Channel Islands Tax Advocates, Inc.
Channel Islands Tax Advocates, Inc.

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010

Five Tax Scams to Avoid this Summer‏

The Internal Revenue Service issues a list of the top 12 tax scams each year – known as the Dirty Dozen. The scams are illegal and can lead to problems for taxpayers including significant penalties, interest and possible criminal prosecution. These scams don’t just happen during the tax filing season, they can happen anytime during the year. Here are five scams from the 2010 Dirty Dozen list every taxpayer should be aware of this summer.

  1. Phishing - Phishing is a tactic used by scam artists to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information in an electronic communication. Scams can take the form of e-mails, tweets or phony websites and they try to mislead consumers by telling them they are entitled to a tax refund from the IRS and they must reveal personal information to claim it. Regardless of how official this e-mail may look and sound, the IRS never initiates unsolicited e-mail contact with taxpayers about their tax issues. Phishers use the personal information obtained to steal the victim’s identity, access bank accounts, run up credit card charges or apply for loans in the victim’s name. If you receive an e-mail that you suspect is a phishing attempt or directs you to an imitation IRS website, please forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. You can also visit IRS.gov and enter the keyword phishing for additional information.
  2. Return Preparer Fraud - Dishonest tax return preparers can cause trouble for taxpayers who fall victim to their ploys. Such preparers are skimming a portion of their clients’ refunds, charging inflated fees for tax preparation or are attracting new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true. To increase confidence in the tax system, the IRS is requiring all paid return preparers to register with the IRS, pass competency tests and attend continuing education.
  3. Hiding Income Offshore - Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks and brokerage accounts. IRS agents continue to develop their investigations of these offshore tax avoidance transactions using information gained from more than 14,700 voluntary disclosures received last year. Taxpayers also evade taxes by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans.
  4. Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions - The IRS continues to observe the misuse of tax-exempt organizations. This includes arrangements to improperly shield income or assets from taxation and attempts by donors to maintain control over donated assets. The IRS also continues to investigate various schemes where donations are highly overvalued or the organization receiving the donation promises that the donor can purchase the items back at a later date at a price the donor sets.
  5. Frivolous Arguments - Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. If a scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid on IRS.gov. These arguments are false and have been thrown out of court.

Military Tax Tips‏

Summer is a busy time for everyone, but particularly for military members and their families. Whether it’s moving to a new base or traveling to a duty station, members of the military have many obligations that could impact their tax situation. Here are some of the IRS tax tips military members should keep in mind this summer to help with filing a tax return next year.

  1. Moving Expenses - If you are a member of the Armed Forces on active duty and you move because of a permanent change of station, you can deduct the reasonable unreimbursed expenses of moving you and members of your household.
  2. Combat Pay - If you serve in a combat zone as an enlisted person or as a warrant officer for any part of a month, all your military pay received for military service that month is not taxable. For officers, the monthly exclusion is capped at the highest enlisted pay, plus any hostile fire or imminent danger pay received.
  3. Extension of Deadlines - The time for taking care of certain tax matters can be postponed. The deadline for filing tax returns, paying taxes, filing claims for refund, and taking other actions with the IRS is automatically extended for qualifying members of the military.
  4. Uniform Cost and Upkeep - If military regulations prohibit you from wearing certain uniforms when off duty, you can deduct the cost and upkeep of those uniforms, but you must reduce your expenses by any allowance or reimbursement you receive.
  5. Joint Returns - Generally, joint returns must be signed by both spouses. However, when one spouse may not be available due to military duty, a power of attorney may be used to file a joint return.
  6. Travel to Reserve Duty - If you are a member of the US Armed Forces Reserves, you can deduct unreimbursed travel expenses for traveling more than 100 miles away from home to perform your reserve duties.
  7. ROTC Students - Subsistence allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay – such as pay received during summer advanced camp – is taxable.
  8. Transitioning Back to Civilian Life You may be able to deduct some costs you incur while looking for a new job. Expenses may include travel, resume preparation fees, and outplacement agency fees. Moving expenses may be deductible if your move is closely related to the start of work at a new job location, and you meet certain tests

Five Facts about the Making Work Pay Tax Credit‏

  1. This credit – still available for 2010 – equals 6.2 percent of a taxpayer’s earned income. The maximum credit for a married couple filing a joint return is $800 and $400 for other taxpayers.
  2. Eligible self-employed taxpayers can benefit from the credit by evaluating their expected income tax liability and, if they are eligible, by making the appropriate adjustments to the amounts of their estimated tax payments.
  3. Taxpayers who fall into any of the following groups during 2010 should review their tax withholding to ensure enough tax is being withheld. Those who should pay particular attention to their withholding include:
    1. Married couples with two incomes
    2. Individuals with multiple jobs
    3. Dependents
    4. Pensioners
    5. Workers without valid Social Security numbers
    6. Having too little tax withheld could result in potentially smaller refunds or – in limited instances –small balance due rather than an expected refund.
  4. The Making Work Pay tax credit is reduced or unavailable for higher-income taxpayers. The reduction in the credit begins at $75,000 of income for single taxpayers and $150,000 for couples filing a joint return.
  5. A quick withholding check using the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov may be helpful for anyone who believes their current withholding may not be right.

