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Archive for April, 2013

IRS Offers Tips for Dealing with Notices

April 29th, 2013

Each year, the IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. Here are ten things you should know about IRS notices in case one shows up in your mailbox.

1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters require a simple response.

2. There are many reasons why the IRS sends correspondence. If you receive an IRS notice, it will typically cover a very specific issue about your account or tax return. Notices may require payment, notify you of changes to your account or ask you to provide more information.

3. Each notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.

4. If you receive a notice advising you that the IRS has corrected your tax return, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.

5. If you agree with the correction to your account, then usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due or the notice directs otherwise.

6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. You should send a written explanation of why you disagree. Include any information and documents you want the IRS to consider with your response. Mail your reply with the bottom tear-off portion of the IRS letter to the address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.

7. You should be able to resolve most notices that you receive without calling or visiting an IRS office. If you do have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call. This will help the IRS answer your inquiry.

8. Remember to keep copies of any notices you receive with your other income tax records.

9. The IRS sends notices and letters by mail. The agency never contacts taxpayers about their tax account or tax return by email.

10. For more information about IRS notices and bills, visit IRS.gov. Click on the link ‘Responding to a Notice’ at the bottom left of the home page. Also, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. The publication is available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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Tips to Start Planning Next Year’s Tax Return

April 26th, 2013

For most taxpayers, the tax deadline has passed. But planning for next year can start now. The IRS reminds taxpayers that being organized and planning ahead can save time and money in 2014. Here are six things you can do now to make next April 15 easier.

1. Adjust your withholding.  Each year, millions of American workers have far more taxes withheld from their pay than is required. Now is a good time to review your withholding to make the taxes withheld from your pay closer to the taxes you’ll owe for this year. This is especially true if you normally get a large refund and you would like more money in your paycheck. If you owed tax when you filed, you may need to increase the federal income tax withheld from your wages. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator at IRS.gov to complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate.

2. Store your return in a safe place.  Put your 2012 tax return and supporting documents somewhere safe. If you need to refer to your return in the future, you’ll know where to find it. For example, you may need a copy of your return when applying for a home loan or financial aid. You can also use it as a helpful guide for next year’s return.

3. Organize your records.  Establish one location where everyone in your household can put tax-related records during the year. This will avoid a scramble for misplaced mileage logs or charity receipts come tax time.

4. Shop for a tax professional.  If you use a tax professional to help you with tax planning, start your search now. You’ll have more time when you’re not up against a deadline or anxious to receive your tax refund. Choose a tax professional wisely. You’re ultimately responsible for the accuracy of your own return regardless of who prepares it. Find tips for choosing a preparer at IRS.gov.

5. Consider itemizing deductions.  If you usually claim a standard deduction, you may be able to reduce your taxes if you itemize deductions instead. If your itemized deductions typically fall just below your standard deduction, you can ‘bundle’ your deductions. For example, an early or extra mortgage payment or property tax payment, or a planned donation to charity could equal some tax savings. See the Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, instructions for the list of items you can deduct. Planning an approach now that works best for you can pay off at tax time next year.

6. Keep up with changes.  Find out about tax law changes, helpful tips and IRS announcements all year by subscribing to IRS Tax Tips through IRS.gov or IRS2Go, the mobile app from the IRS. The IRS issues tips regularly during the summer and tax filing season.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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IRS to Furlough All 90,000 Employees

April 24th, 2013

The head of the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) said today the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will send out furlough notices on Monday to the entire IRS workforce, identifying five furlough days where the agency will shut down entirely. The 30-day notices to employees also leave open the possibility of another two unpaid furlough days.

“Implementation of any furlough days is a disappointing development,” said NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley. “Furloughing IRS employees is further evidence of the ongoing damage sequestration is causing across the country.” Kelley emphasized that NTEU is continuing its discussions with the IRS over the furlough process with the goal of mitigating the impact on employees.

The IRS has informed employees that the five identified furlough days are: May 24, June 14, July 5, July 22, and Aug. 30. On those days all public operations of the IRS will be shut down, leaving taxpayers without access to information and assistance from frontline workers.

President Kelley noted that considerable tax-filing goes on throughout the year, including by small businesses, taxpayers who make quarterly payments, businesses operating on a fiscal year basis, estates, government entities and others. “On these days, phones calls to the IRS will go unanswered and Taxpayer Assistance Centers across the country will have ‘closed’ signs in their windows,” Kelley said. “I believe this is an unprecedented event that leaves taxpayers out in the cold.”

The furloughs are being driven by the ongoing sequestration that is forcing federal agencies, including the IRS, to severely slash their budgets.

“It is clear that the best course for federal employees, their agencies and the nation would be for Congress to end the sequester,” said Kelley, who has been a vocal advocate ending sequestration.

“Like all federal employees, those at the IRS are well into the third year of a pay freeze,” President Kelley said, “and now they face the unwelcome prospect of a pay cut resulting from unpaid furlough days.”

Courtesy of My Federal Retirement.
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Six Facts on Tax Refunds and Offsets

April 23rd, 2013

Certain financial debts from your past may affect your current federal tax refund. The law allows the use of part or all of your federal tax refund to pay other federal or state debts that you owe.

Here are six facts from the IRS that you should know about tax refund ‘offsets.’

  1. A tax refund offset generally means the U.S. Treasury has reduced your federal tax refund to pay for certain unpaid debts.
  2. The Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service is the agency that issues tax refunds and conducts the Treasury Offset Program.
  3. If you have unpaid debts, such as overdue child support, state income tax or student loans, FMS may apply part or all of your tax refund to pay that debt.
  4. You will receive a notice from FMS if an offset occurs. The notice will include the original tax refund amount and your offset amount. It will also include the agency receiving the offset payment and that agency’s contact information.
  5. If you believe you do not owe the debt or you want to dispute the amount taken from your refund, you should contact the agency that received the offset amount, not the IRS or FMS.
  6. If you filed a joint tax return, you may be entitled to part or all of the refund offset. This rule applies if your spouse is solely responsible for the debt. To request your part of the refund, file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. Form 8379 is available on IRS.gov or by calling 1-800-829-3676.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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Eight Facts on Late Filing and Late Payment Penalties

April 22nd, 2013

April 15 is the annual deadline for most people to file their federal income tax return and pay any taxes they owe. By law, the IRS may assess penalties to taxpayers for both failing to file a tax return and for failing to pay taxes they owe by the deadline.

Here are eight important points about penalties for filing or paying late.

1. A failure-to-file penalty may apply if you did not file by the tax filing deadline. A failure-to-pay penalty may apply if you did not pay all of the taxes you owe by the tax filing deadline.

2. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty. You should file your tax return on time each year, even if you’re not able to pay all the taxes you owe by the due date. You can reduce additional interest and penalties by paying as much as you can with your tax return. You should  explore other payment options such as getting a loan or making an installment agreement to make payments. The IRS will work with you.

3. The penalty for filing late is normally 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late. That penalty starts accruing the day after the tax filing due date and will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

4. If you do not pay your taxes by the tax deadline, you normally will face a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes. That penalty applies for each month or part of a month after the due date and starts accruing the day after the tax-filing due date.

5. If you timely requested an extension of time to file your individual income tax return and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe with your request, you may not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay any remaining balance by the extended due date.

6. If both the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty and the ½ percent failure-to-pay penalties apply in any month, the maximum penalty that you’ll pay for both is 5 percent.

7. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

8. You will not have to pay a late-filing or late-payment penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not filing or paying on time.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

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Ten Helpful Tips for Paying Your Taxes

April 18th, 2013

Are you making a payment with your federal tax return this year? If so, here are 10 important things the IRS wants you to know about correctly paying your federal income taxes.

1. Never send cash.

2. If you file electronically, you can file and pay in a single step with an electronic funds withdrawal. If you e-file by yourself you can use your tax preparation software to make the withdrawal. If you use a tax preparer to e-file, you can ask the preparer to make your tax payment electronically.

3. Whether you file a paper return or e-file your return, you can pay by phone or online with a credit or debit card. The company that processes your payment will charge a processing fee.

4. If you file Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, you may be able to deduct the credit or debit card processing fee on next year’s return. This is a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to the 2 percent limit.

5. Electronic payment options provide another way to pay taxes by check or money order. You can make payments 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit IRS.gov and click on the ‘Payments’ tab near the top left of the home page for more details.

6. If you pay by check or money order, make sure it is payable to the “United States Treasury.”

7. Be sure to write your name, address and daytime phone number on the front of your payment. Also, write the tax year, form number you are filing and the first Social Security number listed on your tax return.

8. Complete Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, and include it with your tax return and payment when mailing it to the IRS. Double-check the IRS mailing address. This will help the IRS process your payment accurately and efficiently. Go to IRS.gov to download and print this form.

9. Remember to enclose your payment with your return but do not staple it to any tax form.

10. For more information, call 800-829-4477 and select TeleTax Topic 158, Ensuring Proper Credit of Payments. You can also find out more in the Form 1040-V instructions available at IRS.gov.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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IRS Fresh Start Program Helps Taxpayers Who Owe the IRS

April 17th, 2013

The IRS Fresh Start program makes it easier for taxpayers to pay back taxes and avoid tax liens. Even small business taxpayers may benefit from Fresh Start. Here are three important features of the Fresh Start program:

• Tax Liens.  The Fresh Start program increased the amount that taxpayers can owe before the IRS generally will file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien. That amount is now $10,000. However, in some cases, the IRS may still file a lien notice on amounts less than $10,000.

When a taxpayer meets certain requirements and pays off their tax debt, the IRS may now withdraw a filed Notice of Federal Tax Lien. Taxpayers must request this in writing using Form 12277, Application for Withdrawal.

Some taxpayers may qualify to have their lien notice withdrawn if they are paying their tax debt through a Direct Debit installment agreement. Taxpayers also need to request this in writing by using Form 12277.

If a taxpayer defaults on the Direct Debit Installment Agreement, the IRS may file a new Notice of Federal Tax Lien and resume collection actions.

• Installment Agreements.  The Fresh Start program expanded access to streamlined installment agreements. Now, individual taxpayers who owe up to $50,000 can pay through monthly direct debit payments for up to 72 months (six years). While the IRS generally will not need a financial statement, they may need some financial information from the taxpayer. The easiest way to apply for a payment plan is to use the Online Payment Agreement tool at IRS.gov. If you don’t have Web access you may file Form 9465, Installment Agreement, to apply.

Taxpayers in need of installment agreements for tax debts more than $50,000 or longer than six years still need to provide the IRS with a financial statement. In these cases, the IRS may ask for one of two forms: either Collection Information Statement, Form 433-A or Form 433-F.

• Offers in Compromise.  An Offer in Compromise is an agreement that allows taxpayers to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount. Fresh Start expanded and streamlined the OIC program. The IRS now has more flexibility when analyzing a taxpayer’s ability to pay. This makes the offer program available to a larger group of taxpayers.

Generally, the IRS will accept an offer if it represents the most the agency can expect to collect within a reasonable period of time. The IRS will not accept an offer if it believes that the taxpayer can pay the amount owed in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at several factors, including the taxpayer’s income and assets, to make a decision regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay. Use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool on IRS.gov to see if you may be eligible for an OIC.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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IRS Offers Tips for Taxpayers Who Missed the Tax Deadline

April 16th, 2013

The IRS has some advice for taxpayers who missed the tax filing deadline.

  • File as soon as possible.  If you owe federal income tax, you should file and pay as soon as you can to minimize any penalty and interest charges. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund.
  • Penalties and interest may be due.  If you missed the April 15 deadline, you may have to pay penalties and interest. The IRS may charge penalties for late filing and for late payment. The law generally does not allow a waiver of interest charges. However, the IRS will consider a reduction of these penalties if you can show a reasonable cause for being late.
  • E-file is your best option.  IRS e-file programs are available through Oct. 15. E-file is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file. With e-file, you will receive confirmation that the IRS has received your tax return. If you e-file and are due a refund, the IRS will normally issue it within 21 days.
  • Free File is still available.  Everyone can use IRS Free File. If your income is $57,000 or less, you qualify to e-file your return using free brand-name software. If you made more than $57,000 and are comfortable preparing your own tax return, use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file. This program uses the electronic versions of paper IRS forms. IRS Free File is available only through IRS.gov.
  • Pay as much as you can.  If you owe tax but can’t pay it all at once, you should pay as much as you can when you file your tax return. Pay the remaining balance due as soon as possible to minimize penalties and interest charges.
  • Installment Agreements are available.  If you need more time to pay your federal income taxes, you can request a payment agreement with the IRS. Apply online using the IRS Online Payment Agreement Application tool or file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request.
  • Refunds may be waiting.  If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible to get it. Even if you are not required to file, you may be entitled to a refund. This could apply if you had taxes withheld from your wages, or you qualify for certain tax credits. If you don’t file your return within three years, you could forfeit your right to the refund.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

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Five Things to Know if You Need More Time to File

April 10th, 2013

The April 15 tax-filing deadline is fast approaching. Some taxpayers may find that they need more time to file their tax returns. If you need extra time, you can get an automatic six-month extension from the IRS.

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

1. Extra time to file is not extra time to pay.  You may request an extension of time to file your federal tax return to get an extra six months to file, until Oct. 15. Although an extension will give you an extra six months to get your tax return to the IRS, it does not extend the time you have to pay any tax you owe. You will owe interest on any amount not paid by the April 15 deadline. You may also owe a penalty for failing to pay on time.

2. File on time even if you can’t pay.  If you complete your return but you can’t pay the full amount due, do not request an extension. File your return on time and pay as much as you can. You should pay the balance as soon as possible to minimize penalty and interest charges. If you need more time to pay, you can apply for a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov. You can also send Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with your return. If you are unable to make payments because of a financial hardship, the IRS will work with you. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040 to discuss your options.

3. Use Free File to request an extension.  Everyone can use IRS Free File to e-file their extension request. Free File is available exclusively through the IRS.gov website. You must e-file the request by midnight on April 15. If you e-file your extension request, the IRS will acknowledge receipt of your request.

4. Use Form 4868 if you file a paper form.  You can request an extension of time to file by submitting Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You must submit this form to the IRS by April 15. Form 4868 is available on IRS.gov.

5. Electronic funds withdrawal.  If you e-file an extension request, you can also pay any balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. To do this you will need your bank routing and account numbers.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.

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Get Credit for Making Your Home Energy-Efficient

April 4th, 2013

If you made your home more energy efficient last year, you may qualify for a tax credit on your 2012 federal income tax return. Here is some basic information about home energy credits that you should know.

Non-Business Energy Property Credit

  • You may claim a credit of 10 percent of the cost of certain energy saving property that you added to your main home. This includes the cost of qualified insulation, windows, doors and roofs.
  • In some cases, you may be able to claim the actual cost of certain qualified energy-efficient property. Each type of property has a different dollar limit. Examples include the cost of qualified water heaters and qualified heating and air conditioning systems.
  • This credit has a maximum lifetime limit of $500. You may only use $200 of this limit for windows.
  • Your main home must be located in the U.S. to qualify for the credit.
  • Not all energy-efficient improvements qualify, so be sure you have the manufacturer’s credit certification statement. It is usually available on the manufacturer’s website or with the product’s packaging.
  • The credit was to expire at the end of 2011. A recent law extended it for two years through the end of 2013.

Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit

  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment that you installed on or in your home.
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment and wind turbines.
  • There is no limit on the amount of credit available for most types of property. If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year’s tax return.
  • You must install qualifying equipment in connection with your home located in the United States. It does not have to be your main home.
  • The credit is available through 2016.

Courtesy of the Internal Revenue Service.
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