Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Brief Review for 2012 Income Tax Season (Individuals)

Compared to some prior years, Congress has made few tax changes this year. Following are highlights of changes and facts for the upcoming tax season.

Opening day for electronic filing. The IRS starts accepting returns for electronic filing on Jan. 17th.

Due Date of Return The end of tax season is April 17, 2012 for returns not on extension.

New Form 8949 and Schedule D All capital transactions will now be reported on the new Form 8949. Schedule D-1 is no longer used. Sales of securities in 2011 that were purchased in 2011 should have a basis on the 1099 from a broker. The preparer must indicate on Form 8949 if a basis was shown on 1099-B, not shown on 1099-B, or no 1099-B was issued. A separate form is required for each case.There is also a column to report an adjustment to basis/sales price and the reason for the adjustment. As of today the form does not show the gain or loss on each transaction. Instead columns for the total cost, sales price, and adjustments are transferred to schedule D.

Standard Mileage Rates were changed mid-year. From 01/01/2011 to 06/30/2011 the rate was 51 cents per mile; after 06/30/2011 it went up to 55.5 cents per mile. The rate for use of a vehicle to get medical care also changed in midyear. From 01/01/2011 through 06/30/2011 the rate is 19 cents a mile and is 23.5 cents a mile for the remainder of the year. The 2011 rate for use of a vehicle to do volunteer work for certain charitable organizations remains at 14 cents a mile.

Schedule SE For 2011, the FICA portion of SE tax is reduced from 12.4% to 10.4%. The Medicare (HI) portion of the SE tax remains 2.9%. As a result, the SE tax rate is reduced from 15.3% to 13.3%.

Net self-employment income is no longer reduced by the amount of the self-employed health insurance deduction.

Earned Income Credit Before 2011 preparers were required to complete Form 8867, Preparer’s EIC Checklist, and keep it in their records. Now this due diligence form must be submitted to the IRS. Paid preparers failing to meet their due diligence requirements on EITC claims face higher penalties for returns required to be filed after December 31, 2011. The United States-Korea Free Trade Implementation Act amended IRC section 6695(g) raising the amount to $500.

Alternative Minimum Tax The exemption amount has increased to $48,450 ($74,450 if married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er); $37,225 if married filing separately).

New Form 8938 Taxpayers with foreign assets above certain thresholds may have to file this new form, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. Unmarried taxpayers living in the US need to file if the total value of specified foreign assets exceeds exceed $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year. For married taxpayers living in the US the threshold is $100,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $150,000 at any time during the tax year. The thresholds for filing are generally four times higher for taxpayers living outside the US.

PTIN's All tax preparers need to have a PTIN. The fee for renewal is $63. CPA's and enrolled agents are also required to have a PTIN although they are exempt from the competency tests which will be required.

Electronic Filing Requirements  Starting Jan. 1, 2012, the 100-return threshold will be reduced to 11 or more income tax returns that the preparer, or the preparer’s firm in the aggregate, expect to file in 2012 for individuals, trusts and estates. In 2011 over 65 million returns were prepared professionally and about 90% of them were filed electronically.

Paper Filed Returns Some IRS mailing addresses have been changed. Information can be found here