The tax filing deadline is approaching. If you don’t file your return and pay your tax by the due date you may have to pay a penalty. Here are nine things the IRS wants you to know about the two different penalties you may face if you do not pay or file on time.
- If you do not file by the deadline, you might face a failure-to-file penalty.
- If you do not pay by the due date, you could face a failure-to-pay penalty.
- The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. So if you cannot pay all the taxes you owe, you should still file your tax return and explore other payment options in the meantime.
- The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
- If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.
- You will have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.
- If you filed an extension and you paid at least 90 percent of your actual tax liability by the due date, you will not be faced with a failure-to-pay penalty if the remaining balance is paid by the extended due date.
- If both the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty apply in any month, the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty is reduced by the failure-to-pay penalty. However, if you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100% of the unpaid tax.
- You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show that you failed to file or pay on time because of reasonable cause and not because of willful neglect.
Errors made on tax returns may delay the processing of your tax return, which in turn, may cause your refund to arrive later. Here are nine common errors the IRS wants you to avoid to help guarantee your refund arrives on time.
- Incorrect or missing Social Security Numbers When entering SSNs for anyone listed on your tax return, be sure to enter them exactly as they appear on the Social Security cards.
- Incorrect or misspelling of dependent’s last name When entering a dependent’s last name on your tax return, ensure they are entered exactly as they appear on their Social Security card.
- Filing status errors Make sure you choose the correct filing status for your situation. There are five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household, and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child. See Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information to determine the filing status that best fits your needs.
- Math errors When preparing paper returns, review all math for accuracy. Remember, when you file electronically, the software takes care of the math for you!
- Computation errors Take your time. Many taxpayers make mistakes when figuring their taxable income, withholding and estimated tax payments, Earned Income Tax Credit, Standard Deduction for age 65 or over or blind, the taxable amount of Social Security benefits, and the Child and Dependent Care Credit.
- Incorrect bank account numbers for Direct Deposit If you are due a refund and requested direct deposit, be sure to review the routing and account numbers for your financial institution.
- Forgetting to sign and date the return An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it is invalid.
- Incorrect Adjusted Gross Income information Taxpayers filing electronically must sign the return electronically using a Personal Identification Number. To verify their identity, taxpayers will be prompted to enter their AGI from their originally filed 2008 federal income tax return or their prior year PIN if they used one to file electronically last year. Taxpayers should not use an AGI amount from an amended return, Form 1040X, or a math error correction made by IRS.
- Claiming the Making Work Pay Tax Credit Taxpayers with earned income should claim the Making Work Pay Tax Credit by attaching a Schedule M, Making Work Pay and Government Retiree Credits to their 2009 Form 1040 or 1040 A. Taxpayers who file Form 1040-EZ will use the worksheet for Line 8 on the back of the 1040-EZ to figure their Making Work Pay Tax Credit. The credit is worth up to $400 for individuals and $800 for married couples filing jointly. Many people who worked during 2009 are slowing down the processing of their tax return by not properly claiming this credit.
Only individuals who received income from the Social Security Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs and Railroad Retirement Board received a $250 Economic Recovery Payment.
If you received benefits from one or more of these agencies, but you are unsure if you received the $250 Economic Recovery Payment, you can find out by using the “Did I Receive a 2009 Economic Recovery Payment?” feature online at IRS.gov or by calling 1-866-234-2942. These tools give you an easy way to verify if you received the one-time Economic Recovery Payment and which agency made the payment. These payments must be included when claiming the Making Work Pay Tax Credit on 2009 tax returns.
Here are six tips from the IRS that will help you determine if you received an Economic Recovery Payment:
- If you had earned income in 2009 or are a government retiree and received an Economic Recovery Payment you need to report the payment and the amount when claiming the Making Work Pay and Government Retiree Credit on Schedule M, Making Work Pay Credit and Government Retiree Credits or as you complete your return using e-file software.
- The Economic Recovery Payments are not taxable income; however, anyone who receives social security, veteran or railroad retirement benefits, as well as certain other government retirement benefits, must reduce the Making Work Pay Tax Credit they claim by the amount of any payment they received in 2009.
