GET TAX HELP (800) 536-0734

Tax Checklist for Moving States

tax checklist for moving states

Moving to a new state is often an exciting adventure, but amidst the hustle and bustle of relocation, it’s easy to overlook important details, such as how the move will impact your taxes. State tax laws vary widely, and failing to understand and plan for these differences can result in unexpected financial consequences. To help you stay ahead of the game, here’s a comprehensive tax checklist for anyone considering a move to a different state. 

Check the Income Tax Rate 

When researching where to move, finances are sure to be a top priority to keep in mind. Sometimes this means choosing a state that has a lower cost of living. Another thing to consider is the state income tax rate. Certain states do not tax any income. These include:  

  • Alaska  
  • Florida 
  • Nevada  
  • South Dakota  
  • Texas  
  • Tennessee  
  • Washington  
  • Wyoming  

New Hampshire does not tax W-2 wages but does tax certain investment and business income. However, this tax will be eliminated in 2025. California, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey, Oregon and Minnesota currently have the highest income tax rates.

Check Property Tax Rates 

Property tax rates can vary widely from state to state, and even within states, they can vary by county or municipality. It’s essential to research the specific property tax rates in your new location to accurately budget for homeownership expenses. Some states, like New Jersey and Illinois, are known for having particularly high property tax rates. Others, such as Hawaii and Alabama, have comparatively lower rates. Before purchasing a home in your new state, research recent property sales in the area to get an idea of the market value and potential property tax implications

High property tax rates can impact the affordability of homeownership. This is especially true for those on fixed incomes or with limited financial resources. When considering a move to a new state, factor in the property tax implications alongside other housing-related expenses, such as mortgage payments, insurance, and maintenance costs. Property taxes are generally deductible on federal income tax returns, subject to certain limitations. However, the deduction for state and local taxes, including property taxes, is capped at $10,000 per year for individuals or married couples filing jointly. 

Check Sales Tax Rates 

Sales tax rates are another critical consideration when moving to a new state, as they can impact your day-to-day spending habits and overall cost of living. Sales tax rates can vary significantly from state to state and even within states. While some states have a single statewide sales tax rate, others allow local jurisdictions to impose additional sales taxes, resulting in varying rates within the same state. 

Certain goods and services may be exempt from sales tax in some states. Common exemptions include groceries, prescription medications, and clothing. Additionally, some states impose special sales tax rates on specific items, such as gasoline, alcohol, tobacco, and prepared meals. Be aware of these special rates and how they may impact your budget. Sales tax rates can have a significant impact on the overall cost of living in a particular state. Higher sales tax rates may make goods and services more expensive, reducing your purchasing power and impacting your budget. When considering a move to a new state, factor in the sales tax rate alongside other cost-of-living expenses. 

Check Your Filing Requirements 

If you lived in two or more states during a year, you would need to check the filing requirements for each state. The requirements are typically listed on the state’s tax authority website. In most cases, you’ll need to file a return in all states you lived in during the tax year. To do this, you’ll need to calculate your earnings in each state and determine the percentage of your income that was earned in each state. You’ll need to file the relevant tax forms in each state, usually as a resident or part-year resident. It’s important to note that two different states legally cannot tax the same income, so moving states does not necessarily mean you will pay more taxes.   

There may be some scenarios in which you moved states, but still work in your old state. In this case, you would likely need to file a tax return in the state where you live, as well as a nonresident tax return in the state where you work. You may also want to check the tax laws in your new state. Finding out how your new state handles itemized deductions, state tax deductions, or federal tax changes can help you avoid unexpected issues during tax time.  

Check Which Income Types Are Taxable  

If you have multiple sources of income, it is vital to check how the income will be taxed in your new state. Interest and dividend income is typically taxed by the state in which you are a permanent resident. In addition, some states require estimated tax payments on some incomes. Not knowing the rules or deadlines for these can result in underpayment penalties.   

Investments that are tax-exempt in your old state may suddenly be taxable in your new state. While all states do not require you to pay taxes on federal bonds, not all states have the same definition of a federal bond, meaning some tax bonds and others do not. Retirement income is also taxed differently in certain states, so if you are moving because of retirement, you may want to check the tax laws surrounding retirement income first.   

