Author Archives: Bruce

About Bruce

Bruce and Eva are long time Franklin residents. Eva Abbott Mullen www.evaabbottmullen.com has been at the same office, ERA Key Realty in Franklin for 35 years. Eva sells residential real estate in the greater Franklin area and is a member of both the (GREB) Greater Boston Real Estate Board and (MLS) the Multiple Listing Service. Our family roots are strong in the Franklin community where our children and grandchildren live, work and go to school. We welcome the opportunity to earn your business and trust. It would be a pleasure to apply my 44 years of experience to your specific tax situation and needs or have Eva find your new home for you.

The Health Care Law – Getting Ready to File Your Tax Return

It’s always a good idea to prepare early to file your federal income tax return.  Certain provisions of the Affordable Care Act – also known as the Health Care Law – will probably affect your federal income tax return when you file this year.

You or your tax professional should consider preparing and filing your tax return electronically.  Using tax preparation software is the easiest way to file a complete and accurate tax return. There are a variety of electronic filing options, including freevolunteer assistance, IRS Free File for taxpayers who qualify, commercial software, and professional assistance.

Here are five things you should know about the health care law that will help you get ready to file your tax return.

Coverage requirements

The Affordable Care Act requires that you and each member of your family havequalifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, qualify for an exemption from the coverage requirement, or make an individual shared responsibility payment when filing your federal income tax return.

Reporting requirements

Most taxpayers will simply check a box on their tax return to indicate that each member of their family had qualifying health coverage for the whole year. No further action is required. Qualifying health insurance coverage includes coverage under most, but not all, types of health care coverage plans. Use the chart on IRS.gov/aca to find out if your insurance counts as qualifying coverage.

For a limited group of taxpayers -those who qualify for, or received advance payments of the premium tax credit – the health care law could affect the amount of tax refund or the amount of money they may owe when they file in 2015. Visit IRS.gov/aca to learn more about the premium tax credit.

Exemptions

You may be eligible to claim an exemption from the requirement to have coverage.  If you qualify for an exemption, you will need to complete the new IRS Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, when you file your tax return.   You must apply for some exemptions through the Health Care Insurance Marketplace.  However, most of the exemptions are easily obtained from the IRS when you file your tax return. Some of the exemptions are available from either the Marketplace or the IRS.

If you receive an exemption through the Marketplace, you’ll receive an Exemption Certificate Number to include when you file your taxes. If you have applied for an exemption through the Marketplace and are still waiting for a response, you can put “pending” on your tax return where you would normally put your Exemption Certificate Number.

Individual Shared Responsibility Payment

If you do not have qualifying coverage or an exemption for each month of the year, you will need to make an individual shared responsibility payment when you file your return for choosing not to purchase coverage. Examples and information about figuring the payment are available on the IRS Calculating the Payment page.

Premium Tax Credits

If you bought coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should receiveForm 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement from your Marketplace by early February. Save this form because it has important information needed to complete your tax return.

If you are expecting to receive Form 1095-A and you do not receive it by early February, contact the Marketplace where you purchased coverage.  Do not contact the IRS because IRS telephone assistors will not have access to this information.

If you benefited from advance payments of the premium tax credit, you must file a federal income tax return. You will need to reconcile those advance payments with the amount of premium tax credit you’re entitled to based on your actual income. As a result, some people may see a smaller or larger tax refund or tax liability than they were expecting.  When you file your return, you will use IRS Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC), to calculate your premium tax credit and reconcile the credit with any advance payments.

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

Premium Tax Credit Brings Changes to Income Tax Returns

When filing your federal income tax return, you will see some changes related to the Affordable Care Act. Millions of people who purchased their coverage through a health insurance Marketplace are eligible for premium assistance through the new premium tax credit, which individuals chose to either have paid upfront to their insurers to lower their monthly premiums, or receive when they file their taxes. When you bought your insurance, if you chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit, the Marketplace estimated the amount based on information you provided about your expected household income and family size for the year.

If you received the benefit of advance credit payments, you must file a federal tax return and reconcile the advance credit payments with the actual premium tax credit you are eligible to claim on your return.  You will use IRS Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC) to make this comparison and to claim the credit. If your advance credit payments are in excess of the amount of the premium tax credit you are eligible for, based on your actual income, you must repay some or all of the excess when you file your return, subject to certain caps.

If you purchased your coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should receive Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement from your Marketplace. You should receive this form by early February.

Form 1095-A will provide the information you need to file your taxes, including the name of your insurance company, dates of coverage, amount of monthly insurance premiums for the plan you and other members of your family enrolled in, amount of any advance payments of the premium tax credit for the year, and other information needed need to compute the premium tax credit.

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.

Criminals impersonating IRS agents

WASHINGTON — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain near the top of the annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams for the 2015 filing season, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.

The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent months as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise during any filing season.

“If someone calls unexpectedly claiming to be from the IRS with aggressive threats if you don’t pay immediately, it’s a scam artist calling,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The first IRS contact with taxpayers is usually through the mail. Taxpayers have rights, and this is not how we do business.”

The Dirty Dozen is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so. This year for the first time, the IRS will issue the individual Dirty Dozen scams one at a time during the next 12 business days to raise consumer awareness.

Phone scams top the list this year because it has been a persistent and pervasive problem for many taxpayers for many months. Scammers are able to alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS badge numbers. They often leave “urgent” callback requests. They prey on the most vulnerable people, such as the elderly, newly arrived immigrants and those whose first language is not English. Scammers have been known to impersonate agents from IRS Criminal Investigation as well.

“These criminals try to scare and shock you into providing personal financial information on the spot while you are off guard,” Koskinen said. “Don’t be taken in and don’t engage these people over the phone.”

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has received reports of roughly 290,000 contacts since October 2013 and has become aware of nearly 3,000 victims who have collectively paid over $14 million as a result of the scam, in which individuals make unsolicited calls to taxpayers fraudulently claiming to be IRS officials and demanding that they send them cash via prepaid debit cards.

Protect Yourself

As telephone scams continue across the country, the IRS recently put out a new YouTube video with a renewed warning to taxpayers not to be fooled by imposters posing as tax agency representatives. The new Tax Scams video describes some basic tips to help protect taxpayers from tax scams.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you.

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
  • If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
  • Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube http://www.youtube.com/irsvideos and Tumblrhttp://internalrevenueservice.tumblr.com, where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.

Five Basic Tax Tips about Hobbies

Millions of people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. Some examples include stamp and coin collecting, craft making, and horsemanship.

You must report on your tax return the income you earn from a hobby. The rules for how you report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business. There are special rules and limits for deductions you can claim for a hobby. Here are five tax tips you should know about hobbies:

1. Is it a Business or a Hobby?  A key feature of a business is that you do it to make a profit. You often engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. You should consider nine factors when you determine whether your activity is a hobby. Make sure to base your determination on all the facts and circumstances of your situation. For more about ‘not-for-profit’ rules see Publication 535, Business Expenses.

2. Allowable Hobby Deductions.  Within certain limits, you can usually deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted for the activity. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the activity.

3. Limits on Hobby Expenses.  Generally, you can only deduct your hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If your hobby expenses are more than your hobby income, you have a loss from the activity. You can’t deduct the loss from your other income.

4. How to Deduct Hobby Expenses.  You must itemize deductions on your tax return in order to deduct hobby expenses. Your expenses may fall into three types of deductions, and special rules apply to each type. See of Publication 535 for the rules about how you claim them on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

5. Use IRS Free File.  Hobby rules can be complex and IRS Free File can make filing your tax return easier. IRS Free File is available until Oct. 15. If you make $58,000 or less, you can use brand-name tax software. If you earn more, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms. Free File is available only through the IRS.gov website.

For more on these rules see Publication 535. You can get it on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Additional IRS Resources:

Job Hunting Expenses

Many people change their job in the summer. If you look for a new job in the same line of work, you may be able to deduct some of your job hunting costs.

Here are some key tax facts you should know about if you search for a new job:

  • Same Occupation.  Your expenses must be for a job search in your current line of work. You can’t deduct expenses for a job search in a new occupation.
  • Résumé Costs.  You can deduct the cost of preparing and mailing your résumé.
  • Travel Expenses.  If you travel to look for a new job, you may be able to deduct the cost of the trip. To deduct the cost of the travel to and from the area, the trip must be mainly to look for a new job. You may still be able to deduct some costs if looking for a job is not the main purpose of the trip.
  • Placement Agency. You can deduct some job placement agency fees you pay to look for a job.
  • First Job.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if you’re looking for a job for the first time.
  • Work-Search Break.  You can’t deduct job search expenses if there was a long break between the end of your last job and the time you began looking for a new one.
  • Reimbursed Costs.  Reimbursed expenses are not deductible.
  • Schedule A.  You usually deduct your job search expenses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You’ll claim them as a miscellaneous deduction. You can deduct the total miscellaneous deductions that are more than two percent of your adjusted gross income.
  • Premium Tax Credit.  If you receive advance payment of the premium tax credit in 2014 it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

For more on job hunting refer to Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions on IRS.gov. You can also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get it by mail.

Additional IRS Resources:

Vacation Home Rentals

If you rent a home to others, you usually must report the rental income on your tax return. But you may not have to report the income if the rental period is short and you also use the property as your home. In most cases, you can deduct the costs of renting your property. However, your deduction may be limited if you also use the property as your home. Here is some basic tax information that you should know if you rent out a vacation home:

  • Vacation Home.  A vacation home can be a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat or similar property.
  • Schedule E.  You usually report rental income and rental expenses on Schedule E, Supplemental Income and Loss. Your rental income may also be subject to Net Investment Income Tax.
  • Used as a Home.  If the property is “used as a home,” your rental expense deduction is limited. This means your deduction for rental expenses can’t be more than the rent you received. For more about these rules, see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes).
  • Divide Expenses.  If you personally use your property and also rent it to others, special rules apply. You must divide your expenses between the rental use and the personal use. To figure how to divide your costs, you must compare the number of days for each type of use with the total days of use.
  • Personal Use.  Personal use may include use by your family. It may also include use by any other property owners or their family. Use by anyone who pays less than a fair rental price is also personal use.
  • Schedule A.  Report deductible expenses for personal use on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. These may include costs such as mortgage interest, property taxes and casualty losses.
  • Rented Less than 15 Days.  If the property is “used as a home” and you rent it out fewer than 15 days per year, you do not have to report the rental income.
  • Use IRS Free File.  If you still need to file your 2013 tax return, you can use IRS Free File to make filing easier. Free File is available until Oct. 15. If you make $58,000 or less, you can use brand-name tax software. If you earn more, you can use Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms. Free File is available only through the IRS.gov website.

Publication 527 is available on IRS.gov. You can also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get it by mail.

Additional IRS Resources:

Five Tips to Help You Pay Your Tax Bill

If you get a tax bill from the IRS, don’t ignore it. A delay may cost you more in the long run. The longer you wait the more interest and penalties you may have to pay. Here are five tips to help you avoid those extra charges:

1. Pay electronically.  Using an IRS electronic payment to pay your tax is quick, accurate and safe. You also get a record of your payment. Your options include:

          • IRS Direct Pay
      • Electronic Federal Tax Payment System
      • Credit or debit card

Direct Pay and EFTPS are free services. If you pay by credit or debit card, the company that processes your payment will charge a fee.

2. Pay monthly if you can’t pay in full.  If you can’t pay all at once, apply for a payment plan. Most people and some small businesses can apply using the IRS Online Payment Agreement Application on IRS.gov. You can also apply for a plan using Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. The best way to get the form is from the IRS.gov website. You can also call the IRS at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get it by mail.

3. Check out a direct debit pay plan.  A direct debit pay plan is the lower-cost hassle-free way to pay. The set-up fee is less than other plans – $52 instead of $120. With this type of plan, you pay each month automatically from your bank account. There are no reminder notices from IRS, no missed payments and no checks to write and mail. For more on these rules see the Payment Plans, Installment Agreements page on IRS.gov.

4. Consider an Offer in Compromise.  An Offer in Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt with the IRS for less than the full amount. An OIC may be an option if you can’t pay your tax in full. It may also apply if full payment will create a financial hardship. To see if you may qualify and what a reasonable offer might be, use the IRS Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier Tool.

5. Pay by check or money order.  Make your check or money order payable to the U.S. Treasury. Be sure to include:

  • Your name, address and daytime phone number
  • Your Social Security number or employer ID number if business tax
  • The tax period and related tax form, such as “2013 Form 1040”

Mail it to the address listed on your notice. Do not send cash in the mail.

 

Find out more about the IRS collection process on IRS.gov.

Tax Information for Students Who Take a Summer Job

Many students take a job in the summer after school lets out. If it’s your first job it gives you a chance to learn about the working world. That includes taxes we pay to support the place where we live, our state and our nation. Here are eight things that students who take a summer job should know about taxes:

1. Don’t be surprised when your employer withholds taxes from your paychecks. That’s how you pay your taxes when you’re an employee. If you’re self-employed, you may have to pay estimated taxes directly to the IRS on certain dates during the year. This is how our pay-as-you-go tax system works.

2. As a new employee, you’ll need to fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Your employer will use it to figure how much federal income tax to withhold from your pay. The IRS Withholding Calculator tool on IRS.gov can help you fill out the form.