- To verify whether you received the $250 payment, you can call 1-866-234-2942 and select Option 1 to access the “Did I Receive a 2009 Economic Recovery Payment?” telephone feature. The online version for verifying your Economic Recovery Payment will be available on IRS.gov in mid-March.
- When using the “Did I Receive a 2009 Economic Recovery Payment?” feature to determine if you received an Economic Recovery Payment, you must provide your Social Security number, date of birth and zip code from your last filed tax return.
- You must make a separate inquiry for each person on the tax return when using the “Did I Receive a 2009 Economic Recovery Payment?”, even if you are filing a joint tax return.
- Not claiming the Economic Recovery Payment on the Schedule M can delay the processing of your tax return. To avoid delays be sure to use the “Did I Receive a 2009 Economic Recovery Payment?” feature to find out if you received the payment.
More information about the Economic Recovery Payment and the Making Work Pay Tax Credit can be found at IRS.gov/recovery. Schedule M and the related instructions can be obtained at IRS.gov or can be ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
- Did I Receive a 2009 Economic Recovery Payment?
- Economic Recovery Payment
- Making Work Pay Tax Credit
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Information Center
- Schedule M, Making Work Pay Credit and Government Retiree Credits
Most taxpayers have a choice of either taking a standard deduction or itemizing their deductions. If you have a choice, you can use the method that gives you the lowest tax.
Whether to itemize deductions on your tax return depends on how much you spent on certain expenses last year. Money paid for medical care, mortgage interest, taxes, charitable contributions, casualty losses and miscellaneous deductions can reduce your taxes. If the total amount spent on those categories is more than your standard deduction, you can usually benefit by itemizing.
The standard deduction amounts are based on your filing status and are subject to inflation adjustments each year. For 2009, they are:
- $5,700 for Single
- $11,400 for Married Filing Jointly
- $8,350 for Head of Household
- $5,700 for Married Filing Separately
- $11,400 for Qualifying Widow(er)
Some taxpayers have different standard deductions The standard deduction amount depends on your filing status, whether you are 65 or older or blind and whether an exemption can be claimed for you by another taxpayer. If any of these apply, you must use the Standard Deduction Worksheet on the back of Form 1040EZ, or in the 1040A or 1040 instructions. The standard deduction amount also depends on whether you plan to claim the additional standard deduction for state and local real estate taxes or state or local excise tax on a new vehicle, and whether you have a net disaster loss from a federally declared disaster. You must file Schedule L, Standard Deduction for Certain Filers to claim these additional amounts.
Limited itemized deductions Your itemized deductions may be limited if your adjusted gross income is more than $166,800 or $83,400 if you are married filing separately. This limit applies to all itemized deductions except medical and dental expenses, casualty and theft losses of personal use and income producing property, gambling losses and investment interest expenses.
Married Filing Separately When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction and should itemize their deductions.
Some taxpayers are not eligible for the standard deduction They include nonresident aliens, dual-status aliens and individuals who file returns for periods of less than 12 months due to a change in accounting periods.
Forms to use The standard deduction can be taken on Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. If you qualify for the higher standard deduction for real estate taxes, new motor vehicle taxes, or a net disaster loss, you must attach Schedule L. To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
These forms and instructions may be downloaded from the IRS.gov Web site or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
The Alternative Minimum Tax attempts to ensure that anyone who benefits from certain tax advantages pays at least a minimum amount of tax.
Here are seven facts the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about the AMT and changes to this special tax for 2009.
1. Tax laws provide tax benefits for certain kinds of income and allow special deductions and credits for certain expenses. These benefits can drastically reduce some taxpayers’ tax obligations. Congress created the AMT in 1969, targeting taxpayers who could claim so many deductions they owed little or no income tax.
2. Because the AMT is not indexed for inflation, a growing number of middle-income taxpayers are discovering they are subject to the AMT.
3. You may have to pay the AMT if your taxable income for regular tax purposes plus any adjustments and preference items that apply to you are more than the AMT exemption amount.
4. The AMT exemption amounts are set by law for each filing status.
5. For tax year 2009, Congress raised the AMT exemption amounts to the following levels:
- $70,950 for a married couple filing a joint return and qualifying widows and widowers;
- $46,700 for singles and heads of household;
- $35,475 for a married person filing separately.
6. The minimum AMT exemption amount for a child whose unearned income is taxed at the parents’ tax rate has increased to $6,700 for 2009.
7. If you claim a regular tax deduction on your 2009 tax return for any state or local sales or excise tax on the purchase of a new motor vehicle, that tax is also allowed as a deduction for the AMT.
Taxpayers can find more information about the Alternative Minimum Tax and how it impacts them by accessing IRS Form 6251, Alternative Minimum Tax —Individuals, and its instructions at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
The Child Tax Credit is a valuable credit that can significantly reduce your tax liability. Here are 10 important facts from the IRS about this credit and how it may benefit your family.
- Amount – With the Child Tax Credit, you may be able to reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17.
- Qualification – A qualifying child for this credit is someone who meets the qualifying criteria of six tests: age, relationship, support, dependent, citizenship, and residence.
- Age Test – To qualify, a child must have been under age 17 – age 16 or younger – at the end of 2009.
- Relationship Test – To claim a child for purposes of the Child Tax Credit, they must either be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of these individuals, which includes your grandchild, niece or nephew. An adopted child is always treated as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
- Support Test – In order to claim a child for this credit, the child must not have provided more than half of their own support.
- Dependent Test – You must claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return.
- Citizenship Test – To meet the citizenship test, the child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. resident alien.
- Residence Test – The child must have lived with you for more than half of 2009. There are some exceptions to the residence test, which can be found in IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.
- Limitations – The credit is limited if your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. The amount at which this phase-out begins varies depending on your filing status. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the phase-out begins at $110,000. For married taxpayers filing a separate return, it begins at $55,000. For all other taxpayers, the phase-out begins at $75,000. In addition, the Child Tax Credit is generally limited by the amount of the income tax you owe as well as any alternative minimum tax you owe.
- Additional Child tax Credit – If the amount of your Child Tax Credit is greater than the amount of income tax you owe, you may be able to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit.
For more information, see IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit, available at the IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
The IRS provides free publications and forms as well as other tax material and information to help taxpayers meet their tax obligations. Here are four great ways you can get the information you need to file your tax return. The best thing about these four options is that they won’t cost you a dime!
- IRS.gov The IRS Web site is a one-stop shop for a wide array of tax information. You can even prepare and file your federal tax return – for free – through Free File, a service offered by IRS and its partners who make available free tax preparation software and free electronic filing. But you must go through IRS.gov to use Free File. Have some tax questions? Check out 1040 Central on the Individuals page for the latest news. Read up on the economic recovery tax credits at IRS.gov/recovery. The Online Services section includes several online tools that will help you with your taxes, including the IRS Withholding Calculator, the Alternative Minimum Tax Assistant, and the EITC Assistant. You can even track your refund with Where’s My Refund?.
- Telephone Call the IRS Tax Help Line for Individuals, 800-829-1040, to get answers to your federal tax questions. To order free forms, instructions and publications call 800-829-3676. To hear pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics or check on the status of your refund, call 800-829-4477. TTY/TDD users may call 800-829-4059 to ask tax questions or to order forms and publications.
- Taxpayer Assistance Centers When you believe your tax issue cannot be handled online or by phone and you want face-to-face assistance, you can find help at a local IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Locations, business hours and an overview of services are available at IRS.gov. Just go to the Individuals tab and click on the link for Contact My Local Office in the left tool bar section under IRS Resources.
- Community Resources Free tax preparation is available through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs in many communities. Volunteer return preparation programs provided through IRS and its partners offer free help in preparing simple tax returns for low-to-moderate-income taxpayers. Call 800-906-9887 to find the VITA or TCE site nearest you. You may also call AARP — the largest TCE participant — at 888-227-7669 (888-AARPNOW) or access www.aarp.org to find the nearest Tax-Aide site.
For more information about free services provided by the IRS, review Publication 910, IRS Guide to Free Tax Services available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).