Crooks wanting to steal your identity are using bogus e-mails and websites designed to look like genuine IRS communications. You might expect the April 15 filing deadline to mark the end of these scams, but they, in fact, are expected to continue for months.
An example of these bogus e-mails: You receive a message confirming IRS receipt of your tax return, but the IRS needs more information to process your return. The e-mail looks official and completely legitimate. But it isn’t. The IRS does NOT contact taxpayers asking for personal and financial information. These e-mails should be deleted immediately. Fake IRS websites are also created by scammers to lure victims into filling out forms providing information that results in identity theft.
If you have a sizable refund of your 2012 taxes, it may be time for you to check your withholding. After all, when you overpay your taxes, you’re making an interest-free loan to the government.
Reducing your withholding is as simple as filing a new Form W-4 with your employer. The form comes with a worksheet to figure out how many allowances you should claim. Don’t forget to allow for other taxable income besides wages, such as dividends or investment gains.
If you’re concerned about underpaying taxes and exposing yourself to penalties, there are a few rules you should know. Generally, you won’t face a penalty if you pay for 2013, through withholding or quarterly estimated payments, at least 100% of your 2012 taxes (110% if your adjusted gross income is over $150,000), or if you pay at least 90% of what you’ll owe for 2013.
When cash flow is tight, you may be tempted to pay your suppliers first and your payroll taxes last. The IRS will take steps to minimize the liability as quickly as possible. They also have a powerful weapon available to collect such taxes. Whether or not you own the company, you could be determined to be a “responsible person” held personally liable for 100% of any payroll tax deficiency. For help with this or any other tax isssue, call the team at Simons Bitzer at 317-782-3070.
Nonprofit organizations are required to file annual reports with the IRS. Those with gross receipts below $50,000 can file an E-postcard rather than a longer version of Form 990. The deadline for nonprofit filings is the 15th day of the fifth month after their year-end. For calendar-year organizations, the filing deadline for 2012 reports is May 15, 2013. For additional information, please contact the team at Simons Bitzer at 317-782-3070.
April 15, 2013 is a major tax day, with the following IRS deadlines falling on that date:
* Individual income tax returns for 2012 are due.
* 2012 partnership returns are due.
* 2012 annual gift tax returns are due.
* Deadline for making 2012 IRA contributions.
* First installment of 2013 individual estimated tax is due.
* Deadline for amending 2009 individual tax returns.
* Deadline for original filing of a 2009 individual income tax return to claim a tax refund for that year.
Contact our office at 317-782-3070 if you need details or assistance with any tax filing.
It sounds like a great idea: Have the IRS directly deposit your tax refund into one or more individual retirement accounts (IRAs). In fact, the IRS touts this option as a way to speed up retirement contributions. The whole process is automated and simple.
It’s hard to argue with the theory. After all, if your tax refund goes directly to a retirement account, it’s not available to spend on that new leather sofa or Hawaiian vacation. (Of course, a big tax refund also may indicate that you’re withholding too much from each paycheck and giving the government an interest-free loan. But that’s another issue.)
Still, things sometimes go awry. Following are four potential obstacles that can derail your tax refund on its way through the direct deposit process:
* Wrong account number. Let’s say you transpose a couple of digits on your tax return, and those digits happen to indicate which financial institution or which account will receive your refund. If this wrong account number belongs to another customer, that mistake could take weeks or even months to correct. By the way, don’t expect the IRS to come to your rescue. They’ve made it abundantly clear that correct input of financial information on the tax return is the taxpayer’s responsibility — not the government’s.
* Correction fluid and cross-outs. If the IRS gets your tax return and finds that the routing numbers have been manually revised, your direct deposit request will likely be rejected. You may get an old-fashioned refund check in the mail.
* Wrong type of account. It’s up to you to verify that your financial institution will accept direct deposits into an IRA. Some banks, for example, will reject direct deposits to anything other than a savings account.
* Refund adjustments. Sometimes the IRS corrects a taxpayer’s math or makes other adjustments that can affect the refund amount. In some cases, these adjustments may result in a direct deposit that exceeds the allowable IRA contribution amount. If so, you could be stuck with a penalty for excess contributions.
Direct deposit of your tax refund can be a hassle-free way to make an annual IRA contribution. But proceed with caution. Double check your return and verify that your bank or credit union will accept direct deposits to an IRA. For more information or tax planning assistance, please contact the team at Simons Bitzer at 317-782-3070.
