IRS Offers Tips on Charity Travel

From the IRS –

IRS Offers Tips on Charity Travel

Do you plan to donate your time to charity this summer? If you travel for it, you may be able to lower your taxes. Here are some tax tips that you should know about deducting charity-related travel expenses:

  • Qualified Charities.  To deduct your costs, you must volunteer for a qualified charity. Most groups must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Churches and governments are generally qualified, and do not need to apply to the IRS. Ask the group about its status before you donate. You can also use the Select Check tool on IRS.gov to check a group’s status.
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses.  You may be able to deduct some of your costs including travel. They must be necessary while you are away from home. All  costs must be:

o Unreimbursed,

o Directly connected with the services,

o Expenses you had only because of the services you gave, and

o Not personal, living or family expenses.

  • Genuine and Substantial Duty.  Your charity work has to be real and substantial throughout the trip. You can’t deduct expenses if you only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.
  • Value of Time or Service.  You can’t deduct the value of your time or services that you give to charity. This includes income lost while you serve as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.
  • Travel You Can Deduct.  The types of expenses that you may be able to deduct include: o Air, rail and bus transportation, o Car expenses, o Lodging costs, o Cost of meals, and o Taxi or other transportation costs between the airport or station and your hotel.
  • Travel You Can’t Deduct.  Some types of travel do not qualify for a tax deduction. For example, you can’t deduct your costs if a significant part of the trip involves recreation or  vacation.

For more on these rules, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

Check Your Tax Withholding this Summer to Prevent a Tax-Time Surprise

From the IRS –

Check Your Tax Withholding this Summer to Prevent a Tax-Time Surprise

Each year, many people get a larger refund than they expect. Some find they owe a lot more tax than they thought they would. If this has happened to you, review your situation to prevent a tax surprise. Did you marry? Have a child? Change in income? Life events can have a major impact on your taxes. Bring the taxes you pay closer to the amount you owe. Here are some tips to help you come up with a plan:

  • New Job. When you start a new job, you must fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and give it to your employer. Your employer will use the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your pay. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov to help you fill out the form. This tool is easy to use and it’s available 24/7.
  • Estimated Tax. If you earn income that is not subject to withholding you may need to pay estimated tax. This may include income such as self-employment, interest, dividends or rent. If you expect to owe $1,000 or more in tax, and meet other conditions, you may need to pay this tax. You normally pay it four times a year. Use the worksheet inForm 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure the tax.
  • Life Events. Check to see if you need to change your Form W-4 or change the amount of estimated tax you pay when certain life events take place. A change in your marital status, the birth of a child or the purchase of a new home can change the amount of taxes you owe. In most cases, you can submit a new Form W–4 to your employer anytime.
  • Changes in Circumstances. If you are receiving advance payments of the premium tax credit, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance payments of the premium tax credit help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

For more see Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. IRS.gov offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scams, taxpayer rights and more.

How a Summer Wedding Can Affect Your Taxes

From the IRS –

How a Summer Wedding Can Affect Your Taxes

With all the planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, taxes may not be high on your summer wedding checklist. However, you should be aware of the tax issues that come along with marriage. Here are some basic tips to help with your planning:

• Name change. The names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration records. If you change your name, report it to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on SSA.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or from your local SSA office.

• Change tax withholding. A change in your marital status means you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. If you and your spouse both work, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket or you may be affected by the Additional Medicare Tax. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.

• Changes in circumstances. If you or your spouse purchased a Health Insurance Marketplace plan and receive advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2016, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace when they happen. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance credit payments are paid directly to your insurance company on your behalf to lower the out-of-pocket cost you pay for your health insurance premiums. Reporting changes now will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance, which may affect your refund or balance due when you file your tax return.

• Address change. Let the IRS know if your address changes. To do that, send the IRS Form 8822, Change of Address. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can ask them online at USPS.com to forward your mail. You may also report the change at your local post office. You should also notify your Health Insurance  Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current  health care plan.

• Tax filing status. If you’re married as of Dec. 31, that’s your marital status for the whole year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately each year. You may want to figure the tax both ways to find out which status results in the lowest tax.

• Select the right tax form. Choosing the right income tax form can help save money. Newly married taxpayers may find that they now have enough deductions to itemize on their tax returns. You must claim itemized deductions on a Form 1040, not a Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. IRS.gov offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scams, taxpayer rights and more.

About Your IRS Notice or Letter

NOTE – If you receive a Notice from the IRS, do NOT just assume it is correct. A vast majority of IRS notices we see are NOT correct. They still must be dealt with, but do NOT just assume the IRS has it right – they probably don’t.

If you are a client of ours, please send us a copy of any Notice or Letter you received from the IRS as soon as you receive it – there are limited time frames for us to reply.

 

From the IRS –

About Your IRS Notice or Letter

The IRS normally sends correspondence in the mail. We mail millions of letters to taxpayers every year. Keep these important points in mind if you get a letter or notice:

  • Don’t Ignore It.  You can respond to most IRS notices quickly and easily.
  • Follow Instructions.  Read the notice carefully. It will tell you if you need to take any action. Be sure to follow the instructions. The letter will also have contact information if you have questions.
  • Focus on the Issue.  IRS notices usually deal with a specific issue about your tax return or tax account. Your notice or letter will explain the reason for the contact and give you instructions on how to handle the issue. You can learn more about your notice or letter on IRS.gov.
  • Correction Notice. If the IRS corrected your tax return, you should review the information provided and compare it to your tax return.

If you agree, you don’t need to reply unless a payment is due.

