Imagine this scenario: Its tax time and you are getting really anxious to get your tax return out the door and claim that tax refund that is waiting for you. But lo and behold you still havent received your W2 from your employer. You probably have a refund coming to you and without your W2 you can’t start preparing your tax return ?
There are several reasons for the delay in getting your W2 - postal delays, you moved recently and did not update your mailing address with your employer, company went out of business etc. etc.
- Employers are required to mail out the W2s for their employees by Jan 31st.
- Here are a few tips you can use if you did not receive your W2 after the second week in February :
- First call the employer and ask them to send you a replacement W2. If the employer does not respond, or if the employer has shut down you can contact the IRS.
- Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS will contact the employer on your behalf and request the missing form.
- IRS will also send you a Form 4852 (PDF), Substitute for Form W-2 or Form 1099-R.
- You can also estimate your W2 based on paychecks and you can report this as ‘income not reported on a W2′. Usually the last paycheck of the year has Year to date (YTD) information eg. YTD Gross, YTD Federal tax etc.
Get a Preview of Your Tax Refund Use an Online Tax Refund Calculator
W2 Not received
If you are self preparing your tax return using an online tax preparation service like Turbo Tax or HR Block, or having a tax preparer do your tax return, here is a list of documents that you might have to refer to.
If you are using a CPA or going to a Tax preparation center (storefront), you might have to physically take these documents with you. If you have signed up for paperless statements, remember to sign into your online financial website and print out the forms before going to see the tax preparer.
Tip : Some of these documents may be available online eg. If you have a brokerage account with a major firm like Schwab or Fidelity, the year end statements (eg. 1099-DIV) can be accessed online - usually several days before it is mailed out.
- Wage statements/W-2s
- Self-employment business income and expenses/1099-MISC
- Commissions received/paid
- Pension, retirement income/1099-R
- Unemployment income/1099-G
- Canceled Debt Amount/1099-C
- Social Security income/SSA-1099
- IRA contributions
- Statements on the sales of stocks or bonds/1099-B
- Interest and dividend income /1099-INT/1099-DIV
- Lottery or gambling winnings/losses
- State refund amount/1099-G
- Income and expenses from rentals
- Alimony paid or received
- Record of purchase or sale of residence
- Medical and dental expenses
- Real estate and personal property taxes
- State or local taxes paid. (Your state should send you a form)
- Last year’s Federal and State tax return(s)
- Estimated taxes or foreign taxes paid
- Cash and non-cash charitable donations
- Mortgage or home equity loan interest paid/1098
- Unreimbursed employment-related expenses
- Job-related educational expenses
- Educator expenses
- Tuition and Education Fees/1098-T
- Student loan interest/1098-E
- Casualty or theft losses
- Child care expenses and provider information
- Social Security card(s)
- Dependents’ Social Security numbers and dates of birth
- Driver’s License ( PhotoID)
Turbotax has a whole arsenal of online tax tools. Each tax tool is suited for a different purpose - just like that knife set sitting in your kitchen, each knife is intended for a specific use. Perhaps, the most important tool is the Tax Refund Estimator, but there are other seldom overlooked tools which are planning tools that you can use throughout the year.
Here is a summary of each of the most important tools available at Turbotax:
Tax Refund Estimator Tool
How much is my tax refund this year ? You can get an instant answer to this question by using this tool. Turbotax makes it easy to find how much you will get back from the Taxman - or for that matter how much you will owe. See here to learn more about the Tax refund Estimator tool
Life Changes Tool
This tool is learning to adapt to the changes life throws at you - from a tax perspective. Adjusting your tax situation based on events that occur in your life will save you a ton of money. For instance, if a new baby is born in the family, you could claim an additonal tax exemption - but to claim this additional exemption, you need to file a revised W4 with your employer. How about buying or selling a new home - if you are buying a new home, you get the benefit of the mortgage interest deduction. Likewise if you are selling a home, you will need to deal with the capital gains (or losses in this doggone realestate market). How about Retirement - This is a major life style change not to mention the major major tax impact.
Turbotax’s Life Changes tool gives you a good insight into what you can do when these major shifts happen in your life
W-4 Salary Calculator
Do you remember the W4 form that you have to fill in when you get a new job ? What most people don’t realize is that the W4 is not a static thing, you can actually change it anytime by resubmitting it to the employer. The number of exemptions you claim on the W4 determines how big (or small) your take home pay is. Take home pay is your gross salary minus the taxes and deductions. This tool tells you how many exemptions to choose on your W4. Try the W4 Calculator.
IRA Calculators - Contributing to the IRA is the smart way to save on taxes. Not everyone is eligible to contribute to an IRA, but if you are eligible to contribute, you can figure out how much to contribute to get the biggest tax saving bang for your IRA buck !
You can these and other great tax tools at : Turbotax Calculators .
2013 will see some major tax changes. This impacts almost everyone. Want to know how these changes will impact you ?
Turbotax comes to the rescue. This year, turbotax is offering some real exciting tools that will help you preview your situation for next year and several years to come. As you probably know, Turbotax has been helping people file their own taxes for over a couple of decades now. Their hugely successful tax preparation software and online tax preparation tools have helped millions of people file their tax returns painlessly.
Now on to the tools from TurboTax :
Turbotax has bundled several tools together under an umbrella called “Tax Caster”. There are 3 major tools that is of importance to most people.
- The Paycheck Calculator : This great tools allows you to calculate W4 exemptions. You will need to provide your income and expenses, and the tool calculates what you’ll actually owe on your taxes for the year. The W4 calculator then determines how many exemptions you should have withheld.
- Tax Rate Calculator : This handy little tool calculates your tax rate at both Federal and State levels to give you a net overall tax rate. Forget brackets and numbers - this will give your tax rate without taking a paper and pencil and pouring through IRS publications.
- Home Loan Tax Calculator: Mortgage interest remains as one of the most important tax savers our there.If you paid interest or points in financing your home, there is a good chance that you can reduce your taxes. Find out what the ideal home loan works for you.
- Deduction Finder : Find out if you have claimed all the deductions that you are eligible for. This single tool is a good way to verify and check your accountant to see if they did their job right. Most tax payerrs always tend to miss some valuable deductions. Each dollar in deduction saves you money. This free tool will tell you if you have availed of the deductions you are eligible for.
All these tools are Free on the Turbotax website. See this link to directly to to the Turbotax calculators
For 2013, several new payroll tax changes go into place. It is likely that most middle class people will see a slight decrease in their paychecks. Hence, it is more important that you review and adjust your W4 exemptions for 2013. If you have tax money refunded to you by the IRS or if you owe large sums to the IRS you may want to change your W4 exemptions for next year (2013).
When you increase your W4 exemptions, less taxes are withheld from your paycheck and you get more on your net pay. Similarly, if you decrease your W4 exemptions, more taxes are witheld from your paycheck and your net pay is reduced.
So lets say you are married, you are claiming 2 exemptions, one for yourself and another one for your spouse. Now lets say, you had a large mortgage and you pay a lot in interest, you may want to increase your exemptions to more than 2. This will increase your take home pay so that will lessen the burden of paying the mortgage every month.
Per the W4 Publication : ”Complete Form W-4 so that your employer can withhold the correct federal income tax from your pay. Consider completing a new Form W-4 each year and when your personal or financial situation changes”
How can you calculate your exemptions ?
There are online W4 calculators available that you can use to calculate the exemptions, this takes some of the pain away from using paper forms. Once you figure out the number of exemptions ideal for your situation, you should submit the exemptions to your employer. Contact the payroll or HR department at your place of work on where to submit the W4.
Here is an excellent W4 Exemption Calculator from Turbotax.
Does changing the exemption reduce or increase your overall taxes ?
NO. Changing the exemptions only impacts your take home pay. Your net taxes are not impacted. You will owe the same amount in taxes to the IRS whether or not you increase or decrease your exemptions. Only your net take home pay is impacted.
Is there a negative impact to changing your exemptions ?
If you increase your exemptions ( without corresponding deductions on your tax return), you could end up owing taxes to the IRS. This is not good. Uncle Sam likes refunding money to you, they usually do not like being owed money. Its a one way street folks. The best way is to calculate w4 exemptions that is ideally suited for you.
How do you change the exemptions for next year ?
You can ask your employer for the W4 form or you can download one from the IRS website. Then you can fill in the number of exemptions you calculated from the previous step. Also, the W4 form has a worksheet attached with it, which you can use to manually calculate the exemptions. can use to determine the exemptions.
The IRS has defined the period of Limitations for Tax Returns. Here is what they say (on their website).
IF you… THEN the
- Owe additional tax and (2), (3), and (4) do not apply to you THEN Save it for 3 years
- Do not report income that you should and it is more than 25% of the gross income shown on your return THEN Save it for 6 years
- File a fraudulent return THEN Save it FOREVER
- Do not file a return THEN Save it FOREVER
- File a claim for credit or refund after you filed your return THEN Save it for The later of 3 years or 2 years after tax was paid.
- File a claim for a loss from worthless securities THEN Save if for 7 years
Tip: You can get out of the save FOREVER if you file your back taxes and get out of the rut ! Here is where you can do your past year tax returns.
The Franchise Tax Board (FTB), California’s tax authority has introduced FREE Tax filing on its website. For people who are looking to file their tax returns for free your wait is over. Branded as ‘CalFile’, the new tax filing site is part of the FTB site.
You can get to it CalFile here : CA Free Tax Filing
Who Cannot Use CalFile
Albeit a great tool for California tax payers, not everyone can use the free state tax filing on the FTB website. The exemptions are detailed below.
If you do not qualify for free CA state tax filing, you can find other private tax preparation companies that will do only a state tax return.
So here is when you CANNOT use CalFile to file your free California return :
- An amended return.
- A return for someone who died.
- Requesting a military- or disaster-related extension.
- You have Health Savings Account (HSA) deductions or distributions.
- Your spouse/RDP was active duty military and was domiciled in a community property state other than California.
- Claiming a disaster loss.
- Claiming Mortgage Debt Relief.
- You filed federal form 1099-C (Cancellation of Debt).
- Capital gains or losses; business or farming income or loss (federal Schedule C, D, F).
- Income or loss from rental real estate, royalties, partnerships, S corporations, estates, trusts, REMICs, etc. (federal Schedule E).
If you do qualify, the free filing can save you quite a bit of money. If you do not qualify see how you can file Only State Tax Return.
Watch this Video on how to get started with preparing your tax return if you are self employed. Do not believe people who say that preparing a self employed tax return is rocket science. All it takes is a couple of additional forms and supporting documentation
Click here to learn more about Taxes For Self Employed
Making a charitable contribution gets you a tax deduction besides helping out the needy. Contributions can be cash or kind. But before you take a deduction for the tax contribution, make sure that the charitable orgainizaiton is recognized and is in compliance.
How to verify your favorite Charity ?
Thankfully the IRS has a wonderful tool on its website where you can quickly verify the charity. Although not the most user friendly tool, with a little bit of patience you can look it up. If you have the EIN of the charitable organization, it works best. Even if you do not have the EIN, you can still inquire on it if you know the City and State.
Make sure that your favorite charity is on the IRS’s list of Organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions
Here is the link to the IRS Site for Tax Exempt Organizations
The CA FTB has listed these forms for 2011 on their website
|540 2EZ Form||California Resident Income Tax Return (Fill-in)|
|540 2EZ Form (Math)||California Resident Income Tax Return (Fill-in with math features & save)|
|540 Form||California Resident Income Tax Return (Fill-in & Save)|
|540A Form||California Resident Income Tax Return (Fill-in & Save)|
|540ES Form||Estimated Tax for Individuals (Fill-in)|
|540NR Form (Long)||California Nonresident or Part-Year Resident Income Tax Return (Long) (Fill-in & Save)|
|540NR Form (Short)||California Nonresident or Part-Year Resident Income Tax Return (Short) (Fill-in & Save)|
|540X Form||Amended Individual Income Tax Return (Fill-in)|
|570 Form||Nonadmitted Insurance Tax Return (Fill-in)|
|570A Form||Nonadmitted Insurance Tax Return (Fill-in)|
|587 Form||Nonresident Withholding Allocation Worksheet (Fill-in)|
|588 Form||Nonresident Withholding Waiver Request|
|589 Form||Nonresident Reduced Withholding Request (Fill-in with Math features)|
|590 Form||Withholding Exemption Certificate (Fill-in)|
|590P Form||Nonresident Withholding Exemption Certificate for Previously Reported Income (Fill-in)|
|592 Form||Resident and Nonresident Withholding Statement (Fill-in)|
|592A Form||Payment Voucher for Foreign Partner or Member Withholding (Fill-in)|
|592B Form||Resident and Nonresident Withholding Tax Statement (Fill-in)|
|592F Form||Foreign Partner or Member Annual Return (Fill-in)|
|592V Form||Payment Voucher for Resident and Nonresident Withholding (Fill-in)|
|593 Form||Real Estate Withholding Tax Statement (Fill-in)|
|593C Form||Real Estate Withholding Certificate (Fill-in)|
|593E Form||Real Estate Withholding - Computation of Estimated Gain or Loss (Fill-in with Math features)|
|593I Form||Real Estate Withholding Installment Sale Acknowledgment (Fill-in)|
|593V Form||Payment Voucher for Real Estate Withholding (Fill-in)|
|737 Worksheet Form||California Registered Domestic Partners Adjustments Worksheet — Recalculated Federal Adjusted Gross I|
|776 Worksheet Form||California Same-Sex Married Couples Adjustments Worksheet — Recalculated Federal Adjusted Gross Inc|
|1096 Form||Agreement to Comply With Publication 1098 (Fill-in)|
|3501 Form||Employer Child Care Program/Contribution Credit (Fill-in)|
|3503 Form||Natural Heritage Preservation Credit (Fill-in)|
|3506 Form||Child and Dependent Care Expenses Credit|
|3507 Form||Prison Inmate Labor Credit|
|3510 Form||Credit for Prior Year Alternative Minimum Tax - Individuals or Fiduciaries|
|3511 Form||Environmental Tax Credit|
|3519 Form||Payment for Automatic Extension for Individuals (Fill-in & Save)|
|3521 Form||Low-Income Housing Credit|
|3523 Form||Research Credit|
|3525 Form||Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement… (Fill-in)|
|3526 Form||Investment Interest Expense Deduction (Fill-in)|
|3527 Form||New Jobs Credit|
|3533 Form||Change of Address|
|3540 Form||Credit Carryover Summary|
|3541 Form||California Motion Picture and Television Production Credit|
|3546 Form||Enhanced Oil Recovery Credit|
|3547 Form||Donated Agricultural Products Transportation Credit|
|3548 Form||Disabled Access Credit for Eligible Small Businesses|
|3551 Form||Sale of Credit Attributable to an Independent Film (Fill-in)|
|3553 Form||Enterprise Zone Employee Credit|
|3576 Form||Pending Audit Tax Deposit Voucher for Individuals|
|3580 Form||Application and Election to Amortize Certified Pollution Control Facility|
|3581 Form||Tax Deposit Refund and Transfer Request|
|3582 (e-File) Form||Payment Voucher for Individual e-filed Returns|
|3800 Form||Tax Computation for Certain Children with Investment Income|
|3801 Form||Passive Activity Loss Limitations|
|3801CR Form||Passive Activity Credit Limitations|
|3803 Form||Parents’ Election to Report Child’s Interest and Dividends|
|3805D Form||Net Operating Loss (NOL) Carryover Computation and Limitation - Pierce’s Disease|
|3805E Form||Installment Sale Income|
|3805P Form||Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (Including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts|
|3805V Form||Net Operating Loss (NOL) Computation and NOL and Disaster Loss Limitations - Individuals, Estates, and|
|3805Z Form||Enterprise Zone Deduction and Credit Summary|
|3806 Form||Los Angeles Revitalization Zone Deduction and Credit Summary|
|3807 Form||Local Agency Military Base Recovery Area Deduction and Credit Summary|
|3808 Form||Manufacturing Enhancement Area Credit Summary|
|3809 Form||Targeted Tax Area Deduction and Credit Summary|
|3834 Form||Interest Computation Under the Look-Back Method for Completed Long-Term Contracts|
|3885A Form||Depreciation and Amortization Adjustments|
|5805 Form||Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals and Fiduciaries|
|5805F Form||Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Farmers and Fishermen|
|5870A Form||Tax on Accumulation Distribution of Trusts|
|8453 Form||California e-file Return Authorization for Individuals|
|8453OL Form||California Online e-file Return Authorization for Individuals|
|8454 Form||e-file Opt-Out Record for Individuals (Fill-in)|
|8455 Form||California e-file Payment Record for Individuals|
|8879 Form||California e-file Signature Authorization for Individuals|