April is here and the final rush is upon us. The following are some last minute tax tips to keep in mind for the end of this tax season and to prepare you for next tax season (tax year 2019). If you are still in need of professional tax help, please do not hesitate to call us toll free at (888) APRIL-15 or click the green bar to schedule an appointment. But hurry; the April 15th deadline is quickly approaching:
Know Your Withholding: One of the features of the new tax laws was a change in withholding tables resulting in reduced tax withholding for many W2 employees. While reduced withholding increases your weekly paycheck, it also reduces–or in some cases entirely eliminates–your expected refund. Please check with your employer’s accounts department to verify your withholding and make any preferred adjustments.
Extension Filings Are Up: We’ve seen a number of our clients taking a “wait-and-see” approach to these new tax law changes. As such, we’ve seen a large increase in the amount of extensions filed this year. If you haven’t filed yet & owe money to the government, you might want to consider filing an extension. Remember: An extension is only an extension to file your final tax return; it is not an extension to pay the taxes you owe. An estimate of taxes due is sent along with your extension by the deadline.
IRS Filings Are Down: The number of returns submitted to the IRS is down about 2% compared to last year. 2018 was the busiest April R&G Brenner has ever had. We expect an even busier final 2 weeks this year.
Tax Filing Deadline: To make matters worse, the past couple of years we’ve had a couple of extra days to file. Not this year: the final day to file is April 15th. Tax returns must be electronically filed or postmarked by 11:59 pm on 4/15 or you will be subjected to penalties and interest. Remember: This deadline is only if you owe. If you are due a refund you have 3 more years to claim your 2018 refund.
As the the clock approaches midnight on the 2015 tax season, many taxpayers still haven’t filed their tax return yet. While procrastination is common for many when it come to filing taxes, this year we are seeing a higher number of last minute filers. The winter was brutal on the east coast; extreme cold & snow produced more tax hibernators than in years past. Wage documents like W2s & 1099s were issued extremely late (And when they were finally issued, many were issued incorrectly), and the uncertainty around reporting health insurance on tax returns for the first time has produced even more confusion. But have no fear! There is still time to tackle your individual tax situation. And even if you already filed, below is a definitive list of last minute tax tips everyone should be aware of:
The April 15th Deadline? Only If You Owe!
Many taxpayers know the deadline is April 15th, but the majority of taxpayers do not know that the deadline only applies to those that owe money to taxing authorities. If you are expecting a refund, you have an additional 3 years to file or amend a filed 2014 tax return. No extension is necessary to file if you are expecting a refund. Again, extensions must be filed by the deadline only for those that owe taxes, but are not ready to file their final tax return. However, an extension is only an extension to file a final tax return, NOT to pay your taxes. If you are filing an extension, you must send your tax payment along with it. If you do not know your final tax liability, overestimate. Any overpayment will be refunded to you or applied to future tax liabilities. Any underestimated taxes are subject to penalties & interest that are not paid by the deadline.
Lower Your Tax Bill Even More
Even with the deadline approaching, you can still reduce your tax liability by making contributions to the following:
Contribute to you IRA
Contribute to your 401(k)
Contribute to your Health Savings Account (HSA)
Contributing to any of these accounts (or opening a new account) before filing your tax return will reduce the taxes you owe. However, each contribution has limits, so consult your tax professional or financial advisor to find out what those limits are. These contributions must be made before you file your final tax return (filing an tax extension also allows you to contribute later as well).
Last Call For 2011 Tax Returns
As stated above, taxpayers have 3 years to file or amend tax returns if they are due refunds. This year’s April 15th deadline will be the final day taxpayers can file or amend a 2011 tax return. The IRS has over $1 Billion in unclaimed refunds for those that have not filed a 2011 tax return. According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “People could be missing out on a substantial refund, especially students or part-time workers. Some people may not have filed because they didn’t make much money, but they may still be entitled to a refund.” Most of these taxpayers fall into the category where they did not break the threshold in dollars earned requiring them to file a tax return. However, taxes were withheld from their paychecks, and that money should be refunded. Any 2011 refund not claimed become the properly of the U.S. Government. Half of the uncollected refunds for 2011 tax returns exceed $698! This is your money. Don’t let the Government keep it!
