Sep

27

Big Changes for Reporting Alimony

By Bill

Tax Treatment of Alimony

Amounts paid to a spouse or a former spouse under a divorce or separation instrument (including a divorce decree, a separate maintenance decree, or a written separation agreement) may be alimony for federal tax purposes. Alimony is deductible by the payer spouse, and the recipient spouse must include it in income.

Note: You can’t deduct alimony or separate maintenance payments made under a divorce or separation agreement (1) executed after 2018, or (2) executed before 2019 but later modified if the modification expressly states the repeal of the deduction for alimony payments applies to the modification. Alimony and separate maintenance payments you receive under such an agreement are not included in your gross income.

Alimony Requirements

A payment is alimony only if all the following requirements are met:

  • The spouses don’t file a joint return with each other;
  • The payment is in cash (including checks or money orders);
  • The payment is to or for a spouse or a former spouse made under a divorce or separation instrument;
  • The divorce or separation instrument doesn’t designate the payment as not alimony;
  • The spouses aren’t members of the same household when the payment is made (This requirement applies only if the spouses are legally separated under a decree of divorce or of separate maintenance.);
  • There’s no liability to make the payment (in cash or property) after the death of the recipient spouse; and
  • The payment isn’t treated as child support or a property settlement.

Payments Not Alimony

Not all payments under a divorce or separation instrument are alimony. Alimony doesn’t include:

  • Child support,
  • Noncash property settlements, whether in a lump-sum or installments,
  • Payments that are your spouse’s part of community property income,
  • Payments to keep up the payer’s property,
  • Use of the payer’s property, or
  • Voluntary payments (that is, payments not required by a divorce or separation instrument).

Child support is never deductible and isn’t considered income. Additionally, if a divorce or separation instrument provides for alimony and child support, and the payer spouse pays less than the total required, the payments apply to child support first. Only the remaining amount is considered alimony.

Reporting Alimony

If you paid amounts that are considered alimony, you may deduct from income the amount of alimony you paid whether or not you itemize your deductions. Deduct alimony payments on Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return (PDF) and attach Form 1040, Schedule 1, Additional Income and Adjustments to Income (PDF). You must enter the social security number (SSN) or individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) of the spouse or former spouse receiving the payments or your deduction may be disallowed and you may have to pay a $50 penalty.

If you received amounts that are considered alimony, you must include the amount of alimony you received as income. Report alimony received on Form 1040 (attach Form 1040, Schedule 1 (PDF)) or on Schedule NEC, Form 1040NR, U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return (PDF). You must provide your SSN or ITIN to the spouse or former spouse making the payments, otherwise you may have to pay a $50 penalty.

Jun

29

Itemized Deductions

By Bill

Itemized Deductions

IRS Tax Reform Tax Tip 2019-28, March 21, 2019 

Tax law changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act affect almost everyone who itemized deductions on tax returns they filed in previous years..  One of these changes is that TCJA nearly doubled the standard deduction for most taxpayers. This means that many individuals may find it more beneficial to take the standard deduction. However, taxpayers may still consider itemizing if their total deductions exceed the standard deduction amounts

Here are some highlights taxpayers need to know if they plan to itemize deductions:

Medical and dental expenses

Taxpayers can deduct the part of their medical and dental expenses that’s more than 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income.

State and local taxes

The law limits the deduction of state and local income, sales, and property taxes to a combined, total deduction of $10,000. The amount is $5,000 for married taxpayers filing separate returns. Taxpayers cannot deduct any state and local taxes paid above this amount. 

Miscellaneous deductions

The new law suspends the deduction for job-related expenses or other miscellaneous itemized deductions that exceed 2 percent of adjusted gross income. This includes unreimbursed employee expenses such as uniforms, union dues and the deduction for business-related meals, entertainment and travel. 

Home equity loan interest

Taxpayers can no longer deduct interest paid on most home equity loans unless they used the loan proceeds to buy, build or substantially improve their main home or second home.

Jun

28

Paycheck Checkup

By Bill

Paycheck Checkup

IR-2019-111, June 13, 2019

WASHINGTON — With this year’s average tax refund around $2,700, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers they have options to control the amount of their take-home pay and the size of their tax refund by adjusting their tax withholding.

Paycheck Checkup using the IRS Withholding Calculator can help taxpayers determine the right amount of tax they should have their employer withhold from their paychecks.

Taxes are pay-as-you-go. This means taxes must be paid as income is earned or received during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. As of May 10, nearly 101.6 million taxpayers received federal tax refunds. With the average refund around $2,700, some taxpayers received a refund that was much larger than they expected, which means they paid too much tax throughout the year and took home less money in their paychecks.

To help taxpayers who want to change this amount, the Withholding Calculator will offer recommendations for adjusting withholding. A taxpayer who wants to increase the amount of their paychecks would pay less tax throughout the year by increasing the number of allowances on Form W-4. A taxpayer who would prefer a larger refund when they file would decrease their withholding allowances on Form W-4. Decreasing the number of allowances means paying more tax throughout the year and receiving a smaller paycheck.

A taxpayer’s unexpected tax surprise or larger-than-usual refund may be due to life changes such as getting married, having or adopting a child, or it may be from changes included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). The TCJA made changes to the tax law, including increasing the standard deduction, eliminating personal exemptions, increasing the child tax credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions and changing the tax rates and brackets. These changes affected 2018 returns and are also in effect for 2019. It’s important to check withholding every year. Just because these changes didn’t affect a taxpayer last year doesn’t mean they won’t apply this year.

Sooner is better

Checking and adjusting tax withholding as early as possible is the best way to avoid having too little or too much tax withheld from paychecks. Too little withheld could result in an unexpected tax bill or penalty at tax time next year.

Taxpayers can help manage and adjust their tax withholding by using the IRS Withholding Calculator. It’s helpful if taxpayers have their completed 2018 tax return available when using the Withholding Calculator to estimate the amount of income, deductions, adjustments and credits to enter. Taxpayers also need their most recent pay stubs to compute their withholding so far this year. Based on the Withholding Calculator’s recommendations, taxpayers can then fill out and submit a new Form W-4to their employer.

The Withholding Calculator does not request personally identifiable information, such as name, Social Security number, address or bank account number. The IRS does not save or record the information entered on the calculator.

Estimated taxes

Some workers are considered self-employed and are responsible for paying taxes directly to the IRS. Often, this includes people involved in the sharing economy. One way to pay taxes directly to the IRS is by making estimated tax payments during the year. The next deadline for tax year 2019 estimated taxes is June 17.

TCJA changed the way tax is calculated for most taxpayers, including those with substantial income not subject to withholding. As a result, many taxpayers may need to raise or lower the amount of tax they pay each quarter through the estimated tax system.

The revised estimated tax package, Form 1040-ES, on IRS.gov is designed to help taxpayers figure these payments correctly. The package includes a quick rundown of key tax changes, income tax rate schedules for 2019 and a useful worksheet for figuring the right amount to pay.

Estimated tax penalty

Taxpayers should keep in mind that if not enough tax is paid through withholding and estimated tax payments, a penalty may be charged. A penalty may also be charged if estimated tax payments are late, even if a refund is due at tax time.

Pay electronically anytime

Taxpayers can pay their 2019 estimated tax payments electronically anytime before the final due date for the tax year. Most taxpayers make estimated tax payments in equal amounts by the four established due dates. The three remaining due dates for tax year 2019 estimated taxes are June 17, September 16, and the final payment is due January 15, 2020. Direct Pay and EFTPS are both free payment options, and taxpayers can schedule their payments in advance as well as receive email notifications about the payment. Visit IRS.gov/payments to schedule electronic payments online, by phone or via the IRS2go mobile app.

Mar

22

Underpaid Tax Relief

By Bill

Underpaid Tax Relief

IR-2019-55, March 22, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today provided additional expanded penalty relief to taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year.

The IRS is lowering to 80 percent the threshold required to qualify for this relief. Under the relief originally announced Jan. 16, the threshold was 85 percent. The usual percentage threshold is 90 percent to avoid a penalty.

