Friday, March 16, 2018

IRS Can Help Taxpayers Get Form W-2

Most taxpayers got their Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, by the end of January. Taxpayers need their W-2s to file an accurate tax returns, as the form shows an employee’s income and taxes withheld for the year.
Taxpayers who haven’t received their W-2 by the end of February should:
  • Contact their Employer. Taxpayers should ask their current or former employer for a copy of their W-2. Be sure the employer has the correct address.
     
  • Call the IRS. Taxpayers who are unable to get a copy from their employer by the end of February may call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 for a substitute W-2. The IRS will send a letter to the employer on taxpayers’ behalf. When they call, taxpayers need their:
    • Name, address, Social Security number and phone number.
    • Employer’s name, address and phone number.
    • Employment dates.
    • Estimate of wages and federal income tax withheld in 2017. Use a final pay stub for these amounts.
       
  • File on Time. Taxpayers should file their tax return by April 17, 2018. If they still haven’t received their W-2, they should use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. They should estimate their wages and taxes withheld as best as possible. To request more time to file, they should use Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File. Taxpayers can also e-file a request for more time using IRS Free File. Taxpayers should remember that an extension of time to file isn’t an extension of time to pay taxes owed. Taxpayers can also get an extension by paying all or part of their estimated income tax due, and indicate that the payment is for an extension using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or a credit or debit card. This way, the taxpayer won’t have to file a separate extension form and will receive a confirmation number for their records.
     
  • Correct a Tax Return, if Necessary. Taxpayers may need to correct their tax return. This could happen if they get a missing W-2 after they file. If the tax information on the W-2 is different from what they first reported, they may need to file an amended tax return. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to make the change.
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 from last year’s 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.

IRS Alerts Taxpayers about Refund Scam

The IRS warns taxpayers of a new twist on an old scam. Criminals are depositing fraudulent tax refunds into individuals’ actual bank accounts, then attempting to reclaim the refund from the taxpayers.
Here are the basic steps criminals follow to carry out this scam. The thief:
  • Hacks tax preparers’ computers to steal taxpayer data.
  • Uses the stolen information to file tax returns as the taxpayers.
  • Has refunds deposited into taxpayers’ bank accounts.
  • Contacts their victims, telling them the money was mistakenly deposited into their accounts and asking them to return it.
While the IRS is aware of variations of this scam, the agency also knows that this scam may continue to evolve. Here are two current versions of this scam:
  • Criminals pose as debt collection agency officials acting on behalf of the IRS. The thief contacts the taxpayer to report an erroneous refund deposit and request that the taxpayer forward the money to the thief’s collection agency.
  • The taxpayer who received the erroneous refund gets an automated call with a recorded voice saying the caller is from the IRS. The recording threatens the taxpayer with criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant and a “blacklisting” of his or her Social Security number. The recorded voice gives the taxpayer a phony case number and telephone number to call to return the refund.
Here are some things taxpayers should remember if someone contacts them about an erroneous refund:
  • There are established procedures taxpayers should follow to return erroneous funds to the IRS. Tax Topic Number 161 - Returning an Erroneous Refund has full details about how to return the money, including the actual mailing addresses where a taxpayer should send a paper check, if necessary. By law, interest may accrue on erroneous refunds.
  • The IRS encourages taxpayers to discuss the issue with their financial institutions because there may be a need to close bank accounts.
  • Taxpayers receiving erroneous refunds also should contact their tax preparers immediately.

The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard - Taxpayer Bill of Rights #4

Taxpayers have the right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard. This is one of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which clearly outline the fundamental rights of every taxpayer. The IRS wants to make sure taxpayers know about their rights when dealing with the agency.
Taxpayers have the right to:
  • Raise objections.
  • Provide additional documentation in response to formal or proposed IRS actions.
  • Expect the IRS to consider their objections timely.
  • Have the IRS consider any supporting documentation promptly.
  • Receive a response if the IRS does not agree with their position.
Here are some specific things taxpayers can expect about the right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard.
  • In some cases, the IRS will notify a taxpayer that their tax return has a mathematical or clerical error. If this happens, the taxpayer:
    • Has 60 days to tell the IRS that they disagree.
    • Should provide copies of any records that may help correct the error.
    • May call the number listed on the letter or bill for assistance.
    • Can expect the agency to make the necessary adjustment to their account and send a correction if the IRS upholds the taxpayer’s position.
  • Here’s what will happen if the IRS does not agree with the taxpayer’s position:
    • The agency will issue a notice proposing a tax adjustment. This is a letter that comes in the mail.
    • This notice provides the taxpayer with a right to challenge the proposed adjustment.
    • The taxpayer makes this challenge by filing a petition in U.S. Tax Court. The taxpayer must generally file the petition within 90 days of the date of the notice, or 150 days if it is addressed outside the United States.
  • Taxpayers can submit documentation and raise objections during an audit. If the IRS does not agree with the taxpayer’s position, the agency issues a notice explaining why it is increasing the tax. Prior to paying the tax, the taxpayer has the right to petition the U.S. Tax Court, and challenge the agency’s decision.
  • In some circumstances, the IRS must provide a taxpayer with an opportunity for a hearing before an independent Office of Appeals. The agency must do this:
    • Before taking enforcement action to collect a tax debt. These actions include levying the taxpayer’s bank account.
    • Immediately after filing a notice of federal tax lien in the appropriate state filing location. If the taxpayer disagrees with the decision of the Appeals Office, they can petition the U.S. Tax Court.

Tax Filing Deadline is Soon, Remember Most Taxpayers Can File for Free

With April 17 tax filing deadline quickly approaching, the IRS reminds taxpayers that most of them qualify for free tax filing with IRS Free File. The special service is‎ available on IRS.gov and through the IRS2Go ‎mobile app. Both Android and iOS users can download this app. Taxpayers can use Free File to prepare and e-file their federal taxes either through brand-name software or using online fillable forms.
Here are the top ten facts about Free File:
  • Individuals or families with 2017 adjusted gross incomes of $66,000 or less can use Free File software.
  • There is no income limit to use Free File Fillable Forms, which are electronic versions of IRS paper forms.
  • Taxpayers can prepare their return at any time and schedule a tax payment as late as the April 17 deadline.
  • Taxpayers who cannot meet the April tax filing deadline can also use IRS Free File to request an automatic six-month extension. An extension gives them until Oct. 15, 2018, to file their return.
  • Each of the 12 commercial companies in the Free File Alliance has its own special offer.
  • Offers from software companies are generally based on age, income or state residency.
  • Taxpayers can review each company offer individually or the taxpayer can use a “Lookup” tool. This tool will help the taxpayer find the software for which they are eligible.
  • Some of the companies also offer free state return preparation.
  • Active duty military personnel with incomes of $66,000 or less may use any IRS Free File software product of their choice without regard to the criteria.
  • IRS Free File software does the work, including the math. It walks users through the tax preparation process using a series of questions while also helping to find tax changes that may affect their return.

Check Status of a Tax Refund in Minutes Using Where’s My Refund?

The Where's My Refund? 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 every 24 hours, usually overnight. Taxpayers should remember that checking the status more often will not produce new results. Taxpayers on the go can track their return and refund status on their mobile devices using the free IRS2Go app. Those who file an amended return should check out the Where’s My Amended Return? tool. 
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.
There is a misconception that a tax transcript can help taxpayers determine the status of their refund. The information included on a transcript does not necessarily reflect the amount or timing of a refund. Transcripts are best used to validate past income and tax filing status for loan applications, and to help with tax preparation.

Taxpayers Should Report Name Changes Before Filing Taxes

When a taxpayer changes their name, that change can affect their 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 a taxpayer should do if anyone listed on their tax return changed their name:
  • Reporting Taxpayer’s Name Change. Taxpayers who should notify the SSA of a name change include:
    • Taxpayers who got married and use their spouse’s last name.
    • Recently married taxpayers who now use a hyphenated name.
    • Divorced taxpayers who now use their former last name.

  • Reporting Dependent’s Name Change. Taxpayers should notify the SSA if a dependent’s name changed.  This includes an adopted child who now has a new last name. If the child doesn’t have a Social Security number, the taxpayer may use a temporary Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on the tax return. Taxpayers can apply for an ATIN by filing a Form W-7A.

  • Getting a New Social Security Card. Taxpayers who have a name change should get a new card that reflects a name change. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. Taxpayers can get the form on SSA.gov or by calling 800-772-1213.
More Information:
Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions
IRS YouTube Videos: 
Changed Your Name after Marriage or Divorce? – EnglishSpanish | ASL

The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum — Taxpayer Bill of Rights #5

Taxpayers have the right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum. This is one of ten basic rights — known collectively as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights — that all taxpayers have when dealing with the IRS.
The IRS Office of Appeals that handles a taxpayer’s case must be separate from the IRS office that initially reviewed that case. Generally, Appeals will not discuss a case with the IRS to the extent that those communications appear to compromise the independence of Appeals.
Here are some points to remember about the right to appeal a decision in an independent forum:
  • A statutory notice of deficiency is an IRS letter proposing additional tax. Taxpayers who receive this notice and who then timely file a petition with the United States Tax Court may dispute the proposed adjustment before they must pay the tax.
     
  • Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial appeal of most IRS decisions, including many penalties.
     
  • Taxpayers have the right to receive a written response regarding a decision from the IRS Office of Appeals.
     
