Wednesday, March 16, 2011

8 Costly Tax Mistakes

MSN asked their readers to share some of the tax mistakes they have made. Make sure to avoid all of these when you file your return this year!


1. Was your debt forgiven? Report it as income.

In our sputtering economy, Americans are renegotiating credit card debt as never before. Yet many don't discover until later -- sometimes much later -- that in the view of the IRS, canceled debt from credit cards is income. "What we didn't know was that all the savings were considered income," one reader told us. "We were charged late charges and penalties."

Credit card companies report forgiven debt to the IRS on Form 1099-C (.pdf file). "You should receive a copy," says Tracy Coenen, a forensic accountant whose practice, Sequence, assists taxpayers with tax audits and tax fraud investigations.

Things get more complicated with mortgage debt, and you may want to talk with a tax expert if you have restructured your home loan. Coenen notes that canceled mortgage debt on your primary residence may be eligible for exclusion from income under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act, which applies to debt forgiven starting in 2007. The law remains in effect through 2012.

2. Report all your jobs.

Several readers admitted that they've forgotten to include some sources of income. One woman said she neglected to include her husband's $27,000-a-year job in 2008, and still owes a fine of $3,400. "I think this is just about as stupid as one can get!" she wrote. Another forgot about two weeks of work her husband put in for one company. Even though they filed for the correct amount once they got the W-2 Form, she wrote, "HUGE problem!"

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