California Issues Mandatory E-Pay Penalty Waiver

The California Franchise Tax Board has issued the following information for taxpayers who were unable to pay amounts with their tax returns, extensions, or estimated tax payments electronically due to problems with their website on April 15, 2013.

Due to the problems encountered by mandatory e-pay taxpayers with our website on April 15, we will waive the mandatory e-pay penalty for taxpayers that paid their tax, extension, or estimated tax payment by check.

Taxpayers may request a waiver of the mandatory e-pay penalty for the 04.15.2013 payment by:

Phone (Preferred Method):
• Tax Practitioner Hotline 916.845.7057
• Taxpayers 800.852.5711

Fax:
Complete FTB 4107, Mandatory e-Pay Election to Discontinue or Waiver Request. In Part 1, check the second box and enter 04.15.2013 Website Problem.
• Fax your request to 916.843.0468

Mail:
Complete FTB 4107, Mandatory e-Pay Election to Discontinue or Waiver Request. In Part 1, check the second box and enter 04.15.2013 Website Problem. In red, write 04.15.2013 Website Problem. Mail your request:

STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FRANCHSIE TAX BOARD
PO BOX 942840
SACRAMENTO, CA 94240-0040

Important:This is a one-time waiver of the mandatory e-pay penalty; your clients are still required to make future payments electronically unless they are granted a waiver. See FTB 4107 for more information or go to our website and search for mandatory e-pay.

 

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-09: IRS Warns Donors about Charity Scams Following Recent Tragedies in Boston and Texas

It’s sad but true. Following major disasters and tragedies, scam artists impersonate charities to steal money or get private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Fraudulent schemes involve solicitations by phone, social media, email or in-person.

Scam artists use a variety of tactics. Some operate bogus charities that contact people by telephone to solicit money or financial information. Others use emails to steer people to bogus websites to solicit funds, allegedly for the benefit of tragedy victims. The fraudulent websites often mimic the sites of legitimate charities or use names similar to legitimate charities. They may claim affiliation with legitimate charities to persuade members of the public to send money or provide personal financial information. Scammers then use that information to steal the identities or money of their victims.

The IRS offers the following tips to help taxpayers who wish to donate to victims of the recent tragedies at the Boston Marathon and a Texas fertilizer plant:

  • Donate to qualified charities.  Use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool at IRS.gov to find qualified charities. Only donations to qualified charitable organizations are tax-deductible. You can also find legitimate charities on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site at fema.gov.
  • Be wary of charities with similar names.  Some phony charities use names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. They may use names or websites that sound or look like those of legitimate organizations.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information.  Do not give your Social Security number, credit card and bank account numbers and passwords to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists use this information to steal your identity and money.
  • Don’t give or send cash.  For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
  • Report suspected fraud.  Taxpayers suspecting tax or charity-related fraud should visit IRS.gov and perform a search using the keywords “Report Phishing.”

More information about tax scams and schemes is available at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.”

IRS Tax Tip 2013-59: Ten Facts on Filing an Amended Tax Return

 

What should you do if you already filed your federal tax return and then discover a mistake? Don’t worry; you have a chance to fix errors by filing an amended tax return. This year you can use the new IRS tool, ‘Where’s My Amended Return?’ to easily track the status of your amended tax return. Here are 10 facts you should know about filing an amended tax return.

 

  1. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to file an amended tax return. An amended return cannot be e-filed. You must file it on paper.
  2. You should consider filing an amended tax return if there is a change in your filing status, income, deductions or credits.
  3. You normally do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors. The IRS will automatically make those changes for you. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms, such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will send a request asking for those.
  4. Generally, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X.
  5. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them to the IRS in separate envelopes. You will find the appropriate IRS address to mail your return to in the Form 1040X instructions.
  6. If your changes involve the need for another schedule or form, you must attach that schedule or form to the amended return.
  7. If you are filing an amended tax return to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original tax refund before filing Form 1040X. Amended returns take up to 12 weeks to process. You may cash your original refund check while waiting for the additional refund.
  8. If you owe additional taxes with Form 1040X, file it and pay the tax as soon as possible to minimize interest and penalties.
  9. You can track the status of your amended tax return three weeks after you file with the IRS’s new tool called, ‘Where’s My Amended Return?’ The automated tool is available on IRS.gov and by phone at 866-464-2050. The online and phone tools are available in English and Spanish. You can track the status of your amended return for the current year and up to three prior years.
  10. To use either ‘Where’s My Amended Return’ tool, just enter your taxpayer identification number (usually your Social Security number), date of birth and zip code. If you have filed amended returns for more than one year, you can select each year individually to check the status of each. If you use the tool by phone, you will not need to call a different IRS phone number unless the tool tells you to do so.

 

IRS Tax Tip 2013-37: Itemizing vs. Standard Deduction: Six Facts to Help You Choose

When you file a tax return, you usually have a choice to make: whether to itemize deductions or take the standard deduction. You should compare both methods and use the one that gives you the greater tax benefit.

The IRS offers these six facts to help you choose.

1. Figure your itemized deductions.  Add up the cost of items you paid for during the year that you might be able to deduct. Expenses could include home mortgage interest, state income taxes or sales taxes (but not both), real estate and personal property taxes, and gifts to charities. They may also include large casualty or theft losses or large medical and dental expenses that insurance did not cover. Unreimbursed employee business expenses may also be deductible.

2. Know your standard deduction.  If you do not itemize, your basic standard deduction amount depends on your filing status. For 2012, the basic amounts are:

• Single = $5,950
• Married Filing Jointly  = $11,900
• Head of Household = $8,700
• Married Filing Separately = $5,950
• Qualifying Widow(er) = $11,900

3. Apply other rules in some cases. Your standard deduction is higher if you are 65 or older or blind. Other rules apply if someone else can claim you as a dependent on his or her tax return. To figure your standard deduction in these cases, use the worksheet in the instructions for Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

4. Check for the exceptions.  Some people do not qualify for the standard deduction and should itemize. This includes married people who file a separate return and their spouse itemizes deductions. See the Form 1040 instructions for the rules about who may not claim a standard deduction.

5. Choose the best method.  Compare your itemized and standard deduction amounts. You should file using the method with the larger amount.

6. File the right forms.  To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You can take the standard deduction on  Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

For more information about allowable deductions, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the instructions for Schedule A. Tax forms and publications are available on the IRS website at IRS.gov  You may also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to order them by mail.
Additional IRS Resources:

 

IR-2013-22: Parents and Students: Check Out College Tax Benefits for 2012 and Years Ahead

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded parents and students that now is a good time to see if they qualify for either of two college education tax credits or any of several other education-related tax benefits.

In general, the American opportunity tax credit, lifetime learning credit and tuition and fees deduction are available to taxpayers who pay qualifying expenses for an eligible student. Eligible students include the primary taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse or a dependent of the taxpayer.

Though a taxpayer often qualifies for more than one of these benefits, he or she can only claim one of them for a particular student in a particular year. The benefits are available to all taxpayers – both those who itemize their deductions on Schedule A and those who claim a standard deduction. The credits are claimed on Form 8863 and the tuition and fees deduction is claimed on Form 8917.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act, enacted Jan. 2, 2013, extended the American opportunity tax credit for another five years until the end of 2017. The new law also retroactively extended the tuition and fees deduction, which had expired at the end of 2011, through 2013. The lifetime learning credit did not need to be extended because it was already a permanent part of the tax code.

For those eligible, including most undergraduate students, the American opportunity tax credit will yield the greatest tax savings.  Alternatively, the lifetime learning credit should be considered by part-time students and those attending graduate school. For others, especially those who don’t qualify for either credit, the tuition and fees deduction may be the right choice.

All three benefits are available for students enrolled in an eligible college, university or vocational school, including both nonprofit and for-profit institutions. None of them can be claimed by a nonresident alien or married person filing a separate return. In most cases, dependents cannot claim these education benefits.

Normally, a student will receive a Form 1098-T from their institution by the end of January of the following year. This form will show information about tuition paid or billed along with other information. However, amounts shown on this form may differ from amounts taxpayers are eligible to claim for these tax benefits. Taxpayers should see the instructions to Forms 8863 and 8917 and Publication 970 for details on properly figuring allowable tax benefits.

Many of those eligible for the American opportunity tax credit qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student. Here are some key features of the credit:

  • The credit targets the first four years of post-secondary education, and a student must be enrolled at least half time. This means that expenses paid for a student who, as of the beginning of the tax year, has already completed the first four years of college do not qualify. Any student with a felony drug conviction also does not qualify.
  • Tuition, required enrollment fees, books and other required course materials generally qualify. Other expenses, such as room and board, do not.
  • The credit equals 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent and 25 percent of the next $2,000. That means the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualified expenses for an eligible student.
  • The full credit can only be claimed by taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $80,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $160,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $180,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $90,000 or more.
  • Forty percent of the American opportunity tax credit is refundable. This means that even people who owe no tax can get an annual payment of up to $1,000 for each eligible student. Other education-related credits and deductions do not provide a benefit to people who owe no tax.

The lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 per tax return is available for both graduate and undergraduate students. Unlike the American opportunity tax credit, the limit on the lifetime learning credit applies to each tax return, rather than to each student. Though the half-time student requirement does not apply, the course of study must be either part of a post-secondary degree program or taken by the student to maintain or improve job skills. Other features of the credit include:

  • Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance qualify as do other fees required for the course. Additional expenses do not.
  • The credit equals 20 percent of the amount spent on eligible expenses across all students on the return. That means the full $2,000 credit is only available to a taxpayer who pays $10,000 or more in qualifying tuition and fees and has sufficient tax liability.
  • Income limits are lower than under the American opportunity tax credit. For 2012, the full credit can be claimed by taxpayers whose MAGI is $52,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $104,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $124,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $62,000 or more.

Like the lifetime learning credit, the tuition and fees deduction is available for all levels of post-secondary education, and the cost of one or more courses can qualify. The annual deduction limit is $4,000 for joint filers whose MAGI is $130,000 or less and other taxpayers whose MAGI is $65,000 or less. The deduction limit drops to $2,000 for couples whose MAGI exceeds $130,000 but is no more than $160,000, and other taxpayers whose MAGI exceeds $65,000 but is no more than $80,000.

Eligible parents and students can get the benefit of these provisions during the year by having less tax taken out of their paychecks. They can do this by filling out a new Form W-4, claiming additional withholding allowances, and giving it to their employer.

There are a variety of other education-related tax benefits that can help many taxpayers. They include:

  • Scholarship and fellowship grants—generally tax-free if used to pay for tuition, required enrollment fees, books and other course materials, but taxable if used for room, board, research, travel or other expenses.
  • Student loan interest deduction of up to $2,500 per year.
  • Savings bonds used to pay for college—though income limits apply, interest is usually tax-free if bonds were purchased after 1989 by a taxpayer who, at time of purchase, was at least 24 years old.
  • Qualified tuition programs, also called 529 plans, used by many families to prepay or save for a child’s college education.

Taxpayers with qualifying children who are students up to age 24 may be able to claim a dependent exemption and the earned income tax credit.

The general comparison table in Publication 970 can be a useful guide to taxpayers in determining eligibility for these benefits. Details can also be found in the Tax Benefits for Education Information Center on IRS.gov.

 

Many Business Tax Filers Can File for 2012 Starting Feb. 4 But many others are Looking at late Feb. Early March before they can file

Many businesses will be able to file their 2012 federal income tax returns starting Monday, Feb. 4. Filers of forms affected by January tax law changes will need to wait until late February or early March.

These delay dates impact the release of your electronically prepared returns. They do not prevent Katherman Kitts from preparing your tax return.

Katherman Kitts wants to remind our clients that there is no push back on the March 15 (business filers) and the April 15 (individual filers) due dates for your tax returns. Therefore, we still need enough time to receive the information and to prepare your returns before the filing deadlines. Please, continue to send the information to prepare your returns as soon as possible.

The Monday opening covers non-1040 series business returns for calendar year 2012, including Form 1120 filed by corporations, Form 1120S filed by S corporations, Form 1065 filed by partnerships, Form 990 filed by exempt organizations and most users of Form 720 , Quarterly Excise Tax Return. This includes both electronic filers and paper filers.

While many businesses will be able to file starting Feb. 4, there are a number of business forms still being updated for 2012. The IRS will announce soon when individual and business taxpayers can begin filing returns that include any of the delayed forms. Processing of these forms were delayed while the IRS completes programming and testing of its processing systems to reflect changes made by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) enacted by Congress on Jan. 2.
A full list of the affected forms is available on IRS.gov.

In addition to the forms listed on IRS.gov, filing of two other business forms is affected by the delay, but only for electronic filers. Businesses using Form 720 and filling out lines 13 and 14 cannot file yet electronically, but they can file on paper. Other Forms 720 are being accepted electronically. In addition, Form 8849 Schedule 3, Claim for Refund of Excise Taxes, is not currently being accepted electronically, but it can be filed on paper.

Additional information will be posted soon on IRS.gov.

Proposition 30 California Tax Increase –Tax Penalty Waiver.

The Franchise Tax Board has announced that taxpayers affected by the retroactive personal income tax increase (Proposition 30), may pay the amount due with their 2012 tax return.   Taxpayers subject to underpayment of estimated tax penalties may request relief by completing Form 5808 Underpayment of Estimated Taxes by Individual and Fiduciaries and completing Part 1, question 1 with the explanation that the underpayment is due to Proposition 30.

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