Archive for the ‘IRS’ Category

The Amazing, Incredible, Expanding Postcard!

Friday, June 29th, 2018

When I was a child, people used postcards to save on postage. Postage for postcards ran a nickel. That was less than a phone call. Today, with the emergence of cellphones, the only postcards I receive are advertisements. But the IRS has a better idea! Let’s put Form 1040 on a postcard! [Insert groans from the tax professional community] “It’s so simple that a child can do it!” [Let’s add some groans from all the parents out there.]

Indeed page 1 of the draft Form 1040 is simple and straightforward. You enter your name, address, filing status, and you sign the return on page 1. Page 2 looks simple: You note your wages, other items of income, write in your tax, note some credits, and you’re done. But then you see some interesting words, like Line 6:

6. Additional income and adjustments to income. Attach Schedule 1.

That’s one way to make things fit on a postcard: Add more postcards! And it’s not as if most people will be skipping Schedule 1; it includes business income (Schedule C), capital gains (Schedule D), rental income and partnerships (Schedule E), and IRA deductions and all adjustments to income. And there’s not one of these schedules, but six of them. Here’s a link to the draft Form 1040 and all six of the proposed schedules.

It’s time to be honest: Nothing has gotten simpler. Indeed, I would argue everything about the 2018 tax return has gotten far, far more complex. Take line 9 of the draft Form 1040 (on page 2 of the form):

9. Qualified business income deduction (see instructions).

I pity those people trying to do that deduction themselves. I guarantee that most who try to do that line themselves will be joining me with gray hair next year. (The best explanation I’ve seen of that deduction runs 32 accountant-friendly pages. That is not a joke. Another tax professional used the line “Rube Goldbergesque” to describe the deduction.) It’s near a certainty that do-it-yourselfers are going to have issues with these forms. They’re not straightforward.

As I’ve told all of my friends I have lifetime employment. I think the IRS just gave me a second lifetime worth of employment!

IRS Interest Rates Unchanged for the Third Quarter of 2018

Saturday, June 9th, 2018

The IRS announced yesterday that IRS interest rates will be unchanged for the third quarter of 2018:

The rates will be:

– 5 percent for overpayments, 4 percent in the case of a corporation;
– 2.5 percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000;
– 5 percent for underpayments; and
– 7 percent for large corporate underpayments.

As I tell clients interest works both ways: If you file after the April tax deadline, you owe interest to the IRS; if you file after the April tax deadline and receive a refund, you are paid interest. That interest is, of course, taxable.

IRS Offers Penalty and Filing Relief on New Transaction Tax on Foreign Earnings

Monday, June 4th, 2018

Individuals who own foreign entities typically have complex returns. I prepare returns for three such individuals; they’re all on extension. Yet one item needed to be prepared for these individuals by April 18th: the new Section 965 transition tax.

One of the key issues with the §965 tax is that you needed to make an election by April 18th to elect to make your payment in eight equal installments. If you didn’t make the election, you owed all the tax with your 2017 tax filing–ouch! This was a difficult deadline for many individuals due to the complexity of their returns.

Luckily, the IRS today announced penalty and filing relief on the §965 tax. As the IRS noted,

• In some instances, the IRS will waive the estimated tax penalty for taxpayers subject to the transition tax who improperly attempted to apply a 2017 calculated overpayment to their 2018 estimated tax, as long as they make all required estimated tax payments by June 15, 2018.

• For individual taxpayers who missed the April 18, 2018, deadline for making the first of the eight annual installment payments, the IRS will waive the late-payment penalty if the installment is paid in full by April 15, 2019. Absent this relief, a taxpayer’s remaining installments over the eight-year period would have become due immediately. This relief is only available if the individual’s total transition tax liability is less than $1 million. Interest will still be due. Later deadlines apply to certain individuals who live and work outside the U.S.

• Individuals who have already filed a 2017 return without electing to pay the transition tax in eight annual installments can still make the election by filing a 2017 Form 1040X with the IRS. The amended Form 1040 generally must be filed by Oct. 15, 2018. See the FAQs for details. For more information about the transition tax and other tax reform provisions, visit IRS.gov/taxreform.

The FAQs noting this are available on the IRS website.

Do note this is not complete relief. Many taxpayers impacted by this will owe interest from April 15th; you also have to owe less than $1 million in transition tax. But it does allow many taxpayers to proceed in an orderly manner in determining what tax they will owe on Section 965 rather than rushing to meet a deadline. (Individuals outside of the US have until next Friday to timely file their returns. They can now file extensions and still, in many cases, elect the installment treatment for this tax.)

Back to the Old Drawing Board

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

I’ve written before about certain states’ efforts to get around the new $10,000 cap on state and local taxes that can be deducted on federal tax returns. The IRS announced today they will be proposing regulations later this year on this issue. Here’s an excerpt:

In response to this new limitation, some state legislatures are considering or have adopted legislative proposals that would allow taxpayers to make transfers to funds controlled by state or local governments, or other transferees specified by the state, in exchange for credits against the state or local taxes that the taxpayer is required to pay. The aim of these proposals is to allow taxpayers to characterize such transfers as fully deductible charitable contributions for federal income tax purposes, while using the same transfers to satisfy state or local tax liabilities.

Despite these state efforts to circumvent the new statutory limitation on state and local tax deductions, taxpayers should be mindful that federal law controls the proper characterization of payments for federal income tax purposes.

This is anything but promising for the efforts of California and New York. Words like “circumvent,” “despite,” and “mindful” pretty much tell us how this is going to turn out. If the IRS were going to allow this, the notice would not have such negative words. Instead, it’s all but a certainty that the doctrine of “Substance Over Form” will dictate that these so-called charitable donations are anything but charitable donations and, instead, will be treated as state tax payments on federal tax returns.

The California and New York legislatures would be far better off looking for things to cut in their states’ budgets. I know of a certain railroad in California that could save the state at least $77 billion….

Tax Deadline Extended One Day for IRS Purposes

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

The IRS announced late today that due to the computer issues with IRS Direct Pay and the IRS e-filing systems, that individuals and businesses with a tax deadline of today (April 17th) have an extra day, until midnight, April 18th. Here is the IRS announcement:

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it is providing taxpayers an additional day to file and pay their taxes following system issues that surfaced early on the April 17 tax deadline. Individuals and businesses with a filing or payment due date of April 17 will now have until midnight on Wednesday, April 18. Taxpayers do not need to do anything to receive this extra time.

The IRS encountered system issues Tuesday morning. Throughout the system outage, taxpayers were still able to file their tax returns electronically through their software providers and Free File. Taxpayers using paper to file and pay their taxes at the deadline were not affected by the system issue.

“This is the busiest tax day of the year, and the IRS apologizes for the inconvenience this system issue caused for taxpayers,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “The IRS appreciates everyone’s patience during this period. The extra time will help taxpayers affected by this situation.”

The IRS advised taxpayers to continue to file their taxes as normal Tuesday evening – whether electronically or on paper. Automatic six-month extensions are available to taxpayers who need additional time to file can visit https://www.irs.gov/forms-pubs/extension-of-time-to-file-your-tax-return.

It is likely that most states will conform to this extension (California has already announced that they will).

IRS Direct Pay Down

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

It’s not as if today is a big day, right? IRS Direct Pay is down. This is not impacting most tax professionals efiling and initiating direct debit (the information is being sent to our software providers), but it is causing an issue for the public. If you cannot use it, you can always pay by check and voucher (Form 1040-V). If you mail a check, make sure to use certified mail, return receipt requested.

Bozo Tax Tip #4: Procrastinate!

Tuesday, April 10th, 2018

Today is April 10th. The tax deadline is just seven days away.

What happens if you wake up and it’s April 17, 2018, and you can’t file your tax? File an extension. Download Form 4868, make an estimate of what you owe, pay that, and mail the voucher and check to the address noted for your state. Use certified mail, return receipt, of course. And don’t forget your state income tax. Some states have automatic extensions (California does), some don’t (Pennsylvania is one of those), while others have deadlines that don’t match the federal tax deadline (Hawaii state taxes are due on April 20th, for example). Automatic extensions are of time to file, not pay, so download the extension form and mail off a payment to your state, too. If you mail your extension, make sure you mail it certified mail, return receipt requested. (You can do that from most Automated Postal Centers, too.)

By the way, I strongly suggest you electronically file the extension. The IRS will happily take your extension electronically; many (but not all) states will, too.

But what do you do if you wait until April 18th? Well, get your paperwork together so you can file as quickly as possible and avoid even more penalties. Penalties escalate, so unless you want 25% penalties, get everything ready and see your tax professional next week. He’ll have time for you, and you can leisurely complete your return and only pay one week of interest, one month of the Failure to Pay penalty (0.5% of the tax due), and one month of the Failure to File Penalty (5% of the tax due).

There is a silver lining in all of this. If you are owed a refund and haven’t filed, you will likely receive interest from the IRS. Yes, interest works both ways: The IRS must pay interest on late-filed returns owed refunds. Just one note about that: The interest is taxable.

Bozo Tax Tip #6: The $0.49 Solution

Friday, April 6th, 2018

With Tax Day fast approaching it’s time to examine yet another Bozo method of courting disaster. And it doesn’t, on the surface, seem to be a Bozo method. After all, this organization has the motto, Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night can stay these messengers about their duty.

