Tax Tips from Jack Spellerberg CPA
Tips to Keep in Mind for Taxpayers Traveling for Charity
During the summer, some taxpayers may travel because of their involvement with a qualified charity. These traveling taxpayers may be able to lower their taxes.
Here are some tax tips for taxpayers to use when deducting charity-related travel expenses:
- Qualified Charities. For a taxpayer to deduct costs, they must volunteer for a qualified charity. Most groups must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Churches and governments are generally qualified, and do not need to apply to the IRS. A taxpayer should ask the group about its status before they donate. Taxpayers can also use the Select Check tool on IRS.gov to check a group’s status.
- Out-of-Pocket Expenses. A taxpayer may be able to deduct some of their costs including travel. These out-of-pocket expenses must be necessary while the taxpayer is away from home. All costs must be:
- Directly connected with the services,
- Expenses the taxpayer had only because of the services the taxpayer gave, and
- Not personal, living or family expenses.
- Genuine and Substantial Duty. The charity work the taxpayer is involved with has to be real and substantial throughout the trip. The taxpayer can’t deduct expenses if they only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.
- Value of Time or Service. A taxpayer can’t deduct the value of their time or services that they give to charity. This includes income lost while the taxpayer serves as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.
- Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can Deduct. The types of expenses a taxpayer may be able to deduct include:
- Air, rail and bus transportation,
- Car expenses,
- Lodging costs,
- Cost of meals, and
- Taxi or other transportation costs between the airport or station and their hotel.
- Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can’t Deduct. Some types of travel do not qualify for a tax deduction. For example, a taxpayer can’t deduct their costs if a significant part of the trip involves recreation or vacation.
Tips to Keep in Mind on Income Taxes and Selling a Home
Homeowners may qualify to exclude from their income all or part of any gain from the sale of their main home.
Below are tips to keep in mind when selling a home:
Ownership and Use. To claim the exclusion, the homeowner must meet the ownership and use tests. This means that during the five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have:
- Owned the home for at least two years
- Lived in the home as their main home for at least two years Gain. If there is a gain from the sale of their main home, the homeowner may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from income or $500,000 on a joint return in most cases. Homeowners who can exclude all of the gain do not need to report the sale on their tax return
Loss. A main home that sells for lower than purchased is not deductible.
Reporting a Sale. Reporting the sale of a home on a tax return is required if all or part of the gain is not excludable. A sale must also be reported on a tax return if the taxpayer chooses not to claim the exclusion or receives a Form 1099-S, Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions.
- Taxpayers who own more than one home can only exclude the gain on the sale of their main home. Taxes must paid on the gain from selling any other home.
- Taxpayers who used the first-time homebuyer credit to purchase their home have special rules that apply to the sale. For more on those rules, see Publication 523. Use the First Time Homebuyer Credit Account Look-up to get account information such as the total amount of your credit or your repayment amount.
- Work-related moving expenses might be deductible, see Publication 521, Moving Expenses.
- Taxpayers moving after the sale of their home should update their address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service by filing Form 8822, Change of Address.
- Taxpayers who purchased health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace should notify the Marketplace when moving out of the area covered by the current Marketplace plan.
Avoid scams. The IRS does not initiate contact using social media or text message. The first contact normally comes in the mail. Those wondering if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information on IRS.gov to find out.
Helpful Tips to Know About Gambling Winnings and Losses
Taxpayers must report all gambling winnings as income. They must be able to itemize deductions to claim any gambling losses on their tax return.
Taxpayers who gamble may find these tax tips helpful:
- Gambling income. Income from gambling includes winnings from the lottery, horseracing and casinos. It also includes cash and non-cash prizes. Taxpayers must report the fair market value of non-cash prizes like cars and trips to the IRS.
- Payer tax form. The payer may issue a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, to winning taxpayers based on the type of gambling, the amount they win and other factors. The payer also sends a copy of the form to the IRS. Taxpayers should also get a Form W-2G if the payer withholds income tax from their winnings.
- How to report winnings. Taxpayers must report all gambling winnings as income. They normally should report all gambling winnings for the year on their tax return as “Other Income.” This is true even if the taxpayer doesn’t get a Form W-2G.
- How to deduct losses. Taxpayers are able to deduct gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, but keep in mind, they can’t deduct gambling losses that are more than their winnings.
- Keep gambling receipts. Keep records of gambling wins and losses. This means gambling receipts, statements and tickets or by using a gambling log or diary.
Gambling Losses Up to the Amount of Gambling Winnings
You must report the full amount of your gambling winnings for the year on Form 1040, line 21. You deduct your gambling losses for the year on Schedule A (Form 1040), line 28. You can’t deduct gambling losses that are more than your winnings. Generally, nonresident aliens can’t deduct gambling losses on Schedule A (Form 1040NR).
You can’t reduce your gambling winnings by your gambling losses and report the difference. You must report the full amount of your winnings as income and claim your losses (up to the amount of winnings) as an itemized deduction. Therefore, your records should show your winnings separately from your losses.
Diary of winnings and losses. You must keep an accurate diary or similar record of your losses and winnings.
Your diary should contain at least the following information.
The date and type of your specific wager or wagering activity.
The name and address or location of the gambling establishment.
The names of other persons present with you at the gambling establishment.
The amount(s) you won or lost.
Proof of winnings and losses. In addition to your diary, you should also have other documentation. You can gen-erally prove your winnings and losses through Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings; Form 5754, State-ment by Person(s) Receiving Gambling Winnings; wager-ing tickets; canceled checks; substitute checks; credit re-cords; bank withdrawals; and statements of actual winnings or payment slips provided to you by the gam-bling establishment.
For specific wagering transactions, you can use the fol-lowing items to support your winnings and losses.
These recordkeeping suggestions are intended as general guidelines to help you establish your winnings and losses. They aren’t allinclusive. Your tax liability depends on your particular facts and circumstances.
Keno. Copies of the keno tickets you purchased that were validated by the gambling establishment, copies of your casino credit records, and copies of your casino check cashing records.
Slot machines. A record of the machine number and all winnings by date and time the machine was played.
Table games (twenty-one (blackjack), craps, poker, baccarat, roulette, wheel of fortune, etc.). The number of the table at which you were playing. Casino credit card data indicating whether the credit was issued in the pit or at the cashier’s cage.
Bingo. A record of the number of games played, cost of tickets purchased, and amounts collected on winning tickets. Supplemental records include any receipts from the casino, parlor, etc.
Racing (horse, harness, dog, etc.). A record of the races, amounts of wagers, amounts collected on winning tickets, and amounts lost on losing tickets. Supplemental records include unredeemed tickets and payment records from the racetrack.
Lotteries. A record of ticket purchases, dates, winnings, and losses. Supplemental records include unredeemed tickets, payment slips, and winnings
Tips Taxpayers should consider when determining if they need to file
As people prepare to file their taxes, there are things to consider. They will want to determine if they need to file and the best way to do so.
For tax year 2018, all individual taxpayers will file using the new Form 1040. Forms 1040A and 1040EZ are no longer available. Taxpayers who previously filed these forms will now file Form 1040. The new Form 1040 uses a “building block” approach allowing individuals to add only the schedules they need to their 2018 federal tax return. Taxpayers with more complicated returns will need to complete one or more of the new Form 1040 Schedules. This group of taxpayers includes those who claim certain deductions or credits, or who owe additional taxes.
Here are more things for people to keep in mind as they prepare to file their taxes:
Who is required to file. In most cases, income, filing status and age determine if a taxpayer must file a tax return. Other rules may apply if the taxpayer is self-employed or if they are a dependent of another person. For example, if a taxpayer is single and younger than age 65, they must file if their income was at least $12,000. There are other instances when a taxpayer must file. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/filing for more information.
Filing to get a refund. Even if a taxpayer doesn’t have to file, they should consider filing a tax return if they can get money back. If a taxpayer answers “yes” to any of these questions, they could be due a refund:
- Did my employer withhold federal income tax from my pay?
- Did I make estimated tax payments?
- Did I overpay on my 2017 tax return and have it applied to 2018?
- Am I eligible for certain refundable credits such as, the earned income tax credit?
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