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Do Your Taxes and E-File for Free with Free File

WASHINGTON — All taxpayers have a fast, safe and free option when it comes to preparing their own federal taxes. It’s called Free File, and it’s available only at IRS.gov.

Free File offers brand-name tax software to people who earned $57,000 or less last year, which is 70 percent of all taxpayers. For those who earned more, there are free online fillable forms. Both options allow people to file returns electronically and use direct deposit, which is the fastest way to get refunds.

The nation’s leading tax software companies have partnered with the IRS to make their products available for free through IRS.gov. Each company sets its own eligibility criteria, generally based on income, state residency, age, military service or eligibility for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). There is also a software option that is available in Spanish for people who earned $30,000 or less.
Free File does the hard work for you. The software asks questions; you provide the answers. It picks the right forms, does the math and helps you find all the tax benefits for which you are eligible.
All participating Free File partners have been vetted and use the latest in security technology. Some Free File software providers also offer state tax returns for free or for a fee.

Free File Fillable Forms is the electronic version of IRS paper forms. It’s best for people experienced and comfortable preparing their own returns on paper. It does not support state tax returns.

Some Free File software products also are available in select free tax preparation sites operated by Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). Taxpayers can use VITA or TCE computers to access Free File, prepare their own state and federal returns with a trained and certified volunteer on stand-by to help and e-file – all for free.
To find a participating site near you, go to IRS.gov and search for “VITA” to find a self- preparation site location near you.

More than 36 million people have used Free File since it started in 2003. You can explore all your options at http://www.irs.gov/freefile.

Businesses, organizations, states or local governments may want to promote Free File to their employees, customers or clients with products from the IRS. Just go to http://www.freefile.irs.gov/partners to see what you can do to help. There are printable posters, a tax-day countdown widget for websites and prepared social media posts for your use.

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.

Who Should File a 2012 Tax Return?

If you received income during 2012, you may need to file a tax return in 2013. The amount of your income, your filing status, your age and the type of income you received will determine whether you’re required to file. Even if you are not required to file a tax return, you may still want to file. You may get a refund if you’ve had too much federal income tax withheld from your pay or qualify for certain tax credits.

You can find income tax filing requirements on IRS.gov. The instructions for Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ also list filing requirements. The Interactive Tax Assistant tool, also available on the IRS website, is another helpful resource. The ITA tool answers many of your tax law questions including whether you need to file a return.

Even if you’ve determined that you don’t need to file a tax return this year, you may still want to file. Here are five reasons why:

1. Federal Income Tax Withheld. If your employer withheld federal income tax from your pay, if you made estimated tax payments, or if you had a prior year overpayment applied to this year’s tax, you could be due a refund. File a return to claim any excess tax you paid during the year.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit. If you worked but earned less than $50,270 last year, you may qualify for EITC. EITC is a refundable tax credit; which means if you qualify you could receive EITC as a tax refund. Families with qualifying children may qualify to get up to $5,891 dollars. You can’t get the credit unless you file a return and claim it. Use the EITC Assistant to find out if you qualify.

3. Additional Child Tax Credit. If you have at least one qualifying child and you don’t get the full amount of the Child Tax Credit, you may qualify for this additional refundable credit. You must file and use new Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, to claim the credit.

4. American Opportunity Credit. If you or someone you support is a student, you might be eligible for this credit. Students in their first four years of postsecondary education may qualify for as much as $2,500 through this partially refundable credit. Even those who owe no tax can get up to $1,000 of the credit as cash back for each eligible student. You must file Form 8863, Education Credits, and submit it with your tax return to claim the credit.

5. Health Coverage Tax Credit. If you’re receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance, Trade Adjustment Assistance, Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, you may be eligible for a 2012 Health Coverage Tax Credit. Spouses and dependents may also be eligible. If you’re eligible, you can receive a 72.5 percent tax credit on payments you made for qualified health insurance premiums.
Want more information about filing requirements and tax credits? Visit IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:
• Interactive Tax Assistant
• EITC Assistant
• Publication 596, Earned Income Credit
• Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit
• Publication 972, Child Tax Credit
• Form 8863, Education Credits
• Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education
• Health Coverage Tax Credit
IRS YouTube Videos:
• Do I Have To File a Tax Return? – English | Spanish | ASL
• Education Tax Credits and Deductions – English | Spanish | ASL
IRS Podcasts:
• Education Tax Credits and Deductions – English | Spanish

IRS To Accept Returns Claiming Education Credits by Mid-February

WASHINGTON – As preparations continue for the Jan. 30 opening of the 2013 filing season for most taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service announced today that processing of tax returns claiming education credits will begin by the middle of February.

Taxpayers using Form 8863, Education Credits, can begin filing their tax returns after the IRS updates its processing systems. Form 8863 is used to claim two higher education credits — the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

The IRS emphasized that the delayed start will have no impact on taxpayers claiming other education-related tax benefits, such as the tuition and fees deduction and the student loan interest deduction. People otherwise able to file and claiming these benefits can start filing Jan. 30.
As it does every year, the IRS reviews and tests its systems in advance of the opening of the tax season to protect taxpayers from processing errors and refund delays. The IRS discovered during testing that programming modifications are needed to accurately process Forms 8863. Filers who are otherwise able to file but use the Form 8863 will be able to file by mid-February. No action needs to be taken by the taxpayer or their tax professional. Typically through the mid-February period, about 3 million tax returns include Form 8863, less than a quarter of those filed during the year.

The IRS remains on track to open the tax season on Jan. 30 for most taxpayers. The Jan. 30 opening includes people claiming the student loan interest deduction on the Form 1040 series or the higher education tuition or fees on Form 8917, Tuition and Fees Deduction. Forms that will be able to be filed later are listed on IRS.gov.

AMERICAN TAXPAYER RELIEF ACT-SUMMARY FOR KATHERMAN KITTS CLIENTS READING PLEASURE

Yesterday, the President signed the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which was passed on New Year’s Day. Here is brief summary of selected portions of it, for your review. We can help answer any questions that you may have.

Individual Tax Rates
The Act preserves and permanently extends the Bush-era income tax cuts except for single individuals with taxable income above $400,000; married couples filing joint returns with taxable income above $450,000; and heads of household with taxable income above $425,000. Income above these thresholds will be taxed at a 39.6 percent rate, effective January 1, 2013. The $400,000/$450,000/$425,000 thresholds will be adjusted for inflation after 2013.
The new law, however, does not extend the payroll tax holiday. Effective January 1, 2013, the employee-share of Social Security tax withholding increased from 4.2% to 6.2% (its rate before the payroll tax holiday).

Capital Gains and Dividend Tax Rate
Effective January 1, 2013, the maximum tax rate on qualified capital gains and dividends rises from 15 to 20 percent for taxpayers whose taxable incomes exceed the thresholds set for the 39.6 percent rate (the $400,000/$450,000/$425,000 thresholds discussed above). The maximum tax rate for all other taxpayers remains at 15 percent; and moreover, a zero-percent rate will continue to apply to qualified capital gains and dividends to the extent income falls below the top of the 15- percent tax bracket. Note – The 2010 Affordable Care Act imposes a 3.8% Medicare tax on interest, dividends, capital gains, and other passive income, starting in 2013, and it applies at taxable income over $200,000 for single filers and over $250,000 for joint filers.

Estate and Gift Tax
Federal transfer taxes (estate, gift and generation-skipping transfer (GST) taxes) seem to have been in a constant state of flux in recent years. The Act provides some certainty. Effective January 1, 2013, the maximum estate, gift and GST tax rate is generally 40 percent, which reflects an increase from 35 percent for 2012. The lifetime exclusion amount for estate and gift taxes is unchanged for 2013 and subsequent years at $5 million (adjusted for inflation). The GST exemption amount for 2013 and beyond is also $5 million (adjusted for inflation). The new law also makes permanent portability and some enhancements made in previous tax laws.

Other Act Elements Affecting Individuals
• AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) – Higher exemptions are made permanent, and indexed for inflation
• IRA distributions to charitable organizations, (for those over age 70) – restored through 2013
• Exclusion for cancellation of debt on principal residence – extended through 2013
• Reduction of itemized deductions for incomes over certain levels, (which was not in place since 2010) – will apply starting in 2013

Business Tax Provisions
Code Sec. 179 business equipment expensing. In recent years, Congress has repeatedly increased dollar and investment limits under Code Sec. 179 to encourage spending by businesses. For tax years beginning in 2010 and 2011, the Code Sec. 179 dollar and investment limits were $500,000 and $2 million, respectively. [This means that you can expense up to $500,000 of equipment or software purchased, so long as you don’t spend more than $2 million in total. Expenditures over the $2 million level reduces the allowable expense amount dollar-for-dollar.] The Act restores the dollar and investment limits for 2012 and 2013 to their 2011 amounts ($500,000 and $2 million) and adjusts those amounts for inflation. However, this increase is temporary. The Code Sec. 179 dollar and investment limits are scheduled, unless changed by Congress, to decrease to $25,000 and $200,000, respectively, after 2013. The new law also provides that off-the-shelf computer software qualifies as eligible property for Code Sec. 179 expensing. The software must be placed in service in a tax year beginning before 2014. Additionally, the Act allows taxpayers to treat up to $250,000 of qualified leasehold and retail improvement property as well as qualified restaurant property, as eligible for Code Sec. 179 expensing.

Bonus depreciation. Bonus depreciation of business equipment is one of the most important tax benefits available to businesses, large or small. In recent years, bonus depreciation has reached 100 percent, which gave taxpayers the opportunity to write off 100 percent of qualifying asset purchases immediately. For 2012, bonus depreciation remained available but was reduced to 50 percent. The Act extends 50 percent bonus depreciation through 2013. The Act also provides that a taxpayer otherwise eligible for additional first-year depreciation may elect to claim additional research or minimum tax credits in lieu of claiming depreciation for qualified property.

While not quite as attractive as 100 percent bonus depreciation, 50 percent bonus depreciation is valuable. For example, a $100,000 piece of equipment with a five-year MACRS life would qualify for a $55,000 write-off: $50,000 in bonus depreciation plus 20 percent of the remaining $50,000 in basis as “regular” depreciation, with the half-year convention applied in the first and last year.

Bonus depreciation also relates to the passenger vehicle depreciation dollar limits under Code Sec. 280F. This provision imposes dollar limitations on the depreciation deduction for the year in which a taxpayer places a passenger automobile/truck in service within a business and for each succeeding year. Because of the new law, the first-year depreciation cap for passenger automobile/truck placed in service in 2013 is increased by $8,000.

Bonus depreciation, unlike Code Sec. 179 expensing, is not capped at a dollar threshold. However, only new property qualifies for bonus depreciation. Code Sec. 179 expensing, in contrast, can be claimed for both new and used property and qualifying property may be expensed at 100 percent.

Research Tax Credit. The research tax credit was restored for 2012 and extended through 2013.

If you have any questions, please contact us.

Problem Resolving An Issue With The IRS? The Taxpayer Advocate Service: Helping You Resolve Tax Problems

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers who are experiencing unresolved federal tax problems. Here are 10 things every taxpayer should know about TAS:

1. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is your voice at the IRS.

2. TAS assistance is free and tailored to meet your needs.

3. You may be eligible for TAS help if you’ve tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS channels and have gotten nowhere, or if you are facing (or your business is facing) an immediate action from the IRS that will adversely affect you.

4. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all!

5. TAS helps individual and business taxpayers whose tax problems are causing financial difficulty, which could include the cost of hiring professional representation, such as a tax attorney.

6. If you qualify for TAS help, you’ll be assigned one advocate who will do everything possible to get your problem resolved.

7. There is at least one local Taxpayer Advocate office in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. You can obtain the number of your local Taxpayer Advocate from your local phone book, in Pub. 1546, Taxpayer Advocate Service – Your Voice at the IRS and on the IRS website at IRS.gov/advocate. You can also call TAS toll-free at 1-877-777-4778.

8. As a taxpayer, you have rights that the IRS must abide by when working with you. Our tax toolkit website at http://www.TaxpayerAdvocate.irs.gov can help you understand these rights.

9. TAS also handles tax problems that may have a broad impact on more than just one taxpayer. You can report these “systemic” issues to TAS through the Systemic Advocacy Management System at IRS.gov/advocate.

10. You can get updates on hot tax topics by visiting the TAS YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/TASNTA and the TAS Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/YourVoiceAtIRS, or by following TAS tweets at http://www.twitter.com/YourVoiceatIRS.

IRS Presents – How Does The Gain On The Sale Of Your Main Home Work

If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude all or part of that gain from your income.

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when selling your home.

1. In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.

2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).

3. You are not eligible for the full exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.

4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale of your home on your tax return.

5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.

6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.

7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude. Most tax software can also help with
this calculation.

8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.

9. Special rules may apply when you sell a home for which you received the first-time homebuyer credit. See Publication 523, Selling Your Home, for details.

10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive mail from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523,Selling Your Home.

Links:

Publication 523, Selling Your Home (PDF)
Form 8822, Change of Address (PDF)
Tax Topic 701 – Sale of Your Home
Real Estate Tax Tips – Sale of Residence

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