Tax filing season is arguably the most nerve-wracking time: battling documents, figures, and important dates is an all-consuming task. In addition, filing your taxes demands a constant awareness of your finances, tax strategy, and IRS regulations.
A change in one could significantly impact the rest, and this is undoubtedly true for changes that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) often implements through tax season.
Changes in laws, policies and tax forms can throw your preparation off track. Unfortunately, we’ve seen multiple instances of the same over the last few years due to Covid-19 and the bills passed to alleviate its effects.
However beneficial or necessary, these changes leave taxpayers like you scratching their heads while trying to make sense of these amendments and additions.
No one likes to be caught off-guard, and certainly even less so by the IRS. So we’ve compiled a list of changes you can expect to see on this year’s forms, so you can be prepared to optimize your tax bills.
So, What’s New This Year in Personal Income Tax Return?
Taxpayers can expect to see various changes on their tax forms for the last financial year, especially regarding deductions and credits. Keep reading to know more.
Form 1040 and its schedules
This year’s Form 1040 is far from compact, with Schedules 1,2, and 3 all having expanded to take up close to two pages each. This elongation is due to additions to income and extra taxes, each getting their sections instead of being grouped into one confusing bundle. Additionally, there are many changes related to credits and deductions that we’ll discuss below in more detail.
Lines 19 and 28 on Page 2 of Form 1040 were adjusted to account for changes made to the credit and consider that it was fully refundable for 2021.
Earlier, the credit was only partially refundable (up to $1,400 per child) and was only applicable for children 16 years and younger (now, parents can claim the credit for 17-year-olds).
Earned income tax credits
The Earned Income Tax Credit was upgraded due to changes in the American Rescue Plan Act. Most importantly, the Credit now allows more childless taxpayers to claim the credit.
The age limit has also been increased to allow people aged 19 to 65 to claim the credit on their 2021 tax returns. Line 27 of Form 1040 has been modified and expanded to accommodate these changes.
Recovery rebate credits
In 2020, the Recovery Rebate Credit on Form 1040 was meant for people who didn’t receive their first and/or second check or those who received an incorrect amount.
For 2021 however, it must be noted that the credit is only for those who did not receive their third check or for those who didn’t receive the entire amount. Therefore, taxpayers must lower their credit claims to account for this.
The Savers Credit aims to encourage lower and middle-income taxpayers to save for their retirements. The credit was allowed for 10%, 20%, or 50% of the first $2000 saved, depending on income and filing status. However, for the 2021 tax return, taxpayers can claim a 50% credit if their AGI is $19,750 or less. Form 1040 considers this.
Due to adjustments for inflation, the deductions that taxpayers can claim are much higher and are reflected on your tax forms. The increments to the 2020 amounts are as follows:
$300 extra for married couples filing jointly
$1,350 per spouse for couples over the age of 65
$150 extra for single filers, $200 for those over 65
$150 for head-of-household filers
Earlier, deductions claimed for any charitable donations would affect taxpayers’ AGIs. This is no longer the case, and the space allowing you to check the $300 charitable contribution option has been moved elsewhere in the form.
Additionally, married couples can now individually claim deductions instead of being counted as one entity. That means that married couples can claim up to $600 in deductions for donations.
You can then appropriately complete line 15 on Form 1040 pertaining to taxable income.
Taxes for the self-employed
The tax breaks that self-employed taxpayers can take have been tweaked and include:
Deductions of up to 100% for business meals (to be claimed on Line 24b, Schedule C).
Long-term care insurance premiums do not have to be itemized and can be deducted on Line 17, Schedule 1.
An unemployment compensation benefit worth $10,200 was in effect from 2020 but no longer. Therefore, any compensation earned in 2021 will be fully taxed in the upcoming tax return season. The same must be mentioned on Line 7, Schedule 1 of Form 1040.
Student loan discharges
Students with undergraduate and graduate student loans no longer worry about the forgiven student debt being a part of their taxable income. Earlier, this amount had to report on Line 8c, Schedule 1, but now this can be left blank.
The best thing taxpayers can do at the moment is to take stock of how these changes affect their filing statuses and strategies and then prepare their documents accordingly.
However, the complexity of filing your taxes cannot be understated, and often the best thing to do is to hire a tax professional to help. With close to two decades of helping Indians in the US prepare for, and file their tax returns, AOTAX is the best. We can help you get everything in order and ensure that your tax forms are error-free. Sign up for free today!
With the golden ticket of H1B visa comes the clear path toward the American Dream. And of course, with the American Dream comes the American Reality—the brick-and-mortar behind-the-scenes that go towards building a life in the USA.
Tax returns are very much a part of this reality, and while reaping the system’s benefits may be smooth-wading through, the paperwork at the end of it is not.
However, filing your tax returns doesn’t have to be all drudgery and doom. Being organized is critical, and we help you out below with an extensive list of all the possible documents and forms you may need to file individual income tax returns.
Who Qualifies for Tax Returns in the US
However, before diving in, let’s quickly look at who exactly qualifies for paying taxes and receiving the returns that come with it.
