FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions

What do I do if I receive a notice from the IRS about my taxes?
  Don’t panic! the first thing to do is carefully read the notice—to determine why it was sent, what the IRS is requesting, and what they want you to do. It may be nothing of importance; it may even be a notice in your favor. After reading it you should bring it to our attention.

What do I need to bring when I am having my taxes prepared?

Following is a list of the more common items you should bring if you have them.

  • Wage statements (Form W-2)
  • Pension, or retirement income (Forms 1099-R)
  • Dependents’ Social Security numbers and dates of birth
  • 
Last year’s tax return
  • Information on education expenses
  • Information on the sales of stocks and/or bonds
  • Self-employed business income and expenses
  • 
Lottery and/or gambling winnings and losses
  • 
State refund amount
  • 
Social Security and/or unemployment income
  • 
Income and expenses from rentals
  • Record of purchase or sale of real estate
  • Medical and dental expenses
  • Real estate and personal property taxes
  • Estimated taxes or foreign taxes paid
  • Cash and non-cash charitable donations
  • 
Mortgage or home equity loan interest paid (Form 1098)
  • Unreimbursed employment-related expenses
  • Job-related educational expenses
  • Child care expenses and provider information

And any other items that you think may be necessary for your taxes.

How do I find out about my refund?
 The best way is to use the Check Your Refund link from the Resources pages of our website! To look up the status of your federal or state refund, you will need your social security number, filing status, and exact amount you’re expecting back.

How long do I keep my records and tax returns?

You should keep your records and tax returns for at least 3 years from the date the return was filed or the date the return was required to be filed, whichever is later. It is recommended that you keep these records longer if possible.

What are the consequences of early withdrawals from my retirement plans?
If you withdraw money from a 401(k) or an IRA before age 59 ½, the distribution is taxable and there is a 10% penalty on the taxable amount. The main exceptions that let you withdraw money early without penalty are as follows:

  • Qualified retirement plan distributions if you separated from service in or after the year you reach age 55 (does not apply to IRAs).
  • Distributions made as a part of a series of substantially equal periodic payments (made at least annually) for your life or the joint lives of you and your designated beneficiary.
  • Distributions due to total and permanent disability.
  • Distributions due to death (does not apply to modified endowment contracts)
  • Qualified retirement plan distributions up to (1) the amount you paid for unreimbursed medical expenses during the year minus (2) 7.5% of your adjusted gross income for the year.
  • IRA distributions made to unemployed individuals for health insurance premiums.
  • IRA distributions made for higher education expenses.
  • IRA distributions made for the purchase of a first home (up to $10,000).
  • Distributions due to an IRS levy on the qualified retirement plan.
  • Qualified distributions to reservists while serving on active duty for at least 180 days.

What college expenses may I deduct?
There are several ways you can claim deductions for college expenses on your tax return. They are the tuition deduction, the HOPE credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. If we are preparing your return we will determine which ones you qualify for and which one gives you the greatest tax benefit.

What medical expenses are deductible?
A deduction is allowed only for expenses paid for the prevention or alleviation of a physical or mental defect or illness. Medical care expenses include payments for the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease, or treatment affecting any structure or function of the body. Except for insulin, only prescription drugs are deductible. The cost of health insurance is deductible. You may also deduct the cost of traveling to and from the care provider. You can deduct only the part of your medical and dental expenses that exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income.

What do I need to keep for my charitable contributions?
First, is your contribution cash or non-cash?

  • If you make a cash donation, you must have a bank record or written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the amount of the donation. A bank record can be the cancelled check or a statement from a bank or credit union—so long as it lists the charity’s name, the date, and the amount of the contribution. Personal records such as bank registers, diaries and notes are no longer considered acceptable proof of contributions.
    Any used items (such as clothing, linens, appliances, etc.) must be in good condition and may only be deducted at the price you could reasonably ask for the item in used condition. For contributions worth $250 or more, you must have a written receipt or letter from the organization. For contributions worth $500 or more, you must file Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) and attach it to your Form 1040.

All contributions must be made to qualified charitable organizations.

What are the tax consequences of buying a home?
The main tax consequence of buying a home is that you may be able to deduct the property taxes you pay and any mortgage interest you pay. Points you pay may also be deductible. Please contact our office to determine the eligibility. Normal expenses for maintaining a home are not deductible, but you should keep records of any major expenses for repairs or improvements. I you have a taxable gain when you sell your home, these expenses may be deductible.

What are the tax consequences of selling a home?
If you sell your personal residence you can totally exclude from income up to $250,000 of gain if you are single, or $500,000 if married, regardless of your age at the time of the sale—if during the 5 years before the sale you owned the home and lived in it for a total of any 24 months. The exclusion is not a one-time election; instead it is available once every 2 years. Recent tax law has adversely changed the handling of gains on the sale of a home if you rented the property before you made it your personal residence. Please contact our office if you believe this situation will affect you.

I didn’t earn very much. Do I still have to file tax forms?
There are many different items that could figure into answering this question—such as your filing status, your sources of income, whether you had any tax withheld, etc. This is a link to the IRS instructions for filing requirements for 2010: http://www.irs.gov/publications/p17/ch01.html

Is my social security taxable?
Usually if your income including social security benefits is less than $25,000 if single or $32,000 if married, your benefits are not taxable. If your income is higher than those limits, there are formulas to determine what percentage of your social security is taxable. Currently up to 85% of your social security may be taxable.

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