  • When taxpayers don’t agree with the IRS’s decisions, they can refer to Publication 5, Your Appeal Rights and How To Prepare a Protest If You Don’t Agree, for details on how to appeal.
     
  • Generally, taxpayers may file a refund suit in a United States district court or the United States Court of Federal Claims if:
    • They have fully paid the tax and the IRS has denied their tax refund claim.
    • No action is taken on the refund claim within six months.
    • It’s been less than two years since the IRS mailed them a notice denying the refund.

Don’t Fall for Scam Calls and Emails Impersonating IRS

Scammers and cyberthieves continue to use the IRS as bait. The most common tax scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. Scammers use the IRS name, logo, fake employee names and badge numbers to try to steal money and identities from taxpayers.
Taxpayers need to be wary of phone calls or automated messages from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Often, these criminals will say taxpayers owe money and demand payment right away. Other times, scammers will lie to taxpayers and say they’re due a refund. The thieves ask for bank account information over the phone. The IRS warns taxpayers not to fall for these scams.
Below are several tips that will help filers avoid becoming a scam victim.
IRS employees will not:
  • Call demanding an immediate payment. The IRS won’t call taxpayers if they owe taxes without first sending a bill in the mail.
  • Demand payment without allowing taxpayers to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Demand that taxpayers pay their taxes in a specific way, such as with a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to contact local police or similar agencies to arrest taxpayers for non-payment of taxes.
  • Threaten legal action, such as a lawsuit.
If taxpayers don’t owe or don’t think they owe any tax, and they receive an inquiry like this, they should:
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your report.
In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, fake email that claims to come from the IRS. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If the thieves get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and identity.

For those taxpayers who get a phishing email, the IRS offers this advice:
  • Don’t reply to the message.
  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it.
  • Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

Top Things to Know About Deducting Charitable Contributions on a 2017 Tax Return

Taxpayers who give money or goods to a charity may be able to claim a deduction on their 2017 federal tax return, which basically reduces the amount of their taxable income. Here are some important facts about charitable donations:
  • Qualified charities. To receive a deduction, taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool. Here are examples of things that taxpayers can’t deduct:
    • Gifts to individuals
    • Donations to political organizations and candidates
  • Itemize deductions. To deduct donations, taxpayers must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions using Schedule A.
  • Benefit in return. Taxpayers can only deduct the amount of their donation that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received. If taxpayers get something in return for their donation, they may have to reduce their deduction. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals and tickets to events.
  • Property donation. If taxpayers give property instead of cash, they can normally only deduct the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price they’d get for the property on the open market. Used clothing and household items donated must generally be in good condition or better. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations.
  • Form to File. Taxpayers file Form 8283 for all non-cash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year.
  • Proof of Donation. If taxpayers donated cash or goods of $250 or more, they must have a written statement from the charity. The statement must show:
    • Amount of the donation.
    • Description of any property given.
    • Whether the donor received any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Things to Remember when Considering Early Withdrawals from Retirement Plans

Many taxpayers may need to take out money early from their Individual Retirement Account or retirement plan. Doing so, however, can trigger an additional tax on early withdrawals. They would owe this tax on top of other income tax they may have to pay. Here are a few key points to know:
  • Early withdrawals. An early withdrawal is taking a distribution from an IRA or retirement plan before reaching age 59½.
     
  • Additional tax. Taxpayers who took early withdrawals from an IRA or retirement plan must report them when they file their tax return. They may owe income tax on the amount plus an additional 10 percent tax if it was an early withdrawal.
     
  • Nontaxable withdrawals. The additional 10 percent tax doesn’t apply to nontaxable withdrawals, such as contributions that taxpayers paid tax on before they put them into the plan.
     
  • Rollover. A rollover happens when someone takes cash or other assets from one plan and puts it in another plan. They normally have 60 days to complete a rollover to make it tax-free.
     
  • Exceptions. There are many exceptions to the additional 10-percent tax. Some of the rules for retirement plans are different from the rules for IRAs.
     
  • Disaster Relief. Participants in certain disaster areas may have relief from the 10-percent early withdrawal tax on early withdrawals from their retirement accounts.
     
  • File Form 5329. Taxpayers who took early withdrawals last year may have to file Form 5329, Additional Taxes on Qualified Plans (including IRAs) and Other Tax-Favored Accounts, with their federal tax returns.
Use IRS e-file. Early withdrawal rules can be complex. IRS e-file can help. It’s the easiest and most accurate way to file a tax return. The tax preparation software that taxpayers use to e-file will pick the right tax forms, do the math and help get the tax benefits they’re due. Seven out of 10 taxpayers qualify to use IRS Free File tax software. Free File is only available through the IRS website.