Tax time: Avoid common errors

The time to file taxes for 2014 is just around the corner. If you’re preparing your own tax return, or tax return for your elderly mom or dad, here are some tips to avoid common errors.

  1. Standard deduction for seniors. If you do not itemize your deductions, you can get a higher standard deduction amount if you and/or your spouse are 65 years old or older. You can get an even higher standard deduction amount if you or your spouse are blind.
  1. Social Security benefits. Many seniors make mistakes when calculating the taxable amount of Social Security. Use the Social Security benefits worksheet on IRS Form 1040 and Form 1040A, and double- and even triple-check.
  1. Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. To receive the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled, you must file using Form 1040 or Form 1040A (not Form 1040EZ). To quality for the credit, you must meet two qualifications: 1) you and/or your spouse are either 65 years or older, or under age 65 years old and are permanently blind, and 2) your income on Form 1040 line 38 is less than $17,500, $20,000 (married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies), $25,000 (married filing jointly and both qualify), and $12,500 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for the entire year). And, the non-taxable part of your Social Security or other nontaxable pensions, annuities or disability income is less than $5,000 (single, head of household, or qualifying window/er with dependent child); $5,000 (married filing jointly and only one spouse qualifies); $7,500 (married filing jointly and both qualify); or $3,750 (married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse the entire year).
  1. Tax assistance programs. For seniors and others with low- to moderate-income, the IRS sponsors volunteer tax assistance programs to help people who cannot prepare their own tax returns. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age or older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors.

With these tips in mind, you can help your aging mom or dad better navigate tax season. For more information, please visit www.irs.gov.

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