The IRS expects that 75 percent of all 2012 returns will be entitled to a refund, so if you haven’t started preparing your taxes yet, do it: There’s no reason to wait for April 15 to roll around to get that money back from Uncle Sam. And remember: If you do not file your return by the due date, you may have to pay penalties and interest. Even if you can’t meet the deadline, you can file for an extension, which will give you until October 15 to file your 2012 tax returns.
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Here are some updates before you start to prepare:
New for tax year 2012, the IRS is providing taxpayers whose incomes are ,000 or less with “Free File”, available through IRS.gov, where a number of tax software companies make their products available for free. Additionally, some states are offering similar options. Electronic e-filing is available to all taxpayers, regardless of income.
Mailing your return: If you are filing a paper return, you may be mailing it to a different address this year because the IRS has changed the filing location for several areas. See Where To File for a list of IRS addresses.
Exemption amount: ,800 from ,700 in 2011
Standard deduction: For married couples filing a joint return, the standard deduction is ,900 for 2012. For single individuals and married couples filing separate returns, it is ,950 and for heads of household it increases by 0 to ,700 for 2012.
Tax-bracket thresholds increase for each filing status. For a married couple filing a joint return, for example, the taxable-income threshold separating the 15-percent bracket from the 25-percent bracket is ,700, up from ,000 in 2011.
Estate and gift tax: The exclusion amount for 2012 is ,120,000. The exclusion for gifts to a spouse who is not a citizen of the United States increases to 9,000 for 2012.
Itemized deductions and personal exemptions: The itemized deduction limitation and personal exemption phase-out rules were repealed for 2011 and 2012, which means taxpayers can deduct the full amount of their itemized deductions and personal exemptions in 2012. These limitations (0,000 for individuals and 0,000 for joint filers) will go back into effect for tax year 2013
Get the Credit(s) You Deserve:
Tax credits are the best tax deal going, because they reduce your taxes dollar for dollar, instead of being calculated based on your tax bracket.
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable credit for low- and moderate- income workers and working families. The 2012 income limit for the EITC is under ,270 for joint filers and under ,060 for singles and the maximum credit is ,891. The credit varies by family size, filing status and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children. Use Schedule 8812 to figure your additional child tax credit for 2012. (Details are in IRS Publication 596 — PDF.)
The Child Tax Credit is up to