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Bankrate's 2009 Tax Guide
Tips & tools
A tax tip a day plus an array of tax tools, terms and training will help you through filing and beyond.
Daily tax tip
TAX TIP No. 58
Reporting your investment earnings
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Of course, to see if you need to file either Schedule B or Schedule 1, you'll have to total up the amounts from all your 1099-INT and 1099-DIV forms. Because the tax schedules are designed for this information, why not go ahead and use the one that matches your return? If the totals aren't enough to require filing the appropriate investment earnings schedule, simply keep it as part of your personal tax records.

And taxpayers with bank or financial accounts in foreign countries, or who are involved in certain foreign trusts, will still have to file Schedule B regardless of interest or dividend income amounts.

Distributions also divided on the forms
What if your year-end account statement indicates you received capital gain distributions? You still might be able to escape the complicated Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, and report these earnings directly on your individual return (1040 or 1040A filers only).

Capital gain distributions do not mean that you personally sold any of your holdings. Rather, asset managers sell portions of portfolios throughout the year. If these sales produce a profit, the gain is passed along to individual shareholders as capital gain distributions.

To let the IRS know of this income, 1040 and 1040A filers with no other capital-gain activity can simply enter the distributions amount on their individual tax returns.

Form 1040 taxpayers report distributions on line 13. Be sure to check the box at the end of 13a so the IRS won't look for a Schedule D with your return. If you file Form 1040A, your distributions go on line 10.

Figuring your investment tax bill
Now to the ultimate goal of tax filing: determining your tax bill. When it comes to your investment earnings, you'll find that your earlier ease in reporting earnings is countermanded by a separate page of tax computations.

You probably noticed that the dividend and distribution amounts entered on line 9b are inset on each return so they're not included when you total your adjusted gross income. Rather, you must transfer these amounts, along with other entries from your return, to a work sheet found in both the 1040 or 1040A instruction booklets. You'll also need the work sheet if you reported qualified capital gains distributions (line 13 on the 1040; line 10 on 1040A forms).

By variously adding and subtracting different entries transferred from your return to the work sheet, you'll eventually arrive at your correct tax bill. It definitely takes time, especially if you're still doing your taxes by hand, but you have two good reasons not to take any shortcuts here.

First, the IRS gets copies of all your earning statements so agents can double check your amounts. If your numbers don't jibe with the statements, the IRS will certainly let you know.

But more importantly, doing the extra math can save you some tax dollars.

-- Updated: March 27, 2009
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