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TAX PREPARATION, PLANNING, RESOLUTION

IRS extends tax deadline for areas of Texas affected by floods

GREAT NEWS!

IRS Provides Tax Relief to Houston Area Storm Victims; Tax Deadline Extended to Sept. 1

WASHINGTON –– Texas storm victims, including those in the Houston area,  will have until Sept. 1, 2016 to file their returns and pay any taxes due, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. All workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization also qualify for relief.

Following this week’s disaster declaration for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the IRS said that affected taxpayers in Fayette, Grimes, Harris and Parker counties will receive this and other special tax relief.

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on April 17, 2016. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until Sept. 1, 2016 to file their returns and pay any taxes due. This includes 2015 income tax returns normally due on April 18.  It also includes the April 18 and June 15 deadlines for making quarterly estimated tax payments. A variety of business tax deadlines are also affected including the May 2 and Aug. 1 deadlines for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns.

In addition, the IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due on or after April 17 and before May 2 if the deposits are made by May 2, 2016. Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Thus, taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

In addition,the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227.

Individuals and businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (the 2016 return normally filed in early 2017), or on an original or amended return for the prior year—tax year 2015 in this situation. SeePublication 547 for details.

The tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by severe storms and flooding and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. For information on disaster recovery, visit disasterassistance.gov.

What You Should Know about Children with Investment Income

 

Special tax rules may apply to some children who receive investment income. The rules may affect the amount of tax and how to report the income. Here are five important points to keep in mind if your child has investment income:

1. Investment Income. Investment income generally includes interest, dividends and capital gains. It also includes other unearned income, such as from a trust.

2. Parent’s Tax Rate. If your child’s total investment income is more than $2,100 then your tax rate may apply to part of that income instead of your child’s tax rate. See the instructions for Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Unearned Income.

3. Parent’s Return. You may be able to include your child’s investment income on your tax return if it was less than $10,500 for the year. If you make this choice, then your child will not have to file his or her own return. See Form 8814, Parents’ Election to Report Child’s Interest and Dividends, for more.

4. Child’s Return. If your child’s investment income was $10,500 or more in 2015 then the child must file their own return. File Form 8615 with the child’s federal tax return.

5. Net Investment Income Tax. Your child may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax if they must file Form 8615. Use Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax, to figure this tax.

Refer to IRS Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents. You can get related forms and publications on IRS.gov.

Filing an Extension – What You Need to Know

We’re getting down to the wire! Should you go ahead and file? or file an extension?

What does filing an “extension” do?

Filing an extension gives you an additional six months to file your tax return with the IRS. Your new filing deadline will be October 15th. It does NOT extend the amount of time you have to pay your taxes, however. To avoid late payment penalties, be sure you have paid at least 100% of the amount of taxes that you owed last year. Check your W2 and other tax form to see how much tax was withheld on your behalf. Add it up. Include any estimated tax payments you’ve made. If you come up short, be sure to send the IRS a payment by April 15th*.

So Why File an Extension?

  • You got a late start and simply won’t have it completed in time. Due to work volume, many tax preparers have a cut-off date for getting information to them to ensure filing by the deadline.
  • You are still waiting for your necessary tax reporting forms required to file your return. Schedule K-1’s from partnerships and corrected 1099 forms often don’t arrive until April! Unless you want to amend your tax return, you’re better off filing an extension and waiting.
  • The volume of data or complexity of certain transactions (e.g., sale of a rental property) on your return requires additional time to ensure accuracy of your return as well as ensure you are able to take advantage of all potential tax savings.

Am I more likely to be audited if I extend?

  • NO. Extending will NOT increase your likelihood of being audited by the IRS.
  • It is better to file an extension rather than to file a return that is incomplete or that you have not had time to review carefully before signing. If there’s a possibility that you will have to amend your return, it is better to file an extension and wait.

What are the primary benefits of extending my tax return?

  • It provides for additional time to file returns without penalty when you are waiting for missing information or tax documents (such as corrected 1099s). Just remember that an extension provides additional time to file, but not additional time to pay. Penalties may be assessed if sufficient payment is not remitted with the extension.
  • You may qualify for additional retirement planning opportunities or additional time to fund certain types of retirement plans (e.g., SEP IRA).
  • It is often less expensive (and easier) to file an extension rather than rushing now, and then possibly needing to amend your return later.