Check Your Eligibility for Moving Expense Deductions 

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated the moving expense deduction for taxpayers, unless they are active-duty military members. However, this act is set to expire beginning in 2026.   

Tax Relief for Those Moving States 

It goes without saying that filing taxes after moving states can become very complex, especially if you have several income sources. Sometimes the new state you move to may not be your first choice, like when you’re an active-duty military member or are relocating for a job. In other cases, you may have the option to choose which state you want to relocate to. In these cases, researching tax laws in your new state can save a lot of time, money and stress during tax time. It may be best to seek the help of a credible tax preparer or professional to look at your tax situation. Optima Tax Relief has a team of dedicated and experienced tax professionals with proven track records of success.   

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

What is Imputed Income?

what is imputed income

While you may not have heard of the term “imputed income,” chances are that you might be receiving it from an employer. Imputed income is essentially non-cash goods or services that you receive from your employer as a form of income. It’s important to know how much you receive because it is taxable, which means it can come with certain tax implications. Here’s an overview of imputed income, including how it works, what’s included, and how to report it during tax time.  

What is Imputed Income?  

Imputed income is any non-cash items or services that you receive from your employer. It is expressed as the cash value of the non-cash perks you receive at work. It’s essentially the IRS’s way of ensuring that all forms of compensation, including non-monetary perks, are considered when calculating an individual’s taxable income. The total amount of imputed income is typically reported on an employee’s W-2 under “Wages, Tips and Other Compensation.”

Examples of Imputed Income

Here are the more common examples of perks or “fringe benefits.”

Company Vehicles

If you use a company car for work, this can be considered imputed income. However, only your personal use of the car is taxed as a fringe benefit. The amount taxed will depend on the fair market value of the car and the total miles driven for personal use compared to total miles driven that year. If you use a company car for personal use, you should actively log mileage and the purpose of each trip.   

Gym Memberships

Some companies give their employees free gym memberships to encourage wellness. This fringe benefit should be reported as income during tax time. This is true even if the gym membership is paid for through your employer-sponsored health insurance provider. If the gym is at the same location of the work property and is not only available to employees, then it is excluded from imputed income.   

Education Assistance

Some employers reimburse employees for higher education tuition, as long as the program of study is related to their area of work. If the amount granted to the employee exceeds $5,250, the excess will be considered taxable imputed income.  

Employer-Provided Housing

The fair market value of housing provided by an employer to an employee is typically considered imputed income, unless specific conditions apply. This also includes housing allowances. To qualify for an exclusion, the housing must be on business premises, be furnished, and be a condition of employment. An example of this type of scenario is if a construction worker was completing a job in a remote area that would make daily commuting impractical. There is more to this topic so be sure to consult a tax professional if you receive this type of fringe benefit for clarification. 

Group Term Life Insurance

When an employer pays for life insurance coverage exceeding $50,000 for an employee, the portion exceeding the limit is considered imputed income. 

Dependent Care Assistance

Employer-provided dependent care assistance exceeding $5,000 per year may be considered imputed income and subject to taxation. 

Moving Expense Reimbursement

Reimbursements for moving expenses are considered imputed income from 2018 through 2025. After 2025, a portion may become excluded. 

Adoption Assistance

Employer-provided adoption assistance exceeding $16,810 for 2024 may be considered imputed income and subject to taxation. 

Imputed Income Exclusions  

Small, infrequent benefits provided by an employer, such as occasional snacks or holiday gifts, are often excluded from income calculations. Additionally, things like company cell phones, meals, and some employment discounts are excluded. Employer contributions to qualified retirement plans, such as 401(k) plans, health savings accounts (HSAs) and flexible spending accounts (FSAs), are generally excluded

Reporting Imputed Income  

Your employer should withhold taxes on your imputed income and then report it on your W-2. Review this information carefully for accuracy. If your employer does not, they are still responsible for reporting the income. This means you are responsible for paying the tax on the income at tax time. Individuals must report this income on their tax return (Form 1040) in the appropriate sections. Refer to IRS instructions or seek professional assistance if needed. If you’re unsure about whether you currently receive any form of imputed income, you should seek help from a knowledgeable tax preparer. Optima Tax Relief has over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with tough tax situations.  

