The Child Tax Credit May Cut Your Tax

Income Tax Service For Individuals – If you have a child under age 17, the Child Tax Credit may save you money at tax time. Here are some key facts the IRS wants you to know about the credit.
• Amount. The non-refundable Child Tax Credit may help cut your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child you claim on your tax return.
• Qualifications. A child must pass seven tests to qualify for this credit:
1. Age test. The child was under age 17 at the end of 2013.
2. Relationship test. The child is your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister. A child can also be a descendant of any of these persons. For example, your grandchild, niece or nephew will meet this test. Adopted children also qualify. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
3. Support test. The child did not provide more than half of his or her own support for 2013.
4. Dependent test. You claim the child as a dependent on your 2013 federal income tax return.
5. Joint return test. A married child can’t file a joint return with their spouse they are filing jointly only to claim a tax refund.
6. Citizenship test. The child must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. national or U.S. resident alien.
7. Residence test. In most cases, the child must have lived with you for more than half of 2013.
• Limitations. Your filing status and income may reduce or eliminate the credit.
• Additional Child Tax Credit. If you get less than the full Child Tax Credit, you may qualify for the refundable Additional Child Tax Credit. This means you could get a refund even if you owe no tax.

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Identity Theft and Tax Returns: Tips for Taxpayers

Federal, State, Local and International Taxes – Refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide.

Stopping refund fraud related to identity theft is a top priority for the IRS. With more than 3,000 employees working on identity theft cases, the IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving identity theft cases as soon as possible and has trained more than 35,000 employees to work with taxpayers to recognize and provide assistance when identity theft occurs.

Taxpayers might encounter identity theft involving their tax returns in several ways. One possible scenario is where identity thieves try filing fraudulent refund claims using another person’s identifying information, which has been stolen.

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Tax Planning For Small Business Owners

Amare Berhie, Enrolled Agent – Tax planning is the process of looking at various tax options in order to determine when, whether, and how to conduct business and personal transactions to reduce or eliminate tax liability.

Many small business owners ignore tax planning. They don’t even think about their taxes until it’s time to meet with their accountants, but tax planning is an ongoing process and good tax advice is a valuable commodity. It is to your benefit to review your income and expenses monthly and meet with your EA/CPA or tax advisor quarterly to analyze how you can take full advantage of the provisions, credits and deductions that are legally available to you.

Although tax avoidance planning is legal, tax evasion – the reduction of tax through deceit, subterfuge, or concealment – is not. Frequently what sets tax evasion apart from tax avoidance is the IRS’s finding that there was fraudulent intent on the part of the business owner. The following are four of the areas most commonly focused on by IRS examiners as pointing to possible fraud:
• Failure to report substantial amounts of income such as a shareholder’s failure to report dividends or a store owner’s failure to report a portion of the daily business receipts.
• Claims for fictitious or improper deductions on a return such as a sales representative’s substantial overstatement of travel expenses or a taxpayer’s claim of a large deduction for charitable contributions when no verification exists.
• Accounting irregularities such as a business’s failure to keep adequate records or a discrepancy between amounts reported on a corporation’s return and amounts reported on its financial statements.
• Improper allocation of income to a related taxpayer who is in a lower tax bracket such as where a corporation makes distributions to the controlling shareholder’s children.

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Choosing the Right Filing Status

Federal, State, Local and International Taxes – Using the correct filing status is very important when you file your tax return. You need to use the right status because it affects how much you pay in taxes. It may even affect whether you must file a tax return.

When choosing a filing status, keep in mind that your marital status on Dec. 31 is your status for the whole year. If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that will result in the lowest tax.

Note for same-sex married couples. New rules apply to you if you were legally married in a state or foreign country that recognizes same-sex marriage. You and your spouse generally must use a married filing status on your 2013 federal tax return. This is true even if you and your spouse now live in a state or foreign country that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

Here is a list of the five filing statuses to help you choose:
1. Single. This status normally applies if you aren’t married or are divorced or legally separated under state law.
2. Married Filing Jointly. A married couple can file one tax return together. If your spouse died in 2013, you usually can still file a joint return for that year.
3. Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns instead of one joint return. This status may be to your benefit if it results in less tax. You can also use it if you want to be responsible only for your own tax. Head of Household. This status normally applies if you are not married. You also must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for yourself and a qualifying person. Some people choose this status by mistake. Be sure to check all the rules before you file.
4. Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. If your spouse died during 2011 or 2012 and you have a dependent child, this status may apply. Certain other conditions also apply.
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Tips about Taxable and Nontaxable Income

Income Tax Service For Individuals – Are you looking for a hard and fast rule about what income is taxable and what income is not taxable? The fact is that all income is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it.

Taxable income includes money you receive, such as wages and tips. It can also include noncash income from property or services. For example, both parties in a barter exchange must include the fair market value of goods or services received as income on their tax return.

Some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:
• Life insurance proceeds paid to you are usually not taxable. But if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
• Income from a qualified scholarship is normally not taxable. This means that amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required books, are not taxable. However, amounts you use for room and board are taxable.
• If you got a state or local income tax refund, the amount may be taxable. You should have received a 2013 Form 1099-G from the agency that made the payment to you. If you didn’t get it by mail, the agency may have provided the form electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Report any taxable refund you got even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.
Here are some types of income that are usually not taxable:
• Gifts and inheritances
• Child support payments
• Welfare benefits
• Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
• Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
• Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses

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Which Tax Form Should You File?

Individual Tax Preparation – Which form should you use to file your federal income taxes? These days, most people use a computer to prepare and e-file their tax forms. It’s easy, because tax software selects the right form for you. If you file on paper, you’ll need to pick the right form to use.

Before you decide, check out IRS Free File on IRS.gov. It has free tax software or a Fillable Forms option that allows you to fill in your tax forms using a computer. You can e-file the completed forms for free!

If you still prefer paper and pen, here are some tips on how to choose the best form for your situation.

You can generally use the 1040EZ if:
• Your taxable income is below $100,000;
• Your filing status is single or married filing jointly;
• You are not claiming any dependents; and
• Your interest income is $1,500 or less.

The 1040A may be best for you if:
• Your taxable income is below $100,000;
• You have capital gain distributions;
• You claim certain tax credits; and
• You claim adjustments to income for IRA contributions and student loan interest.

However, reasons you must use the 1040 include:
• Your taxable income is $100,000 or more;
• You claim itemized deductions;
• You are reporting self-employment income; or
• You are reporting income from sale of a property.

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Individuals – Tax Credits For 2014

Adoption Credit
In 2014, a non-refundable (only those individuals with tax liability will benefit) credit of up to $13,190 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child.

Earned Income Tax Credit
For tax year 2014, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate income workers and working families rises to $6,143, up from $6,044 in 2013. The credit varies by family size, filing status and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.

Child Tax Credit
For tax year 2014, the child tax credit is $1,000 per child.

Child and Dependent Care Credit
If you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses in 2014. For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher income earners the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income.

Individuals – Education
American Opportunity Tax Credit and Lifetime Learning Credits
The American Opportunity Tax Credit (formerly Hope Scholarship Credit) was extended to the end of 2017 by ATRA. The maximum credit is $2,500 per student. The Lifetime Learning Credit remains at $2,000 per return.

Interest on Educational Loans
In 2014 (as in 2013), the $2,500 maximum deduction for interest paid on student loans is no longer limited to interest paid during the first 60 months of repayment. The deduction is phased out for higher-income taxpayers with modified AGI of more than $65,000 ($130,000 joint filers).

Individuals – Retirement
Contribution Limits
The elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $17,500. Contribution limits for SIMPLE plans remains unchanged at $12,000. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions increases to $260,000 (up $5,000 from 2013).

Income Phase-out Ranges
The deduction for taxpayers making contributions to a traditional IRA is phased out for singles and heads of household who are covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and have modified AGI between $60,000 and $70,000, up from $59,000 and $69,000 in 2013.

For married couples filing jointly, in which the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, the phase-out range is $96,000 to $116,000, up from $95,000 to $115,000. For an IRA contributor who is not covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple’s modified AGI is between $181,000 and $191,000, up from $178,000 and $188,000.

The modified AGI phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $181,000 to $191,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $178,000 to $188,000 in 2013. For singles and heads of household, the income phase-out range is $114,000 to $129,000, up from $112,000 to $127,000. For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a retirement plan, the phase-out range remains $0 to $10,000.

Saver’s Credit
In 2014, the AGI limit for the saver’s credit (also known as the retirement savings contribution credit) for low and moderate income workers is $60,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $59,000 in 2013; $45,000 for heads of household, up from $44,250; and $30,000 for married individuals filing separately and for singles, up from $29,500.

Businesses – Standard Mileage Rates
The rate for business miles driven is 56 cents per mile for 2014, down from 56.5 cents per mile in 2013.

Section 179 Expensing
For 2014 the maximum Section 179 expense deduction for equipment purchases decreases to $25,000 of the first $200,000 of business property placed in service during 2014. The bonus depreciation of 50 percent is gone, as is the accelerated deduction, where businesses can expense the entire cost of qualified real property in the year of purchase.

Transportation Fringe Benefits
If you provide transportation fringe benefits to your employees, in 2014 the maximum monthly limitation for transportation in a commuter highway vehicle as well as any transit pass is $130 down from $245 in 2013. The monthly limitation for qualified parking is $250.

While this checklist outlines important tax changes for 2014, additional changes in tax law are more than likely to arise during the year ahead.

Don’t hesitate to call us if you want to get an early start on tax planning for 2014. We’re here to help! For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
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TAX CHANGES FOR 2014

Federal, State, Local and International Taxes – Welcome 2014! As the New Year rolls around, it’s always a sure bet that there will be changes to the current tax law and 2014 is no different. From health savings accounts to retirement contributions and standard deductions, here’s a checklist of tax changes to help you plan the year ahead.

Filing Season Delayed By 10 Days
Taxpayers should note that the 2014 tax season opens on Jan. 31, 2014.

In most years, the filing season opens on Jan. 21; however, due to the 16-day government shutdown that took place in October 2013, the filing season is delayed by 10 days this year. No returns, paper or electronic, will be processed by the IRS before this date.

The April 15 tax deadline is set by statute and will remain in place, although taxpayers can request an automatic six-month extension to file their tax return. If you think you need an extension, please let us know.

INDIVIDUALS
For 2014, more than 40 tax provisions are affected by inflation adjustments, including personal exemptions, AMT exemption amounts, and foreign earned income exclusion, as well as most retirement contribution limits.

For 2014, the tax rate structure, which ranges from 10 to 39.6 percent, remains the same as in 2013, but tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status. Standard deductions and the personal exemption have also been adjusted upward to reflect inflation. For details see the article, “Tax Brackets, Deductions, and Exemptions for 2014,” below.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
Exemption amounts for the AMT, which was made permanent by the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) are indexed for inflation and allow the use of nonrefundable personal credits against the AMT. For 2014, the exemption amounts are $52,800 for individuals ($51,900 in 2013) and $82,100 for married couples filing jointly ($80,800 in 2013).

“Kiddie Tax”
For taxable years beginning in 2014, the amount that can be used to reduce the net unearned income reported on the child’s return that is subject to the “kiddie tax,” is $1,000 (same as 2013). The same $1,000 amount is used to determine whether a parent may elect to include a child’s gross income in the parent’s gross income and to calculate the “kiddie tax”. For example, one of the requirements for the parental election is that a child’s gross income for 2014 must be more than $1,000 but less than $10,000.

For 2014, the net unearned income for a child under the age of 19 (or a full-time student under the age of 24) that is not subject to “kiddie tax” is $2,000.

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs)
Contributions to a Health Savings Account (HSA) are used to pay current or future medical expenses of the account owner, his or her spouse, and any qualified dependent. Medical expenses must not be reimbursable by insurance or other sources and do not qualify for the medical expense deduction on a federal income tax return.

A qualified individual must be covered by a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and not be covered by other health insurance with the exception of insurance for accidents, disability, dental care, vision care, or long-term care.

For calendar year 2014, a qualifying HDHP must have a deductible of at least $1,250 for self-only coverage or $2,500 for family coverage (unchanged from 2013) and must limit annual out-of-pocket expenses of the beneficiary to $6,350 for self-only coverage (up $100 from 2013) and $12,700 for family coverage (up $200 from 2013).

Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs)
There are two types of Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs): the Archer MSA created to help self-employed individuals and employees of certain small employers, and the Medicare Advantage MSA, which is also an Archer MSA, and is designated by Medicare to be used solely to pay the qualified medical expenses of the account holder. To be eligible for a Medicare Advantage MSA, you must be enrolled in Medicare. Both MSAs require that you are enrolled in a high deductible health plan (HDHP).
Self-only coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2014, the term “high deductible health plan” means, for self-only coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $2,200 (up $50 from 2013) and not more than $3,250 (up $50 from 2013), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $4,350 (up $50 from 2013).
Family coverage. For taxable years beginning in 2014, the term “high deductible health plan” means, for family coverage, a health plan that has an annual deductible that is not less than $4,350 (up $50 from 2013) and not more than $6,550 (up $100 from 2013), and under which the annual out-of-pocket expenses required to be paid (other than for premiums) for covered benefits do not exceed $8,000 (up $150 from 2013).

AGI Limit for Deductible Medical Expenses
In 2014, the deduction threshold for deductible medical expenses remains at 10 percent (same as 2013, but up from 7.5 percent in 2012) of adjusted gross income (AGI); however, if either you or your spouse were age 65 or older as of December 31, 2013, the new 10 percent of AGI threshold will not take effect until 2017. In other words, the 7.5 percent threshold continues to apply for tax years 2013 to 2016 for these individuals. In addition, if you or your spouse turns age 65 in 2014, 2015, or 2016, the 7.5 percent of AGI threshold applies for that year through 2016 as well. Starting in 2017, the 10 percent of AGI threshold applies to everyone.

Eligible Long-Term Care Premiums
Premiums for long-term care are treated the same as health care premiums and are deductible on your taxes subject to certain limitations. For individuals age 40 or younger at the end of 2014, the limitation is $370. Persons more than 40 but not more than 50 can deduct $700. Those more than 50 but not more than 60 can deduct $1,400, while individuals more than 60 but not more than 70 can deduct $3,720. The maximum deduction $4,660 and applies to anyone more than 70 years of age.

Medicare Taxes
The additional 0.9 percent Medicare tax on wages above $200,000 for individuals ($250,000 married filing jointly), which became effective last year, in 2013, remains in effect for 2014, as does the Medicare tax of 3.8 percent on investment (unearned) income for single taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income (AGI) more than $200,000 ($250,00 joint filers). Investment income includes dividends, interest, rents, royalties, gains from the disposition of property, and certain passive activity income. Estates, trusts and self-employed individuals are all liable for the new tax.

Foreign Earned Income Exclusion
For 2014, the foreign earned income exclusion amount is $99,200, up from $97,600 in 2013.

Long-Term Capital Gains and Dividends
In 2014 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2013 rates; however threshold amounts are indexed for inflation. As such, for taxpayers in the lower tax brackets (10 and 15 percent), the rate remains 0 percent. For taxpayers in the four middle tax brackets, 25, 28, 33, and 35 percent, the rate is 15 percent. For an individual taxpayer in the highest tax bracket, 39.6 percent, whose income is at or above $406,750 ($457,600 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent.

Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Both Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) have been permanently extended (and indexed to inflation) for taxable years beginning after December 31, 2012, and in 2014, affect taxpayers with income at or below $254,200 for single filers and $305,050 for married filing jointly.

Estate and Gift Taxes
For an estate of any decedent during calendar year 2014, the basic exclusion amount is $5,340,000, indexed for inflation (up from $5,250,000 2013). The maximum tax rate remains at 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts also remains at $14,000.

Don’t hesitate to call us if you want to get an early start on tax planning for 2014. We’re here to help! For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
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How do I know if a worker is an Independent Contractor or an Employee?

Income Tax Service For Small Businesses – The IRS distinguishes between an independent contractor and an employee. Basically, an independent contractor is an independent business person who runs his or her own business but who does work for another business. An employee is hired by a company to perform specific work at the direction of the employer.

The distinction between employees and independent contractors is important, because an employer must deduct Social Security/Medicare taxes from employees and must pay an equivalent amount to the Social Security Administration. If an individual is working as an independent contractor, the “employer” does not make Social Security/Medicare deductions, and the independent contractor must pay his or her own “self-employment taxes” along with income tax on earnings.

To help distinguish between employees and independent contractors, the IRS has set up three general criteria:
• Behavioral Control – If an employer trains and directs work, including hours of work, what tools or equipment to be used, specific tasks to be performed and how the work is to be done; the worker is likely an employee. If the worker can set his or her own hours and works with little or no direction or training, he or she is probably an independent contractor.
• Financial Control – This factor includes how the worker is paid, whether the worker may work for others at the same time, and whether the worker can incur a profit or loss. A worker, who is paid a salary, is restricted from working for others, and who does not participate in company profits or losses, is probably an employee.
• Type of Relationship – The presence of a specific contract may indicate an independent contractor, but this factor alone is not controlling. If the worker is entitled to benefits, this would indicate an employment relationship. Another factor would be the type of work the person does; if it is directly related to the company’s core work, he or she is probably an employee. For example, a maintenance worker would not be doing ‘company’ work if he or she were working for a bank.

It is important to note that the IRS assumes that a worker is an employee. It is sometimes difficult to determine the status of a worker. If you are unsure whether to classify a worker as an independent contractor or employee, you can file a Form SS-8 to request a determination.
See the IRS website for more details on this subject.

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What Factors Does the IRS Look at in Determining Independent Contractor Status?

Income Tax Service For Small Businesses – In the past, a “20 Factor Test” was used to evaluate workers to determine whether they were independent contractors or employees. These factors have been compressed into three general categories: Behavioral Control, Financial Control, and Relationship of the Parties. As you look at the factors below, you should be aware that the IRS does not look specifically at any one factor, but one factor can be enough to cause the IRS to determine that a worker is an employee. There is no “magic number” of factors which determines status. It is also important to remember that the IRS presumes.

To give you more guidance on the issues relating to independent contractors vs. employees, here is a discussion of these factors:
1. Actual instruction or direction of worker – A worker who is required to comply with instructions about when, where and how to work is ordinarily an employee. The instructions may be in the form of manuals or written procedures that show how the desired result is to be accomplished.
2. Training – Training of a worker by an experienced employee working with him by correspondence, by required attendance at meetings and by other methods is a factor indicating control by the employer over the particular method of performance.
3. Integration of Services – Integration of the person’s services in the business operations generally shows that he or she is subject to direction and control.
4. Personal Nature of Services – If the services must be rendered personally, it indicates an interest in the methods, as well as the results. Lack of control may be indicated when the person has the right to hire a substitute with the permission or knowledge of the employer.
5. Similar workers – Hiring, supervising, and payments to assistants on the same job as the worker generally show employer control over the job.
6. Continuing Relationship – The existence of a continuing relationship between an individual and the person for whom he or she performs services tends to indicate an employer-employee relationship.
7. Hours of work – The establishment of set hours of work by the employer bars the worker from being master of his own time, which is the right of the independent contractor.
8. Full-time Work – Full-time work required for the business indicates control by the employer since it restricts the worker from doing other gainful work.
9. Work on Premises – If the worker is required to do the work on the employer’s premises, employer control is implied, especially where the work is of such a nature that it could be done elsewhere.
10. Order of Performance – If the order of the performance of services is, or may be, set by the employer, control by the employer may be indicated.
11. Submitting Reports – The submission of regular oral or written reports indicates control since the worker must account for his or her actions.
12. Method of Payment – If the manner of payment is by the hour, week or month, an employer-employee relationship probably exists; whereas, payment on a commission or job basis is customary where the worker is an independent contractor.
13. Payment of Expenses – Payment of the worker’s business expenses by the employer indicates control of the worker.
14. Tools and Materials – The furnishing of tools, materials, etc., by the employer indicates control over the worker.
15. Investment – A significant investment by the worker in facilities used in performing services for another tends to show an independent status.
16. Profit or Loss – The possibility of a profit or loss for the worker as a result of services rendered generally shows independent contractor status.
17. Exclusivity of Work – Work for a number of persons at the same time often indicates independent contractor status because the worker is usually free, in such cases, from control by any of the firms.
18. Available to General Public – The availability of services to the general public usually indicates independent contractor status.
19. Right of Discharge – The right of discharge is that of an employer. An independent contractor, on the other hand, cannot be “fired” without incurring liability if he or she is producing a result that measures up to his contract specifications.
20. Right to Quit – The right to quit at any time without incurring liability indicates an employer-employee relationship.

We are always available to assist you. For no obligation free consultation contact us today!
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