Take note of tax filing changes this year

Published 1:22 pm Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ringing in the New Year means many things: resolutions, bitter cold, new beginnings, and of course, tax season.

“I have a cot in the back and I’ll just sleep here for the next 3 1/2 months,” Ben Gildner said with a laugh.

Gildner, a franchisee of the H&R Block in Austin, said there are several notable changes in tax filing this year, particularly for those who many qualify now for stimulus checks, families with newborns, homeowners, those who have a foreclosed home and divorced or separated parents.

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About half of those who file taxes file within the third week in January and the third week in February, Gildner said.

“Electronic filing has really changed that whole dynamic,” he explained.

“We still have a moderate end-of-season rush,” he added.

The deadline for filing taxes is Wednesday, April 15.

The first day to file is late this year: Friday, Jan. 16.

This is for both e-file and mail-in filing. However, you may prepare your taxes beforehand and they will be processed as early as possible, Gildner said.

Changes to take into consideration when filing this year include:

Stimulus checks

Income — Many people may qualify for the stimulus checks received last summer who did not qualify on their 2007 tax returns.

“Some who didn’t get one are eligible because they made too little or too much in 2007,” Gildner said. “If 2008 is different, they can get a stimulus check.”

Newborns — Those who did not have a newborn child on their 2007 tax return but will have that child on their 2008 return will qualify for an extra $300.

Seniors — Tens of thousands of seniors did not file a tax return last year; they do not usually file one because their only income is Social Security. These citizens qualify for a stimulus check.

According to Gildner, some filers last year received more than they were entitled to on their stimulus check. They do not have to pay this back to the IRS (stimulus reconciliation).


Homeowners who do not itemize will now be able to claim a deduction for property taxes paid, Gildner said.

“In the past, a significant number of homeowners in Austin weren’t able to claim a deduction for property taxes paid,” he said, because the market is so inexpensive. “This year, a new opportunity for homeowners means they can take a deduction for property taxes even if you don’t itemize. That will apply to a ton of people.”

Those who now qualify must remember to bring their county property tax statement when filing.

Farmers and self-employed

Farmers and self-employed filers who purchased equipment for their businesses and placed it into service during 2008 will receive a bonus depreciation.

“It means not ‘extra’ depreciation, but depreciation taken sooner,” Gildner said.

For instance, if a business owner bought a piece of equipment, he or she could take the regular depreciation and 50 percent of the cost of the item.


Foreclosures were huge in 2008 and those who have had one should note changes.

Previously, canceled debt, which includes foreclosures, is considered income by the IRS.

“That can put a pretty nasty pinch on people,” Gildner said.

Congress passed a waiver for 2008, meaning if your home is foreclosed you won’t have to pay on the canceled debt.

“There’s relief so you don’t have to pay taxes on the amount of the foreclosure,” Gildner said.

Divorced or separated parents

Parents who are divorced or separated and have minor age children now have the opportunity to deduct medical expenses.

“The reason that’s new is because there are some tax benefits for minor children of divorced or separated parents that can be split, and there are some that have to stay at home. In the past, what that has basically meant is that custodial parents could only deduct medical expenses paid for on the parent’s behalf.”

Now, regardless of who the custodial parent is, if both paid medical expenses for the child, both can qualify for tax benefits.

For more information about tax filing and to avoid waiting on the phone, visit www.irs.gov. For those who still want to talk to a service person, the IRS phone number is (800) 829-1040.