Archive for the ‘General Taxation’ Category

TurboTax Apology 2.0

January 29, 2015

Form 1040After getting an earful (and then some) from their customers, the folks at Intuit have come up with a new, improved apology for the mess they created in disabling features in some versions of their products, forcing many of their customers to buy a more expensive version. While they’ll need a few days to roll out the new approach, they say it will include three features:

  • For this year, a free upgrade “within the product” for people who buy the desktop version of TurboTax Deluxe but need TurboTax Premier because they removed capabilities from the lower-priced product.
  • People who already paid for the upgrade can claim the rebate described earlier up until April 20.
  • For next year and presumably thereafter, the capabilities removed from the Deluxe version will be restored.

Details haven’t been provided, so it’s unclear if any of the numerous limitations listed in our previous article will be lifted. In particular, we wonder whether these forms are being restored only to the desktop version of TurboTax Deluxe. Some 80% of TurboTax customers use the online version, but for some reason there was little outcry when similar changes were made to that version a year earlier.

 

Internal Revenue But No Service

January 15, 2015

By Kaye A. Thomas
Current as of January 15, 2015

The Taxpayer Advocate has released a depressing report.

Internal Revenue ServiceTaxpayer service levels at the IRS have been declining for the last ten years. In 2004, the IRS answered 87% of calls from taxpayers seeking assistance, with an average hold time of 2½ minutes. On its toll-free lines and in roughly 400 walk-in sites, taxpayers received help on a wide range of tax questions. Tax return preparation assistance was provided to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers, many of them low-income, elderly or disabled. Here is what we can expect for 2015:

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Stock Acquired from Your Spouse

January 9, 2015

Taxation of InvestorsThe rule for determining the basis of stock you acquire from a spouse, whether by gift, purchase, or divorce settlement, is simple and, to many people, surprising. Gifts don’t follow the usual rule for gifts. As for what happens when you buy stock (or anything else) from your spouse (or from your former spouse as part of divorce proceedings), you may find the result hard to believe.

details: Acquiring Stock from Your Spouse

Eager to File?

December 29, 2014

Filing your taxesCountdown to tax season: The IRS has announced that it will begin accepting electronic returns, and begin processing paper returns, January 20.

Tax Extenders Law Signed

December 20, 2014

On December 19, President Obama signed the law passed by the lame duck Congress to extend expired tax provisions through the end of 2014. As previously reported, the law retroactively restores provisions that expired at the end of 2013, such as the deduction for state and local sales tax. These provisions are extended only through the end of 2014, so further action from the new Congress will be necessary to make them available in 2015 or later years.

The legislation also includes technical corrections to earlier legislation and provisions making it possible for states to offer ABLE accounts, similar to 529 accounts but used to cover expenses of certain individuals with disabilities.

details: Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014

New Rule for 529 Account Investments

December 17, 2014

College savingsThe college savings plans known as 529 accounts have advantages but also some disadvantages, including a rule that restricts how often you can change your investments. The tax law passed by Congress at the end of its 2014 lame duck session includes a provision that loosens up that restriction as of 2015.

details: Changing 529 Account Investments

2014 Tax Extenders Move

December 4, 2014

Seal of the U.S. CongressUpdate: The Senate passed this bill on December 16, sending it to President Obama for his signature.

It’s not a done deal yet, but Congress appears to be heading toward a one-year extension, through 2014, of various tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013. Many extenders are included in various categories including business and energy. Here are the extenders for individuals:

  • Tax-free distributions from IRAs for charitable purposes
  • Deduction of state and local sales tax
  • Above-the-line deduction for qualified tuition
  • Mortgage insurance premiums treated as interest
  • Parity for employer-provided mass transit and parking
  • Exclusion of income from discharge of certain mortgage debt
  • Contributions of real property for conservation purposes
  • Deduction for certain teachers’ expenses

The House passed the bill 378-46 but the Senate has yet to act and the Senate has now passed it as well.

Inflation Adjustments for 2015

September 22, 2014

inflation-rate-of-changeThe August inflation numbers, which came out September 17, are the last ones needed to adjust most of the tax figures that change annually, including the tax rate schedules. The IRS hasn’t published the adjusted figures, but we “did the math” and updated our Reference Room to give you an advance look at the 2015 numbers. Highlights include an increase in the personal exemption amount from this year’s $3,950 to a round $4,000. The IRA contribution limit (under age 50) will remain at $5,500. (The 401k contribution limit depends on September inflation numbers, so that information isn’t available yet.) The annual gift tax exclusion amount will be unchanged at $14,000.

Inflation for the twelve-month period ending in August was 1.7%.

Clergy Housing Allowance Exemption Unconstitutional

December 30, 2013

Court rulingsSection 107 of the Internal Revenue Code provides a tax exemption for a housing allowance provided to a “minister of the gospel.” In a decision virtually certain to be overturned, a federal judge has found the exemption unconstitutional.

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Roth Guide Updated

December 22, 2013

Roth retirement accountsOur free online guide to Roth retirement accounts has been fully updated. This extensive guide offers much of the information covered in Go Roth!, our book on the subject.

details: Roth IRA and Other Roth Retirement Accounts


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