Friday, January 23, 2015

Use the Tax Form That’s Right for You



This tax filing season, get things off to a good start. Make it easy on yourself and let the software you use to e-file select the right form for you. Filing electronically is the easiest way to file a complete and accurate return. The software asks questions that guide you, minimizes errors and helps you get the tax credits and deductions that you are entitled to claim. Brand-name software’s also free when you use IRS Free File on IRS.gov.

If you do file a paper return, here are some tips to help you use the right forms.

You can generally use the 1040EZ if:
  • Your taxable income is below $100,000;
  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly;
  • You don’t claim dependents; and
  • Your interest income is $1,500 or less.
Note: You can’t use Form 1040EZ to claim the new Premium Tax Credit. You also can’t use this form if you received advance payments of this credit in 2014.

The 1040A may be best for you if:
  • Your taxable income is below $100,000;
  • You have capital gain distributions;
  • You claim certain tax credits; and
  • You claim adjustments to income for IRA contributions and student loan interest.
You must use the 1040 if:
  • Your taxable income is $100,000 or more;
  • You claim itemized deductions;
  • You report self-employment income; or
  • You report income from sale of a property.
Remember, if you e-file your tax return you don't need any paper forms to mail to the IRS. Go to IRS.gov and click on the ‘IRS e-file’ icon to review your options. If you still need a paper form you can visit IRS.gov/Forms to view, download or print what you need right away.

If you found this Tax Tip helpful, please share it through your social media platforms. A great way to get tax information is to use IRS Social Media. You can also subscribe to IRS Tax Tips or any of our e-news subscriptions.

Phishing Remains on the IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2015 Filing Season



WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to watch out for fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. These “phishing” schemes continue to be on the annual IRS list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for the 2015 filing season.

"The IRS won’t send you an email about a bill or refund out of the blue. Don’t click on one claiming to be from the IRS that takes you by surprise,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “I urge taxpayers to be wary of clicking on strange emails and websites. They may be scams to steal your personal information.”

Compiled annually, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter anytime but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their returns or find people to help with their taxes.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Stop and Think before Clicking

Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft.

If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

It is important to keep in mind the IRS generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS has information online that can help you protect yourself from email scams.

The Individual Shared Responsibility Provision brings changes to 2014 Income Tax Returns



When filing your 2014 federal income tax return, you will notice some changes related to the individual shared responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act.

The individual shared responsibility provision in the Affordable Care Act calls for you to have qualifying health care coverage for each month of the year, qualify for a health coverage exemption, or make an Individual Shared Responsibility Payment when filing your federal income tax return. Individuals are responsible for themselves and anyone they can claim as a dependent.  Taxpayers who have coverage for the entire year will simply check a box on their tax return and won’t need to do anything else when they file.

However, if you don’t have qualifying health care coverage and you meet certain criteria, you might be eligible for an exemption from coverage. Most exemptions are available on your tax return, but some must be claimed through the Marketplace. If you or any of your dependents are exempt from the requirement to have health coverage, you will complete the new IRS Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions and submit it with your tax return.

If you could have afforded coverage for yourself or any of your dependents but chose not to get it and you do not qualify for an exemption, you must make a payment called the individual shared responsibility payment. You calculate the shared responsibility payment using a worksheet included in the instructions for Form 8965 and enter your payment amount on your tax return.

Whether you are simply checking the box on your tax return to indicate that you had coverage in 2014, claiming a health coverage exemption, or making an individual shared responsibility payment, you or your tax professional can prepare and file your tax return electronically.  Using tax preparation software is the best and simplest way to file a complete and accurate tax return as it guides individuals and tax preparers through the process and does all the math. Electronic filing options include IRS Free File for taxpayers who qualify, free volunteer assistance, commercial software, and professional assistance.

For more information about the Affordable Care Act and filing your 2014 income tax return, visit IRS.gov/aca.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Six Tips on Who Should File a 2014 Tax Return



Most people file their tax return because they have to, but even if you don’t, there are times when you should. You may be eligible for a tax refund and not know it. This year, there are a few new rules for some who must file. Here are six tax tips to help you find out if you should file a tax return:

1. General Filing Rules.  Whether you need to file a tax return depends on a few factors. In most cases, the amount of your income, your filing status and your age determine if you must file a tax return. For example, if you’re single and 28 years old you must file if your income was at least $10,150. Other rules may apply if you’re self-employed or if you’re a dependent of another person. There are also other cases when you must file. Go to IRS.gov/filing to find out if you need to file.

2. New for 2014: Premium Tax Credit.  If you bought health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2014, you may be eligible for the new Premium Tax Credit. You will need to file a return to claim the credit. If you purchased coverage from the Marketplace in 2014 and chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent directly to your insurer during the year you must file a federal tax return. You will reconcile any advance payments with the allowable Premium Tax Credit. Your Marketplace will provide Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, to you by Jan. 31, 2015, containing information that will help you file your tax return.

3. Tax Withheld or Paid.  Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year and have it applied to this year’s tax? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be due a refund. But you have to file a tax return to get it.

4. Earned Income Tax Credit..  Did you work and earn less than $52,427 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund if you qualify with or without a qualifying child. You may be eligible for up to $6,143. Use the 2014 EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov to find out if you qualify. If you do, file a tax return to claim it.

5. Additional Child Tax Credit.  Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don’t get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit.

6. American Opportunity Credit.  The AOTC is available for four years of post secondary education and can be up to $2,500 per eligible student.  You or your dependent must have been a student enrolled at least half time for at least one academic period. Even if you don’t owe any taxes, you still may qualify. However, you must complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file a return to claim the credit. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS..gov to see if you can claim the credit. Learn more by visiting the IRS’ Education Credits Web page.

The instructions for Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ list income tax filing requirements. You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you need to file. The tool is available 24/7 to answer many tax questions.

If you found this Tax Tip helpful, please share it through your social media platforms. A great way to get tax information is to use IRS Social Media. You can also subscribe to IRS Tax Tips or any of our e-news subscriptions.

Additional IRS Resources: