Big earners, home workers face new tax rules

 

How to avoid tax fraud

Tax refund fraud is a growing problem. Here are tips from the federal government on how to avoid becoming a victim and how to respond if you have become one.

Don’t carry your Social Security card or documents that show your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.

Don’t give a business your Social Security number just because someone asks. Give it only when required.

Check your credit report every 12 months.

Secure personal information in your home.

Protect your personal computers by using firewalls and anti-spam/virus software, updating security patches and changing passwords for Internet accounts.

In light of the recent Heartbleed bug, be sure to change your passwords at all major sites including Gmail, Yahoo and Facebook.

Don’t give personal information over the phone, through the mail or online unless you have initiated the contact or you are sure you know who you are dealing with.

If you believe you are a victim of tax refund fraud:

If you receive a notice from the IRS and you suspect your identity has been used fraudulently, respond immediately by calling the number on the notice.

If you did not receive an IRS notice but believe you’ve been a victim, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, extension 245.

Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission at http://www.consumer.ftc.gov or the FTC Identity Theft hotline at 877-438-4338.

File a report with the local police. \

Contact the fraud departments of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax - http://www.equifax.com, 800-525-6285; Experian - http://www.experian.com, 888-397-3742; TransUnion - http://www.transunion.com, 800-680-7289.

Close any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.

Information:

IRS: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Tips-for-Taxpayers,-Victims-about-Identity-Theft-and-Tax-Returns-2014

Associated Press


The Record

High-income taxpayers are paying higher taxes. Married same-sex couples have a new filing status. And it’s simpler to deduct a home office – but harder to write off medical expenses.

These are a few of the changes facing taxpayers and tax preparers as they approach the Tuesday deadline for filing 2013 taxes.

Higher-income taxpayers will pay more as a result of a tax bump that helps pay for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act, as well as the expiration of parts of the Bush-era tax cuts.

Ted Carnevale, a certified public accountant in Oradell, N.J., said that as many as 70 percent of his clients have been affected by a 3.8 percent tax applied to net investment income – such as dividends, interest, rents and capital gains – that helps fund the Affordable Care Act. It applies to taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $200,000 (single taxpayers) or $250,000 (married filing jointly).

There’s also a new Medicare tax of 0.9 percent that applies to taxpayers with earned income in excess of $200,000 (individuals) and $250,000 (married filing jointly) on all earned income over these thresholds, Carnevale said. There’s already a Medicare tax of 1.45 percent, so people earning more than the thresholds will pay 2.35 percent, he said.

A number of tax cuts were approved during the George W. Bush administration, starting in 2001. They were to have expired at the end of 2010, but most were extended and later made permanent. But some tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans were allowed to expire, leading to higher taxes in 2013. For example, the top tax rates have risen from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for taxpayers with taxable income above $400,000 (single) or $450,000 (married filing jointly).

Other major changes this year:

Itemized deductions and the personal exemption are reduced for taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes above $250,000 (single) or $300,000 (married filing jointly).

Capital gains – such as gains realized in the value of a stock or investment property – were taxed at a top rate of 15 percent under the Bush tax rates. That’s still the rate for most taxpayers, but the top rate is now 20 percent for taxpayers with incomes above $400,000 (single) or $450,000 (married filing jointly).

Though same-sex marriage is not legal in every state, same-sex couples who were legally married now must file as married, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

Deductions for medical expenses have been tightened. Now, only unreimbursed expenses that exceed 10 percent of adjusted gross income can be deducted; previously, medical expenses above 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income could be deducted. People aged 65 and up can still use the 7.5 percent threshold, but only through 2016.

The home-office deduction can be calculated using a simplified method this year. The simpler method allows for a standard deduction of $5 a square foot for a home office, up to 300 square feet.

Taxpayers also can use the regular method, which requires keeping a record of home expenses – such as mortgage payments, utilities and maintenance – and deducting an amount based on the percentage of your home that’s used as an office.

Read more Personal Finance stories from the Miami Herald

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