in many ways,” says Rick Kravitz, Vice President & Managing Director of Summit Professional Network’s Professional Publishing Division. “First of all, it fills a huge gap in the resources available to today’s advisors. Small business is a big market, and this book enables advisors to get up-and-running right away, with proven guidance that will help them serve their clients’ needs. Secondly, it addresses the biggest questions facing all taxpayers and provides absolutely reliable answers that help advisors solve today’s biggest problems with confidence.”

Robert Bloink, Esq., LL.M., and William H. Byrnes, Esq., LL.M., CWM®—are delivering real-life guidance based on decades of experience.  The authors’ knowledge and experience in tax law and practice provides the expert guidance for National Underwriter to once again deliver a valuable resource for the financial advising community,” added Rick Kravitz.

Anyone interested can try Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business, risk-free for 30 days, with a 100% guarantee of complete satisfaction.  For more information, please go to www.nationalunderwriter.com/TaxFactsIndividuals or call 1-800-543-0874.

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Taxable and Nontaxable Income

Posted by William Byrnes on March 5, 2014


The IRS published another tax tip (2014-12) to assist tax filers this tax season addressing when income is taxable, and when it is not.

With individual tax returns due at the post office within 6 weeks, the IRS is stepping up efforts to help guide taxpayers with basic income tax questions and filing requirements.  Excerpted below, in its Tax Tip, the IRS states:

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.

IRS YouTube Videos:

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The Child Tax Credit May Cut Your Tax

Posted by William Byrnes on March 4, 2014


IRS Tax Tip 2014-18 reminds taxpayers whom have a child or children under 17, then the Child Tax Credit may save money at tax time.  Key facts the IRS wants taxpayers to know about the Child Tax Credit:

• Amount.  The non-refundable Child Tax Credit may help cut the federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child claimed on a tax return.

• Qualifications.  A child must pass seven tests to qualify for this credit:

1. Age test. The child was under age 17 at the end of 2013.

2. Relationship test. The child is a son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister. A child can also be a descendant of any of these persons. For example, a grandchild, niece or nephew will meet this test. Adopted children also qualify. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with a taxpayer for legal adoption.

3. Support test. The child did not provide more than half of his or her own support for 2013.

4. Dependent test. Claim the child as a dependent on your 2013 federal income tax return.

5. Joint return test. A married child can not file a joint return with their spouse.

6. Citizenship test. The child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien.

7. Residence test. In most cases, the child must have lived with the taxpayer for more than half of 2013.

• Limitations. Taxpayer’s filing status and income may reduce or eliminate the credit.

• Additional Child Tax Credit.  If the taxpayer receives less than the full Child Tax Credit, may still qualify for the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit. This means taxpayer may receive a refund even if no tax is owed.

• Schedule 8812.  A taxpayer may need to file Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with the tax return. A taxpayer claiming the Additional Child Tax Credit must complete and attach Schedule 8812.

• Interactive Tax Assistant Tool.  Use the ITA tool to determine whether it is possible to claim the Child Tax Credit.

For more than half a century, Tax Facts has been an essential resource designed to meet the real-world tax-guidance needs of professionals in both the insurance and investment industries.

2014_tf_on_individuals_small_businesses-m_1Due to a number of recent changes in the law, taxpayers are currently facing many questions connected to important issues such as healthcare, home office use, capital gains, investments, and whether an individual is considered an employee or a contractor. Financial advisors are continually looking for updated tax information that can help them provide the right answers to the right people at the right time. This brand-new resource provides fast, clear, and authoritative answers to pressing questions, and it does so in the convenient, timesaving, Q&A format for which Tax Facts is famous.

“Our brand-new Tax Facts title is exciting in many ways,” says Rick Kravitz, Vice President & Managing Director of Summit Professional Network’s Professional Publishing Division. “First of all, it fills a huge gap in the resources available to today’s advisors. Small business is a big market, and this book enables advisors to get up-and-running right away, with proven guidance that will help them serve their clients’ needs. Secondly, it addresses the biggest questions facing all taxpayers and provides absolutely reliable answers that help advisors solve today’s biggest problems with confidence.”

The company also points out that the expert authors—Robert Bloink, Esq., LL.M., and William H. Byrnes, Esq., LL.M., CWM®—are delivering real-life guidance based on decades of experience.

tax-facts-online_medium

The authors’ knowledge and experience in tax law and practice provides the expert guidance for National Underwriter to once again deliver a valuable resource for the financial advising community,” added Kravitz.

