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Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — A bill to renew a package of more than 50 expired tax breaks cleared its first hurdle in the Senate Tuesday.

Other hurdles remain, however.

The Senate voted 96 to 3 to open debate on the bill, which has strong backing from the business community but would add about $85 billion to the budget deficit.

Almost every year, Congress routinely renews the tax breaks. This year, though, they were allowed to expire at the start of the year. The Senate bill would extend the tax breaks through 2015.

“Our constituents are depending on us to extend these provisions,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. “We will not pull the plug before our nation’s recovery is complete. By passing this tax extenders package we will build our nation’s economy more quickly.”

The tax breaks enjoy broad bipartisan support. But some Republican senators want the opportunity to change the package, and it’s not clear whether Reid will allow amendments.

Republican amendments include making some of the tax cuts permanent while adding others, including the repeal of a medical device tax that helps fund President Barack Obama’s health law. Republican senators may be forced to choose between blocking a bill that provides popular tax breaks and accepting it unchanged.

“Americans deserve tax certainty, not more short-term measures,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D.

Thune said he wants to offer several amendments, including a permanent ban on state and local Internet access taxes. A temporary moratorium on such taxes is due to expire Nov. 1.

The package pairs broad tax breaks that benefit millions with narrow ones that don’t.

Among the biggest breaks for businesses: A tax credit for research and development, an exemption that allows financial companies to shield foreign profits from being taxed by the U.S., and several provisions that allow businesses to write off capital investments more quickly. There is also a generous tax credit for using wind farms and other renewable energy sources to produce electricity.

The biggest tax break for individuals allows people who live in states without an income tax to deduct state and local sales taxes on their federal returns. Another protects struggling homeowners who get their mortgages reduced from paying income taxes on the amount of debt that was forgiven.

Other more narrow provisions include tax breaks for film and theater producers, NASCAR race track owners, manufacturers of electric motorcycles and teachers who spend their own money on classroom supplies.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/senate-votes-open-debate-renewing-tax-breaks-154425118–finance.html

Explore a Quick and Simple Way of Understanding Taxes

 IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2013-21 

 If you’re a student or teacher, the summer months may be a nice break from class, but they’re also a good time to learn something new. A quick and simple way to learn about taxes is by using the IRS Understanding Taxes program.
The program is a free online tool designed in partnership with teachers for classroom use. The interactive tool is a great resource for middle, high school or community college students. However, anyone can use it to learn about the history, theory and application of taxes in the U.S.

Here are seven reasons why you should consider exploring the Understanding Taxes program:

1. Understanding Taxes makes learning about federal taxes easy, relevant and fun. It features 38 lessons that help students understand the American tax system. Best of all, it’s free!

2. The site map helps users quickly navigate through all parts of the program and skip to different lessons and interactive activities.

3. A series of tax tutorials guide students through the basics of tax preparation. Other features include a glossary of tax terms and a chance to test your knowledge through tax trivia. Interactive activities encourage students to apply their knowledge using real world simulations.

4. Understanding Taxes makes teaching taxes as easy as ABC:

  • Accessible (web-based)
  • Brings learning to life
  • Comprehensive

5. It’s easy to add to a school’s curriculum. Teachers can customize the program to fit their own personal style with lesson plans and activities for the classroom. They will also find links to state and national educational standards.

6. The program is available 24 hours a day. All you have to do is access the IRS website and type “Understanding Taxes” in the search box.

7. There are no registration or login requirements to access the program. That means people can take a break and return to a lesson at any time.

You can use the Understanding Taxes anytime during the year. The IRS usually updates the program each fall to reflect current tax law and new tax forms.

Additional IRS Resources:

Back-to-School Tax Tips for Students and Parents

Issue Number:    IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2013-19

Going to college can be a stressful time for students and parents. The IRS offers these tips about education tax benefits that can help offset some college costs and maybe relieve some of that stress.

• American Opportunity Tax Credit.  This credit can be up to $2,500 per eligible student. The AOTC is available for the first four years of post secondary education. Forty percent of the credit is refundable. That means that you may be able to receive up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund, even if you don’t owe any taxes. Qualified expenses include tuition and fees, course related books, supplies and equipment. A recent law extended the AOTC through the end of Dec. 2017.

• Lifetime Learning Credit.   With the LLC, you may be able to claim up to $2,000 for qualified education expenses on your federal tax return. There is no limit on the number of years you can claim this credit for an eligible student.

You can claim only one type of education credit per student on your federal tax return each year. If you pay college expenses for more than one student in the same year, you can claim credits on a per-student, per-year basis. For example, you can claim the AOTC for one student and the LLC for the other student.

You can use the IRS’s Interactive Tax Assistant tool to help determine if you’re eligible for these credits. The tool is available at IRS.gov.

• Student loan interest deduction.  Other than home mortgage interest, you generally can’t deduct the interest you pay. However, you may be able to deduct interest you pay on a qualified student loan. The deduction can reduce your taxable income by up to $2,500. You don’t need to itemize deductions to claim it.

These education benefits are subject to income limitations and may be reduced or eliminated depending on your income.

For more information, visit the Tax Benefits for Education Information Center at IRS.gov. Also, check Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education. The booklet’s also available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
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Education Tax Credits and Deductions – English | Spanish

Parents and Students: Check Out College Tax Benefits for 2012 and Years Ahead

IRS Issue IR-2013-22

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded parents and students that now is a good time to see if they qualify for either of two college education tax credits or any of several other education-related tax benefits.

In general, the American opportunity tax credit, lifetime learning credit and tuition and fees deduction are available to taxpayers who pay qualifying expenses for an eligible student. Eligible students include the primary taxpayer, the taxpayer’s spouse or a dependent of the taxpayer.

Though a taxpayer often qualifies for more than one of these benefits, he or she can only claim one of them for a particular student in a particular year. The benefits are available to all taxpayers – both those who itemize their deductions on Schedule A and those who claim a standard deduction. The credits are claimed on Form 8863 and the tuition and fees deduction is claimed on Form 8917.

The American Taxpayer Relief Act, enacted Jan. 2, 2013, extended the American opportunity tax credit for another five years until the end of 2017. The new law also retroactively extended the tuition and fees deduction, which had expired at the end of 2011, through 2013. The lifetime learning credit did not need to be extended because it was already a permanent part of the tax code.

For those eligible, including most undergraduate students, the American opportunity tax credit will yield the greatest tax savings.  Alternatively, the lifetime learning credit should be considered by part-time students and those attending graduate school. For others, especially those who don’t qualify for either credit, the tuition and fees deduction may be the right choice.

All three benefits are available for students enrolled in an eligible college, university or vocational school, including both nonprofit and for-profit institutions. None of them can be claimed by a nonresident alien or married person filing a separate return. In most cases, dependents cannot claim these education benefits.

Normally, a student will receive a Form 1098-T from their institution by the end of January of the following year. This form will show information about tuition paid or billed along with other information. However, amounts shown on this form may differ from amounts taxpayers are eligible to claim for these tax benefits. Taxpayers should see the instructions to Forms 8863 and 8917 and Publication 970 for details on properly figuring allowable tax benefits.

Many of those eligible for the American opportunity tax credit qualify for the maximum annual credit of $2,500 per student. Here are some key features of the credit:

  • The credit targets the first four years of post-secondary education, and a student must be enrolled at least half time. This means that expenses paid for a student who, as of the beginning of the tax year, has already completed the first four years of college do not qualify. Any student with a felony drug conviction also does not qualify.
  • Tuition, required enrollment fees, books and other required course materials generally qualify. Other expenses, such as room and board, do not.
  • The credit equals 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent and 25 percent of the next $2,000. That means the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualified expenses for an eligible student.
  • The full credit can only be claimed by taxpayers whose modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is $80,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $160,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $180,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $90,000 or more.
  • Forty percent of the American opportunity tax credit is refundable. This means that even people who owe no tax can get an annual payment of up to $1,000 for each eligible student. Other education-related credits and deductions do not provide a benefit to people who owe no tax.

The lifetime learning credit of up to $2,000 per tax return is available for both graduate and undergraduate students. Unlike the American opportunity tax credit, the limit on the lifetime learning credit applies to each tax return, rather than to each student. Though the half-time student requirement does not apply, the course of study must be either part of a post-secondary degree program or taken by the student to maintain or improve job skills. Other features of the credit include:

  • Tuition and fees required for enrollment or attendance qualify as do other fees required for the course. Additional expenses do not.
  • The credit equals 20 percent of the amount spent on eligible expenses across all students on the return. That means the full $2,000 credit is only available to a taxpayer who pays $10,000 or more in qualifying tuition and fees and has sufficient tax liability.
  • Income limits are lower than under the American opportunity tax credit. For 2012, the full credit can be claimed by taxpayers whose MAGI is $52,000 or less. For married couples filing a joint return, the limit is $104,000. The credit is phased out for taxpayers with incomes above these levels. No credit can be claimed by joint filers whose MAGI is $124,000 or more and singles, heads of household and some widows and widowers whose MAGI is $62,000 or more.

Like the lifetime learning credit, the tuition and fees deduction is available for all levels of post-secondary education, and the cost of one or more courses can qualify. The annual deduction limit is $4,000 for joint filers whose MAGI is $130,000 or less and other taxpayers whose MAGI is $65,000 or less. The deduction limit drops to $2,000 for couples whose MAGI exceeds $130,000 but is no more than $160,000, and other taxpayers whose MAGI exceeds $65,000 but is no more than $80,000.

Eligible parents and students can get the benefit of these provisions during the year by having less tax taken out of their paychecks. They can do this by filling out a new Form W-4, claiming additional withholding allowances, and giving it to their employer.

There are a variety of other education-related tax benefits that can help many taxpayers. They include:

  • Scholarship and fellowship grants—generally tax-free if used to pay for tuition, required enrollment fees, books and other course materials, but taxable if used for room, board, research, travel or other expenses.
  • Student loan interest deduction of up to $2,500 per year.
  • Savings bonds used to pay for college—though income limits apply, interest is usually tax-free if bonds were purchased after 1989 by a taxpayer who, at time of purchase, was at least 24 years old.
  • Qualified tuition programs, also called 529 plans, used by many families to prepay or save for a child’s college education.

Taxpayers with qualifying children who are students up to age 24 may be able to claim a dependent exemption and the earned income tax credit.

The general comparison table in Publication 970 can be a useful guide to taxpayers in determining eligibility for these benefits. Details can also be found in the Tax Benefits for Education Information Center on IRS.gov.

Eight Tax Benefits for Parents

IRS Tax Tip 2013-11

Your children may help you qualify for valuable tax benefits, such as certain credits and deductions. If you are a parent, here are eight benefits you shouldn’t miss when filing taxes this year.

1. Dependents. In most cases, you can claim a child as a dependent even if your child was born anytime in 2012.   For more information, see IRS Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction and Filing Information.

2. Child Tax Credit. You may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit for each of your children that were under age 17 at the end of 2012. If you do not benefit from the full amount of the credit, you may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit. For more information, see the instructions for Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, and Publication 972, Child Tax Credit.

3. Child and Dependent Care Credit. You may be able to claim this credit if you paid someone to care for your child or children under age 13, so that you could work or look for work. See IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.

4. Earned Income Tax Credit. If you worked but earned less than $50,270 last year, you may qualify for EITC. If you have qualifying children, you may get up to $5,891 dollars extra back when you file a return and claim it. Use the EITC Assistant to find out if you qualify. See Publication 596, Earned Income Tax Credit.

5. Adoption Credit. You may be able to take a tax credit for certain expenses you incurred to adopt a child. For details about this credit, see the instructions for IRS Form 8839, Qualified Adoption Expenses.

6. Higher education credits. If you paid higher education costs for yourself or another student who is an immediate family member, you may qualify for either the American Opportunity Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. Both credits may reduce the amount of tax you owe. If the American Opportunity Credit is more than the tax you owe, you could be eligible for a refund of up to $1,000. See IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

7. Student loan interest. You may be able to deduct interest you paid on a qualified student loan, even if you do not itemize your deductions. For more information, see IRS Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education.

8. Self-employed health insurance deduction - If you were self-employed and paid for health insurance, you may be able to deduct premiums you paid to cover your child. It applies to children under age 27 at the end of the year, even if not your dependent. See IRS.gov/aca for information on the Affordable Care Act.

Forms and publications on these topics are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
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