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180+ Common Tax Glossary Terms

Published on
June 19, 2024
Updated on
July 3, 2024
180+ Common Tax Glossary Terms
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401(k) Plan

A 401(k) plan is an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan that allows employees to save and invest a portion of their paycheck before taxes are paid. Employers may also contribute to the account. The funds grow tax-deferred until withdrawn, typically at retirement.

A

Accelerated Depreciation

Accelerated depreciation is a method of expensing a fixed asset more quickly than with standard straight-line depreciation. This approach allows businesses to deduct higher depreciation costs in the early years of an asset's life, reducing taxable income sooner.

Acquisition Indebtedness

Acquisition indebtedness refers to the mortgage or debt incurred to buy, build, or improve a qualified residence. Under the mortgage interest deduction rules, the interest paid on this debt can be deductible, subject to certain limits. Interest paid on up to $1 million of indebtedness is deductible if you itemize deductions, but at the beginning of 2018, the deductible amount of loan interest on a new loan is limited to a $750,000 principal amount.

Active Participation

Active participation means being significantly involved in the management or operations of a rental property. If they meet specific criteria, taxpayers can deduct up to $25,000 of rental losses against their non-passive income.

Additional Child Tax Credit

The Additional Child Tax Credit is a refundable credit for taxpayers who qualify for the Child Tax Credit but cannot receive the full amount because it exceeds their tax liability. IRS can even provide a refund even if no taxes are owed.

Adjusted Basis

An adjusted basis is the original cost of an asset, adjusted for various tax-related items such as improvements, depreciation, and other adjustments. It is used to calculate capital gains or losses upon the sale of the asset.

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI)

Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) is the total gross income of an individual minus specific deductions. It serves as the basis for calculating tax liabilities and eligibility for certain tax credits and deductions.

Adoption Credit

The Adoption Credit is a non-refundable tax credit for qualified adoption expenses incurred while adopting a child. It can reduce the tax liability of the adopting parents and may be carried forward for up to five years if the credit exceeds the tax due.

Advocate

An advocate in the tax context refers to a person or organization, such as the Taxpayer Advocate Service, that assists taxpayers in resolving problems with the IRS and helps ensure their rights are protected.

Alimony

Alimony is a court-ordered payment from one spouse to another following a divorce or separation. For divorces finalized after 2018, alimony payments are no longer deductible by the payer or taxable to the recipient.

Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)

The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is a special tax designed to ensure that high-income individuals and families don't exploit legal loopholes to reduce their tax liability. In recent years, however, it has started affecting a broader range of taxpayers, including those who live in states with high taxes, have large families, or receive certain stock options. The AMT disregards certain tax deductions and exemptions allowed under regular tax rules and applies higher tax rates of 26% and 28% to a larger portion of income. 

Amended Return

An amended return is a tax return filed to correct errors or omissions on an original return. Taxpayers use Form 1040-X to amend their federal income tax returns and may receive additional refunds or owe more taxes.

Audit

A tax audit is an examination of a taxpayer's financial records and tax returns by the IRS or state tax authorities to ensure accuracy and compliance with tax laws. Audits can be conducted through correspondence, office visits, or field audits.

Automobile, Business Use

The business use of an automobile refers to using a vehicle for business purposes. Taxpayers can deduct expenses related to the business use of their car, such as mileage, gas, maintenance, and depreciation, subject to IRS rules and limits.

Automobile, Donating to Charity

Donating an automobile to charity involves giving a vehicle to a qualified charitable organization. When donating a vehicle to charity, be aware that strict rules govern the deduction you can claim on your taxes. In most cases, the amount you can deduct is capped at the price the charity receives when it sells the vehicle. To support your deduction, the charity should provide you with documentation showing the sale price within 30 days of the sale. If you don't receive this information, your maximum deduction will be limited to $500.

Automobile, Driving for Charity

You may be eligible for a tax deduction if you use your vehicle for charitable purposes. The IRS allows you to deduct a standard rate of 14 cents per mile driven while volunteering for a qualified charity. You can also claim deductions for parking fees and tolls incurred while driving for charitable activities.

B

Bargain Sale to Charity

If you sell an asset to a charity at a price lower than its fair market value, it's considered a bargain sale. The tax implications of this type of transaction can be complex, and the outcome depends on the specific circumstances. In some cases, you may be eligible for a tax deduction; in others, you may end up with additional taxable income.

Below-Market-Rate Loans

When you lend money to a friend or family member at a below-market or even interest-free rate, the IRS may consider it taxable income. This is because they assume you should have charged a higher interest rate, so you're essentially giving them a gift. As a result, you may be required to report some of this "imputed" interest as income on your tax return.

Blind

For tax purposes, a person is considered blind if they have a vision impairment that meets specific IRS criteria. To qualify for a higher standard tax deduction, an individual must meet the IRS's definition of being legally blind. This means they must have one of the following conditions:

  • Total blindness, with no vision at all.
  • A corrected vision of 20/200 or worse in their better eye, even with glasses or contact lenses.
  • A severely limited field of vision, with a visual field of 20 degrees or less.

Bond Premium

When you purchase a bond that offers a higher interest rate than the current market rate, you may pay a premium above the bond's face value. With taxable bonds, you can deduct a portion of this premium from your taxable income each year you hold the bond. This can provide a tax benefit to help offset the extra cost of buying the bond at a premium.

Bonus Depreciation

Bonus depreciation is a tax provision that allows businesses to accelerate depreciation deductions on qualified assets. The rules have changed for assets acquired and put into use after September 27, 2017. Previously, 50% bonus depreciation was allowed for new assets purchased before September 28, 2017. After the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 passed, businesses can claim a 100% bonus "expensing" for both new and used assets, allowing them to deduct the full cost in the first year. This benefit phases down over time, with the percentage decreasing to 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. After 2026, bonus depreciation will no longer be available.

Additionally, certain productions, such as film, television, and live performances, as well as fruit and nut trees planted or grafted after September 27, 2017, are also eligible for 100% expensing.

It's important to note that this bonus depreciation is separate from the expensing rules under Code Section 179. Businesses can opt out of the new bonus depreciation rules and use the prior 50% bonus depreciation rules for the first tax year ending after September 27, 2017, if they choose to do so.

Burden of Proof

Taxpayers are generally responsible for proving the accuracy of their tax returns rather than the IRS needing to prove them incorrect. Although legislation has shifted the burden of proof to the IRS in certain situations, it's important to keep all your records. This change affects very few taxpayers, as the burden only shifts if a dispute goes to court, which is rare. Even then, the taxpayer must have maintained all required records and cooperated with IRS information requests.

C

Canceled Debt

When a debt is canceled or forgiven, the borrower typically receives taxable income equal to the amount of the debt forgiven. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For instance, certain student loans may include provisions that forgive debt if the borrower works in a specific profession for a set period. Additionally, up to $750,000 of forgiven mortgage debt on a primary residence, such as in the case of a foreclosure or short sale, may be tax-free until the end of 2025.

Furthermore, if the borrower is insolvent, meaning their liabilities exceed their assets, the forgiven debt is not considered taxable income. Similarly, debt forgiven through a bankruptcy court is also not subject to taxation. There are other specific circumstances under which canceled debt may be tax-free, such as in the case of certain farm or business debts. It's essential to understand these exceptions to avoid unexpected tax liabilities.

Cannabis Retailer

A cannabis retailer is a business that sells marijuana and related products to consumers. Despite state-level legalization, cannabis businesses face unique tax challenges due to federal prohibition and Section 280E, which limits deductions.

Capital Expenditure

Capital expenditure refers to the cost of making a lasting improvement to a property, such as a home or building. Examples of capital expenditures include installing central air conditioning, building an addition, or making other significant upgrades. These expenses are important because they increase the property's adjusted tax basis, which can have implications for tax deductions and depreciation. By tracking capital expenditures, property owners can accurately calculate their tax basis and potentially reduce their tax liability.

Capital Gain

A capital gain refers to the profit made from selling assets such as stocks, mutual fund shares, and real estate. The tax rate on these gains depends on how long you've owned the asset. If you've owned it for 12 months or less, the gain is considered short-term and is taxed at your ordinary income tax rate, just like your salary. However, if you've owned the asset for more than 12 months, the gain is considered long-term and is taxed at a lower rate of 0%, 15%, or 20%. Taxpayers in the 10% or 15% income tax bracket get an even better deal, with a 0% tax rate on long-term capital gains.

However, there are some exceptions to these rules. For example, if you've taken depreciation deductions on investment real estate, you may be subject to a 25% tax rate on the gain resulting from those deductions (unless you're in the 10% or 12% bracket, in which case your tax rate applies). Additionally, long-term gains from selling collectibles, such as art or rare coins, are taxed at a maximum rate of 28%. It's essential to understand these rules to minimize your tax liability on capital gains.

Capital Loss

A capital loss occurs when you sell an asset, such as a stock, bond, mutual fund, or real estate, for less than its original value. These losses can be used to offset capital gains, reducing your tax liability. First, you can use capital losses to cancel out capital gains of the same type (long-term or short-term). If you still have excess losses, you can deduct up to $3,000 against other types of income, such as your salary. Any remaining losses can be carried over to future years to offset gains or income. By using capital losses strategically, you can minimize your tax bill and maximize your financial gains.

Capital-Loss Carryover

If you incur capital losses from selling investments or assets, you can use them to offset capital gains and reduce your tax liability. Additionally, you can deduct up to $3,000 of net capital losses against other types of income, such as your salary or interest earned on bank accounts. If you have more than $3,000 in net capital losses, you can carry over the excess to future years, allowing you to offset gains or income in those years. This can help you minimize your tax bill and make the most of your investment losses.

Carryforward

A carryforward is a tax provision that allows taxpayers to apply unused deductions, credits, or losses to future tax years. This can help reduce tax liability in subsequent years when the taxpayer may have higher income.

Casualty Loss

A casualty loss refers to damage or destruction caused by a sudden, unexpected, and unusual event, such as a natural disaster, accident, or theft. This type of loss can result in a significant financial burden, but it may also be eligible for tax deductions or other forms of relief.

Charitable Carryovers

When you make charitable donations, there's a limit to how much you can deduct from your taxes in a given year. Generally, you can deduct up to 60% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for cash donations and 30% for donations of appreciated assets or contributions to private foundations. However, if you've donated more than these limits, you don't lose the excess. Instead, you can carry over the remaining amount to the next five tax years. This allows you to claim the deduction in a future year when your income may be higher or your deductions lower. Note that if you pass away before using up the carryover, it expires and cannot be claimed by your heirs. 

Charitable Contribution

A charitable contribution is a donation of money or property to a qualified non-profit organization that is eligible for a tax deduction. To claim a deduction for a cash donation, you'll need to keep a receipt or a bank record, such as a canceled check, to prove the donation. For donations of $250 or more, you'll need to obtain a written acknowledgment from the charity, which must include the amount of the donation and a statement indicating whether any goods or services were provided in exchange. By keeping proper records and following the rules, you can support your favorite charities and enjoy the tax benefits that come with giving back.

Child Support

Child support is a court-ordered payment from one parent to another for the financial support of their child after a separation or divorce. Child support payments are not deductible by the payer or taxable to the recipient.

Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit is a valuable tax benefit for families with dependent children under the age of 17. For tax years 2018 and later, the credit is worth up to $2,000 per eligible child. In 2023 and expectedly in 2024, the credit remains at $2,000 per child. However, the credit amount is gradually reduced as your adjusted gross income (AGI) increases. This means that families with higher incomes may not be eligible for the full credit amount or may not qualify at all.

Child Tax Credit Changes

The American Rescue Plan introduced significant changes to the Child Tax Credit in 2021. The maximum credit amount increased to $3,600 for children under 6 years old and $3,000 for children between 6 and 17 years old. Previously, the credit was capped at $2,000 per child, and 17-year-olds were not eligible.

However, the new credit comes with lower income limits. If a family's income exceeds these limits, they may still be eligible for the original $2,000 credit, using the previous income and phase-out amounts.

One of the most notable changes is that the entire credit is now fully refundable for 2021. This means that eligible families can receive the credit even if they don't owe federal income tax, providing a more significant financial benefit to those who need it most.

Child and Dependent Care Credit

The Child and Dependent Care Credit is a tax benefit designed to help working individuals and families offset the cost of childcare or caring for a disabled dependent. This credit is separate from the Child Tax Credit and provides a percentage of qualifying expenses, ranging from 20% to 35%, depending on income.

For tax years 2023 and 2024, the credit can be applied to up to $3,000 of qualifying expenses for one child or $6,000 for two or more children.

Circuit Breaker

A circuit breaker is a property tax relief program that provides tax credits or rebates to eligible homeowners or renters based on income, age, disability status, or property taxes paid. It aims to reduce the tax burden on low-income or elderly individuals.

Coefficient of Dispersion (COD)

The Coefficient of Dispersion (COD) is a statistical measure used in property tax assessment to evaluate the uniformity of property valuations. A lower COD indicates more consistent assessments, which is desirable for equitable taxation.

College Credits

If you're paying for higher education expenses, you may be eligible for two valuable tax credits: the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. The American Opportunity credit can provide up to $2,500 per year for each qualifying student, covering the first four years of vocational school or college. This means that if you have multiple children in college at the same time, you could claim multiple credits, potentially worth thousands of dollars.

On the other hand, the Lifetime Learning credit offers up to $2,000 per year for additional schooling, such as graduate studies or professional development courses. However, unlike the American Opportunity credit, you can only claim one Lifetime Learning credit per year, regardless of the number of students you're supporting.

Both credits are subject to income limits, phasing out as your adjusted gross income (AGI) rises. For single taxpayers, the phaseout range is $80,000 to $90,000, while for joint filers, it's $160,000 to $180,000. By claiming these credits, you can significantly reduce your tax liability and offset the costs of higher education.

College Expense Deduction

Unfortunately, the College Expense Deduction, also known as the Tuition and Fees Deduction, is no longer available as of December 31, 2020. Prior to its expiration, eligible taxpayers could deduct up to $4,000 of qualified college tuition and expenses from their taxable income provided their adjusted gross income (AGI) was below $65,000 for single filers or $130,000 for joint filers. This deduction was a valuable tax benefit for families and individuals paying for higher education expenses.

Combat Pay

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces and support personnel serving in combat zones, including peace-keeping efforts, receive special tax treatment on their pay. Enlisted personnel do not have to pay taxes on their military pay while serving in combat or designated peace-keeping zones. Officers, on the other hand, can exclude up to the maximum pay for enlisted personnel (plus imminent danger/hostile fire pay) from their taxable income, with the amount increasing annually. Although this combat pay is tax-free, it's important to note that it may still be considered as compensation when determining eligibility to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or Roth IRA.

Common Level of Appraisal (CLA)

The Common Level of Appraisal (CLA) is a ratio used to adjust property values in a municipality to ensure equitable taxation. It compares assessed values to market values, helping to maintain consistent property tax assessments.

Conservation Easements

If you've donated a conservation easement to a qualified organization, such as a conservation group or a state or local government, you may be eligible for a tax deduction. A conservation easement is a voluntary agreement that restricts the development of your property, typically to preserve its natural or historic value. By donating this easement, you can deduct the resulting decrease in your property's value from your taxable income. This can provide a significant tax benefit while also supporting conservation efforts.

Constructive Receipt

In tax law, the concept of constructive receipt means that you're considered to have received income when it's made available to you, even if you don't actually take possession of it. This means that if you could have received income in a particular year, it's taxable in that year, even if you don't physically receive it until later. For example, if your employer makes a paycheck available to you in December, it's considered constructively received and taxable in that year, even if you don't cash the check until January. Similarly, interest credited to your savings account is considered constructively received and taxable in the year it's credited, regardless of whether you withdraw the funds or not.

Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA)

A Coverdell Education Savings Account (ESA) is a special savings vehicle that allows you to set aside up to $2,000 per year to cover a student's educational expenses. While there's no tax deduction for contributions, the account offers a significant benefit: withdrawals, including any accumulated interest, are tax-free if used to pay for qualifying expenses. The $2,000 annual limit applies per student, regardless of how many individuals contribute to the account. One of the advantages of a Coverdell ESA is its flexibility - funds can be used not only for college expenses but also for primary and high school costs, including the purchase of a computer. By using an ESA, you can save for a student's education while minimizing your tax liability.

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D

Damages

If you receive a settlement in a lawsuit that includes compensation for future medical expenses, the amount you receive for those expenses is not considered taxable income. However, when you use that money to pay for medical expenses, you cannot claim those expenses as an itemized deduction on your tax return. This is because the settlement amount has already been allocated to cover those expenses. You can only deduct medical expenses that exceed the amount of the settlement allocated to medical care. You should enter these excess medical expenses in the "Itemized Deductions" section of your tax return under "Medical & Dental."

Deductions

Deductions are specific expenses that you're allowed to subtract from your total income to arrive at your taxable income. The IRS provides a standard deduction amount that all taxpayers can claim, but if you have qualifying expenses that exceed this amount, you may be able to itemize your deductions and claim a higher amount. While you don't need to keep records to support your standard deduction, you'll need to maintain records of your qualifying expenses if you choose to itemize. Additionally, high-income taxpayers should be aware that their itemized deductions may be reduced if their adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds a certain threshold, which can vary from year to year.

Dependent

A dependent is an individual who relies on you for financial support and whom you can claim on your tax return. As a result, you may be eligible for a dependent credit, which directly reduces your tax liability. Additionally, you may be able to take advantage of other tax benefits, such as the child tax credit, if you have dependents. By claiming dependents on your tax return, you can potentially reduce your tax bill and keep more of your hard-earned money.

Depreciation

As business assets like equipment, vehicles, and buildings are used over time, they naturally lose value due to wear and tear. To account for this decline in value, the tax law allows businesses to claim a deduction called depreciation. This deduction is spread out over a set period of time, known as the asset's "tax life," which varies depending on the type of property. By claiming depreciation, businesses can reduce their taxable income and lower their tax liability. Additionally, there are ways to speed up the depreciation process, known as accelerated depreciation, which can provide even more tax savings.

