Tax Filing Doesn't Have to Be Avoided

Are tax filing and procrastination two words that you can relate to all too well? Do you receive your W-2 forms from your employer, take them home, and watch as they collect dust sitting on your desk in your home office? To cut costs, you may have decided to file your taxes yourself and now you feel overwhelmed as you don't even know where to begin.

Before you begin, make sure you have all the appropriate tax documents for the previous year. If you have more than one job, check to make sure you have W-2 forms from each employer. If you have a student loan, make sure you have the forms handy showing what the interest paid for the year was. If you have a mortgage, be sure the bank has sent you the appropriate forms so you can report the taxes paid for the year. If you don't know what forms you need, don't worry. Don't be discouraged. Online tax software programs are designed to easily walk you through the process.

Once you're ready to start, you'll want to choose the online tax software program best suited for you. Compare prices online and read user reviews, when available. Don't forget that you might be able to file for free if you're yearly income falls into a certain bracket. Select a program from a reputable company that offers "live help" services if you can, so you can have the reassurance of knowing there's someone available to answer any questions you may have. However, tax filing is a pretty simple process if you just follow the instructions and answer the questions correctly.

Tax filing does not and should not be a process you put off until the last minute. Depending on your personal financial situation, you may need to collect receipts for itemized deductions or submit other documents, along with your taxes for the year. Compiling this information requires time and you don't want to rush yourself. Submitting your taxes incorrectly is not something you want to do. Additionally, if you're expecting a tax refund for the year, visit a website like for more information. You're only delaying your refund by putting off the process!

Don't let yourself become one of those people desperately driving to the post office at the last minute so they can get the appropriate postmark on their tax returns. In fact, tax filing can be done online, eliminating the hassle of having to mail your returns at all. Websites like serve as great resources for guiding you through this process. The sooner you file online, the better, as most companies offer discounted rates on software programs early in the tax season.

Jodie Stoughton, CPC is a freelance writer residing in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. She works as a certified professional coder for a health insurance company and specializes in articles focusing on medical coding, as well as health and wellness.

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Your Guide to 2009 Tax Planning

Make Work Pay
There are a lot of misconceptions going around regarding the new Making Work Pay credit. In order to benefit fully, it is important to understand how you can take advantage of the credit. The most common myth is that the credit will be delivered to qualifying taxpayers through the mail, similarly to the stimulus check last year. However, it is actually distributed through a taxpayer's check in the form of a reduced tax rate. Because of this, it is your job to check you paychecks and make sure the amount is being added (note that you may need to adjust your withholding to reflect the change).

The First Time Homebuyer Credit
A lot of people are talking about the federal government's credit for people to purchase a home in the 2009 tax year. However, it is important to remember that the credit is only available to first time homebuyers. To be more specific, the IRS defines a new homebuyer as a person who has not owned a principal residence during the three-year period prior to the purchase. The IRS also specifies that you need to purchase the home between January 1 to December 31, 2009. For more information, check out the IRS' press release titled "First-Time Homebuyers Have Several Options to Maximize New Tax Credit."

Energy Conservation Credit
For those of you hoping to upgrade some of your appliances this year, the IRS is giving you even more incentive to go "green." If you make an energy efficient upgrade to your home-such as installing double-paned windows or buying an approved washer and dryer-you can take a deduction for up to $1,500. However, you must divide the deduction between the 2009 and 2010 tax years, so you will only be able to claim $750 this year. Please note that according to, "geothermal heat pumps, solar water heaters, solar panels, fuel cells, and small wind energy systems... are not subject to this cap."

Automobile Breaks
Although many hybrid vehicle tax credits are beginning to expire, there are plenty of new ones being announced. The IRS just released new information on the new tax credits being made possible by the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The credits apply to low speed electric vehicles, as well as cars with at least four wheels that draw propulsion using a rechargeable battery. Depending on the height and weight of the vehicle the value of the credit can range from $2,500 to $15,000.

Flood Victims
The IRS unveiled some new tax law changes to assist flood victims this year. One big win for flood victims was the removal of some loss limitations. Whereas in 2008, flood victims could only claim a certain amount of losses, now they can deduct the entire amount. However, it is important to remember that this full amount can only claimed by taxpayers who itemize their deductions. Another less popular tax law change affects individuals who helped victims displaced from their homes. According to the IRS these charitable taxpayers can claim an additional exemption of $500 for each displaced individual they help, with a maximum of $2,000.

With more and more Americans losing their jobs, changes have also been made to the way unemployment benefits are taxed. The key to benefiting from these new changes is by knowing exactly what you are entitled to. According to the newest changes to the tax law, the first $2,400 worth of unemployment benefits is income tax free. Therefore, you could expect an increase on each check you receive by around $25. Additionally, 20 more days have been added to the duration of unemployment.

The Tax Lady Roni Deutch and her law firm Roni Lynn Deutch, A Professional Tax Corporation have been helping taxpayers across the nation find IRS tax relief for over seventeen years. The firm has experienced tax lawyers who can fight IRS tax liens on your behalf.

Complete Guide to 10 Commonly Missed Deductions For Your 2008 Tax Return

If you don't know about a possible tax break, you won't use it. Here are the deductions that many taxpayers often forget. How many times have you done your taxes and, a few weeks later, discovered you had overlooked the chance for a deduction? Many times, surely. How can you not leave out these deductions the next time? Start preparing now!

Here are 10 very commonly missed deductions that can impact your tax bill for 2008 and your tax planning for 2009.

1 - Noncash contributions

Charity, as we hope everyone recalls, begins with a tax deduction. If you didn't have the cash to give in 2008, let's hope you charged it. And, likewise, if you don't have the cash when it comes time to contribute in 2009, charge it. The deduction is permitted in the year of the charge, not when you actually pay the bill.

Get a receipt from any charity to which you gave a contribution, and, if you're still concerned about documentation, get the credit card company to mail you their record of the transaction.

Let's assume you emptied your closets and gave everything to Goodwill or a similar charity. The value of your donated items -- clothes, furniture, etc. -- is deductible. Obtain a written receipt. With noncash charitable donations, the rule is easy: No receipt means no tax deduction if you get audited. Clothes and household items must be in good or better condition to get the deduction.

If you've already dropped your old clothes in a Salvation Army box and walked away without a receipt, take the deduction anyway. You've legitimately made the donation. You simply may not be able to prove it in an audit. Beginning with 2007 returns, the law has required a receipt or some kind of written verification for all charitable contributions. Feel lucky? Play the audit lottery. You're still an honest person.

If you are able to, reconstruct as much as you can the list of items you donated and then work out their market value. The simplest way is to go to a thrift store and check prices there. And then, naturally, when you make the contribution, get that receipt.

2 - New points on refinancing With interest rates so low over the past couple of years -- even in 2008 and unquestionably in 2009 -- tons of homes have been refinanced, occasionally more than once.

Any points you pay to refinance your home can be deducted on a monthly basis over the life of the new loan. So, if you refinanced your mortgage on June 1, 2008, for a 20-year term, seven out of 240 months will have elapsed after Dec. 31. If you paid $2,400 in points, you can write off $70 ($10 a month for seven months) for 2008. You can write off $120 for 2009 and each year thereafter until the points have been deducted in total. The sum may not be large, but every little bit helps.

3 - Old points on refinancing This is one deduction many people overlook. All unamortized points on an old refinancing can be deducted in the year of a new refinancing.

So, let's assume you refinanced on June 1, 2007, and paid $2,400 in points. You refinanced once more on June 1, 2008. You will be able to deduct all the unexhausted points on the 2007 loan on your 2008 return. That's $2,280 plus the $50 you could deduct for January through May 2008. Similarly, if you refinance the 2008 loan in 2009 (if interest rates remain low and a lender still likes you), you can write off the remaining balance on your 2009 return.

4 - Health insurance premiums Any health insurance premiums you pay, including some long-term-care premiums based on your age, are potentially deductible. You have to add these, however, to your medical expense pile. Medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) before they bring you any tax break.

But if you are self-employed and not covered by any other employer-paid plan, you can deduct 100% your health insurance premiums "above the line." Above the line means the expense is included in adjusted gross income and doesn't get lumped in with itemized deductions. That means that you not only do not have to exceed the 7.5% floor, you don't even need to itemize!

