Thoughts, Ideas, and Concepts by Sandra Parks

Posts tagged ‘IRS’

IF THIS CONFUSES YOU PLEASE CONTACT ME

More forms to file. New and expanded credits and deductions.

When taxpayers sit down to file their 2009 returns, they will find plenty new — some the result of adjusting for inflation, and others changes passed by Congress last year to try to bring the country out of recession.

“Depending on their individual situation, there could be good news and there could be bad news,” said Amy McAnarney, executive director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block.

Some things affect all taxpayers. The personal exemption, for example, has increased, to $3,650 each for the taxpayer and dependents, up $150 from 2008.

And tax brackets have been adjusted upward by about 5 percent since 2008, said Greg Rosica, tax partner at Ernst & Young and a contributing author to the “Ernst & Young Tax Guide 2010.” That means you might not jump to a higher tax bracket if you earned more.

“Certainly there are benefits there for all taxpayers,” said Rosica. “There are ones that span the entire income spectrum out there.”

Others revisions are more likely to affect low- and moderate-income workers. Income limits for the earned income tax credit have been raised and there’s a new category — families with three or more children. The Internal Revenue Service says one in six taxpayers claim the credit.

Still other changes affect those at higher income levels. The exemption for the alternative minimum tax has been increased once again, this time to $70,950 for joint returns and $46,700 for individuals. If your income is higher than these amounts, you could be subject to the AMT tax.

These changes are among those that happen every year, to keep taxes in line with inflation. But there are a host of other revisions, new for 2009, that will make filing your tax return this year a little more complicated.

For one thing, the standard deduction for taxpayers who don’t itemize has become a little less standard.

The standard deduction itself has increased, to $11,400 for married couples filing jointly, $5,700 for individuals and $8,350 for heads of household. As before, it is even bigger if you are blind or 65 or over.

But new this year, you can take more of a standard deduction if you paid state or local real estate taxes, bought a new car and paid sales or excise taxes and met the income limits, or were a victim of a federally declared disaster.

If you choose to increase your standard deduction by one or more of these items, you’ll have to file a new form Schedule L. Otherwise, you can just enter the standard deduction on Form 1040.

The three deductions — for state or local real estate taxes, sales or excise taxes on new car purchases or net disaster losses — also can be taken by people who itemize.

There are expanded tax credits for home purchases and education. And a tax credit for making your home more energy efficient has been reinstated.

Tax experts caution people to be careful that they’re claiming every deduction and credit to which they’re entitled. A credit reduces the amount of tax you owe; a deduction reduces the income on which taxes are assessed.

You’re likely already receiving the benefit of the Making Work Pay credit under the stimulus bill that Congress passed last year. However, you may have to pay a portion back if you’re a married couple and both spouses work, or if you have more than one job. If you’re a low- or moderate-income worker, you might have some money due to you. A new form, Schedule M, will have to be filed to claim the credit.

“Each year carries with it changes in the tax law. It’s important that people understand what has changed in their personal situation,” Rosica said.

Did you get married or have a baby? Did you buy or sell stock? Did you inherit money, property or other goods?

Jeff Schnepper, MSN Money tax expert, recommends that people sit down with a tax professional at least once every three years to review their life changes and financial situation.

“First of all, it’s deductible,” he said. “Second of all, if you’re not a professional, you don’t know the minutiae. You don’t know all the things you can do right and you don’t know all the things you’re about to do wrong.”

Experts point to common mistakes that people make, which could delay a refund.

According to the Ernst & Young tax guide, some of these errors are mathematical. Others involve omission — like failing to include your Social Security number or those of your dependents. Make sure you pick the correct filing status — head of household or surviving spouse vs. single, for example. And don’t forget to sign your return.

Last year, the IRS received more than 141 million tax returns. Of those, about 70 percent were filed electronically. More than 110 million filers were due refunds, averaging $2,753 each.

The IRS encourages people to file electronically, saying it reduces errors and enables people to get their refunds more quickly. People who file electronically and use direct deposit can get their refunds as soon as 10 days after they file.

This year, the agency estimates that it will take taxpayers using form 1040 an average 21.4 hours to complete their taxes. That includes record keeping, tax planning, and completing and filing the return. The more complicated your return, the more time it will take to complete it.

One major thing that taxpayers will find different this year is the homebuyer tax credit.

“It’s already gone through three iterations,” said Mark Luscombe, principal analyst for CCH’s tax and accounting group.

In 2008, the credit was actually an interest-free, long-term loan. For people who purchased a home in 2009, the credit is a true credit — it only has to be paid back if you stop using the home as your principal residence within three years of purchase. The credit is $8,000 for first-time homebuyers, defined as those who haven’t owned a home in the last three years.

Congress also added a credit for long-time homeowners who purchase a new principal residence — $6,500. To qualify, a homebuyer would have had to live at least five years in a previously owned home.

There are income limitations for both.

There also is an expanded credit for college education.

The new American opportunity credit provides a maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student for each of the first four years of college. The Hope credit that the new credit replaces temporarily covered only the first two years and for most people was smaller. To be eligible, taxpayers would have to pay $4,000 or more in tuition, fees and course materials.

The credit, which phases out at higher incomes, is 40 percent refundable. “This means that even people who owe no tax can get an annual payment of the credit up to $1,000 for each eligible student,” the IRS said.

What about those students who take more than four years to finish college? “If you’re in your fifth year, you’re out of luck,” Luscombe said.

However, there is another credit — the lifetime learning credit — that may be available for students in their fifth or sixth year of college, or in graduate school.

Other changes include the reinstatement of the credit for making your home more energy efficient. The maximum credit has increased, to $1,500 for $5,000 in expenditures on things like insulation, storm windows or an energy efficient furnace.

For people who lost jobs, the first $2,400 in unemployment benefits is not taxable.

To benefit from most of the tax breaks, you would have had to take action before the end of 2009. But there are a couple of exceptions.

You still might be able to claim the homebuyer credit if you have a signed contract by April 30.

And, if at the end of the day you find you owe the IRS money or want a bigger refund, you may be able to contribute to an individual retirement account until April 15 and take a deduction on your 2009 taxes.

If you’re covered by a plan at work, you may be able to deduct a contribution of $5,000 — $6,000 if you’re at least 50 — if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $65,000 if you’re filing as an individual, or $109,000 if you’re married filing jointly

SAP TAXES, www.saptaxes.net, 972.569.7938

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TREASURY OFFSET PROGRAM

Please let me know if you are in need of a tax professional.  Visit us at www.saptaxes.net or call at 972.569.7938.  Thanks!

If you call the treasury offset program call center, (1800-304-3107),you can put in your social security number and the automated voice will tell you if you have been “flagged” and if your income tax refund will be offset.Has anyone called this number before, and does anyone know if the information provided is accurate.Also, can anyone tell me when (what month) DOE submits defaulted student loans to the treasury offset program.

Being Audited by the IRS – DON’T BELIEVE THIS!!!!

 Want to keep IRS auditors away? Keep your earnings under $200,000 and they won’t bother you 99 percent of the time.

IRS enforcement numbers, released Tuesday, show that returns under that amount have a 1 percent chance of getting audited.

Returns showing income of $200,000 and above have a nearly 3 percent audit chance. The percentage jumps to more than 6 percent for returns showing earnings of $1 million or more.

The percentages apply to both individual and joint returns.

The number of audits jumped 11 percent from 2008 to 2009 for returns with earnings of $200,000 or more, but rose 30 percent for returns showing earnings of $1 million or more. For those under $200,000 the number of audits remained steady.

The IRS conducted 1.4 million audits of individual returns in the financial year ended Sept. 30, with more than 1 million conducted through correspondence with the taxpayer. The others were conducted through face-to-face meetings with IRS auditors.

The IRS does not do random audits, but does conduct “research audits” that will test compliance in business tax categories. In 2010, the target will be payroll taxes, according to Steve Miller, deputy commissioner for enforcement.

What happens if you’re audited while unemployed? The IRS may give you a break.

“While our assessments were up, the ability to pay went down drastically” due to the economy, Miller said. “We have a series of tools. We can have them pay partially, over time. If the money is not collectible, it’s treated as non-collectible. It’s going to depend on each case.

