Since we’re in the middle of income tax preparation season, I thought it was appropriate to share some of the tips that the IRS has put forth. Today’s tip is to take advantage of direct deposit for your tax refund. It can be very handy to have this option specified on your tax return, as you’ll see below. It’s faster, more secure, and much more convenient than the old paper check method. Below is the text of IRS’ Tax Tip 2015-23, which details some of the reasons that it makes sense to use direct deposit for your tax refund.
Since the Affordable Care Act has been in place for over a year now, it’s important to understand what affects the health care law will have on you and your tax situation. Recently the IRS issued a Health Care Tax Tip (HCTT-2015-06) which details how the health care law can effect you. The actual text of the Tip is reproduced below:
Tax filing season is upon us! As you consider all of your options for filing your return this year, you might consider some of the exploring free tax filing for your return. Recently the IRS published their IRS Tax Tip 2015-06, which details information about two of the options for free tax filing that you might be able to take advantage of. The actual text of the Tip is below:
The end of the year, especially around the holidays, is a time when many folks’ thoughts turn to charitable giving. Many opportunities present themselves, from the gentleman with the bell and the red kettle to our local food and coat drives. With this in mind, the IRS recently published their Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-13 which details six tips for charitable giving. The actual text of the Tip is listed below. In addition to those tips, I’ll offer one more: if you are interested in utilizing the Qualified Charitable Distribution option from your IRA – presently this option has not been extended for tax year 2014. It’s possible that it might be extended yet this year, so check back here – we’ll keep you posted.
Even though there are only a few more weeks left in the calendar year, there are a few things that you can do to avoid some serious and consequential tax surprises come April next year. The IRS recently published their Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-21 which details some of the steps you could take now to avoid these surprises. Still Time to Act to Avoid Surprises at Tax-Time Even though only a few months remain in 2014, you still have time to act so you aren’t surprised at tax-time next year. You should take steps to avoid owing more taxes or getting a larger refund than you expect. Here are some actions you can take to bring the taxes you pay in advance closer to what you’ll owe when you file your tax return:
Sometimes you need access to a previous year tax return copy, and dadgummit you just pitched the box of tax copies from 2011, thinking you couldn’t possibly need it again! There are ways to get this information – some easier than others. First of all, if you prepared and filed your own return using one of the commercial programs, and you’ve maintained your access to the program over the years, you should be able to go back and re-print a copy of the return from that year. This is the quick and simple method. If you had a tax professional prepare and file the return for you, she should have a copy of your return – if not the fileable copy, then at least a client’s or preparer’s copy, which should be adequate for fulfilling most requirements. Many preparers retain these copies, with supporting documentation, for many years for just […]
Starting a new job in the middle of the year? Use the part year withholding method to avoid excess tax withheld
When you file your W4 form with a new employer, this instructs the employer how much tax to withhold from your pay, based on a full year’s pay rate. There is a strategy you can employ that will reduce the amount of tax withheld from your pay – known as the part year withholding method. This method of tax withholding calculation takes into account that you are only working and earning for a part of the year, so your overall income will be less, and there would be less tax required. If you start working in the middle of the year (or worse, late in the year) the normal rate of withholding would result in significant over-payment of tax withheld. The standard tables used to calculate withholding make the assumption on each pay that you are earning at this rate over the entire period.
Now that most folks are recovering from tax time there may be some individuals that paid an excessive amount of tax to Uncle Sam and are looking for ways to reduce their tax liability for next year. This post will be short and sweet, but hopefully it will drive a few points home. The best way to explain this is through an example. Let’s say that Mary and her husband Paul both work and file their taxes jointly. Their tax liability for 2013 was $4,000 – meaning that’s the amount of the check they wrote to the IRS. Needless to say, they are both looking for a potential way to reduce that liability – at least in the here and now. In this case, their marginal tax rate is 25%. The quick trick in this example is to take their tax rate which is 25% and divide it into their […]
So – you’re considering your income tax return (or maybe you’ve already filed) and you’re wondering if there are things you need to know with regard to Obamacare. Fortunately, it’s not much (for most folks), for your 2013 return anyhow. Next year will be a different story. The IRS recently produced their Health Care Tax Tip HCTT-2014-10 which lists some tips about how the health care law impacts your 2013 tax return. The actual text of the Tip is below: What do I need to know about the Health Care Law for my 2013 Tax Return? For most people, the Affordable Care Act has no effect on their 2013 federal income tax return. For example, you will not report health care coverage under the individual shared responsibility provision or claim the premium tax credit until you file your 2014 return in 2015. However, for some people, a few provisions may […]
When filing your tax return you want to make sure that you don’t make mistakes. Mistakes can be costly in terms of additional tax and penalties, as well as the extra time and grief they can cause you. Most of the time using e-filing software can help you to avoid these mistakes, but you should check over the return anyhow to make certain you haven’t fat-fingered something or if something didn’t go wrong with the software. The IRS recently issued their Tax Tip 2014-46, which lists out 8 common mistakes that folks make on their tax return, and how to avoid them where possible. The actual text of the Tip follows below: Eight Common Tax Mistakes to Avoid We all make mistakes. But if you make a mistake on your tax return, the IRS may need to contact you to correct it. That will delay your refund. You can avoid […]
When you own certain kinds of assets and you sell them, you may incur a capital gain or loss that is applicable to your income tax preparation. If the original purchase price plus applicable expenses associated with the asset (known as the basis) is less than the proceeds that you receive from the sale of the asset, you have incurred a capital gain. On the other hand, if the basis of your asset is greater than the proceeds from the sale, you have incurred a capital loss. Capital gains are taxable to you, using a separate tax rate – and capital losses can be deducted from your capital gains for the year. Excess capital losses (above your capital gains for the year) can be used to reduce your income by up to $3,000 per year, carried forward until used up (or for your lifetime). The IRS recently produced their Tax […]
Beginning with your 2013 tax return you have a new option available for calculating the Home-Office deduction – based solely on the square footage of the dedicated space used for the home office. Instead of having to maintain records that are directly and indirectly associated with your home office, you can use the simplified method, which applies a flat $5 rate per square foot to the home office space, up to a maximum of $1,500. The record-keeping and tax preparation simplification is very beneficial: Form 8829 (the usual home-office deduction form) can cause a lot of headaches to prepare, especially if you have more than one home office and you itemize your home mortgage interest and real estate taxes. For a single home office your tax preparation software will do much of the work for you, but complications like a second home office (not that uncommon in these days of […]
When you prepare your taxes each year, you’re faced with a decision – itemize deductions or take the standard deduction? Most of the time it’s not a question of whether you can itemize, but rather should you itemize. Most Anyone Can Itemize… This is due to the fact that most anyone can itemize. If you’ve paid state and/or local income or sales taxes, real estate taxes, or paid mortgage interest, you have deductions to itemize. Same goes for charitable contributions. All of these items that you’ve paid out are eligible to be deducted on Schedule A of your tax return, without a lower limit. If you have medical expenses, these can be deductible if the total of your medical expenses are more than 10% of your Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). For 2013 tax returns, if you’re 65 years of age or older, your medical expenses that are more than 7.5% […]
When filing your tax returns this year, consider using direct deposit for your refund. By doing this, you don’t have to worry about the mail “making the trip”, and also you won’t have to make a visit to the bank to cash or deposit the refund. On top of that, direct deposit refunds usually are deposited more quickly than a check is delivered by mail, getting you the money faster. Among the many alternatives for the places you can have the money deposited to are virtually any bank account, as long as you have the routing and account information, as well as transferring your funds to your TreasuryDirect account to purchase US Treasury marketable securities and savings bonds. You can also split your refund to be deposited in two or three different accounts – the account(s) need to be title in your name, your spouse’s name, or both, not someone […]
You may not be aware of this, since income taxes are so complicated that not a lot of folks do much digging into the nuances, but there is another income tax rate that could affect you in certain circumstances. This other income tax is called the Alternative Minimum Tax, or AMT. This “alternative” tax applies when you have income above certain thresholds. Essentially it ensures that you pay a certain minimum amount of income tax if your deductions reduce your income so much that your ordinary income tax falls below the minimum applied by the AMT. It gets pretty complicated, but I’ll go over the high points below. Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) AMT has a separate set of rules for definitions of income and expenses, rules for accounting and timing, and exemptions and tax rates. AMT limits the tax benefit of certain types of income and deductions, otherwise available to […]
As you may already be aware, individuals are required to carry health insurance on themselves and their dependents, as of January 1, 2014. This is the mandate set forth in the Affordable Care Act – and of course it’s an important part of making the whole Act work. Small businesses (less than 50 employees) have a similar mandate to provide coverage for employees beginning in 2015, or face penalties themselves. Without mandating insurance coverage for everyone, the system can’t sustain the lower-cost options for folks who desperately need the medical coverage. This includes folks who are not covered by any other means (employer, Medicare, Medicaid or individually-purchased policies) and who have medical problems that require costly care. With the mandate, healthier individuals will also have to pony up and purchase health insurance, so that the overall cost is spread among both healthy and not-as-healthy individuals. There are a few ways […]
Did you realize that there is a tax credit available to you for your contributions to retirement plans? There are income limits, but if you fit the limits, this type of credit can be exactly what you need to get you started on your retirement savings activities. Recently the IRS published IR-2013-93, which provides information about this valuable credit. The actual text of the bulletin follows. Plan Now to Get Full Benefit of Saver’s Credit; Tax Credit Helps Low- and Moderate-Income Workers Save for Retirement WASHINGTON – Low- and moderate-income workers can take steps now to save for retirement and earn a special tax credit in 2013 and the years ahead, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The saver’s credit helps offset part of the first $2,000 workers voluntarily contribute to IRAs and to 401(k) plans and similar workplace retirement programs. Also known as the retirement savings contributions credit, the […]
If you have a Flex Spending Account (FSA) for healthcare expenses through your employer, you are familiar with the “use it or lose it” concept. Each year during December, it’s a mad dash to get that last-minute eye exam, or fill prescriptions, or what-have-you to use up the Flex Spending money before the end of the year. That tradition will, for many folks, be a thing of the past if their employers adopt the carryover rule now allowed by IRS. Traditionally, with a Flex Spending Account (FSA) for healthcare expenses you arrange with your employer to withhold a certain amount of money out of each paycheck and then as you incur expenses for healthcare throughout the year, you can be reimbursed for those expenses up to the amount of your annual withholding for FSA. The money withheld for the FSA is pre-tax, so it’s to your advantage to take part […]
Now that the government is back “in action”, the IRS has issued some notices about how the shutdown is affecting operations. All of the systems that we mentioned that were not working during the shutdown are back up and running, so you can once again call in and get a live person, order transcripts, and the like. On the other hand, IRS is pointing out that the shutdown came during the time when they were working on testing systems for return processing for the 2013 filing season – and the testing is running behind as a result. Given that the systems are running behind in testing, the IRS says that the beginning of the filing season will be delayed by a couple of weeks. This will only impact those folks that file ASAP in mid-January – you’ll have to wait until early February to file. The final filing date of […]