Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Five Facts about the Making Work Pay Tax Credit

1. This credit – still available for 2010 – equals 6.2 percent of a taxpayer’s earned income. The maximum credit for a married couple filing a joint return is $800 and $400 for other taxpayers.

2. Eligible self-employed taxpayers can benefit from the credit by evaluating their expected income tax liability and, if they are eligible, by making the appropriate adjustments to the amounts of their estimated tax payments.

3. Taxpayers who fall into any of the following groups during 2010 should review their tax withholding to ensure enough tax is being withheld. Those who should pay particular attention to their withholding include:

  • Married couples with two incomes
  • Individuals with multiple jobs
  • Dependents
  • Pensioners
  • Workers without valid Social Security numbers

Having too little tax withheld could result in potentially smaller refunds or – in limited instances –small balance due rather than an expected refund.

4. The Making Work Pay tax credit is reduced or unavailable for higher-income taxpayers. The reduction in the credit begins at $75,000 of income for single taxpayers and $150,000 for couples filing a joint return.

5. A quick withholding check using the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov may be helpful for anyone who believes their current withholding may not be right. Taxpayers can also check their withholding by using the worksheets in IRS Publication 919, How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding?. Adjustments can be made by filing a revised Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. Pensioners can adjust their withholding by filing Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments.

For more information about this and other key tax provisions of the Recovery Act, visit IRS.gov/recovery or contact my office.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Five Tax Scams to Avoid this Summer

The Internal Revenue Service issues a list of the top 12 tax scams each year – known as the Dirty Dozen. The scams are illegal and can lead to problems for taxpayers including significant penalties, interest and possible criminal prosecution. These scams don’t just happen during the tax filing season, they can happen anytime during the year. Here are five scams from the 2010 Dirty Dozen list every taxpayer should be aware of this summer.

  1. Phishing Phishing is a tactic used by scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information in an electronic communication. Scams can take the form of e-mails, tweets or phony websites and they try to mislead consumers by telling them they are entitled to a tax refund from the IRS and they must reveal personal information to claim it. Regardless of how official this e-mail may look and sound, the IRS never initiates unsolicited e-mail contact with taxpayers about their tax issues. Phishers use the personal information obtained to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name. If you receive an e-mail that you suspect is a phishing attempt or directs you to an imitation IRS website, please forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. You can also visit IRS.gov and enter the keyword phishing for additional information.
  2. Return Preparer Fraud Dishonest tax return preparers can cause trouble for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers are skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds, charging inflated fees for tax preparation or are attracting new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true. To increase confidence in the tax system, the IRS is requiring all paid return preparers to register with the IRS, pass competency tests and attend continuing education.
  3. Hiding Income Offshore Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks and brokerage accounts. IRS agents continue to develop their investigations of these offshore tax avoidance transactions using information gained from more than 14,700 voluntary disclosures received last year. Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans.
  4. Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. This includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes where donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can purchase the items back at a later date at a price the donor sets.
  5. Frivolous Arguments Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. If a scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid on IRS.gov. These arguments are false and have been thrown out of court.
For the full list of 2010 Dirty Dozen tax scams or to find out how to report suspected tax fraud, visit IRS.gov.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Six Tax Tips for New Business Owners

Are you opening a new business this summer? The IRS has many resources available for individuals that are opening a new business. Here are six tax tips the IRS wants new business owners to know.

  1. First, you must decide what type of business entity you are going to establish. The type of business entity will determine which tax form you have to file. The most common types of business are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation and S corporation.
  2. The type of business you operate determines what taxes you must pay and how you pay them. The four general types of business taxes are income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax and excise tax.
  3. An Employer Identification Number is used to identify a business entity. Generally, businesses need an EIN. Visit IRS.gov for more information about whether you will need an EIN. You can also apply for an EIN online at IRS.gov.
  4. Good records will help you ensure successful operation of your new business. You may choose any recordkeeping system suited to your business that clearly shows your income and expenses. Except in a few cases, the law does not require any special kind of records. However, the business you are in affects the type of records you need to keep for federal tax purposes.
  5. Every business taxpayer must figure taxable income on an annual accounting period called a tax year. The calendar year and the fiscal year are the most common tax years used.
  6. Each taxpayer must also use a consistent accounting method, which is a set of rules for determining when to report income and expenses. The most commonly used accounting methods are the cash method and an accrual method. Under the cash method, you generally report income in the tax year you receive it and deduct expenses in the tax year you pay them. Under an accrual method, you generally report income in the tax year you earn it and deduct expenses in the tax year you incur them.
IRS Publication 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records, provides basic federal tax information for people who are starting a business. This publication is available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Visit the Business section of IRS.gov for resources to assist entrepreneurs with starting and operating a new business. As always, if you need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

IRS Special Assistance Day for Gulf Oil Spill Victims

The Internal Revenue Service stands ready to help individuals and businesses affected by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.


IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers in several Gulf Coast cities will be open Saturday July 17 to provide help to taxpayers dealing with tax issues as a result of the BP oil spill.

Here is what you need to know about the July 17 special assistance day.

1. The following IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers will be open on July 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time.

  • 1110 Montlimar Drive, Mobile, Ala.
  • 651-F West 14th St., Panama City, Fla.
  • 7180 9th Ave. North, Pensacola, Fla.
  • 2600 Citiplace Centre, Baton Rouge, La.
  • 423 Lafayette St., Houma, La.
  • 1555 Poydras Street, New Orleans, La.
  • 11309 Old Highway 49, Gulfport, Miss.
2. Taxpayers and tax preparers will be able to work directly with IRS employees to resolve tax issues.

3. Assistance will be available for individuals who are experiencing filing or payment hardships because of the oil spill or who have questions about the tax treatment of BP payments.

4. In certain cases, IRS staff can assist by suspending collection and examination actions; however, taxpayers who need this assistance must request it. Others may decide to continue making payments because interest will continue to accrue on outstanding balances, even if some penalties are abated.

5. The IRS opened a dedicated phone line for victims of the Gulf oil spill –– 866-562-5227. This special toll-free line is open weekdays from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and will also be open to callers on July 17 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Central Time.

For additional information, visit IRS.gov.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

What is Estate Planning?
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Six Tax Benefits for Job Seekers

Did you know that you may be able to deduct some of your job search expenses on your tax return?

Many taxpayers spend time during the summer months updating their résumé and attending career fairs. If you are searching for a job this summer, you may be able to deduct some of your expenses on your tax return. Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about deducting costs related to your job search.

  1. To qualify for a deduction, the expenses must be spent on a job search in your current occupation. You may not deduct expenses incurred while looking for a job in a new occupation.
  2. You can deduct employment and outplacement agency fees you pay while looking for a job in your present occupation. If your employer pays you back in a later year for employment agency fees, you must include the amount you receive in your gross income up to the amount of your tax benefit in the earlier year.
  3. You can deduct amounts you spend for preparing and mailing copies of your résumé to prospective employers as long as you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.
  4. If you travel to an area to look for a new job in your present occupation, you may be able to deduct travel expenses to and from the area. You can only deduct the travel expenses if the trip is primarily to look for a new job. The amount of time you spend on personal activity compared to the amount of time you spend looking for work is important in determining whether the trip is primarily personal or is primarily to look for a new job.
  5. You cannot deduct job search expenses if there was a substantial break between the end of your last job and the time you begin looking for a new one.
  6. You cannot deduct job search expenses if you are looking for a job for the first time.
For more information about job search expenses, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Four Tips on Preparing for a Disaster

Planning what to do in case of a disaster is an important part of being prepared. The Internal Revenue Service encourages taxpayers to safeguard their records. Some simple steps can help taxpayers protect financial and tax records in case of disasters.

Listed below are tips for individuals on preparing for a disaster.

  1. Recordkeeping Take advantage of paperless recordkeeping for financial and tax records. Many people receive bank statements and documents by e-mail. This method is an outstanding way to secure financial records. Important tax records such as W-2s, tax returns and other paper documents can be scanned onto an electronic format. You can copy them onto a ‘key’ or ‘jump drive’ periodically and then keep the electronic records in a safe place.
  2. Document Valuables The IRS has disaster loss workbooks for individuals that can help you compile a room-by-room list of your belongings. One option is to photograph or videotape the contents of your home, especially items of greater value. You should store the photos in a safe place away from the geographic area at risk. This will help you recall and prove the market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.
  3. Update Emergency Plans Emergency plans should be reviewed annually. Individual taxpayers should make sure they are saving documents everybody should keep including such things as W-2s, home closing statements and insurance records. Make sure you have a means of receiving severe weather information; if you have a NOAA Weather Radio, put fresh batteries in it. Make sure you know what you should do if threatening weather approaches.
  4. Count on the IRS In the event of a disaster, the IRS stands ready to help. The IRS has valuable information you can request if your records are destroyed. If you have been impacted by a federally declared disaster, you may receive copies or transcripts of previously filed tax returns free of charge by submitting Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, clearly identified as a disaster related request.
For more information type “Preparing for a Disaster” in the search box on the IRS.gov homepage.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Six Tips for Students with a Summer Job

School’s out and many students now have a summer job. Some students may not realize they have to pay taxes on their summer income. Here are the six things the IRS wants everyone to know about income earned while working a summer job.

  1. All employees fill out a W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, when starting a new job. This form is used by employers to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from your paycheck. If you have multiple summer jobs you will want to make sure all your employers are withholding an adequate amount of taxes to cover your total income tax liability. To make sure your withholding is correct, use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.
  2. Whether you are working as a waiter or a camp counselor, you may receive tips as part of your summer income. All tip income you receive is taxable income and is therefore subject to federal income tax.
  3. Many students do odd jobs over the summer to make extra cash. Earnings you received from self-employment are subject to income tax. These earnings include income from odd jobs like baby-sitting and lawn mowing.
  4. If you have net earnings of $400 or more from self-employment, you will also have to pay self-employment tax. This tax pays for your benefits under the Social Security system. Social Security and Medicare benefits are available to individuals who are self-employed the same as they are to wage earners who have Social Security tax and Medicare tax withheld from their wages. The self-employment tax is figured on Form 1040, Schedule SE.
  5. Food and lodging allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay – such as pay received during summer advanced camp – is taxable.
  6. Special rules apply to services you perform as a newspaper carrier or distributor. You are a direct seller and treated as self-employed for federal tax purposes if you meet the following conditions:
    1. You are in the business of delivering newspapers.
    2. All your pay for these services directly relates to sales rather than to the number of hours worked.
    3. You perform the delivery services under a written contract which states that you will not be treated as an employee for federal tax purposes.
Generally, newspaper carriers or distributors under age 18 are not subject to self-employment tax.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Summertime Child Care Expenses May Qualify for a Tax Credit

Did you know that your summer day care expenses may qualify for an income tax credit? Many parents who work or are looking for work must arrange for care of their children under 13 years of age during the school vacation. Those expenses may help you get a credit on next year’s tax return.

Here are five facts the IRS wants you to know about a tax credit available for child care expenses. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is available for expenses incurred during the lazy hazy days of summer and throughout the rest of the year.

  1. The cost of day camp may count as an expense towards the child and dependent care credit.
  2. Expenses for overnight camps do not qualify.
  3. If your childcare provider is a sitter at your home or a daycare facility outside the home, you'll get some tax benefit if you qualify for the credit.
  4. The actual credit can be up to 35 percent of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your income.
  5. You may use up to $3,000 of the unreimbursed expenses paid in a year for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals to figure the credit.
For more information contact my office - 800-560-4NFS.
A quote from Albert Einstein - "The eighth wonder of the world is compound interest."
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Friday, July 2, 2010

First-Time Homebuyer Credit Closing Deadline Extended to September 30, 2010

The deadline for the completion of qualifying First-Time Homebuyer Credit purchases has been extended. Taxpayers who entered into a binding contract before the end of April now have until September 30, 2010 to close on the home.

The Homebuyer Assistance and Improvement Act of 2010, enacted on July 2, 2010, extended the closing deadline from June 30 to Sept. 30 for eligible homebuyers who entered into a binding purchase contract on or before April 30 to close on the purchase of the home on or before June 30, 2010.

Here are five facts from the IRS about the First-Time Homebuyer Credit and how to claim it.

  1. If you entered into a binding contract on or before April 30, 2010 to buy a principal residence located in the United States you must close on the home on or before September 30, 2010.
  2. To be considered a first-time homebuyer, you and your spouse – if you are married – must not have jointly or separately owned another principal residence during the three years prior to the date of purchase.
  3. To be considered a long-time resident homebuyer, your settlement date must be after November 6, 2009 and you and your spouse – if you are married – must have lived in the same principal residence for any consecutive five-year period during the eight-year period that ended on the date the new home is purchased.
  4. The maximum credit for a first-time homebuyer is $8,000. The maximum credit for a long-time resident homebuyer is $6,500.
  5. To claim the credit you must file a paper return and attach Form 5405, First Time Homebuyer Credit, along with all required documentation, including a copy of the binding contract. New homebuyers must attach a copy of the properly executed settlement statement used to complete the purchase. Long-time residents are encouraged to attach documentation covering the five-consecutive-year period such as Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statements, property tax records or homeowner’s insurance records.
For more information about the First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit and the documentation requirements, please contact my office.