IRS TAX TIPS FOR DEDUCTING GIFTS TO CHARITY

The holiday season often prompts people to give money or property to charity. If you plan to give and want to claim a tax deduction, there are a few tips you should know before you give. For instance, you must itemize your deductions. Here are six more tips that you should keep in mind:

1. Give to qualified charities. You can only deduct gifts you give to a qualified charity. Use the IRS Select Check tool to see if the group you give to is qualified. You can deduct gifts to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies. This is true even if Select Check does not list them in its database.

2. Keep a record of all cash gifts.  Gifts of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. You must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity to deduct any gift of money on your tax return. This is true regardless of the amount of the gift. The statement must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, or bank, credit union and credit card statements. If you give by payroll deductions, you should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document from your employer. It must show the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

3. Household goods must be in good condition.  Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. These items must be in at least good-used condition to claim on your taxes. A deduction claimed of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if you include a qualified appraisal of the item with your tax return.

4. Additional records required.  You must get an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. Additional rules apply to the statement for gifts of that amount. This statement is in addition to the records required for deducting cash gifts. However, one statement with all of the required information may meet both requirements.

5. Year-end gifts.  Deduct contributions in the year you make them. If you charge your gift to a credit card before the end of the year it will count for 2015. This is true even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2016. Also, a check will count for 2015 as long as you mail it in 2015.

6. Special rules.  Special rules apply if you give a car, boat or airplane to charity. If you claim a deduction of more than $500 for a noncash contribution, you will need to file another form with your tax return. Use Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions to report these gifts. For more on these rules, visit IRS.gov.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

 

 

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How Your Income Affects Your Premium Tax Credit

You are allowed a premium tax credit only for health insurance coverage you purchase through the Marketplace for yourself or other members of your tax family. However, to be eligible for the premium tax credit, your household income must be at least 100, but no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line for your family size. An individual who meets these income requirements must also meet other eligibility criteria.

The amount of the premium tax credit is based on a sliding scale, with greater credit amounts available to those with lower incomes.  Based on the estimate from the Marketplace, you can choose to have all, some, or none of your estimated credit paid in advance directly to your insurance company on your behalf to lower what you pay out-of-pocket for your monthly premiums.  These payments are called advance payments of the premium tax credit.  If you do not get advance credit payments, you will be responsible for paying the full monthly premium.

If the advance credit payments are more than the allowed premium tax credit, you will have to repay some or all the excess.  If your projected household income is close to the 400 percent upper limit, be sure to consider the amount of advance credit payments you choose to have paid on your behalf.  You want to consider this carefully because if your household income on your tax return is 400 percent or more of the federal poverty line for your family size, you will have to repay all of the advance credit payments made on behalf of you and your family members.

For purposes of claiming the premium tax credit for 2014 for residents of the 48 contiguous states or Washington, D.C., the following table outlines household income that is at least 100 percent but no more than 400 percent of the federal poverty line:

 Federal Poverty Line for 2014 Returns
100% of FPL . 400% of FPL
One Individual $11,490 up to $45,960
Family of two $15,510 up to $62,040
Family of four $23,550 up to $94,200

The Department of Health and Human Services provides three federal poverty guidelines: one for residents of the 48 contiguous states and Washington D.C., one for Alaska residents and one for Hawaii residents. For purposes of the premium tax credit, eligibility for a certain year is based on the most recently published set of poverty guidelines at the time of the first day of the annual open enrollment period for coverage for that year. As a result, the premium tax credit for 2014 is based on the guidelines published in 2013. The premium tax credit for coverage in 2015 is based on the 2014 guidelines. You can find all of this information on the HHS website.

Use our Interactive Tax Assistant tool to find out if you are eligible for the premium tax credit. For more information, see the instructions to Form 8962 and the Questions and Answers on the Premium Tax Credit on IRS.gov/aca.

6 Advantages of Real Estate Investing for Savvy Entrepreneurs

I’ve had numerous conversations with entrepreneurs lately who have come to the conclusion that they need to start diversifying their business profits into more than just a savings account. If this is you – pay close attention.

Being a real estate investor isn’t always glamorous but it is one of the best ways to build wealth over the long-haul, especially for the entrepreneurial-minded. Here are six reasons why you should consider investing in rental properties.

1. Cash flow.

Many people invest in rental properties simply because of the cash flow – the extra money that is left after all the bills have been paid. The cash flow can provide ongoing, monthly income that is mostly passive, allowing you to spend your time building a business, traveling or reinvesting in more real estate.

