The earned income tax credit can put money in taxpayers’ pockets

October 9, 2019

The earned income tax credit benefits working people with low-to-moderate income. Last year, the average credit was $2,445. EITC not only reduces the amount of tax someone owes, but may also give them a refund, even if they don’t owe any tax at all.

Here are a few things people should know about this credit:

  • Taxpayers may move in and out of eligibility for the credit throughout the year. This may happen after major life events. Because of this, it’s a good idea for people to find out if they qualify.
  • To qualify, people must meet certain requirements and file a federal tax return. They must file even if they don’t owe any tax or aren’t otherwise required to file.
  • Taxpayers qualify based on their income, the number of children they have, and the filing status they use on their tax return. For a child to qualify, they must live with the taxpayer for more than six months of the year.

Here’s a quick look at the income limits for the different filing statuses. Those who work and earn less than these amounts may qualify.

Married filing jointly:

  • Zero children: $21,370
  • One child: $46,884
  • Two children: $52,493
  • Three or more children: $55,952

Head of household and single:

  • Zero children: $15,570
  • One child: $41,094
  • Two children: $46,703
  • Three or more children: $50,162

The maximum credit amounts are based on the number of children a taxpayer has. They are the same for all filing statuses:

  • Zero children: $529
  • One child: $3,526
  • Two children: $5,828
  • Three or more children: $6,557

Taxpayers who file using the status married filing separately cannot claim EITC.
More information:
Publication 5334, Do I Qualify for EITC?

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Reminder: Oct. 15 deadline approaching for taxpayers who requested extensions

October 7, 2019

WASHINGTON — Taxpayers who requested the six-month filing extension should complete their tax returns and file on or before the Oct. 15 deadline. Convenient electronic filing options, including IRS  Free File, are still available.

Filing electronically is easy, safe and the most accurate way to file taxes. There are a variety of electronic filing options. Those options include having tax returns prepared at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance or Tax Counseling for the Elderly site, purchasing commercial software or choosing a reputable tax professional who is also an authorized e-file provider.

About 15 million taxpayers filed for an extension this year. Although Oct. 15 is the last day for most people to file, some may have more time. They include:

  • Members of the military and others serving in a combat zone. They typically have 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due.
  • Taxpayers in federally-declared disaster areas who already had valid extensions. For details, see the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

Extension filers can file when they are ready and don’t have to wait until Oct. 15 to file. Taxpayers who did not request an extension and have yet to file a 2018 tax return can generally avoid additional penalties and interest by filing the return as soon as possible and paying any taxes owed.

New Form 1040
Form 1040 has been redesigned for tax year 2018. The revised form consolidates Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040-EZ into one form that all individual taxpayers will use to file their 2018 federal income tax return.

The new form uses a “building block” approach that can be supplemented with additional schedules as needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations will only need to file the Form 1040 with no additional schedules. People who use tax software will still follow the steps they’re familiar with from previous years. Since nearly 90 percent of taxpayers now use tax software, the IRS expects the change to Form 1040 and its schedules to be seamless for those who file electronically.

Recordkeeping and adjusted gross income
As a reminder, taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax returns and supporting documents for a minimum of three years. Some taxpayers using a tax-filing software product for the first time may need their adjusted gross income amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity.

Taxpayers using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter their prior year information to electronically sign their 2018 tax return. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Payment options
IRS Direct Pay offers taxpayers a fast way to pay what they owe. Direct Pay is free and allows individuals to securely pay their tax bills or make quarterly estimated tax payments online directly from checking or savings accounts without any fees or pre-registration.

Taxpayers can also pay by debit or credit card. While the IRS does not charge a fee for this service, the payment processer does. Other payment options include the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (enrollment is required) and electronic funds withdrawal which is available when e-filing. Taxpayers can also pay what they owe using the IRS2Go mobile app. Those choosing to pay by check or money order should make the payment out to the “United States Treasury.”

Eligible taxpayers can set up an online payment agreement in a matter of minutes to pay tax, interest and penalties they may owe. There is no application fee to setup payment plans lasting 120 days or less. In 2019, over 1 million agreements were set up by taxpayers online.

Individual taxpayers can go to IRS.gov/account and login to view their balance, payment history, pay their taxes and access tax records through Get Transcript. Before setting up an account, taxpayers should review Secure Access: How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools to make sure they have the information needed to verify their identities.

Prepare for next year − Do a ‘Paycheck Checkup’ now
The IRS also urges extension filers to do a “Paycheck Checkup” now. It helps make sure the right amount is being withheld from their checks following tax reform. If a change is needed, there’s still time to adjust withholding during the last quarter of the year.

Taxpayers can use the Tax Withholding Estimator to approximate their 2019 income taxes and proper withholding. The tool compares the estimate to current withholding to help taxpayers decide if they want to change that amount with their employer. Taxpayers should have their 2018 tax return available when using the tool to estimate income, deductions, adjustments and credits for 2019. They will also need their most recent pay stub to compute the amount of withholding so far this year.

With major changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS encourages taxpayers seeking more information on tax reform to review Publication 5307, Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families, and Publication 5318,


What teachers should know about deducting out-of-pocket classroom expenses

October 2, 2019

Now that fall is here and school has started, many teachers are dipping into their own pockets to buy classroom supplies. Doing this throughout the year can add up fast. Fortunately, eligible educators may be able to defray qualified expenses they paid in 2019 when they file their tax return in 2020.

Educators who work in schools may qualify to deduct up to $250 of unreimbursed expenses. That amount goes up to $500 if two qualified educators are married and file a joint return. However, neither spouse can deduct more than $250 of his or her qualified expenses when they file.

Taxpayers qualify for this deduction if they:

  • Teach any grade from kindergarten through twelfth grade.
  • Are a teacher, instructor, counselor, principal or aide.
  • Work at least 900 hours during the school year.
  • Work in a school that provides elementary or secondary education.

Qualified expenses include:

  • Professional development courses.
  • Books.
  • Supplies.
  • Computer equipment including related software and services.
  • Supplementary materials.
  • Athletic supplies only for health and physical education.

Eligible taxpayers can claim this deduction when they file their taxes. The IRS encourages teachers to consider using tax software to help guide them through the process of claiming the deduction.


IRS finalizes safe harbor to allow rental real estate to qualify as a business for qualified business income deduction

September 30, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued Revenue Procedure 2019-38 that has a safe harbor allowing certain interests in rental real estate, including interests in mixed-use property, to be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the qualified business income deduction under section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code (section 199A deduction).

If all the safe harbor requirements are met, an interest in rental real estate will be treated as a single trade or business for purposes of the section 199A deduction. If an interest in real estate fails to satisfy all the requirements of the safe harbor, it may still be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the section 199A deduction if it otherwise meets the definition of a trade or business in the section 199A regulations.

This safe harbor is available for taxpayers who seek to claim the section 199A deduction with respect to a “rental real estate enterprise.” Solely for purposes of this safe harbor, a rental real estate enterprise is defined as an interest in real property held to generate rental or lease income. It may consist of an interest in a single property or interests in multiple properties. The taxpayer or a relevant passthrough entity (RPE) relying on this revenue procedure must hold each interest directly or through an entity disregarded as an entity separate from its owner, such as a limited liability company with a single member.

The following requirements must be met by taxpayers or RPEs to qualify for this safe harbor:

  • Separate books and records are maintained to reflect income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise.
  • For rental real estate enterprises that have been in existence less than four years, 250 or more hours of rental services are performed per year. For other rental real estate enterprises, 250 or more hours of rental services are performed in at least three of the past five years.
  • The taxpayer maintains contemporaneous records, including time reports, logs, or similar documents, regarding the following: hours of all services performed; description of all services performed; dates on which such services were performed; and who performed the services.
  • The taxpayer or RPE attaches a statement to the return filed for the tax year(s) the safe harbor is relied upon.

Third quarter estimated tax payment due Sept. 16

September 9, 2019

Online tools at IRS.gov help people stay current

WASHINGTON – With major tax reform now in its second year and taxpayers seeing its full effect on 2018 returns, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded people who pay estimated tax that their third quarter payment for 2019 is due Monday, Sept. 16.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), enacted in December 2017, fundamentally changed the way tax is calculated for most taxpayers, including those with income not subject to withholding. By making quarterly estimated tax payments, however, people can better stay up to date with their taxes throughout the year.

Who needs to pay quarterly?

Most often, self-employed people, including many involved in the sharing economy, need to pay quarterly installments of estimated tax. Similarly, investors, retirees and others often need to make these payments as well. That’s because a substantial portion of their income is not subject to withholding. Other income generally not subject to withholding includes interest, dividends, capital gains, alimony and rental income.

Special rules apply to some groups of taxpayers, such as farmers, fishermen, casualty and disaster victims, those who recently became disabled, recent retirees and those who receive income unevenly during the year.

Taxpayers can avoid an underpayment penalty by owing less than $1,000 at tax time or by paying most of their taxes during the year. Generally, for 2019, that means making payments of at least 90% of the tax expected on their 2019 return.

