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Entries in Taxes (142)

Wednesday
Mar232011

Tax Tip: Saving Energy and Taxes

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you upgraded your appliances or fixtures to make your home more green, you're likely to be eligible for a tax break.

“If you put in energy-efficient windows, doors, or something like that in 2010, you can get a tax credit of up to $1500,” said Eric Smith with the IRS.

The residential energy credit gives you back 30 percent of what you spent on your home -- up to $1500.

The credit is available for 2011 -- but reduced.

“That tax credit has been scaled back to $500 instead of $1500,” said Mary Beth Franklin with Kiplinger's Personal Finance. “If you took advantage of the $1500 credit in 2009 or 2010, you don't get another crack at the lower credit in 2011.”

There are, however, still some alternative energy credits on the books for larger home projects, like installing solar panels and small wind turbines.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

Tax Tip: Uncle Sam Brings Tax-Deduction Apple For Teachers

Steve Mason/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- With school districts around the country continuing to cut expenses, teachers in many areas are being forced more now than ever to fill some of the gaps. A number of teachers often find themselves shelling out their own money to purchase classroom books, computer equipment and other supplies.

Kathy Pickering with H&R Block says educators can take a tax deduction on some of those expenses.

“That's $250 for teachers who are using out-of-pocket money to purchase classroom supplies,” she said.

And you can take advantage of the deduction no matter what tax form you use.

“They can claim a deduction on the front of their return, so this is a deduction you can get even if you don't itemize your deductions,” said Eric Smith with the IRS.

Just make sure to keep all of your receipts.

The deduction is available to all teachers, principals and counselors from kindergarten to the 12th grade.  If both spouses are teachers, you can deduct $500 for the household.

The deduction does not apply to parents who home-school their children.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar182011

Tax Tip: Electronically Filing Your Taxes for Free

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The IRS is not mailing out tax forms this year, since millions of tax filers pay $20 or $30 for a software program to do their taxes for them. But many of those people could do it for free.

“The majority of Americans, about 70 percent, qualify for free e-filing through IRS.gov,” said Mary Beth Franklin with Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine, who notes that you have to make less than $58,000 a year to qualify.

“They have a partnership with about 20 different software vendors and you can prepare and file your income taxes for free,” she said.

No need to worry about keeping up with the latest tax law changes.

“It is absolutely up to date reflecting all the changes and there are many for the 2010 tax filing season,” Franklin said.

Even if you don't qualify for free filing, you can still use the Free File Fillable Forms. Just put in the numbers, and they will often do the math for you.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar172011

Tax Tip: Bites in the Tax Bill for the 'Sandwich Generation'

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The so-called "sandwich generation" continues to be a growing segment of the U.S. population as parents are stuck in the middle, balancing care for their loved ones amid the recent slumping economy.

"We're finding a lot of families where they're caring for their elderly parents as well as they may have kids that moved out, then came back home because they couldn't find work," explains Kathy Pickering with H&R Block.

But, as Pickering notes, there may be potential tax breaks for these "sandwiched" individuals.

"If you're providing more than half the support -- food, clothing, shelter, transportation -- you could claim them as an exemption and that might be worth a little bit more than $3,600," she says.

Likewise, if you have an adult child who has moved back home and you're paying for their support and they have no income, similar rules could apply.

Read Internal Revenue Service publication 503 to see if you qualify, and if you do, use IRS form 24-41 -- for child and dependent care expenses -- when preparing your taxes.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar162011

Tax Tip: An Unwelcome Tax Bill for the Unemployed

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Millions of Americans received unemployment benefits in 2010, and for many of them, there's going to be a tax surprise.

In 2009, the first $2,400 of unemployment was untaxed, but that break was not extended last year.

"There's no taxes withheld from unemployment income when you register for it," said Kathy Pickering with H&R Block. "You need to request that they withhold taxes on your behalf from that income."

Pickering said that means you will get a tax bill this year for that income.  And you might owe more than that, according to accountant Janie Hayman.

"They may have had debt forgiveness with credit cards and this could be an area of concern as well.  It could be taxable," Hayman said.

It's a hard pill to swallow for some who are barely scraping by, but Eric Smith with the Internal Revenue Service says the agency will work with you.

"Contact the IRS if you're having financial difficulties and let's see what may be possible to make sure the taxes aren't an undue burden," Smith said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar152011

Tax Tip: Some Help for the Self-Employed

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In this economy, many people who haven't been able to find jobs have started working for themselves.  And in the eyes of the IRS, that's a whole different ballgame.

For the first time, you might be facing estimated quarterly payments, the 1040 Schedule SE and a whole lot of organizing. "A person should be keeping an excel spreadsheet or using some software to keep track of everything," said accountant Janice Hayman, who says there's a new tax break for the self-employed this year.

"Their health insurance premiums will now be, for 2010 only, deductible against their self-employment tax."

And for next year's taxes?

"The self-employed also get a benefit of the employees' reduction in FICA tax," Hayman said. "There's a two percent reduction from 6.2 percent down to 4.2 percent."

It's like getting a 2 percent raise in 2011.

Hayman warns again to keep your records, because the self-employed are more likely to face an audit.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Mar142011

Tax Tip: Using the Right Forms

Ryan McVay/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- There are literally hundreds of IRS tax forms. Fortunately, there are only a dozen or so that apply to most people. When it comes to choosing which 1040 to use, Mary Beth Franklin from Kiplinger's Personal Finance says “pick the simplest tax form for you.”

“If you simply have wage income W-2, you can go with the 1040EZ,” Franklin said. Be aware, however, that the form won't allow you to take anything but the standard deduction, which might be the wrong move, according to accountant Janice Hayman.

“A lot of people file the short form mistakenly when they truly do have enough to use the long form and itemize their deductions," Hayman said. "What is commonly overlooked are the state and local income taxes that are right there on their W-2 form. They are part of the itemized deductions.”

You have to use the full form -- a 1040 -- if you want to itemize your deductions, make more than $100,000, or have self-employment income.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar132011

Tax Tip: Taking Classes? Inquire About Tax Credits

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The government wants you and your children to go to college and offers up a few tax savings to help you foot the bill.

The first is the American Opportunity Credit, which offers a maximum $2,500 credit.

“To qualify for the maximum credit, you only need to spend as little as $4,000, and with the cost of tuition, fees and books what they are today, it doesn't make much to get to that level,” said Eric Smith of the IRS.

“They need to be part of a degree program of some kind,” Smith said. “You need to be at least a half-time student.”

Say you want to take a class – maybe just an evening course to help update your job skills – there’s a tax credit for you, as well.

“The Lifetime Learning Credit may be something they could take advantage of if they're not able to go to school full time,” said H&R Block’s Kathy Pickering.

Check out Publication 970 at IRS.gov to see if you qualify.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar112011

Tax Tip: Using Filing Software? Make Sure It's Up To Date

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A growing number of taxpayers are becoming increasingly comfortable using computer software to file their returns.

"It's going to guide you through it, help you find things that you might not have thought of on your own, and have all of the checks in there to make sure that your math is accurate," said H&R Block's Kathy Pickering.  "You’d be surprised how many people make simple math errors."

Proponents of tax-filing software say it's easy to file electronically.

"If you choose direct deposit as well, that's when you can get your refund in as few as 10 days," said Jodie Reynolds at the IRS.

A note of caution: because last year's tax bill was passed so late, many software makers were forced to ship their products before all the tax code was written.  Make sure to update your software before filing your claim.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Mar102011

Tax Tip: Save the Stress, Hire a Tax Preparer

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Choosing the right tax preparer could save you time and money.

Six in 10 Americans use the help of a preparer come tax season, according to the IRS, but Kiplinger’s Mary Beth Franklin says that most people can do it themselves if they have a straightforward return.

H&R Block's Kathy Pickering says it often comes down to time.

"Even if they feel like they can do their taxes, they just don't want to take the time, they don't want to be bothered with the hassle factor," Pickering said.

When choosing a tax preparer, make sure they have an IRS tax identification number. Jodie Reynolds of the Internal Revenue Service also suggests having the preparer sign your tax returns with that number.

"You'll want to find out what their service fees are because if you go to a preparer that's going to base their fee on a percentage of your refund, that should be a red flag," Reynolds said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio