Tips You Should Know about Employee Business Expenses

If you paid for work-related expenses out of your own pocket, you may be able to deduct those costs. In most cases, you claim allowable expenses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Here are some tips that you should know about this deduction.

Ordinary and Necessary.  You can only deduct unreimbursed expenses that are ordinary and necessary to your work as an employee. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate and helpful to your business.

Expense Examples.  Some costs that you may be able to deduct include:

  • Required work clothes or uniforms that are not appropriate for everyday use.
  • Supplies and tools you use on the job.
  • Business use of your car.
  • Business meals and entertainment.
  • Business travel away from home.
  • Business use of your home.
  • Work-related education.

This list is not all-inclusive. Special rules apply if your employer reimbursed you for your expenses.

Forms to Use.  In most cases you report your expenses on Form 2106. After you figure your allowable expenses, you then list the total on Schedule A as a miscellaneous deduction. You can deduct the amount that is more than two percent of your adjusted gross income.

Educator Expenses.  If you are a K through 12 teacher or educator, you may be able to deduct up to $250 of certain expenses you paid for in 2014. These may include books, supplies, equipment, and other materials used in the classroom. You claim this deduction as an adjustment on your tax return, rather than as an itemized deduction. This deduction had expired at the end of 2013. A recent tax law extended it for one year, through Dec. 31, 2014.

Keep Records.  You must keep records to prove the expenses you deduct. For what records to keep, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax.

 

Tax Tips about Reporting Foreign Income

Are you a U.S. citizen or resident who worked abroad last year? Did you receive income from a foreign source in 2014? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions here are seven tax tips you should know about foreign income:

 

Report Worldwide Income.  By law, U.S. citizens and residents must report their worldwide income. This includes income from foreign trusts, and foreign bank and securities accounts.

 

File Required Tax Forms.  You may need to file Schedule B, Interest and Ordinary Dividends, with your U.S. tax return. You may also need to file Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. In some cases, you may need to file FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.

 

Review the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.  If you live and work abroad, you may be able to claim the foreign earned income exclusion. If you qualify, you won’t pay tax on up to $99,200 of your wages and other foreign earned income in 2014.

 

Don’t Overlook Credits and Deductions.  You may be able to take a tax credit or a deduction for income taxes you paid to a foreign country. These benefits can reduce your taxes if both countries tax the same income.

 

Tax Filing Extension is Available.  If you live outside the U.S. and can’t file your tax return by April 15, you may qualify for an automatic two-month extension of time to file. That will give you until June 16, 2015, to file your U.S. tax return. This extension also applies to those serving in the military outside the U.S. You will need to attach a statement to your return explaining why you qualify for the extension.

Five Key Points about Children with Investment Income

Special tax rules may apply to some children who receive investment income. The rules may affect the amount of tax and how to report the income. Here are five key points to keep in mind if your child has investment income:

 

Investment Income.  Investment income generally includes interest, dividends and capital gains. It also includes other unearned income, such as from a trust.

 

Parent’s Tax Rate.  If your child’s total investment income is more than $2,000 then your tax rate may apply to part of that income instead of your child’s tax rate.

 

Parent’s Return.  You may be able to include your child’s investment income on your tax return if it was less than $10,000 for the year. If you make this choice, then your child will not have to file his or her own return.

 

Child’s Return.  If your child’s investment income was $10,000 or more in 2014 then the child must file their own return.

 

Net Investment Income Tax.  Your child may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax if they must file Form 8615.

Top Six Tips about the Home Office Deduction

If you use your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. If you qualify you can claim the deduction whether you rent or own your home. If you qualify for the deduction you may use either the simplified method or the regular method to claim your deduction. Here are six tips that you should know about the home office deduction.

Regular and Exclusive Use.  As a general rule, you must use a part of your home regularly and exclusively for business purposes. The part of your home used for business must also be:

-Your principal place of business, or

-A place where you meet clients or customers in the normal course of business, or

-A separate structure not attached to your home. Examples could include a garage or a studio.

Simplified Option.  If you use the simplified option, you multiply the allowable square footage of your office by a rate of $5. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. This option will save you time because it simplifies how you figure and claim the deduction. It will also make it easier for you to keep records. This option does not change the criteria for who may claim a home office deduction.

Regular Method.  If you use the regular method, the home office deduction includes certain costs that you paid for your home. For example, if you rent your home, part of the rent you paid may qualify. If you own your home, part of the mortgage interest, taxes and utilities you paid may qualify. The amount you can deduct usually depends on the percentage of your home used for business.

Deduction Limit.  If your gross income from the business use of your home is less than your expenses, the deduction for some expenses may be limited.

Self-Employed.  If you are self-employed and choose the regular method, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount you can deduct. You can claim your deduction using either method on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

Employees.  If you are an employee, you must meet additional rules to claim the deduction. For example, your business use must also be for the convenience of your employer. If you qualify, you claim the deduction on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

AFS Taxsavers Staff Updates

Goodbye David Allen. David has taken on a new position with a different organization. (Yes, in the middle of tax season!) We want to ensure our clients that with this change, Taxsavers will be working hard to make this transition as smooth as possible.  We have all hands on deck to assist each client with their account.  If you have any questions or concerns about your account please contact Gary.  

Welcome aboard Marcia Birch to the AFS Taxsavers family! Marcia is a graduate of the University of Michigan- Dearborn.  She currently works in the finance department of Toshiba Business Solutions and has worked closely with her family’s business. Marcia is a great addition to Taxsavers as she is a hardworking, motivated individual with a wide knowledge base of QuickBooks.

Check out the AFS Taxsavers Facebook page for company updates!

Cut Taxes and Save on Energy Bills with Home Energy Credits

You can reduce your taxes and save on your energy bills with certain home improvements.  Here are some key facts that you should know about home energy tax credits:

Non-Business Energy Property Credit 

  • Part of this credit is worth 10 percent of the cost of certain qualified energy-saving items you added to your main home last year. This may include items such as insulation, windows, doors and roofs.
  • The other part of the credit is not a percentage of the cost. This part of the credit is for the actual cost of certain property. This may include items such as water heaters and heating and air conditioning systems. The credit amount for each type of property has a different dollar limit.
  • This credit has a maximum lifetime limit of $500. You may only use $200 of this limit for windows.
  • Your main home must be located in the U.S. to qualify for the credit.
  • Be sure you have the written certification from the manufacturer that their product qualifies for this tax credit. They usually post it on their website or include it with the product’s packaging. You can rely on it to claim the credit, but do not attach it to your return. Keep it with your tax records.
  • This credit had expired at the end of 2013. The Tax Increase Prevention Act extended it to apply for one year, through Dec. 31, 2014. You may still claim the credit on your 2014 tax return if you didn’t reach the lifetime limit in prior years.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit

  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment installed on or in your home.
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment, wind turbines and fuel cell property.
  • There is no dollar limit on the credit for most types of property. If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year’s tax return.
  • The home must be in the U.S. It does not have to be your main home, unless the alternative energy equipment is qualified fuel cell property.
  • This credit is available through 2016.

Employers: Don’t Overlook the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

Do you own or run a small business or tax-exempt group with fewer than 25 full-time employees? If you do, you should know that the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit can help you provide insurance to your employees. You may be able to save on your taxes if you paid for at least half of their health insurance premiums. Here are several things that you should know about this important credit:

Maximum Credit.  For tax years beginning in 2014 and after, the maximum credit is 50 percent of premiums paid by small business employers. The limit is 35 percent of premiums paid by tax-exempt small employers, such as charities.

Number of Employees.  You may qualify if you had fewer than 25 employees who work full-time, or a combination of full-time and part-time. For example, two half-time employees equal one full-time employee for purposes of the credit.

Qualified Health Plan.  You must have paid premiums for your employees enrolled in a qualified health plan offered through a Small Business Health Options Program, or SHOP, Marketplace. There are limited exceptions to this requirement.

Average Annual Wages.  To qualify for the credit, the average annual wages of your full-time equivalent employees must have been less than $51,000 in 2014. The IRS will adjust this amount for inflation each year.

Half the Premiums.  You must have paid a uniform percentage of the cost of premiums for all employees. The amount you paid must be equal to at least 50 percent of the premium cost of the insurance coverage for each employee.

Two Year Limit.  An eligible employer may claim the credit for any two-consecutive taxable years, beginning in or after 2014. This credit can be claimed for two consecutive years, even if you claimed the credit at any point from 2010 through 2013.

If you are a for-profit business and the credit is more than your tax liability for the year, you can carry the unused credit back or forward to other tax years. If you are a tax-exempt employer, you may be eligible to receive the credit as a refund. This applies so long as it does not exceed your income tax withholding and Medicare tax liability for the year.

Reduce Your Taxes with the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit can reduce the taxes you pay. If you paid someone to care for a person in your household last year while you worked or looked for work, then read on for facts from the IRS about this important tax credit:

Child, Dependent or Spouse.  You may be able to claim the credit if you paid someone to care for your child, dependent or spouse last year.

Work-Related Expense.  The care must have been necessary so you could work or look for work. If you are married, the care also must have been necessary so your spouse could work or look for work. This rule does not apply if your spouse was disabled or a full-time student.

Qualifying Person.  The care must have been for “qualifying persons.” A qualifying person can be your child under age 13. A qualifying person can also be your spouse or dependent who lived with you for more than half the year and is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.

Earned Income.  You must have earned income for the year, such as wages from a job. If you are married and file a joint tax return, your spouse must also have earned income. Special rules apply to a spouse who is a student or disabled.

Credit Percentage / Expense Limits.  The credit is worth between 20 and 35 percent of your allowable expenses. The percentage depends on the amount of your income. Your allowable expenses are limited to $3,000 if you paid for the care of one qualifying person. The limit is $6,000 if you paid for the care of two or more.

Dependent Care Benefits.  If your employer gives you dependent care benefits, special rules apply.

Qualifying Person’s SSN.  You must include the Social Security Number of each qualifying person to claim the credit.

Care Provider Information.  You must include the name, address and taxpayer identification number of your care provider on your tax return.

Top Facts about Adoption Tax Benefits

If you adopted or tried to adopt a child in 2014, you may qualify for a tax credit. If your employer helped pay for the costs of an adoption, you may be able to exclude some of your income from tax. Here are ten things you should know about adoption tax benefits.

Credit or Exclusion.  The credit is nonrefundable. This means that the credit may reduce your tax to zero. If the credit is more than your tax, you can’t get any additional amount as a refund. If your employer helped pay for the adoption through a written qualified adoption assistance program, you may qualify to exclude that amount from tax.

Maximum Benefit.  The maximum adoption tax credit and exclusion for 2014 is $13,190 per child.

Credit Carryover.  If your credit is more than your tax, you can carry any unused credit forward. This means that if you have an unused credit in 2014, you can use it to reduce your taxes for 2015. You can do this for up to five years, or until you fully use the credit, whichever comes first.

Eligible Child.  An eligible child is under age 18. This rule does not apply to persons who are physically or mentally unable to care for themselves.

Qualified Expenses.  Adoption expenses must be directly related to the adoption of the child and be reasonable and necessary. Types of expenses that can qualify include adoption fees, court costs, attorney fees and travel.

Domestic or Foreign Adoptions.  In most cases, you can claim the credit whether the adoption is domestic or foreign. However, the timing rules for which expenses to include differ between the two types of adoption.

Special Needs Child.  If you adopted an eligible U.S. child with special needs and the adoption is final, a special rule applies. You may be able to take the tax credit even if you didn’t pay any qualified adoption expenses.

No Double Benefit.  Depending on the adoption’s cost, you may be able to claim both the tax credit and the exclusion. However, you can’t claim both a credit and exclusion for the same expenses. This rule prevents you from claiming both tax benefits for the same expense.

Income Limits.  The credit and exclusion are subject to income limitations. The limits may reduce or eliminate the amount you can claim depending on the amount of your income.

Are You Self Employed? Check Out These IRS Tax Tips

Many people who carry on a trade or business are self-employed. Sole proprietors and independent contractors are two examples of self-employment. If this applies to you, there are a few basic things you should know about how your income affects your federal tax return. Here are six important tips about income from self-employment:

SE Income.  Self-employment can include income you received for part-time work. This is in addition to income from your regular job.

Schedule C or C-EZ.  There are two forms to report self-employment income. You must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040. You may use Schedule C-EZ if you had expenses less than $5,000 and meet other conditions.

SE Tax.  You may have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax if you made a profit. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes.

Estimated Tax.  You may need to make estimated tax payments. People typically make these payments on income that is not subject to withholding. You usually pay this tax in four installments for each year. If you do not pay enough tax throughout the year, you may owe a penalty.

Allowable Deductions.  You can deduct expenses you paid to run your business that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and proper for your trade or business.

When to Deduct.  In most cases, you can deduct expenses in the same year you paid for them, or incurred them. However, you must ‘capitalize’ some costs. This means you can deduct part of the cost over a number of years.