Posts Tagged ‘IRS tax forms’

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Gamble Responsibly:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Entertainment,Taxes on September 8, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Your Winnings are Taxable Income

Welcome home from your Summer vacation.  A special welcome home to all of you who spent your vacation in Las Vegas or at any of its alike gambling town.  By now you should know that everything that happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas. Hotel bills with hidden fees, a marriage at the Little White Wedding Chapel, and taxable gambling winnings which you must report on your income tax return, will all follow you back home. But hey, you win some, you lose some – and vice versa – you can also deduct your gambling losses.

A “gambling income” is exactly what it sounds like: any money you win from lotteries, raffles, horse races, casinos, etc. Even those lucky $20 grocery store scratch-offs count. And there’s no way to avoid the system. If you pass on the cash and choose a new SUV or 7-day trip to Cancun, you’ll still owe taxes on the fair market value of your prize.

In general, you should record all your gambling winnings on the “Other income” line of Form 1040. So that’s where you’ll put down your $20 pay out from the grocery store scratch-off. But although all gambling winnings are taxable, some require extra paperwork. If you receive a certain amount of winnings or have any that are subject to federal tax withholding, you must get Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, from the payer. For example, you’ll need Form W-2G if you won $1,200 or more from bingo or slot machines.

Now for something that will make your bank account feel a little better. You can claim your gambling losses (up to the amount of your winnings) on Schedule A, under “Other Miscellaneous Deductions.” So that’s where you would report the $20 bucks you spent on scratch-off lottery tickets before you finally won. If you do decide to deduct, don’t guesstimate; make sure you have documentation of your losses and winnings.  So, folks, save all of your “losing” lottery tickets and scratchers!

To find out more about gambling and taxes, check out IRS Publication 529 on Miscellaneous Deductions. Remember that if Lady Luck is on your side, Uncle Sam will be waiting on your other side.

On the Money, Sufen Wang, Wang Solutions

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Take a Vacation from Taxes

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Entertainment,Family,Taxes on August 20, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

Rent Smart and Take a Vacation from Taxes:

Hopefully you were able to sneak away from work this summer and relax with your family at your vacation home: swimming, fishing, trying to keep up with the kids on breath-taking hikes. Unfortunately, it’s time to go home. The kids are tired of wearing sunscreen, and just want to go back to their air-conditioned rooms, and video games. Worse, your boss already sent you a dozen e-mails about what’s due next week. As you’re loading up the car, you wish you could find a renter to put the vacation home to good use for the last few weeks of summer.

Actually, that’s a very good idea. See, if you rent out your vacation home for fewer than 15 days a year, you don’t have to report it to the IRS. And if you don’t report something to the IRS, you don’t have to pay taxes on it. In other words, your rental income for 14 days or less is tax free.

14 is the magic number though (or more specifically, 14 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds). Anything over that and you must report the income on Schedule E. So if Joe Schmoe Renter is really enjoying the lake house after two weeks and wants to stay longer, you have to decide if you want to deal with the hassle of kicking him out, or the hassle of filling out Schedule E.

If you choose the latter option, things get a little confusing. You have to start looking at how much you used the vacation home for personal use versus how many days it was occupied by a renter. Then you’ll be able to figure out how much you can deduct, which expenses you can claim, and how you report them. You can check out how to do the math on Publication 527: Residential Rental Property. If only vacation could always be all play and no work… 

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Get a Summer Job!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Education,Family,Insurance & Liability on July 31, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

At first, working during the summer sounds awful to most young adults. Then they usually stop complaining when their first paycheck arrives. However, they usually start complaining again once they realize that with income, comes taxes.

Meet Form W-4: Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. This form is used by employers to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from your paychecks to cover your income tax liability. You, along with everybody else, must fill out a W-4 when you start a new job – even if you work at that job for just one day.

Maybe you were lucky and found work as a waiter. Dealing with customers is difficult, but it also means you can get extra money from tips, and who’s going to say no to free,extra money? Unfortunately, you can’t just pocket your tips and forget about them– all tips you receive are taxable income which you must report. 

Perhaps you decide you want to be your own boss for the summer. You start doing odd jobs around town: babysitting, mowing your friend’s dad’s lawn, walking your neighbor’spoodle up and down the street. Congratulations on being a young entrepreneur,but the earnings you receive from self-employment are still subject to income tax. And if you end up mowing a lot of lawns and make $400 or more from self-employment, you’ll have to pay a self-employment tax.

If you get a job as paperboy (or girl), at least you’ll be done with work by the time most of America wakes up for work. And teens have special rules when it comes to federal taxes. Because newspaper deliverers are generally treated as self-employed, they have to pay the self-employment tax. However, if you’reunder 18, and you don’t meet all of the carrier self-employment conditions, you are exempt from that tax.

Everyone has to start working at some point. If you have nothing do this summer except wait for school to start, then you might as well start mowing some lawns! 

On the Money,

Sufen Wang

Wang Solutions

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How to Barter Responsibly…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Taxes on March 8, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

“I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!”
  
That classic Wimpy phrase was not just about hamburgers, it’s about bartering – one of the oldest business transactions in human history. Well, in Wimpy’s case, it was probably more like an “I.O.U.” than an actual bartering exchanging hands.  Yes, before coins and dollars were invented, folks survived by trading stuff. Bartering is back in full swing now that the country is going through some hard times, so it’s time to dust off your haggling skills.
 
The official definition of bartering is “the trading of one product or service for another.” If you offer your friend three cookies in exchange for a sandwich, you have just bartered. Of course, it gets more complicated than this in the business world, and small business owners can save a lot of money by bartering for the products and services they need.
 
In general, bartering involves no exchange of cash, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook with the IRS. The fair market value of property or services received through barter is taxable income. Since it takes two to barter, both parties must report this income for the year in which the transaction is performed. How you report your transactions depends on which form of bartering takes place. In most cases, you’ll use Form 1040, Schedule C Profit or Loss from Business, or other business returns such as Form 1065 for Partnerships, Form 1120 for Corporations, or Form 1120-S for Small Business Corporations.
 
You might still imagine bartering to be like a crowded swap meet, with people yelling and pushing you. Actually, the internet has allowed bartering to get a lot fancier than that and now there are even things like organized barter exchanges. A barter exchange organizes a marketplace where members buy and sell products and services among themselves. If you choose to use such a marketplace, every year you’ll have to fill out Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions.
 
You, yourself, might find that you really like bartering – if you start to do it a lot, congratulations, you may have started what the IRS calls a “barter business.” Once you’re established enough, you can even deduct business expenses. Or you might have a regular business and are simply using barter transactions to help your sales; then you’ll have to include those sales in your business income.
 
If you really want to be a savvy barterer, here’s a tip: never barter outside of your industry.  When you mix two different types of businesses, one party of the bartering partners will always feel short-changed. That’s why a uniform currency was invented in the first place. So, stick with the same business if you want to barter – otherwise, just pay for each other’s services and be done with it!
 
The IRS provides a Bartering Tax Center for all of your bartering needs. And no, you don’t need to trade anything to read it!
 
On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions
 

Articles

The Return of the Dirty Dozen…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on March 2, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Another Dirty Dozen: The Top 12 Tax Scams of 2012
 
As long as there are taxes, there are going to be scams. A lot of money gets moved around in April and a lot of people want to get their hands on it – illegally. If you’re one of those people, you’ll probably be in jail sometime soon. Luckily, the IRS’ “Dirty Dozen” – the list ranking scams taxpayers are most likely to get sucked into – is back. Let’s see how things have changed since we brought you the “Dirty Dozen” last year.
 
The new leader of the IRS’ “Dirty Dozen” is Identity Theft. This is a growing problem in which somebody uses a real taxpayer’s personal information to file a return and then receives the refund. If that sounds like a good idea to you, just know that the IRS is cracking down on this particular scam with law-enforcement. There’s even a special web page to help taxpayers spot when somebody is pretending to be them. So how do you know if your name is being used elsewhere? If you get an IRS notice telling you that you filed more than one return, you could be a victim of identity theft.
 
Close behind is Phishing. This does not have to do with going out on a boat and catching things in the water. This is actually when a scammer uses a fake website or email to steal your personal information – which they can then use for the big bad identity theft. Always check that you’re on the real IRS site (the address should contain irs.gov) and since the IRS doesn’t send out any e-mails, don’t open anything that is supposedly from the agency or the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Oh, and don’t post your social security number on the “IRS” Facebook page.
 
Remember that post a few weeks ago about finding the right preparer? It was supposed to help you avoid becoming a victim of scam number three, Return Preparer Fraud. These corrupt preparers will do anything, from stealing part of your return, to charging you outrageous fees. Make sure your preparer includes his/her signature and PTIN on your return, and walk away if they tell you to include false information.
 