Health Insurance Subsidies
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has drastically reduced the number of insured since going into effect in 2014. Subsidies to off-set the cost of insurance is a major reason why. However, many taxpayers this year were shocked to see that their refunds were significantly reduced from years past. This is because ACA subsidies are calculated using an estimate of a taxpayer’s yearly income. If you get a promotion mid-year, a newer higher paying job or simply just underestimate you annual income, you may no longer qualify for the subsidy you’ve already received…and “they” want it back. Therefore, if you’ve received a subsidy this year for health insurance acquired on the exchanges, it is important to report any significant differences in estimated income to your health insurance provider and/or broker. While you may have to pay a higher monthly premium, you won’t have any surprises come tax time.
Where’s My Refund?
So you filed your return. Now “Where’s my Refund”?. This is a question that’s hard to answer specifically. In general, the earlier you file, the better chance you have of getting your refund in the IRS’ allotted time: approximately 2-3 weeks if you’ve electronically filed (even faster if you opted for a direct deposit) and 6-8 weeks if you filed a paper tax return. However, many factors can delay your refund. First and foremost, before you start trying to track down your refund, be sure that your return was filed and accepted by the IRS. Click here to check the status for your return on line. If you filed your return late (between late March & the April 15th deadline) expect to tack on about a week or so. The IRS’ budget has been slashed and they are grossly understaffed. If you need to speak to an IRS agent, good luck. The IRS is only able to answer about 60% of the calls made to the agency. The rest either get tired of waiting for hours or get a “Courtesy Disconnect” (i.e. being hung up on). The key is not to give up. If you keep pestering the IRS, eventually you will make progress. Remember, many states (including NY) have been issuing “pre-refund letters” for the last 4-5 years. Sometimes they ask for something as simple as a copy of your W-2; information they are supposed to have already! These letters are simply designed to delay your refund, they are not “Audits”. If you get one of these “pre-refund letters”, address them immediately. The sooner you send them the information they are requesting (no matter how trivial or ridiculous) the sooner you can get your refund “they” are collecting interest on (and they keep that interest) .
The notion of taxes can be stressful for anyone, and so can the holiday season. While reading about taxes and finances could destroy the holiday spirit for some, it is a great idea to be cognizant of the various holiday tax deductions to make the season much less stressful. Below is an overview of some common last minuet tax deductions and tax break opportunities that you can take advantage of this holiday season before you close the books on 2013
Tax Deductions for Business Gifts
In many circumstances, it can be quite beneficial for a business to give holiday gifts to their clients, but this can often be a costly endeavor. Fortunately, you may deduct the cost of business gifts that are up to $25 per client, associate, or employee on your income tax return. However, it is important to note that “incidental expenses” (such as wrapping paper, holiday gift cards, insurance, and mailing) are not included in this $25 limit. It is also important to keep in mind that you may not double this limit by including a spouse or business partner when giving to the same recipient.
There are Exceptions to Gift Tax
In a non-business circumstance, just about anything that you give as a gift to another person could be subject to gift tax on the giver’s end. However, it is important to know the exceptions to this. First, know that there is absolutely no gift tax when giving to a spouse, so you may be as extravagantly generous as you want. Also, keep in mind that choosing to pay someone’s tuition and medical expenses this holiday season not only provides a great gift, but also leaves you with no gift tax. Do make sure that if you choose to do this, you pay your money directly to the educational or medical institution (rather than to the recipient).
Tax Benefits for Donating to Charities and Organizations
Sometimes, the best holiday gift is giving money to a charity or organization that you care about. As far as legitimate charities go, you can send as much as you want. There is not only no gift tax, but it is tax deductible. On the other hand, it is very important to note that although there will not be gift tax when you donate to a political organization, this endeavor will not be tax deductible.
Consider Donating Your Family’s Unwanted Holiday Gifts for Tax Breaks
It may seem cold, but it is the truth that we often end up receiving holiday gifts that we do not want. Instead of exchanging them for new items, you could donate them to charity; you will not only be helping those less fortunate than you, but you will also be able to claim additional tax breaks this holiday season. The IRS has a form that helps you to assess the value of what you end up donating, so that you may claim the corresponding tax deductions. Make sure that you obtain a receipt from the charity that you are donating to for your records.
CORONAVIRUS ALERT: As of April 16th, business hours are 9am-5pm: Monday-Friday. In-person appointments have been suspended until further notice. We are currently accepting Drop-offs or these other remote client filing options.
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