Top Ten Tips for Last Minute Filers

With the tax filing deadline close at hand, here are the top 10 tips the IRS wants you to know if you are still working on your federal tax return.

  1. E-file your return Don’t miss out on the benefits of e-file. Your tax return will get processed quickly if you use e-file. If there is an error on your return, it will typically be identified and can be corrected right away. E-file is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, from the convenience of your own home. If you file electronically and choose to have your tax refund deposited directly into your bank account, you will have your money in as few as 10 days. Two out of three taxpayers, 95 million, already get the benefits of e-file.
  2. Review tax ID numbers Remember to carefully check all identification numbers on your return. Incorrect or illegible Social Security Numbers can delay or reduce a tax refund.
  3. Double-check your figures Whether you are filing electronically or by paper, review all the amounts you transferred over from your Forms W-2 or 1099.
  4. Review your math Taxpayers filing paper returns should also double-check that they have correctly figured the refund or balance due and have used the right figure from the tax table.
  5. Sign and date your return Both spouses must sign a joint return, even if only one had income. Anyone paid to prepare a return must also sign it.
  6. Choose Direct Deposit To receive your refund quicker, select Direct Deposit and the IRS will deposit your refund directly into your bank account.
  7. How to make a payment People sending a payment should make the check out to “United States Treasury” and should enclose it with, but not attach it to, the tax return or the Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, if used. Write your name, address, SSN, telephone number, tax year and form number on the check or money order. If you file electronically, you can file and pay in a single step by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal. Whether you file a paper return or file electronically, you can pay by phone or online using a credit or debit card. Visit IRS.gov for more information on payment options.
  8. File an extension Taxpayers who will not be able to file a return by the April 15 deadline should request an extension of time to file. Remember, the extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay.
  9. Visit the IRS Web site anytime of the day or night IRS.gov has forms, publications and helpful information on a variety of tax subjects.
  10. Review your return…one more time Before you seal the envelope or hit send, go over all the information on your return again. Errors may delay the processing of your return, so it’s best for you to make sure everything on your return is correct.

Ten Tips for Taxpayers Contributing to an Individual Retirement Plan

If you haven’t made all the contributions to your traditional Individual Retirement Arrangement that you want to make – don’t worry, you may still have time. Here are the top 10 things the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about setting aside retirement money in an IRA.

  1. You may be able to deduct some or all of your contributions to your IRA. You may also be eligible for the Savers Credit formally known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit.
  2. Contributions can be made to your traditional IRA at any time during the year or by the due date for filing your return for that year, not including extensions. For most people, this means contributions for 2009 must be made by April 15, 2010. Additionally, if you make a contribution between Jan. 1 and April 15, you should designate the year targeted for that contribution.
  3. The funds in your IRA are generally not taxed until you receive distributions from that IRA.
  4. Use the worksheets in the instructions for either Form 1040A or Form 1040 to figure your deduction for IRA contributions.
  5. For 2009, the most that can be contributed to your traditional IRA is generally the smaller of the following amounts: $5,000 or $6,000 for taxpayers who are 50 or older or the amount of your taxable compensation for the year.
  6. Use Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to determine whether you are also eligible for a tax credit equal to a percentage of your contribution.
  7. You must use either Form 1040A or Form 1040 to claim the Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contribution or if you deduct an IRA contribution.
  8. You must be under age 70 1/2 at the end of the tax year in order to contribute to a traditional IRA.
  9. You must have taxable compensation, such as wages, salaries, commissions, tips, bonuses, or net income from self-employment to contribute to an IRA. If you file a joint return, generally only one of you needs to have taxable compensation, however, see Spousal IRA Limits in IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements for additional rules.
  10. Refer to IRS Publication 590, for more information on contributing to your IRA account.

Ten Tips for Deducting Charitable Contributions

When preparing to file your federal tax return, don’t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. If you made qualified donations last year, you may be able to take a tax deduction if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.

The IRS has put together the following 10 tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

  1. Contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You cannot deduct contributions made to specific individuals, political organizations and candidates.
  2. You cannot deduct the value of your time or services. Nor can you deduct the cost of raffles, bingo or other games of chance.
  3. If your contributions entitle you to merchandise, goods or services, including admission to a charity ball, banquet, theatrical performance or sporting event, you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.
  4. Donations of stock or other property are usually valued at the fair market value of the property. Special rules apply to donation of vehicles.
  5. Clothing and household items donated must generally be in good used condition or better to be deductible.
  6. Regardless of the amount, to deduct a contribution of cash, check, or other monetary gift, you must maintain a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written communication from the organization containing the name of the organization, the date of the contribution and amount of the contribution. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the organization receiving your donation, the date of the contribution, and the amount given.
  7. To claim a deduction for contributions of cash or property equaling $250 or more you must have a bank record, payroll deduction records or a written acknowledgment from the qualified organization showing the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift. One document may satisfy both the written communication requirement for monetary gifts and the written acknowledgement requirement for all contributions of $250 or more.
  8. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is over $500, you must complete and attach IRS Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, to your return.
  9. Taxpayers donating an item or a group of similar items valued at more than $5,000 must also complete Section B of Form 8283, which requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.
  10. To deduct a charitable contribution, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A.

Ten Things the IRS Wants You to Know About Identity Theft

Criminals use many methods to steal personal information from taxpayers. They can use your information to steal your identity and file a tax return in order to receive a refund. Here are 10 things the IRS wants you to know about identity theft so you can avoid becoming the victim of a scam artist.

  1. Identity thieves get your personal information by many different means, including stealing a wallet or purse or accessing information you provide to an unsecured Internet site. They even look for personal information in your trash. They also pose as someone who needs information through a phone call or e-mail.
  2. The IRS does not initiate contact with a taxpayer by e-mail.
  3. If you receive an e-mail scam, forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.
  4. If you receive a letter from the IRS leading you to believe your identity has been stolen, respond immediately to the name, address or phone number on the IRS notice.
  5. Your identity may be stolen if a letter from the IRS indicates more than one tax return was filed for you or the letter states you received wages from an employer you don’t know.
  6. If your Social Security number is stolen, it may be used by another individual to get a job. That person’s employer would report income earned to the IRS using your Social Security number, making it appear that you did not report all of your income on your tax return.
  7. If your tax records are not currently affected by identity theft, but you believe you may be at risk due to a lost wallet, questionable credit card activity, or credit report, you need to provide the IRS with proof of your identity. You should submit a copy of your valid government-issued identification – such as a Social Security card, driver’s license, or passport – along with a copy of a police report and/or a completed Form 14039, IRS Identity Theft Affidavit.
  8. Show your Social Security card to your employer when you start a job or to your financial institution for tax reporting purposes. Do not routinely carry your card or other documents that display your SSN.
  9. If you have previously been in contact with the IRS and have not achieved a resolution, please contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit, toll-free at 1-800-908-4490.
  10. For more information about identity theft – including information about how to report identity theft, phishing and related fraudulent activity – visit the IRS Identity Theft Resource Page, which you can find by typing “Identity Theft” in the search box on the IRS.gov home page.

Two New Tax Benefits Aid Employers Who Hire and Retain Unemployed Workers

WASHINGTON — Two new tax benefits are now available to employers hiring workers who were previously unemployed or only working part time. These provisions are part of the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act enacted into law today.

Employers who hire unemployed workers this year (after Feb. 3, 2010 and before Jan. 1, 2011) may qualify for a 6.2-percent payroll tax incentive, in effect exempting them from their share of Social Security taxes on wages paid to these workers after the date of enactment. This reduced tax withholding will have no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits, and employers would still need to withhold the employee’s 6.2-percent share of Social Security taxes, as well as income taxes. The employer and employee’s shares of Medicare taxes would also still apply to these wages.

In addition, for each worker retained for at least a year, businesses may claim an additional general business tax credit, up to $1,000 per worker, when they file their 2011 income tax returns.

“These tax breaks offer a much-needed boost to employers willing to expand their payrolls, and businesses and nonprofits should keep these benefits in mind as they plan for the year ahead,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.

The two tax benefits are especially helpful to employers who are adding positions to their payrolls. New hires filling existing positions also qualify but only if the workers they are replacing left voluntarily or for cause. Family members and other relatives do not qualify.

In addition, the new law requires that the employer get a statement from each eligible new hire certifying that he or she was unemployed during the 60 days before beginning work or, alternatively, worked fewer than a total of 40 hours for someone else during the 60-day period. The IRS is currently developing a form employees can use to make the required statement.

Businesses, agricultural employers, tax-exempt organizations and public colleges and universities all qualify to claim the payroll tax benefit for eligible newly-hired employees. Household employers cannot claim this new tax benefit.

Employers claim the payroll tax benefit on the federal employment tax return they file, usually quarterly, with the IRS. Eligible employers will be able to claim the new tax incentive on their revised employment tax form for the second quarter of 2010. Revised forms and further details on these two new tax provisions will be posted on IRS.gov during the next few weeks.