What’s new with the child tax credit after tax reform

Many people claim the child tax credit to help offset the cost of raising children. Tax reform legislation enacted last year made changes to that credit. Here are some important things for taxpayers to know about the changes to the credit.

  • Credit amount. The new law increases the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. Eligibility for the credit has not changed. As in past years, the credit applies if all of these apply:
    • the child is younger than 17 at the end of the tax year, December 31, 2018
    • the taxpayer claims the child as a dependent
    • the child lives with the taxpayer for at least six months of the year
  • Credit refunds. The credit is refundable, now up to $1,400. If a taxpayer doesn’t owe any tax before claiming the credit, they will receive up to $1,400 as part of their refund.
  • Earned income threshold. The income threshold to claim the credit has been lowered to $2,500 per family. This means a family must earn a minimum of $2,500 to claim the credit.
  • Phaseout. The income threshold at which the child tax credit begins to phase out is increased to $200,000, or $400,000 if married filing jointly. This means that more families with children younger than 17 qualify for the larger credit.

Dependents who can’t be claimed for the child tax credit may still qualify the taxpayer for the credit for other dependents.  This is a non-refundable credit of up to $500 per qualifying person. These dependents may also be dependent children who are age 17 or older at the end of 2018. It also includes parents or other qualifying relatives supported by the taxpayer.

IRS: Several tax law changes may affect bottom line of many business owners

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded business owners that tax reform legislation passed last December affects nearly every business.

With just a few months left in the year, the IRS is highlighting important information for small businesses and self-employed individuals to help them understand and meet their tax obligations.

Here are several changes that could affect the bottom line of many small businesses:

Qualified Business Income Deduction 

Many owners of sole proprietorships, partnerships, trusts and S corporations may deduct 20 percent of their qualified business income. The new deduction — referred to as the Section 199A deduction or the qualified business income deduction — is available for tax years beginning after Dec. 31, 2017. Eligible taxpayers can claim it for the first time on the 2018 federal income tax return they file next year.

A set of FAQs provides more information on the deduction, income and other limitations.

Temporary 100 percent expensing for certain business assets

Businesses are now able to write off most depreciable business assets in the year the business places them in service. The 100-percent depreciation deduction generally applies to depreciable business assets with a recovery period of 20 years or less and certain other property. Machinery, equipment, computers, appliances and furniture generally qualify.

Taxpayers can find more information in the proposed regulations.

Fringe benefits

  • Entertainment and meals: The new law eliminates the deduction for expenses related to entertainment, amusement or recreation. However, taxpayers can continue to deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer or an employee of the taxpayer is present and other conditions are met. The meals may be provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant or similar business contact.
  • Qualified transportation: The new law disallows deductions for expenses associated with transportation fringe benefits or expenses incurred providing transportation for commuting. There’s an exception when the transportation expenses are necessary for employee safety.
  • Bicycle commuting reimbursements: Employers can deduct qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements as a business expense for 2018 through 2025. The new tax law also suspends the exclusion of qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements from an employee’s income for 2018 through 2025. Employers must now include these reimbursements in the employee’s wages.
  • Qualified moving expenses reimbursements: Reimbursements an employer pays to an employee in 2018 for qualified moving expenses are subject to federal income tax.  Reimbursements incurred in a prior year are not subject to federal income or employment taxes; nor are payments from an employer to a moving company in 2018 for qualified moving services provided to an employee prior to 2018.
  • Employee achievement award: Special rules allow an employee to exclude certain achievement awards from their wages if the awards are tangible personal property. An employer also may deduct awards that are tangible personal property, subject to certain deduction limits. The new law clarifies that tangible personal property doesn’t include cash, cash equivalents, gift cards, gift coupons, certain gift certificates, tickets to theater or sporting events, vacations, meals, lodging, stocks, bonds, securities and other similar items.

The tax reform for businesses page has more information on fringe benefit changes.

Estimated Taxes

Individuals, including sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders, may need to pay quarterly installments of estimated tax unless they owe less than $1,000 when they file their tax return or they had no tax liability in the prior year (subject to certain conditions). More information about tax withholding and estimated taxes can be found on the agency’s Pay As You Go web page as well as in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. Publication 505 has additional details, including worksheets and examples, which can help taxpayers determine whether they should pay estimated taxes. Some affected taxpayers may include those who have dividend or capital gain income, owe alternative minimum tax or have other special situations.

Here’s how the IRS contacts taxpayers

Everyone should know how the IRS contacts taxpayers. This will help people avoid becoming a victim of scammers who pretend to be from the IRS with a goal of stealing personal information.
Here are some facts about how the IRS communicates with taxpayers:

  • The IRS doesn’t normally initiate contact with taxpayers by email.
  • The agency does not send text messages or contact people through social media.
  • When the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, the first contact is normally by letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.  Fraudsters will send fake documents through the mail, and in some cases will claim they already notified a taxpayer by U.S. mail.
  • Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit with a taxpayer. In some instances, the IRS sends a letter or written notice to a taxpayer in advance, but not always.
  • IRS revenue agents or tax compliance officers may call a taxpayer or tax professional after mailing a notice to confirm an appointment or to discuss items for a scheduled audit.
  • Private debt collectors can call taxpayers for the collection of certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities, but only after the taxpayer and their representative have received written notice.
  • IRS revenue officers and agents routinely make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed, delinquent tax returns or a business falling behind on payroll tax deposits. IRS revenue officers will request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer. However, taxpayers should remember that payment will never be requested to a source other than the U.S. Treasury.
  • When visited by someone from the IRS, the taxpayers should always ask for credentials. IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential.

Veterans owed refunds for overpayments attributable to disability severance payments should file amended returns to claim tax refunds

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today is advising certain veterans who received disability severance payments after January 17, 1991, and included that payment as income that they should file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to claim a credit or refund of the overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment.

This is a result of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act passed in 2016.

Most veterans who received a one-time lump-sum disability severance payment when they separated from their military service will receive a letter from the Department of Defense with information explaining how to claim tax refunds they are entitled to; the letters include an explanation of a simplified method for making the claim. The IRS has worked closely with the DoD to produce these letters, explaining how veterans should claim the related tax refunds.

Statute of Limitations

The amount of time for claiming these tax refunds is limited. However, the law grants veterans an alternative timeframe – one year from the date of the letter from DoD. Veterans making these claims have the normal limitations period for claiming a refund or one year from the date of their letter from the DoD, whichever expires later. As taxpayers can usually only claim tax refunds within 3 years from the due date of the return, this alternative time frame is especially important since some of the claims may be for refunds of taxes paid as far back as 1991.

Amount to Claim

Veterans can submit a claim based on the actual amount of their disability severance payment by completing Form 1040X, carefully following the instructions. However, there is a simplified method. Veterans can choose instead to claim a standard refund amount based on the calendar year (an individual’s tax year) in which they received the severance payment. Write “Disability Severance Payment” on line 15 of Form 1040X and enter on lines 15 and 22 the standard refund amount listed below that applies:

  • $1,750 for tax years 1991 – 2005
  • $2,400 for tax years 2006 – 2010
  • $3,200 for tax years 2011 – 2016

Claiming the standard refund amount is the easiest way for veterans to claim a refund, because they do not need to access the original tax return from the year of their lump-sum disability severance payment.

Special Instructions

All veterans claiming refunds for overpayments attributable to their lump-sum disability severance payments should write either “Veteran Disability Severance” or “St. Clair Claim” across the top of the front page of the Form 1040X that they file. Because all amended returns are filed on paper, veterans should mail their completed Form 1040X, with a copy of the DoD letter, to:

Internal Revenue Service
333 W. Pershing Street, Stop 6503, P5
Kansas City, MO  64108

Veterans eligible for a refund who did not receive a letter from DoD may still file Form 1040X to claim a refund but must include both of the following to verify the disability severance payment:

  • A copy of documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for the disability severance payment, such as a letter from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) explaining the severance payment at the time of the payment or a Form DD-214, and
  • A copy of either the VA determination letter confirming the veteran’s disability or a determination that the veteran’s injury or sickness was either incurred as a direct result of armed conflict, while in extra-hazardous service, or in simulated war exercises, or was caused by an instrumentality of war.

Veterans who did not receive the DoD letter and who do not have the required documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for their disability severance payment will need to obtain the necessary proof by contacting the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS)

Tips for teenage taxpayers starting a summer job 

Now that school’s out, many students will be starting summer jobs…from working at a summer camp to being an office intern. The IRS reminds students that not all the money they earn may make it to their pocket. That’s because employers must withhold taxes from the employee’s paycheck. Here are a few things these workers need to know when starting a summer job:

  • New employees. Students and teenage employees normally have taxes withheld from their paychecks by the employer. When a taxpayer gets a new job, they need to fill out a Form W-4. Employers use this form to calculate how much federal income tax to withhold from the employee’s pay. The Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov can help a taxpayer fill out this form.
  • Self-employment. Students who do odd jobs over the summer to make extra cash – like baby-sitting or lawn care – are considered self-employed. They should remember that money earned from self-employment is taxable. Workers who are self-employed may be responsible for paying taxes directly to the IRS. One way to do that is by making estimated tax payments during the year. Taxpayers who do this should keep good records of all money they receive.
  • Tip income. Someone working as a waiter or a camp counselor who receives tips as part of their summer income should know that tip income is taxable income and subject to federal income tax. They should keep a daily log to accurately report them, as they will report tips of $20 or more received in cash in any single month.
  • Payroll taxes. This tax pays for benefits under the Social Security system. While taxpayers may earn too little from their summer job to owe income tax, employers usually must still withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from their pay. If a taxpayer is self-employed, then Social Security and Medicare taxes may still be due and are generally paid by the taxpayer.
  • Reserve Officers’ Training Corps pay. If a taxpayer is in an ROTC program, active duty pay, such as pay for summer advanced camp, is taxable. Other allowances the taxpayer may receive – like food and lodging allowances paid to ROTC students participating in advanced training – may not be taxable. The Armed Forces’ Tax Guide on IRS.gov has more details.

More Information:
Tax rules for students.
Is My Tip Income Taxable?
Do I Have Income Subject to Self-Employment Tax?

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