Archive for IRS Tax Tips

Special Tax Benefits for Members of the Armed Forces

IRS EfileIssue Number:    IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2014-07


Special Tax Benefits for Members of the Armed Forces

Special tax benefits apply to members of the U. S. Armed Forces. For example, some types of pay are not taxable. And special rules may apply to some tax deductions, credits and deadlines. Here are ten of those benefits:

1. Deadline Extensions.  Some members of the military, such as those who serve in a combat zone, can postpone some tax deadlines. If this applies to you, you can get automatic extensions of time to file your tax return and to pay your taxes.

2. Combat Pay Exclusion.  If you serve in a combat zone, certaincombat pay you get is not taxable. You won’t need to show the pay on your tax return because combat pay isn’t included in the wages reported on your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Service in support of a combat zone may qualify for this exclusion.

3. Earned Income Tax Credit.  If you get nontaxable combat pay, you may choose to include it to figure your EITC. You would make this choice if it increases your credit. Even if you do, the combat pay stays nontaxable.

4. Moving Expense Deduction.  You may be able to deduct some of your unreimbursed moving costs. This applies if the move is due to a permanent change of station,

5. Uniform Deduction.  You can deduct the costs of certain uniforms that regulations prohibit you from wearing while off duty. This includes the costs of purchase and upkeep. You must reduce your deduction by any allowance you get for these costs.

6. Signing Joint Returns.  Both spouses normally must sign a joint income tax return. If your spouse is absent due to certain military duty or conditions, you may be able to sign for your spouse. In other cases when your spouse is absent, you may need a power of attorney to file a joint return.

7. Reservists’ Travel Deduction.  If you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Reserves, you may deduct certain costs of travel on your tax return. This applies to the unreimbursed costs of travel to perform your reserve duties that are more than 100 miles away from home.

8. Nontaxable ROTC Allowances.  Active duty ROTC pay, such as pay for summer advanced camp, is taxable. But some amounts paid to ROTC students in advanced training are not taxable. This applies to educational and subsistence allowances.

9. Civilian Life.  If you leave the military and look for work, you may be able to deduct some job hunting expenses. You may be able to include the costs of travel, preparing a resume and job placement agency fees. Moving expenses may also qualify for a tax deduction.

10. Tax Help.  Most military bases offer free tax preparation and filing assistance during the tax filing season. Some also offer free tax help after April 15.

For more on this topic, refer to Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide. It’s available onIRS.gov, or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get it by mail.

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Five Tips to Help You Pay Your Tax Bill

Issue Number:    IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2014-14

Five Tips to Help You Pay Your Tax Bill

If you get a tax bill from the IRS, don’t ignore it. A delay may cost you more in the long run. The longer you wait the more interest and penalties you may have to pay. Here are five tips to help you avoid those extra charges:

1. Pay electronically.  Using an IRS electronic payment to pay your tax is quick, accurate and safe. You also get a record of your payment. Your options include:

  • IRS Direct Pay
  • Electronic Federal Tax Payment System
  • Credit or debit card

Direct Pay and EFTPS are free services. If you pay by credit or debit card, the company that processes your payment will charge a fee.

2. Pay monthly if you can’t pay in full.  If you can’t pay all at once, apply for a payment plan. Most people and some small businesses can apply using the IRS Online Payment Agreement Application on IRS.gov. You can also apply for a plan using Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. The best way to get the form is from the IRS.gov website. You can also call the IRS at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get it by mail.

3. Check out a direct debit pay plan.  A direct debit pay plan is the lower-cost hassle-free way to pay. The set-up fee is less than other plans – $52 instead of $120. With this type of plan, you pay each month automatically from your bank account. There are no reminder notices from IRS, no missed payments and no checks to write and mail. For more on these rules see the Payment Plans, Installment Agreements page on IRS.gov.

4. Consider an Offer in Compromise.  An Offer in Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt with the IRS for less than the full amount. An OIC may be an option if you can’t pay your tax in full. It may also apply if full payment will create a financial hardship. To see if you may qualify and what a reasonable offer might be, use the IRS Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier Tool.

5. Pay by check or money order.  Make your check or money order payable to the U.S. Treasury. Be sure to include:

  • Your name, address and daytime phone number
  • Your Social Security number or employer ID number if business tax
  • The tax period and related tax form, such as “2013 Form 1040”

Mail it to the address listed on your notice. Do not send cash in the mail.

Find out more about the IRS collection process on IRS.gov.

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Many Tax-Exempt Organizations Must File with IRS By May 15 to Preserve Tax-Exempt Status

Issue Number:    IR-2014-57


accounting2Many Tax-Exempt Organizations Must File with IRS By May 15 to Preserve Tax-Exempt Status; Do Not Include Social Security Numbers or Personal Data

WASHINGTON — With a key May 15 filing deadline facing many tax-exempt organizations, the Internal Revenue Service today cautioned these groups not to include Social Security numbers (SSNs) or other unneeded personal information on their Form 990, and consider taking advantage of the speed and convenience ofelectronic filing.

Form 990-series information returns and notices are due on the 15th day of the fifth month after an organization’s fiscal year ends. Many organizations use the calendar year as their fiscal year, making Thursday, May 15 the deadline for them to file for 2013.

Many Groups Risk Loss of Tax-Exempt Status

By law, organizations that fail to file annual reports for three consecutive years will see their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked as of the due date of the third required filing. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that most tax-exempt organizations file annual Form 990-series informational returns or notices with the IRS. The law, which went into effect at the beginning of 2007, also imposed a new annual filing requirement on small organizations. Churches and church-related organizations are not required to file annual reports.

No Social Security Numbers on 990s

The IRS generally does not ask organizations for SSNs and in the form instructions cautions filers not to provide them on the form. By law, both the IRS and most tax-exempt organizations are required to publicly disclose most parts of form filings, including schedules and attachments. Public release of SSNs and other personally identifiable information about donors, clients or benefactors could give rise to identity theft.

The IRS also urges tax-exempt organizations to file forms electronically in order to reduce the risk of inadvertently including SSNs or other unneeded personal information. Details are on IRS.gov.

Tax-exempt forms that must be made public by the IRS are clearly marked “Open to Public Inspection” in the top right corner of the first page. These include Form 990,990-EZForm 990-PF and others.

What to File

Small tax-exempt organizations with average annual receipts of $50,000 or less may file an electronic notice called a Form 990-N (e-Postcard), which asks organizations for a few basic pieces of information. Tax-exempt organizations with average annual receipts above $50,000 must file a Form 990 or 990-EZ depending on their receipts and assets. Private foundations file a Form 990-PF.

Organizations that need additional time to file a Form 990, 990-EZ or 990-PF may obtain an extension. Note that no extension is available for filing the Form 990-N (e-Postcard).

Check Tax-Exempt Status Online

The IRS publishes the names of organizations identified as having automatically lost their tax-exempt status for failing to file annual reports for three consecutive years. Organizations that have had their exemptions automatically revoked and wish to have that status reinstated must file an application for exemption and pay the appropriate user fee.

The IRS offers an online search tool, Exempt Organizations Select Check, to help users more easily find key information about the federal tax status and filings of certain tax-exempt organizations, including whether organizations have had their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked.

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Top Tips on Making IRA Contributions

IRS Tax Tip 2014-50

f4da9-piggybudgetIf you made IRA contributions or you’re thinking of making them, you may have questions about IRAs and your taxes. Here are some important tips from the IRS about saving for retirement using an IRA.

 

1. You must be under age 70 1/2 at the end of the tax year in order to contribute to a traditional IRA. There is no age limit to contribute to a Roth IRA.

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

3. You can contribute to an IRA at any time during the year. To count for 2013, you must make all contributions by the due date of your tax return. This does not include extensions. That means you usually must contribute by April 15, 2014. If you contribute between Jan. 1 and April 15, make sure your plan sponsor applies it to the right year.

4. In general, the most you can contribute to your IRA for 2013 is the smaller of either your taxable compensation for the year or $5,500. If you were age 50 or older at the end of 2013, the maximum you can contribute increases to $6,500.

5. You normally won’t pay income tax on funds in your traditional IRA until you start taking distributions from it. Qualified distributions from a Roth IRA are tax-free.

6. You may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your traditional IRA. Use the worksheets in the Form 1040A or Form 1040instructions to figure the amount that you can deduct. You may claim the deduction on either form. Unlike a traditional IRA, you can’t deduct contributions to a Roth IRA.

7. If you contribute to an IRA you may also qualify for the Saver’s Credit. The credit can reduce your taxes up to $2,000 if you file a joint return. Use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the credit. You can file Form 1040A or 1040 to claim the Saver’s Credit.

8. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements, for more about IRAs.

Always consult your tax professional for your individual situation.

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Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Can Lower Your Taxes

Issue Number:    IRS Tax Tip 2014-47


Energy-Efficient Home Improvements Can Lower Your Taxes
You may be able to reduce your taxes if you made certain energy-efficient home improvements last year. Here are some key facts that you should know about home energy tax credits.
Non-Business Energy Property Credit
  • This credit is worth 10 percent of the cost of certain qualified energy-saving items you added to your main home last year. This includes items such as insulation, windows, doors and roofs.
  • You may also be able to claim the credit for the actual cost of certain property. This may include items such as water heaters and heating and air conditioning systems. Each type of property has a different dollar limit.
  • 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.
  • Be sure you have the written certification from the manufacturer that their product qualifies for this tax credit. They usually post it on their website or include it with the product’s packaging. You can rely on it to claim the credit, but do not attach it to your return. Keep it with your tax records.
  • This credit expired at the end of 2013. You may still claim the credit on your 2013 tax return if you didn’t reach the lifetime limit in prior years.
Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit
  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment installed on or in your home.
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment and wind turbines.
  • There is no dollar limit on the credit 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.
  • The home must be in the U.S. It does not have to be your main home.
  • This credit is available through 2016.
Use Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits, to claim these credits. For more on this topic refer to the form’s instructions. You can get it on IRS.gov or order it by mail by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Always consult your tax professional regarding your individual situation.
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2013 Home Office Deduction Features Simpler Option

Issue Number:    IRS Tax Tip 2014-36

Inside This Issue


2013 Home Office Deduction Features Simpler Option
If you work from home, you should learn the rules for how to claim the home office deduction. Starting this year, there is a simpler option to figure the deduction for business use of your home. The new option will save you time because it simplifies how you figure and claim the deduction. It will also make it easier for you to keep records. It does not change the rules for who may claim the deduction.
Here are six facts from the IRS about the home office deduction.
1. Generally, in order to claim a deduction for a home office, you must use a part of your home exclusively and regularly for business purposes. Also, the part of your home used for business must be:
• your principal place of business, or
• a place where you meet clients or customers in the normal course of business, or
• a separate structure not attached to your home. Examples might include a studio, garage or barn.
2. If you use the actual expense method, the home office deduction includes certain costs that you paid for your home. For example, if you rent your home, part of the rent you paid could qualify. If you own your home, part of the mortgage interest, taxes and utilities you paid could qualify. The amount you can deduct usually depends on the percentage of your home used for business.
3. Beginning with 2013 tax returns, you may be able to use the simplified option to claim the home office deduction instead of claiming actual expenses. Under this method, you multiply the allowable square footage of your office by a prescribed rate of $5. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. The deduction limit using this method is $1,500 per year.
4. If your gross income from the business use of your home is less than your expenses, the deduction for some expenses may be limited.
5. If you are self-employed and choose the actual expense method, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount you can deduct. You claim your deduction on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, if you use either the simplified or actual expense method. See theSchedule C instructions for how to report your deduction.
6. If you are an employee, you must meet additional rules to claim the deduction. For example, in addition to the above tests, your business use must also be for your employer’s convenience.
For more on this topic, see Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home. It’s available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Additional IRS References:
Always consult your tax professional regarding your specific situation.
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IRS Provides Safe Harbor for Taxpayers with Discharged Debts for Real Property

The Internal Revenue Service has issued a revenue procedure to help taxpayers with so-called “mezzanine” financing in workouts and similar circumstances when they have debts that have been discharged in connection with real property.

Revenue Procedure 2014-20 provides a safe harbor under which the IRS will, under certain defined circumstances, treat indebtedness that is secured by 100 percent of the ownership interest in a disregarded entity that holds real property as indebtedness that is secured by real property for purposes of Section 108(c)(3)(A) of the Tax Code. The revenue procedure will assist taxpayers with mezzanine financing in workouts and similar circumstances.

The IRS noted that borrowers will often incur debt in connection with real property used in a trade or business. If the debt is later discharged, the income from the discharge of indebtedness may be excluded from gross income if certain requirements are met. In some cases, the real property is held by the borrower in an entity that is wholly owned by the borrower, and is, for federal tax purposes, disregarded as an entity separate from its owner. In these cases, the debt may be secured by the borrower’s ownership interest in the disregarded entity holding the real property.

Revenue Procedure 2014-20, will be included in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2014-09 on Feb. 24, 2014.

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IRS Tips about Taxable and Nontaxable Income

IRS Tax Tip 2014-12

Are you looking for a hard and fast rule about what income is taxable and what income is not taxable? The fact is that all income is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it.

Taxable income includes money you receive, such as wages and tips. It can also include noncash income from property or services. For example, both parties in a barter exchange must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return.

Some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:

  • Life insurance proceeds paid to you are usually not taxable. But if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
  • Income from a qualified scholarship is normally not taxable. This means that amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required books, are not taxable. However, amounts you use for room and board are taxable.
  • If you got a state or local income tax refund, the amount may be taxable. You should have received a 2013 Form 1099-G from the agency that made the payment to you. If you didn’t get it by mail, the agency may have provided the form electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Report any taxable refund you got even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.

Here are some types of income that are usually not taxable:

  • Gifts and inheritances
  • Child support payments
  • Welfare benefits
  • Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
  • Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
  • Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses

For more on this topic see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income

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What You Should Know about AMT

IRS Tax Tip 2014-10

Have you ever wondered if the Alternative Minimum Tax applies to you? You may have to pay this tax if your income is above a certain amount. The AMT attempts to ensure that some individuals who claim certain tax benefits pay a minimum amount of tax.

Here are some things from the IRS that you should know about AMT:

1. You may have to pay the tax if your taxable income, plus certain adjustments, is more than the AMT exemption amount for your filing status. If your income is below this amount, you usually will not owe AMT.

2. The 2013 AMT exemption amounts for each filing status are:

• Single and Head of Household = $51,900

• Married Filing Joint and Qualifying Widow(er) = $80,800

• Married Filing Separate = $40,400

3. The rules for AMT are more complex than the rules for regular income tax. The best way to make it easy on yourself is to use IRS e-file to prepare and file your tax return. E-file tax software will figure AMT for you if you owe it.

4. If you file a paper return, use the AMT Assistant tool on IRS.gov to find out if you may need to pay the tax.

5. If you owe AMT, you usually must file Form 6251, Alternative Minimum Tax – Individuals. Some taxpayers who owe AMT can file Form 1040A and use the AMT Worksheet in the instructions.

Visit IRS.gov to find out more about AMT. Also, see the Form 6251 instructions

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