Category Archives: Taxes
Are you making a payment with your federal tax return this year? If so, here are 10 important things the IRS wants you to know about correctly paying your federal income taxes.
1. Never send cash.
2. If you file electronically, you can file and pay in a single step with an electronic funds withdrawal. If you e-file by yourself you can use your tax preparation software to make the withdrawal. If you use a tax preparer to e-file, you can ask the preparer to make your tax payment electronically.
3. Whether you file a paper return or e-file your return, you can pay by phone or online with a credit or debit card. The company that processes your payment will charge a processing fee.
4. If you file Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, you may be able to deduct the credit or debit card processing fee on next year’s return. This is a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2 percent limit.
5. Electronic payment options provide another way to pay taxes by check or money order. You can make payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit IRS.gov and click on the ‘Payments’ tab near the top left of the home page for more details.
6. If you pay by check or money order, make sure it is payable to the “United States Treasury.”
7. Be sure to write your name, address and daytime phone number on the front of your payment. Also, write the tax year, form number you are filing and the first Social Security number listed on your tax return.
8. Complete Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, and include it with your tax return and payment when mailing it to the IRS. Double-check the IRS mailing address. This will help the IRS process your payment accurately and efficiently. Go to IRS.gov to download and print this form.
9. Remember to enclose your payment with your return but do not staple it to any tax form.
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 the Form 1040-V instructions available at IRS.gov.
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IRS Tax Tips
1. An early withdrawal normally means taking money from your plan, such as a 401(k), before you reach age 59½.
2. You must report the amount you withdrew from your retirement plan to the IRS. You may have to pay an additional 10 percent tax on your withdrawal.
3. The additional 10 percent tax normally does not apply to nontaxable withdrawals. Nontaxable withdrawals include withdrawals of your cost in participating in the plan. Your cost includes contributions that you paid tax on before you put them into the plan.
4. If you transfer a withdrawal from one qualified retirement plan to another within 60 days, the transfer is a rollover. Rollovers are not subject to income tax. The added 10 percent tax also does not apply to a rollover.
5. There are several other exceptions to the additional 10 percent tax. These include withdrawals if you have certain medical expenses or if you are disabled. Some of the exceptions for retirement plans are different from the rules for IRAs.
For more information on early distributions from retirement plans, see IRS Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income. Also, see IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). Both publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
A tax credit reduces the amount of tax you must pay. A refundable tax credit not only reduces the federal tax you owe, but also could result in a refund.
Here are five credits the IRS wants you to consider before filing your 2012 federal income tax return:
1. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable credit for people who work and don’t earn a lot of money. The maximum credit for 2012 returns is $5,891 for workers with three or more children. Eligibility is determined based on earnings, filing status and eligible children. Workers without children may be eligible for a smaller credit. If you worked and earned less than $50,270, use the EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you qualify. For more information, see Publication 596, Earned Income Credit.
2. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is for expenses you paid for the care of your qualifying children under age 13, or for a disabled spouse or dependent. The care must enable you to work or look for work. For more information, see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
3. The Child Tax Credit may apply to you if you have a qualifying child under age 17. The credit may help reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child you claim on your return. You may be required to file the new Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your tax return to claim the credit. See Publication 972, Child Tax Credit, for more information.
4. The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver’s Credit) helps 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 a retirement plan at work. The credit is in addition to any other tax savings that apply to retirement plans. For more information, see Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).
5. The American Opportunity Tax Credit helps offset some of the costs that you pay for higher education. The AOTC applies to the first four years of post-secondary education. The maximum credit is $2,500 per eligible student. Forty percent of the credit, up to $1,000, is refundable. You must file Form 8863, Education Credits, to claim it if you qualify. For more information, see Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.
From the IRS…
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.
From the IRS…
Six Tips for Charitable Taxpayers
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.
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.
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.