Don’t believe the hype! You can’t claim these on your tax return

Being a CPA, I often get tons of calls from friends I haven’t heard from throughout the entire year. Of course, they are not calling to see how I am doing, but just want to pick my brain about how they could boost their tax refund!  Whether it is determining whether they can claim their long lost cousin or file head of household (although they are married and living with their spouse), it is important I help them sort through the “hype!”

#1 Myth – I can claim mileage traveled to/from work

Traveling to and from your regular place of employment is simply not deductible. But let’s look at what is. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will allow for travel back and forth for business related trips. For example, let’s say you are an attorney and you have meetings with clients throughout the day, the mileage traveled to and from these meetings are considered as deductible expenses. You have the option of taking actual cost or the standard mileage rate of .56 cents (2013) for each mile traveled.

However, if you have a second job and you traveled from your primary place of employment directly to a second job, your mileage traveled is considered a deductible expense. For example, you work at a university and also a night job at a community center. Your travel is considered a deductible expense. For more information, view IRS Publication 463.

#2 Myth – I can deduct my time donated to a nonprofit

I had to include this myth, because just this year alone, I was asked about this several times. But the IRS does not allow for a deduction for services provided to a nonprofit. For instance, if you are a chef and decide to donate your time to cook for homeless individuals at a local shelter, your time donated is not deductible. However, you may be able to deduct your mileage traveled to and from the nonprofit, payments made for food and supplies, or even amounts given to the organization.

#3 Myth – I can claim my work clothes as an deduction

This is also one of the biggest misconceptions. Many people think they are able to claim the cost of their clothing and cleaning expenses on the tax return. Now granted, in certain instances this cost may be deductible if the clothing meets two requirements. These requirements are (1) the clothes cannot be suitable for everyday wear and (2) it is a condition of employment.

However, it is not enough to say “I don’t wear these anywhere else!” It has to meet the requirements listed above to be deductible. For more information, visit Publication 529.

Remember: your choice your future! 

Kemberley Washington is a professor at Dillard University and certified public accountant.  Follow her Twitter or connect with on FaceBook.

When the IRS Comes Knocking

You received the letter many dread, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has requested to audit your tax return. It could be for many different reasons. Maybe your income on your tax return did not match the amount reported to the IRS or your expenses seem to be a bit questionable. If so, you could be the lucky winner of a full IRS audit. No matter what reason the IRS decides to come knocking, one thing is certain – you must be prepared. As a former IRS agent, I have had the opportunity to participate in a host of audits, and time and time again, the key to surviving these unwanted ordeals is to make certain you understand your rights and responsibilities. [Read more…]

4 Ways to Beat Small Business Tax Audit

images-3As a certified public accountant and former Internal Revenue Service agent, I know firsthand the thrills that come along with a tax audit. And more importantly, I understand the eerie feeling when the IRS determines your business owes tax money.

The IRS audits only a small percentage of tax returns. But if your business is one of the lucky few, understanding the appropriate steps to take will determine whether or not your outcome is favorable.

First, it is essential to understand how a tax return is selected for audit. There are many reasons a tax return could be chosen for an audit, including the following..continue reading