Credits

Your receipts are important: save them

Posted on Oct 2, 2017

When it comes to taking qualified deductions on your federal tax return, three things must happen: Recognize that an expense might be deductible on your tax return. Keep a record of the expense in an organized fashion. Obtain the proper (and timely) documentation to support your deduction. This might be obvious to most people, but here are some typical areas where taxpayers often fall short. In the long run, these items could end up costing you plenty during tax filing season, and trigger IRS audits. Cash donations to charity. To deduct and support your deduction to a qualified charity you must have valid support. Donations of cash are no longer deductible if they are not supported by a canceled check or written acknowledgement from the charity. A donation deduction of $250 or more needs to be supported by documentation created at the time of the donation. A canceled check and bank statement are not sufficient. If you get audited, having the charity issue documentation after the fact may not be enough. Non-cash contributions. You need documentation for these donations as well. This includes a detailed list of items donated, the condition of the items and their estimated fair market values. While this level of detail is not required for small donations, keeping good records and taking photos is a good practice. Investment purchases and sales. If you bought or sold an investment you will need to know your cost basis. Today’s regulations require brokers to report to the IRS the cost basis of investment sales. Review your broker accounts and correct any errors. It’s very difficult to defend yourself in an audit when records reported to the IRS are in error. Copies of divorce decrees, alimony and child support agreements. There are often conflicts between two taxpayers taking the same child as a deduction. Do you have the necessary proof to defend your position? The same is true with alimony and child support. Keep these documents in a safe place and be ready to use them if necessary. Copies of financial transactions. Keep copies of documents from any major financial transaction. This includes real estate settlement statements, refinancing documents and any records of major purchases. These documents are necessary to ensure your cost basis in the property is properly recorded. The documents will also help identify any tax-related items like mortgage insurance, property taxes and possible sales tax paid. Mileage logs. Lack of tracking deductible miles is probably one of the most commonly overlooked documentation requirements. Properly recording charitable, medical and business miles can really add up to a large deduction. If the record is not available, the IRS is quick to disallow your deduction. If you are not sure whether a document is needed, retain it. Then you can always retrieve it if needed. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

Read More

The real definition of “dependent” may surprise you

Posted on Feb 21, 2017

Many people think of a “dependent” as a minor child who lives with you. This is true, but it’s important to remember dependents can include parents, other relatives and nonrelatives, and even children who don’t live with you. Exemptions and your taxable income. Each dependent deduction is worth $4,050 on your 2016 and 2017 federal income tax returns. This exemption reduces your taxable income by this amount. You’ll lose part of the benefit when your adjusted gross income reaches a certain level. For 2016, the phase-out begins at $311,300 when you’re married filing jointly and $259,400 when you’re single. Definition of a dependent. A dependent is a qualifying child or a qualifying relative. While there are specific rules, generally, a dependent is someone who lives with you and who meets several tests, including a support test. For qualifying children, the support test means the child cannot have provided more than half of his or her own support for the year. For qualifying relatives, the support test means you generally must provide more than half of that person’s total support during the year. There are many exceptions. For example, parents don’t have to live with you if they otherwise qualify, but certain other relatives do. If you’re divorced and a noncustodial parent, your child doesn’t necessarily have to live with you for the dependent deduction to apply.   Who can’t be claimed? Your spouse is never your dependent. In addition, you generally may not claim a married person as a dependent if that person files a joint return with a spouse. Also, a dependent must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien, national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico for part of the year. For a seemingly simple deduction, claiming an exemption for a dependent can be quite complex. You’ll want to get it right, because being able to claim someone as a dependent can lead to other tax benefits, including the child tax credit, education credits, and the dependent care credit. Contact our office to learn who qualifies as your dependent. We’ll help you make the most of your federal income tax exemptions. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

Read More

Why you should consider using HRAs to help employees with medical costs

Posted on Feb 14, 2017

A health reimbursement arrangement, or HRA, is a benefit plan you can offer to your employees to reimburse them for medical expenses that are not covered by an insurance plan. HRAs offer tax benefits, including the deductibility of contributions you make to your employees’ accounts. Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) took effect, if you employed 50 or fewer workers, your ability to provide HRAs to your employees may have been limited. However, a law passed in December 2016 created a new type of HRA that you can offer if you do not provide group health insurance. The 21st Century Cures Act allows “stand-alone” HRAs if the accounts meet funding and other requirements. These new HRAs allow you to help your employees pay for medical costs, such as the reimbursement of premiums for policies purchased on the healthcare exchange. In addition, the Act extends relief from the $100 per day penalty for prior arrangements that did not meet Affordable Care Act rules. Please contact us for more information about this new employee benefit option. This discussion could be crucial given the uncertainty of future ACA rules. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

Read More

You may be asked for more information if you claim certain credits

Posted on Feb 8, 2017

Don’t be surprised if you’re required to answer additional questions this year if you claim the Child Tax Credit (CTC), Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), or American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC). For the CTC and ACTC credits, you may be asked how long your children lived with you over the past year, or whether they lived with an ex-spouse, relatives or other guardian. If you are eligible for the AOTC, which is a credit to defray as much as $2,500 in higher education costs for you or your children, you will need to provide Form 1098-T from the college or university. You will also need receipts for related expenses. You may also be asked to double-check your forms for incorrect Social Security numbers and dates of birth for the dependents on your return, as these are two common sources of error. These common errors have helped to make the EIC and the other credits a major source of what the IRS calls “improper payments.” The agency estimates that of the $66 billion in EIC funds paid in 2015, nearly a quarter were collected by filers who didn’t qualify to receive them. As a result, the IRS is requiring tax preparers to ask more questions. Starting this year, tax preparers who don’t document their compliance with these new requirements could face fines of up to $510 per return. If you get more questions than usual or are asked for additional documents, be aware that it’s just a new requirement. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

Read More

Summer day care expenses can add up to a tax credit

Posted on Jun 28, 2016

Did you know that you can claim a federal income tax credit when you pay someone to care for your kids while you’re at work or school? The Child and Dependent Care Credit is valuable because it reduces the amount of tax you owe dollar-for-dollar. Here’s an overview of the rules. Child care expenses must be work-related. This requirement means you have to pay for child care so you can work or actively look for work. If you’re married, you and your spouse must both work. Exceptions to this “earned income” rule include spouses who are full-time students or who are not able to care for themselves due to mental or physical limitations. Expenses generally must be paid for care of your under-age-13 child. However, expenses you pay to care for a physically or mentally disabled spouse or adult dependent may also count. Expenses must be paid to someone who is not your dependent. Amounts you pay your spouse, your child’s parent (such as an ex-spouse), anyone claimed as a dependent on your tax return, or your own child age 18 or younger do not qualify for the credit. For example, if you pay your 17-year-old dependent child to watch a younger sibling, that expense doesn’t count for purposes of claiming the credit. The care provider has to be identified on your tax return. You’ll typically need to show the name, address, and taxpayer identification number. You can request this information by asking your provider to complete Form W-10, Dependent Care Provider’s Identification and Certification. The amount you can claim depends on how much you spend for the care up to a dollar limit of $3,000 of expenses for one dependent and $6,000 for two or more dependents. Contact us for more information. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in the McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates specializes known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws, we help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

Read More

Prepaid debit cards offer benefits and drawbacks

Posted on May 10, 2016

Prepaid debit cards, also known as stored-value cards, can be useful when you lack a traditional checking account. In an increasingly plastic-dependent world, these cards can be substituted for cash, and you can use them to pay for airline tickets, hotel stays, electronics, and groceries. Money is transferred, or “loaded,” to the card and is yours to spend until the card runs out of funds or is reloaded. Prepaid cards have several advantages over traditional credit and debit cards. For example, if you’re traveling and the card is stolen, losses are limited to the amount on the card. In addition, because your personal banking information isn’t on the card, thieves and con artists can’t extract that data to steal your identity. Another use: Teaching kids how to budget. Some issuers offer instant alerts that monitor card activity, which is a great way for parents to see what their teens are purchasing in real time. If you’re the one who’s prone to overspending, prepaid cards offer a built-in safety net: you can’t spend more than the amount that’s loaded onto the card. But be aware of the lack of regulatory constraints on the cards. Issuers have great latitude over fees and prepaid cards can get expensive. Depending on the card issuer, you might be charged a fee to activate the card, use it at an ATM machine, check your balance, add more money, or talk to customer support. You might be charged a monthly maintenance fee as well. Before you buy, read the fine print. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in the McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates specializes known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws, we help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

Read More