Direct Rollover

Need to switch your Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or Keogh plan to a new one? Or maybe you want to roll over funds from a company retirement plan, like a 401(k), to an IRA? A direct transfer is a convenient and tax-efficient way to do so. With this method, you instruct the current plan sponsor to transfer the funds directly to your new IRA without you ever taking possession of the money. This approach avoids any potential tax withholding and allows you to make unlimited transfers. In contrast, if you take the funds and deposit them into the new IRA yourself, it's considered a rollover, which has a one-per-year limit per IRA account. Plus, if you're moving funds from a company plan, a direct transfer is a must to avoid a 20% tax withholding, even if you don't owe taxes.

District Advisor

A District Advisor is an IRS employee who assists with local tax matters, providing guidance, resolving disputes, and ensuring compliance with tax laws. They often work directly with taxpayers and businesses within their assigned district.

E

Earned Income

Earned income refers to the money you earn from actively working, such as your salary, wages, commissions, and tips. This type of income is a direct result of your personal efforts and services, and it's the primary source of income for most people. Earned income is distinct from "unearned" income, which includes passive income sources like interest, dividends, and capital gains. These unearned income sources don't require direct involvement or effort, unlike earned income, which is a reward for your hard work and dedication.

Earned Income Credit

If you're a low-to-moderate-income worker, you might be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a valuable tax benefit that can significantly reduce your income tax liability or even result in a refund. The amount of credit you can claim depends on your income level and the number of qualifying children you have. This refundable credit is designed to help working individuals and families who are struggling to make ends meet, providing a much-needed financial boost. By claiming the EITC, you may be able to eliminate your income tax bill and receive a refund for any excess credit.

Education Interest

Are you paying off student loans for yourself, your spouse, or your dependent? You may be eligible to deduct the interest on those loans from your taxable income, even if you don't itemize your deductions. This tax benefit can provide some much-needed relief from the financial burden of higher education expenses. Up to $2,500 of education loan interest can be deducted, but be aware that this benefit is phased out as your income increases. By claiming this deduction, you can reduce your taxable income and lower your tax bill, making it a valuable tax-saver for students and parents alike.

Educator Expenses

As a kindergarten through 12th-grade teacher, you know that out-of-pocket expenses for classroom supplies can add up quickly. Fortunately, the IRS offers a special deduction just for you. You can claim a tax deduction for the money you spend on classroom materials, and the best part is that you don't need to itemize your deductions to qualify. This "adjustment to income" allows you to subtract your eligible expenses from your taxable income, reducing your tax bill and giving you a well-deserved break.

Effective Tax Rate

The effective tax rate is the average rate at which an individual's or business's income is taxed. It is calculated by dividing total tax liability by total taxable income, providing a measure of the overall tax burden.

Elderly or Disabled Credit

If you're 65 or older or permanently and totally disabled, you may be eligible for a special tax credit designed to help low-income individuals in these situations. This credit is intended to provide some financial relief to those who need it most, but it's worth noting that the eligibility criteria are quite specific, so not many taxpayers qualify. If you think you might be eligible, it's worth exploring this credit to see if you can benefit from it.

Electronic Filing

Looking for the quickest way to submit your tax return or request an extension to the IRS and your state revenue office? Electronic filing is the answer! This convenient and efficient method allows you to transmit your tax information directly to the authorities, saving you time and hassle. With electronic filing, you can expect faster processing, reduced errors, and even quicker refunds. It's the modern way to file your taxes and get on with your life!

Energy Credits

Going green has its perks! The Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit is a tax incentive that rewards homeowners for investing in qualified alternative energy equipment, such as solar hot water heaters and solar electricity systems. This credit, available through 2032, covers 30% of the cost of eligible property, with a slight reduction to 26% for 2020 and 2021. The best part? There's no limit to the amount of credit you can claim! You can even include labor costs in your calculation and carry over any unused credits to future years. To qualify, the equipment must be installed in your primary U.S. residence, and fuel cell property must be installed in your main home. By upgrading to energy-efficient solutions, you'll not only reduce your carbon footprint but also enjoy significant tax savings.

Enrolled Agent

When it comes to dealing with the IRS, you want a tax professional who has the expertise and authority to represent you. An Enrolled Agent (EA) is a licensed tax preparer who has demonstrated their knowledge and skills by passing a rigorous IRS exam or through prior work experience with the IRS. As a result, EAs are authorized to represent clients like you during IRS audits and appeals, providing guidance and support throughout the process. With an EA on your side, you can rest assured that your tax matters are in good hands.

Estate Tax

If you're planning for the future or dealing with the estate of a loved one, it's essential to understand the estate tax. For 2023, the exemption amount is set at $12,920,000, meaning that estates worth less than this amount are not subject to federal estate tax. However, estates exceeding this threshold may be taxed at a maximum rate of 40%. Looking ahead to 2024, the exemption amount is expected to increase to $13,610,000, providing some relief for larger estates. It's crucial to stay informed about these changes to ensure you're prepared for the future and can minimize the tax burden on your loved ones.

Estimated Tax

Do you have income that isn't subject to automatic withholding, such as investments, freelance work, or self-employment earnings? If so, you may need to take proactive steps to ensure you're meeting your tax obligations. The IRS requires individuals with non-withheld income to make quarterly estimated tax payments throughout the year. This is to cover your expected tax liability and avoid potential penalties. By making these payments, you can avoid a large tax bill when you file your return and stay on top of your tax responsibilities.

Excess Social Security Tax Withheld

If you've had multiple jobs in a year, either simultaneously or consecutively, you might be surprised to find that too much Social Security tax has been withheld from your paychecks. This happens because each employer is required to withhold the tax, but there's a limit to how much you need to pay. If your combined wages from multiple jobs exceed the annual limit, you'll end up paying too much in Social Security taxes. The good news is that you can claim a credit for the excess amount when you file your tax return, which means you'll get a refund for the overpayment.

Exemptions

Before the tax law changes in 2018, personal exemptions were a valuable tax deduction that could reduce your taxable income. You could claim a personal exemption for yourself, and if you filed a joint return, you could claim one for your spouse as well. Additionally, you could claim an exemption for each dependent you listed on your tax return. Each exemption amount was a standard deduction that lowered your taxable income, although it was gradually phased out at higher income levels. However, starting with the 2018 tax year, personal exemptions are no longer a deduction for taxable income.

Expensing

Are you a business owner looking to reduce your taxable income? Expensing, also known as the Section 179 deduction, can help. This tax strategy allows you to treat a portion of your business expenditures as immediate deductions rather than depreciating them over several years. This means you can write off the cost of certain assets, such as equipment or software, in the first year rather than spreading the deduction out over time. By expensing these costs, you can lower your taxable income and reduce your tax liability, giving your business a financial boost.

F

Fellowships

Fellowships are grants or stipends awarded to individuals, usually for academic research or study. The tax treatment of fellowships depends on their use; amounts used for qualified education expenses may be tax-free, while other amounts may be taxable.

FICA

FICA, or the Federal Insurance Contribution Act, is a crucial tax that supports two essential programs: Social Security and Medicare. This tax is typically shared equally between employers and employees, with each contributing 50% of the total amount. The funds collected through FICA taxes are used to provide financial assistance to retired workers, disabled individuals, and those who are eligible for Medicare. By paying FICA taxes, you're helping to ensure the continued availability of these vital programs for yourself and others.

Filing Status

When it comes to filing your taxes, your filing status plays a significant role in determining your tax obligations. Your status affects the amount of your standard deduction and the tax rates that apply to your income. There are five main filing statuses to choose from: single, married filing jointly, married filing separately, head of household, and qualifying widow or widower. Each status has its own set of rules and implications, so it's essential to choose the correct one to ensure you're taking advantage of the tax benefits you're eligible for.

First-Time Homebuyer Credit

The First-Time Homebuyer Credit was a tax credit available to first-time homebuyers who purchased a home between 2008 and 2010. It provided a refundable credit to help cover the cost of buying a primary residence.

Flexible Spending Account

A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is a tax-advantaged account that allows employees to set aside pre-tax dollars for eligible medical, dental, vision, and dependent care expenses. Funds must be used within the plan year or a grace period.

Forgiven Debt

The forgiven debt is debt that a lender cancels or forgives. Generally, the forgiven amount is considered taxable income unless it qualifies for an exclusion, such as insolvency or bankruptcy.

G

Gift Tax

To prevent individuals from circumventing the estate tax by transferring their assets to others, the gift tax was introduced. In 2023, you can give up to $17,000 per year to as many individuals as you like without incurring this tax. This annual exclusion amount is expected to increase to $18,000 in 2024. It's essential to note that any part of the credit used to offset taxable gifts will not be available to reduce the estate tax. Additionally, the gift tax is the responsibility of the giver, not the recipient. By understanding these rules and limits, you can make informed decisions about your gifts and minimize your tax liability.

Gross Income

Gross income refers to the total amount of money you earn from all taxable sources without subtracting any deductions, exemptions, or adjustments. This includes income from your job, investments, self-employment, and any other sources that are subject to taxation. Think of it as your total earnings before any tax breaks or reductions are applied. Understanding your gross income is an essential step in calculating your tax liability and planning your finances effectively.

H

Head of Household

If you're an unmarried individual or a married person who is considered unmarried for tax purposes, you may be eligible for the head of household filing status. This status offers lower tax rates and is designed for those who bear the majority of the cost of maintaining a home for themselves and a qualifying person, such as a child or dependent, for more than half of the tax year. To qualify, you must pay more than half of the household expenses and meet certain other requirements. By filing as head of household, you may be able to reduce your tax liability and keep more of your hard-earned money.

Health Savings Account (HSA)

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a special savings account that allows individuals under 65 to set aside money on a tax-deductible basis to cover medical expenses. To be eligible, you must have a high-deductible health insurance policy. The funds in an HSA grow tax-deferred, similar to an IRA, and can be used to pay for qualifying medical expenses, such as deductibles, copays, and prescriptions, without incurring taxes or penalties. Any unused funds can be rolled over to the next year. However, if you withdraw earnings for non-qualifying purposes before age 65, you'll face taxes and a 10% penalty. Once you reach 65, you can no longer contribute to an HSA, but you can still use the funds for medical expenses without penalty, although you'll pay taxes on non-qualifying withdrawals.

Highly-Paid Individuals

If you're a highly paid individual, you may face limits on your retirement plan contributions due to anti-discrimination rules. For 2023, you're considered highly paid if you earn over $150,000 or own 5% or more of a company that offers a retirement plan. These rules are in place to ensure that lower-paid employees have equal access to retirement benefits. If lower-paid employees don't contribute enough to a 401(k) plan, for example, higher-paid employees may have some of their contributions returned at the end of the year, which would be treated as taxable income. Note that the threshold for highly compensated employees increases to $155,000 for 2024.

Hobby-Loss Rule

To deduct business losses on your tax return, you need to demonstrate that you're genuinely trying to make a profit. The IRS uses a simple test to determine whether your activity is a business or a hobby. If you report a taxable profit for at least three out of five years (or two out of seven years if you're involved in horse breeding, showing, or racing), the IRS assumes you're in business to make a profit. However, if you don't meet this threshold, your activity is presumed to be a hobby unless you can provide evidence to the contrary. This distinction is crucial because if your hobby expenses exceed your income, the difference is considered a personal expense, not a tax-deductible business loss.

Holding Period

When you buy and sell an asset, the length of time you own it determines how your profit or loss is taxed. This period, known as the holding period, affects whether your gain or loss is considered short-term or long-term. If you sell an asset within a year of buying it, the result is a short-term capital gain or loss. On the other hand, if you hold onto the asset for more than 12 months, the result is a long-term capital gain or loss. The holding period starts the day after you purchase the asset and ends on the day you sell it. For example, if you buy an asset on January 4, your holding period begins on January 5. If you sell it on the following January 4, you've owned it for exactly one year, which means you'll be subject to short-term tax treatment. To qualify for the more favorable long-term tax treatment, you'd need to hold onto the asset until January 5 of the following year so that you've owned it for more than one year.

Home Equity Loans

A home equity loan is a type of debt that uses your primary residence or second home as collateral. This can include a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit. Prior to 2018, the interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt was tax-deductible, making it a popular way to finance large expenses or consolidate debt. However, starting in 2018, the rules changed, and home equity interest is no longer deductible unless it's used to buy, build, or substantially improve your home. This means that if you use a home equity loan for other purposes, such as paying off credit card debt or financing a vacation, the interest will not be tax-deductible. It's essential to understand these rules to make informed decisions about your finances and minimize your tax liability.

Home Office Expenses

If you use a dedicated space in your home regularly and exclusively for business purposes, you may be eligible to deduct certain expenses that would otherwise be considered personal expenses. This can include a portion of your utility bills, homeowner's insurance premiums, and even depreciation on your home (if you own it) or a part of your rent (if you're a renter). To qualify, the space must be used as the primary location for your business or as a meeting place for clients, patients, or customers. By deducting these expenses, you can reduce your taxable income and lower your tax liability.

Home Sale Profit

When selling your primary residence, you may be eligible for a significant tax break. If you've owned and lived in the home for at least two of the five years leading up to the sale, you can exclude up to $250,000 of profit from your taxable income ($500,000 for married couples filing jointly). This benefit can be used multiple times, but not more than once every two years. Additionally, if you're a surviving spouse, you're considered married and eligible for the $500,000 exclusion if you sell the home within two years of your spouse's passing. This tax-free profit can be a substantial advantage for homeowners, providing a welcome reduction in their tax liability.

Homebuyer Credit

The Homebuyer Credit was a valuable tax incentive available to individuals who purchased a primary residence in the United States between April 9, 2008, and April 30, 2010. The credit amount varied depending on the purchase year and the buyer's situation. For 2008 purchases, the maximum credit was $7,500 or 10% of the purchase price, while for 2009 and 2010 purchases, it was $8,000 or 10% of the purchase price. Repeat buyers who had owned a primary residence for at least five consecutive years in the eight years leading up to the purchase date were eligible for a reduced credit of $6,500 or 10% of the purchase price.

The credit was subject to income limits and was phased out at higher income levels. Additionally, the purchase price of the new primary residence could not exceed $800,000. The credit was fully refundable, meaning it could be used to offset regular tax and alternative minimum tax liabilities, with any excess amount refunded to the buyer in cash.

It's worth noting that credits for 2008 purchases were required to be repaid over 15 years, starting in 2010, while credits for 2009 and 2010 purchases did not need to be repaid. Buyers could claim the credit on their tax return for the previous year, and certain military service members were eligible for liberalized rules.

Hope Credit (now the American Opportunity Credit)

The Hope Credit, now the American Opportunity Credit, is a tax credit for qualified education expenses paid for an eligible student for the first four years of higher education. It covers tuition, fees, and course materials, offering a maximum annual credit.

Household Employees

If you hire someone to work in your home, such as a nanny, housekeeper, or gardener, you may be responsible for paying certain taxes on their behalf. This is the case if you employ them directly rather than hiring them through a service company or considering them an independent contractor. In 2023, you'll need to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes if you pay your household employee $2,600 or more during the year. This is often referred to as the "nanny tax." Additionally, if you pay your employee $1,000 or more in any calendar quarter, you'll also need to pay federal unemployment tax. For 2024, the threshold for paying Social Security and Medicare taxes increases to $2,700 or more during the year. It's essential to understand these tax obligations to ensure you're meeting your responsibilities as a household employer.

I

Imported Drugs

Imported drugs are medications brought into the United States from other countries. Generally, these drugs are not deductible unless they are FDA-approved and legally imported, following strict regulations.

Imputed Interest

Imputed interest is the interest you are deemed to have earned and must pay taxes on if you issue a loan at a below-market rate. This term also applies to the interest income that must be reported on taxable zero-coupon bonds. Even though these bonds do not pay interest until they mature, you are required to report and pay taxes on the interest as it accrues.

Incentive Stock Option

An incentive stock option (ISO) enables an employee to buy their employer's stock at a price below the current market value. For regular income tax, the "spread" or "bargain element"—the difference between the exercise price and the market value—is not taxed when the option is exercised but is taxed when the stock is sold. However, for alternative minimum tax purposes, this spread is taxed in the year the option is exercised.

Indexing

Indexing automatically adjusts certain tax benefits, such as standard deductions, exemption amounts, and the thresholds of each tax bracket, annually based on increases in the consumer price index. This adjustment helps prevent inflation from reducing the value of these benefits.

Individual 401(k) Plan

The 401(k) rules allow self-employed individuals with no employees (except for their spouse) to contribute significantly more to their retirement savings than before. In 2023, self-employed individuals can contribute up to $66,000 to a solo 401(k). Those aged 50 and older can add an extra "catch-up" contribution of up to $7,500. For 2024, the contribution limit increases to $69,000, while the catch-up contribution limit remains the same.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA)

An Individual Retirement Account (IRA) without "Roth" in its name refers to a traditional IRA, a tax-advantaged account aimed at encouraging retirement savings. If your income is below a certain threshold or you aren’t covered by a workplace retirement plan, contributions to a traditional IRA may be deductible. For 2023, the maximum annual contribution—whether deductible or not—is $6,500 or 100% of your annual compensation, whichever is lower. This limit increases to $7,000 for 2024. Individuals aged 50 or older can make an additional $1,000 "catch-up" contribution, raising their limit to $7,500 for 2023 and $8,000 for 2024. Additionally, a working spouse can contribute to an IRA for a non-working spouse. Taxes on earnings within the IRA are deferred until funds are withdrawn, with a penalty generally applying for early withdrawals before age 59½. The ability to deduct contributions phases out at higher income levels for those with a workplace retirement plan. See also Roth IRA.

Individual Retirement Arrangement

An Individual Retirement Arrangement is a broad term encompassing various retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs, SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs. These accounts offer different tax benefits and contribution limits.

Innocent Spouse Rules

Innocent spouse rules are tax provisions designed to protect married taxpayers who file joint returns from being held liable for taxes due to their spouse's errors, such as not reporting income or claiming false deductions. If you can demonstrate that you were unaware and had no reason to be aware of the error that led to the tax underpayment on the joint return, you can be absolved of responsibility for that underpayment. You have two years from when the IRS begins collection efforts to request innocent spouse relief.

Installment Sale

In an installment sale, you agree to receive payment from the buyer over several years. This allows you to report the profit gradually as you receive the payments rather than reporting the entire profit in the year the sale occurs.

