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Six tips for people who pay estimated taxes


You may need to pay estimated taxes to the IRS during the year if you have income that is not subject to withholding. This depends on what you do for a living and the types of income you receive.

These six tips from the IRS explain estimated taxes and how to pay them.

1. If you have income from sources such as self-employment, interest, dividends, alimony, rent, gains from the sales of assets, prizes or awards, then you may have to pay estimated tax.

2. As a general rule, you must pay estimated taxes in 2012 if both of these statements apply: 1) You expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax after subtracting your tax withholding (if you have any) and tax credits, and 2) You expect your withholding and credits to be less than the smaller of 90 percent of your 2012 taxes or 100 percent of the tax on your 2011 return. Special rules apply for farmers, fishermen, certain household employers and certain higher income taxpayers.

3. For Sole Proprietors, Partners and S Corporation shareholders, you generally have to make estimated tax payments if you expect to owe $1,000 or more in tax when you file your return.

4. To figure your estimated tax, include your expected gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions and credits for the year. Use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, for this. You want to be as accurate as possible to avoid penalties. Also, consider changes in your situation and recent tax law changes.

5. The year is divided into four payment periods, or due dates, for estimated tax purposes. Those dates generally are April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15 of the next or following year.

6. Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, has everything you need to pay estimated taxes. It includes instructions, worksheets, schedules and payment vouchers. However, the easiest way to pay estimated taxes is electronically through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS, at www.irs.gov. You can also pay estimated taxes by check or money order using the Estimated Tax Payment Voucher or by credit or debit card.

For more information on estimated taxes, refer to Form 1040-ES and its instructions and Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. These forms and publications are available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Tax refunds may be applied to offset certain debts


Past due financial obligations can affect your current federal tax refund. The Department of Treasury’s Financial Management Service, which issues IRS tax refunds, can use part or all of your federal tax refund to satisfy certain unpaid debts.

Here are eight important facts the IRS wants you to know about tax refund offsets:

1. If you owe federal or state income taxes, your refund will be offset to pay those taxes. If you had other debt such as child support or student loan debt that was submitted for offset, FMS will apply as much of your refund as is needed to pay off the debt and then issue any remaining refund to you.

2. You will receive a notice if an offset occurs. The notice will include the original refund amount, your offset amount, the agency receiving the payment and its contact information.

3. If you believe you do not owe the debt or you are disputing the amount taken from your refund, you should contact the agency shown on the notice, not the IRS.

4. If you filed a joint return and you’re not responsible for the debt, but you are entitled to a portion of the refund, you may request your portion of the refund by filing IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. Attach Form 8379 to your original Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ or file it by itself after you are notified of an offset. Form 8379 can be downloaded from the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

5. You can file Form 8379 electronically. If you file a paper tax return you can include Form 8379 with your return, write “INJURED SPOUSE” at the top left of the Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. IRS will process your allocation request before an offset occurs.

6. If you are filing Form 8379 by itself, it must show both spouses’ Social Security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. You, the “injured” spouse, must sign the form. Do not attach the previously filed Form 1040 to the Form 8379. Send Form 8379 to the IRS Service Center where you filed your original return.

7. The IRS will compute the injured spouse’s share of the joint return. Contact the IRS only if your original refund amount shown on the FMS offset notice differs from the refund amount shown on your tax return.

8. Follow the instructions on Form 8379 carefully and be sure to attach the required forms to avoid delays. If you don’t receive a notice, contact the Financial Management Service at 800-304-3107, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Central Time).

 

 

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Health insurance tax breaks for the self-employed


If you’re self-employed and paying for medical, dental or long-term care insurance, the IRS wants to remind you about a special tax deduction for some insurance premiums paid for you, your spouse, and your dependents.

Starting in tax year 2011, this deduction is no longer allowed on Schedule SE (Form 1040), but you can still take it on Form 1040, line 29.

You must be one of the following to qualify:

A self-employed individual with a net profit reported on Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business, Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net Profit From Business, or Schedule F (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Farming.

A partner with net earnings from self-employment reported on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., box 14, code A.

A shareholder owning more than 2 percent of the outstanding stock of an S corporation with wages from the corporation reported on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

The insurance plan must be established under your business.

For self-employed individuals filing a Schedule C, C-EZ, or F, the policy can be either in the name of the business or in the name of the individual.

For partners, the policy can be either in the name of the partnership or in the name of the partner. You can either pay the premiums yourself or your partnership can pay them and report the premium amounts on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) as guaranteed payments to be included in your gross income. However, if the policy is in your name and you pay the premiums yourself, the partnership must reimburse you and report the premium amounts on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) as guaranteed payments to be included in your gross income. Otherwise, the insurance plan will not be considered to be established under your business.

For more-than-2-percent shareholders, the policy can be either in the name of the S corporation or in the name of the shareholder. You can either pay the premiums yourself or your S corporation can pay them and report the premium amounts on Form W-2 as wages to be included in your gross income. However, if the policy is in your name and you pay the premiums yourself, the S corporation must reimburse you and report the premium amounts on Form W-2 as wages to be included in your gross income. Otherwise, the insurance plan will not be considered to be established under your business.

For more information see IRS Publication 535, Business Expenses, available on this website or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

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Employee business expenses


Some employees may be able to deduct certain work-related expenses. The following facts from the IRS can help you determine which expenses are deductible as an employee business expense. You must be itemizing deductions on IRS Schedule A to qualify.

Expenses that qualify for an itemized deduction generally include:

• Business travel away from home

• Business use of your car

• Business meals and entertainment

• Travel

• Use of your home

• Education

• Supplies

• Tools

• Miscellaneous expenses

You must keep records to prove the business expenses you deduct. For general information on recordkeeping, see IRS Publication 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov, or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

If your employer reimburses you under an accountable plan, you should not include the payments in your gross income, and you may not deduct any of the reimbursed amounts.

An accountable plan must meet three requirements:

1. You must have paid or incurred expenses that are deductible while performing services as an employee.

2. You must adequately account to your employer for these expenses within a reasonable time period.

3. You must return any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable time period.

If the plan under which you are reimbursed by your employer is non-accountable, the payments you receive should be included in the wages shown on your Form W-2. You must report the income and itemize your deductions to deduct these expenses.

Generally, you report unreimbursed expenses on IRS Form 2106 or IRS Form 2106-EZ and attach it to Form 1040. Deductible expenses are then reported on IRS Schedule A, as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to a rule that limits your employee business expenses deduction to the amount that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

For more information see IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, which is available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov, or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

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Tax credits available for certain energy-efficient home improvements


The IRS would like you to get some credit for qualified home energy improvements this year. Perhaps you installed solar equipment or recently insulated your home? Here are two tax credits that may be available to you:

1. The Non-business Energy Property Credit Homeowners who install energy-efficient improvements may qualify for this credit. The 2011 credit is 10 percent of the cost of qualified energy-efficient improvements, up to $500. Qualifying improvements include adding insulation, energy-efficient exterior windows and doors and certain roofs. The cost of installing these items does not count. You can also claim a credit including installation costs, for certain high-efficiency heating and air conditioning systems, water heaters and stoves that burn biomass fuel. The credit has a lifetime limit of $500, of which only $200 may be used for windows. If you’ve claimed more than $500 of non-business energy property credits since 2005, you cannot claim the credit for 2011. Qualifying improvements must have been placed into service in the taxpayer’s principal residence located in the United States before Jan. 1, 2012.

2. Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit This tax credit helps individual taxpayers pay for qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, solar electricity equipment and wind turbines. The credit, which runs through 2016, is 30 percent of the cost of qualified property. There is no cap on the amount of credit available, except for fuel cell property. Generally, you may include labor costs when figuring the credit and you can carry forward any unused portions of this credit. Qualifying equipment must have been installed on or in connection with your home located in the United States; fuel cell property qualifies only when installed on or in connection with your main home located in the United States.

Not all energy-efficient improvements qualify so be sure you have the manufacturer’s tax credit certification statement, which can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website or with the product packaging.If you’re eligible, you can claim both of these credits on Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits when you file your 2011 federal income tax return. Also, note these are tax credits and not deductions, so they will generally reduce the amount of tax owed dollar for dollar. Finally, you may claim these credits regardless of whether you itemize deductions on IRS Schedule A.

You can find Form 5695 at www.irs.gov or order it by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

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IRS has $1 billion for people who have not filed a 2008 income tax return


WASHINGTON—Refunds totaling more than $1 billion may be waiting for one million people who did not file a federal income tax return for 2008, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. However, to collect the money, a return for 2008 must be filed with the IRS no later than Tuesday, April 17, 2012.

The IRS estimates that half of these potential 2008 refunds are $637 or more.

Some people may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim a refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2008 returns, the window closes on April 17, 2012. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by that date. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2008 refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2009 and 2010. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refunds of taxes withheld or paid during 2008. Some people, especially those who did not receive an economic stimulus payment in 2008, may qualify for the Recovery Rebate Credit. In addition, many low-and moderate-income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2008 were:

$38,646 ($41,646 if married filing jointly) for those with two or more qualifying children, $33,995 ($36,995 if married filing jointly) for people with one qualifying child, and $12,880 ($15,880 if married filing jointly) for those with no qualifying children. For more information, visit the EITC Home Page on IRS.gov.

Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2008, 2009 or 2010 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer. If these efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by ordering it on IRS.gov, filing Form 4506-T, or by calling 800-908-9946.

 

 

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Six facts for adoptive parents


If you paid expenses to adopt an eligible child in 2011, you may be able to claim a tax credit of up to $13,360.

Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about the expanded adoption credit.

1. The Affordable Care Act increased the amount of the credit and made it refundable, which means you can get the credit as a tax refund even after your tax liability has been reduced to zero.

