Apr 16

Tax Tips for Taxpayers Who Missed April 15

  • File as soon as possible.  If you owe federal income tax, you should file and pay as soon as you can to minimize any penalty and interest charges. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund.
  • Penalties and interest may be due.  If you missed the April 15 deadline, you may have to pay penalties and interest. The IRS may charge penalties for late filing and for late payment. The law generally does not allow a waiver of interest charges. However, the IRS will consider a reduction of these penalties if you can show a reasonable cause for being late.
  • E-file is your best option.  IRS e-file programs are available through Oct. 15. E-file is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file. With e-file, you will receive confirmation that the IRS has received your tax return. If you e-file and are due a refund, the IRS will normally issue it within 21 days.
  • Free File is still available.  Everyone can use IRS Free File. If your income is $57,000 or less, you qualify to e-file your return using free brand-name software. If you made more than $57,000 and are comfortable preparing your own tax return, use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file. This program uses the electronic versions of paper IRS forms. IRS Free File is available only through IRS.gov.
  • Pay as much as you can.  If you owe tax but can’t pay it all at once, you should pay as much as you can when you file your tax return. Pay the remaining balance due as soon as possible to minimize penalties and interest charges.
  • Installment Agreements are available.  If you need more time to pay your federal income taxes, you can request a payment agreement with the IRS. Apply online using the IRS Online Payment Agreement Application tool or file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request.
  • Refunds may be waiting.  If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible to get it. Even if you are not required to file, you may be entitled to a refund. This could apply if you had taxes withheld from your wages, or you qualify for certain tax credits. If you don’t file your return within three years, you could forfeit your right to the refund.
Apr 11

Ten Tips on Making IRA Contributions

The IRS has 10 important tips for you about setting aside money for your retirement in an Individual Retirement Arrangement.

1. You must be under age 70 1/2 at the end of the tax year in order to contribute to a traditional IRA.

2. You must have taxable compensation to contribute to an IRA. This includes income from wages, salaries, tips, commissions and bonuses. It also includes net income from self-employment. If you file a joint return, generally only one spouse needs to have taxable compensation.

3. You can contribute to your traditional IRA at any time during the year. You must make all contributions by the due date for filing your tax return. This due date does not include extensions. For most people this means you must contribute for 2012 by April 15, 2013. If you contribute between Jan. 1 and April 15, you should contact your IRA plan sponsor to make sure they apply it to the right year.

4. For 2012, the most you can contribute to your IRA is the smaller of either your taxable compensation for the year or $5,000. If you were 50 or older at the end of 2012 the maximum amount increases to $6,000.

5. Generally, you will not pay income tax on the funds in your traditional IRA until you begin taking distributions from it.

6. You may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your traditional IRA.

7. Use the worksheets in the instructions for either Form 1040A or Form 1040 to figure the amount of your contributions that you can deduct.

8. You may also qualify for the Savers Credit, formally known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit. The credit can reduce your taxes up to $1,000 (up to $2,000 if filing jointly). Use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the Saver’s Credit.

9. You must file either Form 1040A or Form 1040 to deduct your IRA contribution or to claim the Saver’s Credit.

10. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements, for more about IRA contributions.

Apr 09

Eight Tax-Time Errors to Avoid

Continuing my posts related to tax planning, the IRS released the following, which I am re-posting.

If you make a mistake on your tax return, it usually takes the IRS longer to process it. The IRS may have to contact you about that mistake before your return is processed. This will delay the receipt of your tax refund.

The IRS reminds filers that e-filing their tax return greatly lowers the chance of errors. In fact, taxpayers are about twenty times more likely to make a mistake on their return if they file a paper return instead of e-filing their return.

Here are eight common errors to avoid.

1. Wrong or missing Social Security numbers.  Be sure you enter SSNs for yourself and others on your tax return exactly as they are on the Social Security cards.

2. Names wrong or misspelled.  Be sure you enter names of all individuals on your tax return exactly as they are on their Social Security cards.

3. Filing status errors.  Choose the right filing status. There are five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child. See Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information, to help you choose the right one. E-filing your tax return will also help you choose the right filing status.

4. Math mistakes.  If you file a paper tax return, double check the math. If you e-file, the software does the math for you. For example, if your Social Security benefits are taxable, check to ensure you figured the taxable portion correctly.

5. Errors in figuring credits, deductions.  Take your time and read the instructions in your tax booklet carefully. Many filers make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit and the standard deduction. For example, if you are age 65 or older or blind check to make sure you claim the correct, larger standard deduction amount.

6. Wrong bank account numbers.  Direct deposit is the fast, easy and safe way to receive your tax refund. Make sure you enter your bank routing and account numbers correctly.

7. Forms not signed, dated.  An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it’s invalid. Remember both spouses must sign a joint return.

8. Electronic signature errors.  If you e-file your tax return, you will sign the return electronically using a Personal Identification Number. For security purposes, the software will ask you to enter the Adjusted Gross Income from your originally-filed 2011 federal tax return. Do not use the AGI amount from an amended 2011 return or an AGI provided to you if the IRS corrected your return. You may also use last year’s PIN if you e-filed last year and remember your PIN.

Apr 05

Get tax credit for making your home energy efficient

If you made your home more energy efficient last year, you may qualify for a tax credit on your 2012 federal income tax return. Here is some basic information about home energy credits that you should know.

Non-Business Energy Property Credit

  • You may claim a credit of 10 percent of the cost of certain energy saving property that you added to your main home. This includes the cost of qualified insulation, windows, doors and roofs.
  • In some cases, you may be able to claim the actual cost of certain qualified energy-efficient property. Each type of property has a different dollar limit. Examples include the cost of qualified water heaters and qualified heating and air conditioning systems.
  • This credit has a maximum lifetime limit of $500. You may only use $200 of this limit for windows.
  • Your main home must be located in the U.S. to qualify for the credit.
  • Not all energy-efficient improvements qualify, so be sure you have the manufacturer’s credit certification statement. It is usually available on the manufacturer’s website or with the product’s packaging.
  • The credit was to expire at the end of 2011. A recent law extended it for two years through the end of 2013.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit

  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment that you installed on or in your home.
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment and wind turbines.
  • There is no limit on the amount of credit available for most types of property. If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year’s tax return.
  • You must install qualifying equipment in connection with your home located in the United States. It does not have to be your main home.
  • The credit is available through 2016.
Apr 04

Top Six Tax Tips for the Self-Employed

As we are almost at the filing date for tax returns, I am still working on getting tax tips out, in addition to estate planning and tax preparation for the citizens of Altus and southwest Oklahoma. Here is one of the latest releases from the IRS.

When you are self-employed, it typically means you work for yourself, as an independent contractor, or own your own business. Here are six key points the IRS would like you to know about self-employment and self-employment taxes:

1. Self-employment income can include pay that you receive for part-time work you do out of your home. This could include income you earn in addition to your regular job.

2. Self-employed individuals file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with their Form 1040.

3. If you are self-employed, you generally have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. You figure this tax using Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax.

4. If you are self-employed you may have to make estimated tax payments. People typically make estimated tax payments to pay taxes on income that is not subject to withholding. If you do not make estimated tax payments, you may have to pay a penalty when you file your income tax return. The underpayment of estimated tax penalty applies if you do not pay enough taxes during the year.

5. When you file your tax return, you can deduct some business expenses for the costs you paid to run your trade or business. You can deduct most business expenses in full, but some costs must be ’capitalized.’ This means you can deduct a portion of the expense each year over a period of years.

6. You may deduct only the costs that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business.