Friday, January 20, 2012

It's time to get ready for TAX TIME

Happy New Year!   We hope you had a happy, healthy and prosperous 2011 and we look forward to seeing you at your upcoming tax appointment.  This issue of the newsletter contains a Tax Checklist to help you organize your tax documents and some frequently overlooked tax deductions that might help reduce your tax bill.  Whenever we talk about taxes, the following caveats apply:  “It depends,” and “these deductions may not apply to all taxpayers.”  If you have any questions about these or any other tax-related matters, please let us know when you call to schedule your appointment.  We look forward to seeing you soon!
Charitable contributions:  In addition to the usual cash donations that you have made throughout the year, you may be able to deduct the cost of using your vehicle if you volunteer your time or provide a service to a qualified charitable, educational or nonprofit organization. 
There are two options available for claiming vehicle expenses and, naturally, the IRS requires you to have “reliable written records” for either method:
To use the standard charitable mileage rate of 14¢ per mile, your records must show the name of the organization, the dates you drove your car for your charitable work and the number of miles driven. 
To use the actual vehicle expenses, your records must show the costs of operating your vehicle that directly relate to your volunteer work.  
You can also deduct parking fees and tolls regardless of which method is used. 
So, if you are a scout leader, a Red Cross volunteer, spend a few hours helping out at the local Food Bank or are actively involved with your religious organization, your vehicle expenses may increase your charitable contribution deduction.
In addition to volunteer miles driven, you may have spent money out of your own pocket within the scope of your volunteer work.  These expenses might include office supplies, uniforms, and even travel expenses if you were away from home while performing your charitable service.  These documentation requirements for out-of-pocket expenses apply: 
You must have “adequate records” to prove the amount of the expenses.
You must obtain an acknowledgement from the organization before you file your tax return that contains a description of the services you provide, a statement that says you were not reimbursed for the expenses, and that you receive no tangible (other than religious) benefit from the organization.
The final point under the category of charitable contributions, is simply a reminder regarding noncash contributions:  In recent years the IRS has stiffened the required documentation for donations of clothing and other household items to nonprofit organizations like the Salvation Army or the Goodwill Industries.  “Three bags of clothing” or “two boxes of books” is not an adequate description of the donated items to claim the deduction.  You must have a list of the donated items along with the fair market value you have placed on those items, and some form of receipt or acknowledgement from the organization.
Here are a few handy websites to help you evaluate your noncash items:
Two different Salvation Army evaluation guides can be found here:

You can download an evaluation guide from the yellow box in the middle of this Goodwill Industries web page:

This link contains Blue Book valuations for different categories of noncash donations from television sets and computers to guns, musical instruments, power tools and more:

Medical Expenses:  In addition to the usual deductions for out-of-pocket medical expenses like prescriptions, copays, dental work and glasses, you may also be able to deduct the amount that you pay for medical insurance premiums.  The deduction is not just limited to medical, hospitalization and prescription plans, it can also include dental, optical (including contact lens replacement coverage), and certain qualified long-term care plans.  Also, the amounts you pay for Medicare Part B and D, and in some cases, Part A, are also deductible insurance premiums. 

 As with the deduction for charitable miles, there is also a deduction for medical miles and the same two choices apply:  the standard medical mileage rate or actual expenses.  Be aware that the medical mileage rate for 2011 changed in mid-year!  For medical miles driven from January 1 to June 30, the rate is 19¢ per mile; From July 1 – December 31, the rate is 23.5¢ per mile.  You can also deduct parking fees and tolls regardless of which method is used for car expenses.

Looking back to 2011, it’s been a relatively quiet year for tax changes, and we can all appreciate that!  Congress passed the two-month extension of the Social Security tax reduction and will consider a longer extension when it reconvenes early in 2012.

Tax Checklist
This form is to assist you in gathering your income tax information.  Use it as a guide for information you need to provide.  Any questions, please call or e-mail.
First, middle initial, and last names of taxpayers and dependents as written on the Social Security cards, and dates of birth for taxpayers and all dependents, especially new dependents.
Address, (city, state, zip), telephone number, and e-mail address.
Marital Status:  Single ___ Married ___ Head of Household ___ Separated ___
Number of Dependents: ___ Did any dependents have any income?  Yes ___ No ___
Do all dependents live with you? Yes ___ No ___
Wages - All W-2's                                       Income from Rentals - All 1099-MISC
Pensions/Retirements - 1099-R              Business Income - All 1099-MISC
Social Security - SSA-1099                                    Farm Income
Bank Interest - 1099-INT                          Alimony Received - Total amount
Dividends - 1099-DIV                                Unemployment - 1099-G
Commissions - 1099-MISC                        State Tax Refund - 1099-G
Tips and Gratuities                                                Miscellaneous - Jury Duty, Gambling, Other
Sales of Stock, Mutual Funds - 1099-B                    
BUSINESS INCOME & EXPENSE ITEMS:  This list is not all encompassing.  If you don’t see an expense listed below, ask.
Total (Gross) Income                        Advertising                            Auto:  Parking &Tolls
Business Phone Expense                 Cell Phone Expense              Subcontractors
Commissions Paid                             Insurance                               Interest Paid
General Office Expense                    Rent/Lease Fees Paid           Legal or Professional Fees
Repairs                                               Cleaning/Maintenance         Dues & Publications
Equipment/Supplies                         Tools                                       License Fees/Taxes Paid
Utilities                                               Education Expense               Association Dues
Bank/Credit Card Fees                     Postage                                   Meals/Entertainment
Business Miles & Total Miles           Asset Purchases                    Hotel/Travel Expense         
Keys                                                    Condo/PUD Fees                  Management Fees
Mortgage Statements                        Yard Work                             Termite Treatment Expense
Utilities                                               Mileage/Travel                      Other
Self-employed Health Insurance     IRAs /Keogh/SEPs                Student Loan Interest
Medical Savings Account                  Teacher Expense                   Child Tax Credit
Penalty on Early Withdrawal of Savings                                        Foreign Tax Paid
American Opportunity/HOPE/Lifetime Learning Expenses        Adoption Expenses
* Total Alimony Paid:  Must have name and Social Security number of recipient, and amount paid.
* Child Care/Day Care Credit:  Must have name, address, Social Security number or EIN of               provider, and amount paid.
Date payment was made, and the amount paid for each Federal and State quarterly tax estimate.
Medical & Dental bills                                   Prescriptions                         Glasses/Contact Lenses
Out-of-pocket expenses                                Medical miles                         Lab fees
Hearing Aids                                                  Medical/dental/long term care insurance
Prior year state tax paid                              City/local tax                         Sales tax
Real estate tax                                               Personal property tax          Other
Church                                                            Boy/Girl Scouts                     United Way/CFC
March of Dimes                                             American Heart                     Easter Seals
Red Cross                                                       MDA/MS                                YWCA/YMCA
Salvation Army                                              FoodBank                              Payroll deductions
Out-of-pocket Volunteer Expenses             Charitable miles                    Other
List and Fair Market Value of household goods and clothing items given to Charitable Organizations.

No comments:

Post a Comment