Taxpayers must report health care coverage on 2018 tax return


As taxpayers are completing their 2018 tax returns this year, they must complete the lines related to health care.

For tax year 2018, the IRS will not consider a return complete and accurate if individuals do not do one of the following on their return:

  • Report full-year health coverage
  • Claim a coverage exemption
  • Report and make a shared responsibility payment for everyone on the tax return

The law continues to require taxpayers who do not qualify for an exemption to maintain health care coverage in 2018 or make a shared responsibility payment when they file their tax return. 

Most taxpayers have qualifying health coverage or a coverage exemption for all 12 months in the year and will check the box on the front of their tax return. Taxpayers who can check the box don’t have to file Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, to claim any coverage exemptions. This includes the coverage exemption for household income below the filing threshold.

Taxpayers who did not have coverage for the entire year and therefore can’t check the box generally must report a shared responsibility payment when they file. They will report this payment for each month that anyone listed on the tax return didn’t have qualifying health care coverage or a coverage exemption.

Taxpayers can determine if they are eligible for a coverage exemption or are responsible for the individual shared responsibility payment by using the Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov.

In addition, taxpayers may be eligible for the premium tax credit if they purchased health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Anyone who needs health coverage can visit HealthCare.gov to learn about health insurance options that are available for them and their family.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the shared responsibility payment is reduced to zero for tax year 2019 and all subsequent years. See Publication 5307, Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families, for information about the shared responsibility payment for tax year 2019. 

Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/aca for more information about the Affordable Care Act and filing a 2018 tax return.

Where’s My Refund? tool lets taxpayers check status of their refund


The best way for taxpayers to check the status of their refund is to use the Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov. This tool gives taxpayers access to their tax return and refund status anytime. All they need is internet access and three pieces of information:

  • Their Social Security number
  • Their filing status
  • The exact whole dollar amount of their refund

Taxpayers can start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS received their e-filed return, or four weeks after they mail a paper return. Where’s My Refund? includes a tracker that displays progress through three stages: the IRS receives the tax return, then approves the refund, and sends the refund.

Where’s My Refund? Updates once a day, so taxpayers don’t need to check more often.

Taxpayers on the go can track their return and refund status on their mobile devices using the free IRS2Go app. Those who file an amended return should check out the Where’s My Amended Return? tool.

Generally, the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, but some may take longer. IRS phone and walk-in representatives can research the status of refunds only if it’s been 21 days or more since a taxpayer filed electronically, or more than six weeks since they mailed a paper return. Taxpayers can also contact the IRS if Where’s My Refund? directs them to do so.

Tax reform brings changes to qualified moving expenses

For businesses that have employees, there are changes to fringe benefits that can affect a business’s bottom line and their employee’s tax liabilities. One of these changes is to qualified moving expenses.

Under previous law, payment or reimbursement of an employee’s qualified moving expenses were not subject to income or employment taxes.

Under last year’s tax reform legislation, employers must include all moving expenses, in employees’ wages, subject to income and employment taxes.

Exception
Generally, members of the U.S. Armed Forces can still exclude qualified moving expense reimbursements from their income if:

  • They are on active duty
  • They move pursuant to a military order and incident to a permanent change of station
  • The moving expenses would qualify as a deduction if the employee didn’t get a reimbursement

Transition rule
There is a transition rule under the new law. Under this rule, certain payments or reimbursements aren’t subject to federal income or employment taxes. This includes amounts that:

  • An employer pays a third party in 2018 for qualified moving services provided to an employee prior to 2018.
  • An employer reimburses an employee in 2018 for qualified moving expenses incurred prior to 2018.

To qualify for the transition rule, the payments or reimbursements must be for qualified expenses which would have been deductible by the employee if the employee had directly paid them before Jan. 1, 2018. The employee must not have deducted them in 2017.

Corrections
Employers who have included amounts covered by the exception or the transition rule in individuals’ wages or compensation can take steps to correct taxable wages and employment taxes.

Follow these tips to protect data when shopping online

The IRS reminds holiday shoppers to protect their tax and financial data from identity thieves. All it takes is a few extra steps to prevent cybercriminals from stealing sensitive data, such as financial account information, Social Security numbers, and credit card information. Thieves could use this data to file a fraudulent tax return in 2019.

This tip is part of National Tax Security Awareness Week. The IRS is partnering with state tax agencies and its partners in the Security Summit to remind to taxpayers and tax professionals about the importance of protecting data.

Cybercriminals want to turn stolen data into quick cash. They do this by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards, creating new credit accounts or even using stolen identities to file a fraudulent tax return for a refund.

Here are seven steps taxpayers can follow to help protect their accounts and their money:

  • Avoid unprotected Wi-Fi. Unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspots may allow thieves to view transactions.
  • Shop at familiar online retailers. Generally, sites using the “s” designation in “https” at the start of the URL are secure. User can also look for the “lock” icon in the browser’s URL bar. That said, some thieves can get a security certificate, so the “s” may not always vouch for the site’s legitimacy. Beware of purchases at unfamiliar sites or clicks on links from pop-up ads.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails. Thieves send these emails, posing as a trusted source, such a financial institution. or the IRS. The criminal’s goal is to entice users to open a link or attachment. The link may take users to a fake website that will steal usernames and passwords. An attachment may download malware that tracks keystrokes.
  • Keep a clean machine. This applies to computers, phones and tablets. Taxpayers should use security software to protect against malware that may steal data and viruses that may damage files.
  • Use passwords that are strong, long and unique. Experts suggest a minimum of 10 characters but longer is better. People should also avoid using a specific word in the password. They should also use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters.
  • Use multi-factor authentication when available. This means users may need a security code, usually sent as a text from a financial institution or email provider to a mobile phone. People use this code in addition to usernames and passwords.
  • Encrypt and password-protect sensitive data. If keeping financial records, tax returns or any personally identifiable information on computers, this data should be encrypted and protected by a strong password.

Gifts to Charity: Six Facts About Written Acknowledgements

Throughout the year, many taxpayers contribute money or gifts to qualified organizations eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. Taxpayers who plan to claim a charitable deduction on their tax return must do two things:

  • Have a bank record or written communication from a charity for any monetary contributions.
  • Get a written acknowledgment from the charity for any single donation of $250 or more.

Here are six things for taxpayers to remember about these donations and written acknowledgements:

  • Taxpayers who make single donations of $250 or more to a charity must have one of the following:
    • A separate acknowledgment from the organization for each donation of $250 or more.
    • One acknowledgment from the organization listing the amount and date of each contribution of $250 or more.
  • The $250 threshold doesn’t mean a taxpayer adds up separate contributions of less than $250 throughout the year.
    • For example, if someone gave a $25 offering to their church each week, they don’t need an acknowledgement from the church, even though their contributions for the year are more than $250.
  • Contributions made by payroll deduction are treated as separate contributions for each pay period.
  • If a taxpayer makes a payment that is partly for goods and services, their deductible contribution is the amount of the payment that is more than the value of those goods and services.
  • A taxpayer must get the acknowledgement on or before the earlier of these two dates:
    • The date they file their return for the year in which they make the contribution.
    • The due date, including extensions, for filing the return.
  • If the acknowledgment doesn’t show the date of the contribution, the taxpayers must also have a bank record or receipt that does show the date.

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