Here are some important facts to help in filing 2012 income tax returns:
Tax filing deadline
April 15 is the day this year. In previous years, we’ve had a few extra days as the 15th fell on a weekend or was delayed by a holiday in the nation’s capital.
Ohio taxes are also due on April 15 and most municipalities follow the federal deadlines.
You can get a six-month extension to Oct. 15 by filling out Form 4868 by April 15. You will owe interest on any taxes not paid by April 15.
Who must file
Whether you’re required to file a return depends on the type and amount of your gross income, filing status, age and whether someone is eligible to claim you as a dependent. A taxpayer who is not the dependent of another taxpayer is required to file if his or her gross income exceeds the dollar amounts listed below. (In determining gross income, do not include Social Security benefits received.) Minimum income filing thresholds have increased anywhere from $100 (for married filing separately) to $500 (for married filing jointly) over last year’s levels.
This year’s general filing requirements are:
$9,750 (single), $11,200 (single 65 or older); $12,500 (head of household), $13,950 (head of household, 65 or over); $19,500 (married filing jointly), $20,650 (married filing jointly with one 65 or older), $21,800 (married filing jointly with both over 65); $3,800 (married filing separately) and $15,700 (qualifying widow or widower), $16,850 (qualifying widow or widower and 65 or older).
Sometimes it is a good idea to file even though not required by law to do so because the filer might be eligible for a refund. The only way to claim a federal tax refund is to file a federal tax return. If you worked during the year, for example, and had federal income tax withheld from your wages or made estimated tax payments, that potential refund can only be claimed by filing a federal tax return. By law, unclaimed refunds are forfeited to the U.S. Treasury after three years.
• $5,950 for singles and married individuals filing separately.
• $8,700 for head of household.
• $11,900 for married filing jointly and qualifying widow(ers).
Additional deductions for those over 65 or blind: $1,450 for single or head of household and $1,150 for married/qualifying widow(er).
Taxpayers whose income is $57,000 or less can access free federal tax preparation software and file returns online for free through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance using the IRS website, www.irs.gov/freefile.
There is no income limit for taxpayers to use Free File Fillable Forms, which are online versions of paper forms.
The IRS said it issued refunds last year to more than 90 percent of e-filers who opted for direct deposit within 21 days. They expect the same this year. For paper filers, you will generally see a refund within six weeks. If you file electronically, but opt for a paper check, it should be issued within three weeks from when the IRS processes the return. Refunds from paper-filed amended returns will generally be issued within 8-12 weeks.
The IRS said it is not expecting a delay in refunds with the delay of the tax season because of tax changes approved in January. The IRS began accepting most simple returns on Jan. 30. However, many filers claiming certain credits will have to wait until mid-February or March to file their taxes because of delays in updating the IRS systems after the fiscal-cliff legislation. Those credits include education credits, residential energy credits, depreciation of property and general business credits.
To be clear, what that means is you will be able to calculate and complete your returns now, but the returns won’t be able to be electronically filed until the IRS systems are ready.
To check on the status of your refund, go to www.irs.gov and find “Where’s My Refund?” or call the Refund Hotline at 800-829-1954.
IRS forms, publications
With the decrease in the number of people who still file paper returns, the availability of paper forms is more scarce. Some area libraries may get a limited number of packets, though the latest word is they won’t arrive for about three to four weeks. Call before you go. It is advised to go online at home or at a library to print out the forms at www.irs.gov. Post offices no longer receive IRS packets, postal officials said.
Forms can be ordered at 800-829-3676.
The Beacon Journal is offering free call-in programs this week, where readers can call and talk to a tax professional. The call-ins are 6-8 p.m. Monday, Feb. 11, and Wednesday, Feb. 13, and 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Feb. 16. There will also be a live, online tax chat, where you can ask questions from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, on www.ohio.com.
The IRS website has links to a variety of topics and YouTube video tax tips and audio podcasts. You can also call 800-829-1040 for individuals and 800-829-4059 (TDD) from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.
• Reinstated deductions: Several set to expire were reinstated or extended for two years through 2013 including: state and local sales tax itemized deduction; qualified tuition and fees adjustment/deduction up to $4,000; teacher/educator expense adjustment/deduction up to $250; home energy credit for qualified purchases and qualified charitable distribution exclusion of up to $100,000 gifted from an IRA by taxpayers who are age 70½ or older.
• Saver’s credit income limits increased: Contributions to IRAs and retirement plans such as 401(k)s might qualify for a tax credit up to $1,000; up to $2,000 if married filing jointly. The credit is for individuals with incomes up to $28,750, head of household up to $43,125 and married filing jointly with incomes to $57,500. Use Form 8880 to claim the credit.
• AMT exemption amounts increase: $78,750 for married filing jointly or surviving spouses; $50,600 for unmarried individuals and $39,375 for married filing separately.
• Key items for 2013 (not for 2012 taxes): The 2 percent cut in the Social Security payroll tax was not extended for 2013; the maximum capital gains tax raises from 15 percent to 20 percent for those taxed at 39.6 percent; a simplified option is available to claim home office deduction of $1,500 per year and qualified home mortgage canceled debt exclusion was extended one year through 2013.