5 - Educator expenses If you're a qualified educator, you are able to get an above-the-line deduction of as much as $250 for supplies you bought in 2008 and may buy in 2009. That includes books, supplies and even computer equipment.

You qualify if you're a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, aide, instructor or principal.

Congress extended the law through 2009, and will likely renew the break for 2010.

The alternative minimum tax was in the beginning designated to ensure high-earning Americans paid their fair portion of income taxes. But it hasn't been considerably altered over the years and ensnares more and more middle-class people.

6 - Student higher education expenses For 2008 and 2009, if your adjusted gross income isn't higher than $65,000 ($130,000 on a joint return), you can take an above-the-line deduction of as much as $4,000 for any higher-education expenses you paid.

Check if you qualify for the Hope and Lifetime Learning credits. The Hope credit is worth as much as $1,800 per student in 2008 and 2009. The Lifetime Learning credit is worth as much as $2,000 per return. Compare the credit with the deduction, and go with the one which gives you the biggest benefit. And, if you don't qualify for either credit, you may be able to deduct up to $4,000 in education expenses in 2008 and 2009.

7 - Clean fuel credit Credits are great since they are a dollar-for-dollar reduction in tax. And if you purchased a new hybrid gas-electric auto or truck in 2008, you can take a conservation tax credit of between $250 and $1,000 and an further fuel economy credit of between $400 and $2,400, dependent on the make and the fuel economy. A hybrid car combines an electric motor with a gas fueled internal combustion engine.

But move quickly. The credit begins to phase out when the auto manufacturer sells its 60,000th hybrid vehicle. That's the total per manufacturer, not 60,000 per model. Once the cap is hit, the phaseout starts at the start of the second subsequent calendar quarter.

You can't get a credit anymore on a Toyota Prius, and credits were to run out Honda Civics on Dec. 31, 2008. A number of cars still qualify, including models from Ford, Chevrolet, Mazda, Saturn, Nissan and Volkswagen.

Once 60,000 cars are sold, buyers over the next two quarters can claim just half the credit. In the six months after that, 25% of the full credit. After that, nothing. You acquire the deduction in the year you start using the car, and you must be the original owner. Take the deduction on Form 1040 by writing in "clean fuel."

Consumers must do more legwork to understand what sort of tax savings they might get if they're purchasing a particular hybrid car or truck. Check with a dealer or tax preparer.

8 - Investment and tax expenses Many people forget tax planning and investment expenses because they're part of miscellaneous itemized expenses. Their total must exceed 2% of your adjusted gross income before you get any tax break.

Expenses to track include your employee business expenses, tax preparation fees and even the part of your legal or accounting fees related to tax planning. For instance, in a divorce, the legal time spent bearing on the tax aspects of alimony and child support would qualify. As would the tax aspects of estate planning.

A lot of people short themselves on the deduction of investment expenses. They remember the safety deposit box fees. But what about the annual fee paid to your broker and any IRA fees you pay directly? You may remember the cost of your investment publications on subscription -- such as Forbes, Fortune, BusinessWeek, Worth and Barron's. But how about the investment newspapers you purchase off the newsstands? You keep track of your long-distance phone calls to your broker and investment advisor, but how about the gas mileage to go meet them?

9 - Casualty deductions Last year bestowed forest and range fires aplenty, and everybody recalls Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which ravaged the Gulf Coast in 2005 and Hurricane Ike, which hit Texas and Louisiana in 2008.

If President Bush declared your area a disaster area, you can claim your loss either on your 2008 return or your 2007 return. You can confirm whether you qualify on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Web site.

Compare your 2007 return with what you anticipate filing for 2008 and figure out what year fetches you more money. You also should receive interest back to April 15, 2007. Unless your income for 2008 was substantially less than 2007, it's probably better to take the deduction in 2008. If you do qualify for a refund for 2007, you'll want to file a revised 2007 tax return. For that, you will need Form 1040X.

10 - Retirement tax credit This one also can come with a deduction. This credit is fashioned to give moderate- and low-income taxpayers a motivator to save for retirement. Make a contribution into your retirement account. That money isn't taxed presently. So, it's like you acquired a deduction off your income. In addition, you get a credit of as much as 50% of the first $2,000 invested. That's as much as a $1,000 reduction in your tax.

You receive the $1,000 tax reduction in addition to the $2,000 reduction in your income. That's a good rate of return on a $2,000 investment. Furthermore, if you qualify, you can deduct as much as $4,000 in contributions to an IRA. The tax credit goes away as your adjusted gross income increases. But singles with AGIs up to $25,000 and joint filers with AGIs up to $50,000 will qualify. The limit is $37,500 for heads of households.

Contributions to your 401(k), 403(b), SEP, traditional or even Roth IRAs will qualify also.

Guess-Free Tax Guide was established to take the guesswork out of the average consumer's annual puzzle of which online tax software to use, what the "hidden deductions" are this year, how to save money in these troubling times, and just as important how to avoid an audit.

Visit our website: for FREE software reviews, articles, tax forms, valuable links, ebooks, and more.

While our creators have solid backgrounds in Business and Finance, we are not CPA's nor do we give personal Tax Advice. We are consumers passing along valuable information to other consumers, Free of Charge!


Tax Breaks in Stimulus Package - Do You Qualify For Tax Breaks? Check Obama's Stimulus Package

President Barack Obama has announced $ 787 billion economic stimulus package. Here are some key points of this stimulus package that would help you understand the tax breaks. These would also help you check if you qualify for the tax breaks in this new package:

· The first time home buyers are eligible for $ 8,000 tax credit. Last year it was $ 7,500 credit that is not payable until you sell your home within 3 years. This credit is mainly available for the tax payers who buy a primary residence amidst Jan. 1 & Dec. 1, 2009. It is not available to the tax payers whose AGI exceeds $ 75,000, or for the married couples $ 150,000.

· The purchasers of the new cars & trucks would be allowed to deduct the sales or the excise taxes. It is an above-the-line deduction. One does not have to itemize to claim this.

· This one is an addition to the existing Hope college credit. The parents would be allowed to claim a tax credit up to $ 2,500 every year to cover the higher education expenses. In this case the income phase outs are higher than those for the existing higher education tax credits. The single filers with AGI up to $ 80,000 could also claim a full credit. The married couples could have AGI up to $ 160,000 and hence claim a full amount.

· To awaken some of you, even the unemployment benefits are taxable. Here the stimulus package excludes the initial $ 2,400 in the unemployment benefits from the taxes in 2009. The stimulus package also makes it easier for the unemployed Americans to continue with the employer's health insurance coverage.

· mFor the singles, you are not eligible to the unemployment benefits of the stimulus package in case you earn above $ 3000. At par, you shall not be taxable. Below that you enjoy a grant as per you income.

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Top 5 Ways to Increase Your Tax Refund

Tax Records
Try to have organized records for tax related issues and keep all the figures are thoroughly updated. Make sure that no deductions have been missed in the record. It won't only reduce your workload at the time of filing the return, but you will also be able to answer all the questions efficiently that IRS may ask. Always remember, if you are unable to explain those questions, you may end up paying additional taxes and penalties.

they all love to pay less tax, but most of us finally end up paying more and receiving little tax refund. Probably, the main reason behind this is that our entire focus is mainly on how to manage our tax affairs in an efficient manner. they often tend to overlook the gray areas and the loopholes, which finally prove to be pricey. Following are the top one ways that will make things much less hard on your pocket while you are filing your tax return.

Medical Expenses
If there's some medical expenses that your medical insurance did not cover, you should keep all the rated statements and invoices so that you could claim a deduction for the same on assessment. If you are serious about increasing your tax refund, you should also keep in mind that even your dental insurance and health insurance premiums might also be considered for deductions up to 7.5% of your overall income. If certain items in medical expenses are non-deductible, the best way to deal with the same is to turn the same into a legitimate business expense.

Entertainment Expenses
If you require to increase your tax refund, you will also have to be careful about entertainment expenses. You should keep in mind that you cannot claim deductions against entertainment expenses. Therefore, if you do not require to have a tax liability on assessment, you will have to make sure that your employer is knowledgeable about the laws pertaining to entertainment allowances and that all allowances have been taxed in full. However, you may be allowed a 50% deduction on essential entertainment expenses, including business meals.

Travel Expenses
In order to calculate your travel deductions accurately, you must keep detailed mileage report of the distance travelled. For example, if you are working at one places, the cost of travelling form one office to another is considered as deductible. But, if you are working at a single place, the cost of travelling to your office from home won't be deducted. It will be treated as a personal expense. Deductible travel costs may include automobile rentals, taxis, airfare, hotels, tolls and tips.

Overall, you no more require to be nervous about the tax season. If you keep in mind the above income tax tips, you will definitely be able to take full advantage of all the tax breaks you are eligible for, which will finally increase the amount of your tax refund.

Capital Assets – Gains and Losses for Taxes

Capital is a unique term when it comes to taxes. If it gains value, you pay a tax. If it loses it, you can write at least some of the loss off.

Capital Assets – Gains and Losses for Taxes

Practically everything you own is a capital asset. This is true whether you use it for business purposes or personal use. The internet revenue service is very interested in your capital assets. Why? The IRS likes to tax the full gains while only giving you a small break on any lost value. Specifically, you have to report and pay taxes on gains in value of your capital assets when you sell them. Unfortunately, you only get to claim a loss on capital assets if it is an investment property such as stocks. Doesn’t seem fair, but that is how the cookie crumbles these days!

Here are some tax issue highlights on capital assets:

1. Generally, you report gains and losses on capital assets by subtracting the price you purchased it for from the price you sold it for. This calculation is reported to the IRS on Schedule D, which should be attached to your 1040 tax return. Lucky you!

2. Capital gains and losses are classified as long-term or short-term. The classification breaks down on…tad a, how long you’ve owned the capital asset in question before selling it to someone else. If it has been less than a year, it is a short-term gain or loss. Hold on to it for more than a year and you are looking at a long-term gain or loss when reporting taxes. Each classification requires different tax calculations and you will ultimately pay different amounts of tax.

3. In a bit of good news, you are generally going to pay less tax on a capital asset gain. For the 2005 tax year, the tax rates range from a miserly five percent to a more painfull 28 percent.

4. While the IRS is happy to tax all of your capital gains, it has different views towards losses. You can deduct losses, but only up to $3,000 each year.

We all have capital assets, even if we don’t realize it. Unfortunately, the IRS is aware of this, so make sure to report your gains and losses.

Determining Your Tax Status

Knowing how to determine your tax status, and knowing the difference between each group will help to make filing your income tax return go smoother. Here we will discuss the ways in which you determine which status to file under.

There are five classifications from which you choose to file: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household or qualifying widower with dependent child. If for some reason, more than one status applies to you, you should choose the status that gives you the greatest tax benefit.

Determining your status as a single filer seems simple enough, but there are different situations that exist that can qualify the taxpayer as single. For example, if you are legally separated even in the last month of the year, you are considered single for the entire year. With no dependents and you are unmarried, you are considered single. Divorce and annulment within the year also qualifies you to file as single.

However, even if you are single, but you have a dependent, or were widowed during the tax year, and you have dependents, your filing status would change to head of household or widowed with qualifying dependent child, not single.

When it comes to determining your status as a married taxpayer, there are simple qualification assessments that establish your legal filing status and if you’re considered married. Obviously, if you are legally married and living together as husband and wife, even for a small part of the tax year, then you would be considered married. If you are living together as common law spouses, and it is legally recognized in the state in which you live, or you lived part of the tax year in the state where the common law marriage began, then your filing status is married. Your filing status is still married even if you are married but not living together, but are not legally separated or divorced.

If you have unique circumstances, it might not be so easy to determine your filing status. If, for example, you were widowed during the tax year and did not remarry, you can file as married with your deceased spouse, and then file as widowed with qualified dependents for the next two years, so long as you do not remarry. If you remarry within the tax year that your spouse passed away, you would file as married with your current spouse, and file with your deceased spouse as married filing separately.

If you are married and want to file a joint return, your tax status is married filing jointly. All income to the household must be included on the one return, and both spouses must sign and date prior to submitting the tax return. All exemptions, deductions, and credits are reported on the joint return, and you share equal responsibility and liability for the information reported on the tax return, as well as any tax money owed. There are ways to ask for release from joint responsibility, either through innocent spouse relief, separation of liability for spouses who have not lived together for the past year, or equitable relief.

There are sometimes reasons that a spouse cannot sign a joint tax return, such as a spouse stationed abroad for the military. In this type of situation, you may sign for your spouse as a proxy, and attach a written explanation.

Choosing your filing status, while lengthy and sometimes complicated, is an important in the process of completing your Federal Income Tax return.

1031 Exchange Escaping the Certainty of Taxes

‘In this world’, said the great Benjamin Franklin, ‘nothing is certain but death and taxes’. While modern medicine continues to work on a cure for mortality, 1031 exchanges offer a valuable mechanism against the foibles of the taxman. Allowing the exchange of one property for another, this property market trend can help you hold on to money that might otherwise end up with the IRS. How do you know whether you are eligible to take advantage of this great property trend?

The first stipulation is that the two properties involved in the swap be in use for ‘trade or productive purposes’, that is that they are moneymaking concerns of some kind, such as a rental property or holiday home. The property intended for swapping must also reside in the US, though it can be located at any point within.

1031 exchanges necessitate the involvement of what are known as Qualified Intermediaries, who deal with the paperwork involved in the switch, and assume a role akin to a property purchaser. The property to be exchanged is handed over to this intermediary, until the property owner locates a new property, at which point the switch can be made.

This type of property exchange operates under strict guidelines and an exacting timetable. Once the original property is sold, a list of possible replacements must be supplied to the intermediary with forty-five days, while the exchange itself must be completed within one hundred and eighty. The title to both properties must remain intact throughout the entire process, so this is not the time to dissolve any business partnerships that might be involved. Any deviance from these strictures can threaten the entire exchange process.

The properties to be exchanged must also be what is described as ‘like-kind’, meaning that they are roughly comparable. This does not mean that the two properties must echo one another entirely, it simply refers to the fact that the property relinquished and the one to be taken up must both be suitable for use in a similar business or investment related way.

1031 exchanges are not for use on residential homes, and so, for many people, are of little value. But if you own a business property and would like to move premises without losing a sum of money to the taxman, then a 1031 exchange might just be the right choice for you.

10 ways to cut your property taxes

Property taxes are decided collectively by school boards, town boards, legislators, and councils. The tax rate is set by collating the amount of funds an area needs. This is then divided that by the “total taxable” assessed value of the area. The tax an individual pays is computed by multiplying the tax rate by the assessed value of your property and then deducting any applicable exceptions. Property taxes are at an all time high. Studies indicate that they have increased more than 35% in five years.

Property is assessed by determining property costs in any given area. Property is valued by studying: the current sale price of properties in the area, costs to be incurred to replace the property, potential realization of property if it is rented, sold, or gifted, and the historical value of a property.

There are a few ways in which you could save on taxes:

1. Check if the state you reside in is offering any rebates. For example, a money back rebate, energy rebate, capping of taxes, or home owners rebate where under certain conditions you may be eligible to claim a rebate.

2. Ensure that the property is assessed right. This will ensure that you do not have to pay excess taxes. Assert your right to check you assessment report ensure that there are no miscalculations, mistakes, or assumptions. If in any doubt, do put in an appeal. According to statistics almost 50% of the cases win some relief.

3. Check all exemptions allowed according to the law.

4. Buy property jointly with a partner or family member. This way both owners become eligible for tax rebates.

5. Check if your assessment is in according to other properties in your neighborhood. Check with the assessment office or with your neighbors themselves. It helps to know applicable laws. Use the help of a real estate professional to put together a file of properties similar to yours that have a lower assessment. Or, use the bank’s appraisal to support your case. Be sure that the case you gather together is water tight.

6. Use a property consultant to help you save taxes. Some charge a flat fee while others just a percentage of what you save. A professional will check how assessment is done and also if there are any loop holes you can use.

7. There is strength in numbers. Get together with other owners who are also checking or fighting assessments. Check on the National Taxpayers Union Web site for your rights.

8. Ask you home loan provider whether you are eligible for refund of property taxes paid. Some agreements have a provision for this. Many mortgages have automatic escrow of taxes.

9. Even before you buy a home find out what the property taxes are in the area and what have been the increases in tax rates.

10. Be sure to read through assessment and tax manuals published by your local authorities. These will give a clear idea of what are the parameters used and what you must do to reduce or pay the correct property taxes.

In order to be money smart you need to get the help of an efficient and dedicated accountant, plan your tax liabilities well, known thoroughly all aspects of Property Tax. If you are prudent, you can benefit by using ways and means to cut your tax burden and liabilities.

4 Reasons People Get Into Trouble With the IRS

You don't want to mess with the Internal Revenue Service. One small mix-up when handling your finances can cost you big.

For example, in recent years the IRS has increased its filing of levies, liens and wage garnishments. In fact, in 2004 alone, approximately 2.5 million levies were filed.

The experts at JK Harris & Co., one of the nation's largest tax resolution firms, offer this list of common ways people get into trouble with the IRS.

1. Filing too many exemptions. An exemption gives you a major tax deduction, and some taxpayers can't resist the temptation to report more exemptions than they're entitled.

You can only claim exemptions for yourself, a spouse and for all "dependents." Dependents have to meet specific criteria, however, so make sure you follow the IRS guidelines so that you don't mistakenly file an extra exemption.

2. Being unaware of taxes levied for early withdrawal from certain retirement plans. If you withdraw from a retirement fund such as a 401(k) or IRA before you're 59 1/2, you may face a 10 percent federal penalty on your investments, as well as a state penalty and an income tax on the money withdrawn.

3. Not paying enough taxes when self-employed. Many people who own their own businesses don't know how much they have to pay in taxes. The tax structure for a self-employed person - what to pay, how to pay and what can be deducted - is decidedly complex, so it's easy to become confused.

4. Not paying taxes on winnings. It is necessary to report all gambling winnings, including winnings from lotteries, casinos and horse races, as income.

For people who are in trouble with the IRS, there are various programs available that can provide debt relief if a taxpayer qualifies. JK Harris helps its clients determine if they meet the requirements for one of these IRS programs. Its staff includes former IRS agents, certified public accountants, attorneys, enrolled agents and other experts that offer tax services, financial planning, small business services and other assistance.

3 Tips For Keeping Proper Tax Records For Your Home Business – And Keeping The IRS Happy!

The last thing most people think about when starting a business is doing taxes. But proper planning will make doing your taxes much easier - and keep the IRS happy!

Here are 3 simple tips for keeping proper records:

1. Whenever you buy anything for your business, keep the receipt!

Not only will this make record keeping a lot simpler, but if you are ever audited (having your tax return reviewed in detail by the IRS), you can prove your expenses, and save yourself money.

2. Write down all your expenses and income as they happen.

As your business grows, you'll have more and more activities to keep you busy. The last thing you'll want to do each April 15 is to organize your records for the year. So, it's a good idea to write down all your financial activities as they happen. You'll find preparing your taxes will take much less time if you are organized.

3. Learn how to save money on your taxes.

As you learn about taxes, you'll find that there are many deductions (expenses that reduce your income, and therefore your taxes) you can take that are not obvious. When using your home office, you may be able to deduct (at least partially) repairs you make around the house, utilities, your home's value at the time you start your business, and more.

The more you know about taxes, and the more organized you are in keeping records, the more time and money you'll save at the end of every year!

What happens if you don't keep proper records?

Individuals with small businesses are the most likely to have their tax returns audited by the IRS. If you don't have a receipt, you will likely lose the deduction and owe the IRS money.

And while an audit does not have to be feared, you should be prepared - the more organized your records, the easier it will be to prove your case.

If you don't have one, get a file box and some folders at your local office supply store (these supplies are deductible, so keep your receipts!) and create a filing system for your business. Put all your receipts in the proper folders, and put them in a safe place.

Another way to save yourself time is to record all of your business transactions - expenses and income - on a spreadsheet on your computer. Keep a column for income, advertising, supplies, etc. You don't need to be a computer expert. But keeping accurate, organized records will help you save time when you fill out your taxes at the end of the year.

And it can help you plan, by giving you a snapshot or your financial progress whenever you need it.

Which may come in handy when you need to place ads, borrow money - or take a much needed and well-deserved vacation!