Cash flow from real estate is stable and far more predictable than most other businesses. That’s great for entrepreneurs enduring the ups and downs of start-up life. The cash flow can help float you though the bad times and live well during the good times.

2. Tax benefits.

Let me ask you a quick question: if you earn $100,000 at your own business and I earn $100,000 through rental properties, who get’s to keep more?

That’s right: I do. Because the government rewards rental property owners.

Not only is the cash flow received from your rentals not subject to self-employment tax, the government offers tax benefits including depreciation and significantly lower tax-rates for long-term profits.

3. The loan pay down.

When you buy a rental property using a mortgage, your tenant is actually the one paying the mortgage payment, thus increasing your net worth each month. Because of the loan pay down a rental property is essentially a savings account that grows automatically, without you depositing money each month.

Today you might owe $200,000 on a rental property, but next year you might only owe $195,000 because the tenant is making the payment for you, making you $5,000 richer. Thirty years down the road, or whatever the term of your loan, it’s paid down to $0. You own a significant asset that you can sell or continue renting, all thanks to your tenant paying the mortgage.

4. Appreciation.

While the loan is being paid down the value of real estate, generally, goes up. Yes, I know, recessions do happen. Values do go up and down. People buy at the wrong time of the market.  I get it.

However…

Over time, values do climb higher and higher. That’s why I’m not in this real estate game just for a year or even a decade. I’m in this for life. I know my properties will continue to climb so that 30 years from now, everything will be worth far more than I’m paying for it today.

5. A hedge against inflation.

Can you imagine paying ten dollars for a gallon of milk? Or five dollars for a candy bar? While those prices seem exorbitant to you, this is the future because of inflation. Inflation is the process by which prices increase due to the value of money decreasing.

While most people fear inflation, as a rental property owner, I look forward to it!

When the price of a gallon of milk hits ten bucks a gallon, guess what else is going to shoot through the roof? Everything, including rents and property values! The one thing that won’t increase, however, is my fixed-rate mortgage payment. As inflation pushes the cost of living higher and higher, my cash flow will only increase. This is why real estate is often called “a hedge against inflation.” When inflation hits – I’m ready!

6. Control.

I don’t like my destiny tied to a board room on Wall Street or a nervous CEO in Silicon Valley.

This is why I choose to invest most of my income in real estate, knowing that I am the one who is responsible for my success or failure.

  • If I want a better deal, I need to hustle to find it.
  • If the rental market gets more competitive, I can compensate by increasing my advertising.
  • If values drop, I can choose to wait it out or improve the property to drive the value back up.

In other words, I get to control the situation, and my financial future, with my own two hands. And that suits me just fine.

Don’t think that just by owning some rentals you are instantly going to begin building wealth. Real estate is powerful – but only if you work it right.

You must learn how to find great deals, how to evaluate a real estate investment, and how to finance any properties you want to buy. Additionally, you must treat it like a business and nurture it as it matures. It’s likely not going to be totally passive up front, but as millions of individuals throughout history have discovered, the payoff is well worth the journey.

What Information Must a Health Coverage Provider Report to the IRS

For purposes of the health care law, the information that health coverage providers, including employers that provide self-insured coverage, report to the IRS includes the following:
• The name, address, and employer identification number of the provider
• The responsible individual’s name, address, and taxpayer identification number – or date of birth if a TIN is not available
• If the responsible individual is not enrolled in the coverage, providers may, but are not required to, report the TIN of the responsible individual
• The name and TIN, or date of birth if a TIN is not available, of each individual covered under the policy or program and the months for which the individual was enrolled in coverage and entitled to receive benefits
• For coverage provided by a health insurance issuer through a group health plan, the name, address, and EIN of the employer sponsoring the plan, and whether the coverage is a qualified health plan enrolled in through the Small Business Health Options Program – known as SHOP – and the SHOP’s identifier
A taxpayer identification number is an identification number used by the IRS in the administration of tax laws. Taxpayer identification numbers include Social Security numbers.
Reporting of TINs for all covered individuals is necessary for the IRS to verify an individual’s coverage without the need to contact the individual.
If health coverage providers are unable to obtain a TIN after making a reasonable effort to do so, the provider may report a covered individual’s date of birth in lieu of a TIN. A health coverage provider will not be subject to a penalty if it demonstrates that it properly solicited the TIN.
In addition to the information it reports to the IRS for each covered individual listed on the information return, a health coverage provider must include a phone number for the provider’s designated contact person – if any – that the individual recipient of the statement can contact for answers to questions about information on the statement.
For information about when and how to report this information, see our Questions and Answers on Information Reporting by Health Coverage Providers on IRS.gov/aca.

