Welcome to February 2013's Daily Tax Tips. Thanks for flipping the calendar, and tax tips, page.
As with the January tips, this special page will collect all 28 of February's tax tidbits. That's one each day -- Monday through Sunday, holidays included -- with recommendations on how make filing your 2012 tax return easier and, even better, less costly.
And even though it's a short month, look for some 2013 tax planning moves to make to lower your tax bill next year.
The Daily Tax Tips will continue through April 15, featured in the upper right corner of the ol' blog.
But if you miss them there, catch up here and at 2013's other monthly tax tip compilation pages.
Many of the tips posted throughout filing season are part of Bankrate's annual tax guide. Others are original Don't Mess With Taxes advice.
And now that you've gleaned what you need from last month's tax tips, here are the Daily Tax Tips for February 2013.
- What to do if you don't get your 1099s -- If you have income in addition to wage or salary earnings, you'll need the 1099 forms detailing the money before you can file your return. Employers, clients, vendors and anyone else with whom you had a taxable transaction last year has until Jan. 31 to get the forms in the mail to you. But if they don't show up and February's days are waning, you might be able to file without the statements. Unlike your W-2, you don't have to send 1099s in with your return. These forms are issued for information only, yours and the IRS', so you just need the correct amounts. The best way to get the missing data is to call the employer, bank or investment company and ask for your income information over the phone. In some cases, the amounts that would be on a 1099 are readily available from documents you already have, such as year-end statements. And don't forget to check online. Even if you're still getting these statements via the U.S. mail, if the 1099 is from an investment company it likely has a website where you can download the form. (Feb. 1, 2013)
- Gambling winnings are taxable income -- If your Super Bowl bets pay off, don't forget that you'll owe Uncle Sam, and your state tax collector, a share of your winnings. This reminder that Super Bowl -- and all other -- winning wagers are taxable income. Let me repeat that. All gambling winnings are fully taxable. This includes, but is not limited to, amounts you collect from lotteries, raffles, horse races, poker tournaments and casinos. Did you notice that "not limited to" phrase? That means your office pool payout counts, too. So do trips, appliance and cars you might win (or get from Oprah). You report the fair market value of the prize. When you make your bet via a legitimate sportsbook operation like those that abound in Las Vegas, the casino will make sure to take out any taxes you owe or at least get your personal information so it can send you, and the Internal Revenue Service, a Form W-2G with all your lucky income details. Of course, a lot of winners don't tell Uncle Sam about their good luck. But you're supposed to, even when it's an amount that's too small to trigger third-party reporting. So go ahead and place your bets. Just be sure to remember the tax man when your numbers come up. (Feb. 2, 2013)
- Tips are taxable income -- What do waiters, hairdressers, manicurists, delivery people and concierges have in common. They all regularly receive tips as part of their jobs. And those amounts, be they cash gratuities an appreciative customer leaves on the table or slips into your palm, as well as non-cash tips, are taxable income. This means that in addition to providing services to clients, tip recipients also have another job: reporting the tip income. The Internal Revenue Service has tried to make reporting of tips easier for both the agency and affected workers by setting up a variety of voluntary agreements, particularly with restaurateurs and their employees. It also issued a new ruling last June about automatic gratuities, but that has its own set of problems. But the bottom line is that if you get tips, the IRS expects you to include those amounts on your tax return. IRS Publication 1244 provides record keeping material for tip recipients. IRS Publication 531 has more details on taxation of tips. (Feb. 3, 2013)
- Reporting your gambling, and other, winnings to the IRS -- You know, thanks to an earlier tax tip (#2 above) reminder, that gambling winnings are taxable. So just how to you let the Internal Revenue Service know about your good luck? If you win at a casino, race track or other legitimate gambling venue, depending on the game of chance and amount you win, you could receive a Form W-2G from the betting parlor detailing your winnings. The IRS will get a copy of this form, too, so be sure to report it. The total of all your gambling winnings, with and without W-2Gs, goes on line 21 of Form 1040. The amount of prizes or awards, either the cash you received or the value of merchandise won, also goes here. You'll want to use the long 1040 because you can itemize all your gambling losses on Schedule A to help offset your taxable winnings. To make sure you get the most from those bad bets, keep good records. The IRS has suggestions on the betting info to note in Publication 4706. You don't have to include your gambling log book with your return, but it definitely will help you answer any IRS questions as to how you were able to reduce your $3,000 in winning Super Bowl bets to zero. So hang onto those losing tickets. If you do collect a big bet pay-off, they can help reduce the amount of winnings on which you'll owe tax. (Feb. 4, 2013)
- Do you have to file a tax return? -- Believe it or not, some people make it through tax-filing season without having to fill out a 1040? Why are they so lucky? In most cases it's because they don't make enough money in the Internal Revenue Service's eyes. Basically, you must file a tax return once you reach a certain income level for your age and filing status. For 2012 returns, that means a single filer younger than 65 doesn't have to file as long as his or her adjusted gross income is less than $9,750. A 65-or-older single filer can make even more, up to $11,200 last year, and not have to file. The earnings trigger amounts are adjusted annually for inflation. The IRS also has different rules for dependents who earn money. Dependents have different filing requirements, with both earned (wages) and unearned (investments) income into account to determine whether you must file. If you're self-employed, you might not make enough to require sending a 1040 to Uncle Sam, but if you net more than $400 for your own business, you still must file Schedule SE to pay self-employment taxes. And even if you don't have to file, you will want to if you're due a refund. Sending in a tax return -- check out the Free File option! -- is the only way to get back your money. IRS Publication 17 has more details on filing requirements. (Feb. 5, 2013)
- Taxable vs. nontaxable income -- Good news. Not everything is taxed. Just most of it. The Internal Revenue Service takes its duties seriously and there's not much that slips through is fingers. Of course, there are the standbys: salaries, wages, tips, commissions, interest and dividends, rent on property you lease, and all the money you make from that photography business on the side. Bartering your services won't spare you, either. The value of noncash items must be determined and then counted as income. And don't think that underhanded ways to make a few extra bucks will save you from the tax collector. The IRS doesn't care if you steal it, as long as they get their piece of the action. Remember, it was the IRS that tripped up Al Capone. (Feb. 6, 2013)
- Standard vs. itemized deductions -- Tax deductions reduce your taxable income. Less income generally means a smaller tax bill. What's the best way to reach the smallest possible taxable income level, claiming the standard deduction or itemizing expenses? It depends on your personal circumstances. The Internal Revenue Service says most taxpayers use the standard deduction. The amount is different for each filing status. For 2012 returns a single taxpayer or spouses filing separate returns can claim a standard deduction of $5,950. Married couples who file a joint 1040 can claim $11,900. And a head-of-household filer gets an $8,700 standard deduction. If, however, you opt to itemize, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you must file the long Form 1040 and detail your deductions on Schedule A. Some deductions, such as medical expenses, must meet a threshold that is a percentage of your adjusted gross income before you can claim them. Medical costs must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income on 2012 returns; it goes up to 10 percent on 2013 returns. And you have to reach a 2-percent-of-income threshold before you can claim itemized miscellaneous deductions, such as unreimbursed job expenses and investment and tax-preparation costs. So keep good records, do the math and then use the deduction method that gives you a better tax result. (Feb. 7, 2013)
- Don't overlook these tax breaks -- To make sure the Internal Revenue Service gets as little of your money as possible, taxpayers need to claim every tax deduction, credit or other income adjustment they can. But it's easy to miss some. Today's tax tip looks at 10 tax breaks that taxpayers often overlook. They include an itemized deduction for job hunting expenses; an adjustment to your gross income, also known as an above-the-line deduction, for the costs of moving to that workplace across the state that your employment search turned up; and a credit for putting money in your new employer's workplace retirement account (or an IRA, Roth or traditional, on your own). Now while these three breaks have a connection, at least in this example, there are plenty of other tax breaks to look out for. The other seven are: noncash charitable gifts, travel expenses for military reservists, child and dependent care costs, points paid to refinance a mortgage, many medical costs (including some weight reduction plans), educational expenses (including the American Opportunity tax credit that the IRS will start accepting claims for on Feb. 14) and energy efficient home improvements. Check them out and if you're eligible for any, make sure you claim them on your tax return. (Feb. 8, 2013)
- Home energy efficiency improvements tax credit is back -- If you are among the thousands of folks who are socked in because of the snow, you might have learned something about your house. Like it's cold. I mean really cold. But now you can make it more energy efficient and possibly get Uncle Sam to cover some of the upgrade costs. The energy efficient home improvement tax credit is back in the tax code. It expired at the end of 2011, but as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), also known as the fiscal cliff bill, it was renewed for 2013 and retroactively for 2012. The tax credit, which gives you a dollar-for-dollar reduction in your final tax bill, could be up to $500. As in earlier versions, the tax credit amounts are parceled out in increments of $50 to $300 depending on which products you use and what energy efficiency changes you make to your home. An advanced main air circulating fan is worth $50. Energy efficient windows, doors and skylights qualify for a $200 credit. A new energy efficient heat pump or air conditioner when warm weather returns shave $300 off your tax bill. And insulation and other products that seal leaks could be eligible for a tax credit of up to 10 percent of the cost up to $500. The Energy Star website has details on the various home energy tax credits. (Feb. 9, 2013)
- 4 ways to be a good tax client -- During the always stressful tax filing season, tax professional and tax client relationships definitely can become strained. Some taxpayers take their frustrations out on their tax professionals. Not cool. If you did your due diligence and made a wise choice as to which type of tax pro you need and then thoroughly checked out the tax professional before you hired him or her, then you need to trust that person. Here are four suggestions on how you can help your tax pro do the best possible job. 1. Be professional: If you hire a friend to do your taxes, you need to remember that this is a business arrangement. Don't expect special treatment and don't bug your tax pro just because you know him or her personally. 2. Be honest: Denying or hiding your tax obligations will do just one thing, get you in deeper tax trouble. 3. Be thorough: If you inadvertently or worse, knowingly, omit or withhold key tax information your tax return results will not be what you had hoped. When your tax pro asks for documentation or information, provide it quickly and completely. 4. Be a grownup: Yes, we know. You hate paying taxes. Get over it. It's the law of the land and you know that or you wouldn't have hired help to file your taxes. So quit acting like a spoiled child and work with your tax preparer to make the best of the current tax laws. (Feb. 10, 2013)
- 4 ways to get your tax refund -- You're getting a nice chunk of change back from the Internal Revenue Service this year. In fact, your tax refund is big enough that you want to spread it around. Good news. Uncle Sam will let you directly deposit your refund money into up to four accounts. You can have a portion of the refund sent to your checking account to help you pay bills, another amount directed to savings, a third chunk of cash sent straight into your individual retirement account and use up to $5,000 in tax refund money to purchase savings bonds. You don't, however, have to stick with run-of-the-mill financial accounts. You can send your tax refund to any account that accepts direct deposit: an IRA, HSA (health savings account), Archer MSA (medical savings account) or Coverdell education savings account (ESA). As for the savings bonds, you'll can get the Series I instruments sent to you via snail mail in paper form. Or if you have a Treasury Direct online account, or open one before you file, you can have the bonds sent electronically to that account. Whatever distribution you select, you'll need to file Form 8888, Allocation of Refund. Have your account and routing numbers handy and get to sharing your refund with several of your financial institutions. (Feb. 11, 2013)
- Tracking down your tax refund -- If you're starting to get worried about why your tax refund hasn't shown up yet, ask Uncle Sam where it is. Actually, he prefers you go online and use the Internal Revenue Service's Where's My Refund? search tool. Before you head to your computer or the agency's smartphone app IRS2Go, there are a few things to keep in mind. Don't go looking for refund information until 24 hours after the IRS has accepted your e-filed tax return or four weeks after you mail your paper return. Note the term "accepted." There's a bit of a lag time between when you submit your electronic filing and when the IRS says, "Yeah, we got it." So make sure you wait for a day after the IRS acknowledges it received your data. Have your Social Security number, filing status and exact refund amount handy. You'll need this information to check your refund's status. Once you're at the Where's My Refund? page, you'll find a tracker that displays progress through three tax processing stages: 1) Return Received, 2) Refund Approved and 3) Refund Sent. And when you get to the "refund approved" stage, you'll finally get a projected refund delivery date. So hang in there. And check Where's My Refund? (Feb. 12, 2013)
