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IRS Tax Tip 2013-12: Taxable and Nontaxable Income

Most types of income are taxable, but some are not. Income can include money, property or services that you receive. Here are some examples of income that are usually not taxable:

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

Some income is not taxable except under certain conditions. Examples include:

  • Life insurance proceeds paid to you because of an insured person’s death are usually not taxable. However, if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
  • Income you get from a qualified scholarship is normally not taxable. Amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required course books, are not taxable. However, amounts used for room and board are taxable.

All income, such as wages and tips, is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it. This includes non-cash income from bartering – the exchange of property or services. Both parties must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return.

If you received a refund, credit or offset of state or local income taxes in 2012, you may be required to report this amount. If you did not receive a 2012 Form 1099-G, check with the government agency that made the payments to you. That agency may have made the form available only in an electronic format. You will need to get instructions from the agency to retrieve this document. Report any taxable refund you received even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.

From the IRS Summer Series – Tips on Gambling Income and Losses

IRS-Whether you roll the dice, bet on the ponies, play cards or enjoy slot machines, you should know that as a casual gambler, your gambling winnings are fully taxable and must be reported on your income tax return. You can also deduct your gambling losses…but only up to the extent of your winnings.

Here are five important tips about gambling and taxes:

1. Gambling income includes, but is not limited to, winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, and casinos. It includes cash winnings and the fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips.

2. If you receive a certain amount of gambling winnings or if you have any winnings that are subject to federal tax withholding, the payer is required to issue you a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings. The payer must give you a W-2G if you receive:

$1,200 or more in gambling winnings from bingo or slot machines;
$1,500 or more in proceeds (the amount of winnings minus the amount of the wager) from keno;
More than $5,000 in winnings (reduced by the wager or buy-in) from a poker tournament;
$600 or more in gambling winnings (except winnings from bingo, keno, slot machines, and poker tournaments) and the payout is at least 300 times the amount of the wager; or
Any other gambling winnings subject to federal income tax withholding.
3. Generally, you report all gambling winnings on the “Other income” line of Form 1040, U.S. Federal Income Tax Return.

4. You can claim your gambling losses up to the amount of your winnings on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, under ‘Other Miscellaneous Deductions.’ You must report the full amount of your winnings as income and claim your allowable losses separately. You cannot reduce your gambling winnings by your gambling losses and report the difference. Your records should also show your winnings separately from your losses.

5. Keep accurate records. If you are going to deduct gambling losses, you must have receipts, tickets, statements and documentation such as a diary or similar record of your losses and winnings. Refer to IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, for more details about the type of information you should write in your diary and what kinds of proof you should retain in your records.

For more information on gambling income and losses, see IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, or Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, both available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income
Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions
Tax Topic 419, Gambling Income and Expenses
Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings
YouTube Videos:

Miscellaneous Income – English | Spanish | ASL
Record Keeping – English | Spanish | ASL

IRS Presents: 10 Facts About Capital Gains and Losses

Have you heard of capital gains and losses? If not, you may want to read up on them because they might have an impact on your tax return. The IRS wants you to know these ten facts about gains and losses and how they could affect your tax situation.

  1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset.
  2. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis – which is usually what you paid for it – is a capital gain or a capital loss.
  3. You must report all capital gains.
  4. You may deduct capital losses only on investment property, not on property held for personal use.
  5. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term, depending on how long you hold the property before you sell it. If you hold it more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, your capital gain or loss is short-term.
  6. If you have long-term gains in excess of your long-term losses, you have a net capital gain to the extent your net long-term capital gain is more than your net short-term capital loss, if any.
  7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gain are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other income. For 2009, the maximum capital gains rate for most people is15%. For lower-income individuals, the rate may be 0% on some or all of the net capital gain. Special types of net capital gain can be taxed at 25% or 28%.
  8. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, the excess can be deducted on your tax return and used to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.
  9. If your total net capital loss is more than the yearly limit on capital loss deductions, you can carry over the unused part to the next year and treat it as if you incurred it in that next year.
  10. Capital gains and losses are reported on Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, and then transferred to line 13of Form 1040.

For more information about reporting capital gains and losses, see the Schedule D instructions, Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses or Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. All forms and publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Links:

  • Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax (PDF 2015.9K)
  • Publication 550, Investment Income and Expenses (PDF 516K)
  • Publication 544, Sales and Other Dispositions of Assets (PDF 321K)
  • Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax (PDF 367K)
  • Publication 564, Mutual Fund Distributions (PDF 178K)
  • Publication 547, Casualties, Disasters, and Thefts (PDF 133K)
  • Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes) (PDF 187K)

IRS Presents: Seven Facts About Social Security Benefits

If you received Social Security benefits in 2009, you need to know whether or not these benefits are taxable. Here are seven facts the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about Social Security benefits so you can determine whether or not they are taxable to you.

1.  How much – if any – of your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status.

2. Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income for 2009, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.

3. If you received income from other sources, your benefits will not be taxed unless your modified adjusted gross income is more than the base amount for your filing status.

4. Your taxable benefits and modified adjusted gross income are figured on a worksheet in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet.

5. You can do the following quick computation to determine whether some of your benefits may be taxable:

  • First, add one-half of the total Social Security benefits you received to all your other income, including any tax exempt interest and other exclusions from income.
  • Then, compare this total to the base amount for your filing status. If the total is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable.

6. The 2009 base amounts are:

  • $32,000 for married couples filing jointly.
  • $25,000 for single, head of household, qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child, or married individuals filing separately who did not live with their spouses at any time during the year.
  • $0 for married persons filing separately who lived together during the year.

7. For additional information on the taxability of Social Security benefits, see IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits. Publication 915 is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Links:

  • Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits (994.0KB)

IRS Presents: Four Steps to Follow If You Are Missing a W-2

Getting ready to file your tax return?  Make sure you have all your documents before you start. You should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement from each of your employers.  Employers have until February 1, 2010 to send you a 2009 Form W-2 earnings statement. If you haven’t received your W-2, follow these four steps:

1. Contact your employer If you have not received your W-2, contact your employer to inquire if and when the W-2 was mailed.  If it was mailed, it may have been returned to the employer because of an incorrect or incomplete address.  After contacting the employer, allow a reasonable amount of time for them to resend or to issue the W-2.

2. Contact the IRS If you do not receive your W-2 by February 16th, contact the IRS for assistance at 800-829-1040. When you call, you must provide your name, address, city and state, including zip code, Social Security number, phone number and have the following information:

  • Employer’s name, address, city and state, including zip code and phone   number
  • Dates of employment
  • An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and when you worked for that employer during 2009. The estimate should be based on year-to-date information from your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if possible.

3. File your return You still must file your tax return or request an extension to file by April 15, even if you do not receive your Form W-2. If you have not received your Form W-2 by April 15th, and have completed steps 1 and 2, you may use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Attach Form 4852 to the return, estimating income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible.  There may be a delay in any refund due while the information is verified.

4. File a Form 1040X On occasion, you may receive your missing W-2 after you filed your return using Form 4852, and the information may be different from what you reported on your return. If this happens, you must amend your return by filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Form 4852, Form 1040X, and instructions are available on the IRS Web site, IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

  • Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement (PDF 29K)
  • Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (PDF 123K)
  • Instructions for Form 1040X (PDF 43K)  

IRS Presents: Is this Income Taxable?

While most income you receive is generally considered taxable, there are some situations when certain types of income are partially taxed or not taxed at all.

To ensure taxpayers are familiar with the difference between taxable and non-taxable income, the Internal Revenue Service offers these common examples of items that are not included in your income:

  • Adoption Expense Reimbursements for qualifying expenses
  • Child support payments
  • Gifts, bequests and inheritances
  • Workers’ compensation benefits
  • Meals and Lodging for the convenience of your employer
  • Compensatory Damages awarded for physical injury or physical sickness
  • Welfare Benefits
  • Cash Rebates from a dealer or manufacturer

Some income may be taxable under certain circumstances, but not taxable in other situations. Examples of items that may or may not be included in your income are:

  • Life Insurance If you surrender a life insurance policy for cash, you must include in income any proceeds that are more than the cost of the life insurance policy. Life insurance proceeds, which were paid to you because of the insured person’s death, are not taxable unless the policy was turned over to you for a price.
  • Scholarship or Fellowship Grant If you are a candidate for a degree, you can exclude amounts you receive as a qualified scholarship or fellowship. Amounts used for room and board do not qualify.
  • Non-cash Income Taxable income may be in a form other than cash. One example of this is bartering, which is an exchange of property or services. The fair market value of goods and services exchanged is fully taxable and must be included as income on Form 1040 of both parties.

All other items—including income such as wages, salaries and tips—must be included in your income unless it is specifically excluded by law.

These examples are not all-inclusive. For more information, see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, which can be obtained at IRS.gov or by calling the IRS at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Link:

Joe Schmo Didn’t Think He Needed Any Tax Planning

 By Stacie Clifford Kitts, CPA

Joe Schmo’s [cash based] business did exceptionally well during the year. He closed the biggest deal of his life and collected a large amount of cash. Joe was very pleased with his performance and knew he deserved a reward for all his hard work.

Now Joe had always wanted to own a BMW. The problem being, the fully loaded price of Joe’s dream car was approximately $100,000. For the first time in his professional career, Joe felt he could indulge in his dream and buy the expensive car. So sometime in the year, Joe headed to the dealership where on behalf of his company he skillfully negotiated a pretty good price on that expensive car. And by the end of the day, Joe had written a check that paid for his dream, and substantially reduced the balance in his business bank account.

With his wealth of cash, Joe felt he should get some other things he wanted too. So one day when the summer heat was causing him to sweat through his suit, Joe decided to purchased a new air-conditioning unit along with some other building improvements for his office – the cost $50,000.  

Joe also learned that his computer system needed an expensive overhaul, the cost of which would be approximately $75,000. Although Joe had the system installed by December, he didn’t get around to actually writing the check until January of the following year. Pulling out his checkbook, he wrote a check making sure to back date it to December 31. With that, he had successfully spent all the remaining money in his business account. 

But was Joe worried about the lack of funds in his account? Nope. 

Joe remembered that in previous years his tax advisor had counseled him to determine what items he needed to purchase for his business and to make sure he bought them by the end of the year. This would reduce his taxable income, and hence no income taxes would be owed. He certainly didn’t need to pay his advisor to give him the same advice each year. Spend what you make – he had no problem doing that.  

Poor Joe, was he in for a shock. When he met with his advisor, he learned that he owed a substantial amount of tax with no way to pay it.

“Why,” he asked his tax advisor. “I spent all the money I made. I have nothing left. How can I owe taxes?”

“Because,” his advisor explained. “You didn’t consult with me on what things to spend your money on.”  

As it turns out Joe didn’t understand the tax rules and therefore made poor “tax” choices. His advisor laid it out:

1)      Because of the tax rules, only a portion of the amount that Joe had spent for his new car, and the air-conditioning unit would be deductible on his current tax return. The balance of the cost would be deducted over a number of years based on depreciation rules – sadly, the special section 179 depreciation deduction that may have applied to other purchases, and would have allowed for a greater deduction in the current year, did not apply to his purchase of the car or the air-conditioning unit.

2)      Because Joe didn’t deliver [or mail] the check by December 31, the amount spent on the computer system would not be deductible until the next year.   

“You know Joe, I don’t begrudge you a new car,” the advisor told him. “But had you consulted with me first, we could have figured out a better cash plan for the purchases that you made.”

What a gloomy outcome for Joe.  

So how about you, did you complete some tax planning or consult with your advisor about major purchases during the year?

If not, now is the time to contact your advisor to determine how you might pay any potential tax obligation. No need to be a Joe Schmo.

Is Your Employer Provided Auto Creating a Tax Problem for You?

By Stacie Clifford Kitts, CPA

Do you have an employer provided automobile? If so, here are some things to know.

The law provides that the personal use of an employer-provided automobile represents additional compensation to an employee. This compensation is also known as a taxable fringe benefit.

Many employees are surprised to learn that when you use a business vehicle to commute to and from work or for any other personal use, you are generating additional taxable income that will be included on your W2.

No, sorry you did not get an unexpected raise. This portion of our tax code is just another example of how nothing in life is free. Not even an innocent trip to the park, or maybe that parent teacher conference – at least not if you got there in the company car.

Anyway, since this additional income along with the appropriate payroll taxes is determined annually by your employer, it is important that you carefully document your business versus personal use of the vehicle. After all, there is no need to pay more tax than is necessary. At a minimum, you should maintain a daily log that shows the miles you have driven, the business purpose for your trip, and where you were going.

You may also want to discuss the need for additional income tax withholding with your CPA or qualified tax preparer to make sure there are no tax surprises during tax filing time.

Now, the calculation of the income element for your visit to that parent teacher conference or other personal trips can be based on a couple of methods. Your employer may choose any one of the following to calculate your taxable personal use:

Cents-Per-Mile Rule
Your employer will multiply the total miles you used the vehicle for personal use by the standard mileage rate.
In order to use this method certain requirements must be met. You can check out the details of this method in Publication 15-B Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits.

Lease Value Rule
If your employer uses this method, your employer will determine the percentage of personal use by dividing the total miles driven by the amount of personal miles driven. The resulting personal use percentage will then be multiplied by the vehicles “lease value.” The IRS provides the Annual Lease Value table that will be used in this calculation. Additional calculation information can be found at Publication 15-B.

Commuting Rule
If your employer provides a vehicle for the purposes of commuting such as a commuter vanpool, the taxable benefit is calculated by “multiplying each one-way commute by $1.50.”

One final note for S corporation shareholders who receive a W2 and who have a company vehicle, if at any time during the year you owned more than 2% of the outstanding stock of your S-Corp you are treated like a partner and not an employee in regards to the application of these rules. Check with your CPA or tax preparer for more information.

Guidance – Proposed Reg Exclusion From Gross Income Amounts Received on Account of Personal Physical Injuries

REG-127270-06 contains proposed regulations relating to the exclusion from gross income for amounts received on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness. The proposed regulations reflect amendments under the Small Business Job Protection Act of 1996. The proposed regulations also delete the requirement that to qualify for exclusion from gross income, damages received from a legal suit, action, or settlement agreement must be based upon “tort or tort type rights.” The proposed regulations affect taxpayers receiving damages on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness and taxpayers paying these damages.

Guidance – Rev Proc 2009-39 re automatic consent for changes in accounting method

Revenue Procedure 2009-39 amplifies, clarifies, and modifies Rev. Proc. 2008-52, which provides procedures for taxpayers to obtain automatic consent for the changes in method of accounting described in its APPENDIX. This revenue procedure also clarifies and modifies Rev. Proc. 97-27, as amplified and modified by Rev. Proc. 2002-19, as amplified and clarified by Rev. Proc. 2002-54, and as modified by Rev. Proc. 2007-67, which provides the general procedures for obtaining non-automatic consent for changes in method of accounting.
Revenue Procedure 2009-39 will be in IRB 2009-38, dated September 21, 2009.

Is it a Hobby or a Business?

From the IRS summer tax series. I really love these tips.

Summer is a time many Americans take their fishing poles and gardening tools out of storage. Hobbies – such as woodworking, stamp collecting and scrapbooking – are often done for pleasure, but can result in a profit.

If your favorite activity does make a profit every year or so, there may be tax implications. You must report income to the IRS from almost all sources, including hobbies.

Here are eight questions that will help determine if your activity is a hobby or a business.

Is the purpose of your activity to make a profit? Generally, your activity is considered a business if it is carried on with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit.

Do you participate in your activity just for fun? Hobbies – also called not-for-profit activities – are those activities that are not pursued for profit.
Do you depend on income from the activity? If so, your activity is likely considered a business.

Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability? If so, your hobby may actually be a business.

Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business? People who carry out hobbies just for fun, often don’t have the business acumen to turn their not-for-profit activity into a profitable business venture.

Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past? This may indicate your activity is a business rather than a not-for-profit hobby. An activity is presumed carried on for profit if it makes a profit in at least three of the last five tax years, including the current year – or at least two of the last seven years for activities that consist primarily of breeding, showing, training or racing horses.

Does the activity make a profit in some years? Even if your activity does not make a profit every year, it still may be considered a business.

Do you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity? This indicates your activity may be a business rather than a hobby.

If your activity is not carried on for profit, allowable deductions cannot exceed the gross receipts for the activity. If you are conducting a trade or business you may deduct your ordinary and necessary expenses.

More information about not-for-profit activities is available in Publication 535, Business Expenses, available on the IRS.gov Web site or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Link: IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses

Tips For Reporting Your Gambling Winnings

You may know when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em but do you know how and when to report ‘em? Whether you are playing cards or the slots, it is important to know the rules about reporting gambling winnings and losses.
Here are seven things the IRS wants you to know about reporting what Lady Luck has sent your way.
All gambling winnings are fully taxable.
Gambling income includes, but is not limited to, winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, poker tournaments and casinos. It includes cash winnings and also the fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips.
A payer is required to issue you a Form W-2G if you receive certain gambling winnings or if you have any gambling winnings subject to federal income tax withholding.
Even if a W-2G is not issued, all gambling winnings must be reported as taxable income. Therefore, you may be required to pay an estimated tax on the gambling winnings. For more information on paying estimated taxes, refer to IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
You must report your gambling winnings on Form 1040, line 21.
If you itemize your deductions on Form 1040, Schedule A, you can deduct gambling losses you had during the year, but only up to the amount of your winnings. Your losses are not subject to the 2 percent of AGI Limitation.
It is important to keep an accurate diary or similar record of your gambling winnings and losses. To deduct your losses, you must be able to provide receipts, tickets, statements or other records that show the amount of both your winnings and losses.
For more information, refer to IRS Publications 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, and 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. Additional information can also be found in IRS Instructions for Forms W-2G and 5754, Certain Gambling Winnings & Statement by Person(s) Receiving Gambling Winnings. These publications are available at IRS.gov or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Links:
Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income
Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax
Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions

How To Avoid Nicholas Cage’s Tax Problems

Learn how to avoid Nicholas Cage’s tax problems. This post at my The Business Perspective Blog, provides 7 sure fire ways to avoid being without the funds to pay your tax bill.

Has Your Mortgage Debt Been Forgiven? Here Are Some Things You Should Know

[Stacie says: Here are some helpful tips that are part of the Internal Revenue Service’s Summer Tax Tips series. Definitely worth the read. For more information see also my blog Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions, and Abandonments]

There is tax relief for struggling homeowners. If your mortgage debt is partly or entirely forgiven at any time during 2007 through 2012, you may be able to claim special tax relief on your federal income tax return for that year.

Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about mortgage debt forgiveness.

1. Normally, debt forgiveness results in taxable income. However, under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, you may be able to exclude from tax up to $2 million of debt forgiven on your principal residence. The limit is $1 million for a married person filing a separate return.

2. Debt reduced through mortgage restructuring, as well as mortgage debt forgiven in connection with a foreclosure, may qualify for this relief.

3. The debt must have been used to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence and must have been secured by that residence. Debt used to refinance qualifying debt is also eligible for the exclusion, but only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal, just before the refinancing.

4. Debt forgiven on second homes, rental property, business property, credit cards or car loans does not qualify for the tax-relief provision. In some cases, other kinds of tax relief – based on insolvency, for example – may be available.

[Stacie says: The following worksheet can be used to calculate the extent that you were insolvent.]
[Click on the picture to enlarge]

5. If your debt is reduced or eliminated you should receive a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, from your lender. By law, this form must show the amount of debt forgiven and the fair market value of any property given up through foreclosure.

6. Taxpayers who qualify claim the special exclusion by filling out Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness, and attaching it to their federal income tax return for the year.

For more information about the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007, visit the IRS Web site at IRS.gov. A good resource is IRS Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. This publication and Form 982 can be downloaded from IRS.gov or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:
IRS Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments (PDF)
Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness (PDF)

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