Apr

21

Is It Really the IRS At Your Door?

By Bill

IRS Provides Tips on Determining If It’s Really The IRS At Your Door

IR-2017-86, April 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has created a special new page on IRS.gov to help taxpayers determine if a person visiting their home or place of business claiming to be from the IRS is legitimate or an imposter.

With continuing phone scams and in-person scams taking place across the country, the IRS reminds taxpayers that IRS employees do make official, sometimes unannounced, visits to taxpayers as part of their routine casework. Taxpayers should keep in mind the reasons these visits occur and understand how to verify if it is the IRS knocking at their door.

Visits typically fall into three categories:

IRS revenue officers will sometimes make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed or tax returns due. Revenue officers are IRS civil enforcement employees whose role involves education, investigation, and when necessary, appropriate enforcement.

IRS revenue agents will sometimes visit a taxpayer who is being audited. That taxpayer would have first been notified by mail about the audit and set an agreed-upon appointment time with the revenue agent. Also, after mailing an initial appointment letter to a taxpayer, an auditor may call to confirm and discuss items pertaining to the scheduled audit appointment.

IRS criminal investigators may visit a taxpayer’s home or place of business unannounced while conducting an investigation. However, these are federal law enforcement agents, and they will not demand any sort of payment. Criminal investigators also carry law enforcement credentials, including a badge.

For more information, visit “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door” on IRS.gov.

The IRS reminds people who owe taxes – or think they do – to stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more information, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers have a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore these rights and the agency’s obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Apr

3

Need More Time to Pay Taxes?

By Bill

Need More Time to Pay Taxes?

All taxpayers should file on time, even if they can’t pay what they owe. This saves them from potentially paying a failure to file penalty. Taxes are due by the original due date of the return.

Here are four tips for those who can’t pay their taxes in full by the April 18 due date:

  1. File on time and pay as much as possible. Pay online, by phone, with your mobile device using the IRS2Go app, or by check or money order. Visit IRS.gov for electronic payment options.
  2. Get a loan or use a credit card to pay the tax. The interest and fees charged by a bank or credit card company may be less than IRS interest and penalties. For credit card options, see IRS.gov.
  3. Use the Online Payment Agreement tool.  Don’t wait for the IRS to send a bill before seeking a payment plan. The best way is to use the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can also file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with their tax return. Set up a direct debit agreement. With this type of payment plan, there is no need to send a check each month.
  4. Don’t ignore a tax bill.  If so, the IRS may take collection action. Contact the IRS right away by calling the phone number on your bill to talk about options. The IRS will work with taxpayers suffering financial hardship.

Remember to file on time. Pay as much as possible by April 18, 2017, and pay the rest as soon as possible to reduce the interest and penalties. Find out more about the IRS collection process on IRS.gov.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Mar

30

Basic Tax Tips for the Sharing Economy

By Bill

Keep in Mind These Basic Tax Tips for the Sharing Economy

If taxpayers use one of the many online platforms to rent a spare bedroom, provide car rides or a number of other goods or services, they may be involved in the sharing economy. The IRS now offers a Sharing Economy Tax Center. This site helps taxpayers find the resources they need to help them meet their tax obligations.

Here are a few key points on the sharing economy:

  1. Taxes. Sharing economy activity is generally taxable. It does not matter whether it is only part time or a sideline business, if payments are in cash or if an information return like a Form 1099 or Form W2 is issued. The activity is taxable.
  2. Deductions. There are some simplified options available for deducting many business expenses for those who qualify. For example, a taxpayer who uses his or her car for business often qualifies to claim the standard mileage rate, which was 54 cents per mile for 2016.
  3. Rentals. If a taxpayer rents out his home, apartment or other dwelling but also lives in it during the year, special rules generally apply. For more about these rules, see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes). Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant Tool, Is My Residential Rental Income Taxable and/or Are My Expenses Deductible? to determine if their residential rental income is taxable.
  4. Estimated Payments. The U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go. This means that taxpayers involved in the sharing economy often need to make estimated tax payments during the year to cover their tax obligation. These payments are due on April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15. Use Form 1040-ES to figure these payments.
  5. Payment Options. The fastest and easiest way to make estimated tax payments is through IRS Direct Pay. Or use the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). 98005
  6. Withholding. Taxpayers involved in the sharing economy who are employees at another job can often avoid making estimated tax payments by having more tax withheld from their paychecks. File Form W-4 with the employer to request additional withholding. Use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Mar

29

Credit for Retirement Savings Contributions

By Bill

Get Credit for Retirement Savings Contributions 

Taxpayers who contribute to a retirement plan, like a 401(k) or an IRA, may be able to claim the Saver’s Credit. This credit can help a person save for retirement and reduce taxes at the same time.

Here are some key facts about the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit:

Nonrefundable Credit. The maximum contribution is $2,000 per person. Those filing a joint return can also contribute $2,000 for the spouse. However, the credit cannot be more than the amount of tax that a taxpayer would otherwise pay in taxes. This credit will not change the amount of refundable tax credits.

  • Income Limits. Taxpayers may be able to claim the credit depending on their filing status and the amount of their annual income. They may be eligible for the credit on their 2016 tax return if they are:
    • Married filing jointly with income up to $61,500
    • Head of household with income up to $46,125
    • Married filing separately or a single taxpayer with income up to $30,750
  • Other Rules. Other rules that apply to the credit include:
    • Taxpayers must be at least 18 years of age.
    • They can’t have been a full-time student in 2016.
    • No other person can claim them as a dependent on their tax return.
  • Contribution Date. A taxpayer must have contributed to a 401(k) plan or similar workplace plan by the end of the year to claim this credit. However, the taxpayer may contribute to an IRA by the due date of their tax return and still have it count for 2016. The due date for most people is April 18, 2017.
  • Interactive Tax Assistant Tool. The ITA tool is a tax law resource that asks taxpayers a series of questions and provides a response based on the answers. Taxpayers can use Do I Qualify for the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit? to determine if they qualify to claim the Saver’s Credit.
  • Form 8880. File Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, to claim the credit.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Mar

15

Five Tax Tips on Unemployment Benefits

By Bill

Five Tax Tips on Unemployment Benefits

Taxpayers who received unemployment benefits need to remember that it may be taxable. Here are five key facts about unemployment:

  1. Unemployment is Taxable. Include all unemployment compensation as income for the year. Taxpayers should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments, by Jan. 31. This form shows the amount received and the amount of any federal income tax withheld.
  2. There are Different Types. Unemployment compensation includes amounts paid under federal law or state law as well as railroad, trade readjustment and airline deregulation laws. Even some forms of disability payments can count. For more information, see IRS Publication 525.
  3. Union Benefits May be Taxable. Benefits received from regular union dues as income might be taxable. Other rules may apply if a taxpayer contributed to a special union fund and those contributions to the fund are not deductible. In this case, report only income exceeding the amount of contributions made.
  4. Tax May be Withheld. Those who receive unemployment can choose to have federal income tax withheld by using Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request. Those choosing not to have tax withheld may need to make estimated tax payments during the year.
  5. Visit IRS.gov for Help. Taxpayers facing financial difficulties should visit the IRS.gov page: “What Ifs” for Struggling Taxpayers. This page explains the tax effect of various life events such as job loss. For those who owe federal taxes and can’t pay, the Payments tab on IRS.gov provides some options. In many cases, the IRS can take steps to help ease financial burden.

Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Mar

2

Debt Cancellation May be Taxable

By Bill

Debt Cancellation May be Taxable

If a lender cancels part or all of a debt, a taxpayer must generally consider this as income. However, the law allows an exclusion that may apply to homeowners who had their mortgage debt canceled in 2016.

Here are 10 tips about debt cancellation:

  1. Main Home. If the canceled debt was a loan on a taxpayer’s main home, they may be  able to exclude the canceled amount from their income. They must have used the loan to buy, build or substantially improve their main home to qualify. Their main home must also secure the mortgage.
  2. Loan Modification. If a taxpayer’s lender canceled or reduced part of their mortgage balance through a loan modification or ‘workout,’ the taxpayer may be able to exclude that amount from their income. They may also be able to exclude debt discharged as part of the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. The exclusion may also apply to the amount of debt canceled in a foreclosure.
  3. Refinanced Mortgage. The exclusion may apply to amounts canceled on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if the taxpayer used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve their main home and only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before refinancing. Amounts used for other purposes do not qualify.
  4. Other Canceled Debt. Other types of canceled debt such as second homes, rental and business property, credit card debt or car loans do not qualify for this special exclusion. On the other hand, there are other rules that may allow those types of canceled debts to be nontaxable.
  5. Form 1099-C. If a lender reduced or canceled at least $600 of a taxpayer’s debt, the taxpayer should receive Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by Feb. 1. This form shows the amount of canceled debt and other information.
  6. Form 982. If a taxpayer qualifies, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. They should file the form with their income tax return.
  7. IRS.gov Tool. Taxpayers should use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool – Do I Have Cancellation of Debt Income on My Personal Residence? – on IRS.gov to find out if their canceled mortgage debt is taxable.
  8. Exclusion Extended. The law that authorized the exclusion of cancelled debt from income was extended through Dec. 31, 2016.
  9. More Information. For more on this topic see Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments.
  10. Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Jan

19

Three Extra Days to File and Pay

By Bill

Three Extra Days to File and Pay

Taxpayers will have until Tuesday, April 18, 2017 to file their 2016 returns and pay any taxes due. That’s because of the combined impact of the weekend and a holiday in the District of Columbia. The customary April 15 deadline falls on Saturday this year, which would normally give taxpayers until at least the following Monday. But Emancipation Day, a D.C. holiday, is observed on Monday, April 17 giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day. By law, D.C. holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, Oct. 16, 2017 to file.

Dec

2

My Social Security Account

By Bill

My Social Security Account

People who receive Social Security benefits can request tax forms online through my Social Security. Let your clients know they can get instant replacement forms beginning Feb. 1.

Setup and account or log in at www.ssa.gov/myaccount/

 

Nov

18

IRS, Partners Offer Tips to Protect Data from Online Threats

By Bill

IRS, Partners Offer Tips to Protect Data from Online Threats

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry urge you to join their effort to combat identity theft by doing more to protect personal and financial data from online threats.

Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference. That’s why for the second year in a row, we have embarked on a public awareness campaign called “Taxes. Security. Together.” And, we’ve launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals. This is all part of the Security Summit effort, a joint effort between the IRS, the states and the private-sector tax industry.

Here’s an overview of basic steps to help protect your data:

1. Use security software. Security software can protect your computer – and your data – from numerous threats posed by malicious programs, also known as malware. Many computers come with security software already installed. Make sure to turn it on. Set it for automatic updates to allow for protection against emerging anti-malware threats. Also, make sure you add security to all your digital devices, including your laptop, tablet and mobile phone.

2. Use encryption software to protect sensitive data. If you keep sensitive financial data such as prior-year tax returns or important records on your hard drive, consider investing in encryption software to safeguard documents with password protection.

3. Use strong passwords. Use strong passwords of 10 or more digits that include letters, numbers and special characters. Do not use the same password for all your accounts, especially your financial accounts. Change your passwords every few months. Create passwords not only for your online accounts but also for access to your computer for an added layer of protection.

4. Avoid phishing emails. Never reply to emails, texts or pop-up messages asking for your personal, tax or financial information. A favorite tactic of cybercriminals is to pose as businesses, credit card companies or even the IRS and ask to update your account or divulge your Social Security number. Reputable companies never ask for sensitive data over unsecured channels.

5. Back up your data. Periodically back up all the data on your computer via your protected cloud storage or a separate disk. If your data gets stolen or you suffer a disk failure, recovery is easy if you have routinely backed up your information.

6. Protect your wireless network. If you use a residential wireless network connection, make sure you have a strong password protection for it. And, if you use public Wi-Fi, never share sensitive data. If a public Wi-Fi hotspot does not require a password, it probably is not secure.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry joined together as the Security Summit to enact a series of initiatives to help protect you from tax-related identity theft in 2017. You can help by taking these basic steps.

To learn additional steps to protect your personal and financial data, visit Taxes. Security. Together. Also read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

Oct

19

2017 Refund Delays

By Bill

Some Refunds Delayed in 2017

Due to changes in the law, starting in 2017, the IRS can’t issue refunds before Feb. 15, 2017, for returns that claim the Earned Income Credit (EIC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC). This applies to the entire refund, not just the portion associated with these credits. As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should also submit returns as they normally do. Even though the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, the IRS reminds taxpayers that most refunds will still be issued within the normal timeframe: 21 days or less, after being accepted for processing by the IRS.