WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded small businesses that recent tax reform legislation lowered the backup withholding tax rate to 24 percent and the withholding rate that usually applies to bonuses and other supplemental wages to 22 percent. The agency also urged employers to encourage their employees to check their withholding using the IRS Withholding Calculator. [Read more…]
The tax filing deadline has come and gone, but tax scammers continue to work. Again this year, the IRS highlights the twelve top scams in its “Dirty Dozen” list. These scams are often aggressive and happen throughout the year.
The schemes run the gamut from simple refund inflation scams to complex tax shelter deals. A common theme throughout all: scams put taxpayers at risk.
Here is a recap of the first six scams in this year’s Dirty Dozen. Each one includes a link where taxpayers can go to learn more about that scam. This is the first tip of two tips recapping the list of all 12 scams. [Read more…]
With the filing deadline close, here’s why taxpayers should e-File
A few taxpayers still use the old-school method of filing their tax returns: on paper. For these people, now is the time to consider filing electronically. With the April tax deadline right around the corner, it’s the perfect time to use IRS e-File.
Here are the top six reasons why taxpayers should file electronically in 2019:
It’s accurate and easy. E-File helps taxpayers avoid mistakes, such as a transposed Social Security number. Taxpayers who e-File receive an acknowledgement from the IRS within minutes, telling them their return has been accepted. If a return is rejected, the acknowledgement will detail why the IRS rejected the tax return.
E-file meets strict security guidelines. It uses modern encryption technology to protect tax returns. The IRS continues to work with states and tax industry leaders to protect tax returns from tax-related identity theft. This effort has helped put strong safeguards in place to make electronic tax filing a safe and secure option.
It means faster refunds. When taxpayers e-File and use direct deposit for their refund, they can get their money in less than 21 days in most cases. On the other hand, if they mail a paper tax return to the IRS and request a refund check in the mail, it can take up to six weeks. Also, since e-Filed returns are generally more accurate, there probably won’t be additional delays. They delays can be caused when the IRS finds mistakes that must be fixed before the IRS can send a refund.
It’s often free. Most taxpayers can e-file for free through IRS Free File. Free File is only available on IRS.gov. Some taxpayers may also qualify to have their taxes e-filed for free through IRS volunteer programs. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance offers free tax preparation to people who generally earned $55,000 or less. Tax Counseling for the Elderly generally helps people who are age 60 or older.
It can be used whether a taxpayer is getting a refund or needs to make a payment. Taxpayers who owe taxes can e-File early and set up an automatic payment on any day until the April deadline. They can pay electronically from their bank account with IRS Direct Pay. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov for information on other payment options.
IRS urges businesses to e-file cash transaction reports; It’s fast, easy and free
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today urged businesses required to file reports of large cash transactions to take advantage of the speed and convenience of filing these reports electronically.
Although businesses have the option of filing Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000, on paper, many have already found that e-filing is a faster, more convenient and cost-effective way to meet the reporting deadline. The form is due 15 days after a transaction and there’s no charge for the e-file option.
Electronically filing Form 8300 is a secure way for businesses to send sensitive information to the IRS. Although many cash transactions are legitimate, information reported on this form can help stop those who evade taxes, profit from the drug trade and engage in terrorist financing and other criminal activities. The government can often trace money from these illegal activities through the payments reported on this and other cash reporting forms.
Businesses that file Form 8300 electronically get free, automatic acknowledgment of receipt when they file. In addition, electronic filing is more accurate, reducing the need for follow-up correspondence with the IRS.
To file Form 8300 electronically, a business must set up an account with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s BSA E-Filing System. For more information, interested businesses can call the BSA E-Filing Help Desk at 866-346-9478 or email them at BSAEFilingHelp@fincen.gov. The help desk is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time.
For more informationabout the reporting requirement, see FS-2019-1, available on IRS.gov. Among other things, the fact sheet includes reporting scenarios for specific businesses, such as automobile dealerships, taxi companies, landlords, colleges and universities, homebuilders and bail-bonding agents. It also lists other resources on IRS.gov related to reporting cash transactions of more than $10,000.
Ten things for taxpayers to think about when choosing a tax preparer
It’s the time of the year when many taxpayers choose a tax preparer to help file a tax return. These taxpayers should choose their tax return preparer wisely. This is because taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return. That’s true no matter who prepares the return.
Here are ten tips for taxpayers to remember when selecting a preparer:
- Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.
- Check the Preparer’s History. Taxpayers can ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, people can check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, they can check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, taxpayers can go to the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov or check the directory.
- Ask about Service Fees. People should avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When asking about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information.
- Ask to E-File. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and use direct deposit.
- Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date. People should avoid fly-by-night preparers.
- Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.
- Never Sign a Blank Return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.
- Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. They should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. The taxpayer should review the routing and bank account number on the completed return. The preparer should give you a copy of the completed tax return.
- Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
- Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. People can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their return without the taxpayer’s consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.
The best way for taxpayers to check the status of their refund is to use the Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov. This tool gives taxpayers access to their tax return and refund status anytime. All they need is internet access and three pieces of information:
- Their Social Security number
- Their filing status
- The exact whole dollar amount of their refund
Taxpayers can start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS received their e-filed return, or four weeks after they mail a paper return. Where’s My Refund? includes a tracker that displays progress through three stages: the IRS receives the tax return, then approves the refund, and sends the refund.
Where’s My Refund? Updates once a day, so taxpayers don’t need to check more often.
Generally, the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, but some may take longer. IRS phone and walk-in representatives can research the status of refunds only if it’s been 21 days or more since a taxpayer filed electronically, or more than six weeks since they mailed a paper return. Taxpayers can also contact the IRS if Where’s My Refund? directs them to do so.
Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications
Tax Topic 254 – How to Choose a Tax Return Preparer
Choosing a Tax Professional
Filing for Individuals
e-File Options for Individuals
Paying Your Taxes
What to Expect for Refunds in 2019
Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families
As people prepare to file their taxes, there are things to consider. They will want to determine if they need to file and the best way to do so.
For tax year 2018, all individual taxpayers will file using the new Form 1040. Forms 1040A and 1040EZ are no longer available. Taxpayers who previously filed these forms will now file Form 1040. The new Form 1040 uses a “building block” approach allowing individuals to add only the schedules they need to their 2018 federal tax return. Taxpayers with more complicated returns will need to complete one or more of the new Form 1040 Schedules. This group of taxpayers includes those who claim certain deductions or credits, or who owe additional taxes.
Individuals who filed their federal tax return electronically last year may not notice any changes, as the tax return preparation software will automatically use their answers to the tax questions to complete the Form 1040 and any needed schedules.
Here are three more things for people to keep in mind as they prepare to file their taxes:
Who is required to file. In most cases, income, filing status and age determine if a taxpayer must file a tax return. Other rules may apply if the taxpayer is self-employed or if they are a dependent of another person. For example, if a taxpayer is single and younger than age 65, they must file if their income was at least $12,000. There are other instances when a taxpayer must file. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/filing for more information.
Filing to get a refund. Even if a taxpayer doesn’t have to file, they should consider filing a tax return if they can get money back. If a taxpayer answers “yes” to any of these questions, they could be due a refund:
- Did my employer withhold federal income tax from my pay?
- Did I make estimated tax payments?
- Did I overpay on my 2017 tax return and have it applied to 2018?
- Am I eligible for certain refundable credits such as, the earned income tax credit
Taxpayers can file for free. Join the millions of Americans who safely file their taxes and save money using IRS Free File. Seventy percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. The IRS’s commercial partners offer free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $66,000 or less. Taxpayers who earned more can use Free File Fillable Forms. This option allows taxpayers to complete IRS forms electronically. It is best for those who are comfortable doing their own taxes.
Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to answer many tax questions.. They should look for “Do I need to file a return?” under general topics.
All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their adjusted gross income 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.
Treasury, IRS issue proposed regulations on new 100 percent depreciation deduction
WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service today issued proposed regulations on the new 100-percent depreciation deduction that allows businesses to write off most depreciable business assets in the year they are placed in service.
The proposed regulations, available today in the Federal Register, implement several provisions included in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA),
The 100-percent depreciation deduction generally applies to depreciable business assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less and certain other property. Machinery, equipment, computers, appliances and furniture generally qualify.
The deduction is retroactive, applying to qualifying property acquired and placed in service after Sept. 27, 2017. The proposed regulations provide guidance on what property qualifies for the deduction and rules for qualified film, television, live theatrical productions and certain plants.
For details on claiming the deduction or electing out of claiming it, see the proposed regulations or the instructions to Form 4562, Depreciation and Amortization (Including Information on Listed Property).
Taxpayers who elect out of the 100-percent depreciation deduction must do so on a timely-filed return. Those who have already filed their 2017 return and either did not claim the mandatory deduction on qualifying property, or did not elect out but still wish to do so, will need to file an amended return.
Treasury and IRS welcome public comment, and the proposed regulations provide details on how to submit comments.
Everyone should know how the IRS contacts taxpayers. This will help people avoid becoming a victim of scammers who pretend to be from the IRS with a goal of stealing personal information.
Here are some facts about how the IRS communicates with taxpayers:
- The IRS doesn’t normally initiate contact with taxpayers by email.
- The agency does not send text messages or contact people through social media.
- When the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, the first contact is normally by letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. Fraudsters will send fake documents through the mail, and in some cases will claim they already notified a taxpayer by U.S. mail.
- Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit with a taxpayer. In some instances, the IRS sends a letter or written notice to a taxpayer in advance, but not always.
- IRS revenue agents or tax compliance officers may call a taxpayer or tax professional after mailing a notice to confirm an appointment or to discuss items for a scheduled audit.
- Private debt collectors can call taxpayers for the collection of certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities, but only after the taxpayer and their representative have received written notice.
- IRS revenue officers and agents routinely make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed, delinquent tax returns or a business falling behind on payroll tax deposits. IRS revenue officers will request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer. However, taxpayers should remember that payment will never be requested to a source other than the U.S. Treasury.
- When visited by someone from the IRS, the taxpayers should always ask for credentials. IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential.
Hot tips for summer jobs
It’s that time of the year again for seasonal work and summer jobs. The IRS is providing the small business and self-employed community some helpful tips to work now and avoid tax issues later:
Worker classification matters. Business owners must determine whether summer workers are employees or independent contractors. Independent contractors are not subject to withholding, making them responsible for paying their own income taxes plus Social Security and Medicare taxes. Workers can avoid higher tax bills and lost benefits if they know their proper status.
Summer workers may be exempt from tax withholding. Workers may not earn enough from summer jobs to owe income tax, but employers usually must withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from pay. If self-employed or an independent contractor, workers need to pay their own Social Security and Medicare taxes, even if they have no income tax liability. The Form W-2 shows the amount of earnings and withholdings for state and federal taxes, Social Security, Medicare wages and tips.
Check withholding. For those who work a seasonal or part-year job, checking withholding now can help make sure employers withhold the right amount of tax. The Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov helps employees determine whether they need to submit a new Form W-4 to their employer. It estimates income, credits, adjustments and deductions for most financial situations. Employees can use their results from the calculator to fill out the form and adjust their income tax withholding. They must give their updated forms to their employers to take effect.