Tax FAQs

What do I do if I receive a notice from the IRS about my taxes?
Don’t panic! the first thing to do is carefully read the notice—to determine why it was sent, what the IRS is requesting, and what they want you to do. It may be nothing of importance; it may even be a notice in your favor. After reading it you should bring it to our attention.

What do I need to bring when I am having my taxes prepared?
Following is a list of the more common items you should bring if you have them.
- Wage statements (Form W-2)
- Pension, or retirement income (Forms 1099-R)
- Dependents' Social Security numbers and dates of birth
- Last year's tax return
- Information on education expenses
- Information on the sales of stocks and/or bonds
- Self-employed business income and expenses
- Lottery and/or gambling winnings and losses
- State refund amount
- Social Security and/or unemployment income
- Income and expenses from rentals
- Record of purchase or sale of real estate
- Medical and dental expenses
- Real estate and personal property taxes
- Estimated taxes or foreign taxes paid
- Cash and non-cash charitable donations
- Mortgage or home equity loan interest paid (Form 1098)
- Unreimbursed employment-related expenses
- Job-related educational expenses
- Child care expenses and provider information And any other items that you think may be necessary for your taxes.

How do I find out about my refund?
The best way is to use the Check Your Refund link from the Resources pages of our website! To look up the status of your federal or state refund, you will need your social security number, filing status, and exact amount you’re expecting back.


How long do I keep my records and tax returns?
You should keep your records and tax returns for at least 3 years from the date the return was filed or the date the return was required to be filed, whichever is later. It is recommended that you keep these records longer if possible.

What college expenses may I deduct?
There are several ways you can claim deductions for college expenses on your tax return. They are the tuition deduction, the HOPE credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. If we are preparing your return we will determine which ones you qualify for and which one gives you the greatest tax benefit.

What medical expenses are deductible?
A deduction is allowed only for expenses paid for the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness. Medical care expenses include payments for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or treatment affecting any structure or function of the body. Except for insulin, only prescription drugs are deductible. The cost of health insurance is deductible. You may also deduct the cost of traveling to and from the care provider. You can deduct only the part of your medical and dental expenses that exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

What do I need to keep for my charitable contributions?


First, is your contribution cash or non-cash?

 

 

All contributions must be made to qualified charitable organizations.


If I donate my vehicle to charity, how much can I deduct on my tax return?
In the past there were a lot of charities asking you to donate your car, and there were a lot overinflated appraisals of the fair market value for these vehicles. But recently the IRS has gotten stricter on the way you determine the value of your car. Now you must claim the actual amount the charity received at an auction to sell the car, and the charity should give you timely acknowledgment to claim the deduction. If the vehicle is actually used by the charity instead of sold at auction, then you may claim the vehicle's fair market value.

I received tax statements from my employer or bank after I filed my tax return. What should I do?
If we filed your return, bring the new tax documents to our office. We will determine if it is necessary for you to file an amended return.

What is an amended return, and when should I file one?
An amended return is simply a return filed with the IRS and/or state because of an error or an omission on your original return. You should file an amended return if there is a material difference between the original return and your new changes. As of now, an amended return cannot be electronically filed, and any expected refunds will take longer to receive than the original return (2-3 months, according to the IRS). Generally to claim a refund, your amended return must be filed within 3 years from the date of your original return or within 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.

I haven’t been filing my tax returns what should I do?
First, you must determine if you were required to file in the years you did not file. There are many different items that could figure into this—such as your filing status, your sources of income, whether you had any tax withheld, etc. This is a link to the IRS instructions for filing requirements for 2007: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96623,00.html. If you determine you should have filed, contact us and we can handle all of your prior year filings. It is very important that you do not just continue to not file. If you owe money the penalties for not filing are high. If you are owed a refund you will lose your claim to it 3 years after the due date of the return.

Is my social security taxable?
Usually if your income including social security benefits is less than $25,000 if single or $32,000 if married, your benefits are not taxable. If your income is higher than those limits, there are formulas to determine what percentage of your social security is taxable. Currently up to 85% of your social security may be taxable.

When can I make contributions to my IRA?
Generally for any tax year, you can make a contribution to your IRA up until the original due date of the return (usually April 15). Thus for tax year 2007, you can make contributions from January 1, 2007 through April 15, 2008.

I donate my time and drive for charity wearing a uniform. What may I deduct?
If you drive to and from volunteer work, you may deduct either the actual cost of gas and oil or a standard amount of 14 cents per mile. Please note that any mileage reimbursement in excess of 14 cents per mile must be treated as income. You may also deduct the cost of buying and cleaning uniforms if the uniforms are not suitable for everyday use, and you must wear them when volunteering. You may not claim a deduction for the value of your time.

What are the tax consequences of selling a home?
If you sell your personal residence you can totally exclude from income up to $250,000 of gain if you are single, or $500,000 if married, regardless of your age at the time of the sale—if during the 5 years before the sale you owned the home and lived in it for a total of any 24 months. The exclusion is not a one-time election; instead it is available once every 2 years. Recent tax law has adversely changed the handling of gains on the sale of a home if you rented the property before you made it your personal residence. Please contact our office if you believe this situation will affect you.

How does getting married affect my taxes?
When you get married you will have the option of filing a joint tax return. In this case the one return will report the income and deductions of both spouses. The IRS has eliminated most cases where you would have saved taxes by remaining single. You also have the option to file as married filing separately, but in most cases this will increase your taxes.

Do I have to file a joint return with my spouse?


No, you can file either as married filing joint or married filing separate. If you file separately your taxes will most likely be higher. Many credits—such as earned income, education (Hope and lifetime learning), and child care—are not allowed when you file separately.

 

There are special circumstances where people who are married but either do not want to or cannot file with their spouse can file as Head of Household, which therefore entitles them to these credits and a lower tax bracket. In order to qualify as a Head of Household you must meet the following conditions

§  You lived apart from your spouse for the last six months of the tax year. Temporary absences for special circumstances, such as for business, medical care, school, or military service, count as time lived in the home.

§  You filed a separate return from your spouse.

§  You paid over half the cost of keeping up your home for 2008.

§  Your home was the main home of your child for over half of the year.

§  You can claim this child as your dependent.

 

If you do not meet all these conditions but are legally separated as of the last day of the year, you may also qualify to file as single.


My employer tells me I will receive a 1099. What does this mean for my taxes?
When you receive a 1099, it means you are considered an independent contractor. You will not have any withholding or payroll taxes deducted from your pay. You should keep track of all business expenses and a journal of your mileage driven for work. If the amount you expect to receive is substantial, you should probably be making estimated tax payments. Please contact us if you have any questions about this.

Can I deduct expenses for a business run out of my home?


If you use a portion of your home for business purposes, you may be able to take a home office deduction whether you are self-employed or an employee. Expenses you may be able to deduct for business use of your home may include the business portion of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance, depreciation, painting, and repairs.

You can claim this deduction only if you use a part of your home regularly and exclusively:

Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home that you used for business. Your deduction will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

I owe the IRS money. What are my options?


If you can afford to pay the amount you owe, it should be paid. But many times that is not the case. If you cannot afford to pay, you have several options. Ignoring the IRS should not be one of them!