General

Treasury, IRS issue guidance to farmers on uniform capitalization rules

WASHINGTON – The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service today issued Revenue Procedure 2020-13 providing procedures for farmers who have elected out of certain capitalization rules and want to apply the small business taxpayer exemption in the same taxable year.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) added a provision exempting small business taxpayers from the capitalization rules under section 263A. A taxpayer, other than a tax shelter, qualifies as a small business taxpayer by satisfying the gross receipts test for the taxable year. To satisfy the gross receipts test, a farming business must have gross receipts of $25 million or less for taxable years beginning in 2018, and $26 million or less for taxable years beginning in 2019.  

Unlike the section 263A(d)(3) election, the small business taxpayer exemption does not require the special rules for the use of the Alternative Depreciation System (ADS) or characterization of certain property as section 1245 property.

Today’s guidance provides procedures for farmers to revoke their election under section 263A(d)(3) and apply the small business taxpayer exemption under section 263A(i) in the same taxable year. It also provides procedures for eligible farmers that want to make an election under section 263A(d)(3) in the same taxable year that they no longer qualify as small business taxpayers.

Many farmers, fishermen face March 2 tax deadline; IRS encourages convenience of IRS Direct Pay

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service reminds farmers and fishermen who chose to forgo making quarterly estimated tax payments that they must file their 2019 Form 1040 along with a payment for all taxes owed by Monday, March 2, 2020.

This special rule normally applies to taxpayers whose farming or fishing income was at least two-thirds of their total gross income in either the current or the preceding tax year. Farmers and fishermen can avoid the estimated tax penalty by both filing and paying all taxes due by March 2. Those who chose to make an estimated tax payment, on or before Jan. 15, 2020, can instead wait and file by the regular April 15 deadline.

IRS Direct Pay is safe, free
The IRS urges farmers and fishermen to take advantage of the speed, convenience and security of IRS Direct Pay to pay their taxes. Anyone can use this free online service to quickly make federal individual income tax payments or quarterly estimated tax payments directly from their checking or savings account. There are no IRS fees and no pre-registration.

IRS Direct Pay is available seven days a week and payments can be scheduled up to 30 days in advance. Users receive instant confirmation after they submit a payment or they can opt in to receive email notifications.

IRS Direct Pay cannot be used to pay the federal highway use tax, payroll taxes or other business taxes. Anyone wishing to pay these business taxes electronically can enroll in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Like IRS Direct Pay, EFTPS is also a free service.

IRS increases visits to high-income taxpayers who haven’t filed tax returns

WASHINGTON – As part of a larger effort to ensure compliance and fairness, the Internal Revenue Service today announced that it will step up efforts to visit high-income taxpayers who in prior years have failed to timely file one or more of their tax returns.

Following the recent and ongoing hiring of additional enforcement personnel, IRS revenue officers across the country will increase face-to-face visits with high-income taxpayers who haven’t filed tax returns in 2018 or previous years. These visits are primarily aimed at informing these taxpayers of their tax filing and paying obligations and bringing these taxpayers into compliance.

“The IRS is committed to fairness in the tax system, and we want to remind people across all income categories that they need to file their taxes,” said Paul Mamo, Director of Collection Operations, Small Business/Self Employed Division. “These visits focusing on high-income taxpayers will be taking place across the country.  We want to ensure taxpayers know their options to get right with their taxes and avoid bigger issues later.”

For the current tax season, the IRS reminds taxpayers that everyone should file their 2019 tax return by the April 15 filing deadline regardless of whether they can pay in full. Six-month filing extensions are also available, although that does not extend the April deadline for paying any taxes owed.

“Taxpayers having delinquent filing or payment obligations should consult a competent tax advisor before waiting to be contacted by an IRS revenue officer, Mamo said. “It is always worthwhile to take advantage of various methods of getting back into filing or payment compliance before being personally contacted by the IRS.”

For the new visits taking place, high-income non-filers taxpayers are those who generally received income in excess of $100,000 during a tax year and did not file a tax return with the IRS. Taxpayers who exercise their best efforts in filing their tax returns and paying or entering into agreements to pay their taxes deserve to know that the IRS is aggressively pursuing others who have failed to satisfy their filing and payment obligations.

During the visits, IRS revenue officers will share information and work with the taxpayer to hopefully resolve the tax issue.

How to pay

There are many payment options for people having trouble paying their tax bill. Payment plans can be set up quickly online.

Once returns are filed or an assessment occurs, there are various online payment options available at IRS.gov, including direct pay through a bank account or using a debit or credit card. Other ways to pay include the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (best option for businesses or large payments; enrollment required), Electronic Funds Withdrawal (using during e-filing), same-day wire (bank fees may apply), check or money order or cash (at a participating retail partner). Those who can’t pay immediately may be able to meet their tax obligation in monthly installments by applying for a payment plan (including installment agreements and those who owe less than $50,000), they can find out if they qualify for an offer in compromise  (a way to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount), or request that the IRS temporarily delay collection until their financial situation improves.

For those who refuse to pay, the IRS has a number of options available under the law, ranging from a series of civil enforcement actions and, when appropriate, pursuing criminal cases against taxpayers. IRS compliance personnel are also now working more closely with IRS criminal investigators on priority compliance issues, including high-income cases.

 “These compliance visits underscore the importance of people filing their taxes this April, even if they can’t pay the full amount of tax due,” said Hank Kea, Director of Field Collection Operations, Small Business/Self Employed Division. “Not filing because you don’t believe you can pay at the time of filing makes the problem worse, as interest and penalties mount over time. We have many payment options available on IRS.gov to help taxpayers. It’s better to work on these issues up front rather than ignoring it and ultimately getting to the point of the IRS taking more serious action. Our continued use of ever-changing technologies, coupled with additional enforcement personnel, would suggest that waiting is not a viable option for delinquent taxpayers.”

What’s a revenue officer’s job?
Revenue officers are trained IRS civil enforcement employees who work to resolve compliance issues, such as missing returns or taxes owed. Revenue officers conduct interviews to gather financial information and provide taxpayers with the necessary steps to become and remain compliant with the law. When necessary, they will take the appropriate enforcement actions to collect the amount owed, following the law while respecting taxpayer rights and following the law.

Don’t be confused: Visits are not a scam
For this new initiative, these high-income taxpayers have typically received numerous letters from the IRS over an extended period of time, so they generally realize they have a tax issue.

Revenue officer visits shouldn’t be confused with scams. Here’s what to look for:

  • While most IRS revenue officer visits to a taxpayer are unannounced, they will always provide two forms of official credentials, both include a serial number and photo of the IRS employee. Taxpayers have the right to see each of these credentials.
  • A legitimate revenue officer helps taxpayers understand and meet their tax obligations. The officer will explain the liability to the taxpayer, along with the consequences of failing to comply with the law. The IRS employee will not make threats nor demand an unusual form of payment for a nonexistent liability.
  • Visits by revenue officers generally occur after numerous contacts by mail about an existing tax issue; taxpayers should be aware they have a tax issue when these visits occur.
  • If someone has an outstanding federal tax debt, the visiting officer will request payment but will provide a range of options, including paying by check written to the U.S. Treasury.
  • More information on identifying legitimate IRS representatives and how to report scams can be found at IRS.gov.

Filing taxes 101: Common errors taxpayers should avoid

Filing a tax return electronically reduces errors because the tax software does the math, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information.

Using a reputable tax preparer – including certified public accountants, enrolled agents or other knowledgeable tax professionals – can also help avoid errors. Mistakes can result in a processing delay, which can mean it takes more time to get a refund.

Here are some common errors to avoid when preparing a tax return:

  • Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. Each SSN on a tax return should appear exactly as printed on the Social Security card.
  • Misspelled names. Likewise, a name listed on a tax return should match the name on that person’s Social Security card.
  • Incorrect filing status. Some taxpayers choose the wrong filing status. The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help taxpayers choose the correct status especially if more than one filing status applies.  Tax software also helps prevent mistakes with filing status.
  • Math mistakes. Math errors are one of the most common mistakes. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex calculations. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax prep software does it automatically.
  • Figuring credits or deductions. Taxpayers can make mistakes figuring things like their earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit, and the standard deduction. Taxpayers should always follow the instructions carefully. For example, a taxpayer who’s 65 or older, or blind, should claim the correct, higher standard deduction if they’re not itemizing. The Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible for tax credits or deductions. Attach any required forms and schedules.
  • Incorrect bank account numbers. Taxpayers who are due a refund should choose direct deposit. This is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their money. However, taxpayers need to make sure they use the correct routing and account numbers on their tax return.
  • Unsigned forms. An unsigned tax return isn’t valid…period. In most cases, both spouses must sign a joint return. Exceptions may apply for members of the armed forces or other taxpayers who have a valid power of attorney Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically and digitally signing it before sending it to the IRS.
  • Filing with an expired individual tax identification number. If a taxpayer’s ITIN is expired, they should go ahead and file using the expired number. The IRS will process that return and treat it as a return filed on time. However, the IRS won’t allow any exemptions or credits to a return filed with an expired ITIN. Taxpayers will receive a notice telling the taxpayer to renew their number. Once the taxpayer renews the ITIN, the IRS will process return normally.

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Avoid the rush: Track tax refunds using the ‘Where’s My Refund?’ tool at IRS.gov

WASHINGTON — Offering time-saving alternatives to a telephone call, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers they can get fast answers to their refund questions by using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool available on IRS.gov and through the IRS2Go app.

The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, and the fastest way to get a refund is to file electronically and choose direct deposit. The time around Presidents Day is a peak period for telephone calls to the IRS, resulting in longer than normal hold times for callers.

The question most frequently asked this time of year is, “Where’s my refund?”. The IRS reminds taxpayers that IRS customer service representatives can only research a refund’s status if it has been 21 days or more since the taxpayer filed electronically or six weeks since they mailed a paper return.

Taxpayers can avoid the Presidents Day rush and get a personalized answer by using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool. All that is needed is the taxpayer’s Social Security number, tax filing status (single, married, head of household) and exact amount of the tax refund claimed on the return. Alternatively, taxpayers may call 800-829-1954 for the automated phone line, which provides the same information.

Within 24 hours of filing a return electronically, the tool can tell taxpayers that their returns have been received. That time extends to four weeks if a paper return is mailed to the IRS, which is another reason to file electronically and choose direct deposit. 

Once the tax return is processed, “Where’s My Refund?”
will tell a taxpayer when their refund is approved and provide
a date when they can expect to receive it.
“Where’s My Refund?” is updated no more than once
every 24 hours, usually overnight, so taxpayers don’t need to check the status more often.

Refunds held for certain returns

As a reminder, by law, the IRS cannot release refunds for Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit tax returns before mid-February. “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go app will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early Earned Income Tax Credit/Additional Child Tax Credit refund filers by Feb. 22.

The IRS expects most EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by the first week of March, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return. Taxpayers should check the “Where’s My Refund?” tool for their personalized refund date.

Please note: Ordering a tax transcript will not speed delivery of tax refunds nor does the posting of a tax transcript to a taxpayer’s account determine the timing of refund delivery. Calls to request transcripts for this purpose are unnecessary.

While the IRS still expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, it’s possible a particular tax return may require additional review and a refund could take longer. Many different factors can affect the timing of a refund. And, remember to take into consideration that many banks do not process payments on weekends or holidays and it can take time for a financial institution to post the refund to a taxpayer’s account or to receive it by mail.

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NATP

National Association of Tax Professionals