Author Archives: teamtaxa214

Classifying workers as employees or independent contractors

It is critical for business owners to correctly determine whether the individuals providing services are employees or independent contractors.

An employee is generally considered anyone who performs services, if the business can control what will be done and how it will be done. What matters is that the business has the right to control the details of how the worker’s services are performed. Independent contractors are normally people in an independent trade, business or profession in which they offer their services to the public. Doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, contractors, subcontractors, public stenographers or auctioneers are generally independent contractors.

Independent contractor vs. employee
Whether a worker is an independent contractor, or an employee depends on the relationship between the worker and the business. Generally, there are three categories to consider.

•  Behavioral control − Does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does the job?
•  Financial control − Does the business direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job. Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? Things like how the worker is paid, are expenses reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.
•  Relationship of the parties − Are there written contracts or employee type benefits such as pension plan, insurance, vacation pay? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

Misclassified worker 
Misclassifying workers as independent contractors adversely affects employees because the employer’s share of taxes is not paid, and the employee’s share is not withheld. If a business misclassified an employee without a reasonable basis, the business can be held liable for employment taxes for that worker. Generally, an employer must withhold and pay income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as unemployment taxes. Workers who believe they have been improperly classified as independent contractors can use Form 8919Uncollected Social Security and Medicare Tax on Wages to figure and report their share of uncollected Social Security and Medicare taxes due on their compensation.

Voluntary Classification Settlement Program
The Voluntary Classification Settlement Program is an optional program that provides taxpayers with an opportunity to reclassify their workers as employees for future employment tax purposes. This program offers partial relief from federal employment taxes for eligible taxpayers who agree to prospectively treat their workers as employees. Taxpayers must meet certain eligibility requirements and apply by filing Form 8952Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, and enter into a closing agreement with the IRS.

Who is self-employed?
Generally, someone is self-employed if any of the following apply to them.

•  They carry on a trade or business as a sole proprietor or an independent contractor.
•  They are a member of a partnership that carries on a trade or business.
•  They are otherwise in business for themselves, including a part-time business.

Self-employed individuals, including those who earn money from gig economy work, are generally required to file an tax return and make estimated quarterly tax payments. They also generally must pay self-employment tax which is Social Security and Medicare tax as well as income tax. These taxpayers qualify for the home office deduction if they use part of a home for business.

How to use the IRS portal

Need to update direct deposit information?

Many families are asking how they can change the bank account where they get their monthly Child Tax Credit payment.

First, families should use the Child Tax Credit Update Portal to confirm their eligibility for the payments. If eligible, the tool will also indicate whether they are enrolled to receive their payments by direct deposit.

For those currently with direct deposit, the tool will list the full bank routing number and the last four digits of their account number. This is the account where the IRS sent their payments so far. All subsequent payments will also be sent to this account. If necessary, the bank account to which the IRS is sending the payment can now be changed starting with the Sept. 15 payment. They can do that by updating the routing number and account number and indicating whether it is a savings or checking account. Note that only one account number is permitted for each recipient—that is, the entire payment must be direct deposited in only one account.

How to switch from paper check to direct deposit

If the Update Portal shows that a family is eligible to receive payments but not enrolled to receive direct deposits, they will receive a paper check each month. If they choose, they can now switch to receiving their payments by direct deposit.

They can use the tool to add their bank account information. They do that by entering their bank routing number and account number, and indicating whether it is a savings or checking account.

The IRS urges any family receiving checks to consider switching to the speed and convenience of direct deposit. With direct deposit, families can access their money more quickly. Direct deposit removes the time, worry and expense of cashing a check. In addition, direct deposit eliminates the chance of a lost, stolen or undelivered check.

Families can stop payments any time

Even after payments begin, families can stop all future monthly payments if they choose. They do that by using the unenroll feature in the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. Eligible families who make this choice will still receive the rest of their Child Tax Credit as a lump sum when they file their 2021 federal income tax return next year.

To stop all payments starting in September and the rest of 2021, they must unenroll by Aug. 30, 2021. For more information about the unenrollment process, including a schedule of deadlines for each monthly payment, see Topic J of the Child Tax Credit FAQs on IRS.gov.

For married couples, each spouse must unenroll separately. If they each choose to unenroll, they will receive no monthly payments. If only one spouse unenrolls, the other spouse will still receive monthly payments, but they will be half the normal amount.

Who should unenroll?

Instead of receiving these advance payments, some families may prefer to wait until the end of the year and receive the entire credit as a refund when they file their 2021 return. The Child Tax Credit Update Portal enables them to quickly and easily unenroll from receiving monthly payments.

The unenroll feature can also be helpful to any family that no longer qualifies for the Child Tax Credit or believes they will not qualify when they file their 2021 return. This could happen if, for example, someone else, such as an ex-spouse or another family member, qualifies to claim their child or children as dependents in 2021.

What is the Child Tax Credit Update Portal?

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal is a secure, password-protected tool, available to any eligible family with internet access and a smart phone or computer. It is designed to enable them to manage their Child Tax Credit payments, including, if they choose, unenrolling from monthly payments.

To access the Child Tax Credit Update Portal, a person must first verify their identity. If a person has an existing IRS username or an ID.me account with a verified identity, they can use those accounts to easily sign in. People without an existing account will be asked to verify their identity with a form of photo identification using ID.me, a trusted third party for the IRS. Identity verification is an important safeguard and will protect the user’s account from identity theft.

Anyone who lacks internet access or otherwise cannot use the online tool may unenroll by contacting the IRS at the phone number included in the outreach Letter 6416 or L6416-A they received from the IRS.

Who is getting a monthly payment?

In general, monthly payments are going to eligible families who:

  • Filed either a 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return.
  • Used the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov in 2020 to register for an Economic Impact Payment.
  • Registered for the advance Child Tax Credit this year using the new Non-Filer Sign-Up Tool on IRS.gov.

An eligible family who took any of these steps does not need to do anything else to get their payments.

Normally, the IRS is calculating the advance payment based on the 2020 income tax return. If that return is not available, either because it has not yet been filed or it has not yet been processed, the IRS is instead determining the payment using the 2019 tax return.

Low-income families can still sign up

It’s not too late for low-income families to sign up for advance CTC payments, as well as Economic Impact Payments and the Recovery Rebate Credit. People can get these benefits, even if they don’t work and even if they receive no income.

The IRS urges anyone who normally isn’t required to file a tax return to explore the tools available only on IRS.gov.

First, people can check their eligibility for the advance payments by using the advance Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant. Then, if they qualify, they can use the Non-filer Sign-up Tool to file a simplified return with the IRS. The Non-filer Sign-up Tool will be available until Oct. 15.

The IRS urges partners and community groups to share information and use available online tools and toolkits to help non-filers, low-income families, people experiencing homelessness and other underserved groups sign up to receive these benefits.

Child Tax Credit changes

The American Rescue Plan raised the maximum Child Tax Credit in 2021 to $3,600 for children under the age of 6 and to $3,000 per child for children ages 6 through 17. Before 2021, the credit was worth up to $2,000 per eligible child.

The new maximum credit is available to taxpayers with a modified adjusted gross income (AGI) of:

  • $75,000 or less for singles,
  • $112,500 or less for heads of household and
  • $150,000 or less for married couples filing a joint return and qualified widows and widowers.

For most people, modified AGI is the amount shown on Line 11 of their 2020 Form 1040 or 1040-SR. Above these income thresholds, the extra amount above the original $2,000 credit — either $1,000 or $1,600 per child — is reduced by $50 for every $1,000 in modified AGI. In addition, the credit is fully refundable for 2021. This means that eligible families can get it, even if they owe no federal income tax. Before this year, the refundable portion was limited to $1,400 per child.

Retirement and taxes: Understanding IRAs

Individual Retirement Arrangements, or IRAs, provide tax incentives for people to make investments that can provide financial security for their retirement. These accounts can be set up with a bank or other financial institution, a life insurance company, mutual fund or stockbroker.

Here’s basic overview to help people better understand this type of retirement savings account.

  • Contribution. The money that someone puts into their IRA. There are annual limits to contributions depending on their age and the type of IRA. Generally, a taxpayer or their spouse must have earned income to contribute to an IRA.
  • Distribution. The amount that someone withdraws from their IRA.
  • Withdraws. Taxpayers may face a 10% penalty and a tax bill if they withdraw money before age 59 ½, unless they qualify for an exception.  
  • Required distribution. There are requirements for withdrawing from an IRA:
    • Someone generally must start taking withdrawals from their IRA when they reach age 70½.
    • Per the 2019 SECURE Act, if a person’s 70th birthday is on or after July 1, 2019, they do not have to take withdrawals until age 72.
    • Special distribution rules apply for IRA beneficiaries 
  • Traditional IRA. An IRA where contributions may be tax-deductible. Generally, the amounts in a traditional IRA are not taxed until they are withdrawn.  
  • Roth IRA. This type of IRA that is subject to the same rules as a traditional IRA but with certain exceptions:
    • A taxpayer cannot deduct contributions to a Roth IRA.
    • Qualified distributions are tax-free.
    • Roth IRAs do not require withdrawals until after the death of the owner.  
  • Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees. This is commonly known as a SIMPLE IRA. Employees and employers may contribute to traditional IRAs set up for employees. It may work well as a start-up retirement savings plan for small employers.  
  • Simplified Employee Pension. This is known as a SEP-IRA. An employer can make contributions toward their own retirement and their employees’ retirement. The employee owns and controls a SEP.  
  • Rollover IRA. This is when the IRA owner receives a payment from their retirement plan and deposits it into a different IRA within 60 days.

What to know about making 2021 estimated tax payments

Small business owners, self-employed people, and some wage earners should look into whether they should make estimated tax payments this year. Doing so can help them avoid an unexpected tax bill and possibly a penalty when they file next year.

Taxpayers who earn a paycheck usually have their employer withhold tax from their checks. This helps cover taxes the employee owes. On the other hand, some taxpayers earn income not subject to withholding. For small business owners and self-employed people, that usually means making quarterly estimated tax payments.

Here are some details about estimated tax payments:

  • Generally, taxpayers need to make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe $1,000 or more when they file their 2021 tax return, after adjusting for any withholding.
  • The IRS urges anyone in this situation to check their withholding using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov. If the estimator suggests a change, the taxpayer can submit a new Form W-4  to their employer.
  • Aside from business owners and self-employed individuals, people who need to make estimated payments also include sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders. It also often includes people involved in the sharing economy.
  • Corporations generally must make these payments if they expect to owe $500 or more on their 2021 tax return.
  • Aside from income tax, taxpayers can pay other taxes through estimated tax payments. This includes self-employment tax and the alternative minimum tax.
  • The final two deadlines for paying 2021 estimated payments are September 15, 2019 and January 15, 2022.
  • Taxpayers can check out these forms for details on how to figure their payments:
  • Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov to find options for paying estimated taxes. These include:
  • Anyone who pays too little tax  through withholding, estimated tax payments, or a combination of the two may owe a penalty. In some cases, the penalty may apply if their estimated tax payments are late. The penalty may apply even if the taxpayer is due a refund.

Get an IP PIN to help stop identity thieves

The IRS and its Security Summit partners recently kicked off their annual summer campaign. This year’s theme, Boost Security Immunity: Fight Against Identity Theft, urges tax pros to step up their efforts to protect client data. An IP PIN is a valuable tool that can help in this effort and it is now available to anyone who can verify their identity.

An Identity Protection PIN is six-digit number eligible taxpayers get to help prevent their Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from being used to file fraudulent federal income tax returns. This number helps the IRS verify a taxpayer’s identity and accept their tax return. The Get An IP PIN tool  enables anyone who has an SSN or ITIN to get an IP PIN after they verify their identity through a rigorous authentication process. Taxpayers should review the Secure Access requirements before they try to use the Get An IP PIN tool.

For security reasons, tax pros can’t get an IP PIN on behalf of clients.

Tax pros who experience data theft can help clients by urging them to get an IP PIN quickly. Even if a thief already filed a fraudulent return, an IP PIN would still offer protections for later years and prevent taxpayers from being repeat victims of tax-related identity theft.

More things taxpayers should know about the IP PIN:

  • It’s a six-digit number known only to the taxpayer and the IRS.
  • The opt-in program is voluntary.
  • The IP PIN should be entered onto the electronic tax return when prompted by the software product or onto a paper return next to the signature line.
  • The IP PIN is valid for one calendar year.
  • For security reasons, enrolled participants get a new IP PIN each year
  • Spouses and dependents are eligible for an IP PIN if they can verify their identities
  • IP PIN users should never share their number with anyone but the IRS and their trusted tax preparation provider. The IRS will never call, email or text a request for the IP PIN.

Currently, taxpayers can get an IP PIN for 2021, which should be used when filing any federal tax returns during the year including prior year returns. New IP PINs will be available starting in January 2022.

Taxpayers who are unable to validate their identity online and have income of $72,000 or less, can file Form 15227, Application for an Identity Protection Personal Identification Number. The IRS will call the phone number the taxpayer provided on Form 15227 to validate the taxpayer’s identity. However, for security reasons, the IRS will assign an IP PIN for the next filing season and the taxpayer cannot use the IP PIN for the current filing season.

Taxpayers who cannot validate their identity online, or by the phone, or who are ineligible to file a Form 15227 can make an appointment at a Taxpayer Assistance Center. They will need to bring one current government-issued picture ID and another identification document to prove their identity. Once verified, the taxpayer will receive an IP PIN in the mail usually within three weeks.

Be aware of fake charities and scammers targeting immigrants

The IRS continues to observe criminals using a variety of scams that target honest taxpayers. In some cases, these scams will trick taxpayers into doing something illegal or that ultimately causes them financial harm. These scammers may cause otherwise honest people to do things they don’t realize are illegal or prey on their good will to steal their money.

Fake charities
Taxpayers should be on the lookout for scammers who set up fake organizations to take advantage of the public’s generosity. Scammers take advantage of tragedies and disasters.

Scams requesting donations for disaster relief efforts are especially common over the phone. Taxpayers should always check out a charity before they donate, and they should not feel pressured to give immediately.

Taxpayers who give money or goods to a charity may be able to claim a deduction on their federal tax return by reducing the amount of their taxable income. However, to receive a deduction, taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. To check the status of a charity, they can use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool. It’s also important for taxpayers to remember that they can’t deduct gifts to individuals or to political organizations and candidates.

Here are some tips to help taxpayer avoid fake charity scams:

  • Individuals should never let any caller pressure them. A legitimate charity will be happy to get a donation at any time, so there’s no rush. Donors are encouraged to take time to do their own research.
  • Confirm the charity is real. Potential donors should ask the fundraiser for the charity’s exact name, website and mailing address, so they can confirm it later. Some dishonest telemarketers use names that sound like well-known charities to confuse people.
  • Be careful about how a donation is made. Taxpayers shouldn’t work with charities that ask for donations by giving numbers from a gift card or by wiring money. That’s a scam. It’s safest to pay by credit card or check — and only after researching the charity.

For more information about fake charities see the Federal Trade Commission web site.

Immigrant fraud
IRS impersonators and other scammers often use threats and intimidation to target groups with limited English proficiency.

The IRS phone impersonation scam remains a common scam. This is where a taxpayer receives a phone call threatening jail time, deportation or revocation of a driver’s license from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Recent immigrants often are the most vulnerable. People need to ignore these threats and not engage the scammers.

A taxpayer’s first contact with the IRS will usually be through mail, not over the phone. Legitimate IRS employees will not threaten to revoke licenses or have a person deported. These are scare tactics.

New multilingual resources available
The IRS has added new features to help those who are more comfortable in a language other than English. The Schedule LEP allows a taxpayer to select in which language they wish to communicate. Once they complete and submit the schedule, they will receive future communications in that selected language preference.

The IRS is providing tax information, forms and publications in many languages other than English. IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, is now available in Spanish, Chinese simplified and traditional, Vietnamese, Korean and Russian.

Tax tips for students working summer jobs

During the summer many students focus on making money from a summer job. They may want to gain work experience, earn some spending money or help pay for college. Here are some facts all student workers should know about summer jobs and taxes.

Not all the money they earn will make it to their pocket because employers must withhold taxes from their paycheck.

New employees: Employees – including those who are students – normally have taxes withheld from their paychecks by their employer. When anyone gets a new job, they need to fill out a Form W-4Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and submit it to their employer. Employers use this form to calculate how much federal income tax to withhold from the new employee’s pay. The Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov can help a taxpayer fill out this form.

Self-employment: Students who take on jobs like baby-sitting, lawn care or gig economy work are generally self-employed. Money earned from self-employment is taxable, and these workers may be responsible for paying taxes directly to the IRS. One way they can do this is by making estimated tax payments during the year.

Tip income: Students who earn tips as part of their summer income should know tip income is taxable. They should keep a daily log to accurately report tips. They must report cash tips to their employer for any month that totals $20 or more.

Payroll taxes: This tax pays for benefits under the Social Security system. While students may earn too little from their summer job to owe income tax, employers usually must still withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from their pay. If a student is self-employed, Social Security and Medicare taxes may still be due and are generally paid by the student.

Reserve Officers’ Training Corps pay: If a student is in an ROTC program, and receives pay for activities such as summer advanced camp, it is taxable. Other allowances the student may receive – like food and lodging – may not be taxable. The Armed Forces’ Tax Guide on IRS.gov provides details.

 

  • Taxes at such an early age can be confusing and we are here to help. When in doubt about any income received, reach out to our associates and we can better assess the situation. 

Here’s what you need to know about higher education tax credits

As a new school year approaches, students are considering what classes they need to take and how much the classes will cost. Whether it’s community college, a trade school, a four-year university or an advanced degree, higher education is expensive. The good news is tax credits can help offset these costs.

These credits reduce the amount of tax someone owes. If the credit reduces tax to less than zero, the taxpayer could even receive a refund.

Taxpayers who pay for higher education in 2021 can see these tax savings when they file their tax return next year. If taxpayers, their spouses or their dependents take post-high school coursework, they may be eligible for a tax benefit.

There are two credits available to help taxpayers save money on higher education, the American opportunity tax credit and the lifetime learning credit. Taxpayers use Form 8863, Education Credits, to claim the credits.

Here are some important things taxpayers should know about these credits.

The American opportunity tax credit is:

  • Worth a maximum benefit of up to $2,500 per eligible student.
  • Only for the first four years at an eligible college or vocational school.
  • For students pursuing a degree or other recognized education credential.
  • Partially refundable. People could get up to $1,000 back.

The lifetime learning credit is:

  • Worth a maximum benefit of up to $2,000 per tax return, per year, no matter how many students qualify.
  • Available for all years of postsecondary education and for courses to acquire or improve job skills.
  • Available for an unlimited number of tax years.

To be eligible to claim either of these credits, a taxpayer or a dependent must have received a Form 1098-T from an eligible educational institution. There are exceptions for some students.

How to repay deferred Social Security tax

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act allowed self-employed individuals and household employers to defer the payment of certain Social Security taxes on their Form 1040 for tax year 2020 over the next two years. Half of the deferred Social Security tax is due by December 31, 2021, and the remainder is due by December 31, 2022.

How individuals can repay the deferred taxes
Individuals can pay the deferred amount any time on or before the due date. They:

• Can make payments through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by credit or debit card, money order or with a check.
• Should be separate payments from other tax payments to ensure they are applied to the deferred tax balance on the tax year 2020 Form 1040 since IRS systems won’t recognize the payment for deferred tax if it is with other tax payments or paid with the current Form 1040.
• Should designate the payment as “deferred Social Security tax.”
Individuals making deferred Social Security tax payments in EFTPS should select 1040 US Individual Income Tax Returns and deferred Social Security tax for the type of payment. They must apply the payment to the 2020 tax year where they deferred the payment. Taxpayers can visit EFTPS.gov for details.

What individuals should do if they are unable to pay in full by the installment due date
Individuals who are unable to pay the full deferred tax amount should pay whatever they are able to pay by the installment due dates to limit penalty and interest charges.

If the installment amount is not paid in full, IRS will send the taxpayer a balance due notice. Taxpayers should follow instructions on the notice to make a payment or apply for a payment plan. They can also visit the Paying Your Taxes page on IRS.gov for additional information about ways they can pay, what to do when they can’t pay, and viewing their tax account.

Businesses must report nonemployee compensation

By law, business taxpayers who pay or receive nonemployee compensation of $600 or more must report these payments to the IRS. They do this using Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation.

Generally, payers must file Form 1099-NEC by January 31. For 2021 tax returns. There is no automatic 30-day extension to file Form 1099-NEC. However, an extension to file may be available under certain hardship conditions.

Nonemployee compensation may be subject to backup withholding if a payee has not provided a Taxpayer Identification Number to the payer or the IRS notifies the payer that the payee provided a TIN that does not match their name in IRS records.

A TIN can be one of the following numbers:

  • Social Security
  • Employer identification
  • Individual taxpayer identification
  • Adoption taxpayer identification

What is backup withholding?

Backup withholding can apply to most kinds of payments reported on Forms 1099 and W-2G. The person or business paying the taxpayer doesn’t generally withhold taxes from certain payments; however, there are situations when the payer is required to withhold a certain percentage of tax to make sure the IRS receives the tax due on this income The payer’s requirement to withhold taxes from payments not otherwise subject to withholding is known as backup withholding. The current backup withholding tax rate is 24%.