If you don’t agree, it’s important that you respond. Follow the instructions on the notice for the best way to respond to us. You may be able to call us to resolve the issue. Have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call. If you choose to write to us, be sure to include information and any documents you want us to consider. Also, write your taxpayer identification number (Social Security number, employer identification number or individual taxpayer identification number) on each page of the letter you send. Mail your reply to the address shown on the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.

  • Respond to Requests about the Premium Tax Credit.  The IRS may send you a letter asking you to clarify or verify your premium tax credit information. You should follow the instructions on the letter. For more information about these letters, see the Understanding Your Letter 0012C page on IRS.gov/aca.
  • You Don’t Need to Visit the IRS.  You can handle most notices without visiting the IRS. If you have questions, call the phone number in the upper right corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the notice when you call.
  • Keep the Notice.  Keep a copy of the IRS notice with your tax records.
  • Watch Out for Scams.  Don’t fall for phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. We will contact you about unpaid taxes by mail first – not by phone.  Be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text or social media.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. IRS.gov offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scams, taxpayer rights and more.

Tax Breaks for the Military

From the IRS –

Tax Breaks for the Military

If you are in the U. S. Armed Forces, there are special tax breaks for you. For example, some types of pay are not taxable. Certain rules apply to deductions or credits that you may be able to claim that can lower your tax. In some cases, you may get more time to file your tax return. You may also get more time to pay your income tax. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Deadline Extensions.  Some members of the military, such as those who serve in a combat zone, can postpone some tax deadlines. If this applies to you, you can get automatic extensions of time to file your tax return and to pay your taxes.
  2. Combat Pay Exclusion.  If you serve in a combat zone, your combat pay is partially or fully tax-free. If you serve in support of a combat zone, you may also qualify for this exclusion. Your W-2 will NOT include non-taxable pay.
  3. Moving Expense Deduction.  You may be able to deduct some of your unreimbursed moving costs on Form 3903. This normally applies if the move is due to a permanent change of station.
  4. Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC.  If you get nontaxable combat pay, you may choose to include it in your taxable income. Including it may boost your EITC, meaning you may owe less tax and could get a larger refund. In 2015, the maximum credit for taxpayers was $6,242. The average amount of EITC claimed was more than $2,400. Figure it both ways and choose the option that best benefits you. You may want to use tax preparation software or consult a tax professional to guide you.
  5. Signing Joint Returns.  Both spouses normally must sign a joint income tax return. If your spouse is absent due to certain military duty or conditions, you may be able to sign for your spouse.  You may need a power of attorney to file a joint return. Your installation’s legal office may be able to help you.
  6. Reservists’ Travel Deduction.  Reservists whose reserve-related duties take them more than 100 miles away from home can deduct their unreimbursed travel expenses on Form 2106, even if they do not itemize their deductions.
  7. Uniform Deduction.  You can deduct the costs of certain uniforms that you can’t wear while off duty. This includes the costs of purchase and upkeep. You must reduce your deduction by any allowance you get for these costs. There are some limitations to getting this deduction.
  8. ROTC Allowances.  Some amounts paid to ROTC students in advanced training are not taxable. This applies to allowances for education and subsistence. Active duty ROTC pay is taxable. For instance, pay for summer advanced camp is taxable.
  9. Civilian Life.  If you leave the military and look for work, you may be able to deduct some job search expenses. You may be able to include the costs of travel, preparing a resume and job placement agency fees. Moving expenses may also qualify for a tax deduction.

For more, refer to Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide. It is available onIRS.gov/forms any time.

New Law Means Some Refunds Will Be Delayed Next Tax Season

New Law Means Some Refunds Will Be Delayed Next Tax Season

The IRS recently announced plans for enforcing the section of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (PATH Act) that involves the Earned Income and Additional Child Tax Credit. The new law, designed to help ensure taxpayers receive the refund they are owed and prevent fraud, mandates that no part of a credit or refund shall be made before February 15 to any taxpayers claiming the EITC or ACTC, starting in 2017.

The IRS still expects to issue most refunds in less than 21 days, although the agency will not begin issuing refunds for EITC and ACTC-related tax returns until February 15.

IRS Says be Alert for Tax Scams

From the IRS –

 IRS Says be Alert for Tax Scams

Tax scammers work year-round; they don’t take the summer off. The IRS urges you to stay vigilant against calls from scammers impersonating the IRS. Here are several tips from the IRS to help you avoid being a victim:

  • Scams use scare tactics. These aggressive and sophisticated scammers try to scare people into making an immediate payment. They make threats, often threaten arrest or deportation, or they say they’ll take away your driver’s or professional license if you don’t pay. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests, sometimes through “robo-calls.” Emails will often contain a fake IRS document with a phone number or an email address for you to reply.
  • Scams spoof caller ID. Scammers often alter caller ID to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legit. They may use online resources to get your name, address and other details about your life to make the call sound official.
  • Scams use phishing email and regular mail. Scammers copy official IRS letterhead to use in email or regular mail they send to victims. In another new variation, schemers provide an actual IRS address where they tell the victim to mail a receipt for the payment they make. This makes the scheme look official.
  • Scams cost victims over $38 million. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, or TIGTA, has received reports of more than one million contacts since October 2013. TIGTA is also aware of more than 6,700 victims who have collectively reported over $38 million in financial losses as a result of tax scams.

The real IRS will not:

  • The IRS will not call you about your tax bill without first sending you a bill in the mail.
  • Demand that you pay taxes and not allow you to question or appeal the amount that you owe.
  • Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For instance, require that you pay with a prepaid debit card or any specific type of tender.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in police or other agencies to arrest you for not paying.
  • Threaten you with a lawsuit.

If you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do:

  • Do not provide any information to the caller. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
  • You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you know you owe, or think you may owe taxes call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you if you do owe taxes.