The filing status you choose when you file your 2012 tax return will affect the tax breaks you’ll qualify for, your standard deduction amount, and ultimately the amount of tax you’ll pay. Are you single, head of household, married filing jointly, or married filing separately?
Here are seven facts that will help you choose the right status.
1. Your marital status as of the last day of the year is your marital status for the entire year.
2. If you qualify for more than one status, choose the one that results in the lowest tax liability for you.
3. Single filing status is likely to be your filing choice if you are not married or you are divorced or legally separated.
4. Married individuals can file a joint return. If your spouse died during 2012, you generally may still file a joint return for 2012.
5. Married couples may file “married, filing separately” if they choose.
6. “Head of household” status is available to you if you are not married and you paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for yourself and a child.
7. The status “qualifying widow(er) with dependent child” is available if your spouse died during 2010 or 2011 and you have a dependent child. Other conditions may apply.
The IRS has made preventing identity theft a top priority this year.
Here’s what identity thieves have been doing: They steal a taxpayer’s personal information and use it to file a tax return claiming a refund under the taxpayer’s name. Then when the taxpayer actually files a return, the IRS won’t accept it and notifies the taxpayer that a return under his name and ID number has already been filed.
The IRS recommends that taxpayers should do the following in order to avoid becoming an identity theft victim:
* Guard your personal information. Identity thieves can get your information by stealing your wallet or purse, going through your trash, or posing as someone who needs your information for a legitimate reason.
* Watch out for IRS impersonators. Don’t fall for phone calls, faxes, e-mails, or other contacts made by people claiming to be from the IRS. Don’t respond to the message. Don’t open any attachments in an e-mail or click on any links. Do not enter your personal information.
The IRS recommends that you enter “phishing” in the search box at the top of its website (www.irs.gov) to get more information on avoiding tax scams. E-mail suspected scams to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Protect information on your computer. Protect your tax information with a password, and once you’re finished with your tax data, take it off your hard drive.
For further information, contact Simons Bitzer at (317) 782-3070.
Most taxpayers believe that a “dependent” is a minor child that lives with them. While that is essentially correct, dependents can include parents, other relatives and nonrelatives, and even children who don’t live with you. There is really much more to the dependent deduction than you might at first imagine.
* Exemptions and your taxable income. For 2012, each dependent deduction is worth $3,800, reducing your taxable income by this amount. In 2013, the deduction increases to $3,900 and is phased out for high-income taxpayers.
* Dependents defined. It’s impossible to present all of the rules relative to dependents here, since they are so complicated. Generally speaking, if somebody lives with you and you provide more than half of that individual’s support for the entire year, there is a good chance that person is a dependent. There are many exceptions. For example, parents don’t have to live with you if they otherwise qualify, but some other relatives do. A child of divorced parents doesn’t necessarily have to live with the noncustodial spouse for the dependent deduction to apply.
* People who can’t be claimed. Generally, you may not claim a married person as a dependent if that person files a joint return with a spouse. Also, a dependent must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien, national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for part of the year.
* One dependent deduction per individual. If you claim yourself as your own dependent, anybody else who can truly meet the tests and claim you as a dependent will lose out. This is common for college students who file their own tax returns for their part-time jobs, while mom and dad really meet all of the qualifications to claim the dependent exemption.
While the dependent deduction might seem relatively minor, it can lead to other deductions on the tax return. In order to claim the child tax credit, the education credits, the dependent care credit, for example, you must claim the dependent deduction for the child that qualifies for the deduction or credit.
Finally dependent deductions can be negotiated, which is especially important for divorced taxpayers. In the past, the IRS would accept the language of the divorce decree to allow the noncustodial parent the dependent deduction. However, under the current rules, the IRS will no longer accept a divorce decree in lieu of IRS Form 8332 (Release of Exemption). With questions or for more information, please contact Simons Bitzer at (317) 782-3070.
The IRS is reducing the recordkeeping required for the home-office deduction, effective for 2013. Taxpayers who qualify may use a new optional deduction calculated at $5 a square foot for up to 300 square feet of an area in a home that is used regularly and exclusively for business. The deduction is capped at $1,500 a year.
Taxpayers opting for the simplified deduction cannot depreciate a portion of the home as they can under the other method. However, business expenses not related to the home, such as advertising, supplies, and employee wages, are still fully deductible.
This simplified option is available starting with the 2013 tax return which will be filed in 2014.
With questions or for more information about tax planning or tax preparation, please contact Simons Bitzer & Associates at (317) 782-3070.