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Surprises That Tax Us – I did not owe that last year!

Surprises That Tax Us – I did not owe that last year!

Too often we think our upcoming tax bill will be similar to the one last year. When it is not AND when it is a higher tax bill, the surprise can be problematic. Outlined here are some common areas that create these unpleasant surprises.

Picture this; for the past few years you have picked up your tax return and have had a small but nice refund. Now imagine your surprise, when next year, you are required to send in a fairly big check to settle your tax bill. Believe it or not, this message is almost as hard to deliver to a taxpayer as it is to hear it. Here are some tips to help ensure tax changes do not come as a surprise to you.

A spouse passes away. The tax surprise related to this event tends to hit older taxpayers the hardest. In the year of death the tax impact in not usually felt. The year following death, the tax surprise hits hard because of the following tax changes:

  • You lose standard deductions
  • You lose an exemption
  • You move from a joint filing status to single (or head of household)

A child is no longer eligible. Just when you think you have it figured out, a child who generated a tax break for you no longer does. Here are some age requirements for popular tax benefits:

  • Dependent Care Credit: under age 13
  • $1,000 Child Tax Credit: under age 17
  • Earned Income Tax Credit: under age 19 (24 if a qualified student)

Earnings with social security benefits. If you are recently retired, collecting Social Security Benefits, and then start working part-time, you are also in for a tax surprise. These extra earnings could not only make your benefits taxable, it could result in a reduction of benefits received.

Other life events. Other life events could provide a tax surprise for you. While some may have positive tax consequences, like a new birth, or becoming head of household, others might surprise you and result in additional tax. Other common life events include retirement, death, and entering/leaving school.

Capital gains surprises from mutual funds. Often sales of investments are a planned event. Unfortunately, many mutual funds sell assets and then you receive a capital gain statement with a surprise taxable event.

New tax laws. 2014 tax law changes create special complications. A number of tax breaks expired at the end of 2013. This includes the educator deduction, state general sales tax deduction, tuition deduction and mortgage insurance deduction. If you took any of these tax deductions in 2013 you can expect a change to your tax return next year unless Congress acts to reinstate any of these provisions.

Want to avoid these surprises? Spend some time now reviewing your anticipated tax situation for 2014. By doing so, perhaps a planned “pleasant” surprise can be in store for you next year.