Tax Attorney St Paul | Who Must Wait to File 2010 Tax Return

While for most taxpayers, the 2011 tax filing season starts on schedule. Due to tax law changes enacted by Congress in December, however, some taxpayers need to wait until mid – to late February of 2011 to file their 2010 tax returns in order to give the IRS time to reprogram its processing systems. This is mostly due to the renewal of the three tax provisions that expired at the end of 2009 and were renewed by the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act Of 2010 on December 17, 2010.

The IRS will announce a specific date in the near future when it can start processing tax returns impacted by the recent tax law changes. Meanwhile, the affected taxpayers should not submit their returns until IRS systems are ready to process the new tax law changes; however, the affected taxpayers can start working on their tax returns. For taxpayers who must wait before filing, the delay affects both paper filers and electronic filers.

The most common types of taxpayers who may need to wait to file their tax returns include:

1. Taxpayers Claiming Itemized Deductions on Schedule A

Due to the tax law changes, anyone who itemizes and files a Schedule A will need to wait to file until mid- to late February. Itemized deductions include mortgage interest, charitable deductions, medical and dental expenses as well as state and local taxes. In addition, itemized deductions include the state and local general sales tax deduction that was also extended and which primarily benefits people living in areas without state and local income taxes.

2. Taxpayers Claiming the Higher Education Tuition and Fees Deduction

This is primarily concerns those taxpayers who claim their deduction on Form 8917. The deduction, which covers up to $4,000 of tuition and fees paid to a post-secondary institution, can be claimed by parents and students.

Note, however, that this delay does not concern those taxpayers who claim other education credits, including the American Opportunity Tax Credit extended last month and the Lifetime Learning Credit.

3. Taxpayers Claiming the Educator Expense Deduction

This deduction is for kindergarten through grade 12 educators with out-of-pocket classroom expenses of up to $250. The educator expense deduction is claimed on Form 1040, Line 23 and Form 1040A, Line 16.

Sherayzen Law Office can help you deal with and take advantage of the recent tax law changes. Call or e-mail Sherayzen Law Office to discuss your case with an experienced St Paul tax attorney!

IRS Announces 2011 Standard Mileage Rates

On December 3, 2010, Internal Revenue Service issued the 2011 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on January 1, 2011, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

a) 51 cents per mile for business miles driven
b) 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
c) 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously. Taxpayers also have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

Depreciation Deductions: Passenger Cars & Light Trucks, Vans and SUVs

Assuming that a taxpayer does not use the IRS standard mileage deduction, for qualifying vehicles used for business purposes and placed in service in 2009 or 2010, taxpayers may deduct various costs including depreciation, registration fees, insurance, and many others under the actual expense method. This article will examine depreciation deductions for certain categories of vehicles.

Passenger Cars

For purposes of calculating depreciation, a car is defined to be any four-wheeled vehicle for use on public roadways, with a gross vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds or less (subject to certain exceptions). Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, taxpayers may generally take bonus depreciation of $8,000 for newly purchased cars placed in service for business use in 2009 (Congress has extended the bonus depreciation for 2010, as well). Taxpayers may take an additional $2,960 maximum depreciation deduction for 2009 ($3,060 for cars purchased and placed in service in 2010). The 2009 depreciation rates for subsequent years are as follows: $4,800 for the second year; $2,850 for the third year; and $1,775 for each tax year thereafter. Depreciation limits are periodically adjusted for inflation.

Note that the above depreciation amounts assume 100% business use. Depreciation amounts must be reduced proportionately by any personal use percentage that is less than 100% business use and more than 50%. If business use is less than 50%, straight-line depreciation must be used (also reduced proportionately by personal use percentages) and the bonus depreciation amount is not available. Bonus depreciation is also not available for purchases of used cars.

Light Trucks, Vans and SUVs

A light truck, van or SUV that has a gross vehicle weight of 6,000 pounds or less may also qualify for certain depreciation deductions. As with passenger cars, an $8,000 bonus depreciation allowance is available for newly purchased vehicles in this category placed in service in 2009 or 2010. For 100% business use, taxpayers may generally take an additional $3,060 maximum depreciation deduction for 2009 ($3,160 for 2010). 2009 Depreciation rates for vehicles in this category for subsequent years are as follows: $4,900 for the second tax year; $2,950 for the third tax year; and $1,775 for each tax year thereafter.

As with passenger cars, depreciation amounts must be reduced proportionately by any personal use percentage that is less than 100% business use and more than 50%. If business use is less than 50%, straight-line depreciation must be used (also reduced proportionately by personal use percentages) and the bonus depreciation amount is not available. Bonus depreciation is also not available for purchases of used vehicles in this category.

Do you have questions about maximizing your tax savings on newly purchased business vehicles or equipment? Sherayzen Law Office can assist you with your tax needs.

Call NOW  to discuss your case with an experienced tax attorney!

Recently Married Taxpayers: Five Basic Tips

If you are getting married this year, this may have a significant impact on your tax returns for the year 2010. While you are likely to deal with most of these changes when you will be filing your tax return for the tax year 2010, there are some basic administrative actions that you should be taken right now.

1. Notify the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Report any name change to the SSA, so that your name and Social Security Number will match when you file your next tax return. Informing the SSA of a name change is quite simple. File a Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, at your local SSA office.

2. Notify the IRS. If you have a new address you should notify the IRS by sending Form 8822, Change of Address.

3. Notify the U.S. Postal Office. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service when you move so it can forward any IRS correspondence

4. Notify Your Employer. Report any name and address changes to your employer(s) to make sure you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.

5. Tax Withholding. If both you and your spouse work, your combined income may place you in a higher tax bracket. You can use the IRS Withholding Calculator available on to assist you in determining the correct amount of withholding needed for your new filing status. The IRS Withholding Calculator will even provide you with a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, you can print out and give to your employer so they can withhold the correct amount from your pay.

Fee Agreement Arrangements with Tax Lawyers in St. Paul: 5 Most Important Issues

In this article, I will discuss five most important issues that you need to know before you sign a fee agreement with tax lawyers in St. Paul.

1. How is the lawyer’s fee paid? There are three main models of payment that lawyers use: hourly fee, contingency fee, and flat fee. The hourly fee is the most common form of tax lawyer compensation and it is fairly simple – the tax attorney is paid only based on the time he spends on the case. If you’re paying your tax lawyer by the hour, the agreement should set out the hourly rates of the tax attorney and anyone else in this attorney’s office who might work on the case. The contingency fee arrangement, where the tax attorney takes a percentage of the amount the client wins at the end of the case, is almost never used by tax attorneys in St. Paul. In the unlikely case that this latter type of fee arrangement is used, the most important issue to understand is whether the tax lawyer deducts the costs and expenses from the amount won before or after you pay the lawyer’s percentage. Obviously, you will pay more in attorney fees if your tax lawyer deducts the litigation costs based on the latter scenario (i.e. after you pay the lawyer’s fee). Finally, in a flat fee arrangement, you pay an agreed-upon amount of money for a project. For example, you pay $3,000 to your tax attorney to file delinquent FBARs (Reports on Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts) for the past five years. While a flat fee arrangement is possible in a small project, it is generally disliked by tax lawyers in St. Paul because it often lacks the necessary flexibility to account for the client’s individual legal situation. Usually, some sort of an additional payment arrangement is built into such fee agreements to make sure that the balance between the client’s legal needs and the tax attorney’s fees is maintained.

Remember, usually, you will have to pay out-of-pocket expenses (e.g. long-distance calls, mailing costs, photocopying fees, lodging, etc.) and litigation costs (such as court filing fees) in addition to your tax lawyer’s fees.

2. Does the agreement include the amount of the retainer? Most tax lawyers in St. Paul require their client to pay a retainer. Retainer can mean two different fee arrangements. First, retainer may be the amount of money a client pays to guarantee a tax attorney’s commitment to the case. Under this arrangement, the retainer is not a form of an advance payment for future work, but a non-refundable deposit to secure the lawyer’s availability. Second, a retainer is simply the amount of money a tax attorney asks his client to pay in advance. In this scenario, the lawyer usually deposits the retainer in a client trust account and withdraws money from it for the work completed according to the fee agreement. The fee agreement should specify the amount of the retainer and when the lawyer can withdraw money form the client trust account (usually, on a monthly basis).

3. How often will you be billed? Most tax attorneys in St. Paul bill their clients on a monthly basis. Sometimes, however, when the project is not large, the fee agreement will specify that you will be billed upon completion of the case. In a flat-fee scenario, it is likely that the client will be obligated to pay either a half or even the whole amount immediately as a retainer. It is wise for a client to insist in paying some part of the fee upon completion of the case to retain a degree of control over the case completion.

4. What is the scope of the tax attorney’s representation? Most tax lawyers in St. Paul will insist on defining their obligations in the fee agreement. The most important issue here is to state what the tax attorney is hired for without defining it either too narrowly or too broadly. Usually, a fee agreement should specify that a new contract should be signed if you decide to hire this tax lawyer to handle other legal matters.

If you are hiring a large or a mid-size law firm, beware that the partners in a law firm often delegate some or all of their obligations to their associates or even their staff. While the partners retain full responsibility for the case, there is a danger that important parts of it may be delegated to far less experienced associates. Besides the potential quality issues, there is also a concern that you would be paying a large hourly fee for a first-year associate’s work. It is important to insist that the fee agreement specifies what, if any, type of work is being delegated to the associates, the corresponding billing rate of each associate involved, and who carries the responsibility for the whole case.

5. Who controls what decisions? Whether this information should be included in the fee agreement really depends on a case and on an attorney. Generally, tax attorneys in St. Paul let their clients make the important decisions that affect the outcome of the case (such as: acceptance or rejection of the IRS settlement offer, commencement of a lawsuit, business decisions, et cetera). All of the decisions with respect to the legal issues (such as: where to file a lawsuit, what motions should be filed, what negotiation tactics should be employed, how to structure a business transaction from a tax perspective, etc.) are usually taken by the tax lawyers. If there are any changes to this arrangement (for example, you want your lawyer to make certain decisions with the respect to the outcome of the case), you should insist that these modifications be reflected in the fee agreement.

Generally, before you sign the fee agreement, tax lawyers in St. Paul will discuss with you many more topics than what is covered in this article. The five issues explained here, however, are crucial to your understanding of how the tax relationship with your tax attorney will work. Before you sign the fee agreement with your tax lawyer, you should ask at least these five questions and make sure that the answers are complete and to your satisfaction.