Archive for January, 2013

Jan
31

Ready! Aim! File!

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Picture of Form 1040 and Tax Man Maze

The sun rose as the starting gate dropped! Hard drives fired up all over this land! Bits and bytes were thrown into the ether, much like that dancing eye in The Twilight Zone opening credits. Millions of returns were filed today and I certainly hope the government servers were up to the deluge.

The IRS began accepting and processing federal income tax returns today. This was the first day that you could file your tax return electronically or by mail. Were you one of the many that sent your tax return into cyberspace?

Got your refund spent yet?

Because of the tax law changes Congress made in January, the IRS had to delay the beginning of the tax filing season.

When Congress passed the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) on January 1, many of the tax law changes were retroactive back to last year. Forms had to be updated and computer programming had to be changed and tested before any processing could begin.

Beginning today the first of an estimated 120 million households will file a personal tax return for the year 2012. 80% of these households will file electronically.

The IRS continues to tell taxpayers that filing electronically is their best option.

Not everyone can file today. The IRS didn’t get everything fixed in time. If you are claiming Residential Energy Credits, Depreciation, Education Credits, and General Business Credits, among others, your tax return won’t be accepted until late February and possibly into March.

Something tells me the IRS is going to offer the employees a whole lot of overtime this processing season.

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Categories : Form 1040, IRS, Taxes
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Jan
19

Big Changes to Office in Home Deduction

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Woman working in home office

IRS Changes Office In Home Deduction

Do you own a home based business? Do you own a small business and use a room in your home as an office away from the office? Do you work for a company that requires you to keep an office in your home, too?

If you use part of your home as an office for your business, it just got easier to claim the Home Office Deduction!

Beginning January 1, 2013, instead of keeping track of the percentages of square feet and stacks of a dozen different expenses in order to calculate the Home Office Deduction, you can now claim a flat rate. Read on – this may save you some time and record keeping this year.

The IRS will now allow you to claim an “optional” deduction instead of the usual “regular” percentage based deduction for business use of your home. This simplified, “optional” deduction is calculated at a flat $5.00 per square foot, up to 300 feet, with a $1500.00 cap for the year.

Example:

  • If your home office is 100 square feet, your Home Office Deduction would be $500 (100 x 5 = 500)
  • If your home office is 250 square feet, he or deduction would be $1250 (250 x 5 = 1250)
  • Simply take the square footage of your home office, multiply it by $5 per square foot and you have your deduction amount.
  • If your home office is 400 square feet and you elect to take the optional method, your deduction will be capped at 300 feet and $1500.

According to the IRS, tax payers spend 1.6 million hours a year on record keeping and paperwork for the Office in Home Deduction. By using a flat rate based on space used, people will save a lot of time and effort.

Claim Mortgage Interest & Real Estate Taxes on Schedule A

You can still claim home real estate taxes, allowable home mortgage interest, and casualty losses for the filing year as itemized deductions on Schedule A. No longer will these expenses be allocated between personal and business use if using the optional method. Depreciation on your home cannot be taken when using the optional method.

Business expenses not related to your home are still deducted as regular business expenses, no change there. These include employee wages, office supplies, stamps, advertising, office equipment, etc. You will continue to claim regular business expenses on Schedule C or the appropriate business form.

Qualified Business Use Is Still the Rule

The old requirement that the home office space must be used regularly and exclusively for only business still applies when using the optional method. Qualified business use is still the rule!

The rule that limits the office in home deduction to income earned by the business is also still in effect.

Year By Year Determination

The good news is, the IRS will allow you a year–by–year determination with this deduction. If you decide to use the optional method for filing year 2013, you can still change and go back to claiming actual expenses for 2014. If you want to flip back to the optional method in 2015, you can do that. Be aware that once you file that original tax return for the year that you claim either the optional or regular method you cannot go back and change that election. An election for any taxable year, once made, is irrevocable.

Need More Info?

You can find out more about the new optional method HERE

Do you qualify to claim the Home Office Deduction? Find out HERE

Contact the IRS

The IRS welcomes comments about the new law. You can contact the IRS if you’d like to tell them what you think:

E-mail to: Notice.Comments@irscounsel.treas.gov. Include “Rev. Proc. 2013-13” in the subject line.

Mail to: Internal Revenue Service, CC:PA:LPD:PR (Rev. Proc. 2013-13), Room 5203, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044.

Hand deliver to: CC:PA:LPD:PR (Rev. Proc. 2013-13), Courier’s Desk, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

 

 

 

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Jan
18

A Different Kind of Birthday Present

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Chocolate birthday cake with candles

Last week was Mr.BP’s birthday. If I had asked him what he wanted for his birthday, he would have easily rattled off a long list that included everything from motorcycle parts to ski lift tickets.

As I sat at my desk paying bills the day before his solar return, it occurred to me to make charitable contributions in his name instead of buying a gift and wrapping it in pretty paper and a bow.

I have a short list of charities that I contribute to on a regular basis. Usually, every time bills are paid, I dash off a couple of checks to a few of the charities on my “favorites” list.

That night I wrote four checks and donated money in honor of the birthday boy to:

WAYSIDE WAIFS   This is a local no-kill shelter that places over 5000 animals in homes each year, and takes care of thousands more. Wayside Waifs has been around since 1940. Wayside Waifs is totally independent and non-profit, and does not receive any money from any local, state, or federal government. They do what they do entirely from donations and gifts. Almost 75% of their revenue is spent on shelter programs, with approximately 20% spent on fund-raising. Administrative expenses are nil.

SOLES 4 SOULS   This charity is trying to change the world one pair of shoes at a time. They collect new and gently worn shoes and distribute them to people in need in over 125 countries. Soles 4 Souls began in 2006, and as of the end of last year had given away over 19 million pairs of shoes. This is another charity with very small overhead – $69 million of the $70 million dollars they collected last year went to program services.

SOUTHERN POVERTY LAW CENTER  is a non-profit civil rights organization. The SPLC has brought the issues of hate and bigotry to national attention through the courts and the media. This is another one that spends the majority of its income on program services.

UNITY VILLAGE is a local religious organization. They have gorgeous rose gardens in season and beautiful fountains made for walking around when I want to wind down from my day. We take the dog over and romp through trails in their woods, so I send a few dollars now and then to help cut the grass.

These are just a few charities I donate to. PAWS is a local non-profit that provides free or reduced cost spay and neuter services for pet owners that can’t afford to have their pet fixed. PAWS is also independent, relying only on donations and taking no government money.

So many elderly seniors I know benefit from HARVESTERS that I give as often as I can to that organization. There are a few more local food pantries and rescue missions that are on my list, including a veterans charity or two.

Do you donate to charity? If you do, have you taken a look at how much your charity spends in administrative and fund-raising costs? Based on the money they take in, how much do they pay out in salaries to the highest paid employees?

You may be surprised to learn that the charity you are donating to spends very little on the cause they fund raise for. You do not want to donate to a charity that pays the CEO and other administrators huge salaries but spends very little on their program services.

It pays to check out your charity before you pay them any money. You can do that using Charity Navigator or GuideStar:

http://www.charitynavigator.org/

or

http://www.guidestar.org/

Both of these sites are filled with information about many charities. You will have to sign up for a free account on each site in order to have access to all of the information available, but all you need is a name and an email address.

If your charity isn’t listed, try checking with the major Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area, or check the state corporate database. Charities have to file annual reports, and those should be on-line and/or available. Check with the Secretary of State if you can’t readily locate the state database on-line.

Don’t be afraid to contact a charity and ask questions about how much money they collect and how they spend it. The legitimate, transparent ones will gladly tell you how they spend your money.

After I signed the checks for the birthday contributions, I slipped them into envelopes. I handed the envelopes to Mr.BP and asked him to put stamps on them. He pulled out a check and looked at it, then glanced through the envelopes at the names, while giving me a puzzled look. I explained what his birthday present was this year. The wide grin on his face told me he liked his present very much.

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