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Infinity Tax and Accounting's TAX TIPS:

This newsletter shares tax tips and tax updates to all of our value customers. We hope that you will find this information useful and enjoyable.

Facts about Taking Early Distributions from IRA To File or Not To File
Seven Things you Should Know When Selling Your Home Top Five Facts about Dependents and Exemptions
Tips for Taxpayers Making a Move Offset Education Costs
Owe the IRS a Prior Year Return? Five Important Tax Credits
Things the IRS Wants You to Know About Identity Theft Top Ten Facts about the Tuition and Fees Deduction
The Five Filing Status Possibilities Tax Benefits for Job Seekers
Determine Your Correct Filling Status

To File or Not To File Back to List of Tax Tips

You must file a tax return if your income is above a certain level. The amount varies depending on filing status, age and the type of income you receive.

For example, a married couple both under age 65 generally is not required to file until their joint income reaches $17,900. However, self-employed individuals generally must file a tax return if their net income from self employment was at least $400.

Check the “Individuals” section of the IRS Web site at IRS.gov or consult the instructions for form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ for specific details that may affect your need to file a tax return with IRS this year.

Even if you don’t have to file, here are six reasons why you may want to file:1.

  1. Federal Income Tax Withheld. If you are not required to file, you should file to get money back if Federal Income Tax was withheld from your pay, if you made estimated tax payments, or had a prior year overpayment applied to this year's tax.
  2. Recovery Rebate Credit. If you did not qualify or did not receive the maximum amount for the 2008 Economic Stimulus Payment, you may be entitled to a Recovery Rebate Credit when you file your 2008 tax return.
  3. Earned Income Tax Credit. You may qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, if you worked, but did not earn a lot of money. EITC is a refundable tax credit meaning you could qualify for a tax refund.
  4. Additional Child Tax Credit. This credit may be available to you if you have at least one qualifying child and you did not get the full amount of the Child Tax Credit.
  5. First time Homebuyer Credit. If you bought a main home after April 8, 2008, and before July 1, 2009 and did not own a main home during the prior 3 years, you may be able to take this refundable credit.
  6. Health Coverage Tax Credit. Certain individuals, who are receiving certain Trade Adjustment Assistance, Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance, or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, may be eligible for a Health Coverage Tax Credit when you file your 2008 tax return.

Top Five Facts about Dependents and Exemptions Back to List of Tax Tips

  1. Dependents may be required to file their own tax return. Even though you are a dependent on someone else’s tax return, you may still have to file your own tax return. Whether or not you must file a return depends on several factors, including: the amount of your unearned, earned or gross income, your marital status, any special taxes you owe and any advance Earned Income Credit payments you received.
  2. Exemptions reduce your taxable income. There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. For each exemption you can deduct $3,500 on your 2008 tax return. Exemptions amounts are reduced for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is above certain levels, which is determined by your filing status.
  3. Dependents may not claim an exemption. If you claim someone as a dependent, such as your child, that dependent may not claim a personal exemption on their own tax return.
  4. Your spouse is never considered your dependent. On a joint return, you may claim one exemption for yourself and one for your spouse. If you’re filing a separate return, you may claim the exemption for your spouse only if they had no gross income, are not filing a joint return and were not the dependent of another taxpayer.
  5. Some people cannot be claimed as your dependent. Generally, you may not claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return with their spouse. Also, to claim someone as a dependent, that person must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year. There is an exception to this rule for certain adopted children.

Offset Education Costs Back to List of Tax Tips

Education tax credits can help offset the costs of higher education for yourself or a dependent. The Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit are two education credits available which may benefit you. Because they are credits rather than deductions, you may be able to subtract them in full, dollar for dollar, from your federal income tax.

The Hope Credit

  • The credit applies for the first two years of post-secondary education, such as college or vocational school. It does not apply to the third, fourth, or higher years of undergraduate programs, to graduate programs, or to professional-level programs.
  • It can be worth up to $1,800 ($3,600 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) per eligible student, per year.
  • You're allowed a credit of 100% of the first $1,200 ($2,400 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) of qualified tuition and related fees paid during the tax year, plus 50% of the next $1,200 ($2,400 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area).
  • Each student must be enrolled at least half-time for at least one academic period which began during the year.
  • The student must be free of any federal or state felony conviction for possessing or distributing a controlled substance as of the end of the tax year.

