Thoughts, Ideas, and Concepts by Sandra Parks

Posts tagged ‘individuals’

DONATIONS!!!!!

 Individuals and businesses making contributions to charity should keep in mind several important tax law provisions that have taken effect in recent years.

Some of these changes include the following:

Special Charitable Contributions for Certain IRA Owners

This provision, currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2009, offers older owners of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) a different way to give to charity. An IRA owner, age 70½ or over, can directly transfer tax-free up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charity. This option, created in 2006, is available for distributions from IRAs, regardless of whether the owners itemize their deductions. Distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans, including SIMPLE IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans, are not eligible.

To qualify, the funds must be contributed directly by the IRA trustee to the eligible charity. Amounts so transferred are not taxable and no deduction is available for the transfer.

Not all charities are eligible. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

Amounts transferred to a charity from an IRA are counted in determining whether the owner has met the IRA’s required minimum distribution. Where individuals have made nondeductible contributions to their traditional IRAs, a special rule treats transferred amounts as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information on qualified charitable distributions.

Rules for Clothing and Household Items

To be deductible, clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens.

Guidelines for Monetary Donations

To deduct any charitable donation of money, regardless of amount, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.

Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

These requirements for the deduction of monetary donations do not change the long-standing requirement that a taxpayer obtain an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet both requirements.

Reminders

To help taxpayers plan their holiday-season and year-end giving, the IRS offers the following additional reminders:

  • Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2009 count for 2009. This is true even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2010. Also, checks count for 2009 as long as they are mailed in 2009 and clear, shortly thereafter.
  • Check that the organization is qualified. Only donations to qualified organizations are tax-deductible. IRS Publication 78, available online and at many public libraries, lists most organizations that are qualified to receive deductible contributions. The searchable online version can be found at IRS.gov under Search for Charities. In addition, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations, even if they are not listed in Publication 78.
  • For individuals, only taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A can claim deductions for charitable contributions. This deduction is not available to individuals who choose the standard deduction, including anyone who files a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ). A taxpayer will have a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. Use the 2009 Form 1040 Schedule A, available now on IRS.gov, to determine whether itemizing is better than claiming the standard deduction.
  • For all donations of property, including clothing and household items, get from the charity, if possible, a receipt that includes the name of the charity, date of the contribution, and a reasonably-detailed description of the donated property. If a donation is left at a charity’s unattended drop site, keep a written record of the donation that includes this information, as well as the fair market value of the property at the time of the donation and the method used to determine that value. Additional rules apply for a contribution of $250 or more.
  • The deduction for a motor vehicle, boat or airplane donated to charity is usually limited to the gross proceeds from its sale. This rule applies if the claimed value is more than $500. Form 1098-C, or a similar statement, must be provided to the donor by the organization and attached to the donor’s tax return.
  • If the amount of a taxpayer’s deduction for all noncash contributions is over $500, a properly-completed Form 8283 must be submitted with the tax return.

Tax credit is coming back to bite millions

WASHINGTON – More than 15 million taxpayers may owe the government $250 or more because of how the IRS last spring set up President Barack Obama’s tax break that was designed to help consumers spend the U.S. economy out of recession.

Individuals with more than one job and married couples in which both spouses work may have to repay the government $400, either through a smaller tax refund or a larger tax bill, according to a report released Monday by the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration. Social Security recipients who also earn taxable wages may have to repay $250.

The tax credit, which is supposed to pay individuals up to $400 and couples up to $800, was Obama’s signature tax break in the massive stimulus package enacted in February. The credit has increased weekly paychecks for 95 percent of working families, giving them cash to help boost consumer spending during the worst economic recession in decades.

Workers concerned about whether they are withholding enough taxes can use a calculator on the IRS Web site to find the appropriate amount that should be withheld.

Taxpayers can adjust their withholding by filing a new W-4 form with their employer. But with only a month and a half remaining in the 2009 tax year, it’s getting late to make adjustments.

Most workers started receiving the credit through small increases in their paychecks in April. The tax credit was made available through new tax withholding tables issued by the Internal Revenue Service.

The withholding tables, however, do not take into account several common categories of taxpayers. And that could force some people to repay what the government gave them.

For example, a worker with two jobs gets a $400 boost in pay at each job, for a total of $800. That worker, however, only is eligible for a maximum credit of $400, so the remaining $400 will have to be paid back at tax time — either through a smaller refund or a payment to the IRS.

The IRS recognized there could be a similar problem for married couples if both spouses work, so it adjusted the withholding tables. The fix, however, was imperfect.

A married couple is eligible for an $800 credit. However, if both spouses work and make more than $13,000, the new withholding tables give them each a $600 boost — for a total of $1,200.

There were 33 million married couples in 2008 in which both spouses worked. That’s 55 percent of all married couples, according to the Census Bureau.

Also, a single student with a part-time job gets a $400 boost in pay. However, if students are claimed as dependents on their parents’ tax returns, they don’t qualify for the credit and would have to repay it when they file their returns.

Some retirees face even bigger headaches.

More than 50 million Social Security recipients received $250 payments in the spring as part of the economic stimulus package. Those lump sum payments were intended to provide a boost for people who didn’t qualify for the tax credit.

However, the payments were sent to many retirees who also received the tax credit. Those retirees will have the $250 payment deducted from their tax credit — but not until they file their tax returns next year, long after the money may have been spent.

“More than 10 percent of all taxpayers who file individual tax returns for 2009 could owe additional taxes,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration.

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the senior Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, called problems with the tax credit “another unfortunate example of what can happen when Congress and the White House rush through legislation like the stimulus without thinking through the consequences.”

The tax credit is also available for 2010. George said the problems will continue if workers don’t adjust their withholding for next year.

For many, the new tax tables will simply mean smaller-than-expected tax refunds. The average tax refund this year was about $2,800. A little more than three-fourths of the 143 million taxpayers filing a return last spring received refunds, according to the IRS.

The IRS was aware of the issues when the withholding tables were released last spring and waged a public awareness campaign to get people to check their tax withholding, said Michael Mundaca, acting assistant treasury secretary.

“It’s just technically how withholding works,” Mundaca said. “It’s an approximation and therefore for some people there will be overwithholding and for some people there will be underwithholding.”

Separately, the IRS estimated that about 65,000 taxpayers could face penalties for not withholding enough taxes in 2009 because of the Making Work Pay tax credit. However, those taxpayers will be eligible to have the penalty waived, IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said.

The credit pays workers 6.2 percent of their earned income, up to a maximum of $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples who file jointly. Individuals making more than $95,000 and couples making more than $190,000 are ineligible.

Sandra Parks 972.569.7938 http://saptaxes.net

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