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Archive for July, 2013

The Taxpayer Advocate Service: Helping You Resolve Tax Problems

July 31st, 2013

amt

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers who are experiencing unresolved federal tax problems. Here are 10 things every taxpayer should know about TAS:

1. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is your voice at the IRS.

2. You may be eligible for our help if you’ve tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS channels and have gotten nowhere, or you believe an IRS procedure just isn’t working as it should.

3. We help taxpayers whose problems are causing financial difficulty. This includes businesses, organizations and individuals.

4. We’ll do everything we can to resolve your problem. And our service is always free.

5. If you qualify for our help, you’ll be assigned to one advocate who will be with you at every turn.

6. We have at least one local taxpayer advocate office in every state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. To find your advocate:

  • Visit www.irs.gov/advocate
  • Call us toll-free at 1-877-777-4778
  • Check your local directory
  • Look at Pub. 1546, Taxpayer Advocate Service – Your Voice at the IRS, which lists our offices nationwide

7. Our tax toolkit at www.TaxpayerAdvocate.irs.gov has basic tax information, details about tax credits, and more.

8. TAS also handles broader problems that affect many taxpayers. If you know of one of these systemic issues, please report it to us at www.irs.gov/sams.

9. You can get updates at:

10. TAS is here to help you because when you’re dealing with a tax problem, the worst thing you can do is to do nothing at all!

Visit our website at www.Hoorfarlaw.com
Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

Simplified Option for Home Office Deduction

July 29th, 2013

 

home office

Do you work from home? If so, you may be familiar with the home office deduction, available for taxpayers who use their home for business. Beginning this year, there is a new, simpler option to figure the business use of your home.

This simplified option does not change the rules for who may claim a home office deduction. It merely simplifies the calculation and recordkeeping requirements. The new option can save you a lot of time and will require less paperwork and recordkeeping.

Here are six facts the IRS wants you to know about the new, simplified method to claim the home office deduction.

1. You may use the simplified method when you file your 2013 tax return next year. If you use this method to claim the home office deduction, you will not need to calculate your deduction based on actual expenses. You may instead multiply the square footage of your home office by a prescribed rate.

2. The rate is $5 per square foot of the part of your home used for business. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. This means the most you can deduct using the new method is $1,500 per year.

3. You may choose either the simplified method or the actual expense method for any tax year. Once you use a method for a specific tax year, you cannot later change to the other method for that same year.

4. If you use the simplified method and you own your home, you cannot depreciate your home office. You can still deduct other qualified home expenses, such as mortgage interest and real estate taxes. You will not need to allocate these expenses between personal and business use. This allocation is required if you use the actual expense method. You’ll claim these deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

5. You can still fully deduct business expenses that are unrelated to the home if you use the simplified method. These may include costs such as advertising, supplies and wages paid to employees.

6. If you use more than one home with a qualified home office in the same year, you can use the simplified method for only one in that year. However, you may use the simplified method for one and actual expenses for any others in that year.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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How to Get a Transcript or Copy of a Prior Year Tax Return

July 24th, 2013

Tax return check

There are many reasons why you should keep a copy of your federal tax return. For example, you may need it to answer an IRS inquiry. You may also need it to apply for a student loan or a home mortgage. If you can’t find your tax return, the IRS can provide a copy or give you a transcript of the tax information you need.

Here’s how to get your federal tax return information from the IRS:

1. Transcripts are free and you can get them for the current year and the past three years. In most cases, a transcript includes all the information you need.

2. A tax return transcript shows most line items from the tax return you originally filed. It also includes items from any accompanying forms and schedules you filed. It does not reflect any changes made after you filed your original return.

3. A tax account transcript shows any changes either you or the IRS made to your tax return after you filed it. This transcript includes your marital status, the type of return you filed, your adjusted gross income and taxable income.

4. You can get transcripts on the web, by phone or by mail. To request transcripts online, go to IRS.gov and use the Order a Transcript tool. To order by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts.

5. To request a 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ tax return transcript by mail or fax, complete Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript. Businesses and individuals who need a tax account transcript should use Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

6. If you order online or by phone, you should receive your tax return transcript within five to 10 calendar days. You should allow 30 calendar days for delivery of a tax account transcript if you order by mail.

7. If you need an actual copy of a filed and processed tax return, it will cost $57 for each tax year. Complete Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, and mail it to the IRS address listed on the form for your area. Copies are generally available for the current year and past six years. Please allow 60 days for delivery.

8. If you live in a Presidentially declared disaster area, the IRS may waive the fee to obtain copies of your tax returns. Visit IRS.gov and select the ‘Disaster Relief’ link in the lower left corner of the page for more about IRS disaster assistance.

9. Forms 4506, 4506-T and 4506T-EZ are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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Temporary Jobs Becoming a Permanent Fixture

July 23rd, 2013

temp job

Hiring is exploding in the one corner of the U.S. economy where few want to be hired: Temporary work.
From Wal-Mart to General Motors to PepsiCo, companies are increasingly turning to temps and to a much larger universe of freelancers, contract workers and consultants. Combined, these workers number nearly 17 million people who have only tenuous ties to the companies that pay them – about 12 percent of everyone with a job.
Hiring is always healthy for an economy. Yet the rise in temp and contract work shows that many employers aren’t willing to hire for the long run.
The number of temps has jumped more than 50 percent since the recession ended four years ago to nearly 2.7 million – the most on government records dating to 1990. In no other sector has hiring come close.
Driving the trend are lingering uncertainty about the economy and employer’s desire for more flexibility in matching their payrolls to their revenue. Some employers have also sought to sidestep the new health care law’s rule that they provide medical coverage for permanent workers. But the Obama administration delayed that provision of the law for a year.
The use of temps has extended into sectors that seldom used them in the past – professional services, for example, which include lawyers, doctors and information technology specialists.
Temps typically receive low pay, few benefits and scant job security. That makes them less likely to spend freely, so temp jobs don’t tend to boost the economy the way permanent jobs do. More temps and contract workers also help explain why pay has barely outpaced inflation since the recession ended.
Beyond economic uncertainty, Ethan Harris, global economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, thinks more lasting changes are taking root.
“There’s been a generational shift toward a less committed relationship between the firm and the worker,” Harris says.
An Associated Press survey of 37 economists in May found that three-quarters thought the increased use of temps and contract workers represented a long-standing trend.
Typical of that trend is Latrese Carr, who was hired by a Wal-Mart in Glenwood, Ill., two months ago on a 90-day contract. She works 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., helping unload trucks and restocking shelves. Her pay is $9.45 an hour. There’s no health insurance or other benefits.
Carr, 20, didn’t particularly want the overnight shift.
“I needed a job,” she says.
The store managers have said some temps will be kept on permanently, Carr says, depending on their performance.
Carr isn’t counting on it.
The trend toward contract workers was intensified by the depth of the recession and the tepid pace of the recovery. A heavy investment in long-term employment isn’t a cost all companies want to bear anymore.
“There’s much more appreciation of the importance of having flexibility in the workforce,” says Barry Asin of Staffing Industry Analysts, a consulting firm.
Susan Houseman, an economist at the Upjohn Institute of Employment Research, says companies want to avoid having too many employees during a downturn, just as manufacturers want to avoid having too much inventory if demand slows.
“You have your just-in-time workforce,” Houseman says. “You only pay them when you need them.”
This marks a shift from what economists used to call “labor hoarding”: Companies typically retained most of their staff throughout recessions, hoping to ride out the downturn.
“We clearly don’t have that anymore,” says Sylvia Allegretto, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley.
The result is that temps and contract workers have become fixtures at large companies. Business executives say they help their companies stay competitive. They also argue that temp work can provide valuable experience.
“It opens more doors for people to enter the labor market,” says Jeff Joerres, CEO of ManpowerGroup, a workplace staffing firm.
But Houseman’s research has found that even when jobs are classified as “temp to permanent,” only 27 percent of such assignments lead to permanent positions.

By Christopher S. Rugaber published in The Legal Record.
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Six Tips on Gambling Income and Losses

July 22nd, 2013

gambling2

Whether you roll the dice, play cards or bet on the ponies, all your winnings are taxable. The IRS offers these six tax tips for the casual gambler.

1. Gambling income includes winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races and casinos. It also includes cash and the fair market value of prizes you receive, such as cars and trips.

2. If you win, you may receive a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, from the payer. The form reports the amount of your winnings to you and the IRS. The payer issues the form depending on the type of gambling, the amount of winnings, and other factors. You’ll also receive a Form W-2G if the payer withholds federal income tax from your winnings.

3. You must report all your gambling winnings as income on your federal income tax return. This is true even if you do not receive a Form W-2G.

4. If you’re a casual gambler, report your winnings on the “Other Income” line of your Form 1040, U. S. Individual Income Tax Return.

5. You may deduct your gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The deduction is limited to the amount of your winnings. You must report your winnings as income and claim your allowable losses separately. You cannot reduce your winnings by your losses and report the difference.

6. You must keep accurate records of your gambling activity. This includes items such as receipts, tickets or other documentation. You should also keep a diary or similar record of your activity. Your records should show your winnings separately from your losses.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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Tips for Employers Who Outsource Payroll Duties

July 19th, 2013

payroll

Many employers outsource their payroll and related tax duties to third-party payers such as payroll service providers and reporting agents. Reputable third-party payers can help employers streamline their business operations by collecting and timely depositing payroll taxes on the employer’s behalf and filing required payroll tax returns with state and federal authorities.

Though most of these businesses provide very good service, there are, unfortunately, some who do not have their clients’ best interests at heart. Over the past few months, a number of these individuals and companies around the country have been prosecuted for stealing funds intended for the payment of payroll taxes. Examples of these successful prosecutions can be found on IRS.gov.

Like employers who handle their own payroll duties, employers who outsource this function are still legally responsible for any and all payroll taxes due. This includes any federal income taxes withheld as well as both the employer and employee’s share of social security and Medicare taxes. This is true even if the employer forwards tax amounts to a PSP or RA to make the required deposits or payments. For an overview of how the duties and obligations of agents, reporting agents and payroll service providers differ from one another, see the Third Party Arrangement Chart on IRS.gov.

Here are some steps employers can take to protect themselves from unscrupulous third-party payers.

  • Enroll in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System  and make sure the PSP or RA uses EFTPS to make tax deposits. Available free from the Treasury Department, EFTPS gives employers safe and easy online access to their payment history when deposits are made under their Employer Identification Number,      enabling them to monitor whether their third-party payer is properly carrying out their tax deposit responsibilities. It also gives them the option of making any missed deposits themselves, as well as paying other individual and business taxes electronically, either online or by phone. To enroll or for more information, call toll-free 800-555-4477or visit www.eftps.gov.
  • Refrain from substituting the third-party’s address for the employer’s address. Though employers are allowed to and have the option of making or agreeing to such a change, the IRS recommends that employer’s continue to use their own address as the address on record with the tax agency. Doing so ensures that the employer will continue to receive bills, notices and other account-related correspondence from the IRS. It also gives employers a way to monitor the third-party payer and easily spot any improper diversion of funds.
  • Contact the IRS about any bills or notices and do so as soon as possible. This is especially important if it involves a payment that the employer believes was made or should have been made by a third-party payer. Call the number on the bill, write to the IRS office that sent the bill, contact the IRS business tax hotline at 800-829-4933 or visit a local IRS office. See Receiving a Bill from the IRS on IRS.gov for more information.
  • For employers who choose to use a reporting agent, be aware of the special rules that apply to RAs. Among other things, reporting agents are generally required to use EFTPS and file payroll tax returns electronically. They are also required to provide employers with a written statement detailing the employer’s responsibilities including a reminder that the employer, not the reporting agent, is still legally required to timely file returns and pay any tax due. This statement must be provided upon entering into a contract with the employer and at least quarterly after that. See Reporting Agents File on IRS.gov for more information.
  • Become familiar with the tax due dates that apply to employers, and use the Small Business Tax Calendar to keep track of these key dates.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

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State Revenue $87M Higher, Despite Tax Cuts

July 18th, 2013

deductions

A new report shows Kansas collected nearly $87 million more in taxes than expected in the fiscal year that ended June 30, despite tax cuts businesses and individuals.
The state Revenue Department said that tax collections totaled about $6.2 billion in the 2013 fiscal year, nearly $160 million more than in the previous year.
Collections in June were $567 million, about $25 million more than expected.
New laws enacted last year reduced the state’s personal income tax rates and eliminated taxes on roughly 191,000 businesses in certain categories.
The Legislature approved more tax cuts in its latest session.

Courtesy of The Legal Record.
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Special Tax Benefits for Armed Forces Personnel

July 16th, 2013

american flag

If you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, the IRS wants you to know about the many tax benefits that may apply to you. Special tax rules apply to military members on active duty, including those serving in combat zones. These rules can help lower your federal taxes and make it easier to file your tax return.

Here are ten of those benefits:

1. Deadline Extensions.  Qualifying military members, including those who serve in a combat zone, can postpone some tax deadlines. This includes automatic extensions of time to file tax returns and pay taxes.

2. Combat Pay Exclusion.  If you serve in a combat zone, you can exclude certain combat pay from your income. You won’t need to show the exclusion on your tax return because qualified pay isn’t included in the wages reported on your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. Some service outside a combat zone also qualifies for this exclusion.

3. Earned Income Tax Credit.  You can choose to include nontaxable combat pay as earned income to figure your EITC. You would make this choice if it increases your credit. Even if you do, the combat pay remains nontaxable.

4. Moving Expense Deduction.  If you move due to a permanent change of station, you may be able to deduct some of your unreimbursed moving costs.

5. Uniform Deduction.  You can deduct the costs and upkeep of certain uniforms that regulations prohibit you from wearing while off duty. You must reduce your expenses by any reimbursement you receive for these costs.

6. Signing Joint Returns.  Both spouses normally must sign joint income tax returns. However, when one spouse is unavailable due to certain military duty or conditions, the other may, in some cases sign for both spouses, or will need a power of attorney to file a joint return.

7. Reservists’ Travel Deduction.  If you’re a member of the U.S. Armed Forces Reserves, you may deduct certain travel expenses on your tax return. You can deduct unreimbursed expenses for traveling more than 100 miles away from home to perform your reserve duties.

8. Nontaxable ROTC Allowances.   Educational and subsistence allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay – such as pay received during summer advanced camp – is taxable.

9. Civilian Life.  After leaving the military, you may be able to deduct certain job hunting expenses. Expenses may include travel, resume preparation fees and job placement agency fees. Moving expenses may also be deductible.

10. Tax Help.  Most military bases offer free tax preparation and filing assistance during the tax filing season. Some also offer free tax help after April 15.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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Tips for Taxpayers Who Travel for Charity Work

July 12th, 2013

dollar and Donation Box

Do you plan to travel while doing charity work this summer? Some travel expenses may help lower your taxes if you itemize deductions when you file next year. Here are five tax tips the IRS wants you to know about travel while serving a charity.

1. You must volunteer to work for a qualified organization. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit IRS.gov and use the Select Check tool to see if the group is qualified.

2. You may be able to deduct unreimbursed travel expenses you pay while serving as a volunteer. You can’t deduct the value of your time or services.

3. The deduction qualifies only if there is no significant element of personal pleasure, recreation or vacation in the travel. However, the deduction will qualify even if you enjoy the trip.

4. You can deduct your travel expenses if your work is real and substantial throughout the trip. You can’t deduct expenses if you only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.

5. Deductible travel expenses may include:

  • Air, rail and bus transportation
  • Car expenses
  • Lodging costs
  • The cost of meals
  • Taxi fares or other transportation costs between the airport or station and your hotel

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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Keep Tax and Financial Records Safe in Case of a Natural Disaster

July 11th, 2013

Hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters are more common in the summer. The IRS encourages you to take a few simple steps to protect your tax and financial records in case a disaster strikes.

Here are five tips from the IRS to help you protect your important records:

1. Backup Records Electronically.  Keep an extra set of electronic records in a safe place away from where you store the originals. You can use an external hard drive, CD or DVD to store the most important records. You can take these with you to keep your copies safe. You may want to store items such as bank statements, tax returns and insurance policies.

2. Document Valuables.  Take pictures or videotape the contents of your home or place of business. These may help you prove the value of your lost items for insurance claims and casualty loss deductions. Publication 584, Casualty, Disaster and Theft Loss Workbook, can help you determine your loss if a disaster strikes.

3. Update Emergency Plans.  Review your emergency plans every year. You may need to update them if your personal or business situation changes.

4. Get Copies of Tax Returns or Transcripts.  Visit IRS.gov to get Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, to replace lost or destroyed tax returns. If you just need information from your return, you can order a transcript online.

5. Count on the IRS.  The IRS has a Disaster Hotline to help people with tax issues after a disaster. Call the IRS at 1-866-562-5227 to speak with a specialist trained to handle disaster-related tax issues.

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Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.