Investment Interest

Investment interest refers to interest paid on loans used for investment purposes, such as buying stock on margin. If you itemize deductions on Schedule A, you can deduct this interest up to the amount of investment income (excluding capital gains or dividends that qualify for the 0%, 15%, or 20% rates) that you report.

IRA Payouts for First-Time Homebuyers

Typically, withdrawing funds from a traditional IRA before age 59½ incurs a 10% tax penalty. However, this penalty is waived for withdrawals up to $10,000 if the money is used to purchase a first home for yourself, your child or grandchild, or your parents or grandparents.

IRA Withdrawals for Education

The usual 10% penalty for early withdrawals from traditional IRAs before age 59½ is waived if the funds are used to pay for higher education expenses for yourself, your spouse, or a dependent. However, the withdrawn amount is still subject to regular income tax.

Itemized Deductions

Itemized deductions are specific expenses that taxpayers can list on their tax returns to reduce taxable income. Common itemized deductions include mortgage interest, state and local taxes, medical expenses, and charitable contributions.

J

Job-Hunting Costs

For tax years prior to 2018, job-hunting costs in the same line of work were deductible. Qualifying expenses included want-ads, employment agency fees, printing and mailing resumes, and travel costs such as transportation, lodging, and 50% of food if your job search required overnight travel. However, starting in 2018, these expenses are no longer deductible.

Job-Related Education

For tax years prior to 2018, the cost of education that maintains or improves skills for your current job or is required to keep your job was deductible. Starting in 2018, these expenses are no longer deductible. For the self-employed, however, the related education may still be deductible. Education that qualifies you for a new trade or business, such as law school, is not eligible for this deduction but may qualify for the American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning tax credit.

Job-Related Move

Job-related move expenses refer to the costs of relocating for a new job or job location. Before 2018, these expenses were deductible if the move met certain distance and time tests, but the deduction is currently suspended except for active-duty military.

Jury Duty Pay Repaid to Employer

If you are required to turn over your jury fees to your employer in exchange for continuing to receive your salary while serving, you can deduct these fees. This deduction offsets the jury fee income you must report if the money simply passes through your hands.

K

Keogh Plan

A Keogh plan, also known as an HR-10 plan, is a retirement plan designed for the self-employed. You can contribute up to 20% of your net earnings from self-employment, with a maximum contribution of $66,000 for 2023 and $69,000 for 2024, into a defined contribution Keogh plan. These contributions are tax-deductible, and the earnings grow tax-deferred until they are withdrawn. There are restrictions on accessing the funds before age 59½.

Kiddie Cards

"Kiddie cards" refer to the Social Security cards required for any child you claim as a dependent on your tax return. The nine-digit number on the card must be included on the tax return of the parent claiming the child. If your child is born late in the year and you haven't received their Social Security number by the time you need to file, the IRS requires you to delay filing, even if it means requesting an extension. If you claim a dependent without including their Social Security number, the exemption will be denied, and your tax bill will increase.

Kiddie Tax

The kiddie tax applies to the unearned income of children under 19 and dependent students under 24, taxing it at the parents' higher tax rate. For 2023, this tax only applies to unearned income exceeding $2,500. The threshold is expected to increase to $2,600 for 2024.

L

Lifetime Learning Credit

The Lifetime Learning Credit is a tax credit for qualified tuition and related expenses paid for eligible students enrolled in an eligible educational institution. It provides a credit of up to $2,000 per tax return, available for an unlimited number of years.

Like-Kind Exchange

A like-kind exchange allows for the tax-free swap of similar assets, such as trading real estate for real estate. The tax on any profit from the first property is deferred until the new property is sold.

Limited Partnerships

Limited partnerships are business entities with at least one general partner who manages the business and one or more limited partners who invest capital but have limited liability and no active role in management. Income and losses are passed through to partners.

Listed Property

"Listed property" refers to depreciable assets that Congress has designated for special scrutiny by the IRS. This category includes items that might be used for both personal and business purposes, such as cars, computers, cell phones, boats, airplanes, and photographic and video equipment. However, if computers or photographic/video equipment are used exclusively at your regular place of business, they are not considered listed property. Special restrictions apply to the depreciation of listed property if it is used for business purposes less than 50% of the time.

Long-Term Care Insurance Premium

Premiums paid for long-term care insurance are deductible as a medical expense. The maximum annual deduction varies based on your age.

Long-Term Gain or Loss

A long-term gain or loss results from the sale of a capital asset held for more than one year. Long-term gains are generally taxed at lower rates than short-term gains, while long-term losses can offset other capital gains and up to $3,000 of ordinary income.

Lump-Sum Distribution

A lump-sum distribution is the payment of your entire interest in a pension or profit-sharing plan within one year. To qualify for favorable tax treatment, specific requirements must be met.

Luxury Car Rules

Luxury car rules impose limits on the annual depreciation deductions for business automobiles that exceed a specified cost.

M

Margin Interest

Margin interest is the interest paid on borrowed funds used to purchase investments, typically through a brokerage account. This interest is deductible up to the amount of net investment income, subject to specific rules and limits.

Marginal Tax Rate

The marginal tax rate is the portion of each additional dollar of income that goes to the IRS. This rate can be higher than the rate in your top tax bracket because increased income can reduce the value of certain tax breaks, resulting in a higher effective tax rate. Understanding your marginal tax rate helps you determine how much of each extra dollar you earn goes to the IRS and how much you save for every dollar of deductions you claim.

Marital Deduction

The marital deduction is a tax law provision that allows any amount of property to be transferred between spouses—either as lifetime gifts or bequests—without incurring federal gift or estate taxes.

Market Discount

Market discount refers to the difference between the purchase price of a bond and its higher face value. The tax treatment of this discount depends on whether the bond is taxable or tax-free and whether you redeem it at maturity or sell it beforehand.

Master Limited Partnerships (MLP)

Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) are similar to regular limited partnerships, but their shares are traded on major exchanges, providing greater liquidity. While losses in limited partnerships are considered passive, income from an MLP is classified as investment income. Consequently, passive losses cannot be used to offset MLP income.

Material Participation

Material participation is the test used to determine if you are sufficiently involved in a business to bypass the passive-loss rules. To qualify as a material participant, you must be involved in the business on a "regular, continuous, and substantial basis." One way to meet this requirement is by participating in the business for more than 500 hours during the year.

Medicare Tax

The Medicare tax is part of the combined Social Security and Medicare tax, with employees paying 1.45% and self-employed taxpayers paying 2.9%. Unlike the Social Security tax, which has an income limit of $160,200 in 2023 (increasing to $168,600 in 2024), the Medicare tax applies to all wages and self-employment income regardless of the amount.

Midmonth Convention

The midmonth convention is a rule that treats certain types of depreciable property, such as real estate, as if they were placed in service in the middle of the month they were first used.

Midquarter Convention

Typically, business property is depreciated using a midyear rule, which allows for half a year's depreciation in the first year, regardless of when the property is purchased. However, if you acquire more than 40% of your business property in the fourth quarter, the mid-quarter convention applies. Under this rule, you depreciate each asset as if it were placed in service in the middle of the calendar quarter in which it was purchased. For example, property put into service in the final quarter would receive six weeks' worth of depreciation.

Mileage Rate

The mileage rate is the IRS-approved rate used to calculate the deductible costs of operating a vehicle for business, medical, moving, or charitable purposes. The rate is updated annually and reflects the average costs of operating a vehicle.

Mortgage Interest

Mortgage interest refers to the deductible interest paid on debt classified as acquisition indebtedness or home equity debt.

For tax years before 2018, you could deduct interest on up to $1 million of acquisition indebtedness if you itemize deductions. Additionally, interest on up to $100,000 of home equity debt could be deductible if certain conditions were met.

Starting in 2018, deductible interest for new loans is limited to principal amounts of $750,000. However, loans originated before December 16, 2017, or under a binding contract that closes before April 1, 2018, remain subject to the old rules for tax years prior to 2018.

Moving Expenses

For tax years prior to 2018, some moving costs related to starting a new job are deductible. To qualify, the new job must be at least 50 miles farther from your old home than your previous job. Deductible expenses include moving your household goods and travel and lodging costs for you and your family. If you moved for your first job, the 50-mile test applies to the distance between your old home and your new job. This deduction is available even if you claim the standard deduction instead of itemizing.

Starting in 2018, moving expenses are no longer deductible, except for certain members of the military.

Multiple-Support Agreement

A multiple-support agreement is an arrangement where two or more taxpayers who collectively provide more than half of someone's support agree that one of them will claim the supported person as a dependent, while the others agree not to claim them.

N

Nanny Tax

Nanny tax refers to the employment taxes paid by household employers for wages paid to household employees, such as nannies or cleaners. Employers must withhold and pay Social Security, Medicare, and federal unemployment taxes.

Net Unrealized Appreciation (NUA)

If you're leaving a job and need to decide what to do with your company retirement plan, you may have a valuable opportunity to minimize taxes and maximize your gains. Specifically, if your plan includes appreciated employer securities, you can take advantage of Net Unrealized 

Appreciation (NUA).

Instead of rolling the entire plan balance into an IRA, you can transfer the appreciated securities to a taxable brokerage account. This strategy allows you to pay taxes only on the original value of the shares, not their current appreciated value. The NUA - the gain that occurred while the stock was in the plan - won't be taxed until you sell the shares.

When you do sell, the profit will be eligible for favorable long-term capital gain treatment, which can be more tax-efficient than ordinary income tax rates. In contrast, if you roll the securities into an IRA, all appreciation will be taxed as ordinary income when you withdraw the funds at your top tax rate. By leveraging NUA, you can potentially save thousands of dollars in taxes and make the most of your company retirement plan.

New, Temporary Advance Child Tax Credit Payments

The New Temporary Advance Child Tax Credit Payments were part of the American Rescue Plan, providing eligible families with advance monthly payments of the Child Tax Credit in 2021. These payments aimed to reduce child poverty and financial hardship.

Nonbusiness Bad Debt

If you've lent money to a friend or made a deposit to a contractor who's gone bankrupt, you may be able to claim a tax deduction for the loss. This type of debt is considered a nonbusiness bad debt, and it's deductible as a short-term capital loss on your tax return.

To qualify for the deduction, you'll need to demonstrate that you've made a reasonable effort to collect the debt, but unfortunately, it's become entirely worthless. This could include sending reminders, making phone calls, or even taking legal action.

Once you've exhausted all avenues and the debt is deemed unrecoverable, you can claim the loss on your tax return. This can help offset your taxable income and reduce your tax liability.

Noncash Contributions

When you donate assets to a charity, you can claim a tax deduction for their fair market value, but there are some rules to keep in mind. If you've owned the asset for more than a year, you can deduct its full fair market value. However, if you've owned it for a year or less, your deduction is limited to what you originally paid for it.

If your total donations are worth more than $500, you'll need to file Form 8283 and provide details about each asset, including its description and value. If the value of your donations exceeds $5,000, you'll typically need to include an appraisal to support your claim unless you're donating publicly traded securities.

It's also important to note that when donating used items like clothing, furniture, or household goods, you can only deduct their value if they're in excellent or good condition.

Nonqualified Stock Options

Nonqualified stock options are a type of employee compensation that allows workers to purchase company stock at a predetermined price. Unlike incentive stock options, they don't meet specific requirements to qualify for special tax treatment. When these options are granted, there's no immediate tax impact.

However, when employees exercise their nonqualified stock options to buy company stock, they'll face tax consequences. The "spread" or "bargain element" - the difference between the option's exercise price and the stock's current market value - is considered taxable income. This means the employee will be taxed on the gain as if it were additional compensation, such as a bonus or salary.

O

Original Issue Discount (OID)

When you purchase a bond at a price lower than its face value, the difference between the two is known as the Original Issue Discount (OID). This discount is essentially a form of interest that accrues over the life of the bond.

For taxable bonds, a portion of the OID must be reported as taxable interest income each year you hold the bond. This means that even though you haven't received any cash interest payments, you'll still need to report a portion of the OID as income on your tax return. This can impact your tax liability, so it's essential to understand how OID works and how it affects your bond investments.

Out-of-Pocket Charitable Contributions

When you volunteer your time and resources to help a charitable organization, you may incur various expenses that can be deducted from your tax return. These out-of-pocket charitable contributions can add up and provide a valuable tax benefit.

From the cost of gas for driving to and from charity events (typically 14 cents per mile) to the expense of stamps, stationery, and other supplies for fundraising activities, you can deduct these expenditures as charitable contributions. By keeping track of these expenses and itemizing them on your tax return, you can reduce your taxable income and lower your tax liability.

P

Passive-Loss Rules

If you invest in activities where you don't actively participate, such as rental properties or limited partnerships, these are considered passive activities. The losses you incur from these investments can only be used to offset income from similar passive investments. Unfortunately, you can't use these losses to reduce your taxable income from other sources, like your salary, interest, dividends, or capital gains.

There are some exceptions to this rule, however. Real estate professionals, for example, may be able to deduct losses from their investments against their ordinary income. Additionally, if you're an individual who actively participates in rental real estate, you may be able to deduct some losses against your ordinary income.

If you have passive losses that you can't use in the current year because you don't have enough passive income to offset them, don't worry. You can carry these losses over to future years, where they may be deductible against the passive income you earn in those years.

Personal Exemption

Personal exemption was an amount taxpayers could deduct for themselves, their spouses, and dependents. This exemption reduced taxable income but was suspended from 2018 to 2025 by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Personal Interest

Personal interest refers to the interest you pay on various personal loans and debts that don't qualify for tax deductions. This includes interest on credit cards, car loans, life insurance policy loans, and any other personal borrowing that isn't secured by your primary residence or a qualified second home.

Unlike mortgage interest, business interest, student loan interest, and investment interest, personal interest is not tax-deductible. This means you won't be able to claim these interest expenses on your tax return to reduce your taxable income. As a result, it's essential to manage your personal debt wisely and explore ways to minimize your interest payments to avoid unnecessary expenses.

Points

When you take out a mortgage to buy or improve your primary residence, you may encounter points, which are fees equal to 1% of the mortgage amount. The good news is that points paid on a mortgage to purchase or improve your principal home are generally fully tax-deductible in the year you pay them.

Here's a bonus: even if the seller agrees to pay the points on your behalf, you can still deduct them as long as you've contributed enough cash at closing, such as a down payment, to cover the points. However, if you're refinancing your mortgage or buying a different property, the rules change. In these cases, you'll need to deduct the points over the life of the loan rather than all at once.

It's essential to understand how mortgage points work and how they impact your tax situation so you can make the most of this valuable deduction.

Preference Items

When it comes to taxes, there are certain benefits that are allowed under the regular income tax system but not under the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). These benefits are known as preference items, and they can have a significant impact on your tax liability.

Some common examples of preference items include the deduction of state and local taxes, as well as interest on home equity loans. However, one preference item that's becoming increasingly important for many taxpayers is the "spread" between the exercise price and the value of stock purchased with incentive stock options. While this amount isn't subject to regular income tax, it is considered a preference item and can trigger the AMT.

This means that if you're affected by the AMT, you may end up paying taxes on this amount, even though you wouldn't have to under the regular tax system. It's essential to understand how preference items work and how they can impact your tax situation, especially if you're someone who exercises incentive stock options or has other tax benefits that could trigger the AMT.

Premature Distribution

If you withdraw money from your company's retirement plan before turning 55 (in most cases) or from a traditional IRA before reaching age 59½, you may face a 10% penalty. This means you'll have to pay an extra 10% of the withdrawn amount as a penalty, in addition to any taxes owed. It's essential to consider these rules before making an early withdrawal from your retirement savings."

Prizes and Awards

If you're lucky enough to win a prize or award, congratulations are in order! However, it's essential to remember that the value of your prize or award is generally considered taxable income. This means that if you hit the jackpot in a lottery or sweepstakes, you'll need to report the winnings on your tax return and pay taxes on them.

There is one exception to this rule, though. Certain non-cash employee awards, such as a traditional "gold watch" or other symbolic recognition, may be tax-free. These types of awards are typically given to employees in recognition of their service or achievements, and they're not considered taxable income.

It's always a good idea to check the tax implications of any prize or award you receive so you can plan accordingly and avoid any unexpected tax bills.

Property Taxes

Property taxes are taxes assessed on real estate by local governments. Homeowners can deduct these taxes if they itemize deductions, subject to the overall limit on state and local tax deductions.

Q

Qualified Plan

A qualified plan is a type of employee benefit plan, such as a pension or profit-sharing plan, that meets the strict requirements set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The purpose of these plans is to safeguard the interests of employees, ensuring they receive the benefits they're entitled to. By meeting IRS standards, qualified plans provide a secure way for employers to offer retirement savings and other benefits to their employees."

R

Real Estate Taxes

As a homeowner, you're eligible to deduct the real estate taxes you pay on your property from your taxable income. Prior to 2018, there was no limit on the number of personal residences or properties you could claim deductions for. However, starting in 2018, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act introduced a cap of $10,000 per year on the total amount of state and local taxes, including real estate taxes, that can be deducted. This means you can still claim a deduction, but it's now subject to this annual limit.

Recapture of Depreciation

When you depreciate an investment property, its tax basis decreases over time. However, when you sell the property, the IRS takes a closer look at the profit. If the profit is partly due to the reduced basis (rather than the property's appreciation in value), you'll face a tax consequence known as depreciation recapture. This means that up to 25% of the profit will be taxed at a higher rate rather than the standard 20% long-term capital gains rate. This recapture provision ensures that you don't get to keep the entire depreciation tax break you claimed over the years.

Reimbursement Account

A reimbursement account, also known as a flexible spending account or salary reduction plan, is a valuable fringe benefit offered by some employers. It allows employees to set aside a portion of their salary on a pre-tax basis, which is then used to reimburse them for eligible medical or childcare expenses. The best part? The funds contributed to the account are exempt from federal income taxes, Social Security taxes, and state income taxes, reducing the employee's overall tax liability. This means employees can save money on taxes while also covering essential expenses.

Retirement Saver's Credit

The Retirement Saver's Credit is a valuable incentive designed to encourage lower-income workers to save for their golden years. If you contribute to an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement plan, you may be eligible for a credit worth up to 50% of your contributions, with a maximum credit amount of $1,000 ($2,000 for joint filers). The credit is available for contributions of up to $2,000. However, the credit amount phases out as your income increases. Additionally, taxpayers under 18 and those claimed as dependents on their parent's tax returns are not eligible, regardless of their income. This credit is a great way to get a head start on your retirement savings while reducing your tax liability.

Rollover

A rollover is a tax-free transfer of funds from one individual retirement account (IRA) to another or from a company-sponsored retirement plan to an IRA. This allows you to consolidate your retirement savings or switch to a new plan without incurring taxes or penalties. However, it's essential to follow the rules: if you take possession of the funds, you must deposit them into the new IRA within 60 days to avoid taxes and penalties. Be aware that if you're rolling over funds from a company plan to an IRA, 20% of the amount will be automatically withheld for the IRS, even though the rollover is tax-free. To avoid this withholding, consider using the direct transfer method, which allows you to move funds directly from the company plan to the IRA without taking possession of the money. See Direct Transfer for more information.

Roth 401(k)

Employers can now offer a Roth 401(k) option, allowing employees to invest after-tax dollars in exchange for tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This is in contrast to traditional 401(k) plans, where you contribute pre-tax money and pay taxes on withdrawals in retirement. If your employer offers a matching contribution, it will go into the traditional 401(k) account, and you'll pay taxes on those distributions. The same contribution limits apply to Roth 401(k)s as traditional plans: for 2023, the maximum employee contribution is $22,500, and an additional $7,500 "catch-up" contribution is allowed for those 50 or older. You can split your contributions between traditional and Roth 401(k) accounts, but the combined total can't exceed the annual limits. Note that the limits increase to $23,000 for 2024, with the catch-up limit remaining at $7,500.

Roth IRA

The Roth IRA, named after Senator William Roth of Delaware, offers a unique benefit: tax-free withdrawals in retirement. Unlike traditional IRAs, contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax-deductible, but all earnings and withdrawals are tax-free, as long as you wait until age 59½ and at least five years after opening your first Roth account. The annual contribution limits are the same as traditional IRAs: $6,500 in 2023, with an additional $1,000 catch-up contribution allowed for those 50 and older. However, there's an income limit: if you earn too much, you won't be eligible to contribute to a Roth IRA. Note that the limits increase to $7,000 for 2024, with the catch-up limit remaining at $1,000.

Another option is to convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA, which allows future earnings to grow tax-free. This is called a Roth IRA conversion. However, you'll need to pay taxes on the amount you transfer from the traditional IRA to the Roth IRA. Starting in 2010, there's no income restriction on Roth IRA conversions, making it a more accessible option for many individuals.

S

S Corporation

An S corporation, named after the relevant section of the tax code, offers a unique tax advantage. Instead of being taxed at the corporate level, the company's profits and losses are distributed to its shareholders, who then report them on their individual tax returns. This means the S corporation itself typically doesn't owe taxes, passing the tax burden to its owners.

Salary Reduction Plan

A salary reduction plan allows employees to contribute a portion of their salary to a retirement plan, such as a 401(k) or 403(b), on a pre-tax basis. These contributions reduce taxable income and grow tax-deferred until withdrawn.

Sales Taxes

If you itemize your deductions, you may be eligible to claim a deduction for state and local sales taxes you've paid. However, you'll need to choose between deducting sales taxes or state and local income taxes. If you live in a state with no income tax, the sales tax deduction is likely your best bet. The good news is that you don't need to keep every single receipt to take advantage of this deduction. The IRS provides a helpful table that estimates your sales tax payments based on your income, family size, and location. You can also add to this amount any sales taxes paid on major purchases, such as vehicles, boats, or planes. In some cases, these big-ticket items may result in higher sales tax payments than income tax, making the sales tax deduction a more valuable choice. Ultimately, you can choose the deduction that yields the greatest tax benefit for you.

Saver's Credit

The Saver's Credit is a tax credit for low- and moderate-income taxpayers who contribute to a retirement plan, such as an IRA or 401(k). The credit can reduce overall tax liability and encourage retirement savings.

Scholarships and Fellowships

If you're a degree-seeking student, you may be eligible for tax-free scholarships and fellowships that cover certain educational expenses. Specifically, awards used to pay for tuition, fees, books, and supplies are typically exempt from taxation. However, if your scholarship or fellowship also provides funds for room and board, those amounts are considered taxable income and must be reported on your tax return.

SECA

As a self-employed individual, you're responsible for paying your own Social Security and Medicare taxes through the Self-Employment Contributions Act (SECA). For the 2023 tax year, you'll pay a total of 15.3% in self-employment taxes on your first $160,200 of net earnings from self-employment. Any amounts above this threshold are subject to a 2.9% Medicare tax. Looking ahead to 2024, the Social Security wage limit is increasing to $168,600, which means you'll pay a higher rate on earnings above this new threshold.

Section 179 Deduction

Section 179 deduction allows businesses to immediately expense the cost of qualifying property, such as equipment and machinery, rather than depreciating it over time. The deduction has an annual limit, and the property must be used more than 50% for business.

Self-Employed Health Insurance Premiums

As a self-employed individual, you may be eligible to deduct the cost of health insurance premiums for yourself, your spouse, and your dependents. The good news is that you don't need to itemize your deductions to claim this benefit. You can deduct these premiums directly, which can help reduce your taxable income and lower your tax bill.

SEP (Simplified Employee Pension)

A Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) is a retirement plan designed specifically for self-employed individuals, offering tax benefits to help you save for your golden years. One of the key advantages of a SEP is that contributions are tax-deductible, which can help reduce your taxable income. For the 2023 tax year, you can contribute up to 20% of your net earnings from self-employment, capped at $66,000. In 2024, the contribution limit increases to $69,000. Keep in mind that you have until the filing deadline to make contributions for the tax year, but you can extend this deadline to October if you file for an extension on your tax return.

Short Sale

A short sale is a financial strategy where an investor sells the stock they don't own, typically with the expectation that the stock's value will decline. To execute a short sale, the investor borrows the stock from a lender, sells it at the current market price, and then hopes to buy it back at a lower price to repay the loan. If the stock price does fall, the investor profits from the difference. However, if the stock price rises, the investor incurs a loss and must purchase the stock at a higher price to repay the loan. From a tax perspective, the IRS doesn't consider a short sale complete until the investor returns the borrowed stock to the lender, at which point the transaction is subject to taxation.

Short-Term Gains and Losses

Short-term gains and losses result from the sale or exchange of capital assets held for one year or less. These gains are taxed at ordinary income tax rates, which are generally higher than long-term capital gains rates.

SIMPLE (Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees)

The Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) is a type of retirement plan designed for small businesses with 100 or fewer employees. One of the key benefits of a SIMPLE plan is that it's relatively easy to administer, with fewer rules and regulations compared to other tax-qualified retirement plans. Employers who offer a SIMPLE plan are required to make contributions on behalf of their employees, either by matching their contributions up to 3% of their salary or by contributing 2% of each employee's pay, regardless of whether the employee contributes themselves. This encourages smaller employers to establish retirement plans for their employees. Self-employed individuals with no employees can also take advantage of a SIMPLE plan, allowing them to contribute up to $15,500 of their self-employment earnings in 2023 (plus an additional $3,500 if they're 50 or older by the end of the year). In 2024, the contribution limit increases to $16,000, with the catch-up amount remaining at $3,500.

Social Security Tax

Social Security tax is a payroll tax that funds the Social Security program, providing benefits for retirees, disabled individuals, and survivors of deceased workers. Both employers and employees contribute, with self-employed individuals paying both portions.

Social Security Tax, Excess Withheld

If you have multiple jobs throughout the year, either simultaneously or consecutively, you may end up paying too much in Social Security taxes. This is because each employer withholds Social Security taxes from your paycheck without knowing how much you've already paid through other jobs. Fortunately, you're eligible for a refund of the excess Social Security taxes withheld.

Spousal IRA

Typically, you need to have earned income to contribute to a traditional or Roth Individual Retirement Account (IRA). However, there's an exception for married couples. If one spouse is working and the other isn't, the working spouse can contribute to an IRA on behalf of the nonworking spouse. In 2023, the working spouse can contribute up to $6,500 of their earned income to the spousal IRA. If the nonworking spouse is 50 or older by the end of the year, the contribution limit increases to $7,500. For 2024, the contribution limit rises to $7,000, and the catch-up amount remains $1,000, allowing a total contribution of $8,000 for those 50 or older.

Standard Deduction

The standard deduction is a fixed amount that you can subtract from your taxable income without needing to keep any records or receipts. The amount of the standard deduction varies depending on your filing status, and it's higher for taxpayers who are 65 or older or blind. One of the benefits of the standard deduction is that you don't need to have any actual expenses to claim it - even if you didn't incur any deductible expenses throughout the year, you can still claim the full standard deduction. In fact, about two-thirds of taxpayers choose to take the standard deduction rather than itemize their deductions. However, there are some special rules that can reduce the standard deduction for children who are claimed as dependents on their parent's tax returns.

Standard Deduction for a Dependent

If you claim your child as a dependent on your tax return, they are not eligible to claim a personal exemption on their own tax return. This means that as the parent, you get to claim the exemption for your child, but they cannot claim it for themselves.

Standard Mileage Rate

When you use your car for business, charitable, job-related moving, or medical purposes, you can deduct a certain amount for each mile driven without needing to keep track of the actual expenses. This is known as the standard mileage rate. Additionally, you can also claim deductions for parking fees and tolls incurred while driving for these purposes, as long as you keep receipts to support your claims.

Stepped-Up Basis

When you inherit property, its tax basis is "stepped up" to its value on the date of the original owner's death or a later date chosen by the estate's executor. This means that any appreciation in value that occurred during the original owner's lifetime is essentially forgiven, and you won't have to pay taxes on it. When you eventually sell the property, you'll use this higher basis to calculate your gain. On the other hand, if the property's value decreased while it was owned by the original owner, the basis is "stepped down" to its value on the date of death.

Student Loan Interest Deduction

If you're paying off student loans used to finance your own education or that of your spouse or dependents, you may be eligible to deduct a portion of the interest you pay on those loans. This tax deduction is available to help offset the cost of higher education expenses. The good news is that you don't need to itemize your deductions to claim this benefit. However, the deduction is subject to income limits, meaning that it's gradually reduced as your income increases.

T

Tax Bracket

A tax bracket is a range of income that is taxed at a specific rate. In the US, there are several tax brackets, with rates ranging from 10% to 37% for the 2023 and 2024 tax years. Your tax bracket is determined by the amount of your highest dollar of income, but that doesn't mean all of your income is taxed at that rate. In reality, your income is taxed at multiple rates, with the lowest rates applying to the first dollars you earn and the highest rates applying to the last dollars you earn. Additionally, some of your income may not be taxed at all, thanks to exemptions and deductions that reduce your taxable income.

Tax Preference Item

A tax preference item is an income or deduction that receives favorable tax treatment under the regular tax system but is added back to income when calculating the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Examples include tax-exempt interest from private activity bonds.

Tax Rebate

A tax rebate is a refund of taxes paid, often resulting from overpayment or the application of tax credits. It can also refer to government programs that return money to taxpayers as a form of economic stimulus or relief.

Tax-Exempt Interest

Tax-exempt interest refers to the interest earned on bonds issued by states, cities, or other local governments that are not subject to federal income tax. While you're required to report this interest on your tax return, you won't have to pay federal income tax on it. However, it's important to note that some tax-exempt interests may still be subject to the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT), which is a separate tax calculation designed to ensure that individuals and corporations pay a minimum amount of tax.

Tax-Free Income

Tax-free income refers to earnings that are not subject to federal income tax. Examples include certain municipal bond interest, Roth IRA withdrawals, and some Social Security benefits, depending on the taxpayer's income level.

Taxable Income

The term "taxable income" can have different meanings. In general, it refers to income that is subject to taxation, such as wages, interest, and dividends, as opposed to income that is exempt from taxation, like the interest earned on municipal bonds. On a tax return, "taxable income" specifically refers to the amount of income that remains after all adjustments, deductions, and exemptions have been subtracted. This is the final amount that is used to calculate your tax liability.

Taxpayer Advocate

The Taxpayer Advocate is a high-ranking official within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) who is responsible for assisting individuals in resolving their issues with the agency. This advocate also identifies areas where the IRS can improve its procedures to better serve taxpayers. The Taxpayer Advocate oversees a network of Problem Resolution Officers (PROs) located throughout the country. If you're experiencing difficulties or frustration when dealing with the IRS, such as being given the runaround or facing unfair treatment, you can reach out to a PRO or, ultimately, the Taxpayer Advocate for help. They can provide guidance and support to resolve your issues and ensure that your rights as a taxpayer are protected.

Ten-Year Averaging

If you were born before January 2, 1936, you may be eligible for a special tax calculation method called ten-year averaging. This method applies to lump-sum distributions from pension and profit-sharing plans, and it could result in significant tax savings. If you qualify, it's worth exploring this option to minimize your tax liability.

Ten-Year Forward Averaging

Ten-year forward averaging was a method that allowed individuals receiving a lump-sum distribution from a qualified retirement plan to calculate the tax as if the distribution were received over ten years. This method is no longer available.

Traditional IRA

A Traditional IRA is an individual retirement account that allows for tax-deductible contributions, with earnings growing tax-deferred until withdrawn. Withdrawals are taxed as ordinary income, and early withdrawals may incur penalties.

Tuition Credit

Tuition credit refers to tax credits available for qualified education expenses, such as the American Opportunity Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. These credits can reduce the cost of higher education by reducing tax liability.

Tuition Deduction

If you're paying for college expenses, you may be eligible for a tuition deduction on your taxes. This deduction is available to taxpayers with an adjusted gross income below certain limits, and it can be claimed regardless of whether you itemize your deductions. However, students who are claimed as dependents on their parents' tax return are not eligible for this deduction. On the other hand, parents who pay tuition for their dependent children can claim the deduction. It's worth noting that you can't claim the tuition deduction in the same year you claim an American Opportunity or Lifetime Learning credit for the same student. However, because the income limits for this deduction are higher than for the Lifetime Learning credit, some taxpayers may find that they can benefit from this write-off even if they're not eligible for the credit.

U

Underpayment Penalty

The underpayment penalty is a fee imposed by the IRS for not paying enough taxes throughout the year. It's a reminder that taxes are due as income is earned, not just on the annual tax deadline. The penalty works like interest on a loan, where the penalty rate is applied to the amount of estimated tax owed but not paid by each of the four quarterly payment deadlines. The penalty rate is set by the IRS and can change each quarter. However, there are some exceptions to the penalty, which are outlined in the estimated tax rules.

Unearned Income

Unearned income refers to the money you earn from investments rather than from working. This type of income includes interest earned on savings accounts, dividends paid out by stocks, and capital gains from selling investments, such as stocks or real estate. It's called "unearned" because you don't have to actively work for it, unlike earned income, which is income earned from a job or self-employment.

V

Vacation Home

If you rent out a vacation home, there are specific tax rules you need to follow. The rules vary depending on how much you use the home for personal purposes. While you'll need to report all rental income, the amount of expenses you can deduct may be limited if you use the home too much for personal reasons. Generally, "too much" personal use is defined as using the home for more than 14 days in a year or for more than 10% of the total days it's rented out at a fair market rate.

Vested Benefits

When you participate in a company retirement plan, you may have vested benefits, which are benefits that you're entitled to keep even if you leave your job. Any contributions you make to the plan, such as to a 401(k), are fully vested and belong to you from the start. However, employer contributions to your plan may be vested gradually over time, meaning you'll only have full access to them if you stay with the employer for a certain period. If you leave your job before you're fully vested, you may forfeit some or all of the employer contributions. For example, if you're only 50% vested when you quit, you'll lose half of the employer contributions made on your behalf.

Voluntary Withholding

If you're receiving Social Security benefits, you have the option to request that the Social Security Administration withhold taxes from your payments. This can be a convenient way to avoid making quarterly estimated tax payments. To take advantage of voluntary withholding, simply file Form W-4V with the Social Security Administration. Additionally, if you're receiving distributions from an Individual Retirement Account (IRA) or a retirement plan, you can also ask the plan sponsor to withhold taxes from these payouts.

W

Wage Base

The wage base refers to the maximum amount of earnings that are subject to the full Social Security tax rate. In 2023, the full 15.3% tax rate applies to the first $160,200 of wages or self-employment income. This means that both employees and employers pay a combined 15.3% tax on earnings up to this amount. For earnings above $160,200, only the 2.9% Medicare portion of the tax applies. In 2024, the Social Security wage base limit increases to $168,600. It's worth noting that employees pay half of the total tax rate, which is 7.65% up to the wage base limit and 1.45% after that, while their employers pay the other half. Self-employed individuals, on the other hand, are responsible for paying both halves of the tax.

Wash Sale

A wash sale occurs when you sell an investment, such as stocks, bonds, or mutual fund shares, at a loss and then buy the same or very similar investments within a 30-day period before or after the sale. This is considered a wash sale because you're essentially selling and then rebuying the same investment, which can be seen as a way to manipulate the tax system. As a result, the IRS does not allow you to deduct the loss from your taxable income.

Withholding

Withholding refers to the process of deducting a portion of your paycheck each pay period to cover your income and Social Security taxes for the year. The amount withheld is determined by your salary level and the information you provide on your W-4 form, which you submit to your employer. This way, you're paying your taxes gradually throughout the year rather than having to pay a large amount all at once when you file your tax return.

Worthless Security

If you own a stock that becomes completely worthless during the year, you can claim a capital loss on your tax return. To do this, you can treat the stock as if you sold it for $0 on December 31 of the year it became worthless. This allows you to recognize the loss and potentially offset gains from other investments.

W-2

Form W-2, also known as the Wage and Tax Statement, is a document that employers must provide to employees and the IRS at the end of each year. It details an employee's annual wages and the amount of taxes withheld from their paycheck, including federal, state, and other taxes.

W-4

Form W-4, also known as the Employee's Withholding Certificate, is a form that employees complete to inform their employer of their tax situation, including marital status and number of allowances. This information helps the employer determine the amount of federal income tax to withhold from the employee's paycheck.

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