Anyone interested can try Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business, risk-free for 30 days, with a 100% guarantee of complete satisfaction.  For more information, please go to www.nationalunderwriter.com/TaxFactsIndividuals or call 1-800-543-0874.

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Eight Tax Savers for Parents

Posted by William Byrnes on March 3, 2014


IRS Tax Tip 2014-11

The IRS published eight tax benefits parents should look out for when filing their federal tax returns this year, excerpted below.

1. Dependents.  In most cases, you can claim your child as a dependent. This applies even if your child was born anytime in 2013. For more details, see 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 qualifying children under the age of 17 at the end of 2013. The maximum credit is $1,000 per child. If you get less than the full amount of the credit, you may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit. For more about both credits, 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 one or more qualifying persons. Your dependent child or children under age 13 are among those who are qualified. You must have paid for care so you could work or look for work. For more, see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.

4. Earned Income Tax Credit.  If you worked but earned less than $51,567 last year, you may qualify for EITC. If you have three qualifying children, you may get up to $6,044 as EITC when you file and claim it on your tax return. Use the EITC Assistant tool at IRS.gov to find out if you qualify or see Publication 596, Earned Income Tax Credit.

5. Adoption Credit.  You may be able to claim a tax credit for certain expenses you paid to adopt a child. For details, see the instructions for Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses.

6. Higher education credits.  If you paid for higher education for yourself or an immediate family member, you may qualify for either of two education tax credits. Both the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit 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 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 don’t itemize deductions on your tax return. For more information, see Publication 970.

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 under the Affordable Care Act. It applies to children under age 27 at the end of the year, even if not your dependent. See Notice 2010-38 for information.

IRS YouTube Videos:

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Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for Low- and Moderate-Income Workers: a Significant Tax Benefit

Posted by William Byrnes on February 10, 2014


Last Friday (January 31, 2014) the IRS opened the tax filing season for 2013 taxes.  In Newswire (IR-2014-9 and -10), also released January 31, the IRS seeks to reach out to low and moderate income workers to alert them to take advantage of the Earned Income Tax Credit, known as the “EITC”.  The IRS stated that the EITC is often overlooked by the low and moderate workers, many whom do their own tax filing.

This year, taxpayers have until Tuesday, April 15, 2014 to file their 2013 tax returns and pay any tax due.  The IRS expects to receive more than 148 million individual tax returns this year, and more than 80% of tax returns are now filed electronically.

Approximately 75% of tax filers typically receive refunds, 90% of these refunds issued in less than 21 days.  Last year, taxpayers received an average refund of $2,744.  The IRS stated that “E-file” when combined with a direct deposit is the fastest way to receive a refund.  75% of refund recipients now choose direct deposit.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The IRS estimates that 20% of eligible low and moderate income workers miss out on taking advantage of the the EITC, and thus lose any potential refund generated by it.  Either the taxpayer does not claim the EITC when filing or does not file a tax return at all because their income is below the filing threshold.   The IRS further stated that one-third of the taxpayers eligible for EITC changes each year as their personal circumstances, such as work status or family situation, changes, affecting eligibility. 

The EITC varies depending on income, family size and filing status.  Last year, over 27 million eligible workers and families received more than $63 billion total in EITC, with an average EITC amount of $2,300.

Workers, self-employed people and farmers who earned $51,567 or less last year could receive larger refunds if they qualify for the EITC.  That could mean up to $487 in EITC for people without children, and a maximum credit of up to $6,044 for those with three or more qualifying children. Unlike most deductions and credits, the EITC is refundable. In other words, those eligible may get a refund even if they owe no tax

Common EITC Mistakes

Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of their tax return regardless of who prepares it.  The rules for EITC are complicated.  The IRS urges taxpayers to seek help if they are unsure of their eligibility (read about Taxpayer Clinics below).

There are several requirements 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.

Some common EITC errors are:

  • Claiming a child who does not meet the relationship, age or residency tests
  • Filing as “single” or “head of household” when married
  • Over or under reporting of income and or expenses to qualify for or maximize EITC
  • Missing Social Security numbers or Social Security Number and last name mismatches for both taxpayers and the children

Online Tools at IRS.gov Available to Help

People can find out if they qualify for the EITC by answering a few questions about income, family size and filing status, among other things using the EITC Assistant, a special online tool.  The EITC Assistant will help determine eligibility and will figure an estimated EITC refund.  A taxpayer can even get a printout explaining why he or she qualifies or has been denied.

Free Taxpayer Clinics Help Taxpayers File – Located Around the USA

Eligible taxpayers can also use another helpful online resource, the VITA Site Locator tool to locate one of nearly 13,000 community-based volunteer tax sites consisting of over 90,000 volunteers that can help them file their return for free.  (In San Diego, Thomas Jefferson School of Law has an active VITA program).

Tele-Tax, for example, help taxpayers see if they qualify for various tax benefits, such as the Child Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit for eligible families, the American Opportunity Tax Credit for parents and college students, the saver’s credit for low-and moderate-income workers saving for retirement and energy credits for homeowners making qualifying energy-saving home improvements. The automated IRS services can also help home-based businesses check out the new simplified option for claiming the home office deduction, a straightforward computation that allows eligible taxpayers to claim $5 per square foot, up to a maximum of $1,500, instead of filling out a 43-line form (Form 8829) with often complex calculations.

Free Online Tax Software for Filing

When taxpayers are ready to fill out and file their returns, another online option enables anyone to e-file their returns for free. Free File offers two free electronic filing options: brand-name tax software or online Fillable Forms. Taxpayers who make $58,000 or less can choose free options from 14 commercial software providers. There’s no income limit for the second option, Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, which is best suited to people who are comfortable preparing their own tax return.

Online Refund Tool

Even after taxpayers file, there are more online tools that can provide them with valuable assistance long after tax season ends. One of the most popular is Where’s My Refund? a tool available on IRS.gov that enables taxpayers to track the status of their refund. Initial information will normally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mails a paper return to the IRS. The system updates every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check more often.

Can’t Afford to Pay the Tax Bill by April 15th?  Use the Online Payment Agreement Tool 

For taxpayers whose concern isn’t a refund, but rather, a tax bill they can’t pay, the Online Payment Agreement tool can help them determine whether they qualify for an installment agreement with the IRS. And those whose tax obligation is even more serious, the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier can help them determine if they qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement with the IRS that settles their tax liability for less than the full amount owed.

Are You Withholding Enough or Too Much Tax During the Year?

Another useful year-round tool, the IRS Withholding Calculator, helps employees make sure the amount of income tax taken out of their pay is neither too high nor too low. This tool can be particularly useful to taxpayers who, after filling out their tax returns, find that the refund or balance due was higher than expected.

Beware of EITC Scams and Frauds

Scams that create fictitious qualifying children or inflate income levels to get the maximum EITC could leave taxpayers with a penalty.  If an EITC claim was reduced or denied after tax year 1996 for any reason other than a mathematical or clerical error, taxpayers must file Form 8862, Information To Claim Earned Income Credit After Disallowance, with the next tax return to claim the EITC.

Tax Help Through YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr

The IRS also offers more than 100 short instructional videos, tax tips and other useful resources year-round through a variety of social media platforms. They include:

2014_tf_on_individuals_small_businesses-m_1The newest addition to the Tax Facts Library, Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business focuses exclusively on what individuals and small businesses need to know to maximize opportunities under today’s often complex tax rules.  It is the essential tax reference for financial advisors, & planners; insurance professionals; CPAs; attorneys; and other practitioners advising small businesses and individuals.  See http://www.nationalunderwriter.com/tax-facts-on-individuals-small-business.html

Organized in a convenient Q&A format to speed you to the information you need, Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business delivers the latest guidance on:
» Healthcare
» Home Office
» Contractor vs. Employee — clarified!
» Business Deductions and Losses
» Business Life Insurance
» Small Business Valuation
» Small Business Entity Choices
» Accounting — including guidance on how standards change as the business grows
» Capital Gains
» Investor Losses
» New Medicare Tax and Net Investment Income tax
» Individual Income Taxation

Posted in Reporting, Taxation | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Why Should You File a 2013 Tax Return?

Posted by William Byrnes on February 2, 2014


The IRS released its first Tax Tip of the calendar year (IRS Tax Tip 2014-01).  I have excerpted it below for your convenience:

Even if you don’t have to file a tax return, there are times when you should. Here are five good reasons why you should file a return, even if you’re not required to do so:

1. Tax Withheld or Paid.  Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year and have it applied to this year’s tax? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be due a refund. But you have to file a tax return to get it.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit.  Did you work and earn less than $51,567 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund if you qualify. Families with qualifying children may be eligible for up to $6,044. Use the EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov to find out if you qualify. If you do, file a tax return and claim it.

3. Additional Child Tax Credit.  Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don’t get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit. To claim it, you need to file Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your tax return.

4. American Opportunity Credit.  Are you a student or do you support a student? If so, you may be eligible for this credit. Students in their first four years of higher education may qualify for as much as $2,500. Even those who owe no tax may get up to $1,000 of the credit refunded per eligible student. You must file Form 8863, Education Credits, with your tax return to claim this credit.

5. Health Coverage Tax Credit.  Did you receive Trade Adjustment Assistance, Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance, Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation? If so, you may qualify for the Health Coverage Tax Credit. The HCTC helps make health insurance more affordable for you and your family. This credit pays 72.5 percent of qualified health insurance premiums. Visit IRS.gov for more on this credit.

To sum it all up, check to see if you would benefit from filing a federal tax return. You may qualify for a tax refund even if you don’t have to file. And remember, if you do qualify for a refund, you must file a return to claim it.

IRS YouTube Videos:

Do You Need to File a Federal Income Tax Return?

You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you need to file.

Many people will file a 2013 Federal income tax return even though the income on the return was below the filing requirement. The questions below will help you determine if you need to file a Federal Income Tax return or if you need to stop your withholding so you will not have to file an unnecessary return in the future.

The Internal Revenue Service is providing this information as a part of our customer service and outreach efforts to Reduce Taxpayer Burden and Processing Costs. Changing your withholding and/or not filing Unnecessary Returns will save both you and the government time and money.

Even if you do not have to file a return, you should file one to get a refund of any Federal Income Tax withheld.

To determine if you need to file a Federal Income Tax return for 2013 answer the following questions:

Occasionally, individuals have one-time or infrequent financial transactions that may require them to file a Federal Income Tax return. Do any of the following examples apply to you?

  • Did you have Federal taxes withheld from your pension and wages for this tax year and wish to get a refund back?
  • Are you entitled to the Earned Income Tax Credit or did you receive Advance Earned Income Credit for this tax year?
  • Were you self-employed with earnings of more than $400.00?
  • Did you sell your home?
  • Will you owe any special tax on a qualified retirement plan (including an individual retirement account (IRA) or medical savings account (MSA)? You may owe tax if you:
    • Received an early distribution from a qualified plan
    • Made excess contributions to your IRA or MSA
    • Were born before July 1, 1942, and you did not take the minimum required distribution from your qualified retirement plan.
    • Received a distribution in the excess of $160,000 from a qualified retirement plan.
  • Will you owe social security and Medicare tax on tips you did not report to your employer?
  • Will you owe uncollected social security and Medicare or Railroad retirement (RRTA) tax on tips you reported to your employer?
  • Will you be subject to Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)? (The tax law gives special treatment to some kinds of income and allows special deductions and credit for some kinds of expenses.)
  • Will you owe recapture tax?
  • Are you a church employee with income in wages of $108.28 or more from a church or qualified church-controlled organization that is exempt from employer social security or Medicare taxes?

2014_tf_on_individuals_small_businesses-m_1The newest addition to the Tax Facts Library, Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business focuses exclusively on what individuals and small businesses need to know to maximize opportunities under today’s often complex tax rules.  It is the essential tax reference for financial advisors, & planners; insurance professionals; CPAs; attorneys; and other practitioners advising small businesses and individuals.  See http://www.nationalunderwriter.com/tax-facts-on-individuals-small-business.html

Organized in a convenient Q&A format to speed you to the information you need, Tax Facts on Individuals & Small Business delivers the latest guidance on:
» Healthcare
» Home Office
» Contractor vs. Employee — clarified!
» Business Deductions and Losses
» Business Life Insurance
» Small Business Valuation
» Small Business Entity Choices
» Accounting — including guidance on how standards change as the business grows
» Capital Gains
» Investor Losses
» New Medicare Tax and Net Investment Income tax
» Individual Income Taxation

Authors Professor William Byrnes and Robert Bloink

Posted in Taxation | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

 
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