What to Do if You Haven’t Filed a Tax Return

Filing a past due return may not be as difficult as you think.

Taxpayers should file all tax returns that are due, regardless of whether full payment can be made with the return. Depending on an individual’s circumstances, a taxpayer filing late may qualify for a payment plan. It is important, however, to know that full payment of taxes upfront saves you money.

Here’s What to Do When Your Return Is Late

Gather Past Due Return Information

Gather return information and come see us. You should bring any and all information related to income and deductions for the tax years for which a return is required to be filed.

Payment Options – Ways to Make a Payment

There are several different ways to make a payment on your taxes. Payments can be made by credit card, electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier’s check, or cash.

Payment Options – For Those Who Can’t Pay in Full

Taxpayers unable to pay all taxes due on the bill are encouraged to pay as much as possible. By paying as much as possible now, the amount of interest and penalties owed will be lessened. Based on the circumstances, a taxpayer could qualify for an extension of time to pay, an installment agreement, a temporary delay, or an offer in compromise.

Taxpayers who need more time to pay can set up either a short-term payment extension or a monthly payment plan.

  • A short-term extension gives a taxpayer an additional 60 to 120 days to pay. No fee is charged, but the late-payment penalty plus interest will apply. Generally taxpayers will pay less in penalties and interest than if the debt were repaid through an installment agreement over a greater period of time.
  • A monthly payment plan or installment agreement gives a taxpayer more time to pay. However, penalties and interest will continue to be charged on the unpaid portion of the debt throughout the duration of the installment agreement/payment plan. Taxpayers who owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can apply for and receive immediate notification of approval through an IRS web-based application. Balances over $25,000 require taxpayers to complete a financial statement to determine the monthly payment amount for an installment plan.When it comes to paying your tax bill, it is important to review all your options; the interest rate on a loan or credit card may be lower than the combination of penalties and interest imposed by the Internal Revenue Code. You should pay as much as possible before entering into an installment agreement.
  • You can also pay your Federal taxes using a major credit card or debit card. There is no IRS fee for credit or debit card payments, but the processing companies charge a convenience fee or flat fee.
  • A user fee will also be charged if the installment agreement is approved. The fee, normally $120, is reduced to $52 if taxpayers agree to make their monthly payments electronically through electronic funds withdrawal. The fee is $43 for eligible low-and-moderate-income taxpayers.

What Happens If You Don’t File a Past Due Return or Contact the IRS?

It’s important to understand the ramifications of not filing a past due return and the steps that the IRS will take. Taxpayers who continue to not file a required return and fail to respond to IRS requests for a return may be considered for a variety of enforcement actions.

If you haven’t filed a tax return yet, please contact the office for assistance.

Turn Your Vacation into a Tax Deduction

Tim, who owns his own business, decided he wanted to take a two-week trip around the US. So he did–and was able to legally deduct every dime that he spent on his vacation. Here’s how he did it.

1. Make all your business appointments before you leave for your trip.
Most people believe that they can go on vacation and simply hand out their business cards in order to make the trip deductible.

Wrong.

You must have at least one business appointment before you leave in order to establish the “prior set business purpose” required by the IRS. Keeping this in mind, before he left for his trip, Tim set up appointments with business colleagues in the various cities that he planned to visit.

Let’s say Tim is a manufacturer of green office products and is looking to expand his business and distribute more of his products. One possible way to establish business contacts–if he doesn’t already have them–is to place advertisements looking for distributors in newspapers in each location he plans to visit. He could then interview those who respond when he gets to the business destination.

Example: Tim wants to vacation in Hawaii. If he places several advertisements for distributors, or contacts some of his downline distributors to perform a presentation, then the IRS would accept his trip for business.

Tip: It would be vital for Tim to document this business purpose by keeping a copy of the advertisement and all correspondence along with noting what appointments he will have in his diary.

2. Make Sure your Trip is All “Business Travel.”
In order to deduct all of your on-the-road business expenses, you must be traveling on business. The IRS states that travel expenses are 100 percent deductible as long as your trip is business related and you are traveling away from your regular place of business longer than an ordinary day’s work and you need to sleep or rest to meet the demands of your work while away from home.

Example: Tim wanted to go to a regional meeting in Boston, which is only a one-hour drive from his home. If he were to sleep in the hotel where the meeting will be held (in order to avoid possible automobile and traffic problems), his overnight stay qualifies as business travel in the eyes of the IRS.

Tip: Remember: You don’t need to live far away to be on business travel. If you have a good reason for sleeping at your destination, you could live a couple of miles away and still be on travel status.

3. Be sure to deduct all of your on-the-road-expenses for each day you’re away.
For every day you are on business travel, you can deduct 100 percent of lodging, tips, car rentals, and 50 percent of your food. Tim spends three days meeting with potential distributors. If he spends $50 a day for food, he can deduct 50 percent of this amount, or $25.

Tip: The IRS doesn’t require receipts for travel expense under $75 per expense–except for lodging.

Example: If Tim pays $6 for drinks on the plane, $6.95 for breakfast, $12 for lunch, $50 for dinner, he does not need receipts for anything since each item was under $75.

Tip: He would, however, need to document these items in your diary. A good tax diary is essential in order to audit-proof your records. Adequate documentation includes amount, date, place of meeting, and business reason for the expense.

Example: If, however, Tim stays in the Bates Motel and spends $22 on lodging, will he need a receipt? The answer is yes. You need receipts for all paid lodging.

Tip: Not only are your on-the-road expenses deductible from your trip, but also all laundry, shoe shines, manicures, and dry-cleaning costs for clothes worn on the trip. Thus, your first dry cleaning bill that you incur when you get home will be fully deductible. Make sure that you keep the dry cleaning receipt and have your clothing dry cleaned within a day or two of getting home.

4. Sandwich weekends between business days.
If you have a business day on Friday and another one on Monday, you can deduct all on-the-road expenses during the weekend.

Example: Tim makes business appointments in Florida on Friday and one on the following Monday. Even though he has no business on Saturday and Sunday, he may deduct on-the-road business expenses incurred during the weekend.

5. Make the majority of your trip days count as business days.
The IRS says that you can deduct transportation expenses if business is the primary purpose of the trip. A majority of days in the trip must be for business activities; otherwise, you cannot make any transportation deductions.

Example: Tim spends six days in San Diego. He leaves early on Thursday morning. He had a seminar on Friday and meets with distributors on Monday and flies home on Tuesday, taking the last flight of the day home after playing a complete round of golf. How many days are considered business days?

All of them. Thursday is a business day since it includes traveling – even if the rest of the day is spent at the beach. Friday is a business day because he had a seminar. Monday is a business day because he met with prospects and distributors in pre-arranged appointments. Saturday and Sunday are sandwiched between business days, so they count, and Tuesday is a travel day.

Since Tim accrued six business days, he could spend another five days having fun and still deduct all his transportation to San Diego. The reason is that the majority of the days were business days (six out of eleven). However, he can only deduct six days’ worth of lodging, dry cleaning, shoe shines, and tips. The important point is that Tim would be spending money on lodging, airfare, and food, but now most of his expenses will become deductible.

To make sure that you can legally deduct your vacation when you combine it with business, call the office before you plan your trip.

IRS Rehired Hundreds of Misbehaving Employees with Conduct Problems

The Internal Revenue Service rehired hundreds of former employees with prior conduct or performance issues, including employees who failed to file their taxes, falsified official forms and misused IRS property, according to a new report.

The report, from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, acknowledged that most rehired employees do not have performance or conduct issues associated with prior IRS employment. However, TIGTA said it identified hundreds of former employees with prior substantiated conduct or performance issues ranging from tax issues, unauthorized access to taxpayer information, leave abuse, falsification of official forms, unacceptable performance, misuse of IRS property, and off-duty misconduct.

TIGTA reviewed a random sample from more than 300 employees with significant prior performance or conduct issues who were hired between January 2010 and July 2013 and determined that the IRS appropriately applied OPM suitability standards, such as determining whether applicants had prior criminal activity, material false statements, or illegal drug use.

“Based on the types of prior performance and conduct issues we identified, rehiring certain employees presents increased risk to the IRS and taxpayers,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement.

TIGTA found that nearly 20 percent of the rehired former employees sampled with prior substantiated or unresolved conduct or performance issues had new conduct or performance issue, such as tax noncompliance or unauthorized access to tax account information.

Between January 2010 and September 2013, IRS records show that the IRS hired more than 7,000 former employees, 78 percent of which were temporary or seasonal positions. Hundreds of former employees were rehired, even though they had previous conduct or performance issues. For example, 141 former employees with prior substantiated tax issues, including five who the IRS found had willfully failed to file their federal tax returns, were hired. Other substantiated issues from previous IRS employment included unauthorized access to taxpayer information, leave abuse, falsification of official forms, unacceptable performance, misuse of IRS property, and off-duty misconduct.

Although they may meet OPM suitability standards, rehiring prior employees with known conduct and performance issues presents increased risk to the IRS and taxpayers, TIGTA noted.

During the audit, IRS officials stated that prior conduct and performance issues do not play a significant role in deciding the candidates who are best qualified for hiring and that they believe they are applying Office of Personnel Management suitability standards appropriately. In addition, IRS officials stated that the OPM and IRS General Legal Services should be consulted to determine if full consideration of prior conduct and performance issues violates federal regulations.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS Human Capital Officer work with General Legal Services and the OPM to determine whether and during what part of the hiring process the IRS can fully consider prior conduct and performance issues.

IRS management agreed with the recommendation and said they have already requested written opinions from General Legal Services and the OPM but believe that the current process is adequate to mitigate any risks to American taxpayers.

“IRS already fully considers prior conduct and performance issues before the final job offer is issued to all new hires,” wrote IRS human capital officer Daniel T. Riordan in response to the report.

However, TIGTA said it remains concerned because IRS records indicate it is hiring individuals with significant prior conduct and performance issues.

The IRS provided a further response in an email to Accounting Today. “The IRS is committed to providing the best possible service to American taxpayers and is working to ensure it fully considers prior conduct and performance issues before the final job offer is issued to all new hires,” said the IRS in a statement. “It’s important that the Inspector General for Tax Administration noted we have followed government hiring guidelines. In addition, we have implemented a new, more rigorous, consistent standard for reviewing the suitability of job applicants since 2012. Consistent with that commitment, in 2012, the IRS has accepted TIGTA’s specific recommendation that we further consult with IRS General Legal Services to look to further strengthen our processes. We believe our new, rigorous standard addresses many issues raised in this report. We remain committed to working with TIGTA and other partners to address these important issues and will look for additional ways to improve.”

 

Immigrants and Tax Return Filing

On November 20, 2014 President Obama announced an executive action on immigration which could extend relief from deportation to an estimated 5 million undocumented immigrants.

 

The administration has not said which documents it will accept, however, we believe that the Citizenship and Immigration Services which vets applications under Homeland Security may require 5 years of accurately prepared tax returns as additional proof of residence if applicants claim to have worked in the United States since their arrival.

 

 

Those who have filed accurate tax returns with their Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITIN) and have retained their records will be light years ahead of those who have not. We recommend that you and your tax preparers get ready to answer tax questions for those applying for this new program.

Make sure you have tax preparation software setup for at least the past 5 years.

  1. Understand what documentation your clients need for a W-7
  2. Paystubs
  3. W-2s
  4. 1099 Miscellaneous forms
  5. Paid baby sitter receipts
  6. Traffic tickets
  7. Receipt books
  8. Expense receipts
  9. Amending prior year returns (filing status, dependents, earnings, etc.)
  10. Searching the Internet may help find documentation

House Passes $42 Billion Plan to Revive U.S. Tax Breaks for 2014

The House of Representatives voted to revive dozens of lapsed U.S. tax breaks for this year and set them to expire again on Dec. 31.

The 378-46 vote today would provide $42 billion in temporary relief to taxpayers, including companies that rely on the research tax credit and the production tax credit for wind energy. It provides no certainty for 2015, though lawmakers said the one-year extension was the best available option after a broader deal collapsed.

“This is a short-term fix when Congress needs to work toward a long-term solution,” second-ranking House Democrat Steny Hoyer of Maryland said during floor debate. Hoyer said he was voting for the measure although “it isn’t what I hoped for.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, where Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden has complained that it excludes tax breaks for the health care of laid-off workers and the purchase of plug-in electric motorcycles. Wyden also would prefer a bill that would continue breaks through 2015.

Lindsey Held, a spokeswoman for Wyden, said Republicans rejected a “reasonable, balanced” proposal Nov. 30.

Wyden ’Disappointed’
“We are disappointed that at this point there doesn’t appear to be a procedural path forward,” she said.