- Adjusting your payroll withholding -- Most of us pay our taxes throughout the year via payroll withholding. So it's a system that we want to get just right. Why? Because if you have too little taken out, you'll owe money when you file your return. That's not good. No one likes to write out a big check to Uncle Sam. But if too much money is withheld from your pay, you'll get a refund. That's not good either. What's wrong with getting a refund? It means you've given Uncle Sam free use of your tax money, which you could have made better use of yourself throughout the year. The best course is to adjust your withholding so your tax payments will more closely match your actual tax liability. To make the change, file a new W-4 form with your employer. The updated tax withholding form will change the amount that comes out of your paycheck. If you're married and both of you work, you need to coordinate W-4 filings so that the tax bill on your joint return (which is filed by most couples) is covered by both husband and wife withholding amounts. Need help figuring out the right number? The W-4 has as an attached worksheet. If you prefer, the IRS has an online withholding calculator to help you come up with the correct amount to be taken out each paycheck. And you can do it any time, and as many times, during the year as you need. (Feb. 13, 2013)
- Couple tax question: MFJ or MFS? -- Married couples tend to do everything together. That typically includes tax tasks, as evidenced by the number of jointly filed returns the Internal Revenue Service receives. Sometimes, though, that tax togetherness is not such a good idea. Separate returns could produce tax savings if one spouse has a lot of deductible medical expenses and a low income. By filing separately, the partner with the doctor bills might be more likely to meet the 7.5 percent threshold needed on 2012 returns to itemize medical costs. And remember, the medical deduction threshold goes up to 10 percent for 2013 taxes. Then there are instances where one spouse is, shall we say, a more aggressive filer than the other or has questionable financial dealings. In these cases, the uncomfortable partner might be wise to insist on separate returns. And, sadly, divorce is often a good reason to separate, among other things, taxes. Just remember, married filing separately usually doesn't produce as favorable tax results as married filing jointly. So evaluate your situation and run the numbers to decide which way you and your spouse should file your return(s). (Feb. 14, 2013)
- Alimony and taxes -- As the old saying goes, nothing lasts forever. Sadly for some couples, that also applies to marriages. And there could be tax issues when the wedding vows are put asunder. One of those is alimony, which has tax implications for both ex-spouses. If you're the former partner getting alimony payments, the money is taxable to you as income in the year it is received. And because no taxes are withheld from alimony payments, you might need to make estimated tax payments or increase your paycheck withholding. As for the ex paying alimony, that amount can be claimed as an above-the-line deduction. It's subtracted from the payer's income on line 31 of Form 1040. Be sure to get your ex-spouse's Social Security number. You'll have to include those nine digits on line next to the alimony amount you claim. This is the Internal Revenue Service's way of ensuring that the amount you're claiming is reported as income by your ex. (Feb. 15, 2013)
- EFTPS enrollment time -- If you plan to use the Internal Revenue Service's Electronic Federal Tax Payment System to get cover any due tax bill this April 15, you need to sign up now. To use EFTPS, which is pronounced "eff-tips" in case you want to work it into a conversation, you must have an account in place. And although EFTPS works much like electronically paying private sector bills, you can't just go to the tax payment site, create an account and then pay. You first must enroll by going to the EFTPS page and clicking, of course, "Enrollment" at the top of the page. Then just follow the online commands. After the IRS validates the info you enter, you'll get a personal identification number (PIN) via snail mail. That's right, via the good old U.S. Postal Service. You need that PIN and the password you created when you enrolled to log in at EFTPS. And the snail mail delivery of your EFTPS PIN takes around five to seven business days. So don't wait until April 14 to head to EFTPS to sign up. Do so now. That way you can use the federal tax e-payment method this and future filing seasons. (Feb. 16, 2013)
- Small business tax calendar, tips -- While individual taxpayers have until April 15 this year to file their returns or get an extension, many business filers are on a different schedule. Incorporated businesses and partnerships have to get their forms to the Internal Revenue Service a month before individual taxpayers. That March 15 deadline is just one of the many tax different tax deadlines that millions of business tax filers must track. The IRS can help with its annual tax calendar for small businesses and self-employed filers. In addition to the usual calendar grids, the document elaborates on key business tax issues each month. Businessmen and women can access the calendar in a variety of ways. There's the online version, which also comes in Spanish. You also can download and then print a PDF version, also in English and Spanish. You can subscribe to the calendar or import the tax due dates into your Outlook calendar. Or you can install the IRS Calendar Connector on your computer and access key business tax dates right from your desktop, even when you're offline. (Feb. 17, 2013)
