Tax Incentives for Higher Education
The tax code provides a variety of tax incentives for families who are paying higher education costs or are repaying student loans. You may be able to claim an American Opportunity Credit (formerly called the Hope Credit) or Lifetime Learning Credit for the qualified tuition and related expenses of the students in your family (i.e. you, your spouse, or dependent) who are enrolled in eligible educational institutions. Different rules apply to each credit and the ability to claim the credit phases out at higher income levels.
If you don’t qualify for the credit, you may be able to claim the “tuition & fees deduction” for qualified educational expenses. You cannot claim this deduction if your filing status is married filing separately or if another person can claim an exemption for you as a dependent on his or her tax return. This deduction phases out at higher income levels.
You may be able to deduct interest you pay on a qualified student loan. The deduction is claimed as an adjustment to income so you do not have to itemize your deductions on Schedule A Form 1040. However, this deduction is also phased out at higher income levels.
Check Witholding to Avoid a Tax Surprise
If you owed tax last year or received a large refund you may want to adjust your tax withholding. Owing tax at the end of the year could result in penalties being assessed. On the other end, if you had a large refund you lost out on having the money in your pocket throughout the year. Changing jobs, getting married or divorced, buying a home or having children can all result in changes in your tax calculations.
The IRS withholding calculator on IRS.gov can help compute the proper tax withholding. The worksheets in ‘Publication 919, How Do I Adjust My Withholding?’ can also be used to do the calculation. If the result suggests an adjustment is necessary, you can submit a new W-4, Withholding Allowance Certificate, to your employer.
5 Tips For Early Preparation
Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes. The IRS encourages everyone to get a head start on tax preparation. Not only do you avoid the last-minute rush, early filers also get a faster refund.
There are five easy ways to get a good jump on your taxes long before the April 15 deadline rolls around:
- Gather your records in advance. Make sure you have all the records you need, including W-2s and 1099s. Don’t forget to save a copy for your files.
- Get the right forms. They’re available around the clock on IRS.gov in the Forms and Publications section.,/li>
- Take your time. Don’t forget to leave room for a coffee break when filling out your tax return. Rushing can mean making a mistake — and that can be expensive!
- Double-check your math and Social Security number. These are among the most common errors on tax returns. Taking care on these reduces your chances of hearing from the IRS.
- Get the fastest refund. When you file early, you get your refund faster. Using e-filing with direct deposit gets you a refund in half the time as paper filing.
Oops! You’ve discovered an error after your tax return has been filed. What should you do? You may need to amend your return.
The IRS usually corrects math errors or requests missing forms (such as W-2s) or schedules. In these instances, do not amend your return. However, do file an amended return if any of the following were reported incorrectly:
- Your filing status
- Your total income
- Your deductions or credits
Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct a previously filed paper or electronically-filed Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ return. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. If you are amending more than one tax return, use a separate 1040X for each year and mail each in a separate envelope to the IRS processing center for your state. The 1040X instructions list the addresses for the centers.
Form 1040X has three columns. Column A is used to show original or adjusted figures from the original return. Column C is used to show the corrected figures. The difference between the figures in Columns A and C is shown in Column B. You should explain the items you are changing and the reason for each change on the back of the form.
If the changes involve another schedule or form, attach it to the 1040X. For example, if you are filing a 1040X because you have a qualifying child and now want to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, you must complete and attach a Schedule EIC to the amended return.
If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X. You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund. If you owe additional tax for the prior year, Form 1040X must be filed and the tax paid by April 15 of this year, to avoid any penalty and interest.
You generally must file Form 1040X to claim a refund within three years from the date you filed your original return, or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. Please contact us for more!
Ayuda en Espanol
If you need federal tax information, the IRS provides free Spanish language products and services. Pages on the IRS.gov, pre-recorded tax topics, refund information, tax publications and toll-free telephone assistance are all available in the Spanish-language. The Spanish-language page (http://www.irs.gov/espanol/index.html) on this web site has links to tax information such as forms and publications, warnings about tax scams that victimize taxpayers, information on the Earned Income, child and various other tax credits, and more. This year, information on tax return filing is conveniently organized and links to additional publications are added. Look for a new interactive tool called EITC Assistant to help you learn if you are eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit.
TeleTax is a toll-free, automated telephone service available in English and Spanish. TeleTax provides helpful pre-recorded tax topic messages and refund information. You can find a list of more than 150 TeleTax topics in the instructions for Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. TeleTax can also help you if it has been at least four weeks since you filed your tax return and you want to check on the status of your federal refund. Having a copy of the tax return handy will help you respond to the prompts on the automated system. TeleTax is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 1-800-829-4477. on this web site has links to tax information such as forms and publications, warnings about tax scams that victimize taxpayers, information on the Earned Income, child and various other tax credits, and more. This year, information on tax return filing is conveniently organized and links to additional publications are added. Look for a new interactive tool called EITC Assistant to help you learn if you are eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit.
Filing An Extension
If you can’t meet the April 15 deadline to file your tax return, you can get an automatic six-month extension of time to file from the IRS. The extension will give you extra time to get the paperwork into the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You will owe interest on any amounts not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have paid less than 90 percent of your total tax by that date.
You must make an accurate estimate of any tax due when you request an extension. You may also send a payment for the expected balance due, but this is not required to obtain the extension.
To get the automatic extension, file Form 4868, Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, with the IRS by the April 15 deadline, or make an extension-related electronic payment. You can file your extension request by phone or by computer, or mail the paper Form 4868 to the IRS.
You can file Form 4868 by phone anytime through April 15. You will need to provide certain information from your federal income tax return. The special toll-free phone number is 1-888-796-1074. Use Form 4868 as a worksheet to prepare for the call and have a copy of your federal income tax return available.
The system will give you a confirmation number to verify that the extension request has been accepted. Put this confirmation number on your copy of Form 4868 and keep it for your records. Do not send the form to the IRS. As this is the area of our expertise, please contact us for more detailed information on how to file an extension properly!
The IRS reminds taxpayers that specific rules apply for taking a tax deduction for donating cars to charities If the claimed value of the donated motor vehicle, boat or plane exceeds $500 and the item is sold by the charitable organization, the taxpayer is limited to the gross proceeds from the sale.
People who want to take a deduction for the donation of their vehicle on their tax return should take quite a few steps, but here is the most obvious:
Check that the Organization is Qualified.
Taxpayers must make certain that they contribute their car to an eligible organization; otherwise, their donation will not be tax deductible. Taxpayers can search Publication 78 online to check that an organization is qualified. Publication 78 is an annual, cumulative list of most organizations that are qualified to receive deductible contributions. Publication 78 is also available in many public libraries. In addition, taxpayers can call IRS Tax Exempt/Government Entities Customer Service at 1-877-829-5500. Be sure to have the organization’s correct name and its headquarters location, if possible. Churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and governments are not required to apply for this exemption in order to be qualified. Please contact us if you’re considering a car donation for your tax return!
When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. Your donations can add up to a nice tax deduction for your corporation (if you are a member of a flow-through business entity) or your personal taxes if you itemize deductions on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.
Here are a few tips to help make sure your contributions pay off on your tax return:
You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates, the value of your time or services and the cost of raffles, bingo, or other games of chance.
To be deductible, contributions must be made to qualified organizations.
Organizations can tell you if they are qualified and if donations to them are deductible. IRS.gov has an exempt organization search feature to help you see if an organization is qualified. IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, lists all charitable organizations except those most recently granted tax exempt status. Pub. 78 is available online and in many public libraries. Alternatively, contact us for more!
Plug-In Electric Vehicles (PEVs)
Tax Credit For Plug-in Electric Vehicles
The Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit, originally enacted under The Energy Policy Act of 2005, allowed a tax credit for some popular hybrid vehicles, however, this tax credit expired at the end of 2010. Although the former credit for many hybrid vehicles is no longer available, for 2012 and future tax years, a tax credit of up to $7,500 is still available for vehicles classified as plug-in electric vehicles, or PEVs.
The credit is available only to the original purchaser of a new qualifying vehicle, and the vehicle must be placed in service in the same year the credit is being claimed on the return. If the qualifying vehicle is leased the credit is available only to the leasing company. Also, the vehicle must be used primarily in the United States.
Additional conditions regarding qualified manufacturers and battery pack energy specifications may also apply in determining credit eligibility. To find out whether your car qualifies for the Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle tax credit and the maximum amount of that credit, you can go to the IRS.gov website and search for “plug-in vehicles” or contact us for more information.
Earned Income Tax Credit For Certain Workers
Millions of Americans forgo critical tax relief each year by failing to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal tax credit for individuals who work but do not earn high incomes. Taxpayers who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund.
Last year, an estimated 21 million taxpayers received approximately $37.5 billion in EITC. However, the IRS estimates that 25 percent of people who qualify don’t claim the credit and at the same time, there are millions of Americans who have claimed the credit in error, many of whom simply don’t understand the criteria.
EITC is based on the amount of your earned income and the number of qualifying children in your household. If you have children, they must meet the relationship, age and residency requirements. And, you must file a tax return to claim the credit.
There’s a lot to know about qualifying for EITC, and this year, the EITC Assistant. Please contact us below for more!
Are you eligible for any of these tax credits?
Taxpayers should consider claiming tax credits for which they might be eligible when completing their federal income tax returns, advises the IRS. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed. Some credits are refundable – taxes could be reduced to the point that a taxpayer would receive a refund rather than owing any taxes. Below are some of the credits taxpayers could be eligible to claim:
- Earned Income Tax Credit This is a refundable credit for low-income working individuals and families. Income and family size determine the amount of the EITC. When the EITC exceeds the amount of taxes owed, it results in a tax refund to those who claim and qualify for the credit. For more information, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit (EIC).
- Child Tax Credit This credit is for people who have a qualifying child. The maximum amount of the credit is $1,000 for each qualifying child. This credit can be claimed in addition to the credit for child and dependent care expenses. For more information on the Child Tax Credit, see Pub. 972, Child Tax Credit.
- Child and Dependent Care Credit This is for expenses paid for the care of children under age 13, or for a disabled spouse or dependent, to enable the taxpayer to work. There is a limit to the amount of qualifying expenses. The credit is a percentage of those qualifying expenses. For more information, see Pub. 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
- Adoption Credit Adoptive parents can take a tax credit of up to $13,170 for qualifying expenses paid to adopt an eligible child. For more information, see Pub. 968, Tax Benefits for Adoption.
- Credit for the Elderly and Disabled This credit is available to individuals who are either age 65 or older or are under age 65 and retired on permanent and total disability, and who are citizens or residents. There are income limitations. For more information, see Pub.524, Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled.
- Education Credits There are two credits available, the American Opportunity Credit (formerly called the Hope Credit) and the Lifetime Learning Credit, for people who pay higher education costs. The American Opportunity Credit is for the payment of the first two years of tuition and related expenses for an eligible student for whom the taxpayer claims an exemption on the tax return. The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for all post-secondary education for an unlimited number of years. A taxpayer cannot claim both credits for the same student in one year. For more information, see Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.
- Retirement Savings Contribution Credit Eligible individuals may be able to claim a credit for a percentage of their qualified retirement savings contributions, such as contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA or salary reduction contributions to a SEP or SIMPLE plan. To be eligible, you must be at least age 18 at the end of the year and not a student or an individual for whom someone else claims a personal exemption. Also, your adjusted gross income (AGI) must be below a certain amount. For more information, see chapter four in Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).
There are other credits available to eligible taxpayers. Please contact us so we may realize your specific situation, and offer advice.