Frequently Overlooked Tax Deductions & Credits

Every year, millions of dollar in unclaimed and undelivered tax refunds stack up in the IRS bank account. The rightful owners of this money, often times, do not even know the money is waiting for them or how to claim it. In an effort to help you get all the money you deserve back into your pocket, I offer 9 frequently overlooked tax deductions and credits that you should familiarize yourself with going into the next tax season.

1) Job-Hunting Costs

If you spend time looking for a job during the year (as long as it is not your first job) then most of the expenses incurred while job-hunting can be deducted from your taxes. These expenses include: transportation costs (56 cents a mile for driving), parking, tolls, cab fares, food and lodging, employment agency fees, and cost of printing resumes, business cards, postage, and advertising.

2) Moving Expenses For New Job

If you moved over 50 miles away from your old home than you can qualify for moving expensed deductions. You can deduct the cost of moving yourself and your household goods to the new location. A few of the larger eligible deductions include: 23.5 center per mile while driving your car, parking and tolls, and lodging. This deduction is available even if you do not itemize.

3) Sales Tax

You have the option to deduct sales taxes or state taxes off your federal income tax. The sales tax deduction is especially important if you live in a state that does not impose a state income tax. However, even if you have to pay state taxes, the sales tax break may be the better deal if you made larger purchases (such as a car or engagement ring).

4) Child-Care

You are eligible for a tax credit worth between 20% and 35% of what you pay for child care while you work. A tax credit is even better than a deduction! It is also legal to list the cost of a babysitter as a charitable contribution on your tax return if you can document that you were volunteering while the babysitter was performing their duties.

5) Energy-saving Home Improvements

If you install qualified residential alternative energy equipment then you can be eligible for a credit of up to 30% of the total cost of such systems installed through 2016. This can include things such as a solar hot water heater, geothermal heat pump, or wind turbines.

6) Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning credit can provide students up to an additional $2,000 a year. You are eligible to take 20% off of the first $10,000 you spend on education after high school in an effort to give yourself a new or improved skill. While this deduction phases out at higher income levels, it does not discriminate based on ones age.

7) Health Insurance Premiums

In some cases, insurance premiums can be deducted from your taxes. Medical expenses usually need to exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income in order to be deducted. However, if you are self-employed and responsible for your own health insurance cover then you can actually deduct 100% of your premium cost. This will be taken off your adjusted gross income as opposed to an itemized deduction.

8) Self-employed Social Security

If you are self-employed and forced to pay the full 15.4% Social Security tax on your own, then you can write off half of what you pay. This deduction can be found on the face of the 1040 form, therefore, you do not need to itemize to take advantage of this deduction.

9) Out-of-pocket Charitable Deductions

You can write off out-of-pocket expenses incurred while doing charity work. For instance, if you make food for a soup kitchen or fundraiser, you can deduct the cost of ingredients used to make the food. It is important to save the receipts or itemize the cost inc case you are audited.

 

 

Online Streaming Services Usher In New Form Of Taxes

The city of Chicago has recently announced that they will begin targeting online databases and streaming entertainment services with a new “cloud tax.” This new tax will affect users of online streaming service such as Netflix and Spotify.

The new tax is composed of two recent ruling made by the city of Chicago’s Department of Finance. The first, covers “electronically delivered amusements” and the second covers “nonpossessory computer leases.” These rulings are essentially extensions on existing laws to include an extra 9 percent tax on certain types of online services. It is assumed that first of these ruling will affect services such as Netflix and Spotify and the second will affect services such as Amazon Web Services or Lexis Nexis.

Consumers of such services should not worry just yet about increased payments, as Netflix has already begun making arrangements to add the tax to the cost charged to its Chicago customers. This means that while the tax is technically levied upon customers of these services, the companies are likely to actually carry the burden of the tax.

This new “cloud tax” is likely to be just the beginning and online streaming services recognize that they need to prepare for this to be a trend utilized by more areas across the country in the future. As these massive online streaming services have taken vast entertainment resources and moved them online, it has made it a challenge for cities that have previously relied on tax from the sale of these entertainment services at local businesses. The “cloud tax” is a move to fight back against the loss in tax revenue due to the online streaming services.

Many have already voiced their displeasure with this new tax. After the announcement was made, Michael Wynne argued that the tax violates the Federal Telecommunications Act and the Internet Tax Freedom Act, intended to prevent discrimination against services delivered over the internet. In his response, Wynne stated “I could do that same activity of research using books or periodicals without being tax, so it seems like I’m being picked on because I chose to do it online.”

This “cloud tax” is clearly a response by cash-strapped cities to the continuing loss of tax revenue from sales previously made in brick and mortar stores. Online services are swallowing up business that use to be conducted within the city but is now happening online. Before the rise of these services, people would consume entertainment at video rental outlets and music stores – which paid local property taxes along with municipal sales taxes – and now these entertainment outlets have become irrelevant with the birth of online services. The cities clearly are looking for a way to make up the difference in lost tax revenue, and the new “cloud tax” seems to be the prevailing option.

 

15 Facts About U.S. Taxes

Americans pay taxes to the government basically everyday. Whether it is at the store or the income tax withheld from their paycheck throughout the year. No one enjoys paying taxes and when tax season rolls around it can become an extremely stressful time. However, at the end of the day, taxes are a vital part of how our country functions. Despite taxes having such a large influence on our lives, many people do not know much about them.

Check out some of these interesting facts about the American tax system and learn how you fit into the tax system as a whole:

  1. The IRS is the U.S. government agency that is responsible for collecting taxes and enforcing revenue laws. This agency is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
  2. Every year the IRS receives over 140 million individual tax returns. In total, they collect over $950 billion in taxes.
  3. Over $325 billion in tax refunds are paid out each year. The average tax refund is $2,953. Keep in mind that a large tax refund suggest that you had to much money withheld from your pay or you made estimated tax payments that were too large. In a sense, it is money that you loaned to the government interest free.
  4. More than 40,000 Californian residents reported over $1 million in income, the most of any state. Vermont, on the other hand, has less than 300 millionaires.
  5. Electronic filing is now nearly a universal practice. Almost 90% of individual tax returns are e-filed.
  6. The tax code is extremely wordy, with about 4 million words in all.
  7. The tax code is continually changing. There has been more than 4,500 changes since 2001.
  8. The biggest tax deductions are those for taxes paid to the state and local governments. After that, taxes paid for interest is the next highest, especially on home mortgages.
  9. The word ‘tax’ derives from the Latin word taxo, which means “I estimate.”
  10. Around 90% of Americans who employ a housekeeper and babysitter cheat on their taxes.
  11. The United States has a progressive tax system. This means that the more money a person makes, the more he or she pays in income taxes.
  12. As a whole, Americans spend over $27.7 billion each year doing their taxes.
  13. Americans spend over 7.6 billion hours complying with federal tax requirements.
  14. The top 20% of all income earners in the United States pay about 86% of all federal income taxes.
  15. The United States is the only nation in the world that tries to tax citizens on money they earned in foreign countries.

Crazy Taxes: 4 Crazy Tax Laws from Around the World

Tax is complicated business, but at its heart it is a way for the government to generate more revenue. So, when a nation is strapped for cash (or just trying to get that extra bit of cash), some lawmakers have turned to some pretty wacky ideas. In no particular order here are four of the strangest tax laws known to man.

 

Bagel Tax

You read that right. In New York, the state taxes bagels that have been altered in anyway. The grounds from this comes from the fact that an extra tax is placed on food prepared on premises. So, you get that bagel cut, toasted, and filled with a nice spread? That’s about as prepared as you can get, and will cost you an extra .08¢.

Card Tax

No, not greeting cards. Alabama has been charging an extra dime on playing cards since 1935. Make no mistakes, Alabama legislators are serious about this tax, and require an official state revenue stamp on all playing card decks. It’s only limited to decks of up to 54 cards, though.

Window Tax

For this one, we need to take a trip across the pond– and back in time. In 1696, England introduced a tax on windows that lasted for over 150 years. While it seems odd on the surface, it was essentially a wealth tax. This was based on the idea that bigger houses had more windows, and that extra wealth could be a marginal source of revenue for the Crown. It was repealed after enough subjects complained it was a tax on light and air.

Beard Tax

Another gem from history. Back at the turn of the 17th century, Russian Emperor Peter the Great struggled to get his vast empire to conform to the beauty and fashion standards of western Europe. However, he noticed many mean were still attached to their beards. Not to be outdone, he cooked up a way to incentive Russian men to part with their whiskers. Excepting priests, all bearded Russians had to pay a then-hefty tax of 100 Rubles per year!