To refresh, any individual who meets the ‘Green Card Test’ or the ‘Substantial Presence Test’ is considered a resident alien and thereby is liable to pay taxes in the same manner as any US citizen.
Here’s a breakdown of the two tests:
The Green Card Test—if you have not renounced your alien registration card (a green card), and neither has your privilege of immigrant status been terminated by the USCIS or a federal court, you pass the Green Card Test.
The Substantial Presence Test—you pass the SPT if you have been residing in the US for at least 31-days of the current year and 183-days total over the current year and the two years preceding it. More specifically, this count must include all days in the current year, one-third of the days present in the year before the current year, and one-sixth of the days present two years before the current year.
Now, let’s look at precisely what you need to file a complete and accurate tax return. To make things easy, we’ve grouped the documents according to their function.
Personal Information and Dependent Information
Basic information forms the crux of tax returns in the US, so it is essential to keep the following documents handy:
Previous tax returns and statements for reference.
Social Security or Tax ID numbers for both you and your dependents, if any.
Furnishing proofs of earnings is an integral part of filing your taxes. As an Indian professional residing in the US, it is important to note that you are liable to declare your global income (from every source) in your tax returns.
That means earnings on mutual fund dividends, interest earned on stocks, bank deposits, and fixed deposits, among others, are all taxable. Below is a list of documents you may require while filing:
W-2 forms from employers.
Form 1040 to declare taxes paid in previous years and to declare foreign income.
Form 1099 series, each ending with a different suffix for different revenues earned. For instance:
1099-INT (interest income)
1099-G (government payments and tax refunds)
1099-K and 1099-MISC (freelance gig payments)
1099-R (pension income)
1099-S (stock sale income)
1099-B (property sale income)
1099-SSA (Social Security benefits)
Form 1095-A for Health Insurance Marketplace Statements.
Records of cryptocurrency transactions and interest earned.
Expense records such as bank or credit card statements.
In a country with regulations far different from what we’re used to in India, preparing for tax season is taxing, saying the least. However, organizing your receipts, statements, and forms is an excellent first step to take.
However, filing on your own without knowing how to claim credits or deductions or whether you’re even eligible for them is doing a great disservice to your bank balance.
AOTAX has been helping Indian IT professionals in the US for more than 15-years and is well-versed in the challenges you face and how to get the best returns in your situation. Let us help you with our planning, advisory, and consulting services to ensure you only have to enjoy the American Dream while we take care of the American Reality. Sign up for free today to get a feel for how we work and what we can do for you.
Income Tax Planning for an NRI planning to return to India
Income Tax Planning for an NRI planning to return to India .It might so happen that one fine day you decide to pack your bags and come back home. When you do,there are a few things that Income Tax planning must take special care of. For starters, your investments and tax implications. In general, the tax laws for NRIs returning to the country are fairly generous. However, youmust not be complacent.
A bit of careful planning will ensure that you do not run into any surprises when you come to India, as far as your overseas income and investment are concerned.Tax Resident Status Your tax liability on the income largely depends on your residential status. The FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) and the Income Tax Act govern all these tax rules and regulations. The FEMA keeps a track of all the transactions taking place outside the country for Indian residents. These transactions include foreign bank accounts,money transfers, remittances, lending, gifting, etc. Any investment in real estate or mutual funds is also taken care of by the FEMA. The income tax act on the other hand, looks after the tax liability arising out of such investments. As per the FEMA guidelines, an NRI is someone who currently stays out of India but either is a citizen of India or a person of Indian origin. They must meet either of the following conditions to become a PIO or a person of Indian origin.
– Has held an Indian passport anytime during their lifetime. – Has a spouse of Indian origin. – Was a citizen of India or has grandparents or parents who are Indian citizens.
Foreign Assets The FEMA offers strict and clear guidelines for foreign assets. As per the law, an NRI has the liberty to own, transfer, hold or invest in assets that are outside the country. However, this only comes into the picture if the person bought the asset during their stay abroad or if they have inherited the assets. And not otherwise.
Indian Assets Should a person choose, they can hold on to their Indian assets during their stay in other countries. These include bank accounts, investments, assets etc. however, there are special accounts to hold these. Usually, the two bank account types available for NRIs are FCNR or Foreign Currency Non-Resident and NRE or Non-Resident External Rupee. You can use these accounts to deposit any earnings from outside the country to your local bank accounts.
Income Tax Act The income tax act has clauses with the help of which NRIs can save taxes on their global income for as many as three fiscal years. On coming back to the country, they must convert their NRE or FCNR accounts to RFC accounts. Any interests earned on FCNR and NRE accounts are exempted for NRIs and RNORs.
If an individual was residing in foreign country ordinarily, and brings in money to India, the same is exempted from taxes up to a period of seven consecutive assessment years. The only condition being that the wealth tax exemption is not applicable to income tax and assets which are brought during the stay in India. For NRIs who receive their pension from former employer post moving to India may be taxable. Of course, if there is any double taxation agreement between both the countries, it would govern the taxes. NRIs who are moving back to India permanently, need to consider the above points. Being aware of applicable tax laws and proper planning would ensure a smoother transition phase and allows users to benefit from tax breaks. Since returning NRIs have quite a few tax breaks available for them.