Tracking your miles whenever you drive somewhere for your business can get pretty tedious, but remember that properly tracking your vehicle expenses and miles driven can lead to a significant reduction in your taxes.
Here are some tips to make the most of your vehicle expense deduction.
Keep track of both mileage and actual expenses. The IRS generally lets you use one of two different methods to track vehicle expenses – the standard mileage rate method or the actual expense method. One year the mileage method may result in a higher deduction, while the actual expense method may be higher in a subsequent year. But you won’t know which method results in a higher deduction unless you track both your mileage and actual expenses.
Consider using standard mileage the first year a vehicle is in service. If you use standard mileage the first year your car is placed in service, you can then choose which expense tracking method to use in subsequent years. If you initially use the actual expense method the first year your car is placed in service, you’re locked in to using actual expenses for the duration of using that car in your business. For a car you lease, you must use the standard mileage rate method for the entire lease period (including renewals) if you choose the standard mileage rate the first year.
Don’t forget about depreciation! Depreciation can significantly increase your deduction if you use the actual expense method. For heavy SUVs, trucks, and vans with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating above 6,000 pounds, 100% bonus depreciation is available through the end of the 2022 tax year if the vehicle is used more than 50% for business purposes. Regular depreciation is available for vehicles under 6,000 pounds with annual limits applied.
Don’t slack on recordkeeping. The IRS mandates that you track your vehicle expenses as they happen (this is called contemporaneous recordkeeping). You’re not allowed to wait until right before filing your tax return to compile all the necessary information needed to claim a vehicle deduction. Whether it’s a physical notebook you stick in your glove compartment or a mobile phone app, pick a method to track your mileage and actual expenses that’s most convenient for you.
Understanding how our tax system works can be tricky for anyone. Whether you’re an adult who never paid much attention to the taxes being withheld from your paycheck or a kid who just got his or her first job, understanding the basics can help refine and define questions you may have.
Many schools don’t teach these tax lessons. This results in many people entering life with a pretty incomplete picture of how taxes work, unless someone else takes the time to explain these tax concepts. Here are some pointers to help you or someone you know navigate our tax maze.
Taxes are mandatory!
While we can have a debate about how much each person should pay, there’s no debating that local, state and federal governments need tax revenue to run the country. These funds are used to build roads, support education, help those who need financial assistance, pay interest on our national debt and defend the country.
There are many types of taxes
When you think of taxes, most think of the income tax, which is a tax on business and personal income you earn from performing a job. But there are also other types of taxes. Here are some of the most common.
Payroll taxes. While income taxes can be used to pay for pretty much anything the government needs money for, payroll taxes are earmarked to pay for Social Security and Medicare benefits.
Property taxes. These are taxes levied on property you own. The most common example of this is the property tax on a home or vacation property.
Sales tax. These are taxes placed on goods and services you purchase. While most of this tax is applied at the state and local levels, there are also federal sales taxes on items like gasoline.
Capital gains taxes. If you sell an investment or an asset for a profit, you may owe capital gains taxes. The most common example of this is when you sell stock for a gain. Capital gains taxes could also come into play with other assets, such as a rental property you sell for a profit.
Estate taxes. This tax is applied to assets in your estate after you pass away.
Not all income is subject to tax
Most, but not all, of your income is subject to tax.
While your paycheck is subject to tax, interest earned from certain municipal bonds is not. And the government often excludes things like benefits from the tax man.
Capital gains taxes have exclusions for gains on the sale of your home and donated stock.
Estate taxes have an exclusion, so only estates in excess of the exclusion are taxed.
This is why having someone in the know can be really helpful in navigating these rules.
The progressive nature of income tax
When it comes to income taxes, the government gets to take the first bite. The question is how BIG of a bite the government gets to take.
For example, if you only have one chocolate chip cookie, the government’s bite is really, really small. If you have 1,000 chocolate chip cookies, the government takes a small bite from the first 100 cookies, a larger bite from the next 100 cookies, and an even larger bite from the remaining 800 cookies.
This is called a progressive tax rate system. For example, if you’re considered single for tax purposes in 2021, the first $9,950 of taxable money you earn gets taxed at 10%. The next $30,575 you earn gets taxed at 12%. The next $45,850 gets taxed at 22%. Money you earn above this point will get taxed at either 24%, 32%, 35% or 37%.
Understanding the progressive nature of our tax system is a key concept in managing the size of the bite the government takes. That is why tax planning is so important!
Deductions can decrease the government’s tax bite
The progressive tax system is complex because it is manipulated in a big way by our elected officials. This is typically done through credits, deductions and phaseouts of tax benefits.
For example, there is a fairly complex deduction for families with children, and the earned income tax credit is an added tax cut for those in the lower end of the progressive income tax base. There are also credits and deductions for businesses, homeowners, education and many more types of taxpayers.
As you can imagine, the U.S. tax system is very complex with many nuances. Please seek help if you have further questions or are facing a complicated taxable transaction.
The recently-passed American Rescue Plan Act contains several tax breaks for you and your family. Here are the major provisions of the bill that could mean more money in your pocket during the 2021 tax year.
Child tax credit (CTC)
The CTC for 2021 increases from $2,000 to $3,000 for kids ages 6 to 17 and $3,600 for kids ages 5 and under.
To receive the full tax credit your adjusted gross income must be under $75,000 (Single); $150,000 (Joint); or $112,500 (Head of Household).
If your income is above the aforementioned thresholds, you can still receive $2,000 per child if your income is less than $200,000 (Single, Head of Household); or $400,000 (Joint).
You can receive up to 50% of your 2021 child tax credit in 6 monthly payments starting July 2021. The IRS is warning, however, that this July start date may be delayed because a computer system still has to be built to handle these monthly payments.
Child and dependent care credit (DCC)
If you and your spouse work and have children in daycare, or have an adult that you care for, you may be eligible for a larger tax credit in 2021.
You can now spend up to $8,000 in dependent care expenses for one qualifying dependent and get a 50% tax credit. This results in a maximum credit of $4,000 (up from $1,050).
If you have more than one qualifying dependent, you can spend up to $16,000 in dependent care expenses and get a 50% credit. This results in a maximum credit of $8,000 (up from $2,100).
To receive the full tax credit, your adjusted gross income must not exceed $125,000.
Dependents can include people of all ages, not just kids, as long as they meet the dependent qualifications.
Earned income tax credit
If you’re a household with no kids, the maximum earned income tax credit increases from $543 to $1,502.
More taxpayers qualify for the credit. The lower age limit for receiving the credit decreases from age 25 to age 19. The upper limit of 65 for receiving the credit is eliminated. There is no upper age limit for 2021.
Don’t get shocked by a high tax bill! Be prepared for these pandemic-related tax surprises when you file your 2020 tax return.
Taxes on unemployment income. If you received unemployment benefits in 2020, you need to report these benefits on your tax return as taxable income. Check to see if either federal or state taxes were withheld from unemployment payments you received. If taxes were not withheld, you may need to write a check to the IRS when you file your tax return.
Taxes from side jobs. Did you pick up a part-time gig to make ends meet? Payments received for performing these jobs may not have had your taxes withheld. If this is the case, you’ll need to pay your taxes directly to the IRS on April 15.
Unusual profit-and-loss. If you run a business that was hit by the pandemic, you may find your estimated tax payments were either overpaid or underpaid compared to normal. Now that 2020 is in the books, run a quick projection to ensure you are not surprised with an unexpected tax bill when you file your tax return.
Underpayment penalty. If you did not have proper tax withholdings from your paycheck or your estimated tax payments weren’t enough, you could be subject to an underpayment penalty. While it’s too late to avoid a penalty on your 2020 tax return, the solution in the future is to make high enough estimated tax payments each quarter in 2021 or have the appropriate amount withheld from your 2021 paychecks.
A chance to claim missing stimulus payments. (A good surprise!) If any of your stimulus payments were for less than what you should have received, you can get money for the difference as a tax credit when you file your 2020 tax return.
Please use these examples to prepare yourself for a potential tax surprise during the uncertainty caused by the ongoing pandemic.
WASHINGTON — Today the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced that the federal income tax filing due date for individuals for the 2020 tax year will be automatically extended from April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021.
Individual taxpayers can postpone federal income tax payments for the 2020 tax year due on April 15, 2021, to May 17, 2021, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This postponement applies to individual taxpayers, including individuals who pay self-employment tax. Penalties, interest and additions to tax will begin to accrue on any remaining unpaid balances as of May 17, 2021. Individual taxpayers will automatically avoid interest and penalties on the taxes paid by May 17.
This relief does not apply to estimated tax payments that are due on April 15, 2021. These payments are still due on April 15. Taxes must be paid as taxpayers earn or receive income during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments.
Individual taxpayers do not need to file any forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief.
Individual taxpayers who need additional time to file beyond the May 17 deadline can request a filing extension until Oct. 15 by filing Form 4868 through their tax professional, tax software or using the Free File link on IRS.gov. Filing Form 4868 gives taxpayers until Oct. 15 to file their 2020 tax return but does not grant an extension of time to pay taxes due. Taxpayers should pay their federal income tax due by May 17, 2021, to avoid interest and penalties.
The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible. Most tax refunds associated with e-filed returns are issued within 21 days.
Here are four ways to make sure the preparation of your tax return keeps humming along until it gets filed.
Keep tax documents in one place. Missing items are one of the biggest reasons filing a tax return gets delayed! Find a place in your home and put all tax documents in this one place as you receive them. Common missing items this year will include the new 1099-NEC for any taxpayers that are contractors, consultants or part of the gig economy.
Organize documents by type. Every tax professional has a story of someone bringing their documents to them in a shoebox or storage container. All this does is increase the amount of time it takes to prepare your return, so it’s best to sort your documents in tax return order. Pull out last year’s tax return and create folders for each section including income, business/rental information, adjustments to income, itemized deductions, tax credit information and a not-sure bucket.
Create list of special events. You receive a Form W-2 from your employer every year. You may get a 1099-INT from your bank if you earn interest income on your deposit accounts. But selling a home usually doesn’t happen every year. Retiring from a 40-year job doesn’t happen every year. Sending a child to college also doesn’t happen every year (although it might seem like it does!). If you don’t write down these unusual events as they happen, you might forget them when your tax return is being prepared. And you may not remember until the moment your return is about to be filed. This is sure to cause delays.
Don’t forget your signature! You may be surprised to learn that even if you electronically file your tax return, you still must sign Form 8879, which authorizes the e-filing of your return. So whether it’s a traditionally-filed paper tax return or one filed electronically, a signature is required.
These are four of the more common reasons why the preparation of your tax return may get delayed. Be prepared and file your return without a hitch!