You really can’t get away from Hiding Income Offshore. The number one scam on last year’s “Dirty Dozen” list, evading taxes by storing your assets out of the United States, continues to be a huge problem. That’s not to say that you can’t keep stuff overseas – you just have to tell the IRS about it. If you’ve had a change of heart and want to stop being a scammer, the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program is still going on.
 
The above are the most prevalent issues, but there’s still a lot of scamming going on at the bottom of the list. Don’t pay attention to people offering advice – for a fee – about how to get Free Money” from the IRS & Tax Scams Involving Social Security. You’ll be paying money for a claim that is eventually going to get rejected by the IRS. And don’t think you can get away with penning in False/Inflated Income and Expenses on your tax return. Although it might seem easy to claim income or expenses you didn’t really pay, so that you can receive refunds like the EITC, you’ll face interest and penalties when you do get caught.
 
The same goes for False Form 1099 Refund Claims. Filing a fake information return to verify a fake refund claim will result in real problems for you. And don’t listen to Frivolous Arguments about why you don’t need to pay taxes. Pay first, and then if you have a problem, bring it up in court later. You also need to pay the correct amount that you owe, so don’t Falsely Claim Zero Wages. 
 
Perhaps the dirtiest scam on the Dirty Dozen is Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions. Yes, people will do things like “improperly shield income or assets from taxation” and “maintain control over donated assets.” Charities are for you to help other people – not yourself. The penultimate scam, Disguised Corporate Ownership, is when the true ownership of a business is obscured. Last but not least is Misuse of Trusts. Promoters will convince taxpayers to transfer their assets into trusts, promising less income subject to taxation or reduced estate taxes. In reality, this is just a fancy way of avoiding tax liability.
 
The IRS is watching you.
 
 
On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions
 

Articles

Hello E-File!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on January 9, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

Good-Bye Paper Returns, The IRS Makes Its Digital Move

 

The IRS is doing everything it can to ensure e-filing remains alive and well.  In 2011, paid preparers who expected to file 100 or more individual income tax returns during the calendar year were required to file electronically. However, the new year means new requirements. As of January 1, 2012, paid preparers who expect to file just 11 or more individual, estate, or trust returns must file electronically.
 
Members of a firm will also have to play by these revamped rules. The e-file requirement applies if the firm’s members in the aggregate expect to file 11 or more covered returns in 2012. Basically, if your firm is doing any business at all, you’re probably going to be e-filing.
 
Indeed, almost every tax return counts when you’re checking for that magic number 11. The regulation covers income tax returns in the Form 1040 and Form 1041 series, and Form 990-T, the Exempt Organization Business Income Tax Return. However, forms such as 1040-NR and 1040X are considered automatic administrative exemptions because they still have to be mailed to the IRS the old-fashioned way, and so you shouldn’t include them in your estimate.
 
Remember that it’s ultimately up to the taxpayer to decide how he wants to submit his tax return.  Psssst, heads-up, keep in mind that most of your client(s) usually do not know what they want; specifically how they want their tax returns to be filed…  So, make sure you give sound advice to your clients in this regards.  However, for those clients who really do not want to go digital, because of the new regulations, you’ll need to acquire a written statement from the taxpayers on or before the date the return is filed. It must be signed and dated (a joint return need only be signed by one spouse) and should state that the taxpayer chooses to file the return in paper format and will be submitting it to the IRS –rather than the preparer. This way, the individual income tax return will not be treated as filed by you, the tax return preparer, and thus will not be included in your return tally.
 
It’s important that you don’t send this statement to the IRS or attach it to your client’s tax return – that’s the taxpayer’s responsibility; well, good luck with that… hoping that your client will do what he is supposed to do…  So, instead, make sure you do your part by attaching Form 8948, Preparer Explanation for Not Filing Electronically, to your client’s paper return and check box 1. You also need to include your PTIN on each tax return where requested. If your client does choose not to e-file, it’s important that he personally mails his return. The IRS is making it clear this year that once a taxpayer chooses not to e-file, it’s hands-off the paperwork for the tax preparer.
 
Hopefully you’re already an authorized e-file provider because that’s the only way you’re allowed to e-file with the IRS. If not, you might want to click on the following link and start applying for your
Electronic Filing Identification Number – it takes at least 45 days for the authorization process. Otherwise you’re going to have a lot of clients filing complaints against their unprepared tax preparer.

 

On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions