IRS

Are you withholding enough from your taxes?

witholdings

In a prior article, we talk about how moonlighters (those with 1099s and a W2 job) might need to withhold more taxes from their W2 role to avoid owing for the 2019 year.

They aren’t the only ones. Retirees, those with dependents, and a handful of others will need to take a look at how much they’re withholding and adjust accordingly.

Basically, if you were surprised at how low your refund was this year, you might need to adjust your withholding amount. That means if your refund was low or you owed (and never did before) you need to prioritize your withholding amount.

The time to adjust is now, right after the April 15 tax preparation deadline. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that you’ll owe or get a low tax refund amount. This can mostly be done with the IRS withholding calculator, but you’ll likely need to talk to an accountant for proper withholding.

This is for two reasons:

  • State and local taxes aren’t calculated.
  • Without a full understanding of taxes, taxpayers may not fill out the calculator correctly.

Reach out to a tax professional. They’ll help you navigate the muddy waters that were caused by the latest tax bill change.

Additionally, the IRS is cooking up a new W4 form – the form you fill out at the beginning of conventional employment (where you’d receive a W2) or to adjust your withholding amount. It will be ready for the 2020 tax season and won’t affect this year’s taxes.

If you ended up owing in this year or had a small tax refund, reach out to us. We can help ensure you’re withholding enough.

Help Prevent Tax Identity Theft By Filing Early

 

identify theft

If you’re like many Americans, you might not start thinking about filing your tax return until close to this year’s April 17 deadline. You might even want to file for an extension so you don’t have to send your return to the IRS until October 15.

But there’s another date you should keep in mind: the day the IRS begins accepting 2017 returns (usually in late January). Filing as close to this date as possible could protect you from tax identity theft.

Why it helps

In an increasingly common scam, thieves use victims’ personal information to file fraudulent tax returns electronically and claim bogus refunds. This is usually done early in the tax filing season. When the real taxpayers file, they’re notified that they’re attempting to file duplicate returns.

A victim typically discovers the fraud after he or she files a tax return and is informed by the IRS that the return has been rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the same tax year. The IRS then must determine who the legitimate taxpayer is.

Tax identity theft can cause major complications to straighten out and significantly delay legitimate refunds. But if you file first, it will be the tax return filed by a potential thief that will be rejected — not yours.

What to look for

Of course, in order to file your tax return, you’ll need to have your W-2s and 1099s. So another key date to be aware of is January 31 — the deadline for employers to issue 2017 W-2s to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue 1099s to recipients of any 2017 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments. So be sure to keep an eye on your mailbox or your employer’s internal website.

Additional bonus

An additional bonus: If you’ll be getting a refund, filing early will generally enable you to receive and enjoy that money sooner. (Bear in mind, however, that a law requires the IRS to hold until mid-February refunds on returns claiming the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.) Let us know if you have questions about tax identity theft or would like help filing your 2017 return early.

 

Ensuring Your Year-End Donations Are Tax-Deductible

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Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Many people make donations at the end of the year. To be deductible on your 2017 return, a charitable donation must be made by December 31, 2017. According to the IRS, a donation generally is “made” at the time of its “unconditional delivery.” But what does this mean?

Is it the date you write a check or charge an online gift to your credit card? Or is it the date the charity actually receives the funds? In practice, the delivery date depends in part on what you donate and how you donate it. Here are a few common examples:

Checks. The date you mail it.

Credit cards. The date you make the charge.

Pay-by-phone accounts. The date the financial institution pays the amount.

Stock certificates. The date you mail the properly endorsed stock certificate to the charity.

To be deductible, a donation must be made to a “qualified charity” — one that’s eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions. The IRS’s online search tool, “Exempt Organizations (EO) Select Check,” can help you more easily find out whether an organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions. You can access it at https://www.irs.gov/charities-non-profits/exempt-organizations-select-check. Information about organizations eligible to receive deductible contributions is updated monthly.