Taxpayers can also check their withholding by using the worksheets in IRS Publication 919, How Do I Adjust My Tax Withholding?. Adjustments can be made by filing a revised Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate. Pensioners can adjust their withholding by filing Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments.

Six Tax Benefits for Job Seekers‏

Did you know that you may be able to deduct some of your job search expenses on your tax return?

Many taxpayers spend time during the summer months updating their résumé and attending career fairs. If you are searching for a job this summer, you may be able to deduct some of your expenses on your tax return. Here are six things the IRS wants you to know about deducting costs related to your job search.

  1. To qualify for a deduction, the expenses must be spent on a job search in your current occupation. You may not deduct expenses incurred while looking for a job in a new occupation.
  2. You can deduct employment and outplacement agency fees you pay while looking for a job in your present occupation. If your employer pays you back in a later year for employment agency fees, you must include the amount you receive in your gross income up to the amount of your tax benefit in the earlier year.
  3. You can deduct amounts you spend for preparing and mailing copies of your résumé to prospective employers as long as you are looking for a new job in your present occupation.
  4. If you travel to an area to look for a new job in your present occupation, you may be able to deduct travel expenses to and from the area. You can only deduct the travel expenses if the trip is primarily to look for a new job. The amount of time you spend on personal activity compared to the amount of time you spend looking for work is important in determining whether the trip is primarily personal or is primarily to look for a new job.
  5. You cannot deduct job search expenses if there was a substantial break between the end of your last job and the time you begin looking for a new one.
  6. You cannot deduct job search expenses if you are looking for a job for the first time.

Tips for Students with a Summer Job‏

School’s out and many students now have a summer job. Some students may not realize they have to pay taxes on their summer income.  Here are the six things the IRS wants everyone to know about income earned while working a summer job.

  1. All employees fill out a W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate,  when starting a new job. This form is used by employers to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from your paycheck. If you have multiple summer jobs you will want to make sure all your employers are withholding an adequate amount of taxes to cover your total income tax liability. To make sure your withholding is correct, use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.
  2. Whether you are working as a waiter or a camp counselor, you may receive tips as part of your summer income. All tip income you receive is taxable income and is therefore subject to federal income tax.
  3. Many students do odd jobs over the summer to make extra cash. Earnings you received from self-employment are subject to income tax. These earnings include income from odd jobs like baby-sitting and lawn mowing.
  4. If you have net earnings of $400 or more from self-employment, you will also have to pay self-employment tax. This tax pays for your benefits under the Social Security system. Social Security and Medicare benefits are available to individuals who are self-employed the same as they are to wage earners who have Social Security tax and Medicare tax withheld from their wages. The self-employment tax is figured on Form 1040, Schedule SE.
  5. Food and lodging allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training are not taxable. However, active duty pay – such as pay received during summer advanced camp – is taxable.
  6. Special rules apply to services you perform as a newspaper carrier or distributor. You are a direct seller and treated as self-employed for federal tax purposes if you meet the following conditions:
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    • You are in the business of delivering newspapers.
    • All your pay for these services directly relates to sales rather than to the number of hours worked.
    • You perform the delivery services under a written contract which states that you will not be treated as an employee for federal tax purposes.

Summertime Child Care Expenses May Qualify for a Tax Credit

Did you know that your summer day care expenses may qualify for an income tax credit? Many parents who work or are looking for work must arrange for care of their children under 13 years of age during the school vacation. Those expenses may help you get a credit on next year’s tax return.

Here are five facts the IRS wants you to know about a tax credit available for child care expenses. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is available for expenses incurred during the lazy hazy days of summer and throughout the rest of the year.

  1. The cost of day camp may count as an expense towards the child and dependent care credit.
  2. Expenses for overnight camps do not qualify.
  3. If your childcare provider is a sitter at your home or a daycare facility outside the home, you'll get some tax benefit if you qualify for the credit.
  4. The actual credit can be up to 35 percent of your qualifying expenses, depending upon your income.
  5. You may use up to $3,000 of the unreimbursed expenses paid in a year for one qualifying individual or $6,000 for two or more qualifying individuals to figure the credit.