Tax Tips to Help You Save

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-16, December 17, 2013

Although the year is almost over, you still have time to take steps that can lower your 2013 taxes. Now is a good time to prepare for the upcoming tax filing season. Taking these steps can help you save time and tax dollars. They can also help you save for retirement. Here are three year-end tips from the IRS for you to consider:

  1. Start a filing system.  If you don’t have a filing system for your tax records, you should start one. It can be as simple as saving receipts in a shoebox, or more complex like creating folders or spreadsheets. It’s always a good idea to save tax-related receipts and records. Keeping good records now will save time and help you file a complete and accurate tax return next year.
  2. Make Charitable Contributions.  If you plan to give to charity, consider donating before the year ends. That way you can claim your contribution as an itemized deduction for 2013. This includes donations you charge to a credit card by Dec. 31, even if you don’t pay the bill until 2014. A gift by check also counts for 2013 as long as you mail it in December. Remember that you must give to a qualified charity to claim a tax deduction. Use the IRS Select Check tool at IRS.gov to see if an organization is qualified.Make sure to save your receipts. You must have a written record for all donations of money in order to claim a deduction. Special rules apply to several types of property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats. For more about these rules see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

    If you are age 70½ or over, the qualified charitable distribution allows you to make tax-free transfers from your IRAs to charity. You can give up to $100,000 per year from your IRA to an eligible charity, and exclude the amount from gross income. You can use the excluded amount to satisfy any required minimum distributions that you must otherwise receive from your IRAs in 2013. This benefit is available even if you do not itemize deductions. This special provision is set to expire at the end of 2013. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information.

  3. Contribute to Retirement Accounts.  You need to contribute to your 401(k) or similar retirement plan by Dec. 31 to count for 2013. On the other hand, you have until April 15, 2014, to set up a new IRA or add money to an existing IRA and still have it count for 2013.The Saver’s Credit, also known as the Retirement Savings Contribution Credit, helps low- and moderate-income workers in two ways. It helps people save for retirement and earn a special tax credit. Eligible workers who contribute to IRAs, 401(k)s or similar workplace retirement plans can get a tax credit on their federal tax return. The maximum credit is up to $1,000, $2,000 for married couples. Other deductions and credits may reduce or eliminate the amount you can claim.

IRS to Employers: Hire Veterans by Dec. 31 and Save on Taxes

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-15, December 3, 2013

If you plan to hire soon, consider hiring veterans. If you do, you may be able to claim the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit worth thousands of dollars.

You must act soon. The WOTC is available to employers that hire qualified veterans before the new year.

Here are six key facts about the WOTC:

  1. Hiring Deadline.  Employers hiring qualified veterans before Jan. 1, 2014, may be able to claim the WOTC. The credit was set to expire at the end of 2012. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended it for one year. The WOTC expires on Dec. 31, 2013.
  2. Maximum Credit.  The tax credit limit is $9,600 per worker for employers that operate a taxable business. The limit for tax-exempt employers is $6,240 per worker.
  3. Credit Factors.  The credit amount depends on a number of factors. They include the length of time a veteran was unemployed, the number of hours worked and the amount of the wages paid during the first year of employment.
  4. Disabled Veterans.  Employers hiring veterans with service-related disabilities may be eligible for the maximum tax credit.
  5. State Certification.  Employers must file Form 8850, Pre-Screening Notice and Certification Request for the Work Opportunity Credit, with their state workforce agency. They must file the form within 28 days after the qualified veteran starts work. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s WOTC website.
  6. E-file.  Some states accept Form 8850 electronically.

Don’t Fall for Charity Scams Following Disasters

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-14, November 27, 2013

The IRS warns consumers not to fall for bogus charity scams. They often occur in the wake of major disasters like the recent tornadoes in the Midwest or the typhoon in the Philippines. Thieves play on the goodwill of people who want to help disaster victims. They pose as a real charity in order to steal money or get private information to commit identity theft.

The scams use different tactics. Offering charity relief, criminals often:

  • Claim to be with real charities to gain public trust.
  • Use names similar to legitimate charities.
  • Use email to steer people to bogus websites that often look like real charity sites.
  • Contact people by phone or email to get them to ‘donate’ money or give their financial information.

The IRS offers the following tips to help taxpayers who wish to donate to victims:

  • Donate to qualified charities.  Use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool at IRS.gov to find qualified charities. Only donations to qualified organizations are tax-deductible. You can also find legitimate charities at the Federal Emergency Management Agency website, fema.gov. For more information about the kinds of charities that can receive deductible contributions, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.
  • Don’t give out information.  Don’t give your Social Security number, credit card and bank account numbers or passwords to anyone. Scam artists use this information to steal your identity and money.
  • Don’t give or send cash.  For security and tax record purposes, don’t give or send cash. Contribute by check, credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
  • Report suspected fraud.  If you suspect tax or charity-related fraud, visit IRS.gov and click on ‘Reporting Phishing’ at the bottom of the home page.

Get more information about tax scams and schemes at IRS.gov. Click on ‘Tax Fraud & Abuse’ at the bottom of the home page. You can also get Publication 526 at IRS.gov or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

IRS Warns of Phone Scam

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-13, November 7, 2013

The IRS is warning the public about a phone scam that targets people across the nation, including recent immigrants. Callers claiming to be from the IRS tell intended victims they owe taxes and must pay using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The scammers threaten those who refuse to pay with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license.

The callers who commit this fraud often:

  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security number.
  • Make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS emails to support their scam.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or DMV, and caller ID again supports their claim.

The truth is the IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes. And the IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The agency also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.

If you get a call from someone claiming to be with the IRS asking for a payment, here’s what to do:

  • If you owe federal taxes, or think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.

Be alert for phone and email scams that use the IRS name. The IRS will never request personal or financial information by email, texting or any social media. You should forward scam emails to phishing@irs.gov. Don’t open any attachments or click on any links in those emails.

Read more about tax scams on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.