Many additional rules apply to the charitable donation deduction, so please contact us if you have questions about the deductibility of a gift you’ve made or are considering making. But act soon — you don’t have much time left to make donations that will reduce your 2017 tax bill.

IRS Says No Decision Yet On 2018 Filing Season Dates

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

by Mike Godfrey, Tax-News.com, Washington

No date has yet been set for the filing of individual tax returns in 2018, despite rumors to the contrary, according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

In a statement on November 3, 2017, the agency confirmed that it is currently updating its programming and processing systems for the coming tax year, as well as continuing to monitor legislative changes that could affect the 2018 tax filing season.

These include the possible renewal of 36 “extender” tax provisions that expired at the end of 2016, which cover renewable energy tax incentives, a couple of homeowner provisions, and a variety of miscellaneous minor provisions including tax credits for electric vehicles, special expensing allowances for media productions, and employment tax credits for Native Americans.

“The IRS anticipates it will not be at a point to announce a filing season start date until later in the calendar year,” it said in a statement. “Speculation on the internet that the IRS will begin accepting tax returns on January 22 or after the Martin Luther King Jr Day holiday in January is inaccurate and misleading; no such date has been set.”

IRS’s Appeals Function To Offer Online Consultations

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

From: Tax-News.com, Washington
The Internal Revenue Service Office of Appeals will soon pilot a new web-based virtual conference option for taxpayers and their representatives.

Each year, the Office of Appeals hears the appeals of more than 100,000 taxpayers attempting to resolve their tax disputes without going to court. Currently, taxpayers involved in the appeals process can meet with an Appeals Officer by phone, in person, or virtually through videoconference technology available only at a limited number of IRS offices.

The new pilot program will use a secure, web-based screen-sharing platform to connect with taxpayers face-to-face from anywhere they have internet access.

“Taxpayers who choose the web-based option will be able to get face-to-face service remotely,” said IRS Chief, Appeals, Donna Hansberry. “In the future, the technology may give taxpayers greater options in engaging with Appeals and could allow us the flexibility to serve taxpayers virtually from any location using mobile devices or computers.”

“We hope this is one more option to enable IRS employees to provide timely, efficient and effective service to taxpayers,” said Hansberry.

Appeals plans to start the pilot on August 1, 2017, and will assess the results, including taxpayer satisfaction with the technology.

Success story: Victim of Preparer Fraud Receives Refund

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

Every year the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) helps thousands of people with tax problems. This story is only one of many examples of how TAS helps resolve taxpayer issues. All personal details are removed to protect the privacy of the taxpayer.

TAS advocated on behalf of a taxpayer who was the victim of tax return preparer fraud. The taxpayer was very frustrated, since the first time she became aware of the fraud was when the IRS sent her a balance due notice on her tax return. TAS advocated for her by submitting all of the appropriate documentation to the IRS. It took significant efforts by TAS to get the IRS to recognize the taxpayer as a victim of preparer fraud. Ultimately, TAS was able to get the taxpayer’s account corrected and the balance due amount removed. The TAS office was relentless in making sure the taxpayer received the proper refund and that she was not held responsible for the refund the preparer received.

When working with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, each individual or business taxpayer is assigned to an advocate who listens to the problem and helps the taxpayer understand what needs to be done to resolve their tax issue. TAS advocates will do everything they can to help taxpayers and work with them every step of the way. Occasionally we feature stories of taxpayers and advocates who work together to resolve complex tax issues. Read more TAS success stories.

Learn more about TAS eligibility: https://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/about-us/learn-more-eligibility 

Taxpayers are invited to provide comments on the new IRS.gov Test Homepage – Let Your Voice Be Heard

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Taxpayer Advocate

IRSwebsiteTesting

The IRS is a few months away from launching new look and feel to the IRS’s website (IRS.gov) and you have an opportunity to review the new Homepage about its look, content, and how easily you can find content to answer your tax questions.

