Tag Archives: tax return

ALERT! Late Tax Legislation Creating Havoc

Individual tax return deadline moved to May 17

Congress’ recent move to retroactively make a portion of 2020 unemployment income tax-free is creating havoc during this year’s tax filing season. Here is what you need to know.

Background

Unemployment compensation was received by millions of Americans during 2020 because of the pandemic. While unemployment income was necessary for many who lost a job, it’s also normally classified as taxable income to be reported on your tax return. Recently-passed legislation now makes the first $10,200 of 2020 unemployment compensation tax-free on your tax return.

The problem

The new legislation which contains this tax break didn’t become law until March of 2021, a full three months after the end of the tax year and after millions of Americans had already filed their 2020 tax return!

Understanding your situation

  • If you’ve already filed your 2020 tax return: Wait for further instructions. The IRS is trying to figure out a way to automatically apply this tax break for taxpayers who have already filed their 2020 tax return. This will avoid the need to file an amended tax return. There is no need to call at this time as the IRS has not provided further guidance.
  • If you HAVE NOT filed your 2020 tax return: The IRS has issued guidance on how to report this tax break on your 2020 tax return if you have not already filed. You will be notified once your tax return has been prepared.
  • Tax deadline moved to May 17. Because of all this havoc, the April 15 deadline for individual tax returns is now May 17. This extension applies only to Form 1040s. First quarter estimated tax payments for the 2021 tax year are still due by April 15.

Be assured you will be informed once the IRS issues further instruction on how to claim your tax break. In the meantime, enjoy the extra tax savings you’ll get sometime in the near future!

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Tax Return Doesn’t Get Stuck

Here are four ways to make sure the preparation of your tax return keeps humming along until it gets filed.

  1. Keep tax documents in one place. Missing items are one of the biggest reasons filing a tax return gets delayed! Find a place in your home and put all tax documents in this one place as you receive them. Common missing items this year will include the new 1099-NEC for any taxpayers that are contractors, consultants or part of the gig economy.
  2. Organize documents by type. Every tax professional has a story of someone bringing their documents to them in a shoebox or storage container. All this does is increase the amount of time it takes to prepare your return, so it’s best to sort your documents in tax return order. Pull out last year’s tax return and create folders for each section including income, business/rental information, adjustments to income, itemized deductions, tax credit information and a not-sure bucket.
  3. Create list of special events. You receive a Form W-2 from your employer every year. You may get a 1099-INT from your bank if you earn interest income on your deposit accounts. But selling a home usually doesn’t happen every year. Retiring from a 40-year job doesn’t happen every year. Sending a child to college also doesn’t happen every year (although it might seem like it does!). If you don’t write down these unusual events as they happen, you might forget them when your tax return is being prepared. And you may not remember until the moment your return is about to be filed. This is sure to cause delays.
  4. Don’t forget your signature! You may be surprised to learn that even if you electronically file your tax return, you still must sign Form 8879, which authorizes the e-filing of your return. So, whether it’s a traditionally-filed paper tax return or one filed electronically, a signature is required.

These are four of the more common reasons why the preparation of your tax return may get delayed. Be prepared and file your return without a hitch!

Another Year, Another New 1040

In 2018, the government attempted to “simplify” the tax-filing process by drastically shortening Form 1040. The result was six new schedules that created a lot of confusion. Now the IRS is attempting to ease some of that pain by revising the form and removing some schedules. Will it help? Here is what you need to know:

  • More information on the main form. To make it easier for the IRS to match pertinent information across related tax returns, new fields have been added on the main Form 1040. For example, there’s now a spot for your spouse’s name if you choose the married filing separate status. In addition, there’s a separate line for IRA distributions to more clearly differentiate retirement income.
  • 3 schedules are gone. What was your favorite memory of Schedules 4, 5 and 6? Was it the unreported Social Security tax on Schedule 4? Or the credit for federal fuels on Schedule 5? While those schedules will no longer exist, those lines (and many others) have found a new home on one of the first three schedules. Less paperwork, but still the same amount of information.
  • You can keep your pennies! For the first time, the IRS is eliminating the decimal spaces for all fields. While reporting round numbers has been common practice, it’s now required.
  • Additional changes on the way. The current versions of Form 1040 and Schedules 1, 2 and 3 are in draft form and awaiting comments on the changes. Because of the importance of the 1040, the IRS is expecting to make at least a few updates in the coming weeks (or months) before they consider it final. Stay tuned for more developments.

How to prepare for the changes

The best way to prepare is to be aware that 1040 changes are coming. The information required to file your taxes will remain the same, but some additional hunting will be necessary to find the shifting lines and fields on the modified form.

Remember, changes bring uncertainty and potential for delays, so getting your tax documents organized as early as possible will be key for a timely tax-filing process.

What You Need To Know About IRS Audits

The IRS recently released its 2018 Data Book, including information on its audit activities for the last fiscal year. This infographic details what you need to know regarding your audit risk, how to prepare for and what to expect in an IRS audit.

 

Best Way to Avoid an IRS Audit: Preparation

Getting audited by the IRS is no fun. Some taxpayers are selected for random audits every year, but the chances of that happening to you are very small. You are much more likely to fall under the IRS’s gaze if you make one of several common mistakes.

That means your best chance of avoiding an audit is by doing things right before you file your return this year. Here are some suggestions:

Don’t leave anything out. Missing or incomplete information on your return will trigger an audit letter automatically, since the IRS gets copies of the same tax forms (such as W-2s and 1099s) that you do.

Double-check your numbers. Bad math will get you audited. People often make calculation errors when they do their returns, especially if they do them without assistance. In 2016, the IRS sent out more than 1.6 million examination letters correcting math errors. The most frequent errors occurred in people’s calculation of their amount of tax due, as well as the number of exemptions and deductions they claimed.

Don’t stand out. The IRS takes a closer look at business expenses, charitable donations and high-value itemized deductions. IRS computers reference statistical data on which amounts of these items are typical for various professions and income levels. If what you are claiming is significantly different from what is typical, it may be flagged for review.

Have your documentation in order. Be meticulous about your recordkeeping. Items that will support the tax breaks you take include: cancelled checks, receipts, credit card and investment statements, logs for mileage and business meals and proof of charitable donations. With proper documentation, a correspondence letter from the IRS inquiring about a particular deduction can be quickly resolved before it turns into a full-blown audit.

Remember, the average person has a less than 1 percent chance of being audited. If you prepare now, you can narrow your audit chances even further and rest easy after you’ve filed.

IRS Changes That May Delay Your Early Refund

In an effort to reduce the amount of money paid to identity thieves who file fraudulent returns, the IRS will be implementing changes in the timing and way they handle the processing of tax returns.

These steps will continue to evolve, but recent changes will impact millions who depend on receiving an early refund.

Earlier filing of form W-2s and 1099-MISC – The timing required to send these forms to employees and vendors remains the end of January. However, the extended deadline for filing the electronic version of these forms to the IRS and Social Security Administration is now a full month earlier. This is done to allow the IRS to match records with early filed tax returns. The prior timing gap was ideal for thieves to file fraudulent tax returns.

Earned Income Tax Credit and Additional Child Tax Credit – If you file a tax return that contains either of these credits, do not expect to receive an early refund. The IRS has been mandated to hold these refund payments until February 15th or later. Given the payment backlog this will create, it is still important to file early to get your refund in the queue.

Begin planning now to be prepared for these upcoming changes. Rest assured, we can all look forward to further changes as the IRS continues to address the multi-billion dollar identity theft problem plaguing the Agency.

Twelve Common Snags to Finalizing Your Tax Return – Part 2

Last week we gave you the first half of a list of items that are often overlooked that cause trouble in filing a timely tax return.  Here’s the second half of the list!

Name mismatch – If you’ve recently married or divorced, make sure your last name on your tax return matches the one on file at the Social Security Administration.

Inconsistent information – Most tax preparation software will check a tax return for inconsistencies. The message “Diagnostic Error!” will make you cringe. When one occurs, they must be resolved prior to filing your tax return. An example might be you filing Married Filing Separate, while your soon-to-be ex-spouse files as Married Filing Joint or Single.

No information for a common deduction – If you claim a deduction, you will need to provide support to document the claim.

Missing cost information for transactions – Brokers send out their statements with the sales transactions. You will need to also provide the cost and purchase information (cost basis) or the tax return cannot be filed.

Missing K-1 – If you have ownership of a partnership, Sub Chapter S or LLC, you should receive a Form K-1 that reports your share of the profit or loss from the business activity.  Without this K-1, you cannot file your tax return.

Forms with no explanation – If you receive a tax form, but have no explanation for the form, questions arise.  For instance, if you receive a retirement account distribution form, it may be deemed income. If it is part of a qualified rollover, no tax is due.  An explanation is required to file your information correctly.

Hopefully, by knowing these common missing pieces of information, you can prepare to have your tax filing process a smooth one!

1099 Filing Requirements

Another year has come to an end and we would like to take the time to remind you of Form 1099 reporting requirements and changes to filing deadlines.

Certain payments made in the course of business are required to be reported on the appropriate Form 1099.  The type of 1099 filed depends on the type and amount of the business expenditure.  Some of the most common expenditures requiring a 1099 are listed below:

Payments for: Equal to or Exceeding: Form:
Dividends $  10 1099-DIV
Interest (generally) $  10 1099-INT
Royalties $  10 1099-MISC
Liquidating distributions $600 1099-DIV
Interest (paid in the course of business) $600 1099-INT
Fees paid for services $600 1099-MISC
Commissions $600 1099-MISC
Prizes and awards $600 1099-MISC
Rents $600 1099-MISC

Note: Generally, payments made to a corporation are not required to be reported on a form 1099.  However, there are some exceptions such as attorney fees.

A copy of the 1099 is required to be postmarked to the recipient and the IRS by January 31, 2017. Failure to correctly file the required 1099’s within the due dates can result in penalties of up to $260 per return (based on when filed) with a maximum of $1,059,500 for each year.

In addition to the above mentioned requirements, business taxpayers will be required to answer two questions on their 2016 income tax returns: (1) Did you make any payments in 2016 that would require you to file Form 1099(s)? (2) If yes, did you file the required Form 1099(s)?

In order to properly fill out the required forms, you will need to obtain information from each person to whom you make qualifying payments. Form W-9 is used for this purpose and can be obtained by going to http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw9.pdf.

The information above relates to the most common types of transactions and circumstances.

Twelve Common Snags to Finalizing Your Tax Return – Part 1

The goal for every taxpayer is to have their return filed quickly and without error.  Here’s the first half of a handy list of items that are often overlooked and can cause all sorts of delays.

Review your tax return and return your signed eFile forms – Your tax returns can’t be filed until you have reviewed them and returned the signed eFile forms to your preparer. The sooner you do this, the sooner you’re filed.

Having proof of health insurance – You should receive a Form 1095 confirming you have health insurance. However, if your employer is one of those that received approval to send a delayed form, you still need to provide your preparer with proof of insurance before filing.

Missing W-2 and/or 1099 – One missing income form and the next thing you know, you’re paying to file an amended. Using last year’s tax return, or a tax organizer provided by your preparer, make sure all prior W-2’s and 1099’s are received and provided to your tax preparer.

Incorrect information on a W-2 or 1099 – Always double-check your forms to make sure the information is accurate – one wrong spelling of a name or one digit off on your SSN and the filing process comes to a screeching halt. Make sure 1099 income is in the correct box. Are you receiving rents and receive a 1099-MISC with the amount in the Non-Employee Compensation box? Then you face a choice – either try to get the form corrected or delay filing your tax return.

Missing or invalid Social Security Number – This one is sort of a given – if you don’t have a valid SSN, there will be no tax filing.

Dependent already claimed – Share joint custody of a child? Or, did your college student think they could file claiming themselves? Your return cannot be filed if there is a conflict in this area. Make sure it’s clear who gets to claim the dependents in your life.

Look for the second part of this article next week!

The IRS is Not Always Right

Quotes from actual IRS correspondence received by clients:

“Our records show we received a 1040X… for the tax year listed above, We’re sorry, but we cannot find it.”

“Our records show you owe a balance due of $0.00. If we do not receive it within 30 days, appropriate collection steps will be taken.”

“Payment is due on your account. Please submit payments on or before June 31st to avoid late payment penalties and interest.”

It’s pretty tough to pay a balance due of $0 on June 31st when June only has 30 days. The message should be clear. If you receive a notice from the IRS do not automatically assume it is correct and submit payment to make it go away. The same is true for any state notices. They are often in error. So what should you do?

Stay calm – Try not to overreact to the correspondence. This is easier said than done, but remember the IRS sends out millions of notices each year. The vast majority of them correct simple oversights or common filing errors.

Open the envelope – You would be surprised at how often clients are so stressed by receiving a letter from the IRS that they cannot bear to open the envelope. If you fall into this category try to remember that the first step in making the problem go away is to open the correspondence.

Careful review – Review the letter. Make sure you understand exactly what the IRS thinks needs to be changed and determine whether or not you agree with their findings. Unfortunately, the IRS rarely sends correspondence to correct an oversight in your favor, but it sometimes happens.

Respond timely – The correspondence received should be very clear about what action the IRS believes you should take and within what timeframe. Ignore this information at your own risk. Delays in responses could generate penalties and additional interest payments.

Get help – You are not alone. Getting assistance from someone who deals with this all the time makes going through the process much smoother.

Correct the IRS error – Once the problem is understood, a clearly written response with copies of documentation will cure most of these IRS correspondence errors. Often the error is due to the inability of the IRS computers to conduct a simple reporting match. Pointing the information out on your tax return might be all it takes to solve the problem.

Certified mail is your friend – Any responses to the IRS should be sent via certified mail. This will provide proof of your timely correspondence. Lost mail can lead to delays, penalties, and additional interest on your tax bill.

Don’t assume it will go away – Until a definitive confirmation that the problem has been resolved is received, you need to assume the IRS still thinks you owe the money. If no correspondence confirming the correction is received, a written follow-up will be required.