Answers to frequently asked tax questions

April 17, 2012 8:20:28 AM PDT
You have one more day to get your taxes finished, but taxpayers are finding they have more questions than ever.

From the forms you have never heard of to the instructions that do not make sense, taxpayers can have a hard their taxes done.

"I am just totally confused," said taxpayer Dave Washburn. "I do not know where to start."

Washburn has filed his taxes already, but his brother-in-law has not.

"He just advised us that he needed his income taxes done and I thought this had already been done," said Washburn.

While Washburn tries to help his brother-in-law, accountants say there are common questions taxpayers are having this year.

First up, can I deduct gifts given to family and friends?

"We get that all the time, but no, there is no deduction for giving a gift to a family member," said Houston CPA Bob Martin.

Martin says unless you are giving millions, you can't claim the deduction of a cash gift.

Next, do you have to report self-employment income under $600?

"If someone pays you under $600 as an independent contractor, they might not send you a 1099, but you are still taxable on that income," Martin advises.

Bottom line, if you got paid, you have to report the income.

Here's a common question from couples. Should I file married filing jointly or married filing separately?

"In general, the tax will be a little lower if you file jointly," said Martin.

Martin adds that if you are in the process of getting a divorce, file separately.

Recently, many taxpayers have begun asking if they can claim their parents as dependents?

"The general rule is that if you are providing half their support, and it is important if they do file a tax return, they cannot claim their own exemption," said Martin.

And finally, some taxpayers wonder if filing electronically will put them at a greater risk of identity theft. Martin says no.

"I would recommend electronic filing and definitely direct deposit," he said.

Texan Veterans Military Post Office, 7231 FM 1960 W Humble TX 77338 will be the last to close at 10pm on tax night and will be the best bet for last-minute customers who need to purchase stamps or special services.

The Barbara Jordan Post Office at 401 Franklin in Downtown Houston will close at 7pm on tax night and will be the next best choice. They also offer a self-service kiosk for last-minute customers who need to purchase stamps or special services.

Greater Houston area has 51 locations that offer Self Service Mailing Centers which can accommodate most mailing needs. Collection boxes (Blue Boxes) and Post Office lobby drops at all other Post Offices will be collected only at their regular posted times on April 17, 2012. Tax mail with correct postage deposited in those designated boxes and slots by stated cut off times will receive April 17 postmarks.


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