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Publication 554

Tax Guide 
for Seniors


What's New(p1)


Limits on personal exemptions and overall itemized deductions ended.(p1)

For 2010, you will no longer lose part of your deduction for personal exemptions and itemized deductions, regardless of the amount of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

Rollovers to Roth IRAs.(p1)

For tax years starting in 2010, the $100,000 modified AGI limit on rollovers from eligible retirement plans to Roth IRAs is eliminated and married taxpayers filing a separate return can now roll over amounts to a Roth IRA.
Also, for any 2010 rollover from an eligible retirement plan (other than a designated Roth account or Roth IRA) to a Roth IRA, any amounts that would be included as income will generally be included in income in equal amounts in 2011 and 2012. You can choose to include the entire amount in income in 2010.

In-plan rollovers to designated Roth accounts.(p2)

After September 27, 2010, if you are a plan participant in a section 401(k) or 403(b) plan, your plan may permit you to roll over amounts in those plans to a designated Roth account within the same plan (in-plan Roth rollover). The rollover of any untaxed amounts must be included in income. See Publication 575 for more details. Starting in 2011, governmental section 457(b) plans can include designated Roth accounts.
For any 2010 in-plan Roth rollovers, any amount that must be included in income is generally included in income in equal amounts in 2011 and 2012. You can choose to include the entire amount in income in 2010.

First-time homebuyer credit.(p2)

You generally cannot claim the credit for a home you bought after April 30, 2010. However, you may be able to claim the credit if you entered into a written binding contract before May 1, 2010, to buy the home before July 1, 2010, and actually bought the home before October 1, 2010. Also, certain members of the Armed Forces and certain other taxpayers have additional time to buy a home and take the credit.

Alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption amount increased.(p2)

The AMT exemption amount increased to $47,450 ($72,450 if married filing jointly or a qualifying widow(er)); $36,225 if married filing separately). For details, get Form 6251, Alternative Minimum Tax-Individuals.

Standard deduction increased.(p2)

For some people who do not itemize their deductions, the standard deduction is higher in 2010 than it was in 2009. In addition to the annual increase due to inflation adjustments, your 2010 standard deduction is increased by:
For more information, see chapter 4.

Earned income credit.(p2)

The maximum amount of income you can earn and still get the credit has increased. You may be able to take the credit if you earn less than: For more information, see Earned Income Credit, later.

Exemption phaseout.(p2)

In previous years, you would lose part of the benefit of your exemptions if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is above a certain amount. However, in 2010, you will no longer lose part of your deduction for personal exemptions and itemized deductions, regardless of the amount of your AGI.

Decedents who died in 2010.(p2)

For special rules that may apply to decedents who died in 2010, including rules for property acquired from a decedent who died in 2010, see new Pub. 4895, Tax Treatment of Property Acquired From a Decedent Dying in 2010.

Disclosure of information by paid preparers.(p2)

If you use a paid preparer to file your return, the preparer is allowed, in some cases, to disclose certain information from your return, such as your name and address, to certain other parties, such as the preparer's professional liability insurance company or the publisher of a tax newsletter. For details, see Revenue Rulings 2010-4 and 2010-5. You can find Revenue Ruling 2010-4 on page 309 of Internal Revenue Bulletin You can find Revenue Ruling 2010-5 on page 312 of Internal Revenue Bulletin 2010-4 at

Expired tax benefits.(p2)

The following tax benefits have expired.



Tax return preparers.(p3)

Choose your preparer carefully. If you pay someone to prepare your return, the preparer is required, under the law, to sign the return and fill in the other blanks in the Paid Preparer area of your return. Remember, however, that you are still responsible for the accuracy of every item entered on your return. If there is any underpayment, you are responsible for paying it, plus any interest and penalty that may be due.

Disaster-related tax relief.(p3)

Special rules apply to the use of retirement funds (including IRAs) by qualified individuals who suffered an economic loss as a result of: See Publication 575, Pension and Annuity Income, and Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for information on these special rules.

Sale of home by surviving spouse.(p3)

If you are an unmarried widow or widower, you may qualify to exclude up to $500,000 of any gain from the sale or exchange of your main home. For more information, see Sale of Home, later.

Third party designee.(p3)

You can check the "Yes" box in the Third Party Designee area of your return to authorize the IRS to discuss your return with your preparer, a friend, family member, or any other person you choose. This allows the IRS to call the person you identified as your designee to answer any questions that may arise during the processing of your return. It also allows your designee to perform certain actions.

Employment tax withholding.(p3)

Your wages are subject to withholding for income tax, social security tax, and Medicare tax even if you are receiving social security benefits.

Photographs of missing children.(p3)

The Internal Revenue Service is a proud partner with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Photographs of missing children selected by the Center may appear in this publication on pages that would otherwise be blank. You can help bring these children home by looking at the photographs and calling 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) if you recognize a child.


The purpose of this publication is to provide a general overview of selected topics that are of interest to older taxpayers. The publication will help you determine if you need to file a return and, if so, what items to report on your return. Each topic is discussed only briefly, so you will find references to other free IRS publications that provide more detail on these topics if you need it.
Table I has a list of questions you may have about filing your federal tax return. To the right of each question is the location of the answer in this publication. Also, at the back of this publication there is an index to help you search for the topic you need.
While most federal income tax laws apply equally to all taxpayers, regardless of age, there are some provisions that give special treatment to older taxpayers. The following are some examples.

Return preparation assistance.(p3)

The IRS wants to make it easier for you to file your federal tax return. You may find it helpful to visit a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA), Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE), or American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Tax-Aide site near you.
Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly.(p3)
These programs provide free help for low-income taxpayers and taxpayers age 60 or older to fill in and file their returns. For the VITA/TCE site nearest you, contact your local IRS office.
For the location of an AARP Tax-Aide site in your community, call 1-888-227-7669. When asked, be ready to press in or speak your 5-digit ZIP code. Or, you can visit their website at

Comments and suggestions.(p3)

We welcome your comments about this publication and your suggestions for future editions.
You can write to us at the following address:

Internal Revenue Service 
Individual Forms and Publications Branch 
1111 Constitution Ave. NW, IR-6526 
Washington, DC 20224

We respond to many letters by telephone. Therefore, it would be helpful if you would include your daytime phone number, including the area code, in your correspondence.
You can email us at * (The asterisk must be included in the address.) Please put "Publications Comment" on the subject line. You can also send us comments from, select "Comment on Tax Forms and Publications" under "Information about."
Although we cannot respond individually to each comment received, we do appreciate your feedback and will consider your comments as we revise our tax products.
Ordering forms and publications.(p4)
Visit to download forms and publications, call 1-800-829-3676, or write to the address below and receive a response within 10 days after your request is received.

Internal Revenue Service 
1201 N. Mitsubishi Motorway 
Bloomington, IL 61705-6613

Tax questions.(p4)
If you have a tax question, check the information available on or call 1-800-829-1040. We cannot answer tax questions sent to either of the above addresses.

Table I. What You Should Know About Federal Taxes

Note. The following is a list of questions you may have about filling out your federal income tax return.
To the right of each question is the location of the answer in this publication.

What I Should KnowWhere To Find the Answer
Do I need to file a return?See chapter 1.
Is my income taxable or nontaxable?

If it is nontaxable, must I still report it?
See chapter 2.
How do I report benefits I received from the Social Security Administration or the Railroad Retirement Board?

Are these benefits taxable?
See Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits in chapter 2.
Must I report the sale of my home?

If I had a gain, is any part of it taxable?
See Sale of Home in chapter 2.
What are some of the items that I can deduct to reduce my income?See chapters 3 and 4.
How do I report the amounts I set aside for my IRA?See Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) Contributions and Deductions in chapter 3.
Would it be better for me to claim the standard deduction or itemize my deductions?See chapter 4.
What are some of the credits I can claim to reduce my tax?See chapter 5 for discussions on the credit for the elderly or the disabled, the child and dependent care credit, and the earned income credit.
Must I make estimated tax payments?See chapter 6.
How do I contact the IRS or get more information?See chapter 7.