- December 10th, 2012
- John Dillard
- Income Tax Preparation of Corporate & Personal Income Taxes, Virtual CFO, Business/Tax/Financial Consulting, Business Loans/Money Management
- 0 Comments
Avoiding common pitfalls taxpayers make is critical to your personal financial success. Careful discernment and wise application of tax law is an essential and critical part of avoiding otherwise avoidable IRS notices, penalties, responsibilities, IRS audits and amendment of prepared returns. As a Body of Believers, we are commanded to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. In the U.S. tax system, we as taxpayers are solely responsible for the initial filing of our returns and the fair and just filing of our lowest legal possible tax. Avoiding these top pitfalls that many fall prey to will be an integral step in the proper preparation of your return.
1. Understanding Itemized Expenses. Many taxpayers fail to consider in both tax planning and preparation of their returns, that itemized expenses/Schedule A can be phased out/limited based upon a taxpayers Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) and their tax filing status.
2. Limitations on Total Exemptions. Tax law allows taxpayers to take exemptions for themselves, their dependents, their spouse if filing jointly and additional exemptions if disabled or over a certain age. There total exemptions are then multiplied by the indexes for inflation annually and then this total is deducted in determining taxpayer’s AGI. Like a taxpayer’s itemized expenses, these too are limited based upon a taxpayer’s AGI and filing status.
3. Alternative Minimum Tax (The ALM). Certain items on a taxpayer’s individual return can trigger an additional tax assessment. This amount is over and above what otherwise would have been assessed if a taxpayer solely referenced their taxable income to the appropriate tax table. Tax law mandates that taxpayers then pay the higher of the two amounts generated either from regular tax tables or the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is calculated on Form 6251.
4. Understanding Extensions. Taxpayers frequently fail to understand that an extension to file a return is not an extension of time to also pay the taxes due. The IRS has a rigid schedule for payment of all taxes and in some cases, there is no room for flexibility whatsoever. Taxpayers should accordingly take care to pay all of their taxes as they become due without regard to whether an extension to file has been filed/granted. Always keep in mind an extension to file is not an extension to pay.
5. Utilizing Deductible Expenses. Taxpayers frequently fail to understand what they may and may not take as itemized expenses on their Schedule A. Similarly, individuals often fail to stay abreast of tax law changes and the limitations, documentation and phase-outs thereof in determining their just expense. Also, many taxpayers who have an unincorporated business/a proprietorship fail to have a good understanding of what qualifies as a business expense, the assessment of self-employment taxes and the attendant responsibility of making estimated payments.
6. Non-reimbursed Employee Expenses. Tax law allows those who are employees to deduct un-reimbursed business expenses, which are reported on Form 2106. The total of these are then rolled forward to a taxpayer’s schedule of itemized expenses where they are also subject to additional phase-outs. Often taxpayers fail to have a good understanding of what qualifies as an un-reimbursed employee expense and fail to correctly document and calculate business mileage. They frequently fail to consider reimbursements received from their employer and inadvertently include in their mileage/travel expense amounts, their daily commute to and from the office, and these are not deductible.
7. Qualified Retirement Plans. This error is most frequently an error of omission as taxpayers fail to avail themselves of the many and varied options open to reduce their personal taxes and to plan for retirement. If a taxpayer also has an incorporated or unincorporated business whether a C or S Corporation, LLC, LLP, or partnership, there are even more options for a taxpayer to implement that will allow for a dramatic reduction in both their federal and state tax liabilities.
8. Never Underestimate the Value. Most taxpayers would never consider performing their own surgery and so it should be for the preparation of one’s personal taxes. At a minimum, I suggest that you have a CPA prepare your taxes at least every three years but I would limit this exception to only very simple returns with no itemizations. For all taxpayers who would be classified/considered as part of America’s middle class or any taxpayer who owns a business, should have their return prepared by a CPA each and every year. Tax law changes, nuances, limitations, tax and retirement planning, investing and strategic financial issues are too critical to be satisfactorily addressed alone.
9. Early IRA/Pension Distributions. All too often taxpayers will make or receive a premature distribution from their IRA/401K/Pension Plan. This is perhaps the largest single financial mistake a taxpayer can make for several reasons. First, these premature withdrawals are not only subject to regular federal and state taxes but most always a 10% federal penalty as well. This serves as a double negative as not only are you paying additional taxes and penalties but you are also “diving into” your “nest egg” threatening not only your age of potential retirement but also the quality of it. Furthermore, most all taxpayers who receive a premature distribution fall into a false sense of security wrongly believing the statutory withholding done to be adequate to meet their year-end obligation on these monies, only to find out they have woefully underpaid their taxes and are now subject to further penalties and interest.
10. Thinking Ahead. Perhaps the most common error is the failure of taxpayers to anticipate their current year’s taxable income and to plan ahead by paying the IRS and state taxes as the income is earned. Failure of taxpayers in any of the above areas will also negatively impact their ability to plan for and pay their taxes on a timely basis. Also the U.S. tax system is a graduated system in which the marginal tax rates increase as does a taxpayers income. Taxpayers fail to see their return as the dynamic calculation that it is, as income and lifestyle changes and tax law continually impact a taxpayer’s final calculation of tax liability.
His CPA, P.C. aggressively works to be proactive in the planning for and anticipation of what will be your year-end liability. Put our firm to work for you to avoid unnecessary and unpleasant surprises.
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