3. Keep in mind that all tip income is taxable. If you get tips, you must keep a daily log so you can report them. You must report $20 or more in cash tips in any one month to your employer. And you must report all of your yearly tips on your tax return.

4. Money you earn doing work for others is taxable. Some work you do may count as self-employment. This can include jobs like baby-sitting and lawn mowing. Keep good records of expenses related to your work. You may be able to deduct (subtract) those costs from your income on your tax return. A deduction may help lower your taxes.

5. If you’re in ROTC, your active duty pay, such as pay you get for summer camp, is taxable. A subsistence allowance you get while in advanced training isn’t taxable.

6. You may not earn enough from your summer job to owe income tax. But your employer usually must withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from your pay. If you’re self-employed, you may have to pay them yourself. They count toward your coverage under the Social Security system.

7. If you’re a newspaper carrier or distributor, special rules apply. If you meet certain conditions, you’re considered self-employed. If you don’t meet those conditions and are under age 18, you are usually exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.

8. You may not earn enough money from your summer job to be required to file a tax return. Even if that’s true, you may still want to file. For example, if your employer withheld income tax from your pay, you’ll have to file a return to get your taxes refunded. You can prepare and e-file your tax return for free using IRS Free File. It’s available exclusively on IRS.gov.

Visit IRS.gov for more about the tax rules for students.

Additional IRS Resources:

• Student’s Page – High School
• Student’s Page – Higher Education

Find out if you qualify for a health insurance coverage exemption

The Affordable Care Act calls for individuals to have qualifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, have an exemption, or make a shared responsibility payment when filing his or her federal income tax return.

You may be exempt from the requirement to maintain qualifying health insurance coverage, called minimum essential coverage, and may not have to make a shared responsibility payment when you file your next federal income tax return.

You may be exempt if you:

  • Have no affordable coverage options because the minimum amount you must pay for the annual premiums is more than eight percent of your household income,
  • Have a gap in coverage for less than three consecutive months, or
  • Qualify for an exemption for one of several other reasons, including having a hardship that prevents you from obtaining coverage or belonging to a group explicitly exempt from the requirement.

The IRS website, IRS.gov/aca, has a comprehensive list of the coverage exemptions.

How you get an exemption depends upon the type of exemption. You can obtain some exemptions only from the Marketplace in the area where you live, others only from the IRS, and yet others from either the Marketplace or the IRS.

Additional information about exemptions is available on the Individual Shared Responsibility Provision web page on IRS.gov. The page includes a link to a chart that shows the types of exemptions available and whether they must be granted by the Marketplace, claimed on an income tax return filed with the IRS, or by either the Marketplace or the IRS. For additional information about how to get exemptions that may be granted by the Marketplace, visit HealthCare.gov/exemptions.

More Information

  • Find out more about the tax-related provisions of the health care law at IRS.gov/aca.
  • Find out more about the health care law at HealthCare.gov.

 

Tips for Taxpayers Who Missed the Tax Deadline

If you missed the April 15 tax filing deadline, don’t panic. Here’s some advice from the IRS.

  • File as soon as you can.  If you owe taxes, you should file and pay as soon as you can. This will help minimize the interest and penalty charges. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund.
  • IRS Free File is your best option.  Everyone can use IRS Free File to e-file their federal taxes for free. If your income was $58,000 or less, you can use free brand-name software. If you made more than $58,000 and are comfortable preparing your own tax return, use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file. This program uses the electronic versions of paper IRS forms. IRS Free File is available through Oct. 15 only through IRS.gov.
  • IRS E-file is still available.  IRS e-file is available through Oct. 15. E-file is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file your taxes. With e-file you receive confirmation that the IRS received your tax return. If you e-file and choose direct deposit of your refund, you’ll normally get it within 21 days.
  • Pay as much as you can.  If you owe tax but can’t pay it all at once, try to pay as much as you can when you file your tax return. Pay the remaining balance as soon as possible to stop further penalties and interest.
  • Make a payment agreement online.  If you need more time to pay your taxes, you can apply for a payment plan with the IRS. The easiest way to apply is to use the IRS Online Payment Agreement tool. You can also mail Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. The tool and form are both available on IRS.gov.
  • A refund may be waiting.  If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible to get it. Even if you are not required to file, you may still get a refund. This could apply if you had taxes withheld from your wages or you qualify for certain tax credits. If you don’t file your return within three years, you could forfeit your right to the refund.

For more information, visit IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources: