Tax Tips from J.K. Lasser

I received the following tax tips from Nancy Colson, who represents J. K. Lasser, a tax expert. After obtaining a permission, I decided to post these tips here to share with everybody since I feel they are quite helpful in this tax season. For more information, visit www.jklasser.com.   

Mistakes and Potential Pitfalls

  • Not filing because you cannot afford to pay – If you don’t file because you can’t pay the entire tax due, you will only increase the amount you will have to pay later with additional and increased penalties. If you enter into an installment arrangement with the IRS, and your return was filed on time, the late payment penalty you pay monthly on the outstanding balance will be reduced from .5% to .25%.
  • Estimated taxpayers beware – Estimated tax for payers with income above $75,000 for single filers/ $150,000 for joint filers has significantly increased over the past two tax years. For 2007 you had to remit 110% of your 2006 tax liability.
  • Avoid Kiddie Tax – You don’t have to wait for a savings bond to mature to report the interest. You can periodically report the interest. This is especially favorable for children in years where they have no income or are below the threshold.
  • Missing, duplicate or incorrect Social Security Number – The IRS will issue a partial refund until they can verify the information on the return. They will recalculate your tax liability based on the information they have and you could wind-up with a tax bill instead of a refund.
  • Filing status – Choose the best filing status for your circumstances. Some overlook head of household status, which is a more favorable rate of taxation. Qualified widows (ers) can file at joint rates for the two years following their spouses’ death.
  • Moving expense to take first job – Moving expenses to get to that first job are deductible. And you get this write-off even if you don’t itemize. If you moved more than 50 miles, you can deduct the cost of getting yourself and your household goods to the new area, including 18 cents a mile (and parking fees and tolls) for driving your own car.
  • Residential sale exclusion – If a seller fails to reside in a house two out of the last five years that fat $250,000 ($500,000 if filing jointly) exclusion could be lost. A prorated exclusion may be available. Under certain circumstances you can add-up the occupancy period of spouses and /or if the sale is due to unemployment, military deployment or other unforeseen circumstances.
  • Student loan interest paid by mom and dad – Until recently, if parents paid back a student loan incurred by their child, no one got a tax break. Now there’s an exception. If mom and dad pay back the loan, the IRS treats it as though they gave the money to their child, who then paid the debt. So, a child who’s not claimed as a dependent can qualify to deduct up to $2,500 of student loan interest paid by mom and dad.

Overlooked Deductions

  1. Out-of-pocket expenses relating to charitable activities, including the standard mileage deduction
  2. Medical transportation, including standard mileage deduction and lodging expenses incurred for medical reasons while away from home
  3. Legal fees incurred in connection with obtaining or collecting alimony
  4. Gambling losses to the extent of gambling gains
  5. Costs associated with looking for a new job in your present occupation, including fees for resume preparation and employment of outplacement agencies
  6. Contraceptives, if bought with a prescription
  7. Commissions and closing costs on sale of property
  8. Seller-paid points on the purchase of a home
  9. Education expenses to the extent required by law or your employer or needed to maintain or improve your skills
  10. Mortgage pre-payment penalties and late fees

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One Response to “Tax Tips from J.K. Lasser”

  1. Tom |  Feb 13, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    Great post. I’ve been a noob my whole life when it comes to taxes, that’s why I got an accountant ;)

    As for the estimated tax thing, I learned the hard way last year with all of the changes and I encourage a lot of your readers to get an accountant if you can afford one, they can save you A LOT of time and troubles.