2003 Tax Help Archives  

2003 Tax Tips

This is archived information that pertains only to the 2003 Tax Year. If you
are looking for information for the current tax year, go to the Tax Prep Help Area.

These easy-to-read Tax Tips cover a wide range of topics, from child credits and higher education benefits to IRAs and Social Security. These Tax Tips are for Tax Year 2003.

June 30, 2003
IRS Summer Tax Tip Tax Advice For The Working Student
All employees have federal income tax withheld from their pay, right? Not necessarily. The IRS says that if you are a student working a summer or part-time job, you may be exempt from withholding.
June 30, 2003
IRS Summer Tax Tip Summer Day Camp
Many working parents must arrange for care of their younger children during the school vacation period. A popular solution — with favorable tax consequences, according to the IRS — is a day camp program. Unlike overnight camps, the cost of day camp counts as an expense towards the child and dependent care credit. Of course, even if your child care provider is a sitter at your home, you'll get some tax benefit if you qualify for the credit.
June 30, 2003
IRS Summer Tax Tip Are You Moving This Summer?
Many people with children find it less disruptive to move during the summer months when school is not in session. Whether you have children or not, you may find these reminders from the IRS helpful...
June 30, 2003
IRS Summer Tax Tip Advice To Newlyweds
It may not be high on the list of wedding planning activities, but there are a few simple steps that can help keep tax issues from interrupting your newly-wedded bliss. If you recently married, check out your new tax situation, advises the IRS. You might save money or even prevent the problem of a missing refund check.
April 15, 2003
Appeal Rights
Are you in the middle of a disagreement with the IRS? One of the guaranteed rights for all taxpayers is the right to appeal. If you disagree with the IRS about the amount of your tax liability or about proposed collection actions, you have the right to ask the IRS Appeals Office to review your case.
April 14, 2003
Notices - What To Do
It´s a moment any taxpayer dreads. A letter arrives from the IRS — and it´s not a refund check. But don´t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
April 13, 2003
Amended Returns
Oops! You´ve discovered an error after your tax return has been filed. What should you do? You may need to amend your return.
April 12, 2003
Refunds - How Long Should They Take?
Are you expecting a tax refund from the Internal Revenue Service this year? If you file a complete and accurate paper tax return, your refund should be issued in about six to eight weeks from the date IRS receives your return. If you file your return electronically, your refund should be issued in about half the time it would take if you filed a paper return — even faster when you choose direct deposit.
April 8, 2003
What To Do If You Can�t Pay Your Taxes
If this year´s tax filing deadline will be a “pay’ day for you and you cannot pay the full amount that you owe, you should still file your return by the due date and pay as much as you can.
April 7, 2003
Ensuring Proper Credit of Payments
When the bottom line of your tax return says, "Amount You Owe," be sure to make your check or money order payable to the "United States Treasury." Do not mail cash with your tax return.
April 6, 2003
Filing Deadline and Payment Options
If you´re trying to beat the tax deadline, there are several options for last-minute help. If you need a form or publication, find it on this Web site. If you discover you need more time to finish your return, get a four-month extension with Form 4868. And if you have trouble paying your tax bill, the IRS has several payment options available.
April 5, 2003
Where to File Your Tax Return
Once you complete your 2003 federal tax return, you can either file it electronically or mail it to the IRS. If you choose to mail your return, be sure to read your tax instruction booklet carefully to find the address of the IRS center for your area.
April 2, 2003
How To Prepare Your Tax Return for Mailing
Although electronic filing is becoming more and more the filing method of choice for taxpayers, there are still many who file paper returns. If you are one, the IRS recommends that you take a few minutes to make certain that all information is complete and accurate before sealing that envelope. This simple precaution could help you avoid mistakes that may delay your refund or result in correspondence with the IRS.
April 2, 2003
Common Errors To Avoid
The IRS recommends reviewing your entire tax return to be sure it is accurate and complete. Even a simple mistake can cause problems with your tax return, which might lead to delays in processing your return and receiving your refund.
April 2, 2003
Tax Tips For Last-Minute Filers
With the tax filing deadline close at hand, the IRS offers some tips for those still working on their paper tax forms.
April 2, 2003
IRA Contributions Can Be Made Until Tax Filing Deadline
If you haven´t put any money into an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) for tax year 2003, or if you´ve put in less than the maximum allowed, you still have time, according to the IRS. You can contribute to either a traditional or Roth IRA until the April 15 due date of your tax return, without extensions.
April 2, 2003
Check Your Refund Status
If you have already filed your federal tax return and are due a refund, you have several options for checking on the status of your refund, says the IRS.
March 26, 2003
Coverdell Education Savings Accounts Can Make Education Costs Less Taxing
The Coverdell Education Savings Account is an incentive to help parents and students save for education. Up to $2,000 may be contributed to a child´s Coverdell ESA each year. Earnings on contributions will be distributed tax free, provided that they are used to pay the beneficiary´s elementary or secondary school or college education expenses.
March 26, 2003
Clean Fuel Tax Deduction for Hybrid Vehicles
If you are the original owner of a qualifying hybrid vehicle – one that combines an electric motor with a gasoline-powered engine – you may be eligible to claim a one-time tax deduction on your federal income tax return, says the IRS.
March 26, 2003
Charitable Contributions
The Internal Revenue Services advises that, when preparing to file your 2003 federal tax return, don´t forget your contributions to charitable organizations. Your donations can add up to a nice tax deduction if you itemize on IRS Form 1040, Schedule A.
March 26, 2003
Refinancing Your Home
Taxpayers who refinanced their homes may be eligible to deduct some costs associated with their loans, according to the IRS.
March 26, 2003
Selling Your Home
If you sold your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of gain ($500,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly) from your federal tax return, according to the IRS. This exclusion is allowed each time that you sell your main home, but generally no more frequently than once every two years.
March 19, 2003
Do You Have a Deductible Home Office?
Whether you are self-employed or an employee, if you use a portion of your home exclusively and regularly for business purposes, you may be able to take a home office deduction.
March 18, 2003
Educator Expense Deduction
If you are an educator, you may be able to deduct up to $250 of expenses you paid for purchases of books and classroom supplies, even if you don´t itemize your deductions on Form 1040's Schedule A. These out-of-pocket expenses may lower your 2003 tax bill.
March 17, 2003
Deductible Taxes
Did you know that you may be able to deduct certain taxes on your federal income tax return? You can if you file Form 1040 and itemize deductions on Schedule A. Deductions decrease the amount of income subject to taxation.
March 16, 2003
Ten Ways to Avoid Problems at Tax Time
Looking for ways to avoid the last-minute rush for doing your taxes?
March 15, 2003
Alternative Minimum Tax
Before mailing your federal income tax return, check to make sure you aren't subject to the alternative minimum tax. In recent years, more and more people have found themselves subject to the AMT.
March 12, 2003
Retirement Savings Contributions Credit
This tax credit, which will be available only through 2006, could help you offset the cost of the first $2,000 contributed to IRAs, 401(k)s and certain other retirement plans.
March 11, 2003
Education Credits Can Help at Tax Time
Are you footing the costs of higher education for yourself or your family? Education tax credits can help offset those costs. The Hope Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit are education credits you can subtract in full from your federal income tax, not just deduct from your taxable income.
March 10, 2003
Credit For The Elderly Or The Disabled
You may be able to take the Credit for the Elderly or the Disabled if you are age 65 or older, or if you are retired on permanent and total disability, according to the IRS. Like any other tax credit, it's a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your tax bill. The maximum amount of this credit is $1,125.
March 9, 2003
Child And Dependent Care Credit
If you paid someone to care for a child or a dependent so you could work, you may be able to reduce your tax by claiming the credit for child and dependent care expenses on your federal income tax return, according to the IRS. This credit is available to people who, in order to work or to look for work, have to pay for child care services for dependents under age 13. The credit is also available if you paid for care of a spouse or a dependent of any age who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.
March 8, 2003
Child Tax Credit
With the Child Tax Credit, you may be able to reduce the federal income tax you owe by $1,000 for each qualifying child under the age of 17, according to the IRS. A qualifying child for this credit is someone who...
March 5, 2003
Earned Income Tax Credit Available for Certain Workers
Workers earned it. Don't forget to claim it. The Earned Income Tax Credit lowered federal tax liabilities for 21 million lower-income workers last year.
March 4, 2003
Are You Eligible For Any Of These Tax Credits?
Taxpayers should consider claiming tax credits for which they might be eligible when completing their federal income tax returns, advises the IRS. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar reduction of taxes owed. Some credits are refundable - taxes could be reduced to the point that a taxpayer would receive a refund rather than owing any taxes.
March 3, 2003
Don't Be Taken In By Tax Scams
Make sure you don't fall victim to any one of a variety of tax scams. These schemes take numerous shapes, ranging from promises of special tax refunds to illegal ways of "untaxing" yourself.
March 2, 2003
Volunteer Tax Preparation Assistance
Are you puzzled by the tax law and which credits and deductions you can take? If so, then why not look into the free, IRS-sponsored, volunteer tax return preparation services? In addition to tax preparation, many also offer free electronic filing of tax returns.
March 1, 2003
Free Help from the IRS
Sometimes you just need a little help preparing your federal tax return. The IRS offers free assistance by computer, telephone, fax and in person. The IRS can assist you with obtaining forms, publications and answers to a wide range of tax questions. If you qualify, IRS can even help you find free tax preparation.
Feb. 27, 2003
New Tax Breaks for Military Personnel and Their Families
Military personnel and their families can benefit from several new tax breaks, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The Military Family Tax Relief Act of 2003 allows, among other things, certain benefits and gains to be excluded from income on the federal income tax return. Reporting a lower income reduces the amount of taxes owed.
Feb. 26, 2003
Reservists, Enlistees May Get Deferral Of Back Taxes
Reservists called to active duty and enlistees in the armed forces may qualify for a deferral of taxes owed if they can show that their ability to pay taxes was affected by their military service, according to the Internal Revenue Service. The Service members Civil Relief Act provides this benefit.
Feb. 25, 2003
Gift Giving
If you gave any one person gifts valued at more than $11,000 in 2003, it is necessary to report the total gift to the Internal Revenue Service. You may even have to pay tax on the gift.
Feb. 24, 2003
Tax On Child�s Investment Income
Part or all of a child's investment income may be taxed at the parent's rate rather than the child's rate, according to the IRS. Because a parent's taxable income is usually higher than a child's income, the parent's top tax rate will often be higher as well. This special method of figuring the federal income tax only applies to children who are under the age of 14. For 2003, it applies if the child's total investment income for the year was more than $1,500. Investment income includes interest, dividends, capital gains, and other unearned income. To figure the child's tax using this method, fill out Form 8615, "Tax for Children Under Age 14 With Investment Income of More Than $1,500," and attach it to the child's federal income tax return.
Feb. 23, 2003
Foreign Income
With more and more United States citizens earning money from foreign sources, the IRS reminds people that they must report all such income on their tax return, unless it is exempt under federal law. U.S. citizens are taxed on their worldwide income.
Feb. 20, 2003
Early Distributions From Retirement Plans
An early distribution from an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or a qualified retirement plan need not be a “taxing” experience, according to the IRS.
Feb. 19, 2003
Capital Gains And Losses
Almost everything you own and use for personal purposes, pleasure or investment is a capital asset. The IRS says that when you sell a capital asset, such as stocks, the difference between the amount you sell it for and your basis, which is usually what you paid for it, is a capital gain or a capital loss. While you must report all capital gains, you may deduct only your capital losses on investment property, not personal property.
Feb. 18, 2003
Gambling Income and Expenses
Hit a big one in 2003? You must report all gambling winnings as income on your tax return.
Feb. 17, 2003
Tips and Taxes
Do you work at a hair salon, barber shop, casino, golf course, hotel or restaurant or drive a taxicab? The tip income you receive as an employee from those services is taxable income.
Feb. 16, 2003
Alimony Payments Have Tax Implications
Question: When the end of matrimony leads to the start of alimony, how does it affect your taxes?
Feb. 13, 2003
Taxability Of Social Security Benefits
The IRS says that whether your Social Security benefits are taxable depends on your total income and marital status. Form SSA-1099, which Social Security recipients receive by January 31, shows your total benefits, but determining your taxable benefits requires putting pencil to paper.
Feb. 12, 2003
Taxable Or Nontaxable?
Generally, most income you receive is taxable, according to the IRS. But there are some areas where certain types of income are partially taxed or not taxed at all. A complete list is available in IRS Publication 525, "Taxable and Nontaxable Income."
Feb. 11, 2003
Tax Law Changes For Businesses
Taxpayers should make sure that they are aware of important changes to the tax law before they complete their 2003 federal income tax forms, advises the IRS. Some of these changes were part of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003. Here are the major changes that affect tax years beginning in 2003:
Feb. 10, 2003
Tax Law Changes for Individuals
Taxpayers should make sure that they are aware of important changes to the tax law before they complete their 2003 federal income tax forms. Some of these changes were part of the Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003.
Feb. 9, 2003
Choosing a Tax Return Preparer
Most return preparers are professional and honest and provide excellent service to their clients. But taxpayers should choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare their return, since taxpayers are legally responsible for what�s on their own tax returns.
Feb. 4, 2003
Roth IRA Contributions
Confused about whether you can contribute to a Roth IRA? The IRS suggests checking these simple rules...
Feb. 4, 2003
What To Do If You Haven�t Received A Form 1099
If you received certain types of income, you may receive a Form 1099 for use with your federal tax return. You should receive these forms from the payer by early February, according to the IRS. Payers have until February 2, 2004, to mail these to you. If you have not received an expected 1099 by a few days after that, contact the payer. If you still do not get the form by February 16, call the IRS for help at the Tax Help Line for Individuals at 1-800-829-1040.
Feb. 4, 2003
What To Do If You Haven�t Received A Form W-2
You should receive a Form W-2, "Wage and Tax Statement," from each employer you worked for to use in preparing your federal tax return. According to the IRS, employers must furnish this record of 2003 earnings and withheld taxes no later than February 2, 2004 (if mailed, allow a few days for delivery).
Feb. 4, 2003
How To Figure The Advance Child Tax Credit
Taxpayers who plan to claim the Child Tax Credit on their federal income tax return should not claim the full $1,000 per child if they received an advance Child Tax Credit payment check in 2003, according to the IRS. The payments were actually an advance on the credit´s 2003 amount, when the maximum for each child rose from $600 to $1,000.
Feb. 4, 2003
EFTPS-Online - Pay Your Taxes Over The Internet
If you are going to owe taxes when you file your federal tax return, consider paying over the Internet through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). EFTPS-OnLine is fast, easy, convenient, and secure. EFTPS is a free service provided by the Department of the Treasury.
Jan. 30, 2003
Free filing in 2003
You may be one of millions of taxpayers who will be able to prepare and file their 2002 federal tax returns electronically this year -for free.
Jan. 29, 2003
Faster Refunds through Direct Deposit
Want a faster refund? More and more taxpayers are choosing direct deposit as the way to get their federal tax refunds. The payment is more secure - there is no check to get lost. And, it�s more convenient - no special trip to the bank to deposit a check. To request direct deposit, follow the instructions for "Refund" on your tax return.
Jan. 28, 2003
E-file Helps Refunds, Payments
Are you one of the almost 100 million taxpayers who will receive a refund when you file your federal tax return? The IRS says that requesting direct deposit and filing your tax return electronically (e-filing) will put that money in your pocket faster and easier.
Jan. 27, 2003
Haven�t Filed Last Year�s Tax Return? Here�s What to Do
The IRS says it hears many reasons from taxpayers for not filing a tax return. You may not have known whether you were required to file. Whatever the reason, it�s best to file your return as soon as you can. If you need help, even with a late return, the IRS is ready to assist you.
Jan. 26, 2003
Marriage or Divorce - Check Your Social Security Number
The IRS reminds newlyweds and the recently divorced to make sure names on their tax returns match those registered with the Social Security Administration (SSA). A mismatch between a name on the tax return and a Social Security number (SSN) could unexpectedly increase a tax bill or reduce the size of any refund.
Jan. 22, 2003
Changing Your Address? Notify the IRS
Have you changed your home or business address? If so, you may want to notify the IRS to ensure that you receive any refunds or correspondence. The IRS uses the Postal Service´s change of address files to update taxpayer addresses, but you may want to notify the IRS directly.
Jan. 22, 2003
Toll-Free Telephone Service
Free tax help from the IRS is just a phone call away. The IRS provides various services through its toll-free telephone numbers. You can order forms and publications, listen to prerecorded tax information, check on the status of your refund, or ask questions about your tax return. Some of these services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Jan. 21, 2003
Forms and Publications - How to Order
The Internal Revenue Service has many forms and free publications on a wide variety of topics to help you understand and meet tax filing requirements. These forms and publications are available on the Internet, on CD-ROM, through fax on demand, over the telephone, through the mail, at local IRS offices, at some banks, post offices and libraries, and even at some grocery stores, copy centers and office supply stores.
Jan. 20, 2003
Need a Copy of Your Tax Return Information?
Taxpayers have two easy and convenient options for getting copies of their federal tax return information — tax return transcripts and tax account transcripts — by phone or by mail.
Jan. 19, 2003
Tax Materials and Assistance in Spanish - Ayuda en Espa�ol
If you need federal tax information in Spanish, you can find it in the form of recorded tax topics, free tax publications and toll-free telephone assistance from the Internal Revenue Service.
Jan. 14, 2003
Publication 17- One Stop for Tax Help
Facing a lot of different tax questions this year? IRS experts have pulled together an overview of common tax issues in one convenient place — Publication 17, “Your Federal Income Tax.” This comprehensive tax guide, available on the IRS Web site, www.irs.gov, contains a vast array of helpful information in one guide. Pub. 17 has been updated with important changes for 2003, including the new, lower income tax rates, new dividend rates and tax breaks for men and women serving in the military.
Jan. 14, 2003
IRS Has Free Publications On Every Topic You Need
From aardvark to zyzzyva, the IRS has a publication that covers it — free for the asking. The IRS has numerous publications on a variety of tax-related topics available by phone, fax or the Internet at www.irs.gov.
Jan. 14, 2003
1040 Central - Point & Click Your Way to a Trouble-Free Tax Season
Don�t wait in line, go on-line. The IRS has a new tax tool called 1040 Central to help you get your taxes done more quickly and easily. The 1040 Central page is the place to visit at IRS.gov to get your tax information organized and ready to go. No matter which form you use, 1040 Central has the links you�ll need to file your 2003 federal income tax return.
Jan. 13, 2003
You can avoid headaches at tax time by keeping track of your receipts and other records throughout the year, the IRS advises. Good recordkeeping will help you remember the various transactions you made during the year, which may help you out on your taxes.
Jan. 12, 2003
Should You Itemize?
Whether to itemize deductions on your tax return depends on how much you spent on certain expenses last year. According to the IRS, money paid for medical care, mortgage interest, taxes, contributions, casualty losses, and miscellaneous deductions can reduce your taxes. If the total amount spent on those categories is more than the standard deduction, you can usually benefit by itemizing.
Jan. 9, 2003
Which Form -- 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ?
If you are filing a federal income tax return on paper, use the simplest form you can, the IRS advises. The simpler the form, the less chance of an error that may cost you money or delay the processing of your return.
Jan. 8, 2003
What Is Your Filing Status?
Your filing status on your federal tax return is a category that identifies you based on your marital and family situation, according to the IRS. It is an important factor in determining whether you must file a return, the amount of your standard deduction and your correct amount of tax. If more than one filing status applies to you, you may choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.
Jan. 7, 2003
Who Must File a Tax Return
There are some instances when you may not be required to file a federal income tax return. But keep this in mind--more than 70 percent of those who file are due a refund, so it may be to your advantage to file even if you are not required to.
Jan. 6, 2003
Taxpayer Rights a Priority for IRS
The law requires the IRS to protect taxpayer rights, and in its day-to-day operations, the IRS and its employees make taxpayer rights a top priority. This includes explaining those rights to taxpayers, keeping taxpayer information private and confidential and being professional and courteous.
Jan. 5, 2003
Avoid Headaches, Prepare Taxes Early
Earlier is better when it comes to working on your taxes. The IRS encourages everyone to get a head start on tax preparation. Not only do you avoid the last-minute rush, early filers also get a faster refund.

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