Aug

17

Summer Scams To Watch For

By Bill


Summer Scams to Watch For

IR-2017-112, June 26, 2017                                                                                       Español

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today issued a warning that tax-related scams continue across the nation even though the tax filing season has ended for most taxpayers. People should remain on alert to new and emerging schemes involving the tax system that continue to claim victims.

“We continue to urge people to watch out for new and evolving schemes this summer,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Many of these are variations of a theme, involving fictitious tax bills and demands to pay by purchasing and transferring information involving a gift card or iTunes card. Taxpayers can avoid these and other tricky financial scams by taking a few minutes to review the tell-tale signs of these schemes.”

EFTPS Scam

A new scam which is linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) has been reported nationwide. In this ruse, con artists call to demand immediate tax payment. The caller claims to be from the IRS and says that two certified letters mailed to the taxpayer were returned as undeliverable. The scammer then threatens arrest if a payment is not made immediately by a specific prepaid debit card. Victims are told that the debit card is linked to the EFTPS when, in reality, it is controlled entirely by the scammer. Victims are warned not to talk to their tax preparer, attorney or the local IRS office until after the payment is made.

“Robo-call” Messages

The IRS does not call and leave prerecorded, urgent messages asking for a call back. In this tactic, scammers tell victims that if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Those who do respond are told they must make immediate payment either by a specific prepaid debit card or by wire transfer.

Private Debt Collection Scams

The IRS recently began sending letters to a relatively small group of taxpayers whose overdue federal tax accounts are being assigned to one of four private-sector collection agencies. Taxpayers should be on the lookout for scammers posing as private collection firms. The IRS-authorized firms will only be calling about a tax debt the person has had – and has been aware of – for years. The IRS would have previously contacted taxpayers about their tax debt.

Scams Targeting People with Limited English Proficiency

Taxpayers with limited English proficiency have been recent targets of phone scams and email phishing schemes that continue to occur across the country. Con artists often approach victims in their native language, threaten them with deportation, police arrest and license revocation among other things. They tell their victims they owe the IRS money and must pay it promptly through a preloaded debit card, gift card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls” or via a phishing email.

Tell Tale Signs of a Scam:

The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. The IRS will usually first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:

How to Know It’s Really the IRS Calling or Knocking

The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:

  • when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill,
  • to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or,
  • to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.

Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) from the IRS in the mail. For more information, visit “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door” on IRS.gov.

Jul

28

Good Time To Review Your Withholding

By Bill


Taxpayers Should Review Their Withholding; Avoid Having Too Much or Too Little Federal Income Tax Withheld

IR-2017-121, July 20, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to consider checking their tax withholding, keeping in mind several factors that could affect potential refunds or taxes they may owe in 2018.

Reviewing the amount of taxes withheld can help taxpayers avoid having too much or too little federal income tax taken from their paychecks. Having the correct amount taken out helps to move taxpayers closer to a zero balance at the end of the year when they file their tax return, which means no taxes owed or refund due.

During the year, changes sometimes occur in a taxpayer’s life, such as in their marital status, that impacts exemptions, adjustments or credits that they will claim on their tax return. When this happens, they need to give their employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to change their withholding status or number of allowances.

Employers use the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from pay. Making these changes in the late summer or early fall can give taxpayers enough time to adjust their withholdings before the tax year ends in December.

The withholding review takes on even more importance now that federal law requires the IRS to hold refunds a few weeks for some early filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. In addition, the steps the IRS and state tax administrators are now taking to strengthen protections against identity theft and refund fraud mean some tax returns could face additional review time next year.

So far in 2017, the IRS has issued more than 106 million tax refunds out of the 142 million total individual tax returns processed, with the average refund well over $2,700. Historically, refund dollar amounts have increased over time.

 Making a Withholding Adjustment

In many cases, a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, is all that is needed to make an adjustment. Taxpayers submit it to their employer, and the employer uses the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from their employee’s pay.

The IRS offers several online resources to help taxpayers bring taxes paid closer to what they owe. They are available anytime on IRS.gov. They include:

Self-employed taxpayers, including those involved in the sharing economy, can use the Form 1040-ES worksheet to correctly figure their estimated tax payments. If they also work for an employer, they can often forgo making these quarterly payments by instead having more tax taken out of their pay.

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/