Way back in the 1980s and 90s, Roy McAdams and I were the components of a musical duo called Death & Taxes. Being the only two sure things, I thought the name was the perfect moniker for an act that featured two sick senses of humor. Plus, my willingness to be Death ensured I had top billing in the act!
But we’re not here today to talk about me. Au contraire, it’s Roy’s – I mean Taxes – turn in the barrel. This past Thursday was April 15, the dreaded day that all extensions for filing your federal tax return must be filed. This is a busy time for CPAs, attorneys, and those “tax professionals” we all hear about in disclaimers for contributions that may be “tax deductible” – but please consult your tax professional.
Here at Keys Disease Central, we were lucky enough to interview a respected tax professional, noted economist Dr. Tardon Feather, from the University of Eastern Florida’s School of Economics. We put some of the most frequently asked questions as found on the official IRS website (www.irs.gov) for Dr. Feather’s unique perspective on the issues.
Q: What are the tax changes for this year?
A: Actually, there are over 1,700 tax changes for this year, and not even a noted economist like me can keep up with them. That’s why we all buy the latest tax software packages, even though they are compiled months in advance and don’t have all the changes in them. Of course, you could just follow the IRS’s official answer and look in the “What’s New” section of your tax return package.
Q: Is there an age limit on claiming my children as dependents?
A: As always, this question has a number of possible answers. Are your adult children deadbeat unemployed slackers who sit around and watch TV and don’t do anything to try and become a productive member of society? One could convincingly argue that these wasters of perfectly good breathable oxygen are indeed still dependents who haven’t yet detached themselves from the parental teat. If, however, you are claiming your dog as a dependent, please remember that each human year is actually seven dog years, and that the IRS doesn’t look kindly upon four-year-old and over pooch deductions. For ferrets and other animals, please refer to IRS Form OU-812, Non-Farm Method for Animal Age Calculations.
Q: If I claim my daughter as a dependent because she is a full-time college student, can she claim herself as a dependent when she files her return?
A: This is the kind of convoluted question that keeps tax professionals like me employed. It’s like asking an actual stupid tourist question like “Is the water bluer on the Gulf side, or on the Ocean side?” Or like the tourist who took several empty jars with her on her jet ski trip, because she saw the different colors of water from the air and wanted to bring a sample of each color back. But I digress – the correct answer to the question is nobody really knows.
Q: What should I do if I made a mistake on my federal return that I have already filed?
A: Go immediately to the house of worship of your choice, fall on your knees, and pray to save your soul. When you have finished praying, go to your computer and download IRS Form I4-GOT. If the mistake on your original return caused an underpayment of taxes, you will be liable for the balance due, plus penalties and interest. If the mistake caused you to overpay your tax liability, only penalties and interest will be due.
Q: How much does an unmarried dependent student have to make before he or she has to file an income tax return?
A: An annual income greater than or equal to $5.12.
Q: I retired last year, and started receiving Social Security payments. Do I have to pay taxes on my Social Security benefits?
A: Yes. It’s the government’s way of getting you on both the front and back ends. The benefits you’re collecting are from the taxes you paid from your income. Now that those taxes collected are coming back to you as benefits, it’s both ironic and amusing that the government sees fit to tax them again. Funny how that works, isn’t it?
Q: Any final words of advice?
A: Don’t believe everything you read in this column to be IRS-sanctioned good advice – please consult your tax professional.
– John Bartus is a singer/songwriter and former Mayor of the City of Marathon. Currently serving on the Board of Directors of the Greater Marathon Chamber of Commerce, John plays with Storm Watch this Friday (tonight) at the Looe Key Tiki Bar, and Saturday at Dockside. Tuesday finds John again at Dockside, and Thursday, John plays solo at Sparky’s Landing. www.johnbartus.com.