“We have to ensure there’s a balance between our responsibility to collect taxes with economic realities. We give people more time and determine how fast they can pay and whether they can pay.”

The total revenue collected from IRS enforcement actions, $48.9 billion in 2009, is a drop from $56.4 billion in 2008 and $59.2 billion in 2007.

Miller said the higher numbers in 2007 and 2008 reflect collections from settlements of several major tax shelter cases.

The IRS has stepped up its examination of tax-exempt organizations, checking the books of more than 10,000 groups in 2009 compared to 7,800 the previous year.

The number of business tax returns examined was down slightly in 2009 from the previous year.

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

Georgia Severe Storm Tax Relief

ATL-2009-36, Sept. 25, 2009

Updated 9/28/09 to include Bartow, Catoosa, Coweta, DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Newton, Rockdale and Walker counties.

 

ATLANTA — Victims of recent severe storms and flooding in Georgia may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

Following severe storms and flooding beginning Sept.18, the President declared Bartow, Carroll, Catoosa, Chattooga, Cherokee, Cobb, Coweta, DeKalb, Douglas, Fulton, Gwinnett, Heard, Newton, Paulding, Rockdale, Stephens and Walker counties federal disaster areas qualifying for individual assistance.

As a result, the IRS is postponing until Dec. 17 certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. The postponement applies to return filing, tax payment and certain other time-sensitive acts otherwise due between Sept. 18 and Dec. 17.

In addition, the IRS will waive the failure to deposit penalties for employment and excise deposits due on or after Sept. 18 and on or before Oct. 5, as long as the deposits were made by Oct. 5.

If an affected taxpayer receives a penalty notice from the IRS, the taxpayer should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. Penalties or interest will be abated only for taxpayers who have an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date, including an extended filing or payment due date, that falls within the Postponement Period.

IRS computer systems automatically identify taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and apply automatic filing and payment relief. Affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 1-866-562-5227 to request tax relief.

Covered Disaster Area

The counties listed above constitutes a covered disaster area for purposes of Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(2) and are entitled to the relief detailed below.

Affected Taxpayers

Taxpayers considered to be affected taxpayers eligible for the postponement of time to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts are those taxpayers listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(1), and include individuals who live, and businesses whose principal place of business is located, in the covered disaster area. Taxpayers not in the covered disaster area, but whose records necessary to meet a deadline listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c) are in the covered disaster area, are also entitled to relief. In addition, all relief workers affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization assisting in the relief activities in the covered disaster area and any individual visiting the covered disaster area who was killed or injured as a result of the disaster are entitled to relief.

Grant of Relief

Under section 7508A, the IRS gives affected taxpayers until Dec. 17, to file most tax returns (including individual, corporate, and estate and trust income tax returns; partnership returns, S corporation returns, and trust returns; estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax returns; and employment and certain excise tax returns), or to make tax payments, including estimated tax payments, that have either an original or extended due date occurring on or after Sept. 18, and on or before Dec. 17.

The IRS also gives affected taxpayers until Dec. 17, to perform other time-sensitive actions described in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c)(1) and Rev. Proc. 2007-56, 2007-34 I.R.B. 388 (August 20, 2007), that are due to be performed on or after Sept. 18 and on or before Dec. 17.

This relief also includes the filing of Form 5500 series returns, in the manner described in section 8 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56. The relief described in section 17 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56, pertaining to like-kind exchanges of property, also applies to certain taxpayers who are not otherwise affected taxpayers and may include acts required to be performed before or after the period above.

The postponement of time to file and pay does not apply to information returns in the W-2, 1098, 1099 series, or to Forms 1042-S or 8027. Penalties for failure to timely file information returns can be waived under existing procedures for reasonable cause. Likewise, the postponement does not apply to employment and excise tax deposits. The IRS, however, will abate penalties for failure to make timely employment and excise deposits due on or after Sept. 18 and on or before Oct. 5provided the taxpayer made these deposits by Oct. 5.

