Get Ready for Taxes:

December 5, 2018

Safekeeping tax records helps for future filing, amended returns, audits

WASHINGTON — With the tax filing season quickly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service wants taxpayers to understand how long to keep tax returns and other documents.

This is the seventh in a series of reminders to help taxpayers Get Ready for the upcoming tax filing season. The IRS has recently updated its Get Ready page with steps to take now for the 2019 filing season.

The IRS generally recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. Employment tax records should be kept at least four years after the date that the tax becomes due or paid, whichever is later. Tax records should be kept at least seven years if a return claims a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction. Copies of previously-filed tax returns are helpful in preparing current-year tax returns and making computations if a return needs to be amended.

Safe-keeping records

Tax records should be kept safe and secure regardless of whether they are stored on paper or kept electronically. Paper records should be kept in a secure location, preferably under lock and key, such as a secure desk drawer or a safe. Records retained electronically should be backed up electronically and encrypted when possible. The IRS also suggests scanning paper tax and financial records into a format that can be encrypted and stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD with photos or videos of valuables.

Disposing of records

Tax records contain sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, income amounts and bank account information. Tax documents not properly disposed of can land in the hands of criminals and lead to identity theft. Once past their useful date, records should be disposed of properly. Paper tax returns and supporting documents should be shredded before being discarded. Old computers, back-up drives and media contain sensitive data. Deleting stored tax files will not completely erase them. Using special wiping software ensures the removal of sensitive data.

Taxpayers still keeping old tax returns and receipts stuffed in a shoebox may want to rethink their approach. When records are no longer needed the data should be properly destroyed. More information is available on IRS.gov at How long should I keep records?

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Tool on IRS.gov helps taxpayers research charities before making donations

December 3, 2018

When people are done giving thanks at the dinner table, many start another kind of giving. The annual Giving Tuesday happens the week after Thanksgiving to kick off the season of charitable giving. This year, Giving Tuesday falls on Tuesday, November 27.

Taxpayers may be able to deduct donations to tax-exempt organizations on their tax return. As people are deciding where to make their donations, the IRS has a tool that may help. Tax Exempt Organization Search on IRS.gov is a tool that allows users to search for charities. It provides information about an organization’s federal tax status and filings.

Here are four facts about the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool:

  • Donors can use it to confirm 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. A common reason for revocation is when an organization does not file its Form 990-series return for three consecutive years.
  • EO Select Check does not list certain organizations that may be eligible to receive tax-deductible donations, including churches, organizations in a group ruling, and governmental entities.
  • Organizations are listed under the legal name or a “doing business as” name on file with the IRS. No separate listing of common or popular names is searchable.

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

Taxpayers may also want to decide now if they’ll itemize their deductions when they file next year. Last year’s tax reform legislation made changes to the standard deductions and itemized deductions. Many individuals who formerly itemized may now find it more beneficial to take the standard deduction. So, taxpayers should check their 2017 itemized deductions to make sure they understand what these changes mean to their tax situation for 2018. More information about these changes is on IRS.gov/taxreform.


Important Reminders about Tip Income

February 19, 2013

 

If your pay from your job includes tips, the IRS has a few important reminders about tip income:

  • Tips are taxable. Individuals must pay federal income tax on any tips they receive. The value of non-cash tips, such as tickets, passes or other items of value are also subject to income tax.
  • Include all tips on your return. You must include all tips that you receive during the year on your income tax return. This includes tips you received directly from customers, tips added to credit cards and your share of tips received under a tip-splitting agreement with other employees.
  • Report tips to your employer. If you receive $20 or more in cash tips in any one month, you must report your tips for that month to your employer. Your employer is required to withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on the  reported tips.

Keep a daily log of tips. You can use IRS Publication 1244, Employee’s Daily Record.


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