Tax Tips

Your Plans This Summer May be Eligible for Itemized Deductions

These activities can be itemized as deductions if you have plans to sell or buy a home this summer or to donate some old items. Here are some examples:

If you are refinancing your home this summer, you can deduct some of your mortgage interest. However, there are some limits to these deductions. According to the IRS, the deduction is limited to interest paid on a loan secured by the taxpayer’s main or second home. When refinancing, you must use the loan to buy, build, or substantially improve your main or second home.

If you buy a new home this summer, you can deduct mortgage interest if you pay $750,000 in qualifying debt for a first and second home or $375,000 when married and filing separately.

Summer is a great time to sift through your things and donate old clothes, furniture, or home goods you no longer need. If you itemize the deductions and provide proof of the donations, these donations may qualify for a tax deduction.

In addition to donating items, you can deduct mileage on your vehicle for services performed for a qualifying charity.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov9

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, April 5, 2023

When Was the Last Time You Checked Your Withholding Status?

Most people check their withholding status at the end of the year or as filing season arrives, but the middle of the year may be as good of a time as any to double-check your withholding status and confirm its accuracy. The IRS has a handy tool called the Tax Withholding Estimator, which can help you assess the tax withheld from your wages.

The tool can also help you determine if you must complete a new W-4 to submit to your employer, complete a new W-4P, or make additional payments to the IRS. It does this by estimating your annual income, factoring in any children you may have and earned income tax credit, and accounting for other items that may affect your yearly taxes.

Before using the Tax Withholding Estimator, gather all necessary documents; this includes your W-2 from your employer, any 1099 forms you have from banks and other payers, and any other forms you need. Gathering as much information as possible will be helpful because the estimator will only be as accurate as the information you enter.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov5

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, January 10, 2024 

Tax Season May be Over, but the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Applies Year-Round

Although filing season might be over for most taxpayers, the IRS is available year-round for any questions. They also have a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which promises the level of service and information you will receive when working with the IRS.

Here are the ten fundamental rights you have as a taxpayer when interacting with the IRS:

  • The right to be informed: As a taxpayer, you must know what is required to comply with tax laws.
  • The right to quality service: You will receive prompt, courteous, professional assistance.
  • The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax: You only pay what is legally due, including interest and penalties.
  • The right to challenge the IRS’ position and be heard: You can object to IRS actions and provide further justification with documentation.
  • The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum: Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including certain penalties.
  • The right to finality: You have the right to know how much time you have to challenge an IRS position and how soon the IRS must audit your taxes.
  • The right to privacy: All IRS inquiries, examinations, and enforcement will not be more intrusive than necessary.
  • The right to confidentiality: Taxpayers have the right to expect that their tax information will remain confidential.
  • The right to retain representation: Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their interactions with the IRS.
  • The right to a fair and just tax system: Taxpayers have the right to expect fairness from the tax system; this includes considering all facts and circumstances that might affect their liabilities and their ability to pay or provide information in a timely fashion.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov4

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, May 1, 2023

Employee vs Independent Contractor: Classifying Those Who Work for You Appropriately

Classifying workers as independent contractors or employees is essential for several tax reasons. The basis for this classification has two primary considerations: control and relationship.

Control refers to how much of the person’s work you control; this encompasses the completed work, its execution, and whether you control the financial aspects of the person’s job. In this manner, “control” means both behavioral and financial control.

Another critical factor is the relationship between the employer and the worker. How both parties perceive this relationship can guide you in determining the worker’s status. Some factors that influence relationships include the following.

  • Written contracts that describe the relationship the parties intended to create.
  • Whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation, or sick pay.
  • The permanency of the relationship.
  • The extent to which services performed by the worker are a pivotal aspect of the company’s regular business.
  • The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed business expenses.

Classifying your workers is essential because independent contractors and employees face different tax needs and implications.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov5

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, January 24, 2023

Starting a New Hobby? These Tips Can Help You Understand the Tax Situation

Whether you pick up painting or cook new concoctions in your kitchen, starting a new hobby is always fun and a great avenue to learn something new. However, there are some important tax considerations when starting a new hobby, especially if you are considering turning your newfound passion into a business.

Taxpayers must report any income earned from hobbies, even if it does not involve a licensed business. While businesses should make a profit, hobbies are primarily recreation. The following nine factors can guide you in determining whether a hobby could also be considered a business, according to the IRS:

  • Whether you execute the activity in a businesslike manner and maintain complete and accurate books and records.
  • Whether you have personal motives in performing the activity.
  • Whether the time and effort you expend in the activity indicate that you intend to make it profitable.
  • Whether you depend on income from the activity for your livelihood.
  • Whether your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the startup phase of your type of business).
  • Whether you or your financial professional understand how to parlay the activity into a successful business.
  • Whether you successfully made a profit through similar activities in the past.
  • Whether the activity will make a profit in some years and how much profit it will make.
  • Whether you can profit from appreciating the assets used in the activity.

You can also deduct some of the expenses associated with your hobby. Within certain limits, taxpayers can typically deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses. An ordinary expense is common and accepted for the activity, while a necessary expense is appropriate.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov6

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, November 15, 2023

Are Social Security Benefits Taxable?

If you receive Social Security benefits, you may have to pay federal income tax on some of these benefits. Your payment will depend on your specific income and filing status.

To find out whether your Social Security benefits are taxable, if you are single, take half of the Social Security money you received throughout the year and add it to your other income, including pensions, wages, interest, dividends, and capital gains. If the total for an individual exceeds $25,000, part of your benefits may be taxable.

If you are married filing jointly, take half of the Social Security money you received throughout the year plus half of your spouse’s Social Security benefits; add both amounts to your combined household income. If the total is over $32,000, part of your benefits may be taxable.

The IRS’s website delineates the taxable percentage of benefits based on the above calculation. These percentages vary between 50% to 85% and depend on your filing status and income levels. For example, if you are filing as a single person with $25,000 to $34,000 income, 50% of your Social Security benefits may be taxable.

The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help you determine whether your Social Security benefits are taxable and, if so, by how much.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov7

Footnotes and Sources

  1. The Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2024

Do You Need to Report Cash Payments?

If you receive a cash payment of over $10,000, you may be required to report it to the IRS. In this case, a cash payment includes U.S. or foreign currency and can also include cashier’s checks, bank drafts, traveler’s checks, or money orders.

In addition, cash payments to individuals can also include payments from companies, corporations, partnerships, or associations. For example, these could consist of payments from the following parties:

  • Dealers of jewelry, furniture, boats, aircraft, automobiles, art, rugs, and antiques
  • Pawnbrokers
  • Attorneys
  • Real estate brokers
  • Insurance companies
  • Travel agencies

This requirement refers to cash payments received as one lump sum, in two or more payments within 24 hours, as a single transaction within 12 months, or as part of two or more transactions within 12 months.

So, how do you report cash payments? Taxpayers should complete Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business. You can file this form electronically or mail a copy to the IRS. You must submit Form 8300 within 15 days after receiving the cash payment.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov6

Footnotes and Sources

6 IRS.gov, July 26, 2023

IRS Program Helps Seniors Prepare Taxes

The IRS has a Free File tool, which facilitates online tax preparation, direct deposits of refunds, and electronic filing choices, designed for taxpayers on a fixed budget, including seniors and retirees. Here is some information to know about the tool:

  • IRS Free File is at IRS.gov and features some significant names in the tax software provider world.
  • To use the tool, taxpayers can browse multiple offers.
  • The eligibility standards for Free File depend on the tax partner but are typically based on income, age, and state residency.
  • Free File has most of the necessary forms when filing your taxes. Even if you have a unique tax situation, you may still be able to use Free File.
  • Some Free File products are available in Spanish.
  • You can also search for credits and deductions in Free File.
  • Some providers in Free File also offer state return preparation. You can use the lookup tool in Free File to find the tax partner that might be appropriate for your state requirements.
  • Taxpayers can access Free File through computers, smartphones, or tablets.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov6

Footnotes and Sources

6 IRS.gov, October 23, 2023

Can you Claim the Child Tax Credit for Other Dependents?

Even if you cannot claim the child tax credit, you may be able to claim the credit for other dependents under your care. The IRS issues a maximum of $500 for each dependent who meets specific conditions.

These conditions include the following:

  • Dependents who are age 17 or older.
  • Dependents who have individual taxpayer identification numbers.
  • Dependent parents or other qualifying relatives supported by the taxpayer.
  • Dependents living with the taxpayer who are not related to the taxpayer.

The credit begins to phase out when the taxpayer’s income exceeds $200,000. This phaseout begins for married couples filing a joint tax return at $400,000.

Taxpayers may be able to claim this credit if the following are applicable:

  • They claim the person as a dependent on the taxpayer’s return.
  • They cannot use the dependent to claim the child tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • The dependent is a U.S. citizen, national, or resident alien.

This dependent credit may also combine with the child and dependent care credit and the earned income credit.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov7

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, October 23, 2023

More Digital Choices For Filing

The IRS has made it easier to file your taxes. Forms now contain electronic signature options, meaning tax professionals can conduct remote transactions.

To allow your tax professional to use the electronic signature option, you must fill out and submit Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative. This form constitutes a written authorization appointing tax professionals to represent taxpayers before the IRS; this includes performing certain acts on the taxpayer’s behalf. These acts may encompass providing an e-signature.

*This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific, individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax professional.

Tip adapted from IRS.gov7

Footnotes and Sources

  1. IRS.gov, February 13, 2023