2. For tax year 2011, you must file a paper tax return, Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses, and attach documents supporting the adoption. Taxpayers claiming the credit will still be able to use IRS Free File or other software to prepare their returns, but the returns must be printed and mailed to the IRS, along with all required documentation.

3. Documents may include a final adoption decree, placement agreement from an authorized agency, court documents and/or the state’s determination for special needs children.

4. Qualified adoption expenses are reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the legal adoption of the child. These expenses may include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and travel expenses.

5. An eligible child must be under 18 years old, or physically or mentally incapable of caring for himself or herself.

6. If your modified adjusted gross income is more than $185,210, your credit is reduced. If your modified AGI is $225,210 or more, you cannot take the credit.

For more information see the Adoption Credit FAQ page available at www.irs.gov or the instructions to IRS Form 8839, which can be downloaded from the website or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

 

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Claiming the small business health care tax credit


If you are a small employer with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees that earn an average wage of less than $50,000 a year and you pay at least half of employee health insurance premiums…then there is a tax credit that may put money in your pocket.

The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations. The credit can enable small businesses and small tax-exempt organizations to offer health insurance coverage for the first time. It also helps those already offering health insurance coverage to maintain the coverage they already have.

Here is what small employers need to know so they don’t miss out on the credit for tax year 2011:

Qualifying businesses calculate the small business health care credit on Form 8941, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums, and claim it as part of the general business credit on Form 3800, General Business Credit, which they would include with their tax return.

Tax-exempt organizations can use Form 8941 to calculate the credit and then claim the credit on Form 990-T, Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return, Line 44f.

Businesses that couldn’t use the credit in 2011 may be eligible to claim it in future years. Eligible small employers can claim the credit for 2010 through 2013 and for two additional years beginning in 2014.

For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit for eligible small business employers is 35 percent of premiums paid and for eligible tax-exempt employers the maximum credit is 25 percent of premiums paid. Beginning in 2014, the maximum credit will go up to 50 percent of qualifying premiums paid by eligible small business employers and 35 percent of qualifying premiums paid by eligible tax-exempt organizations.

Additional information about eligibility requirements and calculating the credit can be found on the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for Small Employers page of IRS.gov.

 

 

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Education tax credits help pay higher education costs


Two federal tax credits may help you offset the costs of higher education for yourself or your dependents.  These are the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

To qualify for either credit, you must pay postsecondary tuition and fees for yourself, your spouse or your dependent. The credit may be claimed by either the parent or the student, but not both. If the student was claimed as a dependent, the student cannot file for the credit.

For each student, you may claim only one of the credits in a single tax year. You cannot claim the American Opportunity Credit to pay for part of your daughter’s tuition charges and then claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for $2,000 more of her school costs.

However, if you pay college expenses for two or more students in the same year, you can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. You can claim the American Opportunity Credit for your sophomore daughter and the Lifetime Learning Credit for your spouse’s graduate school tuition.

Here are some key facts the IRS wants you to know about these valuable education credits:

1. The American Opportunity Credit

The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student.

It is available for the first four years of postsecondary education.

Forty percent of the credit is refundable, which means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if you owe no taxes.

The student must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or other recognized educational credential.

The student must be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period.

Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, coursed related books supplies and equipment.

The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

2. Lifetime Learning Credit

The credit can be up to $2,000 per eligible student.

It is available for all years of postsecondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills.

The maximum credited is limited to the amount of tax you must pay on your return.

The student does not need to be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential.

Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment.

The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $60,000 or $120,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

If you don’t qualify for these education credits, you may qualify for the tuition and fees deduction, which can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000. However, you cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.

For more information about these tax benefits, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education available at www.irs.gov or by calling the IRS forms and publications order line at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

 

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Payroll tax cut extended to the end of 2012


Revised payroll tax form now available to employers

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today released revised Form 941 enabling employers to properly report the newly-extended payroll tax cut benefiting nearly 160 million workers.

Under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, enacted yesterday, workers will continue to receive larger paychecks for the rest of this year based on a lower social security tax withholding rate of 4.2 percent, which is two percentage points less than the 6.2 percent rate in effect prior to 2011. This reduced rate, originally in effect for all of 2011, was extended through the end of February by the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011, enacted Dec. 23.

No action is required by workers to continue receiving the payroll tax cut. As before, the lower rate will have no effect on workers’ future Social Security benefits.  The reduction in revenues to the Social Security Trust Fund will be made up by transfers from the General Fund.

Self-employed individuals will also benefit from a comparable rate reduction in the social security portion of the self-employment tax from 12.4 percent to 10.4 percent. For 2012, the social security tax applies to the first $110,100 of wages and net self-employment income received by an individual.

The new law also repeals the two-percent recapture tax included in the December legislation that effectively capped at $18,350 the amount of wages eligible for the payroll tax cut. As a result, the now repealed recapture tax does not apply.

The IRS will issue additional guidance, as needed, to implement the newly-extended payroll tax cut, and any further updates will be posted on IRS.gov.

 

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