IRS Begins Issuing Notices to Taxpayers Whose ITINs Expire by End of 2017

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (August 9, 2017) —The Internal Revenue Service is mailing letters this month to more than 1 million taxpayers with expiring Individual Taxpayer ‎Identification Numbers and urges recipients to renew them as quickly as possible to avoid tax refund and processing delays.

ITINs with middle digits 70, 71, 72 or 80 are set to expire at the end of 2017. The notice being mailed — CP-48 Notices, You must renew your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file your U.S. tax return — explains the steps taxpayers need to take to renew the ITIN if it will be included on a U.S. tax return filed in 2018.

The notices will be issued over a five-week period. Taxpayers who receive the notice but have acted to renew their ITIN do not need to take further steps unless another family member is affected.

Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, ITINs that have not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three consecutive years will expire Dec. 31, 2017, and as mentioned above, ITINs with middle digits 70, 71, 72 or 80 will also expire at the end of the year.

Affected taxpayers who expect to file a tax return in 2018 must submit a renewal application.

As a reminder, ITINs with middle digits 78 and 79 that expired at the end of last year can be renewed at any time.

To renew an ITIN, a taxpayer must fill out a Form W-7 and submit all required documentation. For more information, visit www.irs.gov.

 

IRS Offers Last-Minute Filing Tips; Use Direct Deposit for Quicker Refunds

ANNAPOLIS (April 12, 2017) — With the April 18 deadline fast approaching, the Internal Revenue Service today offered taxpayers still working on their 2016 taxes a number of tips. These tips are designed to help taxpayers avoid common errors that could delay their refunds or cause other tax problems in the future.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically. Doing so, whether through e-file or IRS Free File, vastly reduces tax return errors, as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. And best of all, there is a free option for everyone. Whether filing electronically or on paper, be sure to keep a copy of your tax return. In addition, the IRS offers these last-minute tips:

Refunds
The best and fastest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to have it electronically deposited into their bank or other financial account. Taxpayers can use direct deposit to deposit their refund into one, two or even three accounts. See Form 8888, Allocation of Refund, for details.

Make sure the financial institution routing and account numbers entered on the return are accurate. Incorrect numbers can cause a refund to be delayed or deposited into the wrong account. After filing, whether or not direct deposit was chosen, use “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov or download the IRS2Go Mobile App to track the status of a refund.

The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. “Where’s My Refund?” provides the most up-to-date information. The tool is updated once per day, usually overnight, so checking more often will not generate new information. Calling the IRS will not yield different results from those available online, nor will ordering a tax transcript.

Special Instructions for Paper Filers

Math errors and other mistakes are common on paper returns, especially those prepared or filed in haste at the last minute. These tips may help those choosing this option:

• Fill in all requested Taxpayer Identification Numbers, usually Social Security numbers, including all dependents claimed. Check only one filing status and the appropriate exemption boxes.
• When using the tax tables, be sure to use the correct row and column for the filing status claimed and taxable income amount shown.
• Sign and date the return. If filing a joint return, both spouses must sign.
• Attach all required forms and schedules, such as Schedule A for people who itemize their deductions. In addition, attach to the front of the return all Forms W-2 and other forms reflecting withholding.
• Mail the return to the right address. Check Where to File on IRS.gov or the last page of the tax instructions. If mailing on Tuesday, April 18, be sure to do so early enough to meet the scheduled pick-up time and ensure a postmark before the midnight deadline.

Need More Time to File?

Avoid a late-filing penalty by requesting a tax-filing extension. There are several ways to do so, including through the Free File link on IRS.gov or by designating a payment as an extension payment and making it via one of the IRS electronic payment methods, including IRS Direct Pay. Alternatively, taxpayers can file Form 4868, Application for Extension of Time To File U.S. Income Tax Return. While an extension grants additional time to file, it does not extend the time to pay any tax due. April 18 is the deadline for most to pay taxes owed and avoid penalty and interest charges.

Owe Tax?

Taxpayers who owe taxes can use IRS Direct Pay or any of several other electronic payment options. They are secure and easy and taxpayers receive immediate confirmation of their payment. Or, mail a check or money order payable to the “United States Treasury” along with a Form 1040-V payment voucher. Taxpayers who can’t pay by April 18 often qualify to set up a monthly payment agreement with the IRS using the Online Payment Agreement option on IRS.gov.

 

IRS: Private Collection of Some Overdue Federal Taxes Starts in April; Those Affected Will Hear First From IRS

IRS Will Handle Most Tax Debts; Taxpayers Advised to Watch Out for Scam Calls

ANNAPOLIS, MD (April 5, 2017) – Starting this month, the Internal Revenue Service will begin sending letters to a relatively small group of taxpayers whose overdue federal tax accounts are being assigned to one of four private-sector collection agencies.

The new program, authorized under a federal law enacted by Congress in December 2015, enables these designated contractors to collect, on the government’s behalf, unpaid tax debts. Usually, these are unpaid individual tax obligations that are not currently being worked by IRS collection employees and often were assessed by the tax agency several years ago.

Taxpayers being assigned to a private firm would have had multiple contacts from the IRS in previous years and still have an unpaid tax bill.

“The IRS is taking steps throughout this effort to ensure that the private collection firms work responsibly and respect taxpayer rights,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS also urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who might use this program as a cover to trick people. In reality, those taxpayers whose accounts are assigned as part of the private collection effort know they have a tax debt.”

The program will begin this week with a few hundred taxpayers receiving mailings and subsequent phone calls, with the program growing to thousands a week later in the spring and summer. Taxpayers with overdue taxes will always receive multiple contacts, letters and phone calls, first from the IRS, not private debt collectors.

The IRS will always notify a taxpayer before transferring their account to a private collection agency (PCA). First, the IRS will send a letter to the taxpayer and their tax representative informing them that their account is being assigned to a PCA and giving the name and contact information for the PCA. This mailing will include a copy of Publication 4518, What You Can Expect When the IRS Assigns Your Account to a Private Collection Agency.

Only four private groups are participating in this program: CBE Group of Cedar Falls, Iowa; Conserve of Fairport, N.Y.; Performant of Livermore, Calif.; and Pioneer of Horseheads, N.Y. The taxpayer’s account will only be assigned to one of these agencies, never to all four. No other private group is authorized to represent the IRS.

Once the IRS letter is sent, the designated private firm will send its own letter to the taxpayer and their representative confirming the account transfer. To protect the taxpayer’s privacy and security, both the IRS letter and the collection firm’s letter will contain information that will help taxpayers identify the tax amount owed and assure taxpayers that future collection agency calls they may receive are legitimate.

The private collectors will be able to identify themselves as contractors of the IRS collecting taxes. Employees of these collection agencies must follow the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, and like IRS employees, must be courteous and must respect taxpayer rights.

The private firms are authorized to discuss payment options, including setting up payment agreements with taxpayers. But as with cases assigned to IRS employees, any tax payment must be made, either electronically or by check, to the IRS. A payment should never be sent to the private firm or anyone besides the IRS or the U.S. Treasury. Checks should only be made payable to the United States Treasury. To find out more about available payment options, visit IRS.gov/Payments.

Private firms are not authorized to take enforcement actions against taxpayers. Only IRS employees can take these actions, such as filing a notice of Federal Tax Lien or issuing a levy. To learn more about the new private debt collection program, visit the Private Debt Collection page on IRS.gov.

The IRS reminds taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers posing as private collection firms. The IRS will be watching for these schemes as the collection program begins, and this effort will include working with partners in the tax community and law enforcement about emerging scams.

People should remember that these private collection firms will only be calling about a tax debt the person has had – and has been aware of – for years and had been contacted about previously in the past by the IRS.

“Here’s a simple rule to keep in mind. You won’t get a call from a private collection firm unless you have unpaid tax debts going back several years and you’ve already heard from the IRS multiple times,” Koskinen said. “The people included in the private collection program typically already know they have a tax issue. If you get a call from someone saying they’re from one of these groups and you’ve paid your taxes, that’s a sure sign of a scam.”

For more information, visit the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on IRS.gov.

 

IRS: Keep in Mind These Basic Tax Tips for the Sharing Economy

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 30, 2017) — If taxpayers use one of the many online platforms to rent a spare bedroom, provide car rides or a number of other goods or services, they may be involved in the sharing economy. The IRS now offers a Sharing Economy Tax Center. This site helps taxpayers find the resources they need to help them meet their tax obligations.

Here are a few key points on the sharing economy:

1. Taxes. Sharing economy activity is generally taxable. It does not matter whether it is only part time or a sideline business, if payments are in cash or if an information return like a Form 1099 or Form W2 is issued. The activity is taxable.

2. Deductions. There are some simplified options available for deducting many business expenses for those who qualify. For example, a taxpayer who uses his or her car for business often qualifies to claim the standard mileage rate, which was 54 cents per mile for 2016.

3. Rentals. If a taxpayer rents out his home, apartment or other dwelling but also lives in it during the year, special rules generally apply. For more about these rules, see Publication 527, Residential Rental Property (Including Rental of Vacation Homes). Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant Tool, Is My Residential Rental Income Taxable and/or Are My Expenses Deductible? to determine if their residential rental income is taxable.

4. Estimated Payments. The U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go. This means that taxpayers involved in the sharing economy often need to make estimated tax payments during the year to cover their tax obligation. These payments are due on April 15, June 15, Sept. 15 and Jan. 15. Use Form 1040-ES to figure these payments.

5. Payment Options. The fastest and easiest way to make estimated tax payments is through IRS Direct Pay. Or use the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). 98005

6. Withholding. Taxpayers involved in the sharing economy who are employees at another job can often avoid making estimated tax payments by having more tax withheld from their paychecks. File Form W-4 with the employer to request additional withholding. Use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

For more information, please visit IRS.gov.

 

Ten Tax-Time IRS Tips to Consider

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 28, 2017) –The tax filing deadline is Tuesday, April 18, this year. This is because April 15 falls on a weekend and the following Monday is a holiday in the District of Columbia. Even with an extra three days, the IRS urges taxpayers to avoid waiting until the last minute to file their taxes.

For those who have yet to file, the IRS has 10 quick ideas to help:

1. Gather Records. Good recordkeeping is important. It helps to ensure that nothing gets overlooked. Records such as receipts and cancelled checks also provide expense documentation.

2. Use IRS Online Tools. The IRS has many useful online tools. The Interactive Tax Assistant tool provides answers to many tax questions. It gives the same answers that an IRS representative would give over the phone.

3. File Electronically. Most taxpayers file electronically these days. It offers ease and convenience. The tax software guides people through the entire process. There are no forms to fill out. Electronic filing is also a more accurate way to file.

4. Use IRS Free File. Free File is available only on IRS.gov. Taxpayers earning $64,000 or less last year can use free name-brand tax software to file a federal tax return. Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms, is available for those who earned more than $64,000. People can use Free File to get an automatic six-month extension to file. An extension to file a tax return, however, is not an extension to pay any taxes owed. April 18 is still the deadline for any taxes owed.

Taxpayers can now use their cell phone or tablet to prepare and e-file a federal tax return through IRS Free File. Access Free File two ways: Use the IRS app, IRS2Go, which has a link to the Free File Software Lookup Tool, or use the device’s browser to go to www.IRS.gov/freefile and select the “Free File Software Lookup Tool” or “Start Free File Now” to find the software product desired. The IRS2Go app is available for Android and iOS devices.

5. Report All Income. Taxpayers must report all of their income from Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statements, and Forms 1099. Other income may be reportable as well, even if the taxpayer does not receive a statement.

6. Choose Direct Deposit. The fastest and safest way to a refund is to file electronically and choose Direct Deposit. The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days.

7. Visit IRS.gov. IRS.gov is an excellent resource. Taxpayers can click on the “Filing” icon for links to filing tips, answers to frequently asked questions and IRS forms and publications. The IRS Services Guide outlines the many ways to get help on IRS.gov.

8. Explore Filing Options. Taxpayers have many options to file. Self-prepare or use a tax preparer. Millions are eligible for free help from a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers provides information on tax professionals including their qualifications and credentials. IRS tools are available 24/7.

9. Check out IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, is a complete tax resource. This 300-page guide is available as an eBook as well.

10. Avoid Errors. Taxpayers should take extra time to review their return to file accurately the first time. Mistakes slow down refunds. IRS e-file is the most accurate way to file as using it eliminates many common errors. Paper return filers should check all names, Social Security numbers and sign the tax return.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

 

Free Tax Help Available for the Military

ANNAPOLIS (March 23, 2017) — The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program provides free tax help to military members and their families. On or off base, VITA is easy to find — even overseas. Keep these five tips in mind about free tax help for the military:

1. Armed Forces Tax Council. The Armed Forces Tax Council directs the military tax programs offered worldwide.

2. Certified Staff. Military VITA-certified employees staff these sites. They receive training on military tax issues, like tax benefits for service in a combat zone. They can help with special extensions of time to file tax returns and to pay taxes or with special rules that apply to the Earned Income Tax Credit.

3. What to Bring. Take the following records to a military VITA site:

• Valid photo identification.
• Social Security numbers for the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents; or individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITINs) or adoption taxpayer identification numbers (ATINs) for those who don’t have Social Security numbers.
• Birth dates for the taxpayer, their spouse and dependents.
• Wage and earning forms, such as Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R.
• Interest and dividend statements (Forms 1099).
• A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns, if available
• Routing and account numbers for direct deposit of a tax refund.
• Total amount paid for day care and the day care provider’s identifying number. This is usually an Employer Identification Number or Social Security number.
• Other relevant information about income and expenses.

4. Joint Returns. If married filing a joint return, generally both persons need to sign. If both can’t be present to sign the return, they should bring a valid power of attorney form unless eligible for an exception. Publication 501, Exemptions, Standard Deduction, and Filing Information, has more details.

5. Use IRS Free File. Taxpayers with income of $64,000 or less qualify for Free File software. Those with income more than $64,000 can use Free File Fillable Forms. Using the IRS2Go app, a taxpayer can now use their cell phone or tablet to prepare and e-file their federal tax return through IRS Free File.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

IRS Reminds Taxpayers of April 1 Deadline to Take Required Retirement Plan Distributions

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (March 17, 2017) — The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers who turned age 70½ during 2016 that, in most cases, they must start receiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and workplace retirement plans by Saturday, April 1, 2017.

The April 1 deadline applies to owners of traditional (including SEP and SIMPLE) IRAs but not Roth IRAs. It also typically applies to participants in various workplace retirement plans, including 401(k), 403(b) and 457(b) plans.

The April 1 deadline only applies to the required distribution for the first year. For all subsequent years, the RMD must be made by Dec. 31. A taxpayer who turned 70½ in 2016 (born after June 30, 1945 and before July 1, 1946) and receives the first required distribution (for 2016) on April 1, 2017, for example, must still receive the second RMD by Dec. 31, 2017.

Affected taxpayers who turned 70½ during 2016 must figure the RMD for the first year using the life expectancy as of their birthday in 2016 and their account balance on Dec. 31, 2015. The trustee reports the year-end account value to the IRA owner on Form 5498 in Box 5. Worksheets and life expectancy tables for making this computation can be found in the appendices to Publication 590-B.

Most taxpayers use Table III (Uniform Lifetime) to figure their RMD. For a taxpayer who reached age 70½ in 2016 and turned 71 before the end of the year, for example, the first required distribution would be based on a distribution period of 26.5 years. A separate table, Table II, applies to a taxpayer married to a spouse who is more than 10 years younger and is the taxpayer’s only beneficiary. Both tables can be found in the appendices to Publication 590-B.

Though the April 1 deadline is mandatory for all owners of traditional IRAs and most participants in workplace retirement plans, some people with workplace plans can wait longer to receive their RMD. Employees who are still working usually can, if their plan allows, wait until April 1 of the year after they retire to start receiving these distributions. See Tax on Excess Accumulation in Publication 575. Employees of public schools and certain tax-exempt organizations with 403(b) plan accruals before 1987 should check with their employer, plan administrator or provider to see how to treat these accruals.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to begin planning now for any distributions required during 2017. An IRA trustee must either report the amount of the RMD to the IRA owner or offer to calculate it for the owner. Often, the trustee shows the RMD amount in Box 12b on Form 5498. For a 2017 RMD, this amount would be on the 2016 Form 5498 that is normally issued in January 2017.

IRA owners can use a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) paid directly from an IRA to an eligible charity to meet part or all of their RMD obligation. Available only to IRA owners age 70½ or older, the maximum annual exclusion for QCDs is $100,000. For details, see the QCD discussion in Publication 590-B.

A 50 percent tax normally applies to any required amounts not received by the April 1 deadline. Report this tax on Form 5329 Part IX. For details, see the instructions for Part IX of this form.

More information on RMDs, including answers to frequently asked questions, can be found on IRS.gov.

IRS: March 1 Tax Deadline Nears for Farmers and Watermen; IRS Direct Pay Offers an Easy Way to Pay

ANNAPOLIS (February 27, 2017) ― The Internal Revenue Service is reminding farmers and watermen about Wednesday’s deadline to take advantage of special rules that can allow them to forgo making quarterly estimated tax payments.

Taxpayers with income from farming or fishing have until Wednesday, March 1, to file their 2016 Form 1040 and pay the tax due to avoid making estimated tax payments. This rule generally applies if farming or fishing income was at least two-thirds of the total gross income in either the current or the preceding tax year.

Since 2014, IRS Direct Pay has offered individual taxpayers an easy way to quickly pay the tax amount due or make quarterly estimated tax payments directly from checking or savings accounts without any fees or pre-registration.

IRS Direct Pay is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be scheduled up to 30 days in advance. Last year, IRS Direct Pay received more than nine million tax payments from individual taxpayers totaling more than $31.6 billion.

When a taxpayer uses the tool they receive instant confirmation after they submit their payment. Direct Pay cannot be used to pay the federal highway use tax, payroll taxes or other business taxes.

Taxpayers who wish to pay their federal business taxes electronically should enroll in the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or visit IRS.gov/payments to check out other payment options.

Farmers and fishers choosing not to file by March 1 should have made an estimated tax payment by Jan. 17 to avoid a penalty.
For more information, visit IRS.gov.

IRS: Don’t Fall for Scam Calls and Emails

ANNAPOLIS, MD (February 7, 2017) — Scams continue to use the IRS as a lure. These tax scams take many different forms. The most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. Scammers use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try and steal money from taxpayers. Identity theft can also happen with these scams.

Taxpayers need to be wary of phone calls or automated messages from someone who claims to be from the IRS. Often these criminals will say the taxpayer owes money. They also demand payment right away. Other times scammers will lie to a taxpayer and say they are due a refund. The thieves ask for bank account information over the phone. The IRS warns taxpayers not to fall for these scams.

Below are several tips that will help filers avoid becoming a scam victim.
IRS employees will NOT:

• Call demanding immediate payment. The IRS will not call a taxpayer if they owe tax without first sending a bill in the mail.
• Demand payment without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed.
• Require the taxpayer pay their taxes a certain way. For example, demand taxpayers use a prepaid debit card.
• Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
• Threaten to contact local police or similar agencies to arrest the taxpayer for non-payment of taxes.
• Threaten legal action such as a lawsuit.

If a taxpayer doesn’t owe or think they owe any tax, they should:

• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
• Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.

In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS. Criminals often use fake refunds, phony tax bills or threats of an audit. Some emails link to sham websites that look real. The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.

For those taxpayers who get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:

• Don’t reply to the message.
• Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
• Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it.
• Do not open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

More information on how to report phishing or phone scams is available on IRS.gov.

 

Phishing Schemes Lead IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for 2017; Remain Tax-Time Threat

ANNAPOLIS (February 2, 2017) — The Internal Revenue Service warns taxpayers to watch for fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. These “phishing” schemes continue to be on the annual IRS list of “Dirty Dozen” tax scams for the 2017 filing season.

The IRS saw a big spike in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season. New and evolving phishing schemes already have been seen this month as scam artists work to confuse taxpayers during filing season. The IRS has seen email schemes in recent weeks targeting tax professionals, payroll professionals, human resources personnel, schools as well as average taxpayers.

In these email schemes, criminals pose as a person or organization the taxpayer trusts or recognizes. They may hack an email account and send mass emails under another person’s name. They may pose as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency. Criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages. These criminals hope victims will take the bait and provide money, passwords, Social Security numbers and other information that can lead to identity theft.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said taxpayers should avoid opening surprise emails or clicking on web links claiming to be from the IRS and shouldn’t be fooled by unexpected emails about big refunds, tax bills or requesting personal information. Scam emails and websites also can infect a taxpayer’s computer with malware without the user knowing it. The malware can give the criminal access to the device, enabling them to access all sensitive files or track keyboard strokes, exposing login information.

Compiled annually, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter anytime but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their returns or find people to help with their taxes.

For those perpetrating these schemes, the scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

It is important to keep in mind the IRS generally does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS has information online that can help protect taxpayers from email scams.

For more information, visit IRS.gov.