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Done with taxes this year? Use 2018 return to get 2019 withholding right

WASHINGTON — Millions of taxpayers filed a 2018 tax return in the last few weeks, making now a prime time for everyone to consider whether their tax situation came out as they expected. If it didn’t, they can use their recently finished 2018 return and the IRS Withholding Calculator to do a Paycheck Checkup and adjust their withholding.

Checking and then adjusting their tax withholding can help make sure they don’t owe more tax than they are expecting. Usually they can also avoid a surprise tax bill and possibly a penalty when they file next year. At the same time, with the average refund more than $2,700, some taxpayers may choose to reduce their withholding to have a larger paycheck and smaller refund.

Now is an ideal time to check withholding, since having a completed tax return is helpful when using the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov. Since taxpayers need to estimate deductions, credits and other amounts for 2019, having similar information from the 2018 return can make using the Withholding Calculator easier.

Who should do a Paycheck Checkup?

Though doing a Paycheck Checkup is a good idea every year, for many people, it’s even more important this year. This includes anyone who:

  • Adjusted their withholding in 2018 – especially those who did so in the middle or later part of the year.
  • Owed additional tax when they filed their tax return this year.
  • Had a refund that was larger or smaller than expected.
  • Had life changes such as marriage, childbirth, adoption, buying a home or when income changes. 

In addition, most people are affected by changes made in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the tax reform legislation enacted in December 2017. These changes included lowered tax rates, increased standard deductions, suspension of personal exemptions, the increased Child Tax Credit and limited or discontinued deductions. As a result, the IRS continues to encourage people to check their withholding, even if they did a Paycheck Checkup in 2018.

This includes taxpayers who:

  • Have children and claim credits, such as the Child Tax Credit
  • Have older dependents, including children age 17 or older
  • Itemized deductions in the past
  • Are a two-income family
  • Have two or more jobs at the same time
  • Only work part of the year
  • Have high income or a complex tax return

Those with more complex situations may need to use Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, instead of the Withholding Calculator. This includes employees who owe self-employment tax, the alternative minimum tax or tax on unearned income from dependents. It can also help those who receive non-wage income, such as dividends, capital gains, rents and royalties. The publication includes worksheets and examples to guide taxpayers through these special situations.

Sooner is better for a Paycheck Checkup

The IRS urges everyone to do a Paycheck Checkup as early in the year as possible so that if a tax withholding adjustment is needed, there is more time for withholding to happen evenly during the rest of the year. Waiting means there are fewer pay periods to withhold the necessary federal tax.

Changing withholding

Employees can use the results from the Withholding Calculator to see if they need to complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and submit it to their employer. In some instances, the calculator may recommend that the employee have an additional flat-dollar amount withheld each pay period. Taxpayers don’t need to send this form to the IRS after giving it to their employer.

Those who don’t pay taxes through withholding, or pay too little tax that way, may still use the Withholding Calculator to determine if they need to pay estimated tax to the IRS quarterly during the year. Those who are self-employed generally pay tax this way. See Form 1040-ES, Estimated Taxes for Individuals, for details.

Businesses should review depreciation deductions rules

Businesses should know the tax rules for deducting depreciation on certain property. This deduction can benefit eligible business taxpayers. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act made changes to the rules around depreciation that will affect many businesses. 

First off, businesses should remember they can generally depreciate tangible property, except land. Tangible property includes:

  • Buildings
  • Machinery
  • Vehicles
  • Furniture
  • Equipment

Here are some of the changes to business depreciation under tax reform:

  • Taxpayers can immediately expense more. Businesses  may choose to expense the cost of a property and deduct it in the year it is placed in service.
  • The maximum deduction increased from $500,000 to $1 million.
     
  • The phase-out limit increased from $2 million to $2.5 million.
  • Taxpayers may include improvements made to nonresidential property. The improvements must have been made after the date the property was first placed in service.

These improvements include:

o Changes to a building’s interior
o Roofs
o Heating and air conditioning systems
o Fire protection systems
o Alarm and security systems


Improvements that do not qualify:

o Enlargement of the building
o Service to elevators or escalators
o Internal  framework of the building

These changes apply to property placed in service in taxable years beginning after December 31, 2017.

All taxpayers should check their withholding ASAP

All taxpayers should check their withholding – also known as doing a Paycheck Checkup – as soon as possible. They should do a checkup even if they did one last year. 

By checking their withholding, taxpayers can make sure enough is being taken out of their paychecks or other income to cover the tax owed. Here are some things taxpayers should know about withholding and why checking it is important:

  • Taxpayers should check their withholding as early in the year as possible. If someone still has not done a Paycheck Checkup, there’s still time to get their withholding on track. They should do a checkup ASAP.
  • Taxpayers should also check their withholding when life changes occur. These changes include things like:
    • Marriage or divorce
    • Birth or adoption of a child
    • Purchase of a home
    • Retirement
    • Chapter 11 bankruptcy
    • New job or loss of job
  • Some taxable income is not subject to withholding. People with this income who also have income from a job may want to adjust the amount of tax their employer withholds from their paycheck. This includes income from things like:
    • Interest
    • Dividends
    • Capital gains
    • Self-employment and gig economy income
    • IRA distributions, including certain Roth IRAs
  • Some life changes might affect a taxpayer’s itemized deductions or tax credits. The taxpayer should check their withholding if they experience changes to their:
    • Medical expenses
    • Taxes
    • Interest expense
    • Gifts to charity
    • Dependent care expenses
    • Education credit
    • Child tax credit
    • Earned income tax credit

The best way for taxpayers to check their withholding is to use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.

Tips for taxpayers who may need to amend their tax return

Although the IRS often finds and corrects errors during processing, there are certain situations in which a taxpayer may need to file an amended return to make a correction. Here are some quick tips for anyone who discovered they made a mistake or forgot to include something on their tax return.

Use the Interactive Tax Assistant. Taxpayers can use the Who should file an amended return? interview tool to help determine if they should file an amended return to correct an error or make other changes to their return.

Don’t amend for math errors or missing forms. Taxpayers generally don’t need to file an amended return to correct math errors on their original return. The IRS may correct math or clerical errors on a return and may accept it even if the taxpayer forgot to attach certain tax forms or schedules. The IRS will mail a letter to the taxpayer, if necessary, requesting additional information.

Wait until receiving refund for tax year 2018 before filing. Taxpayers who are due refunds from their original tax year 2018 tax return should wait for the IRS to process the return and they receive the refund before filing Form 1040-X to claim an additional refund. It may take the IRS up to 16 weeks to process amended returns.

File Form 1040-X to amend. Taxpayers must file on paper using Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct their tax return. While taxpayers can use software to prepare Form 1040-X, they can’t file Form 1040-X electronically. Taxpayers should indicate the year of the original return and explain all changes made by attaching any forms or schedules. Taxpayers then sign and mail the Form 1040-X to the address listed in the instructions. Taxpayers filing Form 1040-X in response to an IRS letter should mail it to the address shown on the letter.

Amend to correct errors. Taxpayers should correct their return if they find that they should have claimed a different filing status or didn’t report some income. Taxpayers who claimed deductions or credits they shouldn’t have claimed or didn’t claim deductions or credits they could have claimed may need to file an amended return.   Changes made on a federal return may also affect state taxes. The taxpayer should contact the state tax agency to see if this is so.

Pay additional tax. Taxpayers who will owe more tax should file Form 1040-X and pay the tax as soon as possible to avoid penalties and interest. They should consider using IRS Direct Pay to pay any tax directly from a checking or savings account for free.

File within three-year time limit. Taxpayers generally have three years from the date they filed their original tax return to file Form 1040-X to claim a refund. They can file it within two years of the date they paid the tax, if that date is later.

Use separate forms if amending more than one tax year. Taxpayers must file a Form 1040-X for each tax year and mail each year’s form in a separate envelope to avoid confusion. They should check the box for the calendar year or enter the other calendar year or fiscal year they are amending. The form’s instructions have the mailing address for the amended return.

Track amended return status online. Taxpayers can track the status of their amended tax return in English and Spanish using Where’s My Amended Return?  Amended returns take up to 16 weeks to process and up to three weeks from the date of mailing to show up in the system. Before that time, there’s no need to call the IRS unless the tool specifically tells the taxpayer to do so.

These summer activities can affect next year’s tax returns

Summertime activities often affect the tax returns people file the following year. Here are some things taxpayers do during the summer along with tips they should consider now:

  • Getting married. Newlyweds should report any name change to the Social Security Administration. They should also report an address change to the United States Postal Service, their employers, and the IRS. This will help make sure they receive documents and other items they will need to file their taxes.
  • Sending kids to summer day camp.
    Unlike overnight camps, the cost of summer day camp may count towards the child and dependent care credit.
  • Working part-time.
    While summertime and part-time workers may not earn enough to owe federal income tax, they should remember to file a return. They’ll need to file early next year to get a refund for taxes withheld from their checks this year.

    Normally, employees receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from their employer to account for the summer’s work. They’ll use this to prepare their tax return. They should receive the W-2 by January 31 next year. Employees will get a W-2 even if they no longer work for the summertime employer.

    Summertime workers can avoid higher tax bills and lost benefits if they know their correct status. Employers will determine whether the people who work for them are employees or independent contractors. Independent contractors aren’t subject to withholding, making them responsible for paying their own income taxes plus Social Security and Medicare taxes.

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