Monday, February 14, 2011

Note Tax Law Changes for 2010 Tax Returns

Health Insurance Deduction Reduces Self Employment Tax
In 2010, eligible self-employed individuals can use the self-employed health insurance deduction to reduce their social security self-employment tax liability in addition to their income tax liability. As in the past, eligible taxpayers claim this deduction on Form 1040 Line 29. But in 2010, eligible taxpayers can also enter this amount on Schedule SE Line 3, thus reducing net earnings from self-employment subject to the 15.3 percent social security self-employment tax.

Premiums paid for health insurance covering the taxpayer, spouse and dependents generally qualify for this deduction. Premiums paid for coverage of an adult child under age 27 at the end of the year, for the time period beginning on or after March 30, 2010, also qualify for this deduction, even if the child is not the taxpayer’s dependent.

As before, the insurance plan must be set up under the taxpayer’s business, and the taxpayer cannot be eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored health plan. Details, including a worksheet, are in the instructions to Form 1040.

First-time homebuyer credit
You must meet the required deadlines to be eligible to claim the credit. You must have bought — or entered into a binding contract to buy — a principal residence on or before April 30, 2010. If you entered into a binding contract by April 30, 2010, you must have closed or gone to settlement on the home on or before Sept. 30, 2010 Because of the documentation requirements for claiming the credit, taxpayers who claim the credit on their 2010 tax return must file a paper — not electronic — return and attach Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit, and a properly executed copy of a settlement statement used to complete the purchase.

Taxpayers who claimed the first-time homebuyer credit for a home bought in 2008 must generally begin repaying it on the 2010 return. In most cases, the credit must be repaid over a 15-year period. Many of those affected by this requirement received reminder letters from the IRS.

A repayment requirement also applies to a taxpayer who claimed the credit on either their 2008 or 2009 return and then sold it or stopped using the home as their main home in 2010. Use Form 5405 to report the repayment.

In addition, certain members of the armed forces and some other taxpayers still have time to buy a home and take the credit. See Form 5405 and its instructions for details.

Standard Mileage Rates for 2010
The standard mileage rate for business use of a car, van, pick-up or panel truck is 50 cents for each mile driven. The rate for the cost of operating a vehicle for medical reasons or as part of a deductible move is 16.5 cents per mile. The rate for using a car to provide services to charitable organizations is set by law and remains at 14 cents a mile.

Tax Breaks Extended
Several tax breaks that expired at the end of 2009 were renewed and can be claimed on 2010 returns. They include:

State and local general sales tax deduction, primarily benefiting people living in areas without state and local income taxes. Claim on Schedule A, Line 5.
Higher education tuition and fees deduction benefiting parents and students. Claim on Form 8917.

Educator expense deduction for kindergarten through grade 12 educators with out-of-pocket classroom expenses of up to $250, Claim on Form 1040, Line 23 or Form 1040A Line 16.

District of Columbia first-time homebuyer credit. Claim on Form 8859

Friday, February 11, 2011

Child Tax Credit Facts

The Child Tax Credit may be worth as much as $1,000 per qualifying child depending upon your income.

Some things to take note of:

1. Amount - With the Child Tax Credit, you may be able to reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17.

2. Qualification - A qualifying child for this credit is someone who meets the qualifying criteria of six tests: age, relationship, support, dependent, citizenship, and residence.

3. Age Test - To qualify, a child must have been under age 17 – age 16 or younger – at the end of 2010.

4. Relationship Test - To claim a child for purposes of the Child Tax Credit, they must either be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister or a descendant of any of these individuals, which includes your grandchild, niece or nephew. An adopted child is always treated as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.

5. Support Test - In order to claim a child for this credit, the child must not have provided more than half of their own support.

6. Dependent Test - You must claim the child as a dependent on your federal tax return.

7. Citizenship Test - To meet the citizenship test, the child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, or U.S. resident alien.

8. Residence Test - The child must have lived with you for more than half of 2010. There are some exceptions to the residence test, which can be found in IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.

