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Financial Advice

Reporting Your Income

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One of the most important forms you will need for filing your taxes is your W-2 form. Your employer is required by law to provide you with a statement of your earnings and taxes withheld. This statement comes in the form of a W-2, which must be provided to you by Jan. 31 of each year of your employment. Gathering your documents that reflect your income and deductions is stressful enough, but what should you do if your employer has not sent you a W-2 form?

The first step is to contact that employer and request a copy of your form. It would be best to verify the mailing address that employer has for you. Then, allow a few extra days for possible mailing delays before you set up an appointment to see your tax preparer.

If you can't locate your employer, or if that employer has gone out of business, you will need to file Form 4852, a substitute wage-and-tax statement, which can be used in place of the W-2 form. You will need to use the information from your pay stubs to complete Form 4852. Then, attach Form 4852 along with your other W-2s, if any, to your tax return, and send it to the Internal Revenue Service. The I.R.S. will match the information you have provided on the form with any information the Social Security Administration may have. You will not be able to electronically file your tax return and may experience a delay in processing your return—and getting any refund—until the information is verified.

Even if you did not receive a W-2, your employer will still report your wages to the Social Security Administration. You are required to report, on your tax return, all wages that you have received, whether or not you received a W-2. If you do not report all your wages and any other income you may have received, the I.R.S. may reject your electronically filed return. Further, the I.R.S. does a "matching" routine that checks what is on your tax return against income that employers, banks, brokerage houses, and the like may have reported to the I.R.S. or Social Security Administration; if there is income you received and but did not report, the I.R.S. will assess you any additional taxes that may be due, plus penalties and interest for underreporting your income.

So, before meeting with your tax preparer, or doing your own taxes, carefully review the forms you have received and check that all jobs you had during the year have sent you the appropriate forms: W-2 or 1099s, as the case may be. It is best to be sure you have not forgotten one of those jobs you did during the year. It may bring unwanted attention to your tax return.

Amnesty!

No, this isn't amnesty as an I.N.S. issue, nor is it an I.R.S. issue. It is an F.T.B. (Franchise Tax Board) issue. The state of California Franchise Tax Board has an amnesty program to entice non-filers and late filers to get their taxes filed and avoid some of the penalties for the late filing and late paying. You can't really call this an amnesty program; it is a partial amnesty program. It applies to tax years beginning before Jan. 1, 2003. So the tax return for 2003 would not be covered but the earlier years would be. This program applies to taxpayers who are delinquent in their Personal Income Tax, Corporation Tax, or State Sales and Use Tax payments.

You may have received a letter from the Franchise Tax Board saying its records show that you may be eligible to participate because there is information that you have unfiled tax returns or owe taxes. You may or may not be eligible for this, or you may not have any delinquent tax filing due. The F.T.B. is trying to inform everyone of the program. If you receive the letter, you can call and ask what is outstanding; the F.T.B. will tell you. The phone number for information concerning your particular case is (800) 852-2753.

To participate in the program to reduce or eliminate the penalties involved with being late, you must apply after Feb. 1, 2005 but not later than March 31, 2005. This program is much too complex to discuss simply in this short article. The best approach would be to download the information and application forms from the Franchise Tax Board website. To get the forms and further information, the website is www.ftb.ca.gov. The form number to get is FTB 2300 BE. Instructions are also available.

Patrick Connoly is a tax advisor with H&R Block. For more information, visit www.hrblock.com, or telephone (323) 634-9205.

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