Sunday, March 31, 2019

Taxpayers interacting with the IRS should know their rights

Every taxpayer has rights when dealing with the IRS. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights takes these rights from the tax code and groups them into 10 categories. To help taxpayers interacting with the IRS understand their rights, the agency outlines them in Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer.
Here are the first five rights along with more information about each one:
The Right to Finality. Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time allowed to challenge an IRS position. They also have the right to know the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS concludes an audit.
The Right to Privacy. Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary. During these proceedings, the IRS will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections. When applicable, the IRS will provide a collection due process hearing.
The Right to Confidentiality. Taxpayers have the right to expect that their tax information will remain confidential. The IRS will not disclose information unless authorized by the taxpayers or by law. Taxpayers should expect the IRS to take appropriate action against IRS employees, return preparers and others who wrongfully disclose return information.
The Right to Retain Representation. Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice for representation during dealings with the IRS. When a taxpayer cannot afford representation, they may seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (PDF).
The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System. Taxpayers have the right to expect fairness from the tax system. The IRS must consider all facts and circumstances that might affect any liabilities, the ability to pay or the ability to provide information timely. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. TAS can help taxpayers who are experiencing financial difficulty. They can also help when the IRS has not resolved tax issues properly and timely through normal channels.
The IRS will include Publication 1 when sending a notice to taxpayers on a variety of issues, such as an audit or collection matter. Publication 1 is available in English and Spanish. All IRS facilities publicly display the rights for taxpayers.

More Information:

Taxpayer Bill of Rights outlines rights for all taxpayers

This is the first tip in a two-part summary of the rights granted to all taxpayers.
Every taxpayer has rights when dealing with the IRS. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights takes these rights from the tax code and groups them into 10 categories. To help taxpayers interacting with the IRS understand their rights, the agency outlines them in Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer.
Here are the first five rights along with more information about each one:
The Right to Be Informed. Taxpayers have the right to know how to comply with tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures. Taxpayers have the right to know about IRS decisions affecting their accounts with clear explanations of the outcomes.
The Right to Quality Service. Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance when dealing with the IRS. They also have the right to speak with a supervisor about inadequate service. Communications from the IRS should be clear and easy to understand.
The Right to Pay No More Than the Correct Amount of Tax. Taxpayers must pay only the amount of tax legally due. This includes interest and penalties. The IRS must apply all tax payments properly.
The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard. Taxpayers have the right to object to formal IRS actions or proposed actions. They can also provide justification with additional documentation. Taxpayers can expect the IRS to consider timely objections and documentation promptly and fairly. Taxpayers can expect a response when the IRS disagrees with the taxpayer’s position.
The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum. Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial appeal of most IRS decisions. This includes appealing certain penalties. Taxpayers have the right to receive a written response from the IRS regarding a decision. Taxpayers generally have the right to take their case to court.
The IRS will include Publication 1 when sending a notice to taxpayers on a variety of issues, such as an audit or collection matter. Publication 1 is available in English and Spanish. All IRS facilities publicly display the rights for taxpayers.

More Information:

Spread the word about a tax credit that helps millions of Americans

All individual taxpayers and families should claim tax credits for which they are eligible. Tax credits can not only reduce the amount of taxes owed, but some can result in a tax refund. The earned income tax credit is such a credit. It benefits millions of taxpayers by putting more money in their pockets.
The IRS encourages taxpayers who have claimed the credit to help their friends, family members and neighbors find out about EITC. They can go to IRS.gov/eitc or use the EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov, available in English and Spanish. Word of mouth is a great way to help people who may be eligible for this credit in 2019 for the first time. People often become eligible for the credit when their family or financial situation changed in the last year.
Based on income, family size and filing status, the maximum amount of EITC for Tax Year 2018 is:
  • $6,431 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,716 with two qualifying children
  • $3,461 with one qualifying child
  • $519 with no qualifying children
Every year, millions of taxpayers don’t claim the EITC because they don’t know they’re eligible. Here are some groups the IRS finds often overlook this valuable credit:
  • American Tribal communities
  • People living in rural areas
  • Working grandparents raising grandchildren
  • Taxpayers with disabilities
  • Parents of children with disabilities
  • Active duty military and/or veterans
  • Healthcare and Hospitality workers

Free tax help from volunteers:

The IRS works with community organizations around the country to offer free tax preparation services. They train volunteers who prepare taxes for people with low and moderate income. These volunteers can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible to claim the EITC. There are two IRS-sponsored programs:
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: This program, also known as VITA, offers free tax return preparation to eligible taxpayers who generally earn $55,000 or less.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly: TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older but offers service to all taxpayers. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program through AARP Tax-Aide.

All taxpayers will file using 2018 Form 1040; Forms 1040-A and 1040-EZ no longer available

As the April filing deadline approaches, IRS reminds taxpayers that Form 1040 has been redesigned for tax year 2018. The revised form consolidates Forms 1040, 1040-A and 1040-EZ into one form that all individual taxpayers will use to file their 2018 federal income tax return.
Forms 1040-A and 1040-EZ are no longer available to file 2018 taxes. Taxpayers who used one of these forms in the past will now file Form 1040. Some forms and publications released in 2017 or early 2018 may still have references to Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ. Taxpayers should disregard these references and refer to the Form 1040 instructions for more information.
The new form uses a building block approach that can be supplemented with additional schedules as needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations will only need to file the Form 1040 with no additional schedules.
People who use tax software will still follow the steps they’re familiar with from previous years. Since nearly 90 percent of taxpayers now use tax software, the IRS expects the change to Form 1040 and its schedules to be seamless for those who file electronically.
Electronic filers may not notice any changes because the tax return preparation software will automatically use their answers to the tax questions to complete the Form 1040 and any needed schedules.
For taxpayers who filed paper returns in the past and are concerned about these changes, this year may be the year to consider the benefits of filing electronically. Using tax software is a convenient, safe and secure way to prepare and e-file an accurate tax return.

More information:

Tax reform brought significant changes to itemized deductions

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.

More information:

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Free tax preparation available for millions of families

Millions of individuals and families can have their tax returns filed free. The IRS sponsors two programs with thousands of sites across the country, available to people with lower and moderate incomes:
  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: The VITA program offers free tax return preparation for eligible taxpayers who generally earn $55,000 or less.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly: TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older but offers service to all taxpayers. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in this program through AARP Tax-Aide.
The IRS works with local community groups to certify thousands of volunteers who are trained in the latest tax law. Eligible taxpayers should consider taking advantage of these free programs. This includes people with disabilities and people who speak limited English.
Here are some additional details about these two programs:
  • Free tax prep around the country. The IRS works with community organizations to offer free tax help at thousands of sites nationwide. Most of these sites are open now.
  • Free electronic filing. VITA and TCE provide free electronic filing. E-file is the safest, most accurate way to file a tax return. Taxpayers can combine e-file with direct deposit for quicker refunds.
  • Volunteer preparers trained to help find tax benefits. Certified volunteers help people get all the tax benefits for which they are eligible. These include the earned income tax creditAmerican opportunity tax creditcredit for the elderlychild tax credit and credit for other dependents.
  • Bilingual help. Some VITA and TCE sites provide bilingual assistance.
  • Help for military. Many military bases have VITA sites offering free tax assistance to members of the military and their families. Volunteers can help with military tax topics, which include special rules and tax benefits that apply to those serving in combat zones.
  • Self-preparation option. At many VITA sites, people who earn $66,000 or less may be able to prepare their own tax returns. They can do this by using free web-based software. This option is for those who do not have a home computer and do not need much help.
  • Site information available on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can find the nearest VITA site by using the VITA Locator on IRS.gov. Sites are currently open, but the IRS is still adding some to the locator. Taxpayers can also find sites by downloading the IRS2Go app or calling the IRS at 800-906-9887. Find more on AARP Tax-Aide locations by using the AARP Locator.

Here’s what taxpayers should do to protect private data

Taxpayers should protect their personal and financial data from criminals who continue to steal large amounts of information. Thieves use the data to file bogus tax returns and commit crimes while impersonating the victim.
All taxpayers should follow these steps to protect themselves and their data.

Keep a secure computer. Taxpayers should:

  • Use security software that updates automatically. Essential tools for keeping a secure computer include a firewall, virus and malware protection, and file encryption for sensitive data.
  • Treat personal information like cash; don’t leave it lying around.
  • Give personal information only over encrypted and trusted websites.
  • Use strong passwords and protect them.

Avoid Phishing and Malware. Taxpayers should:

  • Not respond to emails, texts or calls that appear to be from the IRS, tax companies and other well-known businesses. Instead, verify contact information about companies or agencies by going directly to their website.
  • Be cautious of email attachments. Think twice before opening them.
  • Turn off the option to automatically download attachments.
  • Download and install software only from known and trusted websites.

Protect personal information. Taxpayers should:

  • Not routinely carry a Social Security card or other documents showing a Social Security number.
  • Not overshare personal information on social media. This includes information about past addresses, a new car, a new home and children.
  • Keep old tax returns and tax records under lock and key.
  • Safeguard electronic files by encrypting and properly disposing them.
  • Shred tax documents before trashing.
Taxpayers should forward IRS-related scam emails to phishing@irs.gov. They can report IRS impersonation telephone calls at www.tigta.gov.