D & B TAX GROUP, LLC                

News Letters

  news letter 

IRS Offers New Penalty Relief and Expanded Installment Agreements to Taxpayers under Expanded   Fresh Start Initiative 
                                                                                                                                                              
 Health Insurance Tax Breaks for the Self-Employed

Donations made to qualified organizations may help reduce the amount of tax you pay. 
 
Work at Home? You May Qualify for the Home Office Deduction
   
Six Facts About the Alternative Minimum Tax
  
Standard Deduction vs. Itemizing: Seven Facts to Help You Choose

Ten Things to Know About Capital Gains and Losses
 
Education Tax Credits Help Pay Higher Education Costs

The Child Tax Credit: 11 Key Points 

Injured or Innocent Spouse Tax

Six Tips on a Tax Credit for Retirement Savings                                                                    


                                                                                                                                       
Six Tips on a Tax Credit for Retirement savings        

If you make eligible contributions to an employer-sponsored retirement plan or to an individual retirement arrangement, you may be eligible for a tax credit, depending on your age and income.

Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about the Savers Credit:

 1. Income limits The Savers Credit, formally known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, applies to individuals with a filing status and 2011 income of:

  • Single, married filing separately, or qualifying widow(er), with income up to $28,250
  • Head of Household with income up to $42,375
  • Married Filing Jointly, with incomes up to $56,500

2. Eligibility requirements To be eligible for the credit you must be at least 18 years of age, you cannot have been a full-time student during the calendar year and cannot be claimed as a dependent on another person’s return.

 3. Credit amount If you make eligible contributions to a qualified IRA, 401(k) and certain other retirement plans, you may be able to take a credit of up to $1,000 ($2,000 if filing jointly). The credit is a percentage of the qualifying contribution amount, with the highest rate for taxpayers with the least income.

 4. Distributions When figuring this credit, you generally must subtract distributions you received from your retirement plans from the contributions you made. This rule applies to distributions received in the two years before the year the credit is claimed, the year the credit is claimed, and the period after the end of the credit year but before the due date - including extensions - for filing the return for the credit year.

 5. Other tax benefits The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit is in addition to other tax benefits you may receive for retirement contributions. For example, most workers at these income levels may deduct all or part of their contributions to a traditional IRA. Contributions to a regular 401(k) plan are not subject to income tax until withdrawn from the plan.

 6. Forms to use To claim the credit use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions.    
The Child Tax Credit: 11 Key Points                                       
                                                                                                                           
The Child Tax Credit is available to eligible taxpayers with qualifying children under age 17. The IRS would like you to know these eleven facts about the child tax credit.

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 age 17.

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

3. Age test To qualify, a child must have been under age 17 – age 16 or younger – at the end of 2011.

4. Relationship test To claim a child for purposes of the Child Tax Credit, the child must 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 his/her own support.

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

7. Joint return test The qualifying child can not file a joint return for the year (or files it only as a claim for refund).

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

9. Residence test The child must have lived with you for more than half of 2011. There are some exceptions to the residence test, found in IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.

10. 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 by 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 Child Tax Credit is generally limited by the amount of the income tax and any alternative minimum tax you owe.


11. 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.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
  Education Tax Credits Help Pay Higher Education Costs               
                                                                                                                           

Two federal tax credits may help you offset the costs of higher education for yourself or your dependents. These are the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

To qualify for either credit, you must pay postsecondary tuition and fees for yourself, your spouse or your dependent. The credit may be claimed by either the parent or the student, but not both. If the student was claimed as a dependent, the student cannot file for the credit.

For each student, you may claim only one of the credits in a single tax year. You cannot claim the American Opportunity Credit to pay for part of your daughter's tuition charges and then claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for $2,000 more of her school costs.

However, if you pay college expenses for two or more students in the same year, you can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. You can claim the American Opportunity Credit for your sophomore daughter and the Lifetime Learning Credit for your spouse's graduate school tuition.