Well, that’s not really the Postal Service’s motto. It’s just the inscription on the General Post Office in New York (at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street).

So assume you have a lengthy, difficult return. You’ve paid a professional good money to get it done. You go to the Post Office, put proper postage on it, dump it in the slot (on or before April 17th), and you’ve just committed a Bozo act.

If you use the Postal Service to mail your tax returns, spend the extra money for certified mail. For $3.45 you can purchase certified mail. Yes, you will have to stand in a line (or you can use the automated machines in many post offices), but you now have a receipt that verifies that you have mailed your return.

About fourteen years ago one of my clients saved $2.42 (I think that was the cost of a certified mail piece then) and sent his return in with a $0.37 stamp. It never made it. He ended up paying nearly $1,000 in penalties and interest…but he did save $2.42.

Don’t be a Bozo. E-File (and you don’t have to worry at all about the Post Office), or spend the $3.45! And you can go all out and spend $2.75 and get a return receipt, too (though you can now track certified mail online). For another $1.50, you can get the postal service to e-mail the confirmation that the IRS got the return (for the OCD in the crowd). There’s a reason every client letter notes, “using certified mail, return receipt requested.”

Bozo Tax Tip #10: Email Your Social Security Number

Monday, April 2nd, 2018

It’s time for our annual rundown of Bozo Tax Tips, strategies that you really, really, really shouldn’t try. But somewhere, somehow, someone will try these. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

This is a repeat for the fifth year in a row, but it’s one that bears repeating. Unfortunately, the problem of identity theft has burgeoned, and the IRS’s response has been pitiful. (To be fair, it has improved somewhat over the last year, but that didn’t take much.)

I have some clients who are incredibly smart. They make me look stupid (and I’m not). Yet a few of these otherwise intelligent individuals persist in Bozo behavior: They consistently send me their tax documents by email.

Seriously, use common sense! Would you post your social security number on a billboard? That’s what you’re doing when you email your social security number.

We use a web portal for secure loading and unloading of documents and secure communications to our clients. As I tell my clients, email is fast but it’s not secure. It’s fine to email your tax professional things that are not confidential. That said, social security numbers and most income information is quite confidential. Don’t send those through email unless you want to be an identity theft victim or want others to know how much money you make!

If I send an email to my mother, it might go in a straight line to her. It also might go via Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga. At any one of these stops it could be intercepted and looked at by someone else. Would you post your social security number on a billboard in your community? If you wouldn’t, and I assume none of you would, why would you ever email anything with your social security number?

A friend told me, “Well, I’m not emailing my social, I’m just attaching my W-2 to the email.” An attachment is just as likely to be read as an email. Just say no to emailing your social security number.

If you’re not Internet savvy, hand the documents to your tax professional or use the postal service, FedEx, or UPS to deliver the documents, or fax the documents. (If you fax, make sure your tax professional has a secure fax machine.) If you like using the Internet to submit your tax documents, make sure your tax professional offers you a secure means to do so. It might be called a web portal, a file transfer service, or perhaps something else. The name isn’t as important as the concept.

Unfortunately, the IRS’s ability to handle identity theft is, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate, poor. So don’t add to the problem—communicate in a secure fashion to your tax professional.

S-Corp/Partnership/1042 Deadline Is Tomorrow

Wednesday, March 14th, 2018

Tomorrow is the deadline for calendar-year S-Corporations and partnerships to file their tax returns. In reality, most will file extensions. But let’s say you’re an S-Corp (or partnership) owner and you just realized there’s a deadline. What should you do?

“It’s better to extend than amend.” And the penalties for not filing an extension are, as President Trump would say, bigly.

That’s the answer–file an extension. Download Form 7004, follow the instructions, and mail the form using certified mail, return receipt requested, to the IRS. Or file your extension electronically.

Remember your state taxes. Some states have an automatic extension; some require a form to be filed. A few, such as Illinois and New York, have taxes on partnerships or S-Corporations. If you don’t know your income, make an estimate of what it is, calculate the tax, and send that with your extension.

The deadline is a postmark deadline, so as long as the extension is postmarked tomorrow you’re fine. If you are in an area hit by the recent winter storms (mainly in the northeast and mid-Atlantic), you have an extra five days (until March 20th) to file your extensions (or returns).

Tomorrow is also the deadline to file Forms 1042-S and 1042 with the IRS. These are reports of withholding to non-Americans. If you need to file those forms, make sure you get that done by tomorrow, too.

The deadline for individual tax returns, trust/estate returns, and calendar year C-Corporations is Tuesday, April 17th.