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Common Taxpayer Misconceptions

The NAEAís collection of ridiculous things tax clients believe

You don't have to be a tax protester to harbor mistaken ideas about the Tax Code -- many perfectly normal people do. According to an informal poll of Enrolled Agents by the National Association of Enrolled Agents, here are some of their clients' most common misconceptions.

My Social Security benefits arenít taxable. My Social Security benefits arenít taxable.

Depending on the amount of other income that a taxpayer has to report, their benefits may be taxable Ė but the maximum amount of Social Security benefits that must be included is 85 percent.

I donít need to report stock sales if I bought other stocks with the proceeds. I donít need to report stock sales if I bought other stocks with the proceeds.

Many taxpayers think that if they reinvested the money from a stock sale, or otherwise didnít see any cash, that it doesnít need to be reported. But stock sales outside of retirement accounts must be reported.

Iím a student and only work part-time, so I donít have to file a return. Iím a student and only work part-time, so I donít have to file a return.

Filing requirements are based on filing status, dependency status, amount of income, and whether it is earned or unearned Ė not whether youíre a student.

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Itís my preparerís fault. Itís my preparerís fault.

No matter who prepares your tax return, the taxpayer is legally responsible for its contents.

My deadbeat cousin lives in one of my rental properties. He doesnít pay much, but I can still treat it as a rental. My deadbeat cousin lives in one of my rental properties. He doesnít pay much, but I can still treat it as a rental.

There are limits on how far below fair market rental value you can go Ė including the fact that expenses cannot exceed income. There may be other limits as well: The Tax Court has suggested that a fair rent for a family member could be up to 20 percent below market.

My spouse and I separated last year and lived apart for most of the year Ė so I can file Single. My spouse and I separated last year and lived apart for most of the year Ė so I can file Single.

Unless you were legally divorced or separated as of the end of the year, you cannot file as single.

If I take dividends instead of wages from the S corp I own, I can save on payroll taxes. If I take dividends instead of wages from the S corp I own, I can save on payroll taxes.

In terms of S corp shareholders and employees, reasonable compensation must be paid before any dividends or loan repayments are permitted Ė and failing to properly report wages could result in reclassification of the dividends or loan repayments as wages, with penalties.

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Iím a signer on a foreign bank account, but not the owner Ė so I donít need to disclose it. Iím a signer on a foreign bank account, but not the owner Ė so I donít need to disclose it.

This area is under particularly heavy scrutiny right now, according to the NAEA, and there are a number of factors that determine the need to disclose these accounts and/or the assets. Since the penalties for non-disclosure are pretty severe, clients will want to make absolutely sure that they donít have a responsibility to report.



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