IRS Publication Provides Answers To Tough Tax Questions

In a recent column regarding the Barrett Law
("Cost of switching from septic to sewer system is deductible," December 1,
1997), you said that the interest expense relating to a switch from septic to
sewer is deductible as real estate taxes. The IRS telephone representatives I
spoke with weren't knowledgeable about this rule. Can you point me in the
direction of IRS documentation for this deduction?

M.D., Indianapolis

Information regarding deductions for interest paid on
improvements of this type can be found in IRS Publication 530, "Tax Information
for First-Time Homeowners," under Real Estate Taxes. You can order this
publication by calling the IRS at 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). You can also
download this publication (along with tax forms and other publications) from the
IRS' web site on the Internet at  

I currently work as an independent contractor for
a local courier company. I drive 80,000-90,000 miles a year delivering various
items. In November, 1997, I purchased a used 5-year-old vehicle for $7,800 to
replace my previous vehicle. My question is: Can I take the entire $7,800 as a
Section 179 expense? I will probably only drive this vehicle about 2-3 years.
Therefore, it seems to me it would be more beneficial to take this as a one-time
deduction as opposed to actual expenses and taking depreciation over several

L.H., Indianapolis

First, I'm going to assume that you plan to use your car 100% for business purposes. If this is not the case, you will need to apportion your deduction between business and personal use of the car. At 80,000 to 90,000 miles per year, your standard mileage deduction for 1997 at $.315 per mile is $25,200 to 28,350. This sizeable deduction is much nicer than the relatively tiny Section 179 deduction and won't result in adverse tax effects down the road (such as a taxable recapture of part of the Section 179 deduction if you don't keep the car for five years). I'd recommend sticking to the mileage deduction.

If, for some reason, you still feel compelled to take the Section 179 deduction rather than taking a standard mileage deduction, consider the fact that there is an annual limit to how much depreciation expense you can take on a vehicle. Since Section 179 expense is considered depreciation, this limit applies to the Section 179 deduction as well.

For a vehicle purchased in 1997, you are limited to a maximum of $3,160 for your 1997 depreciation deduction. So you could take a Section 179 deduction of $3,160 in 1997. The balance would carry over to your 1998 tax return. Please keep in mind that you must continue to use this car at least 50% for business for five years in order to avoid recapturing part of this Section 179 deduction.

My granddaughter is a freshperson at I.U. this
year. Her mom wants to know if any tuition or other costs are deductible. We're
numb from all the credits and deductions promised by the

F.B., Indianapolis

You're right to be numb. The new education credits are much more confusing than they ought to be. The two tax credit options that might apply in this case are the Lifetime Learning Credit and the Hope Scholarship Tax Credit. The credits are mutually exclusive, so only one may be used per student.

The Hope credit is a $1,500 credit, calculated by taking 100% of the first $1,000 of tuition and related expenses paid and 50% of the next $1,000 paid. The student must be at least a half-time student. The credit only applies to expenses incurred in the first two years of college and is effective for expenses paid on or after 1/1/98.

The Lifetime Learning Credit is a $1,000 credit, calculated by taking 20% of the first $5,000 of tuition and related expenses incurred. There is no half-time enrollment requirement for this credit, nor does it apply only the first two years of college education. The Lifetime Learning Credit is available for expenses incurred after 6/30/98.

The credits are available to parents of a qualifying student who claim the student as a dependent, or to the student himself if he (or she) is not being claimed as a dependent on someone else's tax return. The credits are phased out if the parent's income exceeds $40,000 for single parents or $80,000 for married filing jointly parents. There is no credit allowed for married filing separately taxpayers.

copyright © 1998 - Gail

You may like these other stories...

Truckers and other owners of heavy highway vehicles take note: Your next federal highway use tax return is due on September 2.The September 2 due date, which was pushed back two days because the normal August 31 deadline...
The head of the IRS has a message for taxpayers and tax preparers who have endured long wait times while on the phone with the tax agency: Call your member of Congress.During his keynote speech at the 69th Annual Meeting of...
Regulators struggle with conflicts in credit ratings and auditsThe Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), which was created by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002, released its third annual report on audits of...

Already a member? log in here.

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Aug 26
This webcast will include discussions of recently issued, commonly-applicable Accounting Standards Updates for non-public, non-governmental entities.
Aug 28
Excel spreadsheets are often akin to the American Wild West, where users can input anything they want into any worksheet cell. Excel's Data Validation feature allows you to restrict user inputs to selected choices, but there are many nuances to the feature that often trip users up.
Sep 9
In this session we'll discuss the types of technologies and their uses in a small accounting firm office.
Sep 11
This webcast will include discussions of commonly-applicable Clarified Auditing Standards for audits of non-public, non-governmental entities.