Key Tax Tips on the Tax Effects of Divorce or Separation

Income tax may be the last thing on your mind after a divorce or separation. However, these events can have a big impact on your taxes. Alimony and a name change are just a few items you may need to consider. Here are some key tax tips to keep in mind if you get divorced or separated.
• Child Support. If you pay child support, you can’t deduct it on your tax return. If you receive child support, the amount you receive is not taxable.
• Alimony Paid. If you make payments under a divorce or separate maintenance decree or written separation agreement you may be able to deduct them as alimony. This applies only if the payments qualify as alimony for federal tax purposes. If the decree or agreement does not require the payments, they do not qualify as alimony.
• Alimony Received. If you get alimony from your spouse or former spouse, it is taxable in the year you get it. Alimony is not subject to tax withholding so you may need to increase the tax you pay during the year to avoid a penalty. To do this, you can make estimated tax payments or increase the amount of tax withheld from your wages.
• Spousal IRA. If you get a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance by the end of your tax year, you can’t deduct contributions you make to your former spouse’s traditional IRA. You may be able to deduct contributions you make to your own traditional IRA.
• Name Changes. If you change your name after your divorce, notify the Social Security Administration of the change. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on SSA.gov or call 800-772-1213 to order it. The name on your tax return must match SSA records. A name mismatch can delay your refund.
Health Care Law Considerations
• Special Marketplace Enrollment Period. If you lose your health insurance coverage due to divorce, you are still required to have coverage for every month of the year for yourself and the dependents you can claim on your tax return. Losing coverage through a divorce is considered a qualifying life event that allows you to enroll in health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace during a Special Enrollment Period.
• Changes in Circumstances. If you purchase health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace you may get advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2015. If you do, you should report changes in circumstances to your Marketplace throughout the year. Changes to report include a change in marital status, a name change and a change in your income or family size. By reporting changes, you will help make sure that you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance. This will also help you avoid getting too much or too little credit in advance.
• Shared Policy Allocation. If you divorced or are legally separated during the tax year and are enrolled in the same qualified health plan, you and your former spouse must allocate policy amounts on your separate tax returns to figure your premium tax credit and reconcile any advance payments made on your behalf. Publication 974, Premium Tax Credit, has more information about the Shared Policy Allocation.
For more on this topic, see Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.
Additional IRS Resources:
• Publications 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs)
• Publication 555, Community Property
• Publication 974, Premium Tax Credit
• Publication 5152: Report changes to the Marketplace as they happen English | Spanish

Inside This Issue Include a Few Tax Items in Your Summer Wedding Checklist

If you’re preparing for summer nuptials, make sure you do some tax planning as well. A few steps taken now can make tax time easier next year. Here are some tips from the IRS to help keep tax issues that may arise from your marriage to a minimum:

  • Change of name. All the names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration records. If you change your name, report it to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The easiest way for you to get the form is to download and print it on SSA.gov. You can also call SSA at 800-772-1213 to order the form, or get it from your local SSA office.
  • Change tax withholding. When you get married, you should consider a change of income tax withholding. To do that, give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. The withholding rate for married people is lower than for those who are single. Some married people find that they do not have enough tax withheld at the married rate. For example, this can happen if you and your spouse both work. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information. You can get IRS forms and publications on IRS.gov/forms at any time.
  • Changes in circumstances. If you receive advance payments of the premium tax credit you should report changes in circumstances, such as your marriage, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. Other changes that you should report include a change in your income or family size. 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 in circumstances will allow the Marketplace to adjust your advance credit payments. This adjustment will help you avoid getting a smaller refund or owing money that you did not expect to owe on your federal tax return.
  • Change of address. Let the IRS know if you move. To do that, file Form 8822, Change of Address, with the IRS. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can change your address online at USPS.com, or report the change at your local post office.
  • Change in filing status. If you are married as of Dec. 31, that is your marital status for the entire year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal tax return jointly or separately each year. It is a good idea to figure the tax both ways so you can choose the status that results in the least tax.

The Health Care Law and Employers: The ACA Basics for Applicable Large Employers

Some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act only affect your organization if it’s an applicable large employer. An applicable large employer is generally one with 50 or more full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees.
• Applicable large employers have annual reporting responsibilities; you will need to provide the IRS and employees information returns concerning whether and what health insurance you offer to your full-time employees.
• If you’re an applicable large employer that provides self-insured health coverage to your employees, you must file an annual return reporting certain information for each employee you cover.
• You may have to make an employer shared responsibility payment if you do not offer adequate, affordable coverage to your full-time employees, and one or more of those employees get a premium tax credit. Learn more about the employer shared responsibility provision.
• You may be required to report the value of the health insurance coverage you provided to each employee on their Form W-2.
• If you’re an applicable large employer with exactly 50 employees, you can purchase affordable insurance through the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).
For more information, see the Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions for Employers page on IRS.gov/aca.

Prepare for a Disaster – Plan to Keep Your Tax Records Safe

To mark the start of the hurricane season, the IRS urges you to make a plan to keep your tax records safe. Plans made before a disaster strikes can help you recover from the destruction left in its wake. The following tips can help you make that plan:

  • Use Electronic Records.  You may have access to bank and other financial statements online. If so, your statements are already securely stored there. You can also keep an additional set of records electronically. One way is to scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You may want to download important records to an external hard drive, USB flash drive or burn them onto CD or DVD. Be sure you keep duplicates of your records in a safe place. For example store them in a waterproof container away from the originals. If a disaster strikes your home, it may also affect a wide area. If that happens you may not be able to retrieve the records that are stored in that area.
  • Document Valuables.  Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should also store these in a safe place. For example, you might store them with a friend or relative who lives out of the area.
  • Count on the IRS for Help.  If you fall victim to a disaster, know that the IRS stands ready to help. You can call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 for special help with disaster-related tax issues.
  • Get Copies of Prior Year Tax Records.  If you need a copy of your tax return you should file Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. The usual fee per copy is $50. However, the IRS will waive this fee if you are a victim of a federally declared disaster. If you just need information that shows most line items from your tax return, you can call 1-800-908-9946 to request a free transcript. You can also get it if you file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

Find out how ACA affects Employers with 50 or more Employees

Some of the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, or health care law, apply only to large employers, which are generally those with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees. These employers are considered applicable large employers – also known as ALEs – and are subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions and the annual employer information return provisions. For example, in 2016 applicable large employers will have annual reporting responsibilities concerning whether and what health insurance they offered in 2015 to their full-time employees.
All employers, regardless of size, that provide self-insured health coverage must file an annual return reporting certain information for individuals they cover. The first returns are due to be filed in 2016 for the year 2015.
Effective for calendar year 2015, ALEs with 100 or more full-time or full-time equivalent employees will be subject to the employer shared responsibility provision and therefore may have to make a shared responsibility payment. This applies to employers that do not offer adequate, affordable coverage to their full-time employees and one or more of those employees get a premium tax credit. The employer shared responsibility provisions will be phased in for smaller ALEs from 2015 to 2016.
Calculating the number of employees is especially important for employers that have close to 50 employees or whose workforce fluctuates throughout the year. To determine its workforce size for a year an employer adds its total number of full-time employees for each month of the prior calendar year to the total number of full-time equivalent employees for each calendar month of the prior calendar year and divides that total number by 12.
Employers with more than 50 cannot purchase health insurance coverage for its employees through the Small Business Health Options Program – better known as the SHOP Marketplace. However, Employers that have exactly 50 employees can purchase coverage for their employees through the SHOP.
For more information, visit our Determining if an Employer is an Applicable Large Employer page on IRS.gov/aca.

Find out how ACA affects Employers with fewer than 50 Employees

Most employers have fewer than 50 full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees and are therefore not subject to the Affordable Care Act’s employer shared responsibility provision.

If an employer has fewer than 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, the employer is not an ALE for the current calendar year.  Therefore, the employer is not subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions or the employer information reporting provisions for the current year. Employers with 50 or fewer employees can purchase health insurance coverage for its employees through the Small Business Health Options Program – better known as the SHOP Marketplace.

Calculating the number of employees is especially important for employers that have close to 50 employees or whose workforce fluctuates throughout the year. To determine its workforce size for a year an employer adds its total number of full-time employees for each month of the prior calendar year to the total number of full-time equivalent employees for each calendar month of the prior calendar year, and divides that total number by 12.

Employers that have fewer than 25 full-time equivalent employees with average annual wages of less than $50,000 may be eligible for the small business health care tax credit if they cover at least 50 percent of their full-time employees’ premium costs and generally, after 2013, if they purchase coverage through the SHOP.

All employers, regardless of size, that provide self-insured health coverage must file an annual information return reporting certain information for individuals they cover. The first returns are due to be filed in 2016 for coverage provided during 2015.

For more information, visit our Determining if an Employer is an Applicable Large Employer page on IRS.gov/aca.