 

If you’d like help filing an extension, please contact me.

Debbie Evans, Enrolled Agent

www.EvansTaxCo.com * deb@EvansTaxCo.com

*This year the tax deadline is April 18th. 

Tax Credit for Saving for Retirement!

We have had a few clients benefit from this recently! Save on Your Taxes and for Retirement with the Saver’s Credit

If you contribute to a retirement plan, like a 401(k) or an IRA, you may be able to claim the Saver’s Credit. This credit can help you save for retirement and reduce the tax you owe. Here are some key facts that you should know about this important tax credit:

  • Formal Name.  The formal name of the Saver’s Credit is the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit. The Saver’s Credit is in addition to other tax savings you get if you set aside money for retirement. For example, you may also be able to deduct your contributions to a traditional IRA.
  • Maximum Credit.  The Saver’s Credit is worth up to $4,000 if you are married and file a joint return. The credit is worth up to $2,000 if you are single. The credit you receive is often much less than the maximum. This is partly because of the deductions and other credits you may claim.
  • Income Limits.  You may be able to claim the credit depending on your filing status and the amount of your yearly income. You may be eligible for the credit on your 2015 tax return if you are:
    • Married filing jointly with income up to $61,000
    • Head of household with income up to $45,750
    • Married filing separately or a single taxpayer with income up to $30,500
  • Other Rules.  Other rules that apply to the credit include:
    • You must be at least 18 years of age.
    • You can’t have been a full-time student in 2015.
    • No other person can claim you as a dependent on their tax return.
  • Contribution Date.  You must have contributed to a 401(k) plan or similar workplace plan by the end of the year to claim this credit. However, you can contribute to an IRA by the due date of your tax return and still have it count for 2015. The due date for most people isApril 18, 2016.
  • Form 8880.  File Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the credit.
  • Free File.  If you can claim the credit, you can prepare and e-file your tax return for free using IRS Free File. The tax software will do the hard work for you. It will do the math and complete the right forms. Free File is available only through the IRS.gov website.

Use the Interactive Tax Assistant interview tool to help you determine if you qualify to claim the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

How to Deduct Charitable Contributions

 

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers planning to claim charitable donations to make sure they have the records they need before filing their 2015 tax returns.

This is the fifth in a series of 10 IRS tips called the Tax Time Guide. These tips are designed to help taxpayers navigate common tax issues as this year’s April 18 deadline approaches.

For any taxpayer, keeping good records is key to qualifying for the full charitable contribution deduction allowed by law. In particular, this includes insuring that they have received required statements for two contribution categories—each gift of at least $250 and donations of vehicles.

First, to claim a charitable contribution deduction, donors must get a written acknowledgement from the charity for all contributions of $250 or more. This includes gifts of both cash and property. For donations of property, the acknowledgement must include, among other things, a description of the items contributed.

In addition, the law requires that taxpayers have all acknowledgements in hand before filing their tax return. These acknowledgements are not filed with the return but must be retained by the taxpayer along with other tax records.

Second, special reporting requirements generally apply to vehicle donations, and taxpayers wishing to claim these donations must attach any required documents to their tax return. The deduction for a car, boat or airplane donated to charity is usually limited to the gross proceeds from its sale. This rule applies if the claimed value is more than $500. Form 1098-C or a similar statement, must be provided to the donor by the organization and attached to the donor’s tax return.

The IRS also reminded taxpayers to be sure any charity they are giving to is a qualified organization. Only donations to eligible organizations are tax-deductible. Select Check, a searchable online tool available on IRS.gov, lists most organizations that are eligible to receive deductible contributions. In addition, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible even if they are not listed in the tool’s database.

Only taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A can claim gifts to charity. Thus, taxpayers who choose the standard deduction cannot deduct their charitable contributions. This includes anyone who files a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ).

A taxpayer will have a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. Use the 2015 Form 1040, Schedule A to determine whether itemizing is better than claiming the standard deduction.

Besides Schedule A, taxpayers who give property to charity usually must attach a special form for reporting these noncash contributions. If the amount of the deduction for all noncash contributions is over $500, a properly-completed Form 8283 is required.

The IRS provided these additional reminders about the special rules that apply to charitable contributions of used clothing and household items, monetary donations and year-end gifts.

