“Real World” Personal Strategy Blog

There ARE Some Shady Tax Pros Out There

“A lot of people like to do certain things, but they’re not that good at it. Keep going through the things that you like to do, until you find something that you actually seem to be extremely good at. It can be anything.”
– George Lucas

This subject came up in a note I wrote in mid-June, and the topic is back in the news.

You see, unlike my clients, there is a growing number of individuals and families who feel like they get a bit taken advantage by unethical and poorly-trained tax preparers and professionals. Families get sold on promises of fat refunds and excellent service…and then reality sets in. Errors, unfulfilled promises and worse–audits (!) come down the pike, and these families are left hanging in the lurch.

Well, the federal government is considering requiring a license for *anyone* who prepares taxes on another’s behalf. And yes…you might think I’d be opposed to these additional standards and licenses, but, in fact, legitimate businesses generally welcome higher standards as a way of announcing to our clients that we meet those standards! The American Bar Association and H&R Block are just two of the organizations that have announced they support the IRS effort.

Further, you can add your own comments for the IRS here: http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=211141,00.html . Feel free to add your thoughts–it will NOT increase your likelihood of an audit :).

Moving on to the subject of this week’s Strategy Note, we’ll be talking CARS. Specifically, of the “clunker” variety, as the new federal program started on Friday. Plus, there’s some other ways you can save on your taxes through qualifying vehicle purchases, which I lay out in this week’s note.

Oh, but before I go there, let me remind you of our “Independence Month Special”, esp. for your friends who may want the peace-of-mind from having some REAL professionals review their previous years’ returns–up to three years previous can still trigger an amendment which can save on taxes!

“Real World” Personal Strategy
Cars, Cars and CARS…

Two items today, re: vehicle purchases…

There’s been a bit of controversy surrounding the new program for trading in low-mileage vehicles (see here: http://abcnews.go.com/Business/story?id=8154897&page=1) , but regardless of your opinion on the program, it started on Friday.

To recap…

*Trade-ins must be 1984 models or newer, get no better than 18 miles per gallon, and have been registered and insured for the past year. (An interesting note is that buyers’ trades will actually be completely scrapped and have no value to the dealership above the amount of the voucher. A 10-year-old Lexus might qualify for the biggest ($4,500) voucher, but it’s almost certainly worth more than that on the open market, so you should keep that in mind.)

* The mileage you get in your daily driving does not matter one bit. What matters is what’s on record with the government; its source of data is www.fueleconomy.gov. A muffler-dragging 23-year-old Honda may meet the popular definition of “clunker”, but if the government’s estimates show it should get more than 18 mpg combined new, it’s not a clunker. You’ll see two sets of fuel-economy numbers for most cars: one calculated under an older EPA system, the other recalculated to reflect a new formula. Use the new one.

*The numbers:
– New passenger vehicles must have a combined mpg of 22mpg; “Light duty” trucks must be 18 mpg; and trucks over 6,000 lbs. must get 15mpg

– To qualify for the program, the “old” vehicle must get…

>Passenger vehicles– 4 mpg LESS than the new for $3500 credit; 10 mpg LESS than the new for $4500 credit

>”Light duty” trucks– 2 mpg LESS than the new for $3500; 5 mpg LESS for $4500

>Trucks over 6K lbs– 1 mpg LESS than the new for $3500; 2 mpg LESS for $4500

Let us know if we can help…

SEPARATELY from “Cash for Clunkers”…

A special deduction will be available on your 2009 individual tax return, next year, whether you itemize deductions or not.

If you purchase a new passenger vehicle between February 16, 2009 and before January 1, 2010, you may qualify for the deduction. There are income limitations after which a phase-out will occur. For example, if your modified adjusted gross income is between $125,000 and $135,000 for individual filers, or between $250,000 and $260,000 for joint filers, the deduction may be discounted or disallowed.

No matter whether you purchase a new car, light truck, motor home or motorcycle, this deduction will be limited to the state and local sales and excise taxes paid on up to $49,500 of the original purchase price of the vehicle. According to the IRS, this deduction will enable you to buy now and get cash back later on your 2009 tax return.

Hope this helps!

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