March 24, 2011
Diane Giordano, Tax & Business Partner, Provides Tax Advice and Works the Phones for the New York Daily News' Annual Tax Hotline
By Phyllis Furman
Seeking help as the tax deadline approaches, New Yorkers flooded the Daily News Tax Hotline again Wednesday.
Phones rang off the hook and scores of taxpayers logged on to a live Web chat as members of the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants fielded questions on everything from IRAs to whether one must pay taxes on forgiven debts.
Today is the last day to call in for free help. CPAs will be manning phones from 10 a.m. to
4 p.m. Call (212) 210-2044 or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also check online at nydailynews.com for information about a live Web chat today at 12 p.m. with the CPAs.
"This is a mitzvah," said Avery Neumark of Rosen Seymour Shapps Martin & Co. after tackling tax questions from readers. "We are giving back to the community."
Beatrice Chillemi, a 62-year-old bookkeeper from Great Kills, S.I., wondered whether she should open an IRA. She told CPA Diane Giordano of Marcum LLP that she faced a high tax bill for 2010 and was trying to find a way to reduce her taxable income.
"It's a good idea - providing you meet all the criteria for being eligible to contribute to a deductible IRA," Giordano said. "A contribution to a traditional IRA prior to April 15, 2011 will effectively reduce one's taxable income for year end 2010."
Paul Willis, 62, of St. Albans, Queens, said he had settled a debt. "Do I owe taxes?" he asked.
"Forgiveness of debt is taxable income," answered Patrick Colabella of Colabella & Co.
"There are exceptions. If you are insolvent after the forgiveness of debt, then the amount of debt forgiveness might not be taxable."
Mary Ito, an 82-year-old retired bookkeeper from Washington Heights, told Patrick Daly of Citrin Cooperman & Co. that she had just paid $13,000 to convert a bathtub into a handicap-accessible shower.
"Can I deduct the cost from my taxes?," she asked.
"This is a medical expense. Medical expenses are deductible if they exceed 7-1/2% of your adjusted gross income," Daly answered. "Your income is less than $100,000, so you will likely get some kind of benefit."
A reader logging on to the live Web chat wanted to know if college students had to pay taxes.
The answer: "There are income thresholds for filing. If your income is over the threshold, you must file a return. Student status is not relevant."
The accountants assisting in the Daily News Tax Hotline can answer general questions, but the answers are not a substitute for individualized advice from a professional who's hired by you and has full knowledge of your financial affairs. The Daily News makes no representations or warranties of any kind as to information given by the Tax Hotline accountants, and under no circumstances will it or the accountants be liable to any caller or other person for damages of any nature arising in any way from the use of such information.