“We heard the concerns from taxpayers and others in the tax community, and we made this adjustment in an effort to be responsive to a unique scenario this year,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The expanded penalty waiver will help many taxpayers who didn’t have enough tax withheld. We continue to urge people to check their withholding again this year to make sure they are having the right amount of tax withheld for 2019.”

This means that the IRS is now waiving the estimated tax penalty for any taxpayer who paid at least 80 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two.

Today’s revised waiver computation will be integrated into commercially-available tax software and reflected in the forthcoming revision of the instructions for Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates, and Trusts.

Taxpayers who have already filed for tax year 2018 but qualify for this expanded relief may claim a refund by filing Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement and include the statement “80% Waiver of estimated tax penalty” on Line 7.  This form cannot be filed electronically.

Today’s expanded relief will help many taxpayers who owe tax when they file, including taxpayers who did not properly adjust their withholding and estimated tax payments to reflect an array of changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the far-reaching tax reform law enacted in December 2017. 

The IRS and partner groups conducted an extensive outreach and education campaign throughout 2018 to encourage taxpayers to do a “Paycheck Checkup” to avoid a situation where some might have had too much or too little tax withheld when they file their tax returns. If a taxpayer did not submit a revised W-4 withholding form to their employer or increase their estimated tax payments, they may have not had enough tax withheld during the tax year.

Additional information

Because the U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go, taxpayers are required, by law, to pay most of their tax obligation during the year, rather than at the end of the year. This can be done by either having tax withheld from paychecks or pension payments, or by making estimated tax payments.

Usually, a penalty applies at tax filing if too little is paid during the year. This penalty is an interest based amount approximately equivalent to the federal interest on the amount not paid in a timely manner. Normally, the penalty would not apply for 2018 if tax payments during the year met one of the following tests: 

  • The person’s tax payments were at least 90 percent of the tax liability for 2018 or
  • The person’s tax payments were at least 100 percent of the prior year’s tax liability, in this case from 2017. However, the 100 percent threshold is increased to 110 percent if a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income is more than $150,000, or $75,000 if married and filing a separate return. 

For waiver purposes only, today’s relief lowers the 90 percent threshold to 80 percent. This means that a taxpayer will not owe a penalty if they paid at least 80 percent of their total 2018 tax liability. If the taxpayer paid less than 80 percent, then they are not eligible for the waiver and the penalty will be calculated as it normally would be, using the 90 percent threshold. For further details, see Notice 2019-25, posted today on IRS.gov.

Like last year, the IRS urges everyone to take a Paycheck Checkup and review their withholding for 2019. This is especially important for anyone now facing an unexpected tax bill when they file. This is also an important step for those who made withholding adjustments in 2018 or had a major life change to ensure the right tax is still being withheld. Those most at risk of having too little tax withheld from their pay include taxpayers who itemized in the past but now take the increased standard deduction, as well as two-wage-earner households, employees with nonwage sources of income and those with complex tax situations.

To help taxpayers get their withholding right in 2019, the updated Withholding Calculator is now available on IRS.gov.

Jan

16

Filing Season Opens

By Bill

Filing Season Opens Jan 28, 2019

IR-2019-01, January 7, 2019

WASHINGTON ― Despite the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service today confirmed that it will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

Congress directed the payment of all tax refunds through a permanent, indefinite appropriation (31 U.S.C. 1324), and the IRS has consistently been of the view that it has authority to pay refunds despite a lapse in annual appropriations. Although in 2011 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the IRS not to pay refunds during a lapse, OMB has reviewed the relevant law at Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse.

The IRS will be recalling a significant portion of its workforce, currently furloughed as part of the government shutdown, to work. Additional details for the IRS filing season will be included in an updated FY2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan to be released publicly in the coming days.

“IRS employees have been hard at work over the past year to implement the biggest tax law changes the nation has seen in more than 30 years,” said Rettig.

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing individual tax returns once the filing season begins. For taxpayers who usually file early in the year and have all of the needed documentation, there is no need to wait to file. They should file when they are ready to submit a complete and accurate tax return.

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019 for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019 to file their returns.

Software companies and tax professionals will be accepting and preparing tax returns before Jan. 28 and then will submit the returns when the IRS systems open later this month. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds.

Jan

15

2019 Mileage Rates

By Bill

2019 Mileage Rates

IR-2018-251, December 14, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2019 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2019, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 58 cents per mile driven for business use, up 3.5 cents from the rate for 2018,
     
  • 20 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 2 cents from the rate for 2018, and
     
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

The business mileage rate increased 3.5 cents for business travel driven and 2 cents for medical and certain moving expense from the rates for 2018. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

It is important to note that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers cannot claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for unreimbursed employee travel expenses. Taxpayers also cannot claim a deduction for moving expenses, except members of the Armed Forces on active duty moving under orders to a permanent change of station. For more details see Notice-2019-02.

The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously. These and other limitations are described in section 4.05 of Rev. Proc. 2010-51.

Notice 2019-02, posted today on IRS.gov, contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

Aug

22

Withholding Checkup Urged by the IRS for All Taxpayers

By Bill

Withholding Checkup Urged by the IRS for All Taxpayers

IR-2018-168, Aug. 17, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service urges anyone working in the sharing economy to perform a Paycheck Checkup now to avoid an unexpected tax bill when they file their return next year.

Many people working in the sharing economy are employees, in which case their employers should be withholding taxes from their wages. Many others are not working as employees, so they need to make sure they pay their taxes either through withholding from other jobs they may have, or through estimated taxes.

Either way, because of the far-reaching tax changes taking effect this year, IRS urges taxpayers, including those in the sharing economy, to perform a Paycheck Checkup now. The easiest way for most employees to check their withholding is through the Withholding Calculator available on IRS.gov.

The U.S. tax system operates on a pay-as-you-go basis, so taxes must be paid as income is received rather than at the end of the year. This includes anyone involved in the sharing economy.

People who participate in the sharing economy but do not have an employer, usually need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to cover their tax obligation. In this case Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, and the worksheet in  Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, can help people check their withholding and figure their payments correctly. IRS Direct Pay is the fastest and easiest way to pay.

In recent years, the IRS has seen the number of taxpayers who paid the estimated tax penalty jump from 7.2 million in 2010 to 10 million in 2015, an increase of nearly 40 percent. Using the Withholding Calculator or Publication 505 and following the recommended steps can help avoid this underpayment penalty.

Jul

17

New 1040 Form

By Bill

New Form 1040

IR-2018-146, June 29, 2018

WASHINGTON – As part of a larger effort to help taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service plans to streamline the Form 1040 into a shorter, simpler form for the 2019 tax season.

The new 1040 – about half the size of the current version — would replace the current Form 1040 as well as the Form 1040A and the Form 1040EZ.  The IRS circulated a copy of the new form and will work with the tax community to finalize the streamlined Form 1040 over the summer.

This new approach will simplify the 1040 so that all 150 million taxpayers can use the same form. The new form consolidates the three versions of the 1040 into one simple form. At the same time, the IRS will still obtain the information from each taxpayer needed to determine their tax liability or refund.

The new Form 1040 uses a “building block” approach, in which the tax return is reduced to a simple form. That form can be supplemented with additional schedules if needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations would only need to file this new 1040 with no additional schedules.

Since more than nine out of 10 taxpayers use software or a tax preparer, the IRS will be working with the tax community to prepare for the streamlined Form 1040. This will also help ensure a smooth transition for people familiar with software products and the interview process used to prepare tax returns.

Taxpayers who file on paper would use this new streamlined Form 1040 and supplement it with any needed schedules.

Jun

20

Achieving Better Life Experience Account (ABLE)

By Bill

Achieving Better Life Experience Account (ABLE)

IR-2018-139, June 15, 2018

WASHINGTON – People with disabilities can now put more money into their tax-favored Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) accounts and may, for the first time, qualify for the Saver’s Credit for low- and moderate-income workers, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the tax reform legislation enacted in December, made major changes to the tax law for 2018 and future years, including increasing the standard deduction, removing personal exemptions, increasing the Child Tax Credit, limiting or discontinuing certain deductions and changing tax rates and brackets.