President Barack Obama said today that the administration is open to a short-term extension. He hasn’t said whether he would sign the House bill.

The tax breaks, which ended Dec. 31, 2013, aid businesses and individuals. Corporations including Citigroup Inc. and General Electric Co. would benefit from the ability to defer U.S. taxes on overseas financing income. Companies making capital purchases would have faster writeoffs.

Individuals who sold their homes for less than what they owed would be able to exclude the forgiven debt from income.

Abandoned Deal
The House vote came about a week after lawmakers abandoned efforts to reach a larger deal on reviving tax breaks that would have exceeded $400 billion over a decade.

That bipartisan plan, which was being negotiated by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, would have locked in some benefits including the research tax credit by removing their expiration dates.

Most of the other breaks would have been extended through 2015.

The talks fell apart when Democrats, including Obama and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, objected to the lawmakers’ plan not to revive an extension of tax credits for low-income and middle-income families.

Obama threatened to veto the emerging proposal.

The tax-break bill, H.R. 5771, will be combined with a Senate bill, H.R. 647, to create tax-advantaged accounts for disabled people.

Such accounts “will give those individuals a chance to realize their hopes and their dreams, to be able to be part of the American dream,” said Representative Ander Crenshaw, a Florida Republican, during floor debate.

2014 Tax Provisions for Individuals: A Review

From tax credits and educational expenses to the AMT, many of the tax changes affecting individuals for 2014 were related to the signing of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) in 2013–tax provisions that were modified, made permanent, or extended. With that in mind, here’s what individuals and families need to know about tax provisions for 2014.

Personal Exemptions
The personal and dependent exemption for tax year 2014 is $3,950.

Standard Deductions
The standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return in 2014 is $12,400. For singles and married individuals filing separately, it is $6,200, and for heads of household the deduction is $9,100.

The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens in 2014 is $1,200 for married individuals and $1,550 for singles and heads of household.

Income Tax Rates
In 2014 the top tax rate of 39.6 percent affects individuals whose income exceeds $406,750 ($457,600 for married taxpayers filing a joint return). Marginal tax rates for 2014–10, 15, 25, 28, 33 and 35 percent–remain the same as in prior years.

 

Due to inflation, tax-bracket thresholds increased for every filing status. For example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15 percent bracket from the 25 percent bracket is $73,800 for a married couple filing a joint return.

Estate and Gift Taxes
In 2014 there is an exemption of $5.34 million per individual for estate, gift and generation-skipping taxes, with a top tax rate of 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts is $14,000.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
AMT exemption amounts were made permanent and indexed for inflation retroactive to 2012. In addition, non-refundable personal credits can now be used against the AMT.

For 2014, exemption amounts are $52,800 for single and head of household filers, $82,100 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and $41,700 for married people filing separately.

Marriage Penalty Relief
The basic standard deduction for a married couple filing jointly in 2014 is $12,400.

Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) limitations were made permanent by ATRA (indexed for inflation) and affect taxpayers with income at or above $254,200 (single filers) and $305,050 for married filing jointly in tax year 2014.

Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA)
Flexible Spending Accounts are limited to $2,500 per year in 2014 and apply only to salary reduction contributions under a health FSA. The term “taxable year” as it applies to FSAs refers to the plan year of the cafeteria plan, which is typically the period during which salary reduction elections are made.

Specifically, in the case of a plan providing a grace period (which may be up to two months and 15 days), unused salary reduction contributions to the health FSA for plan years beginning in 2012 or later that are carried over into the grace period for that plan year will not count against the $2,500 limit for the subsequent plan year.

Further, employers may allow people to carry over into the next calendar year up to $500 in their accounts, but aren’t required to do so.

Long Term Capital Gains
In 2014 taxpayers in the lower tax brackets (10 and 15 percent) pay zero percent on long-term capital gains. For taxpayers in the middle four tax brackets the rate is 15 percent and for taxpayers whose income is at or above $406,750 ($457,600 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent.

Getting Married Can Affect Your Premium Tax Credit

The IRS reminds newlyweds to add a health insurance review to their to-do list. This is particularly important if you receive premium assistance through advance payments of the premium tax credit through a Health Insurance Marketplace.