Here are some key facts the IRS wants you to know about these valuable education credits:

 1. The American Opportunity Credit

  • The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student.
  • It is available for the first four years of postsecondary education.
  • Forty percent of the credit is refundable, which means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if you owe no taxes.
  • The student must be pursuing an undergraduate degree or other recognized educational credential.
  • The student must be enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period.
  • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, coursed related books supplies and equipment.
  • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

2. Lifetime Learning Credit

  • The credit can be up to $2,000 per eligible student.
  • It is available for all years of postsecondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills.
  • The maximum credited is limited to the amount of tax you must pay on your return.
  • The student does not need to be pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential.
  • Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment.
  • The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is less than $60,000 or $120,000 for married couples filing a joint return.

 If you don't qualify for these education credits, you may qualify for the tuition and fees deduction, which can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000. However, you cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.



 Ten Things to Know About Capital Gains and Losses                       
   
                                                                                                                                                                                                   
Did you know that almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes is a capital asset? Capital assets include a home, household furnishings and stocks and bonds held in a personal account. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you paid for the asset and its sales price is a capital gain or capital loss.

 Here are 10 facts from the IRS about how gains and losses can affect your federal income tax return.

 1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset.

2. When you sell a capital asset, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis – which is usually what you paid for it – is a capital gain or a capital loss.

3. You must report all capital gains.

4. You may only deduct capital losses on investment property, not on personal-use property.

5. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term. If you hold the property more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, the gain or loss is short-term.

6. If you have long-term gains in excess of your long-term losses, the difference is normally a net capital gain. Subtract any short-term losses from the net capital gain to calculate the net capital gain you must report.

7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gain are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other income. For 2011, the maximum capital gains rate for most people is 15 percent. For lower-income individuals, the rate may be 0 percent on some or all of the net capital gain. Rates of 25 or 28 percent may apply to special types of net capital gain.

8. If your capital losses exceed your capital gains, you can deduct the excess on your tax return to reduce other income, such as wages, up to an annual limit of $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.

 9. If your total net capital loss is more than the yearly limit on capital loss deductions, you can carry over the unused part to the next year and treat it as if you incurred it in that next year.

 10. This year, a new form, Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, will be used to calculate capital gains and losses. Use Form 8949 to list all capital gain and loss transactions. The subtotals from this form will then be carried over to Schedule D (Form 1040), where gain or loss will be calculated.




  Standard Deduction vs. Itemizing: Seven Facts Help You to Choose   

                                                                                                                                                                                                          
Each year, millions of taxpayers choose whether to take the standard deduction or to itemize their deductions. The following seven facts from the IRS can help you choose the method that gives you the lowest tax.

 1. Qualifying expenses - Whether to itemize deductions on your tax return depends on how much you spent on certain expenses last year. If the total amount you spent on qualifying medical care, mortgage interest, taxes, charitable contributions, casualty losses and miscellaneous deductions is more than your standard deduction, you can usually benefit by itemizing.

 2. Standard deduction amounts -Your standard deduction is based on your filing status and is subject to inflation adjustments each year. For 2011, the amounts are:
Single $5,800
Married Filing Jointly $11,600
Head of Household $8,500
Married Filing Separately $5,800
Qualifying Widow(er) $11,600

 3. Some taxpayers have different standard deductions - The standard deduction amount depends on your filing status, whether you are 65 or older or blind and whether another taxpayer can claim an exemption for you. If any of these apply, use the Standard Deduction Worksheet on the back of Form 1040EZ, or in the 1040A or 1040 instructions.

4. Limited itemized deductions - Your itemized deductions are no longer limited because of your adjusted gross income.

5. Married filing separately - When a married couple files separate returns and one spouse itemizes deductions, the other spouse cannot claim the standard deduction and therefore must itemize to claim their allowable deductions.

6. Some taxpayers are not eligible for the standard deduction - They include nonresident aliens, dual-status aliens and individuals who file returns for periods of less than 12 months due to a change in accounting periods.

 

  Six Facts About the Alternative Minimum Tax 
            

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
 Here are six facts the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about the AMT and changes for 2011.

1. Tax laws provide tax benefits for certain kinds of income and allow special deductions and credits for certain expenses. These benefits can drastically reduce some taxpayers’ tax obligations. Congress created the AMT in 1969, targeting higher-income taxpayers who could claim so many deductions they owed little or no income tax.