Casualty Losses

In 2008, a change was made to the tax law that provides relief to individual taxpayers whose personal-use property was damaged or destroyed by a casualty in a federally declared disaster area. Under prior law, individuals who suffered casualty losses as a result of a federally declared disaster were required to reduce the loss from each casualty event by $100 and reduce the total of their casualty losses for the tax year by 10 percent of their adjusted gross income. In addition, these individuals were required to claim their casualty losses as an itemized deduction.

In 2009, as a result of the new law, individuals who suffer a casualty loss as a result of a federally declared disaster are required to reduce the loss from each casualty event by $500. The new law removes the 10 percent of adjusted gross income limitation for net disaster losses and allows individuals to claim the net disaster losses even if they do not itemize their deductions. Affected taxpayers in a federally declared disaster area have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either this year or last year.

Claiming the loss on an original or amended return for last year will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on this year’s return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors.

Individuals may deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. For details, see Form 4684 and its instructions.

Affected taxpayers claiming the disaster loss on last year’s return should put the Disaster Designation “Georgia/Severe Storms and Flooding” at the top of the form so that the IRS can expedite the processing of the refund.

Other Relief

The IRS will waive the usual fees and expedite requests for copies of previously filed tax returns for affected taxpayers. Taxpayers should put the assigned Disaster Designation in red ink at the top of Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, as appropriate, and submit it to the IRS.

Affected taxpayers who are contacted by the IRS on a collection or examination matter should explain how the disaster impacts them so that the IRS can provide appropriate consideration to their case.

Taxpayers may download forms and publications from the official IRS Web site, irs.gov, or order them by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). The IRS toll-free number for general tax questions is 1-800-829-1040.

CHILD TAX CREDIT

The child tax credit allows taxpayers to claim a tax credit of up to $1,000 per qualifying child under the age of 17. This reduces their tax liability, potentially to $0. In order to claim the credit, the taxpayer and child must meet numerous requirements.

When a taxpayer’s child tax credit is more than their tax liability, they may be eligible to claim an additional child tax credit as well as the child tax credit. The additional child tax credit is also a tax credit of up to $1,000 per qualifying child. This further reduces their tax liability and can result in a refund. Taxpayers must meet additional requirements to claim this credit.

  1. The child tax credit is a nonrefundable tax credit.
  • A. True
  • B. False
  1. Shane is a 17 year old US citizen who lives with his mother and is supported by her. Shane qualifies for the child tax credit.
  • A. True
  • B. False
  1. Brad has two children who qualify for the child tax credit. Brad’s modified adjusted gross income is $54,000 and his tax liability is $3000.
    Brad is eligible to take the full credit of $1,000 per child.
  • A. True
  • B. False
  1. Deb and Doug have one child who qualifies for the child tax credit. Their income is $66,000 and their tax liability is $5,000.
    Deb and Doug are eligible for the additional child tax credit.
  • A. True
  • B. False

For more information please visit http://saptaxes.net or contact me at 972.569.7938

Thanks!

Scam E-mail Sends Malicious Software to Recipients’ Computers

In recent weeks, a phony e-mail claiming to come from the IRS has been circulating in large numbers. The subject line of the e-mail often states that the e-mail is a notice of underreported income. The e-mail may contain an attachment or a link to a bogus Web page directing taxpayers to their “tax statement.” In either case, when the recipient opens the attachment or clicks on the link, they download a Trojan horse-type of virus to their computers.

Malicious code (also known as malware), of which the Trojan horse is but one example, can take over the victim’s computer hard drive, giving someone remote access to the computer, or it could look for passwords and other information and send them to the scammer. The scammer will then use whatever information they gather to commit identity theft, gain access to bank accounts and more.

The IRS does not send unsolicited e-mails to taxpayers about their tax accounts. Anyone who receives an unsolicited e-mail claiming to come from the IRS should avoid opening any attachments or clicking on any links. People can report suspicious e-mails they receive which claim to come from the IRS to a mailbox set up for this purpose, phishing@irs.gov. Those who believe they may already be victims of identity theft should find out what do by going to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s Web site, OnGuardOnLine.gov

Sandra Parks, 972.569.7938/saprpm@yahoo.com

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