FAQ - Wenger & Bauer CPAs, Incorporated

FAQ

How do I find out about my refund?
The best way is to use the Check Your Refund link from the Resources pages of our website! To look up the status of your federal or state refund, you will need your social security number, filing status, and exact amount you’re expecting back. Alternatively, you can go directly to the IRS website: http://www.irs.gov/individuals/article/0,,id=96596,00.html 

What do I need to bring when I am having my taxes prepared?

Following is a list of the more common items you should bring if you have them.

§ Wage statements (Form W-2)

§ Pension, or retirement income (Forms 1099-R)

§ Dependents' Social Security numbers and dates of birth

§ Last year's tax return

§ Information on education expenses

§ Information on the sales of stocks and/or bonds

§ Self-employed business income and expenses

§ Lottery and/or gambling winnings and losses

§ State refund amount

§ Social Security and/or unemployment income

§ Income and expenses from rentals

§ Record of purchase or sale of real estate

§ Medical and dental expenses

§ Real estate and personal property taxes

§ Estimated taxes or foreign taxes paid

§ Cash and non-cash charitable donations

§ Mortgage or home equity loan interest paid (Form 1098)

§ Unreimbursed employment-related expenses

§ Job-related educational expenses

§ Child care expenses and provider information

And any other items that you think may be necessary for your taxes.



Is my social security taxable?

Usually if your income including social security benefits is less than $25,000 if single or $32,000 if married, your benefits are not taxable. If your income is higher than those limits, there are formulas to determine what percentage of your social security is taxable. Currently up to 85% of your social security may be taxable.

How long do I keep my records and tax returns?

You should keep your records and tax returns for at least 3 years from the date the return was filed or the date the return was required to be filed, whichever is later. It is recommended that you keep these records longer if possible.

When can I make contributions to my IRA?

Generally for any tax year, you can make a contribution to your IRA up until the original due date of the return (usually April 15). Thus for tax year 2008, you can make contributions from January 1, 2008 through April 15, 2009.

What is a 529 plan?

A Qualified Tuition Program (QTP), also called a "529 plan," is established and maintained to let you either prepay or contribute to an account established for paying a student's qualified higher education expenses at an eligible institution. States and eligible educational institutions can establish and maintain a QTP. You do not get any federal deductions for the account, but any income earned in it is tax-free. One of the big advantages of a 529 plan is that many states allow you to deduct some contributions to the plan from your state tax return.

What do I need to keep for my charitable contributions?

First, is your contribution cash or non-cash? 
If you make a cash donation, you must have a bank record or written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the amount of the donation. A bank record can be the cancelled check or a statement from a bank or credit union—so long as it lists the charity’s name, the date, and the amount of the contribution. Personal records such as bank registers, diaries and notes are no longer considered acceptable proof of contributions. 

Any used items (such as clothing, linens, appliances, etc.) must be in good condition and may only be deducted at the price you could reasonably ask for the item in used condition. For contributions worth $250 or more, you must have a written receipt or letter from the organization. For contributions worth $500 or more, you must file Form 8283 (Noncash Charitable Contributions) and attach it to your Form 1040. All contributions must be made to qualified charitable organizations.

If I donate my vehicle to charity, how much can I deduct on my tax return?
In the past there were a lot of charities asking you to donate your car, and there were a lot overinflated appraisals of the fair market value for these vehicles. But recently the IRS has gotten stricter on the way you determine the value of your car. Now you must claim the actual amount the charity received at an auction to sell the car, and the charity should give you timely acknowledgment to claim the deduction. If the vehicle is actually used by the charity instead of sold at auction, then you may claim the vehicle's fair market value.

What are the tax consequences of selling a home?

If you sell your personal residence you can totally exclude from income up to $250,000 of gain if you are single, or $500,000 if married, regardless of your age at the time of the sale—if during the 5 years before the sale you owned the home and lived in it for a total of any 24 months. The exclusion is not a one-time election; instead it is available once every 2 years. Recent tax law has adversely changed the handling of gains on the sale of a home if you rented the property before you made it your personal residence. Please contact our office if you believe this situation will affect you.

How should I keep records for my business driving?

Keep a log in your vehicle and record the purpose and mileage of each trip. You also need to record the odometer readings at the beginning and end of each year, as the IRS will ask you for total miles driven during the year. Keep your repair bills as these normally record odometer readings when the car is serviced.

Can I deduct expenses for a business run out of my home?

If you use a portion of your home for business purposes, you may be able to take a home office deduction whether you are self-employed or an employee. Expenses you may be able to deduct for business use of your home may include the business portion of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance, depreciation, painting, and repairs. You can claim this deduction only if you use a part of your home regularly and exclusively:

 • As your principal place of business for any trade or business. 

 • As a place to meet or deal with your patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your trade or business. Generally, the amount you can deduct depends on the percentage of your home that you used for business.
 
Your deduction will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

What do I do if I receive a notice from the IRS about my taxes?

Don’t panic! the first thing to do is carefully read the notice—to determine why it was sent, what the IRS is requesting, and what they want you to do. It may be nothing of importance; it may even be a notice in your favor. After reading it you should bring it to our attention.

What is the difference between a C and an S corporation?

A C Corporation and an S Corporation are exactly the same in respect to liability protection. The difference is in how you are taxed. A C Corporation has what is referred to as a double taxation. First the corporation is taxed, and secondly the dividends are taxed on the shareholders’ tax returns. An S Corporation is not taxed at the corporate level, only at the shareholder level. Most small businesses are eligible to file as S corporations. But the appropriate election must be made.