Friday, March 22, 2013

Time is Running Short to Claim Your 2009 Refund

If you haven’t filed your 2009 federal tax return, you may still have time to claim your tax refund. The IRS has $917 million in unclaimed refunds from an estimated 984,000 tax returns that people didn’t file for the 2009 tax year. The IRS estimates that half the potential refunds for 2009 are more than $500.

Here are some things the IRS wants you to know about unclaimed refunds:

1. Not required to file. You may not have filed a 2009 tax return because you didn’t earn enough income to have a filing requirement. If you had taxes withheld from your wages or made quarterly estimated payments, you can still file a return and claim your refund.

2. Three-year window. You have three years to claim a refund. If you don’t claim your refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury. For 2009 returns, the window closes on April 15, 2013. You must properly address, postmark and mail your return by that date. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund.

3. Don’t miss the EITC. By not filing a return, you may miss an important credit — the Earned Income Tax Credit. For 2009, the credit is worth as much as $5,657. The EITC can put extra money in the pockets of individuals and families with low and moderate incomes. If you are eligible for the EITC, you must file a federal income tax return to claim the credit. This is true even if you are not otherwise required to file.

4. Some refunds applied. The IRS may hold your refund if you have not filed tax returns for 2010 and 2011. The law allows the use of your federal tax refund to pay any amounts still owed to the IRS or your state tax agency. If you have unpaid debts, such as overdue child support or student loans, your refund may be applied to pay that debt.

Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). If you are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498, you should request copies from your employer, bank or other payer. If you can’t get these forms, you can get a free transcript from the IRS showing the information you need from those forms.

Order a transcript by filing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, with the IRS, or by calling 800-829-1040.

Additional IRS Resources:
IRS YouTube Videos:
Haven't Filed a Tax Return in Years? - English | Spanish | ASL

Monday, March 18, 2013

Tax Rules on Early Withdrawals from Retirement Plans

Taking money out early from your retirement plan can cost you an extra 10 percent in taxes. Here are five things you should know about early withdrawals from retirement plans.

1. An early withdrawal normally means taking money from your plan, such as a 401(k), before you reach age 59½.

2. You must report the amount you withdrew from your retirement plan to the IRS. You may have to pay an additional 10 percent tax on your withdrawal.

3. The additional 10 percent tax normally does not apply to nontaxable withdrawals. Nontaxable withdrawals include withdrawals of your cost in participating in the plan. Your cost includes contributions that you paid tax on before you put them into the plan.

4. If you transfer a withdrawal from one qualified retirement plan to another within 60 days, the transfer is a rollover. Rollovers are not subject to income tax. The added 10 percent tax also does not apply to a rollover.

5. There are several other exceptions to the additional 10 percent tax. These include withdrawals if you have certain medical expenses or if you are disabled. Some of the exceptions for retirement plans are different from the rules for IRAs.

For more information on early distributions from retirement plans, see IRS Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income. Also, see IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). Both publications are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Additional IRS Resources:
  • Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income
  • Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
  • Form 5329, Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (Including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts

Friday, March 15, 2013

Claiming the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

The Child and Dependent Care Credit can help offset some of the costs you pay for the care of your child, a dependent or a spouse. Here are 10 facts the IRS wants you to know about the tax credit for child and dependent care expenses.

1. If you paid someone to care for your child, dependent or spouse last year, you may qualify for the child and dependent care credit. You claim the credit when you file your federal income tax return.

2. You can claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit for “qualifying individuals.” A qualifying individual includes your child under age 13. It also includes your spouse or dependent who lived with you for more than half the year who was physically or mentally incapable of self-care.

3. The care must have been provided so you – and your spouse if you are married filing jointly – could work or look for work.

4. You, and your spouse if you file jointly, must have earned income, such as income from a job. A special rule applies for a spouse who is a student or not able to care for himself or herself.

5. Payments for care cannot go to your spouse, the parent of your qualifying person or to someone you can claim as a dependent on your return. Payments can also not go to your child who is under age 19, even if the child is not your dependent.

6. This credit can be worth up to 35 percent of your qualifying costs for care, depending upon your income. When figuring the amount of your credit, you can claim up to $3,000 of your total costs if you have one qualifying individual. If you have two or more qualifying individuals you can claim up to $6,000 of your costs.

7. If your employer provides dependent care benefits, special rules apply. See Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses for how the rules apply to you.

8. You must include the Social Security number on your tax return for each qualifying individual.

9. You must also include on your tax return the name, address and Social Security number (individuals) or Employer Identification Number (businesses) of your care provider.

10. To claim the credit, attach Form 2441 to your tax return. If you use IRS e-file to prepare and file your return, the software will do this for you.

For more information see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, or the instructions for Form 2441. Both are available at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Additional IRS Resources:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Important Facts about Mortgage Debt Forgiveness

If your lender cancelled or forgave your mortgage debt, you generally have to pay tax on that amount. But there are exceptions to this rule for some homeowners who had mortgage debt forgiven in 2012.

Here are 10 key facts from the IRS about mortgage debt forgiveness:

1. Cancelled debt normally results in taxable income. However, you may be able to exclude the cancelled debt from your income if the debt was a mortgage on your main home.

2. To qualify, you must have used the debt to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence. The residence must also secure the mortgage.

3. The maximum qualified debt that you can exclude under this exception is $2 million. The limit is $1 million for a married person who files a separate tax return.

4. You may be able to exclude from income the amount of mortgage debt reduced through mortgage restructuring. You may also be able to exclude mortgage debt cancelled in a foreclosure.

5. You may also qualify for the exclusion on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if you used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve your main home. The exclusion is limited to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before the refinancing.

6. Proceeds of refinanced mortgage debt used for other purposes do not qualify for the exclusion. For example, debt used to pay off credit card debt does not qualify.

7. If you qualify, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. Submit the completed form with your federal income tax return.

8. Other types of cancelled debt do not qualify for this special exclusion. This includes debt cancelled on second homes, rental and business property, credit cards or car loans. In some cases, other tax relief provisions may apply, such as debts discharged in certain bankruptcy proceedings. Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.

9. If your lender reduced or cancelled at least $600 of your mortgage debt, they normally send you a statement in January of the next year. Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, shows the amount of cancelled debt and the fair market value of any foreclosed property.

10. Check your Form 1099-C for the cancelled debt amount shown in Box 2, and the value of your home shown in Box 7. Notify the lender immediately of any incorrect information so they can correct the form.

Use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on to check if your cancelled debt is taxable. Also, see Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments. IRS forms and publications are available online at or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Additional IRS Resources:
IRS YouTube Videos:

Friday, March 8, 2013

Four Things You Should Know if You Barter

Small businesses sometimes barter to get products or services they need. Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Usually there is no exchange of cash. An example of bartering is a plumber doing repair work for a dentist in exchange for dental services.

The IRS reminds all taxpayers that the fair market value of property or services received through a barter is taxable income. Both parties must report as income the value of the goods and services received in the exchange.

Here are four facts about bartering:

1. Barter exchanges.  A barter exchange is an organized marketplace where members barter products or services. Some exchanges operate out of an office and others over the internet. All barter exchanges are required to issue Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, annually. The exchange must give a copy of the form to its members and file a copy with the IRS.

2. Bartering income.  Barter and trade dollars are the same as real dollars for tax reporting purposes. If you barter, you must report on your tax return the fair market value of the products or services you received.

3. Tax implications.  Bartering is taxable in the year it occurs. The tax rules may vary based on the type of bartering that takes place. Barterers may owe income taxes, self-employment taxes, employment taxes or excise taxes on their bartering income.

4. Reporting rules.  How you report bartering varies depending on which form of bartering takes place. Generally, if you are in a trade or business you report bartering income on Form 1040, Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business. You may be able to deduct certain costs you incurred to perform the bartering.

For more information, see the Bartering Tax Center in the business section at

Additional IRS Resources:
IRS YouTube Videos: