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Archive for May, 2010

Seven Things about Getting More Time to File your Tax Return

May 27th, 2010

If you can’t meet the April deadline to file your tax return, you can get an automatic six month extension of time to file from the IRS.

Here are seven things you need to know about filing an extension:

  1. Extra time to file An extension will give you extra time to get your paperwork to the IRS, but it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax due. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April 15 deadline, plus a late payment penalty if you have not paid at least 90 percent of your total tax by that date.
  2. File on time even if you can’t pay If your return is completed but you are unable to pay the full amount of tax due, do not request an extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. The IRS will send you a bill or notice for the balance due.To apply online for a payment agreement, go to IRS.gov and click “Online Payment Agreement Application” at the left side of the home page under Online Services. If you are unable to make payments, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss your options.
  3. Form to file Request an extension to file by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return to the IRS by April 15, 2010, or make an extension-related electronic credit card payment. For more information about extension-related credit card payments, see Form 4868.
  4. E-file extension You can e-file an extension request using tax preparation software with your own computer or by going to a tax preparer who has the software. The IRS will acknowledge receipt of the extension request if you file by computer.
  5. Traditional Free File and Free File Fillable Forms You can use both Free File options to file an extension. Access the Free File page at IRS.gov.
  6. Electronic funds withdrawal If you ask for an extension via computer, you can also choose to pay any expected balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. You will need the appropriate bank routing and account numbers.For information about these and other methods of payment, visit IRS.gov or call 800-TAX-1040 (800-829-1040).
  7. How to get forms Form 4868 is available for download at IRS.gov or may be ordered by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).You can also obtain the form at your local IRS office. Telephone requests normally take 10 days to fill.

Form to Claim Payroll Tax Exemption for Hiring New Workers Now Available

May 19th, 2010

The Internal Revenue Service has posted on its website the newly-revised payroll tax form that most eligible employers can use to claim the special payroll tax exemption that applies to many new workers hired during 2010.

Designed to encourage employers to hire and retain new workers, the payroll tax exemption and the related new hire retention credit were created by the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act signed by President Obama on March 18.

Employers who hire unemployed workers this year (after Feb. 3, 2010, and before Jan. 1, 2011) may qualify for a 6.2-percent payroll tax incentive, in effect exempting them from the employer’s share of Social Security tax on wages paid to these workers after March 18. This reduction will have no effect on the employee’s future Social Security benefits. The employee’s 6.2 percent share of Social Security tax and the employer and employee’s shares of Medicare tax still apply to all wages.

In addition, for each qualified employee retained for at least a year whose wages did not significantly decrease in the second half of the year, businesses may claim a new hire retention credit of up to $1,000 per worker on their income tax return. Further details on both the tax credit and the payroll tax exemption can be found in a recently-expanded list of answers to frequently-asked questions about the new law now posted on IRS.gov.

How to Claim the Payroll Tax Exemption

Form 941, Employer’s QUARTERLY Federal Tax Return, revised for use beginning with the second calendar quarter of 2010, will be filed by most employers claiming the payroll tax exemption for wages paid to qualified employees. The HIRE Act does not allow employers to claim the exemption for wages paid in the first quarter but provides for a credit in the second quarter. The instructions for the new Form 941 explain how this credit for wages paid from March 19 through March 31 can be claimed on the second quarter return. The form and instructions are now available for download on IRS.gov.

The HIRE Act requires that employers get a signed statement from each eligible new hire, certifying under penalties of perjury, that he or she was not employed for more than 40 hours during the 60 days before beginning employment with that employer. Employers can use new Form W-11, Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act Employee Affidavit, released last month, to meet this requirement. Though employers need this certification to claim both the payroll tax exemption and the new hire retention credit, they do not file these statements with the IRS. Instead, they must retain them along with other payroll and income tax records.

These two tax benefits are especially helpful to employers who are adding positions to their payrolls. New hires filling existing positions also qualify as long as they are replacing workers who left voluntarily or who were terminated for cause and otherwise are qualified employees. Family members and other relatives do not qualify for either of these tax benefits.

Businesses, agricultural employers, tax-exempt organizations, tribal governments and public colleges and universities all qualify to claim the payroll tax exemption for eligible newly-hired employees. Household employers and federal, state and local government employers, other than public colleges and universities, are not eligible.

IRS Offers Details on New Small Business Health Care Tax Credit

May 17th, 2010

The Internal Revenue Service issued new guidance to make it easier for small businesses to determine whether they are eligible for the new health care tax credit under the Affordable Care Act and how large a credit they will receive. The guidance makes clear that small businesses receiving state health care tax credits may still qualify for the full federal tax credit. Additionally, the guidance allows small businesses to receive the credit not only for regular health insurance but also for add-on dental and vision coverage.

Notice 2010-44 provides detailed guidelines, illustrated by more than a dozen examples, to help small employers determine whether they qualify for the credit and estimate the amount of the credit. The notice also requests public comment on issues that should be addressed in future guidance.

Included in the Affordable Care Act approved by Congress in March and signed into law by the President, the small business health care tax credit, which is in effect this year, is designed to encourage small employers to offer health insurance coverage for the first time or maintain coverage they already have.

In general, the credit is available to small employers that pay at least half the cost of single coverage for their employees in 2010. The credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations that primarily employ moderate- and lower-income workers.

For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit is 35 percent of premiums paid by eligible small business employers and 25 percent of premiums paid by eligible employers that are tax-exempt organizations. The maximum credit goes to smaller employers –– those with 10 or fewer full-time equivalent (FTE) employees –– paying annual average wages of $25,000 or less. The credit is completely phased out for employers that have 25 FTEs or more or that pay average wages of $50,000 per year or more. Because the eligibility rules are based in part on the number of FTEs, not the number of employees, businesses that use part-time help may qualify even if they employ more than 25 individuals.

Eligible small businesses can claim the credit as part of the general business credit starting with the 2010 income tax return they file in 2011. For tax-exempt organizations, the IRS will provide further information on how to claim the credit.

Five Tips for Great Record-Keeping

May 14th, 2010

There are many records you have that may help document items on your tax return. You’ll need this documentation should the IRS select your return for examination. Here are five tips from the IRS about keeping good records.

  1. Normally, tax records should be kept for three years.
  2. Some documents — such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRA and business or rental property — should be kept longer.
  3. In most cases, the IRS does not require you to keep records in any special manner. Generally speaking, however, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return.
  4. Records you should keep include bills, credit card and other receipts, invoices, mileage logs, canceled, imaged or substitute checks, proofs of payment, and any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return.
  5. For more information on what kinds of records to keep, see IRS Publication 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals, which is available at IRS.gov.

Many Tax-Exempt Organizations Must File Form 990 by May 17 Deadline to Preserve Tax-Exempt Status with IRS

May 13th, 2010

A crucial filing deadline of May 17 is looming for many tax-exempt organizations that are required by law to file their Form 990 with the Internal Revenue Service or risk having their federal tax-exempt status revoked. 

The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that all non-profit organizations, other than churches and church related organizations, must file an information form with the IRS.  This requirement has been in effect since the beginning of 2007, which made 2009 the third consecutive year under the new law. Any organization that fails to file for three consecutive years automatically loses its federal tax-exempt status.

Form 990-series information returns are due on the 15th day of the fifth month after an organization’s fiscal year ends. Many organizations use the calendar year as their fiscal year, which makes May 15 the deadline for those tax-exempt organizations. May 15 falls on a Saturday this year so the deadline this year is actually Monday, May 17.  Organizations can request an extension of their filing date by filing Form 8868 by the original due date. 

Absent a request for extension, there is no grace period from filing by the original due date.

Small tax-exempt organizations with annual receipts of $25,000 or less can file an electronic notice Form 990-N (e-Postcard). This asks for a few basic pieces of information. Tax-exempts with annual receipts above $25,000 must file a Form 990 or 990-EZ, depending on their annual receipts. Private foundations file form 990-PF.

Any tax-exempt organization that has not filed the required form in the last three years automatically will lose its tax exempt status effective as of the due date of the annual filing. Under the law, the IRS does not have discretion in this matter.

A list of revoked organizations will be available to the public on IRS.gov.

If an organization loses its exemption, it will have to reapply with the IRS to regain its tax-exempt status. Any income received between the revocation date and renewed exemption may be taxable.

Tax-Free Employer-Provided Health Coverage Now Available for Children under Age 27

May 6th, 2010

As a result of changes made by the recently enacted Affordable Care Act, health coverage provided for an employee’s children under 27 years of age is now generally tax-free to the employee, effective March 30, 2010.

The Internal Revenue Service announced today that these changes immediately allow employers with cafeteria plans –– plans that allow employees to choose from a menu of tax-free benefit options and cash or taxable benefits –– to permit employees to begin making pre-tax contributions to pay for this expanded benefit.

IRS Notice 2010-38 explains these changes and provides further guidance to employers, employees, health insurers and other interested taxpayers.

“These changes give employers a unique opportunity to offer a worthwhile benefit to their employees,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “We want to make it as easy as possible for employers to quickly implement this change and extend health coverage on a tax-favored basis to older children of their employees.”

This expanded health care tax benefit applies to various workplace and retiree health plans. It also applies to self-employed individuals who qualify for the self-employed health insurance deduction on their federal income tax return.

Employees who have children who will not have reached age 27 by the end of the year are eligible for the new tax benefit from March 30, 2010, forward, if the children are already covered under the employer’s plan or are added to the employer’s plan at any time. For this purpose, a child includes a son, daughter, stepchild, adopted child or eligible foster child. This new age 27 standard replaces the lower age limits that applied under prior tax law, as well as the requirement that a child generally qualify as a dependent for tax purposes.

The notice says that employers with cafeteria plans may permit employees to immediately make pre-tax salary reduction contributions to provide coverage for children under age 27, even if the cafeteria plan has not yet been amended to cover these individuals. Plan sponsors then have until the end of 2010 to amend their cafeteria plan language to incorporate this change.

In addition to changing the tax rules as described above, the Affordable Care Act also requires plans that provide dependent coverage of children to continue to make the coverage available for an adult child until the child turns age 26. The extended coverage must be provided not later than plan years beginning on or after Sept. 23, 2010. The favorable tax treatment described in the notice applies to that extended coverage.

Open House on Saturday May 15 to Help Small Businesses, Individuals Solve Tax Problems

May 3rd, 2010

The Internal Revenue Service will host a special nationwide Open House on Saturday May 15 to help small businesses and individuals solve tax problems.

Approximately 200 IRS offices, at least one in every state, will be open May 15 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. IRS staff will be available on site or by telephone to help taxpayers work through their problems and walk out with solutions.

“Our goal is to resolve issues on the spot so small businesses and individuals can put any issues they have with the IRS behind them,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “If you have a problem filing or paying your taxes or resolving a tough tax issue, we encourage you to come in and work with us.”

IRS locations will be equipped to handle issues involving notices and payments, return preparation, audits and a variety of other issues. At a previous IRS Open House on March 27, approximately two-thirds of taxpayers requested and received assistance with payments and notices.

So, for example, a taxpayer who cannot pay a tax balance due can discuss with an IRS professional whether an installment agreement is appropriate and, if so, fill out the paperwork then and there. Assistance with offers-in-compromise will also be available. Likewise, a taxpayer struggling to complete a certain IRS form or schedule can work directly with IRS staff to get the job done.

At the March 27 Open House, 88 percent of the taxpayers who came in for help had their issues resolved the same day.

Locations for the May 15 Open House are listed here.

The Open House on May 15 is the first of three events scheduled through the end of June. The next two are planned for Saturday June 5 and Saturday June 26. Details regarding those events will be available soon.