Income tax lawyers specialize in filing income taxes for individuals and businesses. Tax lawyers also advise clients on complex tax issues and handle disputes before the Internal Revenue Service and state taxing agencies.
How Is Income Tax Calculated?
To calculate income tax, individuals must calculate their gross income, adjusted gross income, and taxable income.
1) What Is Gross Income?
Section 61 of the Internal Revenue Code defines gross income as "all income, from whatever source derived." In other words, gross income is any income earned during the year, including wages, profits from stocks, rental income, and even income from illegal activities. Not all income is taxed, but determining gross income is the first step in calculating taxable income.
2) What Is Adjusted Gross Income?
Adjusted gross income (AGI) is a taxpayer’s gross income less certain deductions, including:
- Certain trade and business deductions
- Losses from sale or exchange of property
- Deductions attributable to rents and royalties
- Certain deductions of life tenants and income beneficiaries
- Pension, profit-sharing, and annuity plans of self-employed individuals
- Retirement savings
- Certain portions of lump-sum distributions from pension plans
- Penalties forfeited because of premature withdrawal of funds from time savings accounts or deposits
- Paid alimony
- Reforestation expenses
- Certain required repayments of supplemental unemployment compensation benefits
- Jury duty pay remitted to employer
- Deduction for clean-fuel vehicles and certain refueling
- Moving expenses
3) What Is Taxable Income?
Taxable income is the amount of income subject to tax. Taxpayers calculate their taxable income by subtracting their exemptions and standard or itemized deductions from their AGI. It is important to note that taxpayers can take either the standard deduction or the itemized deduction, but cannot take both. Taxpayers usually take whichever deduction yields the greatest tax reduction. Also, some income is not subject to tax, such as life insurance payouts or certain profits from the sale of a principal residence.
Once the taxpayer has calculated their taxable income, the taxpayer can then calculate their tax. Income tax is calculated by applying the taxpayer’s current tax rate to his or her taxable income. Tax rates vary depending on the taxpayer’s income, marital status, and dependents.
Should I Contact an Income Tax Lawyer?
Tax issues can be complex and may require professional assistance. Tax fraud can result in serious consequences, such as substantial fines or even prison time. If you have failed to pay taxes for several years, have substantial back taxes, or are being audited, contacting a tax lawyer may help.