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Filing Your 2013 Federal Income Tax Return

If you filed for an extension this year, your federal income tax return and final tax payments are due October 15. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Lots of changes to consider

While most individuals will pay taxes based on the same federal income tax rate brackets that applied for 2012, a new 39.6% federal income tax rate applies for 2013 if your taxable income exceeds $400,000 ($450,000 if you're married filing jointly, $225,000 if married filing separately). If your income crosses that threshold, you'll also find that a new 20% maximum tax rate on long-term capital gain and qualifying dividends now generally applies (in prior years, the maximum rate was generally 15%).

You may also need to account for new taxes that took effect in 2013. If your wages exceeded $200,000 in 2013, you were subject to an additional 0.9% Medicare payroll tax--if the tax applied, you probably noticed the additional tax withheld from your paycheck. If you're married and file a joint tax return, the additional tax kicks in once the combined wages of you and your spouse exceed $250,000 (if you're married and file separate returns, the tax kicks in once your wages exceed $125,000). One thing to note is that the amount withheld may not accurately reflect the tax owed. That's because your employer calculates the withholding without regard to your filing status, or any other wages or self-employment income you may have received during the year. As a result, you may end up being entitled to a credit, or owing additional tax, when you do the calculations on your return.

And, if your adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $200,000 ($250,000 if married filing jointly, $125,000 if married filing separately), some or all of your net investment income may be subject to a 3.8% additional Medicare contribution tax on unearned income. Additionally, high-income taxpayers (e.g., individuals with AGIs greater than $250,000, married couples filing jointly with AGIs exceeding $300,000) may be surprised to see new limitations on itemized deductions, and a possible phaseout of personal and dependency exemptions.

New home office deduction rules

If you qualify to claim a home office deduction, starting with the 2013 tax year you can elect to use a new simplified calculation method. Under this optional method, instead of determining and allocating actual expenses, you simply multiply the square footage of your home office by $5. There's a cap of 300 square feet, so the maximum deduction you can claim under this method is $1,500. Not everyone can use the optional method, and there are some potential disadvantages, but for many the new simplified calculation method will be a welcome alternative.

Same-sex married couples

Same-sex couples legally married in jurisdictions that recognize same-sex marriage will be treated as married for all federal income tax purposes, even if the couple lives in a state that does not recognize same-sex marriage. If this applies to you, and you were legally married on December 31, 2013, you'll generally have to file your 2013 federal income tax return as a married couple--either married filing jointly, or married filing separately. This affects only your federal income tax return, however--make sure you understand your state's income tax filing requirements.

 

 

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