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Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It has spread from China to
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Pa Dept of Health COVID-19 Update

IRS issues warning about Coronavirus-related scams; watch out for schemes tied to economic impact payments

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today urged taxpayers to be on the lookout for a surge of calls and email phishing attempts about the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. These contacts can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft.

“We urge people to take extra care during this period. The IRS isn’t going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don’t open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.”

Taxpayers should watch not only for emails but text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.

“History has shown that criminals take every opportunity to perpetrate a fraud on unsuspecting victims, especially when a group of people is vulnerable or in a state of need,” said IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort. “While you are waiting to hear about your economic impact payment, criminals are working hard to trick you into getting their hands on it. The IRS Criminal Investigation Division is working hard to find these scammers and shut them down, but in the meantime, we ask people to remain vigilant.”

Don’t fall prey to Coronavirus tricks; retirees among potential targets

The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers. In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account taxpayers previously provided on tax returns. Those taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online to a newly designed secure portal on IRS.gov in mid-April. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file. Taxpayers should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information for others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.

The IRS also reminds retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return that no action on their part is needed to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. Seniors should be especially careful during this period. The IRS reminds retirees – including recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 − that no one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment, also sometimes referred to as rebates or stimulus payments. The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees – no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive this.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that scammers may:

  • Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
  • Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
  • Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
  • Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Reporting Coronavirus-related or other phishing attempts

Those who receive unsolicited emails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone. Learn more about reporting suspected scams by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page on IRS.gov.

Official IRS information about the COVID-19 pandemic and economic impact payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov. The page is updated quickly when new information is available.

Social Security recipients who don’t usually file tax returns will automatically get $1,200 payments, Treasury says in reversal

The Treasury announced late Wednesday that Social Security beneficiaries who typically do not file a tax return will automatically get the $1,200 payment.

The announcement is a reversal from earlier in the week when the Internal Revenue Service said everyone would need to file some sort of tax return in order to qualify for the payments. Democrats and some Republicans criticized the IRS for requiring so many extra hurdles for this vulnerable population to get aid when the government already has their information on file.

The reversal came as the Trump administration tries to rapidly get stimulus payments out to Americans in the face of the quickest economic decline in modern history.

“Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account,” said Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.

The $2.2 trillion aid legislation, passed in response to the coronavirus pandemic, directed the Treasury to look at Americans’ 2019 or 2018 tax returns to determine if they are eligible for a payment. But the law also said Treasury should look at Social Security data for seniors and the disabled.

Criticism poured in after the IRS posted a notice on its website on Monday instructing Social Security recipients who do not normally send in a return to file a “simple” tax return, which would be available soon.

More than 15 million Americans on Social Security do not file an annual tax return because their income is so low, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Forty-one Democratic senators sent the White House a letter Wednesday asking why the Trump administration is placing this “significant burden” on senior citizens and the disabled. GOP Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri called it “ridiculous.”

During the last recession, when the U.S. government sent most Americans a stimulus check and required a filed tax return to get it, 3.5 million Social Security recipients were left out because they never sent a return, according to a 2008 Treasury Department analysis.

There were concerns that even more people won’t file during the pandemic. But the Trump administration ultimately reversed course.

Mnuchin said direct deposits should begin by April 17, followed by checks in the mail. About 60 percent of tax filers gave the IRS direct-deposit information in recent years, said Nicole Kaeding of the National Taxpayers Union Foundation. The IRS said there would soon be a web-based portal for people to update their direct-deposit information.

Beyond the tax-filing hurdle, millions of other Americans are realizing that they don’t qualify for a coronavirus relief check.

Most high school seniors and college students won’t get any money. The bill gives nothing to families for their children older than 16, a shock to many households already reeling from canceled graduations, and college students readjusting to life at home with so many universities shut down.

Many immigrant families are also learning that they are ineligible. In order for anyone in the family to receive a payment, each person in the household — including children — is supposed to have a valid Social Security number.

Nick Guerrero of Mesa, Ariz., has learned that he’s one of those who won’t be getting any money because he’s 18, another blow to his senior year of high school that is quickly unraveling.

On Sunday night, Guerrero was video chatting with a dozen friends and they laughed at the thought of having to hold a virtual prom and getting their high school diplomas via email. It still seemed unreal. On Monday, they woke up to the news that school was canceled for the rest of the year in Arizona.

“It was like a shot to the heart,” Guerrero said.

Some of his friends have lost their after-school jobs. He planned to get one soon to help save for college, but that is no longer possible. He has been applying for college scholarships, but some applications require him to use a fax machine or send a hard copy of his paperwork, and he no longer has access to the school printer.

Money is tight and his family had to borrow from a relative to pay for his Advanced Placement tests this spring. His parents — an education professor and a golf coach — expect to receive the government relief payment in April, which should help, but they won’t get $500 for him.

Guerrero trades text messages on a chain with about 25 friends — classmates he hasn’t seen since spring break started on March 6. Each day brings more harsh news about people they know getting sick and families hurting for money. His mom’s phone pings frequently with “SOS” messages from college students who can’t pay their rent. “It seemed crazy to me that 17- and 18-year-olds won’t get this. We’re losing our jobs, too,” he said.

IRS unveils new People First Initiative; COVID-19 effort temporarily adjusts, suspends key compliance program

WASHINGTON — To help people facing the challenges of COVID-19 issues, the Internal Revenue Service announced today a sweeping series of steps to assist taxpayers by providing relief on a variety of issues ranging from easing payment guidelines to postponing compliance actions.

“The IRS is taking extraordinary steps to help the people of our country,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “In addition to extending tax deadlines and working on new legislation, the IRS is pursuing unprecedented actions to ease the burden on people facing tax issues. During this difficult time, we want people working together, focused on their well-being, helping each other and others less fortunate.”

“The new IRS People First Initiative provides immediate relief to help people facing uncertainty over taxes,” Rettig added “We are temporarily adjusting our processes to help people and businesses during these uncertain times. We are facing this together, and we want to be part of the solution to improve the lives of all people in our country.”

These new changes include issues ranging from postponing certain payments related to Installment Agreements and Offers in Compromise to collection and limiting certain enforcement actions. The IRS will be temporarily modifying the following activities as soon as possible; the projected start date will be April 1 and the effort will initially run through July 15. During this period, to the maximum extent possible, the IRS will avoid in-person contacts. However, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations.

“IRS employees care about our people and our country, and they have a strong desire to help improve this situation,” Rettig said. “These new actions reflect just one of many ways our employees are working hard every day to assist the nation. We care, a lot. IRS employees are actively engaged, and they have always delivered for their communities and our country. The People First Initiative is designed to help people take care of themselves and is a key part of our ongoing response to the coronavirus effort.”

More specifics about the implementation of these provisions will be shared soon. Highlights of the key actions in the IRS People First Initiative include:

Existing Installment Agreements –For taxpayers under an existing Installment Agreement, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 are suspended. Taxpayers who are currently unable to comply with the terms of an Installment Payment Agreement, including a Direct Debit Installment Agreement, may suspend payments during this period if they prefer. Furthermore, the IRS will not default any Installment Agreements during this period. By law, interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.

New Installment Agreements – The IRS reminds people unable to fully pay their federal taxes that they can resolve outstanding liabilities by entering into a monthly payment agreement with the IRS. See IRS.gov for further information.

Offers in Compromise (OIC) – The IRS is taking several steps to assist taxpayers in various stages of the OIC process:

  • Pending OIC applications – The IRS will allow taxpayers until July 15 to provide requested additional information to support a pending OIC. In addition, the IRS will not close any pending OIC request before July 15, 2020, without the taxpayer’s consent.
  • OIC Payments – Taxpayers have the option of suspending all payments on accepted OICs until July 15, 2020, although by law interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.
  • Delinquent Return Filings – The IRS will not default an OIC for those taxpayers who are delinquent in filing their tax return for tax year 2018. However, taxpayers should file any delinquent 2018 return (and their 2019 return) on or before July 15, 2020.
  • New OIC Applications – The IRS reminds people facing a liability exceeding their net worth that the OIC process is designed to resolve outstanding tax liabilities by providing a “Fresh Start.” Further information is available at IRS.gov

Non-Filers –The IRS reminds people who have not filed their return for tax years before 2019 that they should file their delinquent returns. More than 1 million households that haven’t filed tax returns during the last three years are actually owed refunds; they still have time to claim these refunds. Many should consider contacting a tax professional to consider various available options since the time to receive such refunds is limited by statute. Once delinquent returns have been filed, taxpayers with a tax liability should consider taking the opportunity to resolve any outstanding liabilities by entering into an Installment Agreement or an Offer in Compromise with the IRS to obtain a “Fresh Start.” See IRS.gov for further information.

Field Collection Activities – Liens and levies (including any seizures of a personal residence) initiated by field revenue officers will be suspended during this period. However, field revenue officers will continue to pursue high-income non-filers and perform other similar activities where warranted.

Automated Liens and Levies – New automatic, systemic liens and levies will be suspended during this period.

Passport Certifications to the State Department – IRS will suspend new certifications to the Department of State for taxpayers who are “seriously delinquent” during this period. These taxpayers are encouraged to submit a request for an Installment Agreement or, if applicable, an OIC during this period. Certification prevents taxpayers from receiving or renewing passports.

Private Debt Collection – New delinquent accounts will not be forwarded by the IRS to private collection agencies to work during this period.

Field, Office and Correspondence Audits – During this period, the IRS will generally not start new field, office and correspondence examinations. We will continue to work refund claims where possible, without in-person contact. However, the IRS may start new examinations where deemed necessary to protect the government’s interest in preserving the applicable statute of limitations.

  • In-Person Meetings – In-person meetings regarding current field, office and correspondence examinations will be suspended. Even though IRS examiners will not hold in-person meetings, they will continue their examinations remotely, where possible. To facilitate the progress of open examinations, taxpayers are encouraged to respond to any requests for information they already have received – or may receive – on all examination activity during this period if they are able to do so.
  • Unique Situations – Particularly for some corporate and business taxpayers, the IRS understands that there may be instances where the taxpayers desire to begin an examination while people and records are available and respective staffs have capacity. In those instances when it’s in the best interest of both parties and appropriate personnel are available, the IRS may initiate activities to move forward with an examination — understanding that COVID-19 developments could later reduce activities for an agreed period.
  • General Requests for Information – In addition to compliance activities and examinations, the IRS encourages taxpayers to respond to any other IRS correspondence requesting additional information during this time if possible. 

Earned Income Tax Credit and Wage Verification Reviews – Taxpayers have until July 15, 2020, to respond to the IRS to verify that they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or to verify their income. These taxpayers are encouraged to exercise their best efforts to obtain and submit all requested information, and if unable to do so, please reach out to the IRS indicating the reason such information is not available. Until July 15, 2020, the IRS will not deny these credits for a failure to provide requested information.

Independent Office of Appeals – Appeals employees will continue to work their cases. Although Appeals is not currently holding in-person conferences with taxpayers, conferences may be held over the telephone or by videoconference. Taxpayers are encouraged to promptly respond to any outstanding requests for information for all cases in the Independent Office of Appeals.

Statute of Limitations – The IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized during this period, taxpayers are encouraged to cooperate in extending such statutes. Otherwise, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statutes. Where a statutory period is not set to expire during 2020, the IRS is unlikely to pursue the foregoing actions until at least July 15, 2020.

Practitioner Priority Service – Practitioners are reminded that, depending on staffing levels and allocations going forward, there may be more significant wait times for the PPS. The IRS will continue to monitor this as situations develop.

“The IRS will continue to review and, where appropriate, modify or expand the People First Initiative as we continue reviewing our programs and receive feedback from others,” Rettig said. “We are committed to helping people get through this period, and our employees will remain focused on these and other helpful efforts in the days and weeks ahead. I ask for your personal support, your understanding – and your patience – as we navigate our way forward together. Stay safe and take care of your families, friends and others.”

Employee Retention Credit available for many businesses financially impacted by COVID-19

WASHINGTON — The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service today launched the Employee Retention Credit, designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19.

Does my business qualify to receive the Employee Retention Credit?

The credit is available to all employers regardless of size, including tax-exempt organizations. There are only two exceptions: State and local governments and their instrumentalities and small businesses who take small business loans.

Qualifying employers must fall into one of two categories:

  1. The employer’s business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter.
  2. The employer’s gross receipts are below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter.

These measures are calculated each calendar quarter.

How is the credit calculated?

The amount of the credit is 50% of qualifying wages paid up to $10,000 in total. Wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2021, are eligible for the credit. Wages taken into account are not limited to cash payments, but also include a portion of the cost of employer provided health care.

How do I know which wages qualify?

Qualifying wages are based on the average number of a business’s employees in 2019.

Employers with less than 100 employees: If the employer had 100 or fewer employees on average in 2019, the credit is based on wages paid to all employees, regardless if they worked or not. If the employees worked full time and were paid for full time work, the employer still receives the credit.

Employers with more than 100 employees: If the employer had more than 100 employees on average in 2019, then the credit is allowed only for wages paid to employees who did not work during the calendar quarter.

I am an eligible employer. How do I receive my credit?

Employers can be immediately reimbursed for the credit by reducing their required deposits of payroll taxes that have been withheld from employees’ wages by the amount of the credit.

Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their quarterly employment tax returns or Form 941 beginning with the second quarter. If the employer’s employment tax deposits are not sufficient to cover the credit, the employer may receive an advance payment from the IRS by submitting Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19.

Eligible employers can also request an advance of the Employee Retention Credit by submitting Form 7200.

Where can I find more information on the Employer Retention Credit and other COVID-19 economic relief efforts?

Updates on the implementation of this Employee Retention CreditFrequently Asked Questions on Tax Credits for Required Paid Leave  and other information can be found on the Coronavirus page of IRS.gov.

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