Monday, July 27, 2015

Tips on Travel While Giving to Charity

Do you plan to donate your services to charity this summer? Will you travel as part of the service? If so, some travel expenses may help lower your taxes when you file your tax return next year. Here are five tax tips you should know if you travel while giving your services to charity.

1. You can’t deduct the value of your services that you give to charity. But you may be able to deduct some out-of-pocket costs you pay to give your services. This can include the cost of travel. All out-of pocket costs must be:

  • unreimbursed,
  • directly connected with the services,
  • expenses you had only because of the services you gave, and
  • not personal, living or family expenses.

2. Your volunteer work must be for a qualified charity. Most groups other than churches and governments must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Ask the group about its IRS status before you donate. You can also use the Select Check tool on IRS.gov to check the group’s status.

3. Some types of travel do not qualify for a tax deduction. For example, you can’t deduct your costs if a significant part of the trip involves recreation or a vacation. For more on these rules see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Social Security Trust Fund Reserve Gains One Year for Projected Depletion Date

By now, you’ve probably heard that this year marks the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act.  In case you didn’t know, this year is also the 75th anniversary of the payment of the first monthly benefits.

And, today, the Social Security Board of Trustees released the 75th annual report to Congress on the financial status of the Social Security trust funds.

As a quick refresher: The Social Security trust funds include the Old Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) fund and the Disability Insurance (DI) fund. Benefits to retired workers and their families, and to families of deceased workers, are paid from the OASI trust fund. Benefits to disabled workers and their families are paid from the DI trust fund.

The report shows that, combined, the funds now have an additional year – from 2033 to 2034 – before their reserves are depleted. The Old Age and Survivors fund alone also gets an extra year from 2034 to 2035.

Some factors that led to this improvement include (1) faster growth in average wages in the future, because of slower growth in employees’ private health insurance cost – due at least in part to provisions of the Affordable Care Act, and (2) improvements in how we project the earnings of American workers by age.

The DI fund is still projected to deplete its reserves late in 2016. After that, the income collected through taxes will be enough to pay only 81 percent of the scheduled benefits. So, an adjustment to maintain full disability benefits is needed soon.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Five Basic Tax Tips for New Businesses

If you start a business, one key to success is to know about your federal tax obligations. You may need to know not only about income taxes but also about payroll taxes. Here are five basic tax tips that can help get your business off to a good start.


  1. Business Structure.  As you start out, you’ll need to choose the structure of your business. Some common types include sole proprietorship, partnership and corporation. You may also choose to be an S corporation or Limited Liability Company. You’ll report your business activity using the IRS forms which are right for your business type.
  2. Business Taxes.  There are four general types of business taxes. They are income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax and excise tax. The type of taxes your business pays usually depends on which type of business you choose to set up. You may need to pay your taxes by making estimated tax payments.
  3. Employer Identification Number.  You may need to get an EIN for federal tax purposes. If you do need one, we can help you apply for it the correct way.
  4. Accounting Method.  An accounting method is a set of rules that determine when to report income and expenses. Your business must use a consistent method. The two that are most common are the cash method and the accrual method. Under the cash method, you normally report income in the year that you receive it and deduct expenses in the year that you pay them. Under the accrual method, you generally report income in the year that you earn it and deduct expenses in the year that you incur them. This is true even if you receive the income or pay the expenses in a future year.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Top Ten Tax Facts if You Sell Your Home

Do you know that if you sell your home and make a profit, the gain may not be taxable? That’s just
one key tax rule that you should know. Here are ten facts to keep in mind if you sell your home this year.



1. If you have a capital gain on the sale of your home, you may be able to exclude your gain from tax. This rule may apply if you owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of sale.

2. There are exceptions to the ownership and use rules. Some exceptions apply to persons with a disability. Some apply to certain members of the military and certain government and Peace Corps workers.

3. The most gain you can exclude is $250,000. This limit is $500,000 for joint returns. The Net Investment Income Tax will not apply to the excluded gain.

4. If the gain is not taxable, you may not need to report the sale to the IRS on your tax return.

5. You must report the sale on your tax return if you can’t exclude all or part of the gain. And you must report the sale if you choose not to claim the exclusion. That’s also true if you get Form 1099-S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. If you report the sale you should review the Questions and Answers on the Net Investment Income Tax on IRS.gov.

6. Generally, you can exclude the gain from the sale of your main home only once every two years.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

How the IRS Resolves an Identity Theft Case

The IRS has responded to criticism from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the National Taxpayer Advocate, among others, that resolution of identity theft accounts takes too long by increasing its measures to flag suspicious tax returns, prevent issuance of fraudulent tax refunds, and to expedite identity theft case processing. As a result, the IRS's resolution time has experienced a moderate improvement from an average of 312 days, as TIGTA reported in September 2013, to an average of 278 days as reported in March 2015. (The 278-day average was based on a statistically valid sampling of 100 cases resolved between August 1, 2011, and July 31, 2012.) The IRS has recently stated that its resolution time dropped to 120 days for cases received in filing season 2013.

Even with a wait time of 120 days, taxpayers who find themselves victims of tax refund identity theft likely find the road to resolution a frustrating and time consuming process. This article seeks to explain the various pulleys and levers at play when communicating with the IRS about an identity theft case.

Initiating an ID Theft Case

A taxpayer may become aware that he or she is a victim of tax-related identity theft when the IRS rejects their tax return because someone has already filed a return using the taxpayer's name and/or social security number. A taxpayer may also receive correspondence directly from the IRS that informs them, prior to filing, that someone has filed a suspicious return under their information. In other cases, a taxpayer may have had his or her identity information compromised and wishes to alert the IRS as to the possibility that he or she may be targeted by an identity thief.

For all such cases, the IRS has created Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Taxpayers who are actual or potential victims of tax-related identity theft may complete and submit the Affidavit to ensure that the IRS flags the tax account for review of any suspicious activity. Taxpayers who have been victimized are asked to provide a short explanation of the problem and how they became aware of it.

The Identity Theft Affidavit may also be submitted by taxpayers that have not yet become victims of tax-related identity theft, but who have experienced the misuse of their personal identity information to obtain credit or who have lost a purse or wallet or had one stolen, who suspect they have been targeted by a phishing or phone scam, etc. The form asks these taxpayers to briefly describe the identity theft violation, the event of concern, and to include the relevant dates.

Once the Form 14039 has been completed and submitted, the taxpayer should expect to receive a Notice CP01S from the IRS by mail. The Notice CP01S simply acknowledges that the IRS has received the taxpayer's Identity Theft Affidavit and reminds the taxpayer to continue to file all federal tax returns.

IDVerify.irs.gov

Monday, July 6, 2015

Tax Tips for Students with Summer Jobs

Students often get a job in the summer. If it’s your first job it gives you a chance to learn about work and paying tax. The tax you pay supports your home town, your state and our nation. Here are some tips students should know about summer jobs and taxes:


  • Withholding and Estimated Tax.  If you are an employee, your employer withholds tax from your paychecks. If you are self-employed, you may have to pay estimated tax directly to the IRS on set dates during the year. This is how our pay-as-you-go tax system works.
  • New Employees.  When you get a new job, you will need to fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Employers use it to figure how much federal income tax to withhold from your pay. The IRS Withholding Calculator tool on IRS.gov can help you fill out the form.
  • Self-Employment.  Money you earn doing work for others is taxable. Some work you do may count as self-employment. These can be jobs like baby-sitting or lawn care. Keep good records of your income and expenses related to your work. You may be able to deduct (subtract) those costs from your income on your tax return. A deduction can cut taxes.
  • Tip Income.  All tip income is taxable. Keep a daily log to report them. You must report $20 or more in cash tips in any one month to your employer. And you must report all of your yearly tips on your tax return.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy 4th of July from NFS

We remain the land of the free because we are the home of the brave.

As we celebrate Independence Day, take a moment to remember those who fought for our freedoms and gave their all for you and me.

We truly appreciate your business.


Friday, July 3, 2015

What to do if You Get a Notice from the IRS

Each year the IRS mails millions of notices. Here’s what you should do if you receive a notice from
the IRS:

  1. Don’t ignore it. You can respond to most IRS notices quickly and easily. And it’s important that you reply promptly. 
  2. IRS notices usually deal with a specific issue about your tax return or tax account. For example, it may say the IRS has corrected an error on your tax return. Or it may ask you for more information.
  3. Read it carefully and follow the instructions about what you need to do.
  4. If it says that the IRS corrected your tax return, review the information in the notice and compare it to your tax return. If you agree, you don’t need to reply unless a payment is due. If you don’t agree, it’s important that you respond to the IRS. Write a letter that explains why you don’t agree. Make sure to include information and any documents you want the IRS to consider. Include the bottom tear-off portion of the notice with your letter. Mail your reply to the IRS at the address shown in the lower left part of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response from the IRS.