Today’s Tax Topic
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Presented by Tax On Wheels, LLC
The Internal Revenue Service continues to make strong progress in combating international tax evasion, with new details announced today showing the recently completed offshore program pushed the total number of voluntary disclosures up to 30,000 since 2009. In all, 12,000 new applications came in from the 2011 offshore program that closed last week.
The IRS also announced today it has collected $2.2 billion so far from people who participated in the 2009 program, reflecting closures of about 80 percent of the cases from the initial offshore program. On top of that, the IRS has collected an additional $500 million in taxes and interest as down payments for the 2011 program — a figure that will increase because it doesn’t yet include penalties.
“By any measure, we are in the middle of an unprecedented period for our global international tax enforcement efforts,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We have pierced international bank secrecy laws, and we are making a serious dent in offshore tax evasion.”
Global tax enforcement is a top priority at the IRS, and Shulman noted progress on multiple fronts, including ground-breaking international tax agreements and increased cooperation with other governments. In addition, the IRS and Justice Department have increased efforts involving criminal investigation of international tax evasion.
The combination of efforts helped support the 2011 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Initiative (OVDI), which ended on Sept. 9. The 2011 effort followed the strong response to the 2009 Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) that ended on Oct. 15, 2009. The programs gave U.S.taxpayers with undisclosed assets or income offshore a second chance to get compliant with the U.S. tax system, pay their fair share and avoid potential criminal charges.
The 2009 program led to about 15,000 voluntary disclosures and another 3,000 applicants who came in after the deadline, but were allowed to participate in the 2011 initiative. Beyond that, the 2011 program has generated an additional 12,000 voluntary disclosures, with some additional applications still being counted. All together from these efforts, taxpayers came forward and made 30,000 voluntary disclosures.
“My goal all along was to get people back into the U.S. tax system,” Shulman said. “Not only are we bringing people back into the U.S. tax system, we are bringing revenue into the U.S. Treasury and turning the tide against offshore tax evasion.”
In new figures announced today from the 2009 offshore program, the IRS has $2.2 billion in hand from taxes, interest and penalties representing about 80 percent of the 2009 cases that have closed. These cases come from every corner of the world, with bank accounts covering 140 countries.
The IRS is starting to work through the 2011 applications. The $500 million in payments so far from the 2011 program brings the total collected through the offshore programs to $2.7 billion.
“This dollar figure will grow in the months ahead,” Shulman said. “But just as importantly, we have changed the risk calculus. Americans now understand that if they try to hide assets overseas, the chances of being caught continue to increase.”
The financial impact can be seen in a variety of other areas beyond the 2009 and 2011 programs.
- Criminal prosecutions. People hiding assets offshore have received jail sentences running for months or years, and they have been ordered to pay hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.
- UBS.UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank, agreed in 2009 to pay $780 million in fines, penalties, interest and restitution as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. government.
The two disclosure programs provided the IRS with a wealth of information on various banks and advisors assisting people with offshore tax evasion, and the IRS will use this information to continue its international enforcement efforts.
How much attention do you pay to this factor?
Presented by Tax On Wheels, LLC
Could you end up paying higher taxes in retirement?Do you have a lot of money saved in a 401(k) or a traditional IRA? If so, you may be poised to receive significant retirement income.
Those income distributions will be taxed. As federal and state governments are hungry for revenue, you may see higher marginal tax rates in the near future.
Poor retirees with meager savings may rely on Social Security as their prime income source. They may end up paying less income tax in retirement, as up to half of their Social Security benefits won’t be counted as taxable income. On the other hand, those who have saved and invested well may retire to their current tax bracket or even a higher one.1
Given this possibility, affluent investors would do well to study the tax efficiency of their portfolios. (Some investments are not particularly tax-efficient – REITs and small-cap funds, for example.) Both pre-tax and after-tax investments have potential advantages.
What’s a pre-tax investment?Traditional IRAs and 401(k)s are classic examples of pre-tax investments. You can put off paying taxes on the contributions you make to these accounts and the earnings these accounts generate. When you take money out of these accounts come retirement, you will pay taxes on the withdrawal.2
Pre-tax investments are also called tax-deferred investments, as the invested assets can benefit from tax-deferred growth.
What’s an after-tax investment?A Roth IRA is a prime example. When you put money into a Roth IRA during the accumulation phase, contributions aren’t tax-deductible. As a trade-off, you don’t pay taxes on the withdrawals from that Roth IRA (providing you have followed the IRS rules for the arrangement). These tax-free withdrawals lower your total taxable retirement income.2
As everyone would like to pay less income tax in retirement, the tax-free withdrawals from Roth IRAs are very attractive. As federal tax rates look poised to climb for obvious reasons, after-tax investments are starting to look even more attractive.
As anyone can now convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, many affluent investors are considering making the move and paying taxes on the conversion today in order to get tax-free growth tomorrow.
Certain tax years can prove optimal for a Roth conversion. If a high-income taxpayer is laid off for most of a year, closes down a business or suffers net operating losses, sells rental property at a loss or claims major deductions and exemptions associated with charitable contributions, casualty losses or medical costs … he or she might end up in the lowest bracket, or even with a negative taxable income. In circumstances like these, a Roth conversion may be a good idea.
Should you have both a traditional IRA and a Roth IRA? It may seem redundant or superfluous, but it could actually help you manage your marginal tax rate. If you have both kinds of IRAs, you have the option to vary the amount and source of your IRA distributions in light of whether income tax rates have increased or decreased.
Your marginal tax rate might be higher than you think.Consider that about 25 different federal tax deductions and credits are phased out as your income increases. Quite a few of these have to do with education. If your children (or grandchildren) are out of school when you retire, good luck claiming those deductions.
Smart moves can help you lower your taxable income & taxable estate.An emphasis on long-term capital gains may help, as they aren’t taxed as severely as short-term gains or ordinary income. Tax loss harvesting – selling the “losers” in your portfolio to offset the “winners” – can bring immediate tax savings and possibly help to position you for better long-term after-tax returns.
If you’re making a charitable gift, giving appreciated stock or mutual funds you have held for at least a year may be better than giving cash. In addition to a potential tax deduction for the fair market value of the asset, the charity can sell the stock later without triggering capital gains. If you’re reluctant to donate shares of your portfolio’s biggest winner, consider this: you could give the shares away, then buy more shares of that stock and get a step-up in cost basis for free.3,4
The annual gift tax exemption gives you a way to remove assets from your taxable estate. In 2011, you can gift up to $13,000 to as many individuals as you wish without paying federal gift tax. If you have 11 grandkids, you could give them $13,000 each – that’s $143,000 out of your estate. All appreciation on that amount is also out of your estate.5
Are you striving for greater tax efficiency?In retirement, it is especially important – and worth a discussion. A few financial adjustments could help you lessen your tax liabilities.
Tax On Wheels, LLC may be reached at 803 732-4288or firstname.lastname@example.org www.taxonwheels.com
This material was prepared by MarketingLibrary.Net Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. All information is believed to be from reliable sources; however we make no representation as to its completeness or accuracy. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty.
1 – ssa.gov/planners/taxes.htm [2/9/11]
2 – retirement.ameriprise.com/planning-for-retirement/retirement-risks/pre-tax-investments.asp [7/25/11]
3 – boston.com/business/personalfinance/managingyourmoney/archives/2010/12/a_win-win_situa.html [12/14/10]
4 – marketwatch.com/story/donate-appreciated-securities-to-charity-for-maximum-tax-benefit [12/16/07]
5 – blogs.forbes.com/hanisarji/2011/07/13/how-to-cut-state-death-taxes-without-moving/ [7/13/11]
With the summer wedding season in full swing, the Internal Revenue Service advises the soon-to-be married and the just married to review their changing tax status. If you recently got married or are planning a wedding, the last thing on your mind is taxes. However, there are some important steps you need to take to avoid stress at tax time. Here are seven tips for newlyweds.
- Notify the Social Security Administration Report any name change to the Social Security Administration so your name and Social Security number will match when you file your next tax return. File a Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, at your local SSA office. The form is available on SSA’s website at www.ssa.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or at local offices.
- Notify the IRS if you move If you have a new address you should notify the IRS by sending Form 8822, Change of Address. You may download Form 8822 fromwww.IRS.gov or order it by calling 800–TAX–FORM (800–829–3676).
- Notify the U.S. Postal Service You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service when you move so it can forward any IRS correspondence or refunds.
- Notify your employer Report any name and address changes to your employer(s) to make sure you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.
- Check your withholding If both you and your spouse work, your combined income may place you in a higher tax bracket. You can use the IRS Withholding Calculator available onwww.irs.gov to assist you in determining the correct amount of withholding needed for your new filing status. The IRS Withholding Calculator will give you the information you need to complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. You can fill it out and print it online and then give the form to your employer(s) so they withhold the correct amount from your pay.
- Select the right tax form Choosing the right individual income tax form can help save money. Newly married taxpayers may find that they now have enough deductions to itemize on their tax returns. Itemized deductions must be claimed on a Form 1040, not a 1040A or 1040EZ.
- Choose the best filing status A person’s marital status on Dec. 31 determines whether the person is considered married for that year. Generally, the tax law allows married couples to choose to file their federal income tax return either jointly or separately in any given year. Figuring the tax both ways can determine which filing status will result in the lowest tax, but usually filing jointly is more beneficial.
Every year the Internal Revenue Service sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers, but that doesn’t mean you need to worry. Here are eight things every taxpayer should know about IRS notices – just in case one shows up in your mailbox.
- Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
- There are number of reasons the IRS sends notices to taxpayers. The notice may request payment of taxes, notify you of a change to your account or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.
- Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.
- If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
- If you agree with the correction to your account, usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due.
- If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. Write to explain why you disagree. Include any documents and information you wish the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the lower left part of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
- Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call.
- It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.
Contact Tax On Wheels, LLC for assistance with responding to IRS or State notices
Taxpayers sometimes need tax returns from previous years for loan applications, to estimate tax withholding, for legal reasons or because records were destroyed in a natural disaster or fire. If your original tax returns were lost or destroyed, you can obtain copies or transcripts from the IRS. Here are 10 things to know if you need federal tax return information from a previously filed tax return.
- There are three options for obtaining free copies of your federal tax return information – on the web, by phone or by mail.
- The IRS does not charge a fee for transcripts, which are available for the current and past three tax years.
- A tax return transcript shows most line items from your tax return as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. It does not reflect any changes made after the return was filed.
- A tax account transcript shows any later adjustments either you or the IRS made after the tax return was filed. This transcript shows basic data, including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income.
- To request either transcript online, go to www.irs.gov and use our online tool called Order A Transcript. To order by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts in the recorded message.
- To request a 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ tax return transcript through the mail, complete IRS Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript. Businesses, partnerships and individuals who need transcript information from other forms or need a tax account transcript must use the Form 4506T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.
- If you order online or by phone, you should receive your tax return transcript within five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives your request. Allow 30 calendar days for delivery of a tax account transcript if you order by mail.
- If you still need an actual copy of a previously processed tax return, it will cost $57 for each tax year you order. 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 actual copies of your return.
- The fee for copies of tax returns may be waived if you are in an area that is declared a federal disaster by the President.Contact Tax On Wheels, LLC for assistance with obtaining your prior year records
Whether you’re a recent graduate going to college for the first time or a returning student, it will soon be time to get to campus – and payment deadlines for tuition and other fees are not far behind. The Internal Revenue Service reminds students or parents paying such expenses to keep receipts and to be aware of some tax benefits that can help offset college costs.
Typically, these benefits apply to you, your spouse or a dependent for whom you claim an exemption on your tax return.
- American Opportunity Credit This credit, originally created under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, has been extended for an additional two years – 2011 and 2012. The credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student and is available for the first four years of post secondary education. Forty percent of this credit is refundable, which means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000, even if you owe no taxes. Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment. The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income is below $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing a joint return).
- Lifetime Learning Credit In 2011, you may be able to claim a Lifetime Learning Credit of up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses paid for a student enrolled in eligible educational institutions. There is no limit on the number of years you can claim the Lifetime Learning Credit for an eligible student, but to claim the credit, your modified adjusted gross income must be below $60,000 ($120,000 if married filing jointly).
- Tuition and Fees Deduction This deduction can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $4,000 for 2011 even if you do not itemize your deductions. Generally, you can claim the tuition and fees deduction for qualified higher education expenses for an eligible student if your modified adjusted gross income is below $80,000 ($160,000 if married filing jointly).
- Student loan interest deduction Generally, personal interest you pay, other than certain mortgage interest, is not deductible. However, if your modified adjusted gross income is less than $75,000 ($150,000 if filing a joint return), you may be able to deduct interest paid on a student loan used for higher education during the year. It can reduce the amount of your income subject to tax by up to $2,500, even if you don’t itemize deductions.
For each student, you can choose to claim only one of the credits in a single tax year. However, if you pay college expenses for two or more students in the same year, you can choose to take credits on a per-student, per-year basis. You can claim the American Opportunity Credit for your sophomore daughter and the Lifetime Learning Credit for your senior son.
You cannot claim the tuition and fees deduction for the same student in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.
The Internal Revenue Service has some important information to share with individuals who have sold or are about to sell their home. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may qualify to exclude all or part of that gain from your income. Here are ten tips from the IRS to keep in mind when selling your home.
- In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.
- If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).
- You are not eligible for the exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.
- If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale on your tax return.
- If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.
- You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.
- Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude.
- If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.
- If you received the first-time homebuyer credit and within 36 months of the date of purchase, the property is no longer used as your principal residence, you are required to repay the credit. Repayment of the full credit is due with the income tax return for the year the home ceased to be your principal residence, using Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Credit and Repayment of the Credit. The full amount of the credit is reflected as additional tax on that year’s tax return.
- When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive refunds or correspondence from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.
Ten Tips for Taxpayers Who Owe Money to the IRS
While the majority of Americans get a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service each year, there are many taxpayers who owe and some who can’t pay the tax all at once. The IRS has a number of ways for people to pay their tax bill.
The IRS has announced an effort to help struggling taxpayers get a fresh start with their tax liabilities. The goal of this effort is to help individuals and small business meet their tax obligations, without adding unnecessary burden. Specifically, the IRS has announced new policies and programs to help taxpayers pay back taxes and avoid tax liens.
Here are ten tips for taxpayers who owe money to the IRS.
- Tax bill payments If you get a bill this summer for late taxes, you are expected to promptly pay the tax owed including any penalties and interest. If you are unable to pay the amount due, it is often in your best interest to get a loan to pay the bill in full rather than to make installment payments to the IRS.
- Additional time to pay Based on your circumstances, you may be granted a short additional time to pay your tax in full. A brief additional amount of time to pay can be requested through the Online Payment Agreement application at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-829-1040.
- Credit card payments You can pay your bill with a credit card. The interest rate on a credit card may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Code. To pay by credit card contact one of the following processing companies: Link2Gov at 888-PAY-1040 (or www.pay1040.com), RBS WorldPay, Inc. at 888-9PAY-TAX (or www.payUSAtax.com), or Official Payments Corporation at 888-UPAY-TAX (or www.officialpayments.com/fed).
- Electronic Funds Transfer You can pay the balance by electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier’s check or cash. To pay using electronic funds transfer, use the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System by either calling 800-555-4477 or using the online access at www.eftps.gov.
- Installment Agreement You may request an installment agreement if you cannot pay the liability in full. This is an agreement between you and the IRS to pay the amount due in monthly installment payments. You must first file all required returns and be current with estimated tax payments.
- Online Payment Agreement If you owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest, you can request an installment agreement using the Online Payment Agreement application at www.irs.gov.
- Form 9465 You can complete and mail an IRS Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, along with your bill in the envelope you received from the IRS. The IRS will inform you (usually within 30 days) whether your request is approved, denied, or if additional information is needed.
- Collection Information Statement You may still qualify for an installment agreement if you owe more than $25,000, but you are required to complete a Form 433F, Collection Information Statement, before the IRS will consider an installment agreement.
- User fees If an installment agreement is approved, a one-time user fee will be charged. The user fee for a new agreement is $105 or $52 for agreements where payments are deducted directly from your bank account. For eligible individuals with lower incomes, the fee can be reduced to $43.
- Check withholding Taxpayers who have a balance due may want to consider changing their W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, with their employer. A withholding calculator at www.irs.gov can help taxpayers determine the amount that should be withheld.
- Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process (PDF)
- Publication 966, Electronic Choices to Pay All Your Federal Taxes (PDF)
- Form 9465, Installment Agreement (PDF)
Do I have to file a tax return?
Filing tax returns is a major chore for most of us. But not everyone has to file a tax return each year.
Click here to learn more about IRS filing requirements.