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Things to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer.

The tax filing season is upon us, and many people will be looking for someone to help them file a tax return. These taxpayers should choose their tax return preparer wisely.

This is because it’s ultimately the taxpayer who is responsible for all the information on their income tax return. It’s important for people to remember that this is true no matter who prepares the return. Here are some tips for folks to remember when selecting a preparer. Taxpayers should:

Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.

Check the Preparer’s History. Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer. They should check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. There are some additional organizations about specific types of preparers:

  • Enrolled Agents: Go to the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov.
  • Certified Public Accountants: Check with the State Board of Accountancy.
  • Attorneys: Check with the State Bar Association.

Ask about Service Fees. People should avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.

Ask to e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and choose direct deposit.

Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date. People should avoid “fly-by-night” preparers.

Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.

Never Sign a Blank Return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.

Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. Once they sign the return, taxpayers are accepting responsibility for the information on it.

Review details about any refund. Taxpayers should make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. The taxpayer should review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.

Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.

Get ready for taxes with us here at Tax Associates, Inc

As tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service cautions taxpayers not to rely on receiving their refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills. Some tax returns may require additional review and those refunds may take longer.

Many factors affect refund timing
Just as each tax return is unique and individual, so is each taxpayer’s refund. Here are a few things taxpayers should keep in mind if they are waiting on their refund but hear or see on social media that other taxpayers have already received theirs.

Different factors can affect the timing of a refund. The IRS, along with its partners in the tax industry, continue to strengthen security reviews to help protect against identity theft and refund fraud.

Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, it’s possible a particular taxpayer’s refund may take longer. Some tax returns require additional review and take longer to process than others. It may be necessary when a return has errors, is incomplete or is affected by identity theft or fraud. The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail when more information is needed to process a return.

By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds to people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund, including the portion not associated with the credits. This helps ensure taxpayers receive the refund they’re due by giving the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud.

Using Where’s My Refund?, taxpayers can check the status of their refund within 24 hours after the IRS has received their electronically filed tax return or four weeks after mailing a paper return. It provides a personalized date the taxpayer can expect a refund after the IRS processes the return. Taxpayers should also take into consideration the time it takes to receive a check by mail, or for financial institutions to post the refund to their account.

Year-end bonus, holiday pay and temporary job may affect refund
Various financial transactions, especially those occurring late in the year, can often have an unexpected impact on taxes and any potential refund. Examples include year-end and holiday bonuses, stock dividends, capital gain distributions from mutual funds and stocks, bonds, virtual currency, real estate or other property sold at a profit.

Taxes must be paid as income is earned or received during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. If the amount of tax withheld from salaries or pensions is not enough, the taxpayer may have to make estimated tax payments.

Taxpayers whose 2019 federal income tax withholding unexpectedly falls short of their tax liability for the year, can still make a quarterly estimated tax payment directly to the IRS. The deadline for making a payment for the fourth quarter of 2019 is Jan. 15, 2020.

The Tax Withholding Estimator, available on IRS.gov, can help taxpayers make sure they have the right amount of tax withheld from their pay. For anyone at risk for a tax-time surprise, making an estimated or additional tax payment soon is the fastest solution. Form 1040-ES includes a useful worksheet for figuring the right amount to pay. This form also includes key tax changes and the federal income tax rate schedules for 2019.

A companion publication, Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, has additional details including worksheets and examples that can be especially helpful to those who have dividend or capital gain income, owe alternative minimum tax or have other special situations.

The fastest and easiest way to make an estimated tax payment is to do so electronically using IRS Direct Pay or the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). For information on other payment options, visit IRS.gov/payments.

Taxpayers who pay too little tax during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments, may be charged a penalty when they file. In some cases, a penalty may apply if their estimated tax payments are late, even if they are due a refund when they file.

Certain past-due debt reduces refunds
By law, the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) issues IRS tax refunds and conducts the Treasury Offset Program (TOP). Under TOP, BFS may reduce a taxpayer’s refund and offset all or part of the refund. This is done to pay past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support or other federal nontax debts, such as student loans.

BFS will reduce the refund to pay off the debt owed and send a notice to the taxpayer if an offset occurs. Any portion of the remaining refund after offset is issued in a check or direct deposited to the taxpayer as originally requested on the return.

Separate from the TOP, refund amounts may also be adjusted due to changes the IRS made to the tax return. When that happens, the taxpayer will get a notice explaining the changes. Where’s My Refund? will also reflect the reasons for the refund offset when it relates to a change on the tax return. IRS.gov has more information about refund offsets.

File electronically and use direct deposit
The vast majority of taxpayers get their refunds faster by filing electronically and using direct deposit. It is simple, safe and secure. This is the same electronic transfer system used to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.

Taxpayers select it as their refund method through their tax software and by typing in their bank account number and routing number. Taxpayers can also let their tax preparer know they want direct deposit. It is even also available to the small number of taxpayers still filing by paper.

Refunds should only be deposited directly into accounts that are in the taxpayer’s name, their spouse’s name or both if it’s a joint account. No more than three electronic refunds can be deposited into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card. Taxpayers who exceed the limit will receive an IRS notice and will be mailed a paper refund check. Whether a taxpayer files electronically or on paper, direct deposit gives them access to their refund faster than a paper check.

How taxpayers can make sure their donations are tax deductible

It’s that time of year when taxpayers are thinking about how they want to give back, and many taxpayers will want to donate to a charity that means something to them. The IRS has a tool that may help them make sure their donations are as beneficial as possible.

Tax Exempt Organization Search on IRS.gov is a tool that allows users to search for tax-exempt charities. Taxpayers can use this tool to determine if donations they make to an organization are tax-deductible charitable contributions.

Here are some things to know about the TEOS tool:

  • It provides information about an organization’s federal tax status and filings.
  • It’s mobile device friendly.
  • Donors can use it to confirm that an organization is tax-exempt and eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.
  • Users can find out if an organization had its tax-exempt status revoked.
  • Organizations are listed under the legal name or a “doing business as” name on file with the IRS.
  • The search results are sortable by name, Employee Identification Number, state, and country.
  • Users may also download entire lists of organizations eligible to receive deductible contributions, auto-revoked organizations and e-Postcard filers.

Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant, Can I Deduct my Charitable Contributions? to help determine if a charitable contribution is deductible.

IRS encourages preparation for natural disaster

As Dorian threatens and with the peak of hurricane season just ahead, the Internal Revenue Service reminds everyone to develop an emergency preparedness plan. Taxpayers, whether individuals, organizations or businesses, should take time now to create or update their emergency plans.

Taxpayers can begin getting ready for a disaster with a preparedness plan that includes securing and duplicating essential documents, creating lists of property and knowing where to find information once a disaster has occurred.

Secure key documents and make copies

Taxpayers should place original documents such as tax returns, birth certificates, deeds, titles and insurance policies inside waterproof containers in a secure space. Duplicates of these documents should be kept with a trusted person outside the area a natural disaster may affect. Scanning them for backup storage on electronic media such as a flash drive is another option that provides security and easy portability.

Document valuables and equipment

Taking photographs or videos of a home or business’s contents can help support claims for insurance or tax benefits after a disaster strikes. All property, especially expensive and high value items, should be recorded. The IRS disaster-loss workbooks can help individuals (PDF) and businesses (PDF) compile lists of belongings or business equipment.

Employers should check fiduciary bonds

Employers who use payroll service providers should ask the provider if it has a fiduciary bond in place. The bond could protect the employer in the event of default by the payroll service provider. The IRS also encourages employers to create an EFTPS.gov account where they can monitor their payroll tax deposits and sign up for email alerts.

Rebuilding documents

Reconstructing records after a disaster may be required for tax purposes, getting federal assistance or insurance reimbursement. Taxpayers who have lost some or all of their records during a disaster should visit IRS’s Reconstructing Records webpage.

IRS stands ready

In the case of a federally-declared disaster, taxpayers can visit the Tax Relief in Disaster Situations webpage for information or call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues.

A taxpayer impacted by a disaster outside of a federally declared disaster area may qualify for disaster relief. This includes taxpayers who are not physically located in a disaster area, but whose records necessary to meet a filing or payment deadline postponed during the relief period are located in a covered disaster area. Taxpayers located outside of a federally declared disaster area must self-identify to receive relief by calling 866-562-5227.

Act promptly to avoid revocation of passports

Individuals with significant tax debt should act promptly to avoid revocation of passports

The Internal Revenue Service today urged taxpayers to resolve their significant tax debts to avoid putting their passports in jeopardy. They should contact the IRS now to avoid delays in their travel plans later.

Under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, the IRS notifies the State Department (State) of taxpayers certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt, which is currently $52,000 or more. The law then requires State to deny their passport application or renewal. If a taxpayer currently has a valid passport, State may revoke the passport or limit a taxpayer’s ability to travel outside the United States.

When the IRS certifies a taxpayer to State as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt, the taxpayer receives a Notice CP508C from the IRS. The notice explains what steps the taxpayer needs to take to resolve the debt. IRS telephone assistors can help taxpayers resolve the debt. For example, they can help taxpayers set up a payment plan or make them aware of other payment options. Taxpayers should not delay because some resolutions take longer than others.

Don’t Delay!

It’s especially important for taxpayers with imminent travel plans who have had their passport applications denied by State to call the IRS promptly. The IRS can help taxpayers resolve their tax issues and expedite reversal of their certification to State. When expedited, the IRS can generally shorten the 30 days processing time by 14 to 21 days. For expedited reversal of their certification, taxpayers will need to inform the IRS that they have travel scheduled within 45 days or that they live abroad.

For expedited treatment, taxpayers must provide the following documents to the IRS:

  • Proof of travel. This can be a flight itinerary, hotel reservation, cruise ticket, international car insurance or other document showing location and approximate date of travel or time-sensitive need for a passport.
  • Copy of letter from State denying their passport application or revoking their passport. State has sole authority to issue, limit, deny or revoke a passport.

The IRS may ask State to exercise its authority to revoke a taxpayer’s passport. For example, the IRS may recommend revocation if the IRS had reversed a taxpayer’s certification because of their promise to pay, and they failed to pay. The IRS may also ask State to revoke a passport if the taxpayer could use offshore activities or interests to resolve their debt but chooses not to.

Before contacting State about revoking a taxpayer’s passport, the IRS will send Letter 6152, Notice of Intent to Request U.S. Department of State Revoke Your Passport, to the taxpayer to let them know  what the IRS intends to do and give them another opportunity to resolve their debts . Taxpayers must call the IRS within 30 days from the date of the letter. Generally, the IRS will not recommend revoking a taxpayer’s passport if the taxpayer is making a good-faith attempt to resolve their tax debts.

Ways to Resolve Tax Issues

There are several ways taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify State of their seriously delinquent tax debt. They include the following:

  • Paying the tax debt in full,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an approved installment agreement,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an accepted offer in compromise,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice,
  • Having a pending collection due process appeal with a levy, or
  • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse election or requested innocent spouse relief.

Relief programs for unpaid taxes

Frequently, taxpayers qualify for one of several relief programs including the following:

  • Payment agreement. Taxpayers can ask for a payment plan with the IRS by filing Form 9465. Taxpayers can download this form from IRS.gov and mail it along with a tax return, bill or notice. Taxpayers who are eligible can use the Online Payment Agreement system to set up a monthly payment agreement. Using the Online Payment Agreement system is cheaper and can save time.
  • Offer in compromise. Some taxpayers may qualify for an offer in compromise, an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the tax liability for less than the full amount owed. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to determine the taxpayer’s ability to pay. Taxpayers can use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool to help them determine whether they’re eligible for an offer in compromise.

Subject to change, the IRS also will not certify a taxpayer as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt or will reverse the certification for a taxpayer:

  • Who’s in bankruptcy,
  • Who’s identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft,
  • Whose account the IRS has determined is currently not collectible due to hardship,
  • Who’s located within a federally declared disaster area,
  • Who has a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement,
  • Who has a pending offer in compromise with the IRS, or
  • Who has an IRS accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full.

For taxpayers serving in a combat zone who owe a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS postpones notifying the State Department of the delinquency and the taxpayer’s passport is not subject to denial during the time of service in a combat zone.

Report health care coverage on 2018 tax return

As taxpayers are completing their 2018 tax returns this year, they must complete the lines related to health care.

For tax year 2018, the IRS will not consider a return complete and accurate if individuals do not do one of the following on their return:

  • Report full-year health coverage
  • Claim a coverage exemption
  • Report and make a shared responsibility payment for everyone on the tax return

The law continues to require taxpayers who do not qualify for an exemption to maintain health care coverage in 2018 or make a shared responsibility payment when they file their tax return.

Most taxpayers have qualifying health coverage or a coverage exemption for all 12 months in the year and will check the box on the front of their tax return. Taxpayers who can check the box don’t have to file Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, to claim any coverage exemptions. This includes the coverage exemption for household income below the filing threshold.

Taxpayers who did not have coverage for the entire year and therefore can’t check the box generally must report a shared responsibility payment when they file. They will report this payment for each month that anyone listed on the tax return didn’t have qualifying health care coverage or a coverage exemption.

Taxpayers can determine if they are eligible for a coverage exemption or are responsible for the individual shared responsibility payment by using the Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov.

In addition, taxpayers may be eligible for the premium tax credit if they purchased health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Anyone who needs health coverage can visit HealthCare.gov to learn about health insurance options that are available for them and their family.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the shared responsibility payment is reduced to zero for tax year 2019 and all subsequent years. See Publication 5307, Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families, for information about the shared responsibility payment for tax year 2019.

How to know if you need to file taxes.

Here’s what taxpayers should consider when determining if they need to file

As people prepare to file their taxes, there are things to consider. They will want to determine if they need to file and the best way to do so.

For tax year 2018, all individual taxpayers will file using the new Form 1040. Forms 1040A and 1040EZ are no longer available.  Taxpayers who previously filed these forms will now file Form 1040. The new Form 1040 uses a “building block” approach allowing individuals to add only the schedules they need to their 2018 federal tax return. Taxpayers with more complicated returns will need to complete one or more of the new Form 1040 Schedules. This group of taxpayers includes those who claim certain deductions or credits, or who owe additional taxes.

Individuals who filed their federal tax return electronically last year may not notice any changes, as the tax return preparation software will automatically use their answers to the tax questions to complete the Form 1040 and any needed schedules.

Here are three more things for people to keep in mind as they prepare to file their taxes:

Who is required to file.  In most cases, income, filing status and age determine if a taxpayer must file a tax return. Other rules may apply if the taxpayer is self-employed or if they are a dependent of another person. For example, if a taxpayer is single and younger than age 65, they must file if their income was at least $12,000. There are other instances when a taxpayer must file. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/filing for more information.

Filing to get a refund. Even if a taxpayer doesn’t have to file, they should consider filing a tax return if they can get money back. If a taxpayer answers “yes” to any of these questions, they could be due a refund:

  • Did my employer withhold federal income tax from my pay?
  • Did I make estimated tax payments?
  • Did I overpay on my 2017 tax return and have it applied to 2018?
  • Am I eligible for certain refundable credits such as, the earned income tax credit

Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to answer many tax questions.. They should look for “Do I need to file a return?” under general topics.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return.

If you would like to set up an appointment please feel free to call us at 847-566-3010 or follow the link Appointments

Jan 31 filing deadline for wage statements, contractor forms

The Internal Revenue Service today reminds employers and other businesses of the Jan. 31 filing deadline that applies to filing wage statements and independent contractor forms with the government.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act requires employers to file their copies of Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, with the Social Security Administration by Jan. 31. The Jan. 31 deadline also applies to certain Forms 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, filed with the IRS to report non-employee compensation to independent contractors. Such payments are reported in box 7 of this form.

This deadline makes it easier for the IRS to verify income that individuals report on their tax returns and helps prevent fraud. Failure to file these forms correctly and timely may result in penalties. As always, the IRS urges employers and other businesses to take advantage of the accuracy, speed and convenience of filing these forms electronically.

An extension of time to file Forms W-2 is no longer automatic. The IRS will only grant extensions for specific reasons. Details can be found on the instructions for Form 8809, Application for Extension of Time to File Information Returns.

The IRS noted that some employers who ordered paper information and employer returns may not receive them in time to meet the Jan. 31 deadline and should consider an alternate source for these forms.

If you mailed documents to the IRS and they were returned, read on..

The Tax Court website indicates that mail sent to the court through the U.S.  Postal Service or through designated private delivery services may have been returned undelivered.  If a document you sent to the Tax Court was returned to you, as the Tax Court website indicates, re-mail or re-send the document to the Court with a copy of the envelope or container (with the postmark or proof of mailing date) in which it was first mailed or sent. In addition, please retain the original.

IRS confirms tax filing season to begin January 28

Despite the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service today confirmed that it will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

Congress directed the payment of all tax refunds through a permanent, indefinite appropriation (31 U.S.C. 1324), and the IRS has consistently been of the view that it has authority to pay refunds despite a lapse in annual appropriations. Although in 2011 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the IRS not to pay refunds during a lapse, OMB has reviewed the relevant law at Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse.

The IRS will be recalling a significant portion of its workforce, currently furloughed as part of the government shutdown, to work. Additional details for the IRS filing season will be included in an updated FY2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan to be released publicly in the coming days.

“IRS employees have been hard at work over the past year to implement the biggest tax law changes the nation has seen in more than 30 years,” said Rettig.

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing individual tax returns once the filing season begins. For taxpayers who usually file early in the year and have all of the needed documentation, there is no need to wait to file. They should file when they are ready to submit a complete and accurate tax return.

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019 for most taxpayers.  Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019 to file their returns.

Software companies and tax professionals will be accepting and preparing tax returns before Jan. 28 and then will submit the returns when the IRS systems open later this month. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds.