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IR-2013-40: Last-Minute Filers: Avoid Common Errors

IR-2013-40, April 11, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers to review their tax returns for common errors that could delay the processing of their returns. Here are some ways to avoid common mistakes.

File electronically. Filing electronically, whether through e-file or IRS Free File, vastly reduces tax return errors, as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. And best of all, there is a free option for everyone.

Mail a paper return to the right address. Paper filers should check the appropriate address where to file in IRS.gov or their form instructions to avoid processing delays.

Take a close look at the tax tables. When figuring tax using the tax tables, taxpayers should be sure to use the correct column for the filing status claimed.

Fill in all requested information clearly. When entering information on the tax return, including Social Security numbers, take the time to be sure it is correct and easy to read. Also, check only one filing status and the appropriate exemption boxes.

Review all figures. While software catches and prevents many errors on e-file returns, math errors remain common on paper returns.

Get the right routing and account numbers. Requesting direct deposit of a federal refund into one, two or even three accounts is convenient and allows the taxpayer access to his or her money faster. Make sure the financial institution routing and account numbers entered on the return are accurate. Incorrect numbers can cause a refund to be delayed or deposited into the wrong account.

Sign and date the return. If filing a joint return, both spouses must sign and date the return. E-filers can sign using a self-selected personal identification number (PIN).

Attach all required forms. Paper filers need to attach W-2s and other forms that reflect tax withholding, to the front of their returns. If requesting a payment agreement with the IRS, also attachForm 9465 to the front of the return. Attach all other necessary schedules and forms in sequence number order shown in the upper right-hand corner.

Keep a copy of the return. Once ready to be filed, taxpayers should make a copy of their signed return and all schedules for their records.

Request a Filing Extension. For taxpayers who cannot meet the April 15 deadline, requesting a filing extension is easy and will prevent late filing penalties. Either use Free File or Form 4868. But keep in mind that while an extension grants additional time to file, tax payments are still due April 15.

Owe tax? If so, a number of e-payment options are available. Or send a check or money order payable to the “United States Treasury.”

IRS Tax Tip 2013-53: Tips for Taxpayers Who Can’t Pay Their Taxes on Time

If you find you owe tax after completing your federal tax return but can’t pay it all when you file, the IRS wants you to know your options.

Here are four tips that can help you lower the amount of interest and penalties when you don’t pay the full amount on time.

1. File on time and pay as much as you can. Filing on time ensures that you will avoid the late filing penalty. Paying as much as you can reduces the late payment penalty and interest charges. For electronic payment options, see IRS.gov. If you pay by check, make it payable to the United States Treasury and include it with your return.

2. Consider getting a loan or paying by credit card. The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be lower than IRS interest and penalties. For credit card options, see IRS.gov.

3. Request a payment agreement.  You do not need to wait for IRS to send you a bill before requesting a payment plan. You can:

    • Use the Online Payment Agreement tool at IRS.gov, or
    • Complete and submit Form 9465, Installment Agreement

Request, with your tax return. Find out about payment agreement user fees at IRS.gov or on Form 9465.

4. Don’t ignore a tax bill.  If you get a bill from the IRS, contact them right away to talk about payment options. The IRS may take collection action if you ignore the bill, which will only make things worse.

In short, it is always best to file on time, pay as much as you can by the tax deadline and pay the balance as soon as you can. For more information on the IRS collection process go to IRS.gov or seeIRSVideos.gov/OweTaxes.

 

 

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IRS Tax Tip 2013-52: Five Things to Know if You Need More Time to File

The April 15 tax-filing deadline is fast approaching. Some taxpayers may find that they need more time to file their tax returns. If you need extra time, you can get an automatic six-month extension from the IRS.

Here are five important things you need to know about filing an extension:

1. Extra time to file is not extra time to pay.  You may request an extension of time to file your federal tax return to get an extra six months to file, until Oct. 15. Although an extension will give you an extra six months to get your tax return to the IRS, it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax you owe. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April 15 deadline. You may also owe a penalty for failing to pay on time.

2. File on time even if you can’t pay.  If you complete your return but you can’t pay the full amount due, do not request an extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. You should pay the balance as soon as possible to minimize penalty and interest charges. If you need more time to pay, you can apply for a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. You can also send Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with your return. If you are unable to make payments because of a financial hardship, the IRS will work with you. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss your options.

3. Use Free File to request an extension.  Everyone can use IRS Free File to e-file their extension request. Free File is available exclusively through the IRS.gov website. You must e-file the request by midnight on April 15. If you e-file your extension request, the IRS will acknowledge receipt of your request.

4. Use Form 4868 if you file a paper form.  You can request an extension of time to file by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You must submit this form to the IRS by April 15.Form 4868 is available on IRS.gov.

5. Electronic funds withdrawal.  If you e-file an extension request, you can also pay any balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. To do this you will need your bank routing and account numbers.

For information about filing an extension and the various methods of paying your taxes, visit the IRS website at IRS.gov.

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IRS Tax Tip 2013-51: Eight Tax-Time Errors to Avoid

If you make a mistake on your tax return, it usually takes the IRS longer to process it. The IRS may have to contact you about that mistake before your return is processed. This will delay the receipt of your tax refund.

The IRS reminds filers that e-filing their tax return greatly lowers the chance of errors. In fact, taxpayers are about twenty times more likely to make a mistake on their return if they file a paper return instead of e-filing their return.

Here are eight common errors to avoid.

1. Wrong or missing Social Security numbers.  Be sure you enter SSNs for yourself and others on your tax return exactly as they are on the Social Security cards.

2. Names wrong or misspelled.  Be sure you enter names of all individuals on your tax return exactly as they are on their Social Security cards.

3. Filing status errors.  Choose the right filing status. 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 help you choose the right one. E-filing your tax return will also help you choose the right filing status.

4. Math mistakes.  If you file a paper tax return, double check the math. If you e-file, the software does the math for you. For example, if your Social Security benefits are taxable, check to ensure you figured the taxable portion correctly.

5. Errors in figuring credits, deductions.  Take your time and read the instructions in your tax booklet carefully. Many filers make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit and the standard deduction. For example, if you are age 65 or older or blind check to make sure you claim the correct, larger standard deduction amount.

6. Wrong bank account numbers.  Direct deposit is the fast, easy and safe way to receive your tax refund. Make sure you enter your bank routing and account numbers correctly.

7. Forms not signed, dated.  An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it’s invalid. Remember both spouses must sign a joint return.

8. Electronic signature errors.  If you e-file your tax return, you will sign the return electronically using a Personal Identification Number. For security purposes, the software will ask you to enter the Adjusted Gross Income from your originally-filed 2011 federal tax return. Do not use the AGI amount from an amended 2011 return or an AGI provided to you if the IRS corrected your return. You may also use last year’s PIN if you e-filed last year and remember your PIN.

 

 

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IR-2013-39: Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program Reports on Activities

WASHINGTON — The IRS’s Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) Program Office has issued its firstreport showing how LITCs provide pro bono legal services to help thousands of low income taxpayers nationwide resolve disputes with the IRS and learn about their taxpayer rights and responsibilities.

“Although the LITC Program has been operating and helping taxpayers since 1999, this is the first time we have compiled a report describing the program’s activities and accomplishments. We are proud to provide this synopsis and to demonstrate how the pro bono representation, education, and advocacy efforts of clinics assist low income taxpayers,” said Nina E. Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate.

“During the first half of 2012, LITCs helped taxpayers secure more than $3.2 million in tax refunds and to eliminate nearly $16.5 million in tax liabilities, penalties and interest,” said William P. Nelson, LITC Program Director.

The LITCs provide free or low-cost assistance to low income taxpayers who have a tax controversy with the IRS, such as an audit or collection matter, and conduct outreach and education to taxpayers who speak English as a second language (ESL). The report provides an overview and history of the LITC Program, discusses the type of work the LITCs perform, and explains how their work helps ensure the fairness and integrity of the tax system.

Although LITCs receive partial funding from the IRS, LITCs, their employees, and their volunteers operate independently from the IRS. The grant program is administered by the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate at the IRS, led by the National Taxpayer Advocate. The program awards matching grants of up to $100,000 per year to qualifying organizations to develop, expand, or maintain a low income taxpayer clinic. Examples of qualifying organizations include:

  • Clinical programs at accredited law, business, or accounting schools whose students represent low income taxpayers in tax disputes with the IRS.
  • Organizations exempt from tax under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(a) that represent low income taxpayers in tax disputes with the IRS or refer those taxpayers to qualified representatives, or that provide education and outreach for ESL taxpayers.

The Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program Report is available here.

IR-2013-38: Can’t File By April 15? Use Free File to Get a Six-Month Exte nsion; E-Pay and Payment Agreement Options Available to People Who Owe Tax

IR-2013-38, April 8, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers that quick and easy solutions are available if they can’t file their returns or pay their taxes on time, and they can even request relief online.

The IRS says don’t panic. Tax-filing extensions are available to taxpayers who need more time to finish their returns. Remember, this is an extension of time to file, not an extension of time to pay. However, taxpayers who are having trouble paying what they owe may qualify for payment plans and other relief.

Either way, taxpayers will avoid stiff penalties if they file either a regular income tax return or a request for a tax-filing extension by this year’s April 15 deadline. Taxpayers should file, even if they can’t pay the full amount due. Here are further details on the options available.

More Time to File

People who haven’t finished filling out their return can get an automatic six-month extension. The fastest and easiest way to get the extra time is through the Free File link on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an automatic tax-filing extension on Form 4868.

Filing this form gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file a return. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and should also pay any amount due.

By properly filing this form, a taxpayer will avoid the late-filing penalty, normally five percent per month based on the unpaid balance, that applies to returns filed after the deadline. In addition, any payment made with an extension request will reduce or eliminate interest and late-payment penalties that apply to payments made after April 15. The current interest rate is three percent per year, compounded daily, and the late-payment penalty is normally 0.5 percent per month.

Besides Free File, taxpayers can choose to request an extension through a paid tax preparer, using tax-preparation software or by filing a paper Form 4868, available on IRS.gov. Of the nearly 10.7 million extension forms received by the IRS last year, almost 5.8 million were filed electronically.

Some taxpayers get more time to file without having to ask for it. These include:

  • Taxpayers abroad. U.S. citizens and resident aliens who live and work abroad, as well as members of the military on duty outside the U.S., have until June 17 to file. Tax payments are still due April 15.
  • Members of the military and others serving in Afghanistan or other combat zone localities. Typically, taxpayers can wait until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due. For details, see Extensions of Deadlines in Publication 3, Armed Forces Tax Guide.
  • People affected by certain tornadoes, severe storms, floods and other recent natural disasters. Currently, parts of Mississippi are covered by a federal disaster declaration, and affected individuals and businesses in these areas have until April 30 to file and pay.

Easy Ways to E-Pay

Taxpayers with a balance due now have several quick and easy ways to electronically pay what they owe. They include:

  • Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). This free service gives taxpayers a safe and convenient way to pay individual and business taxes by phone or online. To enroll or for more information, call 800-316-6541 or visit www.eftps.gov.
  • Electronic funds withdrawal. E-file and e-pay in a single step.
  • Credit or debit card. Both paper and electronic filers can pay their taxes by phone or online through any of several authorized credit and debit card processors. Though the IRS does not charge a fee for this service, the card processors do. For taxpayers who itemize their deductions, these convenience fees can be claimed on Schedule A Line 23.

Taxpayers who choose to pay by check or money order should make the payment out to the “United States Treasury.” Write “2012 Form 1040,” name, address, daytime phone number and Social Security number on the front of the check or money order. To help insure that the payment is credited promptly, also enclose a Form 1040-V payment voucher.

More Time to Pay

Taxpayers who have finished their returns should file by the regular April 15 deadline, even if they can’t pay the full amount due. In many cases, those struggling with unpaid taxes qualify for one of several relief programs, including the following:

  • Most people can set up a payment agreement with the IRS on line in a matter of minutes. Those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to 72 months. Taxpayers can choose this option even if they have not yet received a bill or notice from the IRS. With the Online Payment Agreement, no paperwork is required, there is no need to call, write or visit the IRS and qualified taxpayers can avoid the filing of a Notice of Federal Tax Lien if one was not previously filed. Alternatively, taxpayers can request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465. This form can be downloaded from IRS.gov and mailed along with a tax return, bill or notice.
  • Some struggling taxpayers may qualify for an offer-in-compromise. This is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier, a free online tool available on IRS.gov.

Details on all filing and payment options are on IRS.gov.

 

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 09-Apr-2013

IRS Tax Tip 2013-50: Top Ten Tips on Making IRA Contributions

IRS Tax Tip 2013-50, April 8, 2013

The IRS has 10 important tips for you about setting aside money for your retirement in an Individual Retirement Arrangement.

  1. You must be under age 70 1/2 at the end of the tax year in order to contribute to a traditional IRA.
  2. You must have taxable compensation to contribute to an IRA. This includes income from wages, salaries, tips, commissions and bonuses. It also includes net income from self-employment. If you file a joint return, generally only one spouse needs to have taxable compensation.
  3. You can contribute to your traditional IRA at any time during the year. You must make all contributions by the due date for filing your tax return. This due date does not include extensions. For most people this means you must contribute for 2012 by April 15, 2013. If you contribute between Jan. 1 and April 15, you should contact your IRA plan sponsor to make sure they apply it to the right year.
  4. For 2012, the most you can contribute to your IRA is the smaller of either your taxable compensation for the year or $5,000. If you were 50 or older at the end of 2012 the maximum amount increases to $6,000.
  5. Generally, you will not pay income tax on the funds in your traditional IRA until you begin taking distributions from it.
  6. You may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your traditional IRA.
  7. Use the worksheets in the instructions for either Form 1040A or Form 1040 to figure the amount of your contributions that you can deduct.
  8. You may also qualify for the Savers Credit, formally known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit. The credit can reduce your taxes up to $1,000 (up to $2,000 if filing jointly). Use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the Saver’s Credit.
  9. You must file either Form 1040A or Form 1040 to deduct your IRA contribution or to claim the Saver’s Credit.
  10. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements, for more about IRA contributions.

You can get Form 8880 and Publication 590 at IRS.gov or order by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 05-Apr-2013

IRS Tax Tip 2013-49: Six Tips on Making Estimated Tax Payments

Some taxpayers may need to make estimated tax payments during the year. The type of income you receive determines whether you must pay estimated taxes. Here are six tips from the IRS about making estimated tax payments.

  1. If you do not have taxes withheld from your income, you may need to make estimated tax payments. This may apply if you have income such as self-employment, interest, dividends or capital gains. It could also apply if you do not have enough taxes withheld from your wages. If you are required to pay estimated taxes during the year, you should make these payments to avoid a penalty.
  2. Generally, you may need to pay estimated taxes in 2013 if you expect to owe $1,000 or more in taxes when you file your federal tax return. Other rules apply, and special rules apply to farmers and fishermen.
  3. When figuring the amount of your estimated taxes, you should estimate the amount of income you expect to receive for the year. You should also include any tax deductions and credits that you will be eligible to claim. Be aware that life changes, such as a change in marital status or a child born during the year can affect your taxes. Try to make your estimates as accurate as possible.
  4. You normally make estimated tax payments four times a year. The dates that apply to most people are April 15, June 17 and Sept. 16 in 2013, and Jan. 15, 2014.
  5. You should use Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure your estimated tax.
  6. You may pay online or by phone. You may also pay by check or money order, or by credit or debit card. You’ll find more information about your payment options in the Form 1040-ES instructions. Also, check out the Electronic Payment Options Home Page at IRS.gov. If you mail your payments to the IRS, you should use the payment vouchers that come with Form 1040-ES.

For more information about estimated taxes, see Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. Forms and publications are available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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IRS Tax Tip 2013-48: Get Credit for Making Your Home Energy-Efficient

If you made your home more energy efficient last year, you may qualify for a tax credit on your 2012 federal income tax return. Here is some basic information about home energy credits that you should know.

Non-Business Energy Property Credit  

  • You may claim a credit of 10 percent of the cost of certain energy saving property that you added to your main home. This includes the cost of qualified insulation, windows, doors and roofs.
  • In some cases, you may be able to claim the actual cost of certain qualified energy-efficient property. Each type of property has a different dollar limit. Examples include the cost of qualified water heaters and qualified heating and air conditioning systems.
  • This credit has a maximum lifetime limit of $500. You may only use $200 of this limit for windows.
  • Your main home must be located in the U.S. to qualify for the credit.
  • Not all energy-efficient improvements qualify, so be sure you have the manufacturer’s credit certification statement. It is usually available on the manufacturer’s website or with the product’s packaging.
  • The credit was to expire at the end of 2011. A recent law extended it for two years through the end of 2013.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit

  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment that you installed on or in your home.
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment and wind turbines.
  • There is no limit on the amount of credit available for most types of property. If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year’s tax return.
  • You must install qualifying equipment in connection with your home located in the United States. It does not have to be your main home.
  • The credit is available through 2016.

Use Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits, to claim these credits. You can get Form 5695 at IRS.gov or order it by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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IRS Tax Tip 2013-47: Get Connected to the IRS with Social Media

The April 15 tax deadline will soon be here. Those who wait until the last minute to file may be rushing to find the tax information they need. Tax preparers, businesses, news media and web masters may also be looking for creative ways to help their clients find IRS tax information and tools.

Consider using these IRS social media tools to help you or your website visitors navigate the tax deadline.

  • IRS2Go.  IRS’s free mobile app gives you your refund status, tax news updates, IRS You Tube videos and also lets you request your tax records.  IRS2Go is available for the iPhone, iTouch or Android mobile devices.
  • YouTube.  IRS offers video tax tips on a variety of topics in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
  • Twitter.  Tweets from @IRSnews provide tax-related announcements and daily tax tips. Tweets from @IRStaxpros offer news and guidance for tax professionals. Tweets from @IRSenEspanolhave news and information in Spanish, and @RecruitmentIRS provides updates for job seekers.
  • Podcasts.  IRS has short audio recordings that offer one tax-related topic per podcast. They are available on iTunes or through the Multimedia Center. Transcripts of the Podcasts are also available.
  • Tumblr.  IRS Tumblr is a microblogging platform where users can access IRS tax tips, videos, and podcasts. The IRS uses Tumblr to share information about important programs. Tumblr can be accessed from your browser, smartphone, tablet or desktop.

Protecting your privacy is a top priority at the IRS. The IRS uses social media tools to share public information, not to answer personal tax or account questions. You should never post your Social Security number or any other confidential information on social media sites.

Get connected and stay connected to the IRS with social media.

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IR-2013-37: IRS Seeks Applications for Information Reporting Advisory Council

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is requesting nominations for membership to the Information Reporting Program Advisory Committee (IRPAC), a federal advisory panel that advises the IRS on various tax administration issues.

The IRPAC presents an annual report to the IRS Commissioner at a public meeting in the fall. The 2014 IRPAC committee will consist of 21 volunteers. Members are appointed to three-year terms by the Commissioner, but terms are staggered so that approximately one-third of the panel changes each year. Nominations are currently being accepted for up to eight appointments to terms that will begin in January 2014.

The deadline for submitting applications is May 31, 2013.

IRPAC members are drawn from diverse backgrounds. Members represent the taxpaying public, tax professional community, small and large businesses, colleges and universities, state tax administrations, banks, insurance companies, foreign financial institutions, and the software and payroll industries.

Anyone interested in becoming a member of IRPAC may self-nominate or be nominated by a professional organization. All nominees must complete an application.

More information is available on IRS.gov at http://www.irs.gov/Tax-Professionals. Questions about the nomination process may be sent to publicliaison@irs.gov.

IR-2013-36: IRS Smartphone App IRS2Go Now Available in Spanish

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today the release of IRS2Go 3.0, an update to its smartphone application that offers practical tax tools and information for the first time in either Spanish or English.

The free mobile app offers taxpayers a number of safe and secure ways to access popular tools and the most up-to-date tax information. For the new version, IRS2Go is available for the first time in Spanish. The taxpayers’ phone language settings determine whether the IRS2Go content appears in English or in Spanish.

The resources available through IRS2Go include:

  • Get Your Refund Status. Taxpayers can check the status of their federal refund through the mobile app with a few basic pieces of information. An updated refund status is available 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an e-filed return, or four weeks after mailing a paper return.
  • Get My Tax Record. Taxpayers can now order their tax account or tax return transcript from a mobile device. The transcript will be delivered via U.S. Postal Service to their address of record.
  • Watch Us. People can view the IRS YouTube videos right on their smartphones. The IRS YouTube video channels provide short, informative videos in EnglishSpanish and in American Sign Language on a variety of tax topics.
  • Follow the IRS. Taxpayers can sign up to follow the IRS Twitter newsfeeds, @IRSnews or@IRSenEspanol, which provide easy-to-use information, including tax law changes and important IRS programs
  • Get Tax Updates. Phone app users enter their e-mail address to automatically get simple, straightforward tips and reminders to help with tax planning and preparation. Tax Tips are issued daily during the filing season and periodically throughout the rest of the year.
  • Get the latest news. With this tool users can quickly access the most recent updates on the IRS.gov English and Spanish news pages.

Apple users can update or download the free IRS2Go application by visiting the Apple App Store. Android users can visit Google Play to download the free IRS2Go app.

For more information on IRS2Go, products and services through social media channels and other media products, visit www.IRS.gov.

IRS Tax Tip 2013-46: Top Six Tax Tips for the Self-Employed

The April 15 tax deadline will soon be here. Those who wait until the last minute to file may be rushing to find the tax information they need. Tax preparers, businesses, news media and web masters may also be looking for creative ways to help their clients find IRS tax information and tools.

Consider using these IRS social media tools to help you or your website visitors navigate the tax deadline.

  • IRS2Go.  IRS’s free mobile app gives you your refund status, tax news updates, IRS You Tube videos and also lets you request your tax records.  IRS2Go is available for the iPhone, iTouch or Android mobile devices.
  • YouTube.  IRS offers video tax tips on a variety of topics in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
  • Twitter.  Tweets from @IRSnews provide tax-related announcements and daily tax tips. Tweets from @IRStaxpros offer news and guidance for tax professionals. Tweets from @IRSenEspanolhave news and information in Spanish, and @RecruitmentIRS provides updates for job seekers.
  • Podcasts.  IRS has short audio recordings that offer one tax-related topic per podcast. They are available on iTunes or through the Multimedia Center. Transcripts of the Podcasts are also available.
  • Tumblr.  IRS Tumblr is a microblogging platform where users can access IRS tax tips, videos, and podcasts. The IRS uses Tumblr to share information about important programs. Tumblr can be accessed from your browser, smartphone, tablet or desktop.

Protecting your privacy is a top priority at the IRS. The IRS uses social media tools to share public information, not to answer personal tax or account questions. You should never post your Social Security number or any other confidential information on social media sites.

Get connected and stay connected to the IRS with social media.

Additional IRS Resources:

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IRS Tax Tip 2013-45: Nine Tips on Deducting Charitable Contributions

Giving to charity may make you feel good and help you lower your tax bill. The IRS offers these nine tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

  1. If you want a tax deduction, you must donate to a qualified charitable organization. You cannot deduct contributions you make to either an individual, a political organization or a political candidate.
  2. You must file Form 1040 and itemize your deductions on Schedule A. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is more than $500, you must also file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, with your tax return.
  3. If you receive a benefit of some kind in return for your contribution, you can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit you received. Examples of benefits you may receive in return for your contribution include merchandise, tickets to an event or other goods and services.
  4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at fair market value. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.
  5. Fair market value is generally the price at which someone can sell the property.
  6. You must have a written record about your donation in order to deduct any cash gift, regardless of the amount. Cash contributions include those made by check or other monetary methods. That written record can be a written statement from the organization, a bank record or a payroll deduction record that substantiates your donation. That documentation should include the name of the organization, the date and amount of the contribution. A telephone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.
  7. To claim a deduction for gifts of cash or property worth $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the qualified organization. The statement must show the amount of the cash or a description of any property given. It must also state whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.
  8. You may use the same document to meet the requirement for a written statement for cash gifts and the requirement for a written acknowledgement for contributions of $250 or more.
  9. If you donate one item or a group of similar items that are valued at more than $5,000, you must also complete Section B of Form 8283. This section generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.

For more information on charitable contributions, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information about noncash contributions, see Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. Forms and publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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IRS Tax Tip 2013-44: Two Education Credits Help Pay Higher Education Costs

The American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit may help you pay for the costs of higher education. If you pay tuition and fees for yourself, your spouse or your dependent you may qualify for these credits.

Here are some facts the IRS wants you to know about these important credits:

The American Opportunity Credit

  • The AOTC is worth up to $2,500 per eligible student.
  • The credit is available for the first four years of higher education at an eligible college, university or vocational school.
  • The credit lowers your taxes and is partially refundable. This means you could get a refund of up to $1,000 even if you owe zero tax.
  • An eligible student must be working toward a degree, certificate or other recognized credential.
  • The student must be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period that began during the year.
  • You generally can claim the costs of tuition and required fees, books and other required course materials. Other expenses, such as room and board, do not qualify.

The Lifetime Learning Credit

  • The credit is worth up to $2,000 per tax return per year. The yearly limit applies no matter how many students are eligible for the credit.
  • The credit is nonrefundable. This means the amount you can claim is limited to the amount of tax you owe.
  • The credit is available for all years of higher education. This includes courses taken to acquire or improve job skills.
  • You can claim the costs of tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance. This includes amounts you were required to pay to the institution for course-related books, supplies and equipment.

You cannot claim either of these credits if someone else claims you as a dependent on his or her tax return. Both credits are subject to income limitations and may be reduced or eliminated depending on your income.

Keep in mind that you can’t claim both credits for the same student in the same year. You may not claim both credits for the same expense. Parents or students claiming either credit should receive a Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from their educational institution. You should make sure it is complete and correct.

Find out more details about these credits and other college tax benefits in Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education. You can get the booklet at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Additional IRS Resources:

  • Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education
  • Form 8863, Education Credits (American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Credits)

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