We hope you find the brief answers below, pulled largely from the IRS website, helpful for your situation.
If you have a question not addressed here, of if you find yourself coming up with additional questions, please contact us.
Q: Is there an age limit on claiming my child as a dependent?
A: To claim your child as your dependent, your child must meet either the qualifying child test or the qualifying relative test:
- To meet the qualifying child test, your child must be younger than you and either younger than 19 years old or be a “student” younger than 24 years old as of the end of the calendar year.
- There’s no age limit if your child is “permanently and totally disabled” or meets the qualifying relative test.
In addition to meeting the qualifying child or qualifying relative test, your child must also meet all of the other tests to be your dependent:
- Dependent taxpayer test
- Citizen or resident test, and
- Joint return test
Q: How do I know if I have to file quarterly individual estimated tax payments?
A: You must make estimated tax payments for the current tax year if both of the following apply:
- You expect to owe at least $1,000 in tax for the current tax year after subtracting your withholding and refundable credits.
- You expect your withholding and refundable credits to be less than the smaller of:
- 90% of the tax to be shown on your current year’s tax return, or
- 100% of the tax shown on your prior year’s tax return. (Your prior year tax return must cover all 12 months.)
There are special rules for:
- Farmers and fishermen
- Certain household employers
- Certain higher income taxpayers
- Nonresident aliens
Q: Do I have to pay taxes on my social security benefits?
A: Social security benefits include monthly retirement, survivor and disability benefits. They don’t include supplemental security income (SSI) payments, which aren’t taxable. The net amount of social security benefits that you receive from the Social Security Administration is reported in Box 5 of Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, and you report that amount on line 5a of Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The taxable portion of the benefits that’s included in your income and used to calculate your income tax liability depends on the total amount of your income and benefits for the taxable year. You report the taxable portion of your social security benefits on line 5b of Form 1040.
Your benefits may be taxable if the total of (1) one-half of your benefits, plus (2) all of your other income, including tax-exempt interest, is greater than the base amount for your filing status.
The base amount for your filing status is:
- $25,000 if you’re single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er),
- $25,000 if you’re married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year,
- $32,000 if you’re married filing jointly,
- $0 if you’re married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the tax year.
If you’re married and file a joint return, you and your spouse must combine your incomes and social security benefits when figuring the taxable portion of your benefits. Even if your spouse didn’t receive any benefits, you must add your spouse’s income to yours when figuring on a joint return if any of your benefits are taxable.
Q: Is interest on a home equity line of credit deductible as a second mortgage?
A: Interest paid on home equity loans and lines of credit is not deductible unless the proceeds are used to buy, build or substantially improve the taxpayer’s home that secures the loan.
For example, interest on a home equity loan used to build an addition to an existing home is typically deductible, while interest on the same loan used to pay personal living expenses, such as credit card debts, is not. The loan must be secured by the taxpayer’s main home or second home (known as a qualified residence), not exceed the cost of the home and meet other requirements.
Q: How do I figure the cost basis when the shares I’m selling were purchased at various times and at different prices?
A: The basis of stocks or bonds you own generally is the purchase price plus the costs of purchase, such as commissions and recording or transfer fees. When selling securities, you should be able to identify the specific shares you are selling.
If you can identify which shares of stock you sold, your basis generally is:
- What you paid for the shares sold plus any costs of purchase.
If you can’t adequately identify the shares you sold and you bought the shares at various times for different prices, the basis of the stock sold is:
- The basis of the shares you acquired first, then the basis of the stock later acquired, and so forth (first-in first-out). Except for certain mutual fund shares and certain dividend reinvestment plans, you can’t use the average basis per share to figure gain or loss on the sale of stock.
Each security you buy is considered a covered security. The broker is required to provide you basis information on the Form 1099-B, Proceeds From Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions. For each sale of a covered security for which you receive a Form 1099-B, the broker will provide you the following information: the date of acquisition (box 1b), whether the gain or loss is short-term or long-term (box 2), cost or other basis (box 1e), and the loss disallowed due to a wash sale (box 1g) or the amount of accrued market discount (box 1f).
The law requires you to keep and maintain records that identify the basis of all capital assets.
Q: Why do I have to report capital gains from my mutual funds if I never sold any shares?
A: A mutual fund is a regulated investment company that pools funds of investors allowing them to take advantage of a diversity of investments and professional asset management.
You own shares in the mutual fund but the fund owns capital assets, such as shares of stock, corporate bonds, government obligations, etc. One of the ways the fund makes money for you is to sell these assets at a gain.
If the mutual fund held the capital asset for more than one year, the nature of the income is capital gain, and the mutual fund passes it on to you as a capital gain distribution. Form 1099-DIV, Dividends and Distributions distinguishes this from other types of income, such as ordinary dividends.
Consider capital gain distributions as long-term capital gains no matter how long you’ve owned shares in the mutual fund.
Q: What should I do if I made a mistake on my federal return that I’ve already filed?
A: It depends on the type of mistake you made:
- Many mathematical errors are caught during the processing of the tax return and corrected by the IRS, so you may not need to correct these mistakes.
- If you didn’t claim the correct filing status or you need to change your income, deductions, or credits, you should file an amended or corrected return using Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.
When filing an amended or corrected return:
- Include copies of any forms and/or schedules that you’re changing or didn’t include with your original return.
- To avoid delays, file Form 1040X only after you’ve filed your original return. Generally, for a credit or refund, you must file Form 1040X within 3 years after the date you timely filed your original return or within 2 years after the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
- Allow the IRS up to 16 weeks to process the amended return.