Sunday, June 25, 2017

How to Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit

IRS Tax Tip 2017-04                                                                   
The Earned Income Tax Credit has helped workers with low and moderate incomes get a tax break for 40 plus years. Yet, one out of every five eligible workers fails to claim it. Here are some things taxpayers should know about the EITC:
  • Review Your Eligibility. Taxpayers who worked and earned under $53,505 may qualify for EITC. Filers should review EITC eligibility rules if their household income or family situation has changed. They may qualify for EITC this year, even if they did not in the past. To qualify, a taxpayer must file a federal income tax return claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit.  This is true even if a taxpayer is not otherwise required to file a tax return. Use the EITC Assistant tool to find out about eligibility rules and amounts.
  • Know the Rules. Taxpayers need to understand the rules before they claim the EITC. It is important to get this right. Here are some factors to consider:
    • Taxpayers who are married and file a separate return do not qualify for the EITC.
    • Filers must have a Social Security number valid for employment for themselves, their spouse (if married), and any qualifying child listed on their filed tax return.
    • Taxpayers must have earned income. This may include earnings from working for someone else as an employee or being self-employed.
    • Filers may be married or single, with or without children to qualify. Those who do not have children must also meet the age, residency and dependency rules. For a child to qualify, they must have lived with the taxpayer for more than six months in 2016. In addition, the child must meet the age, residency, relationship and joint return rules to qualify.
    • U.S. Armed Forces members serving in a combat zone have special rules that apply.
  • Lower Your Tax or Get a Refund. Filers who qualify for EITC could pay less federal tax, no tax or even get a refund. The EITC could be worth up to $6,269. The average credit was $2,482 last year.
  • Use Free Services. For those who do their own taxes, the best way to file a return to claim EITC is to use IRS Free File. Free brand name software will figure out taxes and the EITC automatically. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get a refund. Free File is only available on IRS.gov/freefile.

    Taxpayers can also get free help preparing and e-filing their return to claim the EITC. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA program, offers free help at thousands of sites around the country. Get help with health care law tax provisions with Free File or VITA.
  • Refunds Held Until Feb 15. Beginning in 2017, if taxpayers claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on their tax return, the IRS must hold their refund until at least February 15. This applies to the entire refund, even the portion not associated with these credits. However, the IRS is accepting and processing these tax returns so taxpayers should file as usual. There is no need to wait until February 15.
For more on EITC, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. It’s available in English and Spanish 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.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Advice from IRS: Things to Remember When Choosing a Tax Preparer

IRS Tax Tip 2017-05, January 30, 2017                                                        

Taxpayers should choose their tax return preparer wisely – with good reason. Taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return. That’s true no matter who prepares the return. Here are ten tax tips to keep in mind:

1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that they prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers with a credentials or filing season qualifications. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:
  • Attorneys.
  • Certified Public Accountants.
  • Enrolled Agents.
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.
  • Enrolled Actuaries.
  • Annual Filing Season Program participants.  
Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Annual Filing Season Program participants may represent clients in more limited situations. Non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program may only represent clients before the IRS on returns they prepared and signed on or before December 31, 2015.
2. Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.  
3. Ask about Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When inquiring about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers and other information. Some preparers have improperly used this information to file returns without the taxpayer’s permission.
4. Ask to E-file. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has safely processed billions of e-filed tax returns.
5. Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 18 due date. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.
6. Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure the total income, tax deductions, credits, etc. Taxpayers should not use a preparer who will e-file their return using their last pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
7. Never Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks a taxpayer to sign a blank tax form.
8. Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. 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. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.
9. Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
10. 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. 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. Taxpayers can get these forms on IRS.gov any time.
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.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Name Change? How It Impacts Taxes

IRS Tax Tip 2017-19
A name change can have an impact on taxes. All the names on a taxpayer’s tax return must match Social Security Administration records. A name mismatch can delay a tax refund. Here’s what taxpayers should know if they changed their name:
  • Reporting Name Changes. Got married and now using a new spouse’s last name or hyphenate a name? Divorced and now back to using a former last name? In either case, taxpayers should notify the SSA of a name change. That way the new name on IRS records will match the SSA records.
  •  Making Dependent’s Name Change. Notify the SSA if a dependent had a name change. For example, if a taxpayer adopted a child and the child’s last name changed. If the child does not have a Social Security number, the taxpayer may use an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on their tax return. An ATIN is a temporary number. Apply for an ATIN by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions, with the IRS. Visit IRS.gov to get the form.
  • Getting a New SS Card. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The form is onSSA.govor by calling 800-772-1213. The taxpayer’s new card will reflect the name change.
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

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book a Face-To-Face Appointment with IRS

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 17-10                                                                  
Taxpayers who need in-person help from an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) need to call to schedule an appointment. All TACs provide service by appointment. They are an essential service the IRS provides when a tax issue cannot be resolved online or by phone.
Consider the self-service options on IRS.gov before calling for an appointment. Many questions can be resolved online without taxpayers having to travel to a Tax Assistance Center. Publication 5136, the IRS Services Guide, has additional information about where to find help.
Answering a tax question:
  • The Interactive Tax Assistant asks the taxpayer a series of questions and provides answers based on their input.
  • IRS Publication 17 covers a broad range of topics and updates on tax law changes.
  • The IRS Tax Map finds all the relevant tax information needed in one place.
  • The IRS mails millions of letters every year. Each one deals with a specific issue and provides specific instructions on what to do so careful reading is essential.
Checking on a refund status:
  • Use the “Where’s My Refund?” online tool to check the status of a tax refund.
  • Call 800-829-1954 anytime, to access the audio version of this tool.
  • Taxpayers should have their Social Security number, filing status and exact refund amount ready.
Making a payment:
Getting Forms & Publications:
  • View, download and print federal tax forms and publications anytime. Dozens of IRS publications are available for download in ePub format.
If face-to-face service is necessary, then taxpayers should call 844-545-5640 to schedule an appointment. .
The Contact Your Local Office tool on IRS.gov helps taxpayers find the closest IRS TAC, the days and hours of operation, and a list of services provided.
Avoid scams. The IRS does not initiate contact using social media or text message. First contact normally comes in the mail. Those wondering if they owe money to the IRS can check to see if they have a balance due on IRS.gov.