You can do this through June 30, 2017 by accessing IRS.gov, navigating to Hot Topics and selecting Help us improve our home page! to provide an assessment of your experience or by entering the feedback tool directly. Testing takes less than nine minutes and your comments are confidential, anonymous and valuable to validate whether the enhancements will meet your needs.

This is a site to help you with your tax questions – please take the time to tell the IRS if it works for you!

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

 

IRS Seeks Taxpayer Input For 2017-18 Priority Guidance Plan

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Tax-News

IRS Tax Feedback

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Treasury are seeking feedback on what guidance should be prioritized to clarify parts of the tax code and explain policies.

The 2017-18 Priority Guidance Plan is intended to “identify and prioritize the tax issues that should be addressed through regulations, revenue rulings, revenue procedures, notices, and other published administrative guidance.”

The IRS said that this year’s consultation is particularly important in light of the recent Executive Order no. 13771, on “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.” This order requires federal agencies to repeal two existing regulations for every new regulation, whilst reducing the cost of regulations. As well as asking for feedback on areas where guidance and clarification is required, the agency is hoping to hear from taxpayers as to how to reduce taxpayer compliance burdens while complying with that Order.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

 

Tax bill too big to pay all at once? Sign up for an IRS payment plan

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Bankrate

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Do you owe the IRS money this year? You have several options for paying your tax online. But if you can’t pay it all at once, the IRS gives you payment plan choices.

Note, however, that your first step must be to file your tax return on time. Failure to do so can result in stiff penalties.

Paying with plastic

Some taxpayers find the easiest way to pay is with a credit card. The IRS has awarded contracts to three companies to accept payments by plastic: Official Payments, Link2Gov and WorldPay. They take American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa or a variety of debit cards.

Each company has its own fee schedule that will add to your bill.

IRS

If you do pay a fee, make a note of it for next year’s filing. The IRS has ruled that this amount is deductible as a miscellaneous itemized expense.

Keep in mind that if you don’t pay off your credit card in full, you’ll start racking up interest charges on your account. In some cases, though, your credit card interest charges might fall below IRS penalties and interest you’d owe if you don’t pay on time.

A low-interest credit card may be a good option in this scenario.

Installment plans

If your tax bill is too large for a credit card, the IRS will take monthly payments.

Approval is not automatic unless:

  • You owe less than $10,000.
  • You have paid taxes in a timely way during the past five years without entering into an installment agreement.
  • You can pay the full amount within three years.

To get the program going, you can attach Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, to the front of your tax return. Or, you can request an installment agreement online at the IRS website if the total amount you owe is not more than $50,000.

Taxpayers who seek an installment plan must provide detailed financial information, including data on equity assets, that the IRS will verify.

Keep in mind that paying over time, even to Uncle Sam, will cost you more.

  • Expect to pay a one-time user fee of $225, up from $120 last year.
  • The fee drops to $107 for direct-debit agreements.
  • Some lower-income taxpayers could pay a reduced fee of $43.
  • Applying online is your best bet: You pay a $149 one-time fee, or only $31 if you agree to a direct-debit plan.

You’ll be billed for any fee when the agency sends you a notice detailing your payment terms. Plus, penalties and interest continue to accrue to your unpaid tax bill. The IRS may also file a federal tax lien against you, which will be released when you pay off your installment loan.

Another way to deal with a large tax bill is with a home equity loan. That way you won’t have to pay IRS penalties and fees.

Offer in compromise

What if you can’t pay off your tax bill, in whole or part, in three years or five years or even longer? Then it might be time to negotiate.

The IRS might be willing to accept a lump-sum payment offer of less than your total tax bill if it is realistic. In these cases, the agency hopes to get some taxpayer money sooner than it would after years of costly collection efforts.

The IRS will review your financial situation and future income potential to determine whether your offer is appropriate. Be warned, however: This program was designed only for extreme cases, and few filers will qualify for the program. If you believe your situation does indeed meet the requirements, you need to file two forms: Form 656, Offer in Compromise, and Form 433-A, Collection Information Statement.

To find out whether you qualify for an offer in compromise before filling out the paperwork, use the IRS’ online pre-qualifier tool. The questionnaire format will let you know if you’re eligible, as well as help determine an acceptable preliminary offer amount.

Options for offers in compromise include:

  • Lump sum cash offer — This must be paid in five or fewer installments within five months after the offer is accepted. You must include 20 percent of the offer amount plus a $186 application fee.
  • Periodic payment offer — This is paid in six or more monthly installments within 24 months after the offer is accepted. You must produce the first proposed installment payment plus $186.

The $186 fee is waived for qualifying low-income taxpayers.

The IRS has created a special website with “what if” scenarios regarding tax and payment issues for taxpayers who are having a hard time making their payments.

Regardless of which payment plan method you choose, make your decision now. Delay will only compound your financial and tax problems since penalties and interest charges will continue to accrue. By sending in any amount when you file your return, at least you’ll ultimately reduce your interest and penalty charges.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Tax lesson for teachers: Educator expenses can be written off

Westchester NY accountant Paul Herman of Herman & Company CPA’s is here for all your financial needs. Please contact us if you have questions, and to receive your free personal finance consultation!

By Bankrate

tax deductions for teachers

Teachers on average spend $530 of their own money during the school year to pay for supplies, snacks for students and other classroom items.

Teachers and other educators can get a tax deduction of up to $250 for some of those costs as well as continuing education expenses.

Even better, they don’t have to itemize to get the tax break. Educator expenses are one of the so-called above-the-line deductions claimed directly on a Form 1040 or via tax software.

Educator expenses deduction enhanced

Congress made the tax break for educators a permanent part of the tax code in 2015.

Lawmakers also indexed the $250 maximum deduction amount for inflation. It didn’t change for the 2016 tax year, because of low inflation, but it could increase in future years.

What items are deductible?

Besides teachers, counselors, principals and aides can take the deduction if, for the tax year, they were employed at a state-approved public or private school system from kindergarten through grade 12, and worked at least 900 hours during the school year.

Educators can write off unreimbursed costs for:

  • Books
  • Supplies
  • Computer and other equipment (including software and services)
  • Supplementary materials used in the classroom
  • Professional development programs

The IRS also applies its “ordinary and necessary” rule here. An item purchased for your classroom must be considered ordinary:  something that is common and accepted in the education profession.

It also must be necessary: defined as helpful and appropriate, though maybe not required.

So buying a recording of “Death of a Salesman” to help drive home Arthur Miller’s points to your students would likely meet tax muster. But purchasing a new HD television, instead of watching on your school’s working-but-old set, may raise some IRS eyebrows.

Couples who share education careers could get a double break if they file jointly. However, each spouse is limited to $250 of qualified expenses.

What about home schooling? Sorry, but the tax law specifically states that costs for this type of instruction don’t count toward the educator expenses deduction.

Circumstances could limit expenses

In addition to the eligibility requirements on expenses, the IRS has set some other restrictions on what’s deductible.

The tax agency says when an educator uses any tax-favored funds to pay for his or her own schooling, those amounts must be subtracted from the total the teacher claims under the educator expenses deduction.

Take for example Joe Jones, a high school English teacher who is working toward his master’s degree in literature during school breaks. He cashed in savings bonds to pay his tuition and excluded the bonds’ $150 interest from tax. He also spent $200 for books on Shakespeare to distribute to his 11th-grade students. He must subtract the $150 in tax-free interest from the $200 for the books, leaving him only $50 to claim under the educator expenses deduction.

The same rule applies to nontaxable earnings a teacher gets from qualified state tuition programs or tax-free withdrawals from a Coverdell education savings account.

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.