- Take advantage of the sales tax itemized deduction -- An earlier tax tip examined how the buyer of a new car could benefit at tax-filing time from deducting the sales tax on the vehicle. But you don't have to make a major purchase to save with the state and local sales tax deduction. The state and local levies you paid on your regular day-to-day purchases during the tax year accumulate and count toward this deduction. And that's what most taxpayers in the nine states that don't collect income tax on wages use. But even state income tax paying folks could save if their state's income tax rates are low. How to know? Compare what your itemized deduction amount claiming state and local income taxes to the amount of your deductible sales taxes paid. If you didn't save all your sales receipts you can always check the optional standard sales tax tables that the Internal Revenue Service prepares each year for states in which the sales tax deduction applies. That's all of them except Alaska, Delaware, New Hampshire, Montana and Oregon. You'll find them in the Schedule A instructions. Or you can use the IRS' IRS' online sales tax deduction calculator to get an idea of your deduction amount. So before you fill out your 1040, do the math to see if the state sales tax is the deduction route you should take this tax season. (Feb. 18, 2013)
- Using taxes to cut taxes -- Paying taxes is never fun, but for many filers paying taxes can pay off as a federal tax deduction. If you itemize deductions, you can subtract many of these non-federal levies from your federal income. The less income you have, the less you owe Uncle Sam. Among the taxes you can deduct on Schedule A are state and local income taxes or, for some filers, state and local sales taxes paid throughout the year. Also deductible in most cases are real estate taxes, personal property taxes and intangible taxes on investments. Don't forget to count any estimated taxes paid to your state revenue department. And taxpayers in California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington may deduct mandatory payments made to those states' disability and compensation funds. Schedule A even offers itemizing taxpayers a catchall line (line 8) for "other" taxes, such as foreign taxes you paid on overseas earned income or international investments. (Feb. 19, 2013)
- Deducting mortgage points -- When interest rates are high or your credit isn't good enough for you to get a low rate on your home loan, you can pay a point or two, which is 1 percent of the loan amount, to get the better mortgage deal. In addition to helping make your monthly payments more affordable, the points also can provide a tax deduction. Points generally are considered interest payments and you can count them as an itemized deduction. Any points you pay should be listed on your loan's annual 1098 statement. This document also notes how much mortgage interest you paid. Both of these deductible amounts go on line 10 of Schedule A. If the points aren't on that statement, but show up elsewhere -- for example, on your closing documents -- enter them on line 12. Schedule A instructions have details on exactly where to enter the amounts. And points also could shave tax bills for homeowners who refinanced their mortgage or got an equity loan or line of credit. So look for the points information on your mortgage year-end tax document and be sure to take advantage of them when you fill out your Form 1040. (Feb. 20, 2013)
- Paying back first-time homebuyer credit -- If you took advantage of the original first-time homebuyer credit back in 2008, you learned two things. First, it wasn't a real credit. It was an interest-free $7,500 loan from Uncle Sam. And second, like all loans this one administered by the Internal Revenue Service must be repaid. In this case, the repayment schedule is 15 equal payments of $500 made with each tax return starting with the 2010 Form 1040. But at least the IRS has made the paperwork involved with the repayment a bit easier. If you owned and lived in the house you bought with the credit for all of the 2012 tax year, you can simply enter your repayment amount directly on line 59b of Form 1040. You no longer have to fill out and attach Form 5405. You will need that form, however, if you sold or quit living in your credit-connected home last year. In these cases, you'll have to pay back the balance of your first-time homebuyer credit. (Feb. 21, 2013)
- Deducting your job search costs -- As part of your job search, make sure to keep track of all your expenses. They could help cut your tax bill. The costs of looking for a new job are deductible. There are, of course, some rules -- three to be exact -- to follow in writing off job hunt expenses. First, your search must be in the same field in which you're currently or were formerly employed. Sorry, first-time job seekers. Second, you must itemize to claim the expenses. Third, job hunting costs are a miscellaneous expense. To deduct these costs, a taxpayer's total of these costs must come to more than 2 percent of the filer's adjusted gross income. So this isn't a sure-fire tax break for all job-hunters. But if you do have enough of work hunting costs and meet the three deduction rules, be sure to claim these expenses. (Feb. 22, 2013)