The new law also enables eligible individuals with disabilities to put more money into their ABLE accounts, qualify for the Saver’s Credit in many cases and roll money from their 529 plans — also known as qualified tuition programs — into their ABLE accounts.

States can offer specially designed ABLE accounts to people who become disabled before age 26. Recognizing the special financial burdens faced by families raising children with disabilities, ABLE accounts are designed to enable people with disabilities and their families to save for and pay for disability-related expenses. Though contributions are not deductible, distributions, including earnings, are tax-free to the designated beneficiary if used to pay qualified disability expenses. These expenses can include housing, education, transportation, health, prevention and wellness, employment training and support, assistive technology and personal support services and other disability-related expenses.

Normally, contributions totaling up to the annual gift tax exclusion amount, currently $15,000, may be made to an ABLE account each year for an eligible person with a disability, known as a designated beneficiary. But, starting in 2018, if the beneficiary works, the beneficiary can also contribute part or all of what they make to their ABLE account.

This additional contribution is limited to the poverty line amount for a one-person household. For 2018, this amount is $12,140 in the continental U.S., $13,960 in Hawaii and $15,180 in Alaska. However, the designated beneficiary is not eligible to make this additional contribution if their employer contributes to a workplace retirement plan on their behalf.

In addition, starting in 2018, ABLE account beneficiaries can qualify for the Saver’s Credit based on contributions they make to their ABLE accounts. Up to $2,000 of these contributions qualify for this special credit designed to help low- and moderate-income workers. Claimed on Form 8880, Credit for Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions, this credit can reduce the amount of tax a person owes or increase their refund. Like other IRS tax forms, Form 8880 will be revised later this year to reflect changes made by the new law.

In addition, some funds now may be rolled into an ABLE account from the designated beneficiary’s own 529 plan or from the 529 plan of certain family members.

Like other workers, ABLE account beneficiaries and other people with disabilities should make sure they are having the right amount of income tax withheld from their pay. Because of the far-reaching tax changes taking effect this year, the IRS urges all employees to perform a paycheck checkup now. Doing so now will help avoid an unexpected year-end tax bill and possibly a penalty. The easiest way to do that is to use the fully-accessible Withholding Calculator, available on IRS.gov.

For more information about ABLE accounts and the tax reform changes, visit IRS.gov/taxreform.

Apr

9

Time Running Out to Claim 2014 Refunds

By Bill

Time Running Out to Claim Refund for TY2014

 

IR-2018-83, April 3, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is reminding an estimated 1 million taxpayers that time is running out to file a 2014 tax return and claim refunds totaling more than $1 billion. To claim any refund due, taxpayers must file their 2014 federal tax return by April 17, 2018.

There is no penalty for filing a late return for those receiving refunds. The law provides most taxpayers with a limited window of opportunity for claiming a tax refund. If they do not file a tax return within three years to claim a refund, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.

The IRS estimates the median potential refund for 2014 is $847. By failing to file a tax return, people stand to lose more than just their refund. Many low- and moderate-income workers may be eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2014, the credit was worth as much as $6,143.

The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2014 tax refund that it may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2015 and 2016. In addition, any refund will be applied to amounts owed to the IRS or a state tax agency and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts, such as student loans.

Taxpayers who are unable to get Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2014, 2015 or 2016 from their employer or other payer should act now to order a wage and income transcript using the Get Transcript Online tool at IRS.gov.

IRS transcripts are often used to validate past income to help with tax preparation. Taxpayers can also use Get Transcript by Mail or call the IRS automated phone transcript service at 800-908-9946 to order a tax return or tax account transcript be sent by mail. Transcripts arrive in five to 10 calendar days at the address the IRS has on file for the requester. The “Get Transcript by Mail” application is available in Spanish through Ordenar Transcripción.

Because software is no longer available for tax year 2014, prior year tax forms (such as 2014 Form 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ) and instructions are available to be printed from the Prior Year Forms and Instructions page on IRS.gov or ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). The law requires taxpayers to properly address, mail and ensure the tax return is postmarked by the tax filing deadline, which this year is Tuesday, April 17.