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Beware: Tax changes afoot this year

As taxpayers everywhere begin preparing their 2006 tax returns, the same questions are on their minds: Whats new in the tax code? Can I take advantage of new deductions? What about charitable contributions? Should I do the return myself or call a tax professional? The National Society of Accountants (NSA) reports the following changes that affect 2006 returns, including some good news: Charitable Contributions: Clothing and household items donated to charity after Aug. 17, 2006, must be in good used condition or better. However, a taxpayer may claim a deduction of more than $500 for any single item, regardless of its condition, if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return. Inflation Adjustments: The value of each personal and dependency exemption is $3,300, up $100 from 2005. The standard deduction is $10,300 for married couples filing a joint return and qualifying widow(er)s, a $300 increase over 2005; $5,150 for singles and married individuals filing separate returns, up $150; and $7,550 for heads of household, up $250. IRA Contribution Limits: The contribution limit for Roth and traditional IRAs rose to $5,000, up from $4,500 in 2005, for those age 50 or over. For those under 50, the limit remains unchanged at $4,000. Energy Credits: A 10 percent credit is allowed for various energy-saving improvements made to a taxpayer's main home. The credit is based on the cost of new energy-efficient improvements including insulation, exterior windows, exterior doors, water heaters, heat pumps, central air conditioners, furnaces and hot water boilers. The overall credit is limited to $500 Everyones situation is a little different, but there are opportunities for tax savings for most people if they look hard enough, explains NSA President Robert H. Fukuhara, Jr. CPA, ABA, ATA, of Fujieki, Fukuhara & Company, Honolulu, Hawaii. Many people will choose to hire a professional to prepare their tax return, but they should move quickly tax season is already underway. As professional accountants specializing in serving individuals and main street businesses, we want to help everyone who comes to us, Fukuhara says. But our schedules fill up quickly this time of year, so I encourage anyone considering hiring a professional to do so right away. Fukuhara and NSA have also identified several changes that take effect for 2007 that taxpayers should consider as they plan for the coming year: Basic standard deductions have increased to for $5,350 for single individuals, $10,700 for married couples filing jointly, $7,850 for heads of households, and $5,350 for married individuals filing separately. Dependent exemption has increased from $3,300 in 2006 to $3,400. 0 percent, 5 percent, 15 percent capital gains and qualified dividend rates are extended to 2010. Cash contributions to charity must now be supported by a dated bank record or a dated receipt. Contribution of used clothing and household items must be in good condition or better. Hope and Lifetime education credits will be phased out for taxpayers with modified adjusted gross income of $47,000 to $57,000 ($94,000 to $110,000 for joint filers). Business mileage goes from 44.5 cents per mile to 48.5 cents. Medical mileage goes from 18 cents per mile to 20 cents. Charity purpose miles stay unchanged at 14 cents per mile. Social Security wage base rises from $94,200 in 2006 to $97,200 in 2007. NSA has an easy-to-use online search engine to access a nationwide directory of tax professionals at www.nsacct.org.

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