Taxes: Sources of income you might not have thought of

With piles and piles of fine-print, the IRS is here to make understanding tax code easy: just spend a few hours flipping through the booklets, and you're sure to find a reference to the topic you're wondering about.

If you're unsure about what exactly constitutes income, Publication 17 (2009) is your source of information. Here's some sources of income that a lot of people often overlook:

Gambling winnings. You must include your gambling winnings in income on Form 1040, line 21. If you itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040), you can deduct gambling losses you had during the year, but only up to the amount of your winnings. See chapter 28 for information on recordkeeping.


What this means? If you buy lottery tickets regularly, first of all STOP! But failing that, be sure to keep a record of your losses so that, in the incredibly unlikely event that you do win a bunch of money, you'll be able to deduct your losses and save some money on taxes.

Bribes.
If you receive a bribe, include it in your income.


Here's a double-standard: According to the IRS, "Under section 162(c) illegal payments made to U.S. Government officials and employees are not allowable. Also, if the payment is to an official or employee of a foreign government, and is unlawful under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, no deduction shall be allowed." Well that's not fair! If receiving money illegally is taxable, shouldn't paying money illegally be deductible?

Pulitzer, Nobel, and similar prizes. If you were awarded a prize in recognition of accomplishments in religious, charitable, scientific, artistic, educational, literary, or civic fields, you generally must include the value of the prize in your income.

That's right: The IRS actually has guidelines on what to do if you win a Nobel Prize. Wouldn't it be easier to just tell the small handful of people who win the award directly, and spare the rest of us from having to read about it?

Illegal activities. Income from illegal activities, such as money from dealing illegal drugs, must be included in your income on Form 1040, line 21, or on Schedule C or Schedule C-EZ (Form 1040) if from your self-employment activity.

But if you hold the illegal drugs for more than a year prior to sale, can you book the profit as a capital gain and pay less tax on it? Also, be sure to deduct the cost of sandwich baggies to hold crack rocks and twisty ties -- and you can also depreciate your scale over its useful life. And if you decide to rob a bank, have the guy who drives the getaway car fill out a W-2.

Tax Tips for Real Estate Agents and Brokers

Most real estate agents and brokers receive income in the form of commissions from sales transactions. You're generally not considered an employee under federal tax guidelines, but rather a self-employed sole proprietor, even if you're an agent or broker working for a real estate brokerage firm. This self-employed status allows you to deduct many of the expenses you incur in your real estate sales or property management activities. Careful record keeping and knowing your eligible write-offs are key to getting all of the tax deductions you're entitled to.

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The Educator Expense Tax Deduction allows teachers and certain academic administrators to deduct a portion of the costs of technology, supplies, and certain training. Here’s what teachers need to know about taking the Educator Expense Deduction on their tax returns.

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Self-Employed Less Than a Year? How to Do Your Taxes

Have you been self-employed less than a year? If you’re just starting out, it’s possible you worked at a job earlier in the tax year before making the switch to self-employment, or you’re working multiple jobs. In this case, you may have more than once source of income you’ll need to report on your income tax return.

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Taxes for Grads: Do Scholarships Count as Taxable Income?

Heading off to college to broaden your horizons is exciting, but funding your education via scholarships? That's even better. Scholarships often provide a path to education that might not be feasible otherwise, which is why the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can be generous in minimizing students' tax obligations. But sometimes scholarship money does count as income, and it’s better to find out now if your scholarship adds to your tax liability than to have a surprise later. Here’s how to decode your scholarship taxation.

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Tax season is here! Check out the Tax Center on AOL Finance for all the tips and tools you need to maximize your return.

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