Homeownership and taxes: Things taxpayers should consider when selling a house

June 10, 2021

It’s important for taxpayers to understand how selling their home may affect their tax return. When filing their taxes, they may qualify to exclude all or part of any gain from the sale from their income.

Here are some key things homeowners should consider when selling a home:

Ownership and use
To claim the exclusion, the taxpayer must meet ownership and use tests. During a five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have owned the home and lived in it as their main home for at least two years.

Gains
Taxpayers who sell their main home and have a gain from the sale may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from their income. Taxpayers who file a joint return with their spouse may be able to exclude up to $500,000. Homeowners excluding all the gain do not need to report the sale on their tax return.

Losses
Some taxpayers experience a loss when their main home sells for less than what they paid for it. This loss is not deductible.

Multiple homes
Taxpayers who own more than one home can only exclude the gain on the sale of their main home. They must pay taxes on the gain from selling any other home.

Reported sale
Taxpayers who don’t qualify to exclude all the taxable gain from their income must report the gain from the sale of their home when they file their tax return. Anyone who chooses not to claim the exclusion must report the taxable gain on their tax return. Taxpayers who receive Form 1099-S, Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions must report the sale on their tax return even if they have no taxable gain.

Possible exceptions
There are exceptions to these rules for some individuals, including persons with a disability, certain members of the military, intelligence community and Peace Corps workers.

Worksheets
Worksheets included in Publication 523Selling Your Home can help taxpayers figure the adjusted basis of the home sold, the gain or loss on the sale and the excluded gain on the sale.


Here’s how saying “I do” can affect a couples tax situation

June 9, 2021

The arrival of summer is also the start of wedding season. Marriage changes many things and taxes is one of them. Newlyweds should know how tying the knot can affect their tax situation.

Here’s a tax checklist for newly married couples:

Name and address changes

  • Name. When a name changes through marriage, it is important to report that change to the Social Security Administration. The name on a person’s tax return must match what is on file at the SSA. If it doesn’t, it could delay any tax refund. To update information, taxpayers should file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. It is available on SSA.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or at a local SSA office.
  • Address. If marriage means a change of address, the IRS and U.S. Postal Service need to know. To do that, people should send the IRS Form 8822,Change of Address. Taxpayers should also notify the postal service to forward their mail by going online at USPS.com or their local post office.

Withholding

  • After getting married, couples should consider changing their withholding. Newly married couples must give their employers a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance within 10 days. If both spouses work, they may move into a higher tax bracket or be affected by the additional Medicare tax. They can use the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov to help complete a new Form W-4. Taxpayers should review Publication 505,Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax for more information.

Filing status

  • Married people can choose to file their federal income taxes jointly or separately each year. While filing jointly is usually more beneficial, it’s best to figure the tax both ways to find out which works best. Remember, if a couple is married as of December 31, the law says they’re married for the whole year for tax purposes.

IRS sending letters to more than 36 million families who may qualify for monthly Child Tax Credits; payments start July 15

June 8, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has started sending letters to more than 36 million American families who, based on tax returns filed with the agency, may be eligible to receive monthly Child Tax Credit payments starting in July.

The expanded and newly-advanceable Child Tax Credit was authorized by the American Rescue Plan Act, enacted in March. The letters are going to families who may be eligible based on information they included in either their 2019 or 2020 federal income tax return or who used the Non-Filers tool on IRS.gov last year to register for an Economic Impact Payment.
Families who are eligible for advance Child Tax Credit payments will receive a second, personalized letter listing an estimate of their monthly payment, which begins July 15.

Most families do not need to take any action to get their payment. Normally, the IRS will calculate the payment amount based on the 2020 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 will instead determine the payment amount using the 2019 return.

Eligible families will begin receiving advance payments, either by direct deposit or check. The payment will be up to $300 per month for each qualifying child under age 6 and up to $250 per month for each qualifying child ages 6 to 17.The IRS will issue advance Child Tax Credit payments on July 15, Aug. 13, Sept. 15, Oct. 15, Nov. 15 and Dec. 15.

Eligible families should file tax returns soon

The IRS urges individuals and families who haven’t yet filed their 2020 return – or 2019 return – to do so as soon as possible so they can receive any advance payment they’re eligible for.

Filing soon will also ensure that the IRS has their most current banking information, as well as key details about qualifying children. This includes people who don’t normally file a tax return, such as families experiencing homelessness, the rural poor, and other under served groups.

For most people, the fastest and easiest way to file a return is by using the Free File system, available only on IRS.gov.

Throughout the summer, the IRS will be adding additional tools and online resources to help with the advance Child Tax Credit. One of these tools will enable families to unenroll from receiving these advance payments and instead receive the full amount of the credit when they file their 2021 return next year.

Additionally, later this year, individuals and families will also be able to go to IRS.gov and use a Child Tax Credit Update Portal to notify IRS of changes in their income, filing status, or number of qualifying children; update their direct deposit information; and make other changes to ensure they are receiving the right amount as quickly as possible.


Approaching June 15 deadline for second quarter estimated tax payments

June 8, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers who pay estimated taxes that they have until June 15 to pay their estimated tax payment for the second quarter of tax year 2021 without penalty.

Estimated tax is the method used to pay tax on income that isn’t subject to withholding. This includes income from self-employment, interest, dividends, rent, gains from the sale of assets, prizes and awards. You may also have to pay estimated tax if the amount of income tax being withheld from your salary, pension or other income isn’t enough.

Who must pay estimated tax?
Individuals, including sole proprietors, partners, and S corporation shareholders, generally have to make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when they file their return.

Individual taxpayers can use the IRS Interactive Tax Assistant online to see if they are required to pay estimated taxes. They can also see the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals for more details on who must pay estimated tax.

Corporations generally have to make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe tax of $500 or more when they file their return. Corporations can see Form 1120-W, Estimated Tax for Corporations for more information.

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

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 self-employment tax, or have other special situations.

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
  • Making quarterly estimated tax payments 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 2021 that means making payments of at least 90% of the tax expected on their 2021 return. Most taxpayers who pay at least 100 percent of the tax shown on their return for tax year 2020 may also avoid the penalty. There are special rules for farmers and fishermen, certain household employers and certain higher income taxpayers. For more information, refer to Form 1040-ES.

Generally, taxpayers should make estimated tax payments in four equal amounts to avoid a penalty. However, if they receive income unevenly during the year, they may be able to vary the amounts of the payments to avoid or lower the penalty by using the annualized installment method. Taxpayers can use Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates, and Trusts to see if they owe a penalty for underpaying their estimated tax.

Third quarter payments are due September 15 and the final estimated tax payment for tax year 2021 is due on January 17, 2022.

Tax Withholding Estimator
If a taxpayer receives salaries and wages, they can avoid having to pay estimated tax by asking their employer to withhold more tax from their earnings. To do this, they would submit a new Form W-4 to their employer.

If a taxpayer receives a paycheck, the Tax Withholding Estimator can help them make sure they have the right amount of tax withheld from their pay.

The Tax Withholding Estimator offers workers, as well as retirees, self-employed individuals and other taxpayers a clear, step-by-step method for effectively checking their withholding to protect against having too little tax withheld and facing an unexpected tax bill or penalty at tax time next year.

How to pay estimated taxes
Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, includes instructions to help taxpayers figure their estimated taxes.

The fastest and easiest ways for individuals to make an estimated tax payment is electronically by using IRS Direct Pay from their checking or savings account or pay using a debit or credit card. Taxpayers should note that the payment processor, not the IRS, charges a fee for debit and credit card payments. Both Direct Pay and the pay by debit or credit card options are available online at IRS.gov and through the IRS2Go app.  

Taxpayers can also use the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) to make an estimated tax payment.

Corporations must use electronic funds transfer to make all federal tax deposits (such as deposits of employment, excise, and corporate income tax). This includes installment payments of estimated tax. Generally, electronic funds transfer is made using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). However, if the corporation does not want to use EFTPS, it can arrange for its tax professional, financial institution, payroll service, or other trusted third party to make electronic deposits on its behalf.

If taxpayers opt to mail a check or money order, they should make them payable to the “United States Treasury.”


Here’s how taxpayers can pay the right amount of tax throughout the year

June 8, 2021

Federal taxes are pay-as-you-go. This means that people need to pay most of their tax during the year, as they earn income. This can be done either through withholding or estimated tax payments.

If the amount of income tax withheld from a taxpayer’s salary or pension is not enough, or they receive income such as interest, dividends, alimony, self-employment income, capital gains, prizes and awards, they may need to make estimated tax payments. Self-employed taxpayers may also need to make estimated tax payments.

Adjust 2021 withholding
All taxpayers should review their federal withholding each year to make sure they’re not having too little or too much tax withheld.

Employees, retirees and self-employed individuals can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to help decide if they should make a change to their withholding. This online tool guides users, step-by-step through the process of checking their withholding, and provides withholding recommendations to help aim for their desired refund amount when they file next year. Taxpayers can check with their employer to update their withholding or submit a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate.

Make 2021 estimated tax payments
Estimated payments are another way for taxpayers to pay what they owe in separate quarterly payments. For tax year 2021, remaining quarterly estimated tax payments are due from individual taxpayers on June 15 and September 15, 2021, and January 15, 2022. The fastest and easiest way to make estimated tax payments is electronically using Direct Pay or Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov for other payment options.


IRS: Unemployment compensation is taxable; Have tax withheld now and avoid a tax-time surprise

August 18, 2020

WASHINGTON – With millions of Americans now receiving taxable unemployment compensation, many of them for the first time, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded people receiving unemployment compensation that they can have tax withheld from their benefits now to help avoid owing taxes on this income when they file their federal income tax return next year.

By law, unemployment compensation is taxable and must be reported on a 2020 federal income tax return. Taxable benefits include any of the special unemployment compensation authorized under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted this spring.

Withholding is voluntary. Federal law allows any recipient to choose to have a flat 10% withheld from their benefits to cover part or all of their tax liability. To do that, fill out  Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request (PDF), and give it to the agency paying the benefits. Don’t send it to the IRS. If the payor has its own withholding request form, use it instead.

If a recipient doesn’t choose withholding, or if withholding is not enough, they can make quarterly estimated tax payments instead. The payment for the first two quarters of 2020 was due on July 15. Third and fourth quarter payments are due on Sept. 15, 2020, and Jan. 15, 2021, respectively. For more information, including some helpful worksheets, see Form 1040-ES and Publication 505, available on IRS.gov.

Here are some types of payments taxpayers should check their withholding on:

  • Unemployment compensation includes: Benefits paid by a state or the District of Columbia from the Federal Unemployment Trust Fund
  • Railroad unemployment compensation benefits
  • Disability benefits paid as a substitute for unemployment compensation
  • Trade readjustment allowances under the Trade Act of 1974
  • Unemployment assistance under the Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1974, and
  • Unemployment assistance under the Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 Program

Recipients who return to work before the end of the year can use the IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to make sure they are having enough tax taken out of their pay. Available only on IRS.gov, this online tool can help any worker or pension recipient avoid or lessen their year-end tax bill or estimate the refund they want.

In January 2021, unemployment benefit recipients should receive a Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (PDF) from the agency paying the benefits. The form will show the amount of unemployment compensation they received during 2020 in Box 1, and any federal income tax withheld in Box 4. Taxpayers report this information, along with their W-2 income, on their 2020 federal tax return. For more information on unemployment, see Unemployment Benefits in Publication 525.


IRS.gov-Get My Payment

April 26, 2020

IRS enhances Get My Payment online application to help taxpayers

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today announced significant enhancements to the “Get My Payment” tool to deliver an improved and smoother experience for Americans eligible to receive Economic Impact Payments.

The enhancements, which started last week and continued through the weekend, adjusted several items related to the online tool, which debuted on April 15. The additional changes will help millions of additional taxpayers with new or expanded information and access to adding direct deposit information.

“We delivered Get My Payment with new capabilities that did not exist during any similar relief program, including the ability to receive direct deposit information that accelerates payments to millions of people,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “These further enhancements will help even more taxpayers. We urge people who haven’t received a payment date yet to visit Get My Payment again for the latest information. IRS teams worked long hours to deliver Get My Payment in record time, and we will continue to make improvements to help Americans.”

“We encourage people to check back in and visit Get My Payment,” Rettig added. “These enhancements will help many taxpayers. By using Get My Payment now, more people will be able to get payments quickly by being able to add direct deposit information.”

How to use Get My Payment
Available only on IRS.gov, the online application is safe and secure to use. Taxpayers only need a few pieces of information to quickly obtain the status of their payment and, where needed, provide their bank account information. Having a copy of their most recent tax return can help speed the process.

As a reminder, Get My Payment is a U.S. Government system for authorized use only. The tool is solely for use by individuals or those legally authorized by the individual to access their information. Unauthorized use is prohibited and subject to criminal and civil penalties.

  • For taxpayers to track the status of their payment, this feature will show taxpayers the scheduled delivery date by direct deposit or mail and the last four digits of the bank account being used if the IRS has direct deposit information. They will need to enter basic information including:
    • Social Security number
    • Date of birth, and
    • Mailing address used on their tax return.
  • Taxpayers needing to add their bank account information to speed receipt of their payment will also need to provide the following additional information:
    • Their Adjusted Gross Income from their most recent tax return submitted, either 2019 or 2018
    • The refund or amount owed from their latest filed tax return
    • Bank account type, account and routing numbers

Get My Payment cannot update bank account information after an Economic Impact Payment has been scheduled for delivery. To help protect against potential fraud, the tool also does not allow people to change bank account information already on file with the IRS.


New Form 1040-SR, alternative filing option available for seniors

January 30, 2020

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service wants seniors to know about the availability of a new tax form, Form 1040-SR, featuring larger print and a standard deduction chart with a goal of making it easier for older Americans to read and use.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 required the IRS to create a tax form for seniors. Taxpayers age 65 or older now have the option to use Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors. Form 1040-SR, when printed, features larger font and better readability.

Taxpayers who electronically file Form 1040-SR may notice the change when they print their return. More than 90% of taxpayers now use tax software to prepare and file their tax return.

Taxpayers born before Jan. 2, 1955, have the option to file Form 1040-SR whether they are working, not working or retired. The form allows income reporting from other sources common to seniors such as investment income, Social Security and distributions from qualified retirement plans, annuities or similar deferred-payment arrangements.

Seniors can use Form 1040-SR to file their 2019 federal income tax return, which is due April 15, 2020. All lines and checkboxes on Form 1040-SR mirror the Form 1040, and both forms use all the same attached schedules and forms. The revised 2019 Instructions cover both Forms 1040 and 1040-SR.

Eligible taxpayers can use Form 1040-SR whether they plan to itemize or take the standard deduction. Taxpayers who itemize deductions can file Form 1040-SR and attach Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, when filing a paper return. For those taking the standard deduction, Form 1040-SR includes a chart listing the standard deduction amounts, making it easier to calculate. It also ensures seniors are aware of the increased standard deduction for taxpayers age 65 and older.

Married people filing a joint return can use the Form 1040-SR regardless of whether one or both spouses are age 65 or older or retired.

Both the 1040 and the 1040-SR use the same “building block” approach introduced last year that can be supplemented with additional Schedules 1, 2 and 3 as needed. Many taxpayers with basic tax situations can file Form 1040 or 1040-SR with no additional schedules.


IRS issues standard mileage rates for 2020

January 12, 2020

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2020 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2020, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 57.5 cents per mile driven for business use, down one half of a cent from the rate for 2019,
  • 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down three cents from the rate for 2019, and
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

The business mileage rate decreased one half of a cent for business travel driven and three cents for medical and certain moving expense from the rates for 2019. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

It is important to note that under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers cannot claim a miscellaneous itemized deduction for unreimbursed employee travel expenses. Taxpayers also cannot claim a deduction for moving expenses, except members of the Armed Forces on active duty moving under orders to a permanent change of station. For more details, see Rev. Proc. 2019-46.

The standard mileage rate for business use is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than five vehicles used simultaneously. These and other limitations are described in section 4.05 of Rev. Proc. 2019-46.

Notice 2020-05, posted today on IRS.gov, contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.  In addition, for employer-provided vehicles, the Notice provides the maximum fair market value of automobiles first made available to employees for personal use in calendar year 2020 for which employers may use the fleet-average valuation rule in § 1.61-21(d)(5)(v) or the vehicle cents-per-mile valuation rule in § 1.61-21(e).


Get ready for taxes: Here’s what to know about the amount of a tax refund

December 10, 2019

After filing their tax return, a taxpayer will know whether they are receiving a refund. Sometimes, however, a taxpayer’s refund will be for a different amount than they expect.

Here are some reasons a taxpayer’s refund might be less than they thought it would be:

  • Financial transactions happening late in the year can have an unexpected tax impact if a taxpayer’s 2019 federal income tax withholding unexpectedly falls short of their tax liability for the year. Certain transactions can affect 2019 tax withholding and influence the taxpayer’s anticipated refund next year. This includes things like:

    o Year-end and holiday bonuses.
    o Stock dividends.
    o Capital gain distributions from mutual funds and
    stocks.
    o Real estate or other property sold at a profit.

    If this happens, taxpayers can still make a quarterly estimated tax payment directly to the IRS for tax year 2019. The deadline for making a payment for the fourth quarter of 2019 is Wednesday, Jan. 15, 2020. Form 1040-ES includes a worksheet to help taxpayers figure the right amount of estimated taxes to pay.

  • A taxpayer’s refund can be used to pay other debts a taxpayer owes. All or part of a refund can go to pay a taxpayer’s:

    o Past-due federal tax.
    o State income tax.
    o State unemployment compensation debts.
    o Child and spousal support.
    o Other federal nontax debts, such as student loans.

    A taxpayer receives a notice if their debt meets the criteria for an offset. The IRS issues any remaining refund in a check or direct deposit as the taxpayer originally requested on the return.

 


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