Going “green” has become all the rage lately, with more people embracing energy-saving tactics at home and at work. But Mother Earth isn’t the only one who stands to benefit from the emphasis on eco-friendliness—did you know that you can earn significant tax credits for energy-efficient improvements? Earlier this year, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) outlined some new and expanded tax benefits for individuals and business owners who invest in energy-saving appliances, improvements, or alternate energy sources that result in reduced usage and conserved resources. Homeowners can earn a tax credit of up to 10% of the cost of solar energy systems, energy-efficient construction, or other alternate energy sources. This isn’t just a deduction of your income—it’s a full credit that is deducted directly from the amount of taxes you’re required to pay.
Believe it or not, we’re just a few short weeks away from the start of the 2009 tax filing season. One of the biggest taxpayer concerns—after “how much will my refund be?”—is the risk of making a mistake on a tax return. It can happen to even the most meticulous filer: after sending off your e-return to the IRS or dropping it in the mail, you notice an error. After the initial flurry of panic, you can relax—your return may technically be out of your hands, but it’s not set in stone just yet. The IRS has factored in a margin of error for busy taxpayers by providing the Form 1040X. The “X-file” allows you to specify what you reported on your original return, where the error was made, and what the correct figures are. You can even use the form to add or remove dependents or change your filing status. The IRS allows you to file an amendment up to three years after the original filing date. Below are a few CPA-recommended tips for filing the Form 1040X:
Hint: It’s not just people who own their own businesses or work in accounting. QuickBooks is by far the most popular accounting software among small- to medium-sized businesses, sole proprietors, work-at-home moms, and anyone who wants to keep track of their own billing, invoicing, and finances. Although there are plenty of competitors out there, none come close to rivaling the stability and features of QuickBooks. It hooks in seamlessly to other applications, is compatible with virtually all computer systems, and has a simple, user-friendly interface. Although it’s easy to get up and running with QuickBooks, you could just be scratching the surface of what it has to offer. Some basic training will help you uncover hidden features and capabilities, taking you beyond the basics to get the most out of your software. QuickBooks training can serve as a significant benefit for administrative assistants, office managers, secretaries, virtual assistants, financial services professionals, independent entrepreneurs, and anyone who works with budgets.
As we approach the end of another calendar year, it can be tempting to clear out all those backlogged tax files and start fresh for 2010. But don’t start feeding all those old records to the shredder just yet—first, consider the following. As a general rule, CPAs recommend hanging onto the past three years’ worth of tax records. That’s equivalent to the federal government’s statute of limitations for questioning or auditing your tax information. There are a few exceptions—some states have up to four years to examine your return, and the statute can be extended or removed in cases of fraud, significant income omission, or tax evasion. But taxpayers who have filed in a timely manner and paid any outstanding taxes by the due date can confidently purge any records three years after the date the return was filed. It’s important to note that the three-year rule only applies to supporting documents and information related to your tax return. Other records, specifically those that detail capital assets, should be kept until the end of the statute period following their liquidation. Below are some examples: • Tax returns: Although supporting documentation can usually be purged after the three-year mark, it’s wise to keep the actual returns themselves. These can prove invaluable in securing a loan or applying for insurance.
As we head into the heart of December, it’s time to start planning year-end tax strategies. There are several ways to maximize your 2009 savings by minimizing your taxable income through smart deductions. Below are a few tips: Retirement contributions: If you haven’t already reached the limit, now is the time to max out your contribution to your corporate 401K account. If you don’t work for a company, you might also consider contributing to a traditional IRA or SEP (self-employed) IRA. Your CPA can help you identify which retirement plans must be funded before the end of 2009, and which can be funded after the New Year. New vehicle deductions: Are you planning to buy a new car, truck, motorcycle, or RV in the coming year? If you complete the purchase before the New Year, you may be eligible to write off the sales tax as a deduction, depending on the amount of your total household income. Homebuyer and homeowner credit: In 2009, legislature was passed that granted first-time home buyers up to $8,000 in tax credits. This deduction is limited to taxpayers who have not bought a home in the last three years and whose incomes are below the maximum limit. If you’re planning to purchase a home in the near future, doing so before the end of the year will increase your 2009 tax savings. In addition, current homeowners may be eligible to deduct up to $6,500 in tax credits.