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By D. David Hebebrand
Moats & Hebebrand CPAs 

Tax credits and tax deductions

Your Tax Preparer


I have noticed confusion in the people I talk to regarding tax credits and tax deductions. A tax deduction reduces the amount of income that is subject to tax. The itemized deductions for mortgage interest, real estate taxes, contributions, etc are examples. If you earn $60,000 but have $15,000 in itemized deductions, you pay tax on $45,000 of income. If you are in a 15% federal tax bracket, a $15,000 tax deduction reduces your tax $2,250 ($15,000 x 15% tax rate). A tax credit reduces your tax by the amount of the credit. A $1,000 child tax credit reduces the tax by $1,000. Hence tax credits are worth much more than tax deductions. A brief summary of tax credits follows:

Child Tax Credit- applies to children under age 17. The child must be related to, live with, and be a dependent of the taxpayer who provides greater than 50% of their support. The $1,000 per child tax credit is reduced as the taxpayer’s income exceeds certain thresholds.

Child & Dependent Care Credit- This credit is 20%-35% of the smallest of $3,000 or the amount spent to provide dependent care for one individual ($6,000 for two or more individuals) to allow the taxpayer (if married a joint return must be filed) to work or look for work. A qualified child/dependent must be under 13 years of age at the close of the tax year (unless the individual is disabled and is a dependent or spouse who lived with the taxpayer more than half the year). The 35% credit rate reduces to 20% as income exceeds certain thresholds.

Adoption Credit- A tax credit equal to $13,460 may be taken for qualified expenses paid in 2016 (adoption fees, attorney fees, court costs, travel expenses) to adopt a child under age 18, or disabled physically or mentally incapable of self care. Interestingly, the credit can still be claimed for expenses to adopt a U.S. citizen or resident child even if the adoption never becomes final. The credit cannot be claimed for a foreign child unless the adoption becomes final. The credit is not refundable. If the credit exceeds tax owed, the unused credit can be carried forward up to 5 years. California allows a tax credit of 50% of the adoption expense once the adoption is final.

Earned Income Credit- The Earned Income Credit is refundable for taxpayers with earned income (wages, combat pay, disability pay reported on form W-2 and self-employment income) below certain income threshold amounts. Taxpayers with more than $3,400 of investment income (interest earned, dividends earned, capital gains, royalty income, and rental income) do not qualify. The requirements to receive the credit are stringent, but since the credit is refundable (credits in excess of tax owed are paid to the taxpayer as a tax refund) it is worth looking at. This credit has been abused in the past and the IRS looks at it closely, so don’t claim it if you are not entitled to it.

Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit- This is a credit for energy efficient doors, windows, insulation, heating, air conditioning, stoves and water heaters installed on your principal residence. The maximum credit is $500 total since 2006, of which only $200 of credit can be from windows.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit- this credit applies to solar and wind power property and geothermal heat pumps and is equal to 30% of the cost of eligible property (there is no maximum credit). A taxpayer can rely on the manufacturer’s certification that the property qualifies for the credit. The credit does not apply to swimming pools/hot tubs.

Retirement Savings Contribution Credit- Provides for a credit of 10-50% of contributions to IRAs and retirement plans up to a maximum credit of $2,000 ($4,000 for married filing jointly). The credit reduces as your income increases and disappears at $61,500 filing jointly, $46,125 for head of household, and $30,750 for singles or married filing separately. The credit does not apply if you were born after Jan 1, 1998, were a student any part of 5 months in 2015, or were claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer.

Other credits exist for electric vehicles, homes with mortgage credit certificates on personal residences, small employer pension plan start up costs, and 31 other business credits. Hopefully some of these credits can reduce your 2016 taxes. The staff of Moats & Hebebrand CPAs desire to provide helpful information to assist in the filing of timely and accurate tax returns to members of the Tehachapi community.

The office of Moats & Hebebrand CPA’s makes a concerted effort to stay on top of the changes in the tax laws so you don’t have to. Let us prepare your 2015 tax returns so you know they are done right! We are also open all year to assist with tax planning and to take care of our customers.


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