Smart TaxesSmart Taxes

Wish taxes were so simple you could file them on a postcard? Some say a flat tax could make that possible.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 11, 2014 2:21PM

Uncle SamBy Maryalane LaPonsie, Money Talks News


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyWith tax season upon us, you may be wondering why the government has to make things so complex.


According to the CCH Standard Federal Tax Reporter (.pdf file), the tax code clocks in at an astounding 73,954 pages as of 2013. It includes seven tax rates, four standard deductions and at least a dozen tax credits for individuals. Then there are the exemptions, the itemized deductions and the special tax rules.


And when you think you're starting to understand how the system works, the government likes to throw in a few curveballs, like the alternative minimum tax.

 

The renewal of 55 federal extenders that expired last year is on Congress' to-do list for 2014.

By MSN Money producer Feb 10, 2014 8:49PM

Taxes © Thinkstock/SuperStockBy Brianna Ehley, The Fiscal Times The Fiscal Times

 

As the next Senate Finance Committee Chairman Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) takes the gavel, his first priority will likely be to renew the more than 55 tax breaks or extenders that expired at the end of the year.

 

These provisions are essentially a grab bag of goodies for business and industry, as well as some for individuals. Last year, they cost taxpayers a whopping $74 billion --$63 billion of which solely benefited businesses, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

 

One of the most popular -- and most expensive -- extenders is the research and development tax credit, which subsidized business expenses at a cost of more than $6 billion in 2013, according to the Tax Foundation. Some other popular provisions include bonus depreciation, the mortgage deduction and incentives for the renewable energy industry, as well as an $11 billion break for U.S. multinational corporations that allows them to defer U.S. taxes on overseas income. These measures are separate from popular tax breaks like the mortgage deduction, the earned income tax credit and exclusions for employer health insurance.

 

If you've sketched out your tax situation and it makes you want to try and forget it until April, we have some better options.

By Money Staff Feb 7, 2014 12:50PM

This post comes from Christine DiGangi at partner site Credit.com.


Credit.com on MSN MoneyAs much as we'd all like a refund this tax season, not everyone gets money back from the IRS. If you're not prepared for it, owing money on your taxes can seriously stress your budgets and, potentially, your credit.


Worried man © CorbisIf you're not sure whether you'll owe or be owed, there's no better time than now to get started on your taxes. There are advantages to filing early, but if you get started and realize you're going to have to spend a little extra come April, at least you have some time to come up with a game plan.


Figure out what you owe

Perhaps you've been getting a little bit more mail lately — start sorting through any tax forms you may have received from employers, financial institutions or healthcare providers in the past few weeks, follow up with anyone who should be sending you one and look into any deductions you need to prepare to claim.

 

Every year millions of Americans get money back, then blow it. Here are four ways to put it to better use.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 7, 2014 12:31PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News. 


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyAccording to the IRS, the average American tax refund for tax year 2013 is about $2,600. But whatever you're expecting this year, there are smart things you can do with it, as well as things that aren't so smart.


Here are some of each, along with some advice on how to check on the progress of your refund if you've yet to receive it.

 

Should man or machine be your accountant? The old adage that you get what you pay for applies when hiring tax preparers as much as it does when buying tax preparation software.

By MSN Money producer Feb 6, 2014 9:41PM

Man doing his taxes © Plattform/Getty ImagesBy Juliette Fairley, MainStreetMainStreet


The old adage that you get what you pay for applies when hiring tax preparers as much as it does when buying tax preparation software.

 

"There is no absolute answer as to whether using basic tax software is better than hiring a qualified and experienced tax preparer, but typically certified public accountants (CPA) have the latest and highest quality of tax preparation software on the market," said Jordan Niefeld, a CPA with Gerstle Rosen & Goldenberg.

 

Yet and still the idea of doing it yourself holds a special appeal for many.

 

"It is advantageous to prepare your own return when you have the time, ability and desire to do so," said Rebecca Pavese, a CPA with the Palisades Hudson Financial Group in Atlanta.

 

Taxpayers will see some of the biggest changes in the federal tax code in more than a decade.

By MSN Money producer Feb 5, 2014 3:18PM

Tax form © Corbis Super RF/AlamyBy Andrew Osterland, CNBC.comCNBC.com


It could have been worse, but 2013 ushered in the most significant changes in the tax code for more than a decade.

 

For most American taxpayers, the resolution of the fiscal-cliff drama early last year was good news. The Bush-era tax cuts were made permanent for people in all but the top income-tax bracket; ditto for the low 15 percent tax rates on qualified dividends and capital gains. The deal even included a fix -- of sorts -- for the dreaded alternative minimum tax (AMT) that has annually threatened millions of taxpayers for years.

 

For wealthier taxpayers, however, the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) didn't live up to its name. They now face higher marginal tax rates, new investment income taxes to finance the president's health-care plan, and limitations on the itemized deductions they can claim. The combination of those policy changes will account for the bulk of the $600 billion in new tax revenue the government is expected to take in over the next 10 years as a result of ATRA.

 

There are lots of different kinds of cons happening during tax time. Some are happening to taxpayers, and some are being perpetrated by them.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 5, 2014 3:03PM

This post comes from Stacy Johnson at partner site Money Talks News. 


Money Talks News on MSN MoneyNothing is certain except death, taxes, and people scared to death of taxes.


That's part of what makes tax season ripe for con artists. They prey on fear and lurk anywhere they catch a whiff of quick money. Some even find ways to defraud taxpayers out of millions -- while in prison

 

While some taxpayers might have to pay more to the IRS this year, most won't see big changes until they file their 2014 returns.

By MSN Money producer Feb 4, 2014 5:28PM

Healthcare.gov website (© Leigh Vogel/Corbis)By Beth Braverman, The Fiscal TimesThe Fiscal Times 


The dozens of tax policy changes associated with the implementation of Obamacare are complex, but what most people really want to know is: How will it affect my taxes? 


On 2013 returns

For most people preparing their 2013 returns right now, Obamacare won't have any impact at all. The taxpayers who may see higher bills this year include high earners and those with steep medical expenses. 


The first tax hit on high earners is a 0.9 percent higher Medicare tax for married couples earning $250,000 or individuals at $200,000. The second is a new Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8 percent on "individuals, estates and trusts," also triggered at the $250,000 or $200,000 level.

 

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