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What You Need to Know for Your 2011 Tax Filing and What’s New for 2012

Tax season is here again! While the filing deadline might be a couple of months away, this month you will receive all required third-party reporting documents: W2s, 1099s for interest and dividends, 1099s for nonemployee compensation if you are an independent contractor, 1099-Bs from your broker reporting proceeds from the sale of stocks and bonds, 1098s from your mortgage holder, K-1s from partnerships, S Corps, estates, and trusts. Hopefully, you’ve set up a file to store all these documents to make data gathering for tax preparation a snap. If not, now’s the time to create one.

Note that the due date for filing this year is April 17. If a tax due date falls on a weekend or a holiday, the next business day becomes the due date. This year April 15 is a Sunday and Monday, April 16 is a federal holiday so the due date falls on Tuesday, April 17. If you are unable to file by the deadline, you may obtain an extension to Oct. 15. Bear in mind that the extension is for filing, not paying. All taxes must be paid by April 17 otherwise you may suffer penalties and interest.

If you pay estimated tax payments throughout the year, the due date for your next quarterly installment for prepayment of 2011 income taxes is Tuesday, Jan. 17. Estimated tax payments for 2012 will be due on April 17, June 15, Sept. 17 and Jan. 15, 2013.

Beginning in 2011, brokerage firms are required to report to the IRS not only proceeds from sales of stocks and mutual funds, but also the cost basis of the investments that are sold. The IRS has designed a new Form 8949 for reporting capital gains and losses. A summary of the information listed on this form is carried over Schedule D. A couple of new columns are added to Form 8949 reporting – one for adjustments to basis (in case your broker has an incorrect figure) and one for coding the transaction to identify the type of sale.

Business mileage rates for 2011 were changed mid-year, so when calculating your mileage for 2011 use the rate of 51 cents per mile for miles driven up to June 30, 2011 and 55 ½ cents per mile from July 1 to Dec. 31.

Mileage rates for 2012 are as follows: 55 ½ cents per mile for business, 23 cents per mile for moving and medical, and 14 cents per mile for charitable purposes.

The temporary payroll tax cut has been extended to Feb. 29; employees will enjoy a continued savings of 2% of wages withheld for Social Security – from 6.2% to 4.2%. The Social Security wage base for 2012 is $110,100 up from $106,800 in 2011. Once your wages exceed this amount, Social Security will not be withheld but Medicare will continue to be withheld.

The self-employment health insurance deduction no longer offsets the self-employment tax. In 2010 only, self-employed workers were able to reduce the amount subject to self-employment tax on Schedule SE by the amounts paid for health insurance premiums. You can still take the deduction on Form 1040 as an adjustment to income.

Foreign financial assets are reported on a new Form 8938. The foreign asset disclosure form is separate and different from the foreign bank account report. Taxpayers with foreign assets may need to file both documents.

The first-time home buyer’s credit is now only available to members of the military or Foreign Service. If you are repaying the first-time home buyer’s credit, you may not need to complete and attach Form 5405.

Also gone for 2011 is the Making Work Pay Credit. For the past few years we enjoyed $400 per year single and $800 married filing joint credit against our tax liabilities.

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