Tax Returns/IRS Issues

A tax return document is used for reporting income, expenses, and other information, and is filed with a tax authority. It essentially tells the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) how much an individual has earned and how much taxes were paid, and what remains after applying additional deductions and credits.  If an individual has not paid enough taxes, the IRS will determine how much is owed. If too much tax was paid, the government will provide a refund. For most people in the United States, this document is typically filed by April 15th of each year.

Not everyone has to file an income tax return every year. An individual may be required to file a federal income tax return depending on their age, income, filing status, dependency status, or fulfilling a number of other special criteria. The exemption amounts are generally adjusted by the government prior to the tax filing period. For example, in 2017 single people under the age of 65 with an income of $10,400 or more were required to file.  As more individuals are turning to entrepreneurship and freelancing, it should be noted that self-employed taxpayers must file a federal income tax return if they earn at least $400. Even if an individual doesn’t meet the requirements for filing, it may be advantageous for some to do so, in order to receive some available tax breaks or to see if they are eligible for a refund for excess withholdings.

All individuals have the option to file by paper or electronically.  Paper filing is a good option for taxpayers who have straightforward returns. Those who have a lot paperwork to submit or those with complex tax issues should consider e-filing. E-filing is generally faster, more accurate, and more secure than paper filing. Despite the convenient nature of e-filing, not every person may be eligible to file, such as married couples filing separate returns who reside in a community property state, as are Arizona and California. Additionally, there are some tax forms that cannot be filed electronically and can only be mailed to the service center. The three sections of a tax return are the income section, deductions, and tax credits. In order to file, it is important for the taxpayer to have their W-2 Forms (1099 forms for contract work), a list of their deductible expenses, as well as supporting documentation such as receipts.

The main tax return document is some variation of the IRS 1040 form, depending on the tax situation. Taxpayers may all use the standard Form 1040.  Form 1040A is required when the individual has a taxable income of $100,000 or less and claims the standard deduction. It is generally a shorter version of the 1040 form but still more detailed than the 1040 EZ form, which is a one-page document with four sections to complete. A tax return generally begins with entering personal information, including name, address, social security number, filing status, and information on dependency. Using the W-2 tax form, all sources of income must be reported including dividends, self-employment income, royalties and capital gains.

A tax deduction helps to reduce the amount of income that is taxable depending on the taxpayer’s marginal tax rate, which varies based on income. The total deductions are subtracted from the taxable income to determine how much should be taxed for the year. Deductions that are often overlooked by taxpayers are charitable contributions, student loan payments, and state sales taxes. Further information on what kinds of deductions may be applicable can found online or discussed with an accountant or other tax professional. A tax credit is a dollar to dollar reduction of owed income tax that does not depend on tax rates. They are similar to deductions in that they vary widely depending on jurisdictions. Most tax credits are not able to be refunded, which means that any remaining amount expires the same year it was used. Many tax credits are related to caring for dependent children and older people.

Though the process of filing a tax return can be a complicated and time-consuming process, it can be made even more strenuous by mistakes on the taxpayer’s end. Many errors can be avoided by filing tax returns on time. Procrastinators waiting too long to file may end up missing their deadline. Another mistake is filing the wrong tax forms. Knowing the difference between forms 1040, 1040A and 1040 EZ is critical. There are also additional forms that may be needed, such as the Schedule C form for reporting business profits and losses. Sometimes there are problems with filing with regards to married couples. An individual should understand their filing status, as the rules are different for couples filing separately and those filing jointly. Spouses filing separately both need to claim the same deductions - either standard or itemized. When it comes to entering the information itself, maintaining a record of the previous year’s return, using a calculator or a software program made for calculating taxes, such as Tax app, ensures that there are no errors in entering the previous year’s information or in mathematical calculations. Some tax filers omit important information on their paper forms or forget to sign their tax returns.

Most accidental mistakes will result in additional delays and headaches for the taxpayer. Paper forms may be mailed back to the filer for correction and the taxpayer may not receive the refund he or she is due until the problem is cleared. There may be a penalty for failing to file taxes or for filing taxes late. This penalty could be up to about 25 percent of what the individual owes. Intentional misrepresentation of information or lying can result in an audit by the IRS or even criminal charges being filed. Tax fraud is a serious felony and is punishable by up to five to ten years in prison, depending on the gravity of the criminal case. Most common issues can be mitigated by remaining up to date on filing requirements and preparing returns early and submitting by the required due date.

 

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