Monday, February 6, 2012

File Your Tax Return For Free!


This information is provided by The Law Office of Martin Cantu and SATaxHelp.com.
Everyone can prepare and e-file their federal tax returns for free using the IRS Free File Program. Free File is offered through a public-private partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and tax software companies. Free File can help you do your taxes fast; it’s safe and it doesn’t cost anything.
Free File offers two options: easy-to-use software or online fillable forms.

Free File software is for taxpayers who earn $57,000 or less


Here’s how it works: You must access Free File through the IRS website. At www.irs.gov/freefile, there’s an online tool which allows you to give a little information about yourself then guides you to the software for which you are eligible. Or, you can review a complete list of companies and their offerings and make a selection.

Once you select a software product, you will be directed away from the IRS website and onto that company’s website. There, the software will generally offer you a step-by-step guide through the tax preparation process.

Free File does all the hard work. You don’t need to be a tax expert; the software will help find tax breaks, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, that you may be due. The software asks the questions; you supply the answers. It will find the right tax forms and do the math. Free File has a high satisfaction rate among its users, 98 percent recommend it to others. The IRS issues refunds to 98% of electronic filers by direct deposit within 14 days, if there are no problems, and some may be issued in as few as 10 days.

A word about security: All Free File companies use the latest in secure technology. The safety of taxpayer information is everyone’s priority. Thirty-six million taxpayers have safely and securely used Free File since it started in 2003. Some companies provide state tax return software – sometimes for free and sometimes for a fee. Some states also have a relationship with the Free File Alliance; those states are listed on the companies’ websites.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tax Tips for the Self-Employed


Tax Tips for the Self-employed 
There are many benefits that come from being your own boss. If you work for yourself, as an independent contractor, or you carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor, you are generally considered to be self-employed.
Here are six key points the IRS would like you to know about self-employment and self- employment taxes:
1. Self-employment can include work in addition to your regular full-time business activities, such as part-time work you do at home or in addition to your regular job.
2. If you are self-employed you generally have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax. Self-employment tax is a Social Security and Medicare tax primarily for individuals who work for themselves. It is similar to the Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld from the pay of most wage earners. You figure self-employment tax using a Form 1040 Schedule SE. Also, you can deduct half of your self-employment tax in figuring your adjusted gross income.
3. You file an IRS Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040.
4. If you are self-employed you may have to make estimated tax payments. This applies even if you also have a full-time or part-time job and your employer withholds taxes from your wages. Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that is not subject to withholding. If you fail to make quarterly payments you may be penalized for underpayment at the end of the tax year.
5. You can deduct the costs of running your business. These costs are known as business expenses. These are costs you do not have to capitalize or include in the cost of goods sold but can deduct in the current year.
6. To be deductible, a business expense must be both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your field of business. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your business. An expense does not have to be indispensable to be considered necessary.

Contact the Law Office of Martin Cantu or www.sataxhelp.com for more information. 

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tax Return Filing Status


This is Part One of my continuing series of basic tax help articles.   This series of articles applies to the 2012 tax filing season for the tax year ended December 31, 2011 – Fling status and exemptions. As always, consult a tax professional for specific guidance on your individual situation.  Contact the Law Office of Martin Cantu for more information, or www.sataxhelp.com.

Filing Status

This is step number one in filing your tax return. You have five choices - Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child.  Filing status determines basic tax items such as filing requirements, your standard deduction, eligibility for certain credits and deductions, and your correct tax. This is the foundation of your tax return and making the wrong choice here will have detrimental impacts throughout your return.
You may qualify for more than one filing status, so the choice of filing status may get complicated. This is especially true in a year in which you may have had any number of life events happen to you – marriage/divorce, death of spouse, birth of child, death of a child, or caring for an elderly family member.  Here are eight facts quick tips about filing status to keep in mind as you prepare for this filing season:
1. Marital status on the last day of the year determines your marital status for the entire year.
2. If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation. You may have to run various scenarios to determine which status provides you with the lowest tax due.
3. Single filing status generally applies to anyone who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to state law. Keep in mind that in some states, such as Texas, there is no such status as separated, so you may be forced to file married filing separately.
4. A married couple may file a joint return together. The couple’s filing status would be Married Filing Jointly.
5. If your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry during 2011, usually you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year of death.
6. A married couple may elect to file their returns separately. Each person’s filing status would generally be Married Filing Separately.
7. Head of Household generally applies to taxpayers who are unmarried. You must also have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for you and a qualifying person to qualify for this filing status.
8. You may be able to choose Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child as your filing status if your spouse died during 2009 or 2010, you have a dependent child, have not remarried and you meet certain other conditions.


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

How to Determine Your IRS Filing Status


Here is some information on how to determine your tax filing status. For more information or other tax related questions, place contact the Law Office of Martin Cantu or sataxhelp.com.


Determining your filing status is one of the first steps to filing your federal income tax return. There are five filing statuses: Single, Married Filing Jointly, Married Filing Separately, Head of Household and Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child. Your filing status is used to determine your filing requirements, standard deduction, eligibility for certain credits and deductions, and your correct tax.

Some people may qualify for more than one filing status. Here are eight facts about filing status you'll need to know so you can choose the best option for your situation.

1. Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your marital status for the entire year.

2. If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.

3. Single filing status generally applies to anyone who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to state law.

4. A married couple may file a joint return together. The couple’s filing status would be Married Filing Jointly.

5. If your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry during 2011, usually you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year of death.

6. A married couple may elect to file their returns separately. Each person’s filing status would generally be Married Filing Separately.

7. Head of Household generally applies to taxpayers who are unmarried. You must also have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for you and a qualifying person to qualify for this filing status.

8. You may be able to choose Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child as your filing status if your spouse died during 2009 or 2010, you have a dependent child, have not remarried and you meet certain other conditions.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Six Important Facts about Dependents and Exemptions


Here is some basic information on Dependents and Exemptions that you may find helpful in filing your 2011 tax return. Contact the Law Office of Martin Cantu or www.sataxhelp for more information on this question, or other tax issues you may have. 

Even though each individual tax return is different, some tax rules affect every person who may have to file a federal income tax return. These rules include dependents and exemptions. The IRS has six important facts about dependents and exemptions that will help you file your 2011 tax return.

1. Exemptions reduce your taxable income. There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. For each exemption you can deduct $3,700 on your 2011 tax return.

2. Your spouse is never considered your dependent. On a joint return, you may claim one exemption for yourself and one for your spouse. If you’re filing a separate return, you may claim the exemption for your spouse only if they had no gross income, are not filing a joint return, and were not the dependent of another taxpayer.

3. Exemptions for dependents. You generally can take an exemption for each of your dependents. A dependent is your qualifying child or qualifying relative. You must list the Social Security number of any dependent for whom you claim an exemption.

4. If someone else claims you as a dependent, you may still be required to file your own tax return. Whether you must file a return depends on several factors including the amount of your unearned, earned or gross income, your marital status and any special taxes you owe.

5. If you are a dependent, you may not claim an exemption. If someone else – such as your parent – claims you as a dependent, you may not claim your personal exemption on your own tax return.

6. Some people cannot be claimed as your dependent. Generally, you may not claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return with their spouse. Also, to claim someone as a dependent, that person must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year. There is an exception to this rule for certain adopted children. See IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information for additional tests to determine who can be claimed as a dependent.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Top 10 Tax Filing Tips




The income tax filing season has begun and important tax documents should be arriving in your mailbox. Even though your return is not due until April, you can make tax time easier on yourself with an early start. Here are the Internal Revenue Service’s top 10 tips to ensure a smooth tax-filing process.

For more questions contact the Law Office of Martin Cantu.

1. Gather your records. Round up any documents you’ll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you’re claiming on your return.

2. Be on the lookout W-2s and 1099s will be coming soon; you’ll need these to file your tax return.

3. Have a question? Use the Interactive Tax Assistant available on the IRS website to find answers to your tax questions about credits, deductions, general filing questions and more.

4. Use Free File. Let Free File do the hard work for you with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It's available exclusively at www.irs.gov. Everyone can find an option to prepare their tax return and e-file it for free. If you made $57,000 or less, you qualify to use free tax software offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile to review your options.

5. Try IRS e-file.  IRS e-file is the safe, easy and most common way to file a tax return. Last year, 79 percent of taxpayers - 106 million people - used IRS e-file. Many tax preparers are now required to use e-file. If you owe taxes, you have payment options to file immediately and pay by the tax deadline. Best of all, the IRS issues refunds to 98 percent of electronic filers by direct deposit within 14 days, if there are no problems, and some may be issued in as few as 10 days.

6. Consider other filing options There are many options for filing your tax return. You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax preparer. You may be eligible for free face-to-face help at a volunteer site. Give yourself time to weigh all the options and find the one that best suits your needs.

7. Consider direct deposit If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you’ll receive it faster than a paper check in the mail.

8. Visit the official IRS website often The IRS website at www.irs.gov is a great place to find everything you need to file your tax return: forms, publications, tips, answers to frequently asked questions and updates on tax law changes.

9. Remember this number: 17 Check out IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, on the IRS website. It’s a comprehensive resource for taxpayers, highlighting everything you’ll need to know when filing your return.

10. Review! Review! Review! Don’t rush. We all make mistakes when we rush. Mistakes slow down the processing of your return. Be sure to double check all the Social Security numbers and math calculations on your return as these are the most common errors. Don’t panic! If you run into a problem, remember the IRS is here to help. Start with www.irs.gov.