Taxes are pay-as-you-go

This means taxpayers need to pay most of their taxes owed during the year as income is received. There are two ways to do that:

  • Withholding from pay, pension or certain government payments such as Social Security; and/or
  • Making quarterly estimated tax payments during the year.

As a result of tax reform or a recent life change such as marriage, many taxpayers may need to raise or lower the amount of tax they pay each quarter through the estimated tax system.

Tax Withholding Estimator

This new and improved tool is now more mobile friendly and replaces the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov. The new design makes it easier for everyone to do a Paycheck Checkup and have the right amount of tax withheld during the year. The estimator offers workers, as well as retirees, self-employed individuals and other taxpayers a clear, step-by-step method for effectively tailoring the amount of income tax they should have withheld from wages and pension payments.


These tax tips can help new business owners find success

September 9, 2019

Starting a business can be very rewarding. It can also be a little overwhelming. From business plans to market strategies, and even tax responsibilities…there are many things to consider. Here’s what new business owners can do to help get off to a good start.

  • Choose a business structure. The form of business determines which income tax return a business taxpayer needs to file. The most common business structures are:
    • Sole proprietorship: An unincorporated business owned by an individual. There’s no distinction between the taxpayer and their business.
    • Partnership: An unincorporated business with ownership shared between two or more people.
    • Corporation: Also known as a C corporation. It’s a separate entity owned by shareholders.
    • S Corporation: A corporation that elects to pass corporate income, losses, deductions, and credits through to the shareholders.
    • Limited Liability Company: A business structure allowed by state statute.
  • Choose a tax year. A tax year is an annual accounting period for keeping records and reporting income and expenses. A new business owner must choose either:
    • Calendar year: 12 consecutive months beginning January 1 and ending December 31.
    • Fiscal year: 12 consecutive months ending on the last day of any month except December.
  • Apply for an employer identification number. An EIN is also called a federal tax identification number. It’s used to identify a business. Most businesses need an EIN.
  • Have all employees complete these forms:
    • Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification
    • Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate
  • Pay business taxes. The form of business determines what taxes must be paid and how to pay them.

IRS automatically waives estimated tax penalty for eligible 2018 tax filers

August 26, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is automatically waiving the estimated tax penalty for the more than 400,000 eligible taxpayers who already filed their 2018 federal income tax returns but did not claim the waiver.

The IRS will apply this waiver to tax accounts of all eligible taxpayers, so there is no need to contact the IRS to apply for or request the waiver.

Earlier this year, the IRS lowered the usual 90% penalty threshold to 80% to help taxpayers whose withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total 2018 tax liability. The agency also removed the requirement that estimated tax payments be made in four equal installments, as long as they were all made by Jan. 15, 2019. The 90% threshold was initially lowered to 85% on Jan 16 and further lowered to 80% on March 22.

The automatic waiver applies to any individual taxpayer who paid at least 80% of their total tax liability through federal income tax withholding or quarterly estimated tax payments but did not claim the special waiver available to them when they filed their 2018 return earlier this year.

“The IRS is taking this step to help affected taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “This waiver is designed to provide relief to any person who filed too early to take advantage of the waiver or was unaware of it when they filed.”

Refunds planned for eligible taxpayers who paid penalty
Over the next few months, the IRS will mail copies of notices CP 21 granting this relief to affected taxpayers. Any eligible taxpayer who already paid the penalty will also receive a refund check about three weeks after their CP21 notice regardless if they requested penalty relief. The agency emphasized that eligible taxpayers who have already filed a 2018 return do not need to request penalty relief, contact the IRS or take any other action to receive this relief.

For those yet to file, the IRS urges every eligible taxpayer to claim the waiver on their return. This includes those with tax-filing extensions due to run out on Oct. 15, 2019. The quickest and easiest way is to file electronically and take advantage of the waiver computation built into their tax software package. Those who choose to file on paper can fill out Form 2210 and attach it to their 2018 return. See the instructions to Form 2210 for details.

Because the U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go, taxpayers are required by law to pay most of their tax obligation during the year, rather than at the end of the year. This can be done by having tax withheld from paychecks, pension payments or Social Security benefits, making estimated tax payments or a combination of these methods.

Like last year, the IRS urges everyone to do a “Paycheck Checkup” and review their withholding for 2019. This is especially important for anyone who faced an unexpected tax bill or a penalty when they filed this year. It’s also an important step for those who made withholding adjustments in 2018 or had a major life change. Those most at risk of having too little tax withheld include those who itemized in the past but now take the increased standard deduction, as well as two wage earner households, employees with nonwage sources of income and those with complex tax situations.

To get started, check out the new Tax Withholding Estimator, available on IRS.gov.


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