Good tax planning includes good recordkeeping

August 7, 2019

Tax planning should happen all year long, not just when someone is filing their tax return.  An important part of tax planning is recordkeeping. Well-organized records make it easier for a taxpayer to prepare their tax return. It can also help provide answers if a taxpayer’s return is selected for examination or if the taxpayer receives an IRS notice.

This tip is one in a series about tax planning. These tips focus on steps taxpayers can take now to help them down the road.

Here are some suggestions to help taxpayers keep good records:

  • Taxpayers should develop a system that keeps all their important info together. They can use a software program for electronic recordkeeping. They could also store paper documents in labeled folders.
  • Throughout the year, they should add tax records to their files as they receive them. Having records readily at hand makes preparing a tax return easier.
  • It may also help them discover potentially overlooked deductions or credits. Taxpayers should notify the IRS if their address changes. They should also notify the Social Security Administration of a legal name change to avoid a delay in processing their tax return.
  • Records that taxpayers should keep include receipts, canceled checks, and other documents that support income, a deduction, or a credit on a tax return.
  • Taxpayers should also keep records relating to property they dispose of or sell. They must keep these records to figure their basis for computing gain or loss.
  • In general, the IRS suggests that taxpayers keep records for three years from the date they filed the return.
  • For business taxpayers, there’s no particular method of bookkeeping they must use. However, taxpayers should find a method that clearly and accurately reflects their gross income and expenses. The records should confirm income and expenses. Taxpayers who have employees must keep all employment tax records for at least four years after the tax is due or paid, whichever is later.
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Here’s who can deduct car expenses on their tax returns

July 29, 2019

Taxpayers who have deducted the business use of their car on past tax returns should review whether or not they can still claim this deduction. Some taxpayers can. Some cannot.

Here’s a breakdown of which taxpayers can claim this deduction when they file their tax returns.

Business owners and self-employed individuals
Individuals who own a business or are self-employed and use their vehicle for business may deduct car expenses on their tax return. If a taxpayer uses the car for both business and personal purposes, the expenses must be split. The deduction is based on the portion of mileage used for business.

There are two methods for figuring car expenses:

  1. Using actual expenses
  • These include:
    • Depreciation
    • Lease payments
    • Gas and oil
    • Tires
    • Repairs and tune-ups
    • Insurance
    • Registration fees
  1. Using the standard mileage rate
  • Taxpayers who want to use the standard mileage rate for a car they own must choose to use this method in the first year the car is available for use in their business.
  • Taxpayers who want to use the standard mileage rate for a car they lease must use it for the entire lease period.
  • The standard mileage rate for 2018 is 54.5 cents per mile. For 2019, it‘s 58 cents.

There are recordkeeping requirements for both methods.

Employees
Employees who use their car for work can no longer take an employee business expense deduction as part of their miscellaneous itemized deductions reported on Schedule A.  Employees can’t deduct this cost even if their employer doesn’t reimburse the employee for using their own car. This is for tax years after December 2017. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor.

However, certain taxpayers may still deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses, this includes Armed Forces reservists, qualified performing artists, and fee-basis state or local government officials.

More information:
Publication 535, Business Expenses


It’s summertime…and these tips can help make livin’ easy for teens with jobs

May 20, 2019

With summer almost here, many students will turn their attention to making money from a summer job. Whether it’s flipping burgers or filing documents, the IRS wants student workers to know some facts about their summer jobs and taxes.

Not all the money they earn will make it to their pocket because employers must withhold taxes from their paycheck. Here are some tax tips young individuals should know when starting a summer job.

New employees:  Employees – including those who are students – normally have taxes withheld from their paychecks by their employer. When anyone gets a new job, they need to fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Employers use this form to calculate how much federal income tax to withhold from the new employee’s pay. The Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov can help a taxpayer fill out this form.

Self-employment: Students who do odd jobs over the summer to make extra cash are self-employed. This include jobs like baby-sitting or lawn care. Money earned from self-employment is taxable, and self-employed workers may be responsible for paying taxes directly to the IRS. One way they can do this is by making estimated tax payments during the year.

Tip income: Students working as waiters or camp counselors who earn tips as part of their summer income should know tip income is taxable. They should keep a daily log to accurately report tips. They must report cash tips to their employer for any month that totals $20 or more.

Payroll taxes: This tax pays for benefits under the Social Security system. While students may earn too little from their summer job to owe income tax, employers usually must still withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from their pay. If a student is self-employed, Social Security and Medicare taxes may still be due and are generally paid by the student.

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps pay: If a student is in an ROTC program, and receives pay for activities such as summer advanced camp, it is taxable. Other allowances the student may receive – like food and lodging – may not be taxable. The Armed Forces’ Tax Guide on IRS.gov provides details.


 Itemized Deductions Changes

April 5, 2019

Here is a video tax tip from the IRS:

Itemized Deductions Changes

www.youtube.com/irsvideos

www.youtube.com/irsvideosmultilingua

www.youtube.com/irsvideosASL


All taxpayers will file using 2018 Form 1040; Forms 1040A and 1040EZ no longer available 

March 25, 2019

As the April filing deadline approaches, IRS reminds taxpayers that Form 1040 has been redesigned for tax year 2018. The revised form consolidates Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040-EZ into one form that all individual taxpayers will use to file their 2018 federal income tax return.

Forms 1040-A and 1040-EZ are no longer available to file 2018 taxes. Taxpayers who used one of these forms in the past will now file Form 1040. Some forms and publications released in 2017 or early 2018 may still have references to Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ. Taxpayers should disregard these references and refer to the Form 1040 instructions for more information.

The new form uses a building block approach that can be supplemented with additional schedules as needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations will only need to file the Form 1040 with no additional schedules.

People who use tax software will still follow the steps they’re familiar with from previous years. Since nearly 90 percent of taxpayers now use tax software, the IRS expects the change to Form 1040 and its schedules to be seamless for those who file electronically.

Electronic filers may not notice any changes because the tax return preparation software will automatically use their answers to the tax questions to complete the Form 1040 and any needed schedules.
For taxpayers who filed paper returns in the past and are concerned about these changes, this year may be the year to consider the benefits of filing electronically. Using tax software is a convenient, safe and secure way to prepare and e-file an accurate tax return.


IRS issues standard mileage rates for 2019

December 27, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2019 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 58 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3.5 cents from the rate for 2018,
  • 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 2 cents from the rate for 2018, and
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

The business mileage rate increased 3.5 cents for business travel driven and 2 cents for medical and certain moving expense from the rates for 2018. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

It is important to note that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers cannot claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for un-reimbursed employee travel expenses. Taxpayers also cannot claim a deduction for moving expenses, except members of the Armed Forces on active duty moving under orders to a permanent change of station. For more details see Notice-2019-02.

The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously. These and other limitations are described in section 4.05 of Rev. Proc. 2010-51.

Notice 2018-02, posted today on IRS.gov, contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.


Get Ready for Taxes:

December 5, 2018

Safekeeping tax records helps for future filing, amended returns, audits

WASHINGTON — With the tax filing season quickly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service wants taxpayers to understand how long to keep tax returns and other documents.

This is the seventh in a series of reminders to help taxpayers Get Ready for the upcoming tax filing season. The IRS has recently updated its Get Ready page with steps to take now for the 2019 filing season.

The IRS generally recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. Employment tax records should be kept at least four years after the date that the tax becomes due or paid, whichever is later. Tax records should be kept at least seven years if a return claims a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction. Copies of previously-filed tax returns are helpful in preparing current-year tax returns and making computations if a return needs to be amended.

Safe-keeping records

Tax records should be kept safe and secure regardless of whether they are stored on paper or kept electronically. Paper records should be kept in a secure location, preferably under lock and key, such as a secure desk drawer or a safe. Records retained electronically should be backed up electronically and encrypted when possible. The IRS also suggests scanning paper tax and financial records into a format that can be encrypted and stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD with photos or videos of valuables.

Disposing of records

Tax records contain sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, income amounts and bank account information. Tax documents not properly disposed of can land in the hands of criminals and lead to identity theft. Once past their useful date, records should be disposed of properly. Paper tax returns and supporting documents should be shredded before being discarded. Old computers, back-up drives and media contain sensitive data. Deleting stored tax files will not completely erase them. Using special wiping software ensures the removal of sensitive data.

Taxpayers still keeping old tax returns and receipts stuffed in a shoebox may want to rethink their approach. When records are no longer needed the data should be properly destroyed. More information is available on IRS.gov at How long should I keep records?


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