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Ten Facts About Claiming Donations Made to Haiti

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2010-01

If you are donating to charities providing earthquake relief in Haiti, you may be able to claim those donations on your 2009 tax return. Here are 10 important facts the Internal Revenue Service wants you to know about this special provision.

1. A new law allows you to claim donations for Haitian relief on your 2009 tax return, which you will be filing this year.

2. The contributions must be made specifically for the relief of victims in areas affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti.

3. To be eligible for a deduction on the 2009 tax return, donations must be made after Jan. 11, 2010 and before March 1, 2010.

4. In order to be deductible, contributions must be made to qualified charities and can not be designated for the benefit of specific individuals or families.

5. The new law applies only to cash contributions.

6. Cash contributions made by text message, check, credit card or debit card may be claimed on your federal tax return.

7. You must itemize your deductions in order to claim these donations on your tax return.

8. You have the option of deducting these contributions on either your 2009 or 2010 tax return, but not both.

9. Contributions made to foreign organizations generally are not deductible. You can find out more about organizations helping Haitian earthquake victims from agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development (www.usaid.gov).

10. Federal law requires that you keep a record of any deductible donations you make. For donations by text message, a telephone bill will meet the record-keeping requirement if it shows the name of the organization receiving your donation, the date of the contribution, and the amount given. For cash contributions made by other means, be sure to keep a bank record, such as a cancelled check or a receipt from the charity. Receipts should show the name of the charity, the date and amount of the contribution.

For more information see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions and Publication 3833 , Disaster Relief: Providing Assistance through Charitable Organizations. To determine if an organization is a qualified charity visit IRS.gov, keyword "Search for Charities". Note that some organizations, such as churches or governments, may be qualified even though they are not listed on IRS.gov.

Everyone Can Use Free File

IRS TAX TIP 2010-16

The IRS Free File service provides free federal income tax return preparation and electronic filing for all taxpayers. All you need is access to a computer and the Internet and you can prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free.

Free File is offered through a partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance, a group of private-sector tax software companies. Since Free File’s debut in 2003, more than 27 million returns have been prepared and e-filed through this program.

Free File offers two options. The first is Traditional Free File, which includes approximately 20 tax preparation software products from which to choose. Taxpayers with 2009 incomes of $57,000 or less are eligible for this service. The second option is Free File Fillable Forms, which is an electronic version of IRS paper forms. All taxpayers can use Free File Fillable Forms to prepare and file tax forms electronically.

Use the following steps to file your return through IRS Free File:

Step 1. Get Started Access IRS.gov and click the Free File logo or go to www.irs.gov/freefile. You must access Free File companies through the official IRS Web site to qualify for the free service.

Step 2. Determine Your Eligibility If your 2009 income was $57,000 or less, you’re eligible for Traditional Free File’s easy-to-use, step-by-step software. If your income was higher, you are eligible for Free File Fillable Forms.

Step 3. Link to Free File Company Service If you opt for Traditional Free File, you can choose one of the approximate 20 offerings by reviewing which one fits your situation. You can click “I Will Choose A Free File Company” or “Help Me Find A Free File Company.” To get started with Free File Fillable Forms, just click the “Choose Free File Fillable Forms” button.

Step 4. Prepare and e-file your Federal Income Tax Return Either Traditional Free File or Free File Fillable Forms will allow you to file your return electronically, for free.

Both the fillable-forms option and the “full service” Free File offerings are only available through IRS.gov. Whether you are new to Free File or a returning taxpayer, you must access Free File through IRS.gov; otherwise, the provider may charge a fee.

Do I Have to File a Tax Return?
IRS Tax Tip 2010-17

You must file a tax return if your income is above a certain level. The amount varies depending on filing status, age and the type of income you receive.

Check the Individuals section of IRS.gov or consult the instructions for Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ for specific details that may affect your need to file a tax return with the IRS this year.

Even if you don’t have to file, here are eight reasons why you may want to file:

1. Federal Income Tax Withheld If you are not required to file, you should file to get money back if Federal Income Tax was withheld from your pay, you made estimated tax payments, or had a prior year overpayment applied to this year's tax.

2. Making Work Pay Credit You may be able to take this credit if you have earned income from work. The maximum credit for a married couple filing a joint return is $800 and $400 for other taxpayers.

3. Government Retiree Credit You may be eligible for this credit if you received a government pension or annuity payment in 2009. However, the amount of this credit reduces any making work pay credit you receive.

4. Earned Income Tax Credit You may qualify for EITC if you worked, but did not earn a lot of money. EITC is a refundable tax credit; which means you could qualify for a tax refund.

5. Additional Child Tax Credit This credit may be available to you if you have at least one qualifying child and you did not get the full amount of the Child Tax Credit.

6. Refundable American Opportunity Credit This education tax credit is available for 2009 and 2010. The maximum credit per student is $2,500 and the first four years of postsecondary education qualify.

7. First-Time Homebuyer Credit. The credit is a maximum of $8,000 or $4,000 if your filing status is married filing separately. The credit applies to homes bought anytime in 2009 and on or before April 30, 2010. However, you have until on or before June 30, 2010, if you entered into a written binding contract before May 1, 2010. If you bought a home after November 6, 2009, you may be able to qualify and claim the credit even if you already owned a home. In this case, the maximum credit for long-time residents is $6,500, or $3,250 if your filing status is married filing separately.

8. Health Coverage Tax Credit. Certain individuals, who are receiving Trade Adjustment Assistance, Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance, or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, may be eligible for a Health Coverage Tax Credit worth 80 percent of monthly health insurance premiums when you file your 2009 tax return.

For more information about filing requirements and your eligibility to receive tax credits, visit IRS.gov.

Five Facts about Publication 17

IRS Tax Tip 2010-18

While the Internal Revenue Service provides publications about a wide range of topics, there is one publication every taxpayer should have with them when they are preparing their federal tax return. Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax is available at IRS.gov and contains a wealth of information for individual taxpayers.

Here are the top five things the IRS wants you to know about Publication 17 and how it will come in handy when you prepare your taxes.

1. The online version of Publication 17 contains electronic links that make finding your answer simple. Both the downloadable PDF and online 2009 Publication 17 have more than 6,000 hyperlinks.

2. Publication 17 features details on recent tax law changes and legislation that can help you save money at tax time. You’ll find lots of helpful information about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, including the Making Work Pay Credit and the First-time Homebuyer Credit.

3. This publication is packed with basic tax-filing information and tips on what income to report and how to report it. Publication 17 also includes information on figuring capital gains and losses, claiming dependents, choosing the standard deduction versus itemizing deductions, and using IRAs to save for retirement.

4. Publication 17 is also available in Spanish.

You can get a hard copy of Publication 17 for free. To get a copy, visit IRS.gov or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Get Your Refund Faster – Choose Direct Deposit

IRS TAX TIP 2010-19

If you want to get your refund as quickly as possible, just tell the IRS to deposit your refund directly into your bank account. By choosing Direct Deposit, you can get your refund much sooner than if you chose to have a paper check mailed to you.

Here are the main reasons 73 million taxpayers chose Direct Deposit in 2009:

1. Security Thousands of paper checks are returned to the IRS by the U.S. Post Office every year as undeliverable mail. Direct Deposit eliminates the possibility you won’t receive your check and prevents your refund from being stolen.

2. Convenience The money goes directly into your bank account. You won’t have to make a special trip to the bank to deposit the money yourself.

3. Ease When you’re preparing your return, simply follow the instructions on your return. Make sure you enter the correct bank account and bank routing numbers on your tax form and you’ll receive your refund quicker than ever.

4. Options You can also deposit your refund into multiple accounts. With the split refund option, taxpayers can divide their refunds among as many as three checking or savings accounts and up to three different U.S. financial institutions. Use IRS Form 8888, Direct Deposit of Refund to More Than One Account, to divide your refund among different accounts. A word of caution: some financial institutions do not allow a joint refund to be deposited into an individual account. Check with your bank or other financial institution to make sure your Direct Deposit will be accepted.

For more information about direct deposit of your tax refund and the split refund option, check the instructions for your tax form. Helpful tips are also available in IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. To get a copy of Publication 17 or Form 8888, visit the Forms and Publications section of IRS.gov, or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Seven Things You Need to Know About the Government Retiree Credit

IRS Tax Tip 2010-20

Certain government retirees who receive a government pension or annuity payment in 2009 may be eligible for the Government Retiree Credit. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 provides this one-time credit of $250 for certain federal and state pensioners.

Here are seven things the IRS wants you to know about the Government Retiree Credit:

1. You can take this credit if you receive a pension or annuity payment in 2009 for service performed for the U.S. Government or any U.S. state or local government and the service was not covered by social security.

2. Recipients of the Making Work Pay Credit will have that credit reduced by any Government Retiree Credit they receive.

3. The credit is $250 for individuals and $500 if married filing jointly and both you and your spouse receive a qualifying pension or annuity.

4. You must have a valid social security number to claim the credit. If married filing jointly, both spouses must have a valid social security number to each claim the $250 credit.

5. You cannot take the credit if you received a $250 economic recovery payment in 2009.

6. This is a refundable credit, which means it may give you a refund even if you had no tax withheld from your pension.

7. To claim the credit, you must complete Schedule M, Making Work Pay and Government Retiree Credits, and attach it to your Form 1040A or 1040.


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