Safeguard Your Refund – Choose Direct Deposit

Issue Number:    IRS Tax Tip 2013-15

Direct deposit is the fast, easy and safe way to receive your tax refund. Whether you file electronically or on paper, direct deposit gives you access to your refund faster than a paper check.

Here are four reasons more than 80 million taxpayers chose direct deposit in 2012:

1. Security.  Every year the U.S. Postal Service returns thousands of paper checks to the IRS as undeliverable. Direct deposit eliminates the possibility of a lost, stolen or undeliverable refund check.

2. Convenience.  With direct deposit, the money goes directly into your bank account. You will not have to make a special trip to the bank to deposit the money yourself.

3. Ease.  It’s easy to choose direct deposit. When you are preparing your tax return, simply follow the instructions on the tax return or in the tax software. Make sure you enter the correct bank account and bank routing transit numbers.

4. Options.  You can deposit your refund into more than one account. With the split refund option, taxpayers can divide their refunds among as many as three checking or savings accounts and up to three different U.S. financial institutions. Use IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (Including Savings Bond Purchases), to divide your refund. If you are designating part of your refund to pay your tax preparer, you should not use Form 8888. You should only deposit your refund directly into accounts that are in your own name, your spouse’s name or both if it’s a joint account.

Some banks require both spouses’ names on the account to deposit a tax refund from a joint return. Check with your bank for their direct deposit requirements.

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Important Facts about Mortgage Debt Forgiveness

If your lender cancelled or forgave your mortgage debt, you generally have to pay tax on that amount. But there are exceptions to this rule for some homeowners who had mortgage debt forgiven in 2012.

 

Here are 10 key facts from the IRS about mortgage debt forgiveness:

1. Cancelled debt normally results in taxable income. However, you may be able to exclude the cancelled debt from your income if the debt was a mortgage on your main home.

2. To qualify, you must have used the debt to buy, build or substantially improve your principal residence. The residence must also secure the mortgage.

3. The maximum qualified debt that you can exclude under this exception is $2 million. The limit is $1 million for a married person who files a separate tax return.

4. You may be able to exclude from income the amount of mortgage debt reduced through mortgage restructuring. You may also be able to exclude mortgage debt cancelled in a foreclosure.

5. You may also qualify for the exclusion on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if you used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve your main home. The exclusion is limited to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before the refinancing.

6. Proceeds of refinanced mortgage debt used for other purposes do not qualify for the exclusion. For example, debt used to pay off credit card debt does not qualify.

7. If you qualify, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. Submit the completed form with your federal income tax return.

8. Other types of cancelled debt do not qualify for this special exclusion. This includes debt cancelled on second homes, rental and business property, credit cards or car loans. In some cases, other tax relief provisions may apply, such as debts discharged in certain bankruptcy proceedings. Form 982 provides more details about these provisions.

9. If your lender reduced or cancelled at least $600 of your mortgage debt, they normally send you a statement in January of the next year. Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, shows the amount of cancelled debt and the fair market value of any foreclosed property.

10. Check your Form 1099-C for the cancelled debt amount shown in Box 2, and the value of your home shown in Box 7. Notify the lender immediately of any incorrect information so they can correct the form.

 

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Important Reminders about Tip Income

Issue Number:    IRS Tax Tip 2013-16

If your pay from your job includes tips, the IRS has a few important reminders about tip income:

  • Tips are taxable. Individuals must pay federal income tax on any tips they receive. The value of non-cash tips, such as tickets, passes or other items of value are also subject to income tax.
  • Include all tips on your return. You must include all tips that you receive during the year on your income tax return. This includes tips you received directly from customers, tips added to credit cards and your share of tips received under a tip-splitting agreement with other employees.
  • Report tips to your employer. If you receive $20 or more in cash tips in any one month, you must report your tips for that month to your employer. Your employer is required to withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on the reported tips.
  • Keep a daily log of tips. You can use IRS Publication 1244, Employee’s Daily Record of Tips and Report to Employer, to record your tips.

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Ten Facts about Capital Gains and Losses

IRS Tax Tip 2013-28

 

The term “capital asset” for tax purposes applies to almost everything you own and use for personal or investment purposes. A capital gain or loss occurs when you sell a capital asset.

Here are 10 facts from the IRS on capital gains and losses:

1. Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset. Capital assets include your home, household furnishings, and stocks and bonds that you hold as investments.

2. A capital gain or loss is the difference between your basis of an asset and the amount you receive when you sell it. Your basis is usually what you paid for the asset.

3. You must include all capital gains in your income.

4. You may deduct capital losses on the sale of investment property. You cannot deduct losses on the sale of personal-use property.

5. Capital gains and losses are long-term or short-term, depending on how long you hold on to the property. If you hold the property more than one year, your capital gain or loss is long-term. If you hold it one year or less, the gain or loss is short-term.

6. If your long-term gains exceed your long-term losses, the difference between the two is a net long-term capital gain. If your net long-term capital gain is more than your net short-term capital loss, you have a ‘net capital gain.’

7. The tax rates that apply to net capital gains are generally lower than the tax rates that apply to other types of income. The maximum capital gains rate for most people in 2012 is 15 percent. For lower-income individuals, the rate may be 0 percent on some or all of their net capital gains. Rates of 25 or 28 percent can also apply to special types of net capital gains.

8. If your capital losses are greater than your capital gains, you can deduct the difference between the two on your tax return. The annual limit on this deduction is $3,000, or $1,500 if you are married filing separately.

9. If your total net capital loss is more than the limit you can deduct, you can carry over the losses you are not able to deduct to next year’s tax return. You will treat those losses as if they occurred that year.

10. Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets, will help you calculate capital gains and losses. You will carry over the subtotals from this form to Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses. If you e-file your tax return, the software will do this for you.

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