The Lifetime Learning Credit

  • The credit applies to undergraduate, graduate and professional degree courses, including instruction to acquire or improve job skills, regardless of the number of years in the program.
  • If you qualify, your credit equals 20% (40% if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) of the first $10,000 of post-secondary tuition and fees you pay during the year, for a maximum credit of $2,000 ($4,000 if a student in a Midwestern disaster area) per tax return.

You cannot claim both the Hope and Lifetime Learning Credits for the same student in the same year. You also cannot claim either credit if you claim a tuition and fees deduction for the same student in the same year. To qualify for either credit, you must pay post-secondary tuition and certain related expenses for yourself, your spouse or your dependent. The credit may be claimed by the parent or the student, but not by both. Students who are claimed as a dependent cannot claim the credit.

These credits are phased out for Modified Adjusted Gross Income over $48,000 ($96,000 for married filing jointly) and eliminated completely for Modified Adjusted Gross Income of $58,000 or more ($116,000 for married filing jointly). If the taxpayer is married, the credit may be claimed only on a joint return.


Five Important Tax Credits Back to List of Tax Tips

Check it out! You might be eligible for a tax credit. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed. Some credits are even refundable. That means you might receive a refund rather than owe any taxes.

Here are five popular credits you should consider before filing your 2009 Federal Income Tax Return:

  1. The Earned Income Tax Credit is a refundable credit for low-income working individuals and families. Income and family size determine the amount of the credit. For more information, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit.
  2. The Child and Dependent Care Credit is for expenses paid for the care of your qualifying children under age 13, or for a disabled spouse or dependent, to enable you to work or look for work. For more information, see IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.
  3. The Child Tax Credit is for people who have a qualifying child. The maximum amount of the credit is $1,000 for each qualifying child. This credit can be claimed in addition to the credit for child and dependent care expenses. For more information on the Child Tax Credit, see IRS Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.
  4. The Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, also known as the Saver’s Credit, is designed to help low- and moderate-income workers save for retirement. You may qualify if your income is below a certain limit and you contribute to an IRA or workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan. The Saver’s Credit is available in addition to any other tax savings that apply. For more information, see IRS Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs).
  5. Health Coverage Tax Credit Certain individuals, who are receiving certain Trade Adjustment Assistance, Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance, or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, may be eligible for a Health Coverage Tax Credit when you file your 2008 tax return.

NOTE: There are other credits available to eligible taxpayers. Since many qualifications and limitations apply to the various tax credits, you should carefully check your tax form instructions, and talk with your tax preparer.


Top Ten Facts about the Tuition and Fees Deduction Back to List of Tax Tips

The Tuition and Fees deduction of up to $4,000 is available to help parents and students pay for post-secondary education. Below are ten important facts about this deduction every student and parent should know.

  1. You do not have to itemize to take the Tuition and Fees deduction. You claim a tuition and fees deduction by completing Form 8917 and submitting it with your Form 1040 or Form 1040A.
  2. You may be able to claim qualified tuition and fees expenses as either an adjustment to income, a Hope or Lifetime Learning credit, or – if applicable – as a business expense.
  3. You cannot take the tuition and fees deduction on your income tax return if your filing status is married filing separately.
  4. You cannot take the deduction if you are claimed, or can be claimed, as a dependent on someone else's return.
  5. The deduction is reduced or eliminated if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds certain limits, based on your filing status.
  6. You cannot claim the tuition and fees deduction if you or anyone else claims the Hope or Lifetime Learning credit for the same student in the same year.
  7. If the educational expenses are also allowable as a business expense, the tuition and fees deduction may be claimed in conjunction with a business expense deduction, but the same expenses cannot be deducted twice.
  8. You cannot claim a deduction or credit based on expenses paid with tax-free scholarship, fellowship, grant, or education savings account funds such as a Coverdell education savings account, tax-free savings bond interest or employer-provided education assistance.
  9. The same rule applies to expenses you pay with a tax-exempt distribution from a qualified tuition plan, except that you can deduct qualified expenses you pay only with that part of the distribution that is a return of your contribution to the plan.
  10. IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education, can help eligible parents and students understand the special rules that apply and decide which tax break to claim. The publication is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Tax Benefits for Job Seekers Back to List of Tax Tips

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.

    The material contained in this website is provided for general information purposes only and does not contain a comprehensive analysis of each item described. Before taking (or not taking) any action, readers should seek professional advice specific to their situation. No liability is accepted for acts or omissions taken in reliance upon the contents of this website.

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