That old saying about death and taxes being the only two certainties are incorrect. No one is ever certain about their taxes. If you are a tax professional, or just inherited the family mantle of being the go-to person for tax questions and annual filings, you’re well familiar with the many taxation uncertainties people face. These are the questions that pop up time after time and year after year. You can probably recite the answers verbatim. So, what are the four most common tax-related questions people ask CPAs and financial planners? In no particular order, here is the list:
“Is It Deductible?”
CPAs aren’t humorous types by nature, but they have one running joke about this question, the most frequent of all tax queries. Whenever someone says, “I have a tax question,” the CPA immediately answers, “It’s not deductible.” Actually, the joke is aimed at the IRS and its many strict rules about the deductibility of various forms of income. As a default answer, “It’s not deductible,” is accurate more often than not.
The new tax law, known as the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act, has made this question much rarer because it is now less common to file an itemization list as part of a tax return. The way things are set up now, most single and married filers are better off not itemizing, so the “Is that deductible?” query is dying a slow death as a result of changing tax law. That’s probably a good thing for everyone.
“When Will I Get My Refund?”
For many years, this was the most frequent tax question based on IRS data gathered from phone inquiries. The government got smart and added a special section to the IRS.gov website. It’s a giant button, labeled “Where is My Refund?” Click the magic button and input a bit of personal data and you’ll get a specific answer, right down to the day when you can expect your mailed or direct-deposited refund amount.
“Are Life Insurance Proceeds Taxable?”
Some folks are finding that when it comes to doing their own taxes but freeze up when they receive a life insurance payout. It’s common to wonder are life insurance proceeds are taxable or not. The good news is that, in the majority of situations, not only are proceeds not taxable, you do not even need to report the income on your tax return when you go to file.
“Do I Have to File Even If My Income is Low?”
Many people don’t realize that if their income is below a certain threshold, they are not required by law to file an income tax return. The numbers vary based on filing status and whether you are above or below the age of 65, but for the grand majority of U.S. citizens, you’ll need to file if you are single and earn more than $12,000 or are married and earn, jointly, more than $24,000. It’s important to know what those numbers are usually raised each year or two to keep up with inflation.