While 2009 holds great promise for new tax relief to help individuals and businesses recover from the current economic crisis, one of the first orders of business for all taxpayers in the New Year is to look back at the tax relief already on the books. Doing so will help you file your 2008 tax return with the lowest bottom-line tax liability possible. One effective tool in making sure you maximize your tax savings on your 2008 return is to look at what’s new on federal tax forms for 2008.

Recent tax law changes have affected Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, as well as Schedule C for businesses. Although certain changes to the 2008 Form 1040 may affect many taxpayers, others will not be affected at all. Moreover, the new Form 1040 also reflects many new reporting requirements. For taxpayers filing Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, the recently revised form for the 2008 tax year includes several changes as well, including Schedule B dealing with ownership issues and a new Schedule C dealing with a variety of allocations, related parties and other “items of interest.”

Form 1040

Property tax deduction. The tax law provides a temporary additional standard deduction for real property taxes. The incentive is designed to help individuals who do not itemize their deductions. On Line 39(c) on Form 1040, individual taxpayers will have to indicate in the check box whether they are including real estate taxes or disaster losses in their standard deduction or whether they are itemizing deductions.

First-time homebuyer tax credit. Taxpayers claiming the first-time homebuyer tax credit report the credit on line 69. You must also attach new Form 5405, First-Time Homebuyer Tax Credit. A taxpayer can apply for this credit on the 2008 tax return, an amended 2008 return, or on the 2009 return, using the new Form 5405. A taxpayer who purchases a home during the eligible period in 2009 may elect to treat the purchase as having been made on December 31, 2008. Remember that if you take the credit, it must be repaid to the IRS over a 15-year period starting in the second year following the year of purchase.

AMT. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) is reported on Line 45 on Form 1040, based on calculations on Form 6251, Alternative Minimum Tax – Individuals. For 2008, the AMT exemption amounts are $69,950 for married couples filing jointly and surviving spouses; $46,200 for single taxpayers and heads of household; and $34,975 for married couples filing separately.

Economic stimulus payments. If you did not qualify for the maximum economic stimulus payment in 2008 ($600 for individuals, $1,200 for joint filers), you may be entitled to a recovery rebate credit when you file your 2008 tax return. New line 70, “Recovery Rebate Credit,” on Form 1040 has an entry for the recovery rebate credit. Individuals whose incomes may have disqualified them for the payment based on their 2007 return could qualify based on their 2008 return because of job loss.

Retirement plan withdrawals. If you directly deposited your economic stimulus payment into a tax-favored account, you can withdraw the payment by the due date of your income tax return without tax or penalty. In this case, you must enter the total distribution you received on Line 15a. Additionally, if the withdrawal was made by your return’s due date (generally April 15), you must enter ESP next to Line 15b, and enter “0” for amounts less than or equal to your economic stimulus payment. You must also report any distributions that exceed your stimulus payment amount on Line 15b as well.

Note. Stimulus-based payments from tax-preferred accounts are not to be reported on Line 21 “Other income,” or Line 59 “Additional tax on IRS, Other Qualified Retirement Plans, etc.”

Direct rollovers. In reporting a direct rollover of a distribution from a tax-qualified retirement plan to a Roth IRA, taxpayers must first report the distribution from their existing plan on Line 16a of Form 1040. Next, you subtract the amount of contributions to your existing retirement plan that were taxed when made. You report only the difference between these amounts on Line 16b.

State and local sales tax deduction. For 2008, taxpayers are again given the option of deducting state and local sales tax in lieu of state and local income taxes on Line 5 of Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, for reporting on Line 40, Form 1040.

Child tax credit. The child tax credit, which now refunds 15 percent of the taxpayer’s earned income exceeding $8,500, is reported on Line 52, Form 1040.

Higher education tuition deduction. The higher education tuition deduction is a temporary tax break that is available for 2008. The deduction is reported on Line 34 on Form 1040.

Earned income tax credit (EITC). The EITC is reported on Line 64a. The 2008 wage limit for taxpayers with one child is $38,646 ($41,646 for joint filers). For taxpayers with no children living with them, the limit is $12,880 ($15,880 for joint filers). Additionally, taxpayers may claim the credit with a limit of $2,950 of investment income.

Disaster loss standard deduction. For 2008, taxpayers can add net disaster losses attributable to a federally declared disaster to their standard deduction, as reported on line 40. Make sure you check the box on Line 39c.

Disaster relief. If you were affected by storms and tornadoes in federally declared disaster areas of Kansas and other parts of the Midwest, the following may apply:

— Suspended limits for personal casualty losses and cash contributions, affecting Line 20 on Schedule A and Line 40 of Form 1040.

— Special rules for qualified retirement plan withdrawals/loans, affecting Lines 15a, 15b, 16a, 16b, and 59.

— An election to use 2007 earned income to calculate the 2008 earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit, affecting Lines 64a and 64b.

— An additional exemption for taxpayers providing housing to persons affected by Midwestern storms, tornadoes or flooding, affecting Line 6c of Form 1040.

— An increased charitable standard mileage rate from 14 cents-per-mile to 36 cents-per-mile (and to 41 cents-per-mile after June 30, 2008) for taxpayers using vehicles to volunteer amid these natural disasters, affecting Line 16 of Schedule A and Line 40 of Form 1040.

Form 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income

Schedule B, Form 1065. In general, the major changes to the Form 1065 involve ownership issues. When ownership meets certain percentage thresholds, it must be reported on Schedule B (Form 1065). Revised Schedule B will also be used to provide information about cancelled debt and like-kind exchanges that the partnership may have participated in during the tax year.

Note. For small partnerships, the asset threshold for filing Schedules L, M-1 and M-2 with Form 1065 has been increased from $600,000 to $1,000,000.

Schedule C, Form 1065. The new Schedule C will be required of Form 1065 filers that file Schedule M-3. Schedule C will be used to report information about related party transactions, allocations, transfers of interest, cost sharing arrangements and changes in methods of accounting.

Schedule K-1. There are also new Instructions for Item J of Schedule K-1, Form 1065. The new Instructions clarify how partnerships are to determine partners’ percentage share in the profit, loss and capital at beginning and end of the partnership’s tax year.

Our firm stands ready to help you maximize your tax savings. In addition to providing you with more details on the 2008 tax law changes, we can help you maximize tax breaks that, while not new to the tax law, may be the first time they apply to you because of changed circumstances.

 


If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.