K. W. “Hutch” Hutchinson, CPA, CFP®

Providing solutions to your taxing problems

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Know these Facts Before Deducting a Charitable Donation

If taxpayers gave money or goods to a charity in 2016, they may be able to claim a deduction on their federal tax return. Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool, Can I Deduct my Charitable Contributions? (https://www.irs.gov/uac/can-i-deduct-my-charitable-contributions), to help determine if their charitable contributions are deductible.

Here are some important facts about charitable donations:

  1. Qualified Charities. Taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. Gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates are not deductible. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool at https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organizations-select-check.
  2. Itemize Deductions. To deduct charitable contributions, taxpayers must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with a federal tax return.
  3. Benefit in Return. If taxpayers get something in return for their donation, they may have to reduce their deduction. Taxpayers can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to events or other goods and services.
  4. Type of Donation. If taxpayers give property instead of cash, their deduction amount is normally limited to the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price they would get if the property sold on the open market. If they donate used clothing and household items, those items generally must be in good condition or better. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations.
  5. Noncash Charitable Contributions. File Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, for all noncash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year. Complete section-A for noncash property contributions worth $5,000 or less. Complete section-B for noncash property contributions more than $5,000 and include a qualified appraisal to the return. The type of records they must keep depends on the amount and type of their donation. To learn more about what records to keep, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.
  6. Donations of $250 or More. If taxpayers donated cash or goods of $250 or more, they must have a written statement from the charity. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether they received any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Additional IRS Resources:

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What is the Additional Medicare Tax?

Some taxpayers may be required to pay an Additional Medicare Tax if their income is over a certain limit. The IRS would like people to know more about this tax.

  • Tax Rate. The Additional Medicare Tax rate is 0.9 percent.
  • Income Subject to Tax. The tax applies to the amount of wages, self-employment income and railroad retirement (RRTA) compensation that is more than a threshold amount. For more information, go to Questions and Answers for the Additional Medicare Tax at https://www.irs.gov/businesses/small-businesses-self-employed/questions-and-answers-for-the-additional-medicare-tax.
  • Threshold Amount. Filing status determines the threshold amount. For those who are married and file a joint return, they must combine the wages, compensation or self-employment income of their spouse with their own. The combined total income determines if it is over the threshold for this tax. The threshold amounts are:
Filing Status Threshold Amount
Married filing jointly $250,000
Married filing separately $125,000
Single $200,000
Head of household $200,000
Qualifying widow(er) with dependent child $200,000
  • Withholding / Estimated Tax. Employers must withhold this tax from wages or compensation when they pay employees more than $200,000 in a calendar year. Self-employed taxpayers should include it for estimated tax liability purposes.
  • Underpayment of Estimated Tax. People who had too little tax withheld or did not pay enough estimated tax may owe an estimated tax penalty. IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, provides rules and details on estimated taxes.

People who owe this tax should file Form 8959, with their tax return. People should also report any Additional Medicare Tax withheld by their employer or employers on Form 8959. IRS.gov offers more on this topic. Forms and publications are available on IRS.gov/forms anytime.

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Medical and Dental Expenses May Impact Your Taxes

Medical expenses can trim taxes. Keeping good records and knowing what to deduct make all the difference. Here are some tips to help taxpayers know what qualifies as medical and dental expenses:

  • Itemize. Taxpayers can only claim medical expenses that they paid for in 2016 if they itemize deductions on a federal tax return.
  • Qualifying Expenses. Taxpayers can include most medical and dental costs that they paid for themselves, their spouses and their dependents including:
    • The costs of diagnosing, treating, easing or preventing disease.
    • The costs paid for prescription drugs and insulin.
    • The costs paid for insurance premiums for policies that cover medical care.
    • Some long-term care insurance costs.

Exceptions and special rules apply. Costs reimbursed by insurance or other sources normally do not qualify for a deduction. More examples of what costs taxpayers can and can’t deduct are in IRS Publication 502, Medical and Dental Expenses.

  • Travel Costs Count. It is possible to deduct travel costs paid for medical care. This includes costs such as public transportation, ambulance service, tolls and parking fees. For use of a car, deduct either the actual costs or the standard mileage rate for medical travel. The rate is 19 cents per mile for 2016.
  • No Double Benefit. Don’t claim a tax deduction for medical expenses paid with funds from your Health Savings Accounts or Flexible Spending Arrangements. Amounts paid with funds from these plans are usually tax-free.
  • Use the Tool. Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if they can deduct their medical expenses.

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Debt Cancellation May be Taxable

If a lender cancels part or all of a debt, a taxpayer must generally consider this as income. However, the law allows an exclusion that may apply to homeowners who had their mortgage debt canceled in 2016.

Here are 10 tips about debt cancellation:

  1. Main Home. If the canceled debt was a loan on a taxpayer’s main home, they may be  able to exclude the canceled amount from their income. They must have used the loan to buy, build or substantially improve their main home to qualify. Their main home must also secure the mortgage.
  2. Loan Modification. If a taxpayer’s lender canceled or reduced part of their mortgage balance through a loan modification or ‘workout,’ the taxpayer may be able to exclude that amount from their income. They may also be able to exclude debt discharged as part of the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. The exclusion may also apply to the amount of debt canceled in a foreclosure.
  3. Refinanced Mortgage. The exclusion may apply to amounts canceled on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if the taxpayer used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve their main home and only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before refinancing. Amounts used for other purposes do not qualify.
  4. Other Canceled Debt. Other types of canceled debt such as second homes, rental and business property, credit card debt or car loans do not qualify for this special exclusion. On the other hand, there are other rules that may allow those types of canceled debts to be nontaxable.
  5. Form 1099-C. If a lender reduced or canceled at least $600 of a taxpayer’s debt, the taxpayer should receive Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by Feb. 1. This form shows the amount of canceled debt and other information.
  6. Form 982. If a taxpayer qualifies, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. They should file the form with their income tax return.
  7. IRS.gov Tool. Taxpayers should use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool – Do I Have Cancellation of Debt Income on My Personal Residence? – on IRS.gov to find out if their canceled mortgage debt is taxable.
  8. Exclusion Extended. The law that authorized the exclusion of cancelled debt from income was extended through Dec. 31, 2016.