2. Because the AMT is not indexed for inflation, a growing number of middle-income taxpayers are discovering they are subject to the AMT.

 3. You may have to pay the AMT if your taxable income for regular tax purposes, plus any adjustments and preference items that apply to you, are more than the AMT exemption amount.

4. The AMT exemption amounts are set by law for each filing status.


5. For tax year 2011, Congress raised the AMT exemption amounts to the following levels

  • $74,450 for a married couple filing a joint return and qualifying widows and widowers;
  • $48,450 for singles and heads of household;
  • $37,225 for a married person filing separately.

 6. The minimum AMT exemption amount for a child whose unearned income is taxed at the parents' tax rate has increased to $6,800 for 2011.




  Work at Home? You May Qualify for the Home Office Deduction                                                                                                    
               

If you use part of your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. The IRS has the following six requirements to help you determine if you qualify for the home office deduction.

1. Generally, in order to claim a business deduction for your home, you must use part of your home exclusively and regularly:

• as your principal place of business, or

• as a place to meet or deal with patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your business, or

• in any connection with your trade or business where the business portion of your home is a separate structure not attached to your home.

 2. For certain storage use, rental use or daycare-facility use, you are required to use the property regularly but not exclusively.

 3. Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home used for business. Your deduction for certain expenses will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

 4. There are special rules for qualified daycare providers and for persons storing business inventory or product samples.

 5. If you are self-employed, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home to figure your home office deduction and report those deductions on Form 1040 Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

 6. If you are an employee, additional rules apply for claiming the home office deduction. For example, the regular and exclusive business use must be for the convenience of your employer.




Donations made to qualified organizations may help reduce the amount of tax you pay.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   
The IRS has eight essential tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

1. If your goal is a legitimate tax deduction, then you must be giving to a qualified organization. Also, you cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations or candidates. See IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, for rules on what constitutes a qualified organization.

2. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is more than $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.

3. If you receive a benefit because of your contribution such as merchandise, tickets to a ball game or other goods and services, then you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Clothing and household items must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.

5. Fair market value is generally the price at which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither having to buy or sell, and both having reasonable knowledge of all the relevant facts.

6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization and the date and amount of the contribution. For text message donations, a telephone bill meets the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the receiving organization, the date of the contribution and the amount given.

7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more, you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash, a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more.

8. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.





 IRS Offers New Penalty Relief and Expanded Installment Agreements toTaxpayers under Expanded Fresh Start Initiative                                                                                                                            Under the new Fresh Start provisions, part of a broader effort started at the IRS in 2008, certain taxpayers who have been unemployed for 30 days or longer will be able to avoid failure-to-pay penalties. In addition, the IRS is doubling the dollar threshold for taxpayers eligible for Installment Agreements to help more people qualify for the program.

We have an obligation to work with taxpayers who are struggling to make ends meet," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. ”This new approach makes sense for taxpayers and for the nation’s tax system, and it’s part of a wider effort we have underway to help struggling taxpayers."


Penalty Relief
The IRS announced plans for new penalty relief for the unemployed on failure-to-pay penalties, which are one of the biggest factors a financially distressed taxpayer faces on a tax bill.

To assist those most in need, a six-month grace period on failure-to-pay penalties will be made available to certain wage earners and self-employed individuals. The request for an extension of time to pay will result in relief from the failure to pay penalty for tax year 2011 only if the tax, interest and any other penalties are fully paid by Oct. 15, 2012.

 The penalty relief will be available to two categories of taxpayers:

 Wage earners who have been unemployed at least 30 consecutive days during 2011 or in 2012 up to the April 17 deadline for filing a federal tax return this year.

Self-employed individuals who experienced a 25 percent or greater reduction in business income in 2011 due to the economy.

 This penalty relief is subject to income limits. A taxpayer’s income must not exceed $200,000 if he or she files as married filing jointly or not exceed $100,000 if he or she files as single or head of household. This penalty relief is also restricted to taxpayers whose calendar year 2011 balance due does not exceed $50,000.

Taxpayers meeting the eligibility criteria will need to complete a new Form 1127A to seek the 2011 penalty relief. The new form is available on IRS.gov.

The failure-to-pay penalty is generally half of 1 percent per month with an upper limit of 25 percent. Under this new relief, taxpayers can avoid that penalty until Oct. 15, 2012, which is six months beyond this year’s filing deadline. However, the IRS is still legally required to charge interest on unpaid back taxes and does not have the authority to waive this charge, which is currently 3 percent on an annual basis.

Even with the new penalty relief becoming available, the IRS strongly encourages taxpayers to file their returns on time by April 17 or file for an extension. Failure-to-file penalties applied to unpaid taxes remain in effect and are generally 5 percent per month, also with a 25 percent cap.


Health Insurance Tax Breaks for the Self-Employed  
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             

If you're self-employed and paying for medical, dental or long-term care insurance, the IRS wants to remind you about a special tax deduction for some insurance premiums paid for you, your spouse, and your dependents.

 Starting in tax year 2011, this deduction is no longer allowed on Schedule SE (Form 1040), but you can still take it on Form 1040, line 29.

You must be one of the following to qualify:

  • A self-employed individual with a net profit reported on Schedule C (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Business, Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040), Net Profit From Business, or Schedule F (Form 1040), Profit or Loss From Farming.
  • A partner with net earnings from self-employment reported on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), Partner's Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., box 14, code A.
  • A shareholder owning more than 2 percent of the outstanding stock of an S corporation with wages from the corporation reported on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

 


 The insurance plan must be established under your business.

  • For self-employed individuals filing a Schedule C, C-EZ, or F, the policy can be either in the name of the business or in the name of the individual.
  • For partners, the policy can be either in the name of the partnership or in the name of the partner.
  • You can either pay the premiums yourself or your partnership can pay them and report the premium amounts on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) as guaranteed payments to be included in your gross income. However, if the policy is in your name and you pay the premiums yourself, the partnership must reimburse you and report the premium amounts on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065) as guaranteed payments to be included in your gross income. Otherwise, the insurance plan will not be considered to be established under your business.
  •                        
  • For more-than-2-percent shareholders, the policy can be either in the name of the S corporation or in the name of the shareholder. You can either pay the premiums yourself or your S corporation can pay them and report the premium amounts on Form W-2 as wages to be included in your gross income. However, if the policy is in your name and you pay the premiums yourself, the S corporation must reimburse you and report the premium amounts on Form W-2 as wages to be included in your gross income. Otherwise, the insurance plan will not be considered to be established under your business.

 

Injured or Innocent Spouse Tax  

                                                                                                                                                                                                          
You may be an injured spouse if you file a joint tax return and all or part of your portion of a refund was, or is expected to be, applied to your spouse’s legally enforceable past due financial obligations.

 Here are seven facts about claiming injured spouse relief:

 1. To be considered an injured spouse; you must have paid federal income tax or claimed a refundable tax credit, such as the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on the joint return, and not be legally obligated to pay the past-due debt.

 2. Special rules apply in community property states. For more information about the factors used to determine whether you are subject to community property laws, see IRS Publication 555, Community Property.

 3. If you filed a joint return and you're not responsible for the debt, but you are entitled to a portion of the refund, you may request your portion of the refund by filing Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.

 4. You may file form 8379 along with your original tax return or your may file it by itself after you receive an IRS notice about the offset.

 5. You can file Form 8379 electronically. If you file a paper tax return you can include Form 8379 with your return, write "INJURED SPOUSE" at the top left of the Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. IRS will process your allocation request before an offset occurs.

 6. If you are filing Form 8379 by itself, it must show both spouses' Social Security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. You, the "injured" spouse, must sign the form.

 7. Do not use Form 8379 if you are claiming innocent spouse relief. Instead, file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief. This relief from a joint liability applies only in certain limited circumstances. However, in 2011 the IRS eliminated the two-year time limit that applies to certain relief requests. IRS Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief, explains who may qualify, and how to request this relief.




Source: http://www.irs.gov/

 

                                                                                             D&B Tax Group,LLC

4040 Sunbeam Road
Jacksonville, FL 32257
Phone 904.551.2892
Fax904.551.3864

ali@dbtaxgroup.com