Don’t understand the different tax filing statuses?

Here are tips the IRS gives to help you understand the different tax filings statuses.

Taxpayers don’t typically think about their filing status until they file their taxes. However, a taxpayer’s status could change during the year, so it’s always a good time for a taxpayer to learn about the different filing statuses and which one they should use.

It’s important a taxpayer uses the right filing status because it can affect the amount of tax they owe for the year. It may even determine if they must file a tax return at all. Taxpayers should keep in mind that their marital status on Dec. 31 is their status for the whole year.

Sometimes more than one filing status may apply to taxpayers. When that happens, taxpayers should choose the one that allows them to pay the least amount of tax.

Here’s a list of the five filing statuses and a description of who claims them:

  • Single. Normally this status is for taxpayers who aren’t married, or who are divorced or legally separated under state law.
  • Married Filing Jointly. If taxpayers are married, they can file a joint tax return. When a spouse passes away, the widowed spouse can usually file a joint return for that year.
  • Married Filing Separately. A married couple can choose to file two separate tax returns. This may benefit them if it results in less tax owed than if they file a joint tax return. Taxpayers may want to prepare their taxes both ways before they choose. They can also use this status if each wants to be responsible only for their own tax.
  • Head of Household. In most cases, this status applies to a taxpayer who is not married, but there are some special rules. For example, the taxpayer must have paid more than half the cost of keeping up a home for themselves and a qualifying person. Taxpayers should check all the rules and make sure they qualify to use this status.
  • Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. This status may apply to a taxpayer if their spouse died during one of the previous two years and they have a dependent child. Other conditions also apply.

 

4 Questions to Ask Yourself as You Plan for Retirement

The Social Security Administration recently published an excellent article to give you more information to help plan your retirement. It is published in its entirety below. For additional information, visit the SSA website.

Deciding when to start receiving your retirement benefits from Social Security is a decision that only you can make, and you should make that decision with as much information as possible. There are a lot of important questions to answer.

Should you claim benefits earlier and get a smaller monthly payment for more years? Or should you wait and get a bigger monthly amount over a shorter period?

There are no right or wrong answers, but we encourage you to consider these four important questions as you plan for your financially secure retirement:

How much money will I need to live comfortably in retirement?

Anticipate what your expenses will be in retirement, including things like mortgage payments or rent, utilities, healthcare insurance and related costs, food, personal care, car payments and maintenance, entertainment, hobbies, travel, and credit card or other debt. Also, consider whether you’ll need to provide for your spouse, children, or grandchildren.

What will my monthly Social Security retirement benefit be?

The average monthly Social Security benefit for a retired worker in 2018 is $1,404 (up from $1,377 in 2017). The average monthly Social Security benefit for a disabled worker in 2018 is $1,197 (up from $1,173 in 2017). As a reminder, eligibility for retirement benefits still requires 40 credits (usually about 10 years of work). The Social Security Act details how the annual Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is calculated. You can read more about the COLA on our website. The best way to get an estimate of your retirement benefit is with a my Social Securityaccount. Get yours today.

Will I have other income to supplement my Social Security benefits?

Secure your financial future with a retirement portfolio that includes savings, investments, and possibly a pension plan. If you’re willing and able, you may choose to increase your income by working past retirement age. Social Security replaces a percentage of a worker’s pre-retirement income based on your lifetime earnings. The amount of your average wages that Social Security retirement benefits replaces varies depending on your earnings and when you choose to start benefits. If you start benefits at age 67, this percentage ranges from as much as 75 percent for very low earners, to about 40 percent for medium earners, to about 27 percent for high earners. If you start benefits after age 67, these percentages would be higher. If you start benefits earlier, these percentages would be lower. Most financial advisers say you will need about 70 percent of pre-retirement income to live comfortably in retirement, including your Social Security benefits, investments, and other savings.

How long do I expect my retirement to last?

Anticipate the length of your retirement, keeping in mind that many American workers will live much longer than the “average” retiree. Consider your health, family longevity, and lifestyle. Your Social Security retirement benefits will provide continuous income for as long as you live, protecting you even if your other sources of income run out. Discover your life expectancy with our online calculator.

No one can predict the future perfectly, but careful planning and preparation will help you to make a well-informed decision about when to start receiving your Social Security benefits.

If you’ve contributed enough to the Social Security system through FICA payroll taxes, you can receive your full retirement benefit at age 66 or 67 depending on when you were born. You may also claim it sooner, starting at age 62, at a permanently reduced rate. Or you may wait until after your full retirement age, increasing your benefit amount by up to 8 percent per full year to age 70.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, and we’re here to help you prepare for a financially secure future for you and your family. We invite you to use our online retirement planners.

Facts to help taxpayers understand Individual Retirement Arrangements

Individual Retirement Arrangements – better known simply as IRAs – are accounts into which someone can deposit money to provide financial security when they retire. A taxpayer can set up an IRA with a:

  • bank or other financial institution
  • life insurance company
  • mutual fund
  • stockbroker

Here are some terms and definitions related to IRAs to help people learn more about how the arrangements work:

Traditional IRA: Contributions to a traditional IRA may be tax-deductible. The amounts in a traditional IRA are not generally taxed until you take them out of the account.

Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees: commonly known as a SIMPLE IRA. It allows employees and employers to contribute to traditional IRAs set up for employees. It is ideal as a start-up retirement savings plan for small employers not currently sponsoring a retirement plan.

Simplified Employee Pension: Better known simply as an SEP-IRA, it is a written plan that allows an employer to make contributions toward their own retirement and their employees’ retirement without getting involved in a more complex qualified plan. An SEP is owned and controlled by the employee.

ROTH IRA: An IRA that is subject to the same rules as a traditional IRA with certain exceptions. For example, a taxpayer cannot deduct contributions to a Roth IRA. However, if the IRA owner satisfies certain requirements, qualified distributions are tax-free.

Contribution: The amount of money someone puts into their IRA. There are limits to the amount that someone can put into their IRA annually. These limits are based on the age of the IRA holder and the type of IRA they have.

Distribution: Essentially a withdrawal. This is the amount someone takes out from their IRA.

Required distribution: A taxpayer cannot keep retirement funds in their account indefinitely. Someone with an IRA generally must start taking withdrawals from their IRA when they reach age 70½. Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.

Rollover: This is when the IRA owner receives a payment from retirement plan and deposits it into a different IRA within 60 days.

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IRS warns of scams related to natural disasters

WASHINGTON ― In the wake of Hurricane Florence, the Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers that criminals and scammers try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers who want to help victims of major disasters.

Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person using a variety of tactics.

  • Some impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.
  • Bogus websites use names similar to legitimate charities to trick people to send money or provide personal financial information.
  • They even claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
  • Others operate bogus charities and solicit money or financial information by telephone or email.

Help for disaster victims

Comprehensive information on disaster-related tax issues, including provisions for tax relief, can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov. In the case of a federally declared disaster, affected taxpayers may also call the IRS Special Services Help Line, 866-562-5227, with disaster-related tax questions. Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

Donate to real charities

To help taxpayers donate to legitimate charities, the IRS website, IRS.gov, has a search feature, Tax Exempt Organization Search, that helps users find or verify qualified charities. Donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.

  • Contribute by check or credit card. Never give or send cash.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution.

Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.” More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.”

Six Things For Extension Filers To Remember

Oct. 15 is almost here, and it’s the last day to file for most people who requested an automatic six-month extension for their 2017 tax returns. These taxpayers should remember that they can file any time before Oct. 15 if they have all their required tax documents. They can also pay their tax bill in full, or make a partial payment, anytime, by visiting IRS.gov/payments.

As extension filers prepare to file, here are some things they should know:

  • They can still use IRS Free File.  Nearly everyone can e-file their tax return for free through IRS Free File. The program is available on IRS.gov now through Oct. 15IRS e-file is easy, safe and the most accurate way for people to file their taxes. E-file also helps people get all the tax benefits they’re entitled to claim.
  • A refund may be waiting.  Anyone due a refund should file as soon as possible to get their money. The sooner someone files, the sooner they’ll get it. Don’t forget to use Direct Deposit. It is the best and fastest way for taxpayers to get their tax refund electronically deposited for free into their financial account.
  • They should consider IRS Direct Pay.  Taxpayers who owe taxes can pay them with IRS Direct Pay. It’s the simple, quick and free way to pay from a checking or savings account. Taxpayers can just click on the ‘Pay’ at IRS.gov.
  • Here’s what taxpayers should do about a missed deadline. Anyone who did not request an extension by this year’s April 17 deadline should file and pay as soon as possible. This will stop additional interest and penalties from adding up. IRS Direct Pay offers a free, secure and easy way to pay taxes directly from a checking or savings account. There is no penalty for filing a late return for people who are due a refund.
  • Taxpayers should remember the Oct. 15 Deadline.  Taxpayers who aren’t ready to file yet should remember to file by Oct. 15 to avoid a failure-to-file penalty. Taxpayers who owe and can’t pay their balance in full should pay as much as they can to reduce interest and penalties for late payment. They can use the Online Payment Agreement tool to apply for more time to pay or set up an installment agreement. In most cases, the failure-to-file penalty is 10 times more than the failure-to-pay penalty.
  • More Time for the MilitaryMembers of the military and others serving in a combat zone get more time to file. These taxpayers typically have until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to both file returns and pay any taxes due.

Is your organization a charity applying for tax-exempt status?

Is your organization a charity applying for tax-exempt status, but don’t know how to determine the type of organization? Here’s a little help.

Before applying for tax-exempt status, a charitable organization should determine if it’s one of the following:

  • Trust
    trust is formed under state law. An organization should review the law in the state where it is organized. For a trust to qualify as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, its organizing document must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.
  • Corporation
    In general, a corporation is formed under state law by filing articles of incorporation. The state must generally date-stamp the articles before they’re effective. For a corporation to qualify as a 501(c)(3) organization, its charter or articles of incorporation must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.
  • Association
    In general, an association is a group organized for a specific purpose. To qualify as a 501(a) of the Code, the association must have a written document showing its creation. This document could be articles of association. The organization must date the document, and at least two people must sign it.

The definition of an association can vary under state law. The organizations should consult the law of the state where it’s organized. For an association to qualify as a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, its articles of association must contain certain language. Publication 557 contains suggested language.

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