- Don't forget about taxes on barter transactions -- Bartering is a great way to get something when you don't have the cash. But although products or services instead of cash are involved, don't think you can avoid the Internal Revenue Service. Any time you exchange services or products for other services or products, you've participated in a barter transaction. And in the IRS' eyes, the fair market value of the bartered goods or services represents earned taxable income and must be included as income on your tax return. So how much exactly do you put on your 1040? The general definition of fair market value is the price a willing, knowledgeable buyer would pay a willing, knowledgeable seller. Basically, the IRS says don't try to low-ball the price of a product or service just because it's being exchanged instead of purchased with cash. If your trade transactions are through a barter exchange, that entity will keep track of the transactions and issue Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, annually to their clients or members. (Feb. 23, 2013)
- 5 ways to spend your tax refund -- Are you getting a federal tax refund, but aren't sure what to do with the money? Here are five ideas. 1. Save it. You can put the tax cash in an emergency fund, an account for a special purchase or a retirement account. 2) Invest it. Stocks are a good long-term way to reach your wealth goals. And most investment income is cheaper than ordinary income tax rates. 3) Pay off debt. Credit card interest is high and just paying the minimum each month will keep you in debt for years. 4) Improve yourself. Join a gym. Takes classes. Work-related course work might even be tax deductible as a miscellaneous expenses itemized deduction. 5) Help others. You can give up to $14,000 in 2013 to anyone without any tax consequences. Or you can donate to a qualified charity and possibly get a tax deduction next filing season. (Feb. 24, 2013)
- Deducting your moving costs -- Did your deductible job search expenses pay off with a new out-of-town position? Then Uncle Sam might be able to help you make the move, too. The Internal Revenue Code says work-related relocation costs are tax deductible as long as you meet a couple of tests. The distance test is designed to keep folks from writing off moves they made simply within their current areas. To deduct your move's costs, the new job you relocated to take must be at least 50 miles farther from your previous residence than your last office was. Then there's the time test. This requires you to work full time at the new job for at least 39 weeks during the first 12 months of your move. The best thing about deducting moving costs is that you don't have to itemize to claim the expenses. You do, however, have to file the long Form 1040. The moving expenses write-off is part of the adjustments to income, also known as above-the-line deductions, on that long form. (Feb. 25, 2013)
- Tax help caring for an aging parent -- Your mom and dad took care of you for years. Now it's your turn. Caring for an elderly parent is a situation that millions of adult children find themselves doing each year. Tax laws offer some help, as long as you and your folks meet the criteria. Some tax things to think about include how much financial assistance you provide, your parent(s)' living arrangements, the possibility of claiming mom or dad as a dependent, medical expenses you help pay and whether other family members share in the care costs. So keep an eye on mom and dad and when the time arrives when roles reverse, be sure to take advantage of all the tax help for which you qualify. (Feb. 26, 2013)
- A look at the many capital gains rates -- One of the best ways to make money is to let your money work for you via investments. Part of the popularity of unearned income as it's known is that the tax rate is usually lower than ordinary income tax rates. That's still true even though in 2013 the top long-term -- that is, the asset was owned for more than a year -- capital gains tax rate increased to 20 percent as part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act. And for the wealthiest taxpayers will be 23.8 percent thanks to a 3.8 percent surtax created as part of health care reform. But that is just one of many capital gains tax rates. On the opposite end of the income scale, taxpayers in the 10 percent and 15 percent tax brackets won't owe any capital gains taxes when they sell a long-term holding. Most taxpayers will owe 15 percent on their sales. And there are special capital gains tax rates for special assets, 25 percent for the sale of depreciated real estate and 28 percent for profit on the sale of collectibles and small business stock. (Feb. 27, 2013)
- Zero capital gains tax rate for some investors -- You heard right. Some investors pay no -- nada, nothing, zilch, zero -- capital gains tax on the sale of assets they held for more than a year. Who are these lucky folks? They are taxpayers whose income falls into the 10 percent and 15 percent income tax brackets. Long-term capital gains taxes were first eliminated for these low- and moderate-income individuals in 2008. It was scheduled to expire at the end of 2012, but the zero-tax break was made a permanent part of the tax code on Jan. 2, 2013, when the American Taxpayer Relief Act (aka the fiscal cliff bill) was signed into law. And even if you make more than the maximum income for your filing status -- for 2012 returns that's up to $35,350 for a single filer; $47,350 for a head of household; and $70,700 for a married couple filing a joint return (the amounts go up a bit in 2013 thanks to inflation) -- you still might be able to take advantage of the zero percent rate. The reason: The cutoff amounts are taxable income, not the larger adjusted gross income amount. So if you sold some long-term assets, do the math to see if you might be able to avoid paying any capital gains tax at all. (Feb. 28, 2013)
Missed a tip or two?