Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Taxable Gains

More amazing tax tips I found and hope can be beneficial to you during this trying year...

Starting Jan. 1, the basic federal estate-tax exemption jumped to $3.5 million from $2 million in 2008. This large increase is expected to result in a major decline in the number of estates subject to the tax for 2009. It also will mean significant tax savings for many larger estates that are affected, says Sidney Kess, a New York lawyer and accountant.

Among other notable changes: The maximum amount that savers can contribute to a 401(k) plan increased. Many high-income taxpayers will benefit from changes affecting personal exemptions and certain deductions. And many Americans who live and work in other countries will be able to exclude more of their pay from U.S. tax collectors.

But not all the automatic 2009 changes will spell relief. For one thing, many people who suffer personal casualty and theft losses in 2009 won't be able to deduct as much. And about 11 million workers will pay higher Social Security taxes this year.

Standard Deductions


The basic standard deduction for joint filers for the 2009 tax year will be $11,400, up from $10,900 for 2008.
For singles, the amount for 2009 will be $5,700, up from $5,450.
The amounts are higher for those age 65 or older, for the blind, for those who paid real-estate taxes and for those with losses from federally declared disasters.


Much larger changes are expected soon from Washington in response to the economic crisis. President-elect Obama and congressional leaders are working on a wide-ranging plan that includes large cuts for both individuals and businesses.

While it's not yet known what will become law or when the changes will take effect, Congress will likely pass relief from the alternative minimum tax, or AMT. Unless lawmakers do something, tens of millions of Americans will have to pay higher taxes for 2009.

Here are some of the major changes that automatically became law on Jan. 1. While these won't affect tax returns for 2008, they may help taxpayers with 2009 planning.

Estate and gift taxes. The increase in the basic estate-tax exemption amount to $3.5 million stems from a 2001 law. (Transfers from one spouse to the other typically remain tax-free.) "Many estate plans and wills will have to be modified to take into account this increased exemption amount," Mr. Kess says.

The top federal estate-tax rate for 2009 remains unchanged at 45%. In 2010, the estate tax is supposed to disappear entirely for that one year only -- but that isn't likely to happen. During the campaign, then-Sen. Obama proposed retaining the $3.5 million exclusion amount and the 45% top rate in coming years.

The annual gift-tax exclusion rose to $13,000, up $1,000 from 2008. This means you can give as much as $13,000 this year to anyone you wish, or to as many people as you want, without having to worry about taxes or even having to file any forms with the Internal Revenue Service. It's a simple way to help others and reduce the size of your taxable estate. You can give even more than that by paying directly for someone else's tuition or medical expenses. Just be sure to pay the institution directly.

The lifetime gift-tax exclusion amount remains unchanged at $1 million.

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