9. Limitations - The credit is limited if your modified adjusted gross income is above a certain amount. The amount at which this phase-out begins varies depending on your filing status. For married taxpayers filing a joint return, the phase-out begins at $110,000. For married taxpayers filing a separate return, it begins at $55,000. For all other taxpayers, the phase-out begins at $75,000. In addition, the

10. Child Tax Credit is generally limited by the amount of the income tax you owe as well as any alternative minimum tax you owe.
Additional Child Tax Credit - If the amount of your Child Tax Credit is greater than the amount of income tax you owe, you may be able to claim the Additional Child Tax Credit.

Form 8812, Additional Child Tax Credit
Publication 972, Child Tax Credit

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Missing W-2? Here's What to Do.

Before you file your 2010 tax return, you should make sure you have all the needed documents including all your Forms W-2. You should receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from each of your employers. Employers have until January 31, 2011 to send you a 2010 Form W-2 earnings statement.

If you haven’t received your W-2, follow these four steps:

1. Contact your employer If you have not received your W-2, contact your employer to inquire if and when the W-2 was mailed. If it was mailed, it may have been returned to the employer because of an incorrect or incomplete address. After contacting the employer, allow a reasonable amount of time for them to resend or to issue the W-2.

2. Contact the IRS If you do not receive your W-2 by February 14th, contact the IRS for assistance at 800-829-1040. When you call, you must provide your name, address, city and state, including zip code, Social Security number, phone number and have the following information:

Employer’s name, address, city and state, including zip code and phone number
Dates of employment
An estimate of the wages you earned, the federal income tax withheld, and when you worked for that employer during 2010. The estimate should be based on year-to-date information from your final pay stub or leave-and-earnings statement, if possible.
3. File your return You still must file your tax return or request an extension to file April 18, 2011, even if you do not receive your Form W-2. If you have not received your Form W-2 by the due date, and have completed steps 1 and 2, you may use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Attach Form 4852 to the return, estimating income and withholding taxes as accurately as possible. There may be a delay in any refund due while the information is verified.

4. File a Form 1040X On occasion, you may receive your missing W-2 after you filed your return using Form 4852, and the information may be different from what you reported on your return. If this happens, you must amend your return by filing a Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Form 4852, Form 1040X

Monday, February 7, 2011

Social Security Benefits...Taxable or Not?

Form SSA1099 will show the total amount of your benefits. Look at the information provided on this statement and consider the following to help you determine whether or not your benefits are taxable.

Whether any of your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status.

Generally, if Social Security benefits were your only income for 2010, your benefits are not taxable and you probably do not need to file a federal income tax return.
If you received income from other sources, your benefits will not be taxed unless your modified adjusted gross income is more than the base amount for your filing status.

Your taxable benefits and modified adjusted gross income are figured on a worksheet in the Form 1040A or Form 1040 Instruction booklet.

You can do the following quick computation to determine whether some of your benefits may be taxable:
• First, add one-half of the total Social Security benefits you received to all your other income, including any tax exempt interest and other exclusions from income.
• Then, compare this total to the base amount for your filing status. If the total is more than your base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable.
The 2010 base amounts are:
• $32,000 for married couples filing jointly.
• $25,000 for single, head of household, qualifying widow/widower with a dependent child, or married individuals filing separately who did not live with their spouses at any time during the year.
• $0 for married persons filing separately who lived together during the year.

For additional information on the taxability of Social Security benefits, see IRS Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits

Friday, February 4, 2011

What Income Is Not Taxed or Only Partially Taxed

Most income is considered taxable but there are instances when some categories of income are partially taxed or not taxed at all.

Examples of items not included as taxable income include:

Adoption Expense Reimbursements for qualifying expenses
Child support payments
Gifts, bequests and inheritances
Workers' compensation benefits
Meals and Lodging for the convenience of your employer
Compensatory Damages awarded for physical injury or physical sickness
Welfare Benefits
Cash Rebates from a dealer or manufacturer

Some types of income may be taxable in certain circumstances, but not taxable in other situations. Examples of items that may or may not be included in your taxable income are:

Life Insurance:
If you surrender a life insurance policy for cash, you must include in income any proceeds that are more than the cost of the life insurance policy. Life insurance proceeds, which were paid to you because of the insured person’s death, are not taxable unless the policy was turned over to you for a price.

Scholarship or Fellowship Grant:
If you are a candidate for a degree, you can exclude amounts you receive as a qualified scholarship or fellowship. Amounts used for room and board do not qualify.

Non-cash Income:
Taxable income may be in a form other than cash. One example of this is bartering, which is an exchange of property or services. The fair market value of goods and services exchanged is fully taxable and must be included as income on Form 1040 of both parties.

All other items,including income such as wages, salaries, tips and unemployment compensation,are fully taxable and must be included in your income unless it is specifically excluded by law.

These examples are not all-inclusive. For more information, see Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, which can be obtained at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

7 Tax Credits and Other Benefits for Disabled Taxpayers or Disabled Dependents

1. Standard Deduction Taxpayers who are legally blind may be entitled to a higher standard deduction on their tax return.

2. Gross Income Certain disability-related payments, Veterans Administration disability benefits, and Supplemental Security Income are excluded from gross income.

3. Impairment-Related Work Expenses Employees who have a physical or mental disability limiting their employment may be able to claim business expenses in connection with their workplace. The expenses must be necessary for the taxpayer to work.

4. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled This credit is generally available to certain taxpayers who are 65 and older as well as to certain disabled taxpayers who are younger than 65 and are retired on permanent and total disability.

5. Medical Expenses If you itemize your deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A, you may be able to deduct medical expenses.See IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.

6. Earned Income Tax Credit EITC is available to disabled taxpayers as well as to the parents of a child with a disability.If you retired on disability, taxable benefits you receive under your employer’s disability retirement plan are considered earned income until you reach minimum retirement age. The EITC is a tax credit that not only reduces a taxpayer’s tax liability but may also result in a refund. Many working individuals with a disability who have no qualifying children, but are older than 25 and younger than 65 do -- in fact -- qualify for EITC. Additionally, if the taxpayer’s child is disabled, the age limitation for the EITC is waived. The EITC has no effect on certain public benefits. Any refund you receive because of the EITC will not be considered income when determining whether you are eligible for benefit programs such as Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid.

7. Child or Dependent Care Credit Taxpayers who pay someone to care for their dependent or spouse so they can work or look for work may be entitled to claim this credit.There is no age limit if the taxpayer’s spouse or dependent is unable to care for themselves.

For more information on tax credits and benefits available to disabled taxpayers, see Publication 3966, Living and Working with Disabilities or Publication 907, Tax Highlights for Persons with Disabilities

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tips for Recently Married or Divorced Taxpayers With a Name Change

Changing your name due to marriage or divorce could trigger complications if you don't take the following steps to ensure the name on your tax return matches the name registered with the Social Security Administration. A mismatch between the name shown on your tax return and the SSA records can cause problems in the processing of your return and may even delay your refund.

1. If you took your spouse’s last name or if both spouses hyphenate their last names, you may run into complications if you don’t notify the SSA. When newlyweds file a tax return using their new last names, IRS computers can’t match the new name with their Social Security Number.

2. If you were recently divorced and changed back to your previous last name, you’ll also need to notify the SSA of this name change.
Informing the SSA of a name change is easy; you’ll just need to file a Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card at your local SSA office and provide a recently issued document as proof of your legal name change.
Form SS-5 is available on SSA’s website at, by calling 800-772-1213 or at local offices. Your new card will have the same number as your previous card, but will show your new name.

3. If you adopted your spouse’s children after getting married, you’ll want to make sure the children have an SSN. Taxpayers must provide an SSN for each dependent claimed on a tax return. For adopted children without SSNs, the parents can apply for an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number – or ATIN – by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions with the IRS. The ATIN is a temporary number used in place of an SSN on the tax return. Form W-7A is available on the IRS website at