Key tax law changes

The majority of this year's key tax law changes were the result of two acts - the Affordable Care Act of 2010, also known as Obamacare, and the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012.

The easiest way to navigate all the tax law changes and determine if you qualify for hundreds of tax benefits, is to use an online or mobile tax preparation solution. The programs ask easy questions, covering all available credits and deductions to help minimize your tax liability and maximize your refund. Leading solutions such as TaxACT also provide guidance for the implications of the Affordable Care Act on your taxes and health insurance situation.

If your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is under $200,000 ($250,000 if filing jointly), you may benefit from several tax breaks that have been extended or made permanent.

  • The standard deduction for married taxpayers filing jointly is now permanently increased and expands the 15 percent tax bracket.
  • The child tax credit is $1,000 for each child under age 17 on Dec. 31. The amount decreases at higher income levels. A portion of the credit also remains refundable through 2017. In addition, the maximum amount of expenses for the Child and Dependent Care Credit has been made permanent at $3,000 for one child and $6,000 for two or more children.
  • The American Opportunity Credit, tuition deduction, student loan interest deduction, and $2,000 annual contribution limit to Coverdell Education Savings Accounts are still available for 2013.
  • Elementary and secondary educators can again deduct up to $250 in related job expenses, even if you don't itemize deductions. Unlike most employee expenses, educator expenses are not reduced by 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.
  • If you pay mortgage insurance premiums, also known as private mortgage insurance (PMI), you may be able to deduct premiums as mortgage interest.
  • The Alternative Minimum Tax was created to ensure wealthy taxpayers receiving large tax benefits pay some tax. It will now be adjusted for inflation each year so fewer taxpayers are subject to the tax. The exemption amount rises in 2013 to $51,900 ($80,800 for married couples filing jointly). For married individuals filing separately, the exemption is $40,400.
  • You may qualify for a credit equal to up to $12,970 of your adoption expenses including fees, court costs, attorney fees, traveling expense and other expenses directly related to and for the principal purpose of the legal adoption of an eligible child. If your employer provides adoption benefits, you may also be able to exclude up to the same amount from your income. Both a credit and exclusion may be claimed for the same adoption, but not for the same expense.
  • For 2013, you can still deduct state and local sales taxes. You can take this deduction or a deduction for state income tax but not both.
  • Qualified dividends will be taxed at preferential capital gains rates rather than those used for ordinary income.
  • If your MAGI is more than $200,000 ($250,000 if filing jointly), you may pay an additional Medicare surtax on earned income, as well as higher taxes on net investment income, long-term capital gains and qualified dividends. The amount of your personal exemptions and itemized deductions is also less starting this year. The marginal income tax rate for incomes above $400,000 ($450,000 if filing jointly) also increases from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for 2013.
  • One change affecting taxpayers of all income levels is the increased floor for deducting medical expenses. Taxpayers under the age of 65 can now only deduct unreimbursed medical and dental expenses that exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI). The floor remains at 7.5 percent if you're 65 or older.

Learn more about these tax law changes in Publication 17 at www.irs.gov or visit www.taxact.com/taxinfo. To file your simple or complicated federal taxes free with TaxACT Free Edition, go to www.taxact.com.

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Upcoming Tax Dates

March 2All businesses
File information returns (for example, Forms 1099) for certain payments you made during 2014.

March 2Farmers & fishermen
File your 2014 income tax return (Form 1040) and pay any tax due - Details

March 2Payers of gambling winnings.
File Form 1096 along with Copy A of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2014. If you file Forms W2G electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 2.

March 2 All employers
File Form W3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, along with Copy A of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2014. If you file Forms W2 electronically, your due date for filing them with the SSA will be extended to March 31. The due date for giving the recipient these forms remains February 2.

March 2 Large food and beverage establishment employers
File Form 8027, Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips. Use Form 8027T, Transmittal of Employer's Annual Information Return of Tip Income and Allocated Tips, to summarize and transmit Forms 8027 if you have more than one establishment. If you file Forms 8027 electronically, your due date for filing them with the IRS will be extended to March 31.

March 2 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during January.

March 2 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in January.

March 10 Employees who work for tips
If you received $20 or more in tips during February, report them to your employer - Details

March 11 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the first 15 days of February.

March 13 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the last 13 days of February.

March 16 Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax due - Details

March 16 S Corporations
File a 2014 calendar year income tax return (Form 1120S) and pay any tax due - Details

March 16 S Corporation election
File Form 2553, Election by a Small Business Corporation, to elect to be treated as an S corporation beginning with calendar year 2015. If Form 2553 is filed late, S corporation treatment will begin with calendar year 2016.

March 16 Electing larger partnerships
Provide each partner with a copy of Schedule K1 (Form 1065B), Partner's Share of Income (Loss) From an Electing Large Partnership, or a substitute Schedule K1. This due date applies even if the partnership requests an extension of time to file the Form 1065B by filing Form 7004

March 16 Social security, Medicare, and withheld income tax
If the monthly deposit rule Page 6 Publication 509 (2015) applies, deposit the tax for payments in February.

March 16 Nonpayroll withholding
If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in February.

March 25 Communications and air transportation taxes under the alternative method.
Deposit the tax included in amounts billed or tickets sold during the last 14 days of February.

March 27 Regular method taxes
Deposit the tax for the first 15 days of March.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms W2
File copies of all the Forms W2 you issued for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms W2G
File copies of all the Forms W2G you issued for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms 8027
File Forms 8027 for 2014. This due date applies only if you electronically file.

March 31 Wagering tax
File Form 730 and pay the tax on wagers accepted during February.

March 31 Heavy highway vehicle use tax
File Form 2290 and pay the tax for vehicles first used in February.

March 31 Electronic filing of Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W2G.
File Forms 1097, 1098, 1099, 3921, 3922, and W2G with the IRS. This due date applies only if you file electronically. Otherwise, see March 2. The due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains February 2. View More Tax Dates