Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tax Tip #2

If you want your taxes done for free here is some good tips on how to file state and federal for free from the comfort of your home on the internet.

1. Go to http://www.turbotax.com (click on free edition)and have your federal taxes done for free which you can print or efile also for free. Make sure to have Adobe if you want to have your files saved and access them. This way you can have all the information you will be asked when doing your state taxes

2. If you want your state taxes done for free here is a site to go to: (Turbo tax is great but they charge to do deluxe versions of federal or just to have your state prepared) http://www.irs.gov/efile/article/0,,id=97915,00.html Once you go to this site click on the link that says: states participating in Federal/State efile

3. Go into this site and find your state (if applicable) and file your state taxes for free with efile- and yes you can print and mail them as well make sure you have Adobe Reader for that one too.

Good luck and for the love of tax filing have them prepared easily and for FREE!!!

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.

The Great Rebate

Can you apply for a stimulus rebate check when filing your 2008 tax return if your 2008 income was lower than your 2007 income?

Yes it is true. People who didn't qualify for the full rebate check last year have a second chance to get the money when they file their 2008 tax return.

Those rebate checks that most people received last spring and summer were actually a tax credit for 2008, which would normally reduce your 2008 tax bill. But to get the money into people's hands quickly to stimulate the economy, Congress had the IRS make a prepayment of the credit. That meant the rebate was figured based on information from your 2007 return.

Most single filers received a $600 rebate, and married couples received $1,200, plus $300 for every dependent younger than 17. The rebate amount started to phase out if your 2007 adjusted gross income was more than $75,000 for single filers, or more than $150,000 for married couples filing jointly. For people who earned more than that, the rebate was reduced by $50 for every $1,000 you earned above the income limit. It phased out entirely at $87,000 for single filers without children and $174,000 for joint filers without children.

If you earned too much to qualify based on your 2007 income, but earned less than those limits in 2008, then you'll be able to claim the rebate when you file your 2008 taxes.

You may also qualify for some rebate money this year if you had a child in 2008, or if you were originally ineligible for a rebate because you could be claimed as a dependent on another person's tax return in 2007 but cannot be claimed as a dependent in 2008.

If you didn't originally qualify for the rebate but do this time around, then the amount will be a credit on your 2008 tax return and will be included in your refund (not sent as a separate check). You can figure out the credit when you file your form 1040 for 2008 -- the instructions for form 1040 include the calculation, or your tax-filing software will figure the credit for you.

The IRS also has some new resources to make it easy to figure out if you'll be getting the rebate. See the IRS's Recovery Rebate Credit Information Center and Questions and Answers About the Recovery Rebate Credit at the IRS's Web site.

People who had a good year don't need to worry: If you earned more in 2008 than you did in 2007, you don't have to pay back the rebate.

Tax Tips #1

I found some helpful tax tips for you - put them to good use if you can!

Here are answers to some queries about taxes in a time of financial turmoil, as well as some additional tax-savvy moves to consider, including what to do if you have near-worthless stocks or bonds, or are planning major charitable donations but are short on cash.

Writing off your losers. Investors are allowed to offset capital gains and losses, with no limit. If your losses exceed your gains, you can deduct as much as $3,000 of net losses ($1,500 if married and filing separately) each year. Additional losses get carried over into future years.

Or whether there are any plans in Congress to increase the current net capital-loss limit.

During the presidential campaign, Sen. John McCain proposed raising the net capital-loss limit to $15,000 a year. Then-Sen. Barack Obama didn't comment -- and still hasn't. So what are the odds Congress will change the law this year? "Pretty slim," says Clint Stretch, managing principal for tax policy at Deloitte Tax LLP. "Congress will have a hard time agreeing on any tax items before year end."

Separately, suppose you are considering selling stocks or bonds you bought years ago that are now trading for well below what you paid for them. Don't donate those losers to charity. Instead, consider selling them, using the losses to save taxes -- and then donate the proceeds to charity.

What do to with worthless stocks. What if you had the misfortune to invest in a company whose stock now is worthless or nearly worthless?

If a stock you bought for a taxable account became completely worthless during 2008, report it on Schedule D of Form 1040. Write "worthless" in columns (c) and (d), and enter the amount of your loss in parentheses in column (f). If you don't claim a loss for a worthless security on your original return for the actual year in which it became worthless, file what's known as an amended return for the year it became worthless. Use Form 1040X, available on the IRS Web site. You must file it within seven years from the date your original return for that year had to be filed, or two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later, the IRS says.

If the stock isn't completely worthless, consider asking your broker to buy those shares from you for a nominal amount, such as $1, so that you can clearly document your loss. Among those that will do so for clients is Vanguard Brokerage Services, says Rebecca Cohen, a Vanguard Group spokeswoman.

Changes in minimum-distribution requirements. During the presidential campaign, Mr. Obama called for major changes in the rules requiring millions of people 70½ or older to withdraw certain amounts of money from their retirement accounts. Several readers, including James M. Gleason of Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., want to know if there's still any chance of action this year.

The short answer is yes. Although time is running short, it's still possible that Congress, the Treasury Department or both will take action. Many proposals are under consideration, including reducing how much taxpayers have to withdraw this year. Don't count on anything happening. But investors who haven't already made their full distributions for 2008 should consider delaying a little longer, just in case Washington delivers a last-minute Christmas package.

Speculation about possible changes rose last month when a Treasury official confirmed the department was studying the subject. A spokesman confirms the department is aware of the issue and is still looking into it.

But relief may not arrive until next year. Several leading senators recently proposed legislation that would place a one-year moratorium on required minimum distributions from retirement accounts, such as IRAs and 401(k)s, for 2009, a Senate Finance Committee staffer says. Among the sponsors are Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D., Mont.), Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa, the committee's ranking Republican member) and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D., Mass.). The legislation would "allow savings to stay put and avoid a tax hit when the market is down," a committee statement said.

Making a gift from your IRA. Meanwhile, some older taxpayers may benefit by taking advantage of a recently enacted law that extended the life of a popular provision that had expired. The law allows individuals age 70½ and older to make direct transfers of as much as $100,000 a year from an IRA to qualified charities without having to count those distributions as taxable income. What's more, the transfer counts toward the taxpayer's required minimum distribution. This provision has been extended through 2009.

"Not all charities are eligible," the IRS said in a statement issued Tuesday. "For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients."

Charging your charitable contributions. If you want to make a big gift to your favorite charity to nail down a deduction for your 2008 return, but don't have the cash to do it now, consider charging your gift to a credit card. As long as you charge your gift this year, you can deduct it for this year. "Contributions are deductible in the year made," the IRS said. "Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of the year count for 2008. This is true even if the credit card bill isn't paid until next year. Also, checks count for 2008 as long as they are mailed this year."