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Tax Tips For Individuals


 Tax Incentives for Higher Education
The tax code provides a variety of tax incentives for families who are paying higher education costs or are repaying student loans. You may be able to claim an American Opportunity Credit or Lifetime Learning Credit for the qualified tuition and related expenses of the students in your family who are enrolled in eligible educational institutions.


 Check Withholding to Avoid a Tax Surprise
If you owed tax last year or received a large refund you may want to adjust your tax withholding. Owing tax at the end of the year could result in penalties being assessed.


 5 Tips For Early Preparation
Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes. The IRS encourages everyone to get a head start on tax preparation. Not only do you avoid the last-minute rush, early filers also get a faster refund.

Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes. The IRS encourages everyone to get a head start on tax preparation. Not only do you avoid the last-minute rush, early filers also get a faster refund. 

There are five easy ways to get a good jump on your taxes long before the April 15 deadline rolls around:

1. Gather your records in advance. Make sure you have all the records you need, including W-2s and 1099s. Don’t forget to save a copy for your files.
2. Get the right forms. They’re available around the clock on IRS.gov in the Forms and Publications section.
3. Take your time. Don’t forget to leave room for a coffee break when filling out your tax return. Rushing can mean making a mistake — and that can be expensive!
4. Double-check your math and Social Security number. These are among the most common errors on tax returns. Taking care on these reduces your chances of hearing from the IRS.
5. Get the fastest refund. When you file early, you get your refund faster. Using e-filing with direct deposit gets you a refund in half the time as paper filing.


 Amended Returns
Oops! You've discovered an error after your tax return has been filed. What should you do? You may need to amend your return.


 Ayuda en Espanol
If you need federal tax information, the IRS provides free Spanish language products and services. Pages on the IRS.gov, pre-recorded tax topics, refund information, tax publications and toll-free telephone assistance are all available in the Spanish-language.


 Filing an Extension
If you can't meet the April 15 deadline to file your tax return, you can get an automatic six month extension of time to file from the IRS. The extension will give you extra time to get the paperwork in to the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You will owe interest on any amounts not paid by the April deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have paid less than 90 percent of your total tax by that date.


 Car Donations
The IRS reminds taxpayers that the rules for taking a tax deduction for donating cars to charities have changed. The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 has altered the rules for the contribution of used motor vehicles, boats and planes after Dec. 31, 2004.


 Charitable Contributions
When preparing to file your federal tax return, don't forget your contributions to charitable organizations. Your donations can add up to a nice tax deduction if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.


 Hybrid Vehicles
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 replaced the clean-fuel burning deduction with a tax credit known as the Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit. The tax credit for hybrid vehicles applies to vehicles purchased or placed in service on or after January 1, 2006.


 Earned Income Tax Credit for Certain Workers
Millions of Americans forgo critical tax relief each year by failing to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a federal tax credit for individuals who work but do not earn high incomes. Taxpayers who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund.


 Refinancing Your Home
Taxpayers who refinanced their homes may be eligible to deduct some costs associated with their loans.


 Credit for the Elderly or Disabled
You may be able to take the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled if you were age 65 or older at the end of last year, or if you are retired on permanent and total disability, according to the IRS.


 Selling Your Home
If you sold your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly) from your federal tax return.


 Foreign Income
With more and more United States citizens earning money from foreign sources, the IRS reminds people that they must report all such income on their tax return, unless it is exempt under federal law. U.S. citizens are taxed on their worldwide income.


 Deductible Taxes
Did you know that you may be able to deduct certain taxes on your federal income tax return? The IRS says you can if you file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A. Deductions decrease the amount of income subject to taxation.


 Gift Giving
If you gave any one person gifts valued at more than $14,000, it is necessary to report the total gift to the Internal Revenue Service. You may even have to pay tax on the gift.


 Marriage or Divorce
Newlyweds and the recently divorced should make sure that names on their tax returns match those registered with the Social Security Administration (SSA). A mismatch between a name on the tax return and a Social Security number (SSN) could unexpectedly increase a tax bill or reduce the size of any refund.


 Deduction of State and Local Taxes
If you itemize your taxes, you may choose to deduct state and local sales taxes instead of state and local income taxes. The American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 gives taxpayers this option for this year's tax returns.


 Filing Deadline and Payment Options
If you're trying to beat the tax deadline, there are several options for last-minute help. If you need a form or publication, you can download copies here. If you find you need more time to finish your return, you can get a six month extension of time to file using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. And if you have trouble paying your tax bill, the IRS has several payment options available.


 Refund, Where's My Refund?
Are you expecting a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service this year? If you file a complete and accurate paper tax return, your refund should be issued in about six to eight weeks from the date IRS receives your return. If you file your return electronically, your refund should be issued in about half the time it would take if you filed a paper return even faster when you choose direct deposit.


 Ten Ways to Avoid Problems at Tax Time
Looking for ways to avoid the last-minute rush for doing your taxes? The IRS offers these tips.

1. Don't Procrastinate. Resist the temptation to put off your taxes until the last minute. Your haste to meet the filing deadline may cause you to overlook potential sources of tax savings and will likely increase your risk of making an error.
2. Organize Your Tax Records. Tax preparation time can be significantly reduced if you develop a system for organizing your records and receipts. Start with the income, deduction or tax credit items that were on last year’s return.
3. Visit the IRS Online. Millions of taxpayers visited the IRS Web site last year, downloading nearly 600 million forms, publications and a variety of topic-oriented tax information. Anyone with Internet access can find tax law information and answers to frequently asked tax questions.
4. Take Advantage of Free Assistance. The IRS offers recorded messages on about 150 tax topics through its toll-free TeleTax service at 1-800-829-4477. It also offers federal tax forms and publications at 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). Some libraries, post offices, banks, grocery stores, copy centers and office supply stores carry the most widely requested forms and instructions. Libraries may also have reference sets of IRS publications.

The IRS also staffs a tax Help Line for Individuals at 1-800-829-1040. Help for small businesses, corporations, partnerships and trusts which need information or assistance preparing business returns is available at the Business and Specialty Tax Line at 1-800-829-4933. Both lines are staffed from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. weekdays. In addition, the Help Line for Individuals is available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays though April. All times are local, except in Alaska and Hawaii, which should use Pacific Time.

Hearing-impaired individuals with access to TTY/TDD equipment may call 1-800-829-4059 to ask questions or to order forms and publications.
5. Use IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers and Volunteer Programs. Free tax help is available at IRS offices nationwide. Also, check your newspaper or local IRS office to find locations for Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly sites. To obtain the location, dates, and hours of the VITA or TCE volunteer site closest to you, call the IRS toll-free Tax Help Line for Individuals at 1-800-829-1040. Check this Web site to find the local IRS office nearest you.
6. Have your accountant Double-Check Your Math and Data Entries. Review your return for possible math errors and make sure you have provided the names and correct (and legibly written) Social Security or other identification numbers for yourself, your spouse and your dependents.
7. Have Your Refund Deposited Directly to Your Bank Account. Another way to speed up your refund and reduce the chance of theft is to have the amount deposited directly to your bank account. Check the tax instructions for details on entering the routing and account numbers on your tax return. Make sure the numbers you enter are correct. Wrong numbers can cause your refund to be misdirected or delayed.
8. Don't Panic if You Can't Pay. If you can’t immediately pay the taxes you owe, consider some stress-reducing alternatives. You can apply for an IRS installment agreement, suggesting your own monthly payment amount and due date, and getting a reduced late payment penalty rate. You also have various options for charging your balance on a credit card, either as part of an electronic return or directly through a processing agent, either by phone or online.

Electronic filers with a balance due can file early and authorize the government’s financial agent to take the money directly from their checking or savings account on the April 15 due date, with no fee.

Note that if you file your tax return or a request for a filing extension on time, even if you can’t pay, you avoid potential late filing penalties.
9. Have Your Accountant Request an Extension of Time to File — But Pay on Time. If the clock runs out, you can get an automatic six-month extension of time to file, to October 15. An extension of time to file does not give you an extension of time to pay, however. You can call 1-888-796-1074, e-file a Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File, that is included in most tax preparation software, or send a paper Form 4868 to the IRS to request the extension. You will need the adjusted gross income and total tax amounts from last year's return if you request the extension by computer or phone. You may also get an extension by charging your expected balance on a credit card, and then you won’t have to file the form. Contact Official Payments Corporation or Link2Gov Corporation. There is no IRS fee for credit card payments, but the processors charge a convenience fee.
10. Contact Us!


 The Tax Advocate Service, Provided by the IRS
Have you tried everything to resolve a tax problem with the IRS but are still experiencing delays? Are you facing what you consider to be an economic burden or hardship due to IRS collection or other actions? If so, you can seek the assistance of the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
 Tips and Taxes
Do you work at a hair salon, barber shop, casino, golf course, hotel or restaurant or drive a taxicab? The tip income you receive as an employee from those services is taxable income, advises the IRS.


* Please consult with your tax adviser before making a final decision as some information may have changed due to IRS rulings.


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