If you, your spouse or a dependent gets health insurance coverage through the Marketplace, you need to let the Marketplace know you got married. Informing the Marketplace about changes in circumstances, such as marriage or divorce, allows the Marketplace to help make sure you have the right coverage for you and your family and adjust the amount of advance credit payments that the government sends to your health insurer.

Reporting the changes will help you avoid having too much or not enough premium assistance paid to reduce your monthly health insurance premiums. Getting too much premium assistance means you may owe additional money or get a smaller refund when you file your taxes. Getting too little could mean missing out on monthly premium assistance that you deserve. You should also check whether getting married affects your, your spouse’s, or your dependents’ eligibility for coverage through your employer or your spouse’s employer, because that will affect your eligibility for the premium tax credit.

Other changes in circumstances that you should report to the Marketplace include:

  • the birth or adoption of a child,
  • divorce,
  • getting or losing a job,
  • moving to a new address, gaining or losing eligibility for employer or government sponsored health care coverage, and
  • any other changes that might affect family composition, family size, income or your enrollment.

In addition, certain life events – like marriage – give you and your spouse the opportunity to sign up for health care during a special enrollment period. That means that if one or both of you is uninsured, you may be able to get coverage now.  In most cases, the special enrollment period for Marketplace coverage is open for 60 days from the date of the life event.

5 Social Security changes coming in 2015

Social Security recipients will receive 1.7 percent bigger checks in 2015, the Social Security Administration announced last week. And some groups of workers will begin receiving benefit statements in the mail with a list of taxes paid and an estimate of their future retirement benefit. Here’s a look at the new Social Security benefits, taxes and services workers and retirees will experience in 2015:

Bigger payments. The 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment is expected to result in the typical retiree getting about $22 more per month. This change will increase the average monthly benefit for retired workers in January 2015 from $1,306 before the cost-of-living adjustment to $1,328 after. The average benefit for retired couples who are both receiving benefits is projected to increase by $36 to $2,176 per month.

Social Security payments are automatically adjusted each year to keep up with inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers. Previous cost-of-living adjustments have ranged from zero in 2010 and 2011 to 14.3 percent in 1980. The 1.7 percent increase retirees will receive in January is similar to the 1.5 percent adjustment for 2014 and 1.7 percent increase in 2013.

Higher tax cap. Most workers pay 6.2 percent of every paycheck into the Social Security system until their earnings exceed the tax cap. The maximum taxable earnings will increase next year from $117,000 in 2014 to $118,500 in 2015. About 10 million of the 168 million workers who pay into Social Security are expected to face higher taxes as a result of this change. People who earn more than the taxable maximum do not pay Social Security taxes on that amount or have those earnings factored into their future Social Security payments.

Larger earnings limits. Social Security beneficiaries who are under age 66 can earn as much as $15,720 in 2015, before $1 in benefits will be withheld for every $2 earned above the limit. Retirees who will turn 66 in 2015 and have signed up for Social Security can earn up to $41,880 before every $3 earned above the limit will result in one benefit dollar being withheld. However, once a retiree turns age 66 there is no limit on earnings and Social Security payments are recalculated to give the retiree credit for the withheld benefits.

Your statement might be in the mail. If you will turn age 25, 30, 35, 40, 45, 50, 55 or 60 next year and don’t have a Social Security online account, you can expect to receive a paper Social Security statement that lists your earnings history, taxes paid and expected benefit about 3 months before your birthday. And after age 60 workers will receive a statement annually. The SSA expects to send nearly 48 million Social Security statements each year. These mailings, which were sent annually to all workers age 25 and older between 1999 and 2011, were suspended in April 2011 to save money. Statements are also available online at any time via socialsecurity.gov/myaccount, and 14 million people have created personalized accounts using this service.

The maximum benefit increases. The maximum possible Social Security payment for a worker who signs up at full retirement age will be $2,663 per month in 2015, up $21 from $2,642 in 2014.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credits

The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit is available to individual taxpayers to help pay for qualified residential alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters, solar electricity equipment and residential wind turbines. In addition, taxpayers are allowed to take the credit against the alternative minimum tax (AMT), subject to certain limitations.

Qualifying equipment must have been installed on or in connection with your home located in the United States.

Geothermal pumps, solar energy systems, and residential wind turbines can be installed in both principal residences and second homes (existing homes and new construction), but not rentals. Fuel cell property qualifies for the tax credit only when it is installed in your principal residence (new construction or existing home). Rentals and second homes do not qualify.

The tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of the qualified property, with no cap on the amount of credit available, except for fuel cell property.

Generally, labor costs can be included when figuring the credit. Any unused portions of this credit can be carried forward. Not all energy-efficient improvements qualify so be sure you have the manufacturer’s tax credit certification statement, which can usually be found on the manufacturer’s website or with the product packaging.

What’s included in this tax credit?

    • Geothermal Heat Pumps. Must meet the requirements of the ENERGY STAR program that are in effect at the time of the expenditure.
    • Small Residential Wind Turbines. Must have a nameplate capacity of no more than 100 kilowatts (kW).
    • Solar Water Heaters. At least half of the energy generated by the “qualifying property” must come from the sun. The system must be certified by the Solar Rating and Certification Corporation (SRCC) or a comparable entity endorsed by the government of the state in which the property is installed. The credit is not available for expenses for swimming pools or hot tubs. The water must be used in the dwelling. Photovoltaic systems must provide electricity for the residence and must meet applicable fire and electrical code requirement.

 

  • Solar Panels (Photovoltaic Systems). Photovoltaic systems must provide electricity for the residence and must meet applicable fire and electrical code requirement.
  • Fuel Cell (Residential Fuel Cell and Microturbine System.) Efficiency of at least 30 percent and must have a capacity of at least 0.5 kW.

Charitable Contributions

Property, as well as money, can be donated to a charity. You can generally take a deduction for the fair market value of the property; however, for certain property, the deduction is limited to your cost basis. While you can also donate your services to charity, you may not deduct the value of these services. You may also be able to deduct charity-related travel expenses and some out-of-pocket expenses, however.

Keep in mind that a written record of your charitable contributions is required in order to qualify for a deduction. A donor may not claim a deduction for any contribution of cash, a check or other monetary gift unless the donor maintains a record of the contribution in the form of either a bank record (such as a cancelled check) or written communication from the charity (such as a receipt or a letter) showing the name of the charity, the date of the contribution, and the amount of the contribution.

Tip: Contributions of appreciated property (i.e. stock) provide an additional benefit because you avoid paying capital gains on any profit.

Accelerating Income and Deductions

Accelerating income into 2014 is an especially good idea for taxpayers who anticipate being in a higher tax bracket next year or whose earnings are close to threshold amounts ($200,000 for single filers and $250,000 for married filing jointly) that make them liable for additional Medicare tax or Net Investment Income Tax (see below).

Here are several examples of what a taxpayer might do to accelerate deductions:

  • Pay a state estimated tax installment in December instead of at the January due date. However, make sure the payment is based on a reasonable estimate of your state tax.
  • Pay your entire property tax bill, including installments due in year 2015, by year-end. This does not apply to mortgage escrow accounts.
  • It may be beneficial to pay 2015 tuition in 2014 to take full advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, an above the line deduction worth up to $2,500 per student to cover the cost of tuition, fees and course materials paid during the taxable year. Forty percent of the credit (up to $1,000) is refundable, which means you can get it even if you owe no tax.
  • Try to bunch “threshold” expenses, such as medical and dental expenses (10 percent of AGI starting in 2013) and miscellaneous itemized deductions. For example, you might pay medical bills and dues and subscriptions in whichever year they would do you the most tax good.

    Threshold expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). By bunching these expenses into one year, rather than spreading them out over two years, you have a better chance of exceeding the thresholds, thereby maximizing your deduction.

In cases where tax benefits are phased out over a certain adjusted gross income (AGI) amount, a strategy of accelerating income and deductions might allow you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2014, depending on your situation.

The latter benefits include Roth IRA contributions, conversions of regular IRAs to Roth IRAs, child credits, higher education tax credits and deductions for student loan interest.

Caution: Taxpayers close to threshold amounts for the Net Investment Income Tax (3.8 percent of net investment income) should pay close attention to “one-time” income spikes such as those associated with Roth conversions, sale of a home or other large assets that may be subject to tax.

Tip: If you know you have a set amount of income coming in this year that is not covered by withholding taxes, increasing your withholding before year-end can avoid or reduce any estimated tax penalty that might otherwise be due.

Tip: On the other hand, the penalty could be avoided by covering the extra tax in your final estimated tax payment and computing the penalty using the annualized income method.