The IRS announced it is opening the 2019 individual income tax return filing season on January 27. Even if you typically don’t file until much closer to the April 15 deadline (or you file for an extension), consider filing as soon as you can this year.

a black-ink pen lying next to tax withholding forms for a tax return

The reason: You can potentially protect yourself from tax identity theft — and you may obtain other benefits, too.


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A much-hated tax on not-for-profit organizations is on the way out. At the end of 2019, Congress repealed a provision of 2017’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which triggered the unrelated business income tax (UBIT) of 21% on not-for-profit employers that provide employees with transportation fringe benefits.

a red monorail train speeding overhead people walking through a transportation terminal; image used for UBIT transportation fringe benefits blog post

Unequipped to handle the additional administrative burdens and compliance costs, thousands of not-for-profits had complained — and legislators apparently listened.


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The federal government spending package titled the “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020,” does more than just fund the government. It extends certain income tax provisions which had already expired or were due to expire at the end of 2019. The agreement on the spending package also includes the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act.

U.S. Capitol building with American flag waving in front; image used for blog about tax law change update about extenders and provisions

Let’s look at some of the highlights.


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The number of people engaged in the “gig” or sharing economy has grown in recent years, according to a 2019 IRS report. And there are tax consequences for the people who perform these jobs, such as providing car rides, renting spare bedrooms, delivering food, walking dogs or providing other services.

view of a car steering wheel and dashboard with a phone showing directions on a map; image used for blog about tax obligations for a side gig

Basically, if you receive income from one of the online platforms offering goods and services, it’s generally taxable. That’s true even if the income comes from a side job and even if you don’t receive an income statement reporting the amount of money you made.


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If you’re adopting a child, or you adopted one this year, there may be significant tax benefits available to offset the expenses. For 2019, adoptive parents may be able to claim a nonrefundable credit against their federal tax for up to $14,080 of “qualified adoption expenses” for each adopted child. (This amount is increasing to $14,300 for 2020.) That’s a dollar-for-dollar reduction of tax — the equivalent, for someone in the 24% marginal tax bracket, of a deduction of over $50,000.

a young boy in a green shirt, holding both hands on a red heart on a wooden table; image used for a blog about tax savings of adopting a child

Adoptive parents may also be able to exclude from their gross income up to $14,080 for 2019 ($14,300 for 2020) of qualified adoption expenses paid by an employer under an adoption assistance program. Both the credit and the exclusion are phased out if the parents’ income exceeds certain limits, as explained below.

Adoptive parents may claim both a credit and an exclusion for expenses of adopting a child. But they can’t claim both a credit and an exclusion for the same expense.


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With Thanksgiving behind us, the holiday season is in full swing. At this time of year, your business may want to show its gratitude to employees and customers by giving them gifts or hosting holiday parties. It’s a good idea to understand the tax rules associated with these expenses.

a close up photo of a green christmas tree with red and pink glass ornaments with two brown-haired women in the background; image used for a blog post about tax breaks from holiday parties and gifts

Are they tax deductible by your business and is the value taxable to the recipients?


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As we all know, medical expenses, such as services and prescription drugs, are expensive. You may be able to deduct some of your expenses on your tax return, but the rules make it difficult for many people to qualify.

a yellow toy ambulance with red and black stripes sitting on a white wood table; image used for a blog post about tax deductions for medical expenses

However, with proper planning, you may be able to time discretionary medical expenses to your advantage for tax purposes.


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You can reduce taxes and save for retirement by contributing to a tax-advantaged retirement plan. If your employer offers a 401(k) or Roth 401(k) plan, contributing to it is a taxwise way to build a nest egg.

If you’re not already contributing the maximum allowed, consider increasing your contribution rate between now and year end. Because of tax-deferred compounding (tax-free in the case of Roth accounts), boosting contributions sooner rather than later can have a significant impact on the size of your nest egg at retirement.

pennies, dimes, nickels and quarters spilling out of a clear glass jar; used for a blog post about saving on taxes with a 401(k) plan

With a 401(k), an employee elects to have a certain amount of pay deferred and contributed by an employer on his or her behalf to the plan. The contribution limit for 2019 is $19,000. Employees age 50 or older by year end are also permitted to make additional “catch-up” contributions of $6,000, for a total limit of $25,000 in 2019.

The IRS just announced that the 401(k) contribution limit for 2020 will increase to $19,500 (plus the $6,500 catch-up contribution).


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