Eight Tax-Time Errors to Avoid

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If you make a mistake on your tax return, it usually takes the IRS longer to process it. The IRS may have to contact you about that mistake before your return is processed. This will delay the receipt of your tax refund.

The IRS reminds filers that e-filing their tax return greatly lowers the chance of errors. In fact, taxpayers are about twenty times more likely to make a mistake on their return if they file a paper return instead of e-filing their return.

Here are eight common errors to avoid:

1. Wrong or missing Social Security numbers. Be sure you enter SSNs for yourself and others on your tax return exactly as they are on the Social Security cards.

2. Names wrong or misspelled. Be sure you enter names of all individuals on your tax return exactly as they are on their Social Security cards.

3. Filing status errors. Choose the right filing status. There are five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) With Dependent Child. See Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information, to help you choose the right one. E-filing your tax return will also help you choose the right filing status.

4. Math mistakes. If you file a paper tax return, double check the math. If you e-file, the software does the math for you. For example, if your Social Security benefits are taxable, check to ensure you figured the taxable portion correctly.

5. Errors in figuring credits, deductions. Take your time and read the instructions in your tax booklet carefully. Many filers make mistakes figuring their Earned Income Tax Credit, Child and Dependent Care Credit and the standard deduction. For example, if you are age 65 or older or blind check to make sure you claim the correct, larger standard deduction amount.

6. Wrong bank account numbers. Direct deposit is the fast, easy and safe way to receive your tax refund. Make sure you enter your bank routing and account numbers correctly.

7. Forms not signed, dated. An unsigned tax return is like an unsigned check – it’s invalid. Remember both spouses must sign a joint return.

8. Electronic signature errors. If you e-file your tax return, you will sign the return electronically using a Personal Identification Number. For security purposes, the software will ask you to enter the Adjusted Gross Income from your originally-filed 2011 federal tax return. Do not use the AGI amount from an amended 2011 return or an AGI provided to you if the IRS corrected your return. You may also use last year’s PIN if you e-filed last year and remember your PIN.

For tax needs feel free to contact us at 314-993-4285.

Ten Things to Know about Farm Income and Deductions

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If you earn money managing or working on a farm, you are in the farming business. Farms include plantations, ranches, ranges and orchards. Farmers may raise livestock, poultry or fish, or grow fruits or vegetables. Here are 10 things about farm income and expenses that the IRS wants you to know.

1. Crop insurance proceeds. Insurance payments from crop damage count as income. They should generally be reported the year they are received.

2. Deductible farm expenses. Farmers can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses as business expenses. An ordinary farming expense is one that is common and accepted in the farming business. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for that business.

3. Employees and hired help. You can deduct reasonable wages you paid to your farm’s full and part-time workers. You must withhold Social Security, Medicare and income taxes from your employees’ wages.

4. Items purchased for resale. If you purchased livestock and other items for resale, you may be able to deduct their cost in the year of the sale. This includes freight charges for transporting livestock to your farm.

5. Repayment of loans. You can only deduct the interest you paid on a loan if the loan proceeds are used for your farming business. You cannot deduct interest on a loan used for personal expenses.

6. Weather-related sales. Bad weather may force you to sell more livestock or poultry than you normally would. If so, you may be able to postpone reporting a gain from the sale of the additional animals.

7. Net operating losses. If deductible expenses are more than income for the year, you may have a net operating loss. You can carry that loss over to other years and deduct it. You may get a refund of part or all of the income tax you paid for past years, or you may be able to reduce your tax in future years.

8. Farm income averaging. You may be able to average some or all of the current year’s farm income by spreading it out over the past three years. This may lower your taxes if your farm income is high in the current year and low in one or more of the past three years. This method does not change your prior year tax. It only uses the prior year information to figure your current year tax.Things to Know.

9. Fuel and road use. You may be able to claim a tax credit or refund of federal excise taxes on fuel used on your farm for farm work.

10. Farmers Tax Guide. More information about farm income and deductions is in Publication 225, Farmer’s Tax Guide. You can download it at IRS.gov, or call the IRS at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to have it mailed to you.

Nine Tips on Deducting Charitable Contributions

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Giving to charity may make you feel good and help you lower your tax bill. The IRS offers these nine tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

1. If you want a tax deduction, you must donate to a qualified charitable organization. You cannot deduct contributions you make to either an individual, a political organization or a political candidate

2. You must file Form 1040 and itemize your deductions on Schedule A. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is more than $500, you must also file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, with your tax return.

3. If you receive a benefit of some kind in return for your contribution, you can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit you received. Examples of benefits you may receive in return for your contribution include merchandise, tickets to an event or other goods and services.

4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at fair market value. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.

5. Fair market value is generally the price at which someone can sell the property.

6. You must have a written record about your donation in order to deduct any cash gift, regardless of the amount. Cash contributions include those made by check or other monetary methods. That written record can be a written statement from the organization, a bank record or a payroll deduction record that substantiates your donation. That documentation should include the name of the organization, the date and amount of the contribution. A telephone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.

7. To claim a deduction for gifts of cash or property worth $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the qualified organization. The statement must show the amount of the cash or a description of any property given. It must also state whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

8. You may use the same document to meet the requirement for a written statement for cash gifts and the requirement for a written acknowledgement for contributions of $250 or more.

9. If you donate one item or a group of similar items that are valued at more than $5,000, you must also complete Section B of Form 8283. This section generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser

Top Six Tax Tips for the Self-Employed

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When you are self-employed, it typically means you work for yourself, as an independent contractor, or own your own business. Here are six key points the IRS would like you to know about self-employment and self-employment taxes:

1. Self-employment income can include pay that you receive for part-time work you do out of your home. This could include income you earn in addition to your regular job.

2. Self-employed individuals file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with their Form 1040.

3. If you are self-employed, you generally have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. You figure this tax using Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax.

4. If you are self-employed you may have to make estimated tax payments. People typically make estimated tax payments to pay taxes on income that is not subject to withholding. If you do not make estimated tax payments, you may have to pay a penalty when you file your income tax return. The underpayment of estimated tax penalty applies if you do not pay enough taxes during the year.

5. When you file your tax return, you can deduct some business expenses for the costs you paid to run your trade or business. You can deduct most business expenses in full, but some costs must be ‘capitalized.’ This means you can deduct a portion of the expense each year over a period of years.

6. You may deduct only the costs that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business.

Charity Benefits People and Your Wallet- Youth Opportunity Tax Credits

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The season of giving not only provides benefits to the receivers, but also for people who give this year.

The state of Missouri has recently introduced Youth Opportunity Program Tax Credits. YOPs are designed for programs that broaden and strengthen opportunities for positive development and participation in community life for youth.  Fund raising through the YOP eligible gifts will directly support low-income families.

So, for those of you who are unaware of what a tax credit is we thought it might be a benefit to explain.  A tax credit is actually different from a tax deduction, which works by lowering taxable income, tax credits are a direct reduction of your taxes due.  With tax credits, you have a chance to reduce the amount you owe to the state.

Tax credits are Youth Opportunity Tax Credits are a 50% dollar for dollar deduction from your Missouri State Income Tax. Whether it be individual, business, insurance or banking income.  That means that whatever you give to the charitable institutional, 50% of your contribution comes off of what you owe the state in taxes.

For instance, if you contribute $10,000 to a charity eligible for the YOP tax credit, $5000 of it will be saved in Missouri State Taxes. Even better, this tax credit is in addition to your Federal Tax Deduction.

There are over 60 youth-based organizations in the state of Missouri who participate in the Youth Opportunity Program.  To view a list of these organizations and find out how you can participate, please click here.

For more information on how the YOP tax credit can benefit you and your wallet, please contact Hauk Kruse & Associates for more information at 314-993-4285 or click here to visit our website.