Taxes

Divorce or separation may have an effect on taxes

Taxpayers should be aware of tax law changes related to alimony and separation payments. These payments are made after a divorce or separation. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the rules around them, which will affect certain taxpayers when they file their 2019 tax returns next year.

Here are some facts that will help people understand these changes and who they will impact:

  • The law relates to payments under a divorce or separation agreement. This includes:
    • Divorce decrees.
    • Separate maintenance decrees.
    • Written separation agreements.
  • In general, the taxpayer who makes payments to a spouse or former spouse can deduct it on their tax return. The taxpayer who receives the payments is required to include it in their income.
  • Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, alimony or separate maintenance payments are not deductible from the income of the payer spouse, or includable in the income of the receiving spouse, if made under a divorce or separation agreement executed after Dec. 31, 2018. 
  • If an agreement was executed on or before Dec. 31, 2018 and then modified after that date, the new law also applies. The new law applies if the modification does these two things:
    • It changes the terms of the alimony or separate maintenance payments.
    • It specifically says that alimony or separate maintenance payments are not deductible by the payer spouse or includable in the income of the receiving spouse.
  • Agreements executed on or before Dec. 31, 2018 follow the previous rules. If an agreement was modified after that date, the agreement still follows the previous law as long as the modifications don’t do what’s described above.

Here’s what people should know about reporting cash payments

Federal law requires a person to report cash transactions of more than $10,000 to the IRS. Here are some facts about reporting these payments.

Who’s covered
For purposes of cash payments, a “person” is defined as an individual, company, corporation, partnership, association, trust or estate. For example:

  • Dealers of jewelry, furniture, boats, aircraft, automobiles, art, rugs and antiques
  • Pawnbrokers
  • Attorneys
  • Real estate brokers
  • Insurance companies
  • Travel agencies

How to report
People report the payment by filing Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

A person can file Form 8300 electronically using the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s BSA E-Filing System. E-filing is free, quick and secure. Filers will receive an electronic acknowledgement of each form they file. Those who prefer to mail Form 8300 can send it to the IRS at the address listed on the form.

What’s cash
Cash includes coins and currency of the United States or any foreign country. For some transactions, it’s also a cashier’s check, bank draft, traveler’s check or money order with a face amount of $10,000 or less.

A person must report cash of more than $10,000 they received:

  • In one lump sum
  • In two or more related payments within 24 hours
  • As part of a single transaction within 12 months
  • As part of two or more related transactions within 12 months

When to file
A person must file Form 8300 within 15 days after the date they received the cash. If they receive payments toward a single transaction or two or more related transactions, they file when the total amount paid exceeds $10,000.

Taking care of business: recordkeeping for small businesses

Small business owners should keep good records. This applies to all businesses, whether they have a couple dozen employees or just a few. Whether they install software or make soft-serve. Whether they cut hair or cut lawns. Keeping good records is an important part of running a successful business.

Here are some questions and answers to help business owners understand the ins and outs of good recordkeeping.

Why should business owners keep records?
Good records will help them:

  • Monitor the progress of their business
  • Prepare financial statements
  • Identify income sources
  • Keep track of expenses
  • Prepare tax returns and support items reported on tax returns

What kinds of records should owners keep?
Small business owners may choose any recordkeeping system that fits their business. They should choose one that clearly shows income and expenses. Except in a few cases, the law does not require special kinds of records. .

How long should businesses keep records?
How long a document should be kept depends on several factors. These factors include the action, expense and event recorded in the document. The IRS generally suggests taxpayers keep records for three years.

How should businesses record transactions?
A good recordkeeping system includes a summary of all business transactions. These are usually kept in books called journals and ledgers, which business owners can buy at an office supply store. All requirements that apply to hard copy books and records also apply to electronic business records.

What is the burden of proof?
The responsibility to validate information on tax returns is known as the burden of proof. Small business owners must be able to prove expenses to deduct them.

How long should businesses keep employment tax records?
Business owners should keep all records of employment taxes for at least four years.

Taxpayers can check online to get updates about their tax refund

Taxpayers who filed an extension and are submitting their 2018 tax return this summer might be waiting for their tax refund. It’s easy for these taxpayers to check on the status of their money. They can just zip over to IRS.gov and use “Where’s My Refund?”

This tool is available on IRS.gov and through the IRS2Go app. Taxpayers can use Where’s My Refund? to start checking the status of their tax return within 24 hours after the IRS receives an e-filed return. For a paper return, it’s four weeks after the taxpayer mailed it.

The tool has a tracker that displays the progress of a tax return through these three stages:

  • Return received
  • Refund approved
  • Refund sent

All a taxpayer needs to use “Where’s My Refund?” are these three things:

  • Their Social Security number
  • Their tax filing status
  • The exact amount of the refund claimed on their tax return

Taxpayers should remember “Where’s My Refund” is only available on the IRS website or through the IRS2Go app.

“Where’s My Refund?” updates once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check the status more often.

Taxpayers should only call the IRS tax help hotline on the status of their tax refund if:

  • It has been 21 days or more since the tax return was e-filed
  • It has been six weeks or more since the return was mailed
  • When “Where’s My Refund?” tells the taxpayer to contact the IRS

Taxpayers who owe should pay as much as possible to minimize interest and penalty charges. These taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/payments to explore their payment options.

Taxpayers should also watch out for email or text scams asking for personal information in order to check the status of an IRS refund. This IRS does not contact taxpayers in this way. Share this tip on social media

Tax tips for taxpayers to consider when selling their home

The IRS has some good news for taxpayers who are selling their home. When filing their taxes, they may qualify to exclude all or part of any gain from the sale from their income. Here are some things that homeowners should think about when selling a home:

Ownership and use
To claim the exclusion, the taxpayer must meet ownership and use tests. During a five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have owned the home and lived in it as their main home for at least two years.

Gains
Taxpayers who sell their main home and have a gain from the sale may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from their income. Taxpayers who file a joint return with their spouse may be able to exclude up to $500,000. 
Homeowners excluding all the gain do not need to report the sale on their tax return.

Losses
Some taxpayers experience a loss when their main home sells for less than what they paid for it. This loss is not deductible.

Multiple homes
Taxpayers who own more than one home can only exclude the gain on the sale of their main home. They must pay taxes on the gain from selling any other home.

Reported sale
Taxpayers who don’t qualify to exclude all of the taxable gain from their income must report the gain from the sale of their home when they file their tax return. Anyone who chooses not to claim the exclusion must report the taxable gain on their tax return.  Taxpayers who receive Form 1099-S must report the sale on their tax return even if they have no taxable gain.

Mortgage debt
Generally, taxpayers must report forgiven or canceled debt as income on their tax return. This includes people who had a mortgage workout, foreclosure, or other canceled mortgage debt on their home. Taxpayers who had debt discharged after Dec. 31, 2017, can’t exclude it from income as qualified principal residence indebtedness unless a written agreement for the debt forgiveness was in place before January 1, 2018.

Possible exceptions
There are exceptions to these rules for some individuals, including persons with a disability, certain members of the military, intelligence community and Peace Corps workers.

Worksheets
Worksheets included in Publication 523 can help taxpayers figure the adjusted basis of the home sold, the gain or loss on the sale, and the excluded gain on the sale. Share this tip on social media

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NATP

National Association of Tax Professionals