Rules for Charitable Contributions of Clothing and Household Items

  • This includes furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. Clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better to be tax-deductible. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return.

Guidelines for Monetary Donations

  • A taxpayer must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity in order to deduct any donation of money, regardless of amount. The record must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, and bank, credit union and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date and the transaction posting date.
  • Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

Year-End Gifts

  • Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2015 count for 2015, even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2016. Also, checks count for 2015 as long as they were mailed in 2015.

Where’s My Refund??

Tax Time Guide: Check Refund Status Online With Where’s My Refund?

 

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers that they can quickly check the status of their tax return and refund through “Where’s My Refund? on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers who have not yet received their refunds can use “Where’s My Refund? on IRS.gov or on the smartphone application IRS2Go to find out about the status of their income tax refunds.

Initial information will normally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mails a paper return to the IRS. The system updates only once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check more often.

So far, taxpayers have used Where’s My Refund? more than 231 million times this year, an increase of nearly 35 percent over last year at this time.

Taxpayers should have their Social Security number, filing status and exact refund amount when accessing Where’s My Refund?” Those without Internet access can access this tool by calling 800-829-1954, 24 hours a day.

Many Retirees Face April 1 Deadline to Take Required Retirement Plan Distributions

IR-2016-48, March 28, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers who turned 70½ during 2015 that in most cases they must start receiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by Friday, April 1, 2016.

The April 1 deadline applies to owners of traditional (including SEP and SIMPLE) IRAs but not Roth IRAs. Normally, it also applies to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans.

The April 1 deadline only applies to the required distribution for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by Dec. 31. So, a taxpayer who turned 70½ in 2015 (born after June 30, 1944 and before July 1, 1945) and receives the first required distribution (for 2015) on April 1, 2016, for example, must still receive the second RMD by Dec. 31, 2016.

Affected taxpayers who turned 70½ during 2015 must figure the RMD for the first year using the life expectancy as of their birthday in 2015 and their account balance on Dec. 31, 2014. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498 in Box 5. Worksheets and life expectancy tables for making this computation can be found in the appendices to Publication 590-B.

Most taxpayers use Table III  (Uniform Lifetime) to figure their RMD. For a taxpayer who reached age 70½ in 2015 and turned 71 before the end of the year, for example, the first required distribution would be based on a distribution period of 26.5 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer married to a spouse who is more than 10 years younger and is the taxpayer’s only beneficiary. Both tables can be found in the appendices to Publication 590-B.

Though the April 1 deadline is mandatory for all owners of traditional IRAs and most participants in workplace retirement plans, some people with workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMD. Usually, employees who are still working can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions. See Tax on Excess Accumulation  inPublication 575. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to begin planning now for any distributions required during 2016. An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount in Box 12b on Form 5498. For a 2016 RMD, this amount would be on the 2015 Form 5498 that is normally issued in January 2016.

IRA owners can use a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) paid directly from an IRA to an eligible charity to meet part or all of their RMD obligation. Available only to IRA owners 70½ or older, the maximum annual exclusion for QCDs is $100,000. For details, see the QCD discussion in Publication 590-B.

More information on RMDs, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found on IRS.gov.

Can’t Pay Taxes On Time? Here Are Five Tips

 

The IRS urges you to file on time even if you can’t pay what you owe. This saves you from potentially paying a penalty for a late filed return.

Here is what to do if you can’t pay all your taxes by the due date.

1. File on time and pay as much as you can. You can pay online, by phone, or by check or money order. Visit IRS.gov for electronic payment options.

2. Get a loan or use a credit card to pay your tax. The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be less than IRS interest and penalties. For credit card options, see IRS.gov.

3. Use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  You don’t need to wait for IRS to send you a bill before you ask for a payment plan. The best way is to use the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. You can also fileForm 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with your tax return. You can even set up a direct debit agreement. With this type of payment plan, you won’t have to write a check and mail it on time each month.

4. Don’t ignore a tax bill.  If you get a bill, don’t ignore it.  The IRS may take collection action if you ignore the bill. Contact the IRS right away to talk about your options. If you are suffering financial hardship, the IRS will work with you.

5. File to reconcile Advance Payments of the Premium Tax Credit. You must file a tax return and submit Form 8962 to reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit with the actual premium tax credit to which you are entitled. You will need Form 1095-A from the Marketplace to complete Form 8962. Failure to reconcile your advance payments of the premium tax credit on Form 8962 may make you ineligible to receive future advance payments.

Remember to file on time. Pay as much as you can by the tax deadline and pay the rest as soon as you can. Find out more about the IRS collection process on IRS.gov. Also check out IRSVideos.gov/OweTaxes.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Simplified Method for Claiming Home Office Deduction

Tax Time Guide:  Many Home-Based Businesses Can Use Simplified Method for Claiming Home Office Deduction; Taxpayers May Deduct up to $1,500 a Year

 

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded people with home-based businesses filling out their 2015 federal income tax returns that they can choose a simplified method for claiming the deduction for business use of a home.

This is the fourth in a series of 10 IRS tips called the Tax Time Guide. These tips are designed to help taxpayers navigate common tax issues as this year’s April 18 deadline approaches.

In tax year 2013, the most recent year for which figures are available, more than 3.4 million taxpayers claimed deductions totaling just over $9.6 billion for business use of a home, commonly referred to as the home office deduction.

Introduced in tax year 2013, the optional deduction is designed to reduce the paperwork and recordkeeping burden for small businesses. The optional deduction is capped at $1,500 per year, based on $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet.

Normally, home-based businesses are required to fill out a 43-line form (Form 8829) often with complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions. Instead, taxpayers choosing the simplified method need only complete a short worksheet in the tax instructions and enter the result on their tax return. Self-employed individuals claim the home office deduction on Schedule C, Line 30; farmers claim it on Schedule F, Line 32 and eligible employees claim it on Schedule A, Line 21.

Though homeowners using the simplified method cannot depreciate the portion of their home used in a trade or business, they can claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A. These deductions need not be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the regular method.

Business expenses unrelated to the home, such as advertising, supplies and wages paid to employees, are still fully deductible. Long-standing restrictions on the home office deduction, such as the requirement that a home office be used regularly and exclusively for business and the limit tied to the income derived from the particular business, still apply under the simplified method.

Further details on the home office deduction and the simplified method can be found in Publication 587 on IRS.gov.

Still Time to Make Your IRA Contribution for the 2015 Tax Year

Did you contribute to an Individual Retirement Arrangement last yeaStill Time to Make Your IRA Contribution for the 2015 Tax Yearr? Are you thinking about contributing to your IRA now? If so, you may have questions about IRAs and your taxes. Here are some IRS tax tips about saving for retirement using an IRA:

  • Age Rules. You must be under age 70½ at the end of the tax year in order to contribute to a traditional IRA. There is no age limit to contribute to a Roth IRA.
  • Compensation Rules. You must have taxable compensation to contribute to an IRA. This includes income from wages and salaries and net self-employment income. It also includes tips, commissions, bonuses and alimony. If you are married and file a joint tax return, only one spouse needs to have compensation in most cases.
  • When to Contribute. You can contribute to an IRA at any time during the year. To count for 2015, you must contribute by the due date of your tax return. This does not include extensions. This means most people must contribute by April 18, 2016. If you contribute betweenJan. 1 and April 18, make sure your plan sponsor applies it to the year you choose (2015 or 2016).
  • Contribution Limits. In general, the most you can contribute to your IRA for 2015 is the smaller of either your taxable compensation for the year or $5,500. If you were age 50 or older at the end of 2015, the maximum you can contribute increases to $6,500. If you contribute more than these limits, an additional tax will apply. The additional tax is six percent of the excess amount contributed that is in your account at the end of the year.
  • Taxability Rules. You normally don’t pay income tax on funds in your traditional IRA until you start taking distributions from it. Qualified distributions from a Roth IRA are tax-free.
  • Deductibility Rules. You may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your traditional IRA. See IRS Publication 590-A for more.
  • Saver’s Credit. If you contribute to an IRA you may also qualify for the Saver’s Credit. It can reduce your taxes up to $2,000 if you file a joint return. Use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the credit. You can file Form 1040A or 1040 to claim the Saver’s Credit.
  • New myRA. If your employer does not offer a retirement plan, you may want to consider myRA. It is a new retirement savings plan offered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It’s safe and affordable. You can also direct deposit your entire refund or a portion of it into an existing myRA – Retirement Account.