The Akron Beacon Journal Betty Lin-Fisher column [The Akron Beacon Journal :: ]
(Akron Beacon Journal (OH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Feb. 15--It's that time of year again.
If you're not someone who waits until April 14 to beat the next day's tax filing deadline, you're probably already thinking about a possible refund.
Today's Business section will help you get started.
We're including stories with information as part of two days of guides on taxes. We also have experts available to answer questions. A free call-in program staffed by Certified Public Accountants and staff accountants is part of the program.
The Beacon Journal also will host an online chat for those who want to ask questions via computer or phone.
Our three call-in sessions this week are co-sponsored by the Beacon Journal and the Ohio Society of Certified Public Accountants, who recruit our volunteer experts.
The sessions will be:
--Monday: 6-8 p.m.
--Wednesday: 6-8 p.m.
--Saturday: 9 a.m. to noon
Call 330-996-3644. If you get a recording, it means lines are busy, so hang up and try again. We do not check messages and are not able to return calls.
The program is designed to be a resource for questions that can be answered quickly. Accountants are not able to walk a caller through an entire return.
A live chat will be from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday. Go online to www.ohio.com to ask a question. We are also gathering questions ahead of time to use during the chat, so you can submit a question early by emailing me at email@example.com (Put Online Tax Question in the subject line).
If you use the social media website Twitter, you can send a tweet to me using the @blinfisherABJ handle or post a question to the Akron Beacon Journal's Facebook page.
We'll monitor those accounts in the chat to gather questions, too. We might not be able to answer all queries, but there will be a transcript of the chat and all stories will be archived online at www.ohio.com/taxes.
Beware of scams
The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that it does not send emails, texts or any type of electronic media messages or phone calls to taxpayers about their accounts or asking for any personal or financial information.
The IRS also does not send unsolicited emails to claim your refund.
"The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email about their taxes. Such messages are common phishing scams. The public should be aware that the IRS does not contact taxpayers by email to alert them of pending refunds and does not ask for personal or financial information through email," the agency said in a statement.
The agency urges taxpayers receiving such messages not to release any personal information, reply, open any attachments or click on any links to avoid items that can infect their computers.
If you receive an email claiming to be from the IRS, it is recommended the message be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org. Then delete the email, using instructions posted on www.IRS.gov.
Top 10 tips
Special thanks to CPAs Doug Klein and Ed Decker, both of Akron-area firm SS&G, who have served as my advisers through the Ohio Society of CPAs for several years for our tax coverage. This year, Klein and Decker have updated what they call "Ed and Doug's Tax Tips," or a priority list for readers.
(1) Many individual tax breaks were extended last year and are still in effect for 2013 -- don't forget them.
--Deduction for certain elementary and secondary school teachers' expenses.
--An item affecting renegotiated principal residence loans.
--Mortgage insurance premiums as mortgage interest.
--Deduction for state and local general sales taxes.
--Deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses.
(2) Revise your Form W-4 (Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificates), especially higher income earners with two breadwinners earning more than $250,000 combined in the same household.
New tax brackets and a new 0.9 percent Medicare tax on high wage earners might make your old W-4 out of date and cause underpayments of tax.
(3) Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). You have to calculate the AMT. Most software programs do it automatically, and incorporate the higher exemption that was passed ($80,800 for marrieds filing jointly). But taxpayers preparing returns by hand must prepare Form 6251 to see if you owe the AMT.
(4) Tax credits were extended, too.
The IRS won't automatically tell you that you forgot to include them. Some of the more common are:
--Employer wage credit for employees who are active military service members.
--Work opportunity tax credit -- Form 5884 -- for certain employee wage situations.
--New markets tax credit -- Form 8874 -- for investors in what are called community development entities (CDEs).
--Adoption expense, up to $12,970 maximum.
--Child and dependent care.
(5) Energy efficient tax breaks extended. For those who have not used the $500 lifetime cap, energy efficient improvements for homes are still available.
(6) Small businesses may continue to write off equipment purchases rather than depreciate them over time. It goes up to $500,000, or take 50 percent (the so-called bonus depreciation) for qualifying property.
(7) College tuition and related expenses: tax credit and deduction extended. Lifetime Learning, American Opportunity Tax credits are claimed on Form 8863 for the credit and 8917 for the deduction. You determine which is best -- including the Ohio tax impact since the deduction also reduces Ohio tax. A tax credit is usually worth more than a deduction.
(8) Small business health insurance credit. Employers with fewer than 25 full-time equivalent workers and who make less than $50,000 per year on average might qualify for the tax credit computed on Form 8941.
(9) Gift and estate changes. You can donate up to $14,000 without filing a gift tax return. The estate tax threshold for 2013 is $5.25 million, indexed for inflation with the top rate at now 40 percent rather than 35 percent.
(10) Earned Income Credit. This is available to low and moderate income workers and often overlooked. The credit amount varies depending on the earnings and the number of qualifying children. It applies to individuals and families who have earned income of $51,567 or less. The IRS has upgraded the interactive EITC Assistant online at www.irs.gov/eitc.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/blinfisherABJ and see all her stories at www.ohio.com/betty
(c)2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
Visit the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio) at www.ohio.com
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