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Expenses You Didn’t Know Were Tax Deductible

Expenses you didn't know were tax deductible

Tax deductions can help lower your tax bill and even increase your tax refund on your return. While most people are aware of common deductions like mortgage interest, charitable donations, and medical expenses, there are a plethora of lesser-known expenses that could potentially save you money on your taxes. There are several tax deductions you might not know are deductible.  

Sales Taxes 

For taxpayers who itemize deductions, you can deduct either state and local income taxes or state and local sales taxes paid throughout the year. In some tax years and states, it might make sense to itemize your deductions rather than take the standard deduction. This deduction can be particularly advantageous for residents of states with no income tax or for those who made significant purchases subject to sales tax. For example, if you made a large purchase like a vehicle or engagement ring, you could deduct sales taxes off your federal return. Or, if you live in a state that does not impose a state income tax, you could write off the sales tax you paid that year.   

Medical Expenses 

You can deduct medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your AGI if you itemize your deductions. On the other hand, if you’re self-employed, you may be able to deduct 100% of your health insurance premiums. To qualify, you must have no other health insurance coverage. You may only deduct the amount of business income earned that year.   

Home Office Deduction 

Any space in your home used exclusively for conducting business can be deducted at $5 per square foot, up to 300 square feet. This home office deduction is meant for self-employed individuals. In other words, if you are a W-2 employee who works remotely, you do not qualify. 

Charitable Contributions

Cash donations to approved charities can be deducted for up to 50% of your AGI. However, you must be substantiated with bank statements or receipts. Non-cash donations can be deducted at fair market value. Even out-of-pocket expenses for charitable work can be deducted. For example, you can deduct the cost of gasoline to travel to complete charitable work. Alternatively, you can deduct mileage. The standard mileage rate for charitable travel in 2023 was 14 cents per mile and it will remain at this rate in 2024. 

Be sure to confirm that the charity has a tax-exempt status with the IRS before donating if you plan to claim a deduction. A few examples of approved organizations include a trust, foundation, church, synagogue, or other religious organizations, and veterans’ organizations. 

Child & Dependent Care 

If you pay a babysitter to watch your children while you work, look for work or attend school full-time, you may be able to claim the Child and Dependent Care Credit. This can also apply to care for an elderly parent. They must live with you and qualify as a dependent.   

Student Loan Interest 

If you are required to repay student loan debt, you can deduct the interest paid, up to $2,500. If your parents paid your student loan debt, the IRS views that money as a gift to you used to pay the loan. In this case, you can deduct up to $2,500 of the student loan interest they paid. That is as long as they do not claim you as a dependent on their tax return.  

College Expenses  

While most people are familiar with the deduction for tuition and fees, other educational expenses may also be deductible. This includes costs for workshops, seminars, and even certain textbooks and supplies. In addition, some states even allow you to deduct contributions made to your 529 College Savings Plan.

State Tax Deductions 

Your state may also offer its own set of unusual tax breaks. For example, Hawaii offers a tax deduction to taxpayers who maintain an “Exceptional Tree,” like the native Norfolk Pine. This deduction is up to $3,000 per tree and can be claimed once every three years. Alaska offers a deduction of up to $10,000 to offset the cost of whaling, which involves hunting whales to give the blubber and skin back to the community. New Mexico allows its residents to stop paying state income taxes once they reach 100 years old, as long as they’ve been a resident for the last six months. 

Tax Relief for Taxpayers 

Every tax situation is different. There are countless deductions and credits taxpayers can claim on their federal or state returns. Overall, the best thing to do is speak with a tax preparer about which deductions and credits you are eligible for and what substantiation might be needed to claim them. However, do remember claiming deductions without proper substantiation can lead to audits and delays in processing your return. 

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Tax Tips for Last-Minute Filers

Tax tips for last-minute filers

Filing your taxes can be stressful. Filing at the last minute can only add to the stress. As April 15th looms closer, the annual flurry of last-minute tax filers begins. Whether due to procrastination or complexity, many individuals find themselves scrambling to organize their finances and complete their tax returns before the deadline. If you haven’t filed your tax return yet, there’s no need to panic just yet. While the rush can be stressful, there are several strategies and tax tips for last-minute filers to help navigate this period efficiently and accurately. 

Know Your Facts

The most important fact to keep in mind is the tax deadline. In 2024, the tax deadline is April 15th. Other than this deadline, it’s vital to understand your specific tax situation, especially since it can vary from year to year. New changes like getting married, having a child, starting a business, or purchasing a home can alter your tax situation. Knowing which credits you can claim, or which forms you’re required to submit can help prevent last-minute errors and stress. 

Gather All Necessary Documents 

The first step for any tax filer, especially those running against the clock, is to gather all relevant documents. This includes W-2 forms from employers, 1099 forms for freelance or contract work, receipts for deductible expenses, investment income statements, and any other financial documents pertinent to your tax situation. Having all necessary paperwork on hand will streamline the filing process and minimize the chances of errors or omissions. 

Utilize Tax Preparation Software 

Tax preparation software can be a lifesaver for last-minute filers. They provide step-by-step guidance, automatic calculations, and error-checking features to simplify the filing process. These platforms also offer electronic filing options, which can expedite the submission of your return and ensure faster processing by the IRS. Additionally, many tax software providers offer mobile apps, allowing you to file directly from your smartphone or tablet for added convenience. 

Maximize Your Deductions and Credits

It’s not uncommon for taxpayers to overpay taxes or receive a smaller refund because they did not take advantage of all the tax deductions and credits they qualify for. Rushing through your taxes can help contribute to this. Common deductions include expenses related to homeownership, education, medical costs, and charitable contributions. Similarly, tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit, and Education Credits can provide significant savings. Take the time to review available deductions and credits to maximize your tax refund or minimize the amount owed. If you’re unsure, ask your tax preparer about your specific tax situation. 

Check for Accuracy

Amid the frenzy of last-minute filing, it’s easy to make mistakes or overlook important details on your tax return. Once you have all the forms completed and ready to be submitted, you should check everything for accuracy. Double-check numerical entries, ensure that your personal information is accurate, and verify that you’ve claimed all applicable deductions and credits. Even a small error could result in delays in processing or trigger an IRS audit, so attention to detail is crucial. 

File Electronically and Opt for Direct Deposit

When time is of the essence, filing your taxes electronically is the fastest and most secure option. E-filing a complete and accurate return will also mean receiving your refund faster. E-filing eliminates the need for paper forms and postage, expediting the processing of your return and reducing the risk of errors. Additionally, opting for direct deposit for any tax refunds can further accelerate the receipt of your funds. Refunds issued via direct deposit are typically deposited into your bank account within a few weeks, whereas paper checks may take significantly longer to arrive by mail.

Seek Professional Assistance if Necessary 

If your tax situation is particularly complex or you’re unsure about certain aspects of your return, don’t hesitate to seek professional assistance. Certified public accountants (CPAs) and tax preparers have the expertise and knowledge to navigate intricate tax scenarios and ensure compliance with ever-changing tax laws. While professional tax assistance may come with a fee, the peace of mind and potential savings from maximizing deductions or avoiding penalties can outweigh the cost. 

Tax Relief for Last-Minute Filers

Sometimes filing last minute is a necessity, but it is best to avoid this scenario whenever possible. Tax rules can change year to year so starting the filing process early is one of the few ways you can make the process run more smoothly. By following these tips and remaining organized, last-minute filers can successfully navigate the deadline rush and submit accurate tax returns. Remember to gather all necessary documents, consider filing for an extension if needed, utilize tax preparation software, maximize deductions and credits, review for accuracy, file electronically, and seek professional assistance if necessary. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can meet the tax deadline with confidence. 

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Should I File a Tax Extension?

Should I File a Tax Extension?

The tax filing deadline is just around the corner. If you need more time to prepare your tax return, you can file a tax extension. While a tax extension won’t give you more time to pay your taxes, it will allow a few more months to file your tax return without receiving a failure-to-file penalty. Here’s an overview of how tax extensions work and how to file one.   

What is a Tax Extension? 

The IRS allows taxpayers to file for a tax extension, which gives them more time to prepare their tax returns. If approved for a tax extension, the new tax deadline would be October 15, 2024. You can file for a tax extension for any reason, and the IRS will approve it as long as you submit Form 4868 by the April 15th tax deadline. While some states accept federal tax extension forms, others have their own requirements for obtaining an extension. Some states like California, Wisconsin, and Alabama offer automatic extensions, which means you don’t have to file a form. Other states require you to request an extension. You can check with your own state tax authority for more information on this.  

Does a Tax Extension Delay My Tax Payments? 

While a tax extension won’t delay the deadline to pay taxes, it will allow a few more months to file your tax return without receiving a failure-to-file penalty. That said, you might be wondering how much tax to pay if you aren’t sure how much you will owe, if any at all. In this case, you’ll need to estimate the amount of tax you will owe and pay that amount by April 15. If you do not, the IRS will begin to charge you interest on the balance owed, plus penalties. The failure-to-pay penalty is 0.5% of the tax owed after April 15, for every month or part of a month the tax remains unpaid, up to 25%.   

Calculating Estimated Tax

To calculate your estimated tax payment, you’ll need to first calculate your taxable income and then subtract tax deductions, or the standard deduction. The amount leftover should be an estimate of your taxable income for the year. Then you can apply your tax rate determined by your tax bracket, which is based on your taxable income and filing status. This should help you find the amount of tax owed for the year. 

Tax withholding should cover most, if not all, of this amount. If it does not, you can offset this amount by claiming tax credits you are eligible for. The tax remaining should be paid at the April tax deadline. If you overpay, you will receive a tax refund when you file before the October extension deadline. If you underpay, you could owe the balance, plus an underpayment penalty.  

Tax Underpayment Penalty 

The IRS underpayment penalty is a fee assessed on taxpayers who do not pay enough taxes during the tax year. While interest rates can change, the current rate for is 8% for individuals and 10% for corporations.   There are a couple ways to avoid the underpayment penalty. The first is to owe less than $1,000 when you file your return. Alternatively, you could pay either 90% of the current year’s tax or 100% of last year’s tax, whichever is less. However, if your AGI exceeds $150,000, you should pay the lesser of 90% of the current year’s tax or 110% of last year’s tax. Doing so should help you avoid the underpayment penalty.  

The IRS also offers underpayment waivers for some scenarios including: 

  • Taxpayers who were U.S. citizens or residents for the prior tax year and did not owe any taxes for that year 
  • Taxpayers who missed a required payment because of a casualty event, disaster, or other unusual circumstance 
  • The tax underpayment was a result of reasonable cause and not willful neglect 
  • Taxpayers who retired after reaching age 62 during the current or preceding tax year 
  • Taxpayers who became disabled during the tax year for which estimated payments were owed or during the preceding tax year 

Should I File a Tax Extension?  

If you are certain that you cannot file your tax return by the April 15 deadline this year, then you should at the very least file a tax extension before the tax deadline. This can immediately save you the trouble of dealing with a failure-to-file penalty. The current failure-to-file penalty can be up to 25% of the tax due. This penalty will not be charged if you file an extension, but it will be if you do not file a return by the extension deadline of October 15. Additionally, you should make sure you pay estimated taxes by the April 15 deadline to avoid the failure-to-pay penalty and the underpayment penalty. 

Filing a tax extension can be very helpful if you are still awaiting important tax documents, need some documents corrected, or just simply do not have time to file before the deadline. If you are wondering if you should file an extension because you owe taxes and you are unable to pay, filing an extension may not be a good idea. Instead, you might consider getting a payment plan or installment agreement set up with the IRS. We know dealing with the IRS on your own can be intimidating. Optima Tax Relief has over a decade of experience helping taxpayers get back on track with their tax debt.  

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation