Ah, summertime! Warm days, rest and recreation and…tax scams. Thieves don’t stop victimizing unsuspecting taxpayers with their scams after April 15. Identity theft, phone and phishing scams happen year-round. Those three top the IRS’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams this year. Here’s some important information you should know about these common tax scams:
The IRS has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov. It has many resources you can use to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. The page can also tell you what steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft and need help. This includes how and when you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit.
Keep in mind that if a person owes taxes, the IRS will first contact them by mail, not by phone. The IRS doesn’t ask for payment with a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If you owe, or think you might owe federal taxes and you get one of these calls, hang up. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS will work with you to pay what you owe. If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
The IRS doesn’t contact people by email about their tax account. Nor does the agency use email, social media, texting or fax to initiate contact or ask for personal or financial information. If you get an email like this, do not click on a link or open any attachments. You should instead forward it to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on this topic visit IRS.gov and select the ‘Reporting Phishing’ link at the bottom of the page.
Don’t let tax scams take the fun out of your summer. Be alert to phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Visit the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov, for more on what you can do to avoid becoming a victim and how to report tax fraud.
Whether you like to play the ponies, roll the dice or pull the slots, your gambling winnings are taxable. You must report all your gambling income on your tax return. If you’re a casual gambler, odds are good that these basic tax tips can help you at tax time next year:
Additional IRS Resources:
Taxes may not be high on your summer wedding plan checklist. But you should be aware of the tax issues that come along with marriage. Here are some basic tips that can help keep those issues to a minimum:
Note for same-sex married couples: If you are legally married in a state or country that recognizes same-sex marriage, you generally must file as married on your federal tax return. This is true even if you and your spouse later live in a state or country that does not recognize same-sex marriage. See irs.gov for more information on this topic.
For more information, visit IRS.gov. You can also get IRS forms and publications on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
If you agree, you don’t need to reply unless a payment is due.
If you don’t agree, it’s important that you respond to the IRS. Write a letter that explains why you don’t agree. Make sure to include information and any documents you want the IRS to consider. Include the bottom tear-off portion of the notice with your letter. Mail your reply to the IRS at the address shown in the lower left part of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response from the IRS.
For more on this topic visit IRS.gov. Click on ‘Responding to a Notice’ at the bottom left of the home page. Also see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. You can get it on IRS.gov or call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to get it by mail.
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today introduced a new, shorter application form to help small charities apply for 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status more easily.
“This is a common-sense approach that will help reduce lengthy processing delays for small tax-exempt groups and ultimately larger organizations as well,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The change cuts paperwork for these charitable groups and speeds application processing so they can focus on their important work.”
The new Form 1023-EZ, available today on IRS.gov, is three pages long, compared with the standard 26-page Form 1023. Most small organizations, including as many as 70 percent of all applicants, qualify to use the new streamlined form. Most organizations with gross receipts of $50,000 or less and assets of $250,000 or less are eligible.
“Previously, all of these groups went through the same lengthy application process — regardless of size,” Koskinen said. “It didn’t matter if you were a small soccer or gardening club or a major research organization. This process created needlessly long delays for groups, which didn’t help the groups, the taxpaying public or the IRS.”
The change will allow the IRS to speed the approval process for smaller groups and free up resources to review applications from larger, more complex organizations while reducing the application backlog. Currently, the IRS has more than 60,000 501(c)(3) applications in its backlog, with many of them pending for nine months.
Following feedback this spring from the tax community and those working with charitable groups, the IRS refined the 1023-EZ proposal for today’s announcement, including revising the $50,000 gross receipts threshold down from an earlier figure of $200,000.
“We believe that many small organizations will be able to complete this form without creating major compliance risks,” Koskinen said. “Rather than using large amounts of IRS resources up front reviewing complex applications during a lengthy process, we believe the streamlined form will allow us to devote more compliance activity on the back end to ensure groups are actually doing the charitable work they apply to do.”
The Form 1023-EZ must be filed using pay.gov, and a $400 user fee is due at the time the form is submitted. Further details on the new Form 1023-EZ application process can be found in Revenue Procedure 2014-40, posted today on IRS.gov.
There are more than a million 501(c)(3) organizations recognized by the IRS.
WASHINGTON — Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) will expire if not used on a federal income tax return for five consecutive years, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. To give all interested parties time to adjust and allow the IRS to reprogram its systems, the IRS will not begin deactivating ITINs until 2016.
The new, more uniform policy applies to any ITIN, regardless of when it was issued. Only about a quarter of the 21 million ITINs issued since the program began in 1996 are being used on tax returns. The new policy will ensure that anyone who legitimately uses an ITIN for tax purposes can continue to do so, while at the same time resulting in the likely eventual expiration of millions of unused ITINs.
Developed in consultation with taxpayers, their representatives and other stakeholders, the new policy replaces the existing one that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
Under the old policy, announced in November 2012, ITINs issued after Jan. 1, 2013 would have automatically expired after five years, even if used properly and regularly by taxpayers. Though ITINs issued before 2013 were unaffected by that change, the IRS said at the time that it would explore options for deactivating or refreshing the information relating to these older ITINs.
ITINs play a critical role in the tax administration system and assist with the collection of taxes from foreign nationals, resident and nonresident aliens and others who have filing or payment obligations under U.S. law. Designed specifically for tax administration purposes, ITINs are only issued to people who are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number.
Under the new policy:
Further details, including information on how and when taxpayers with expired ITINs will be notified, will be posted on IRS.gov at a later date.
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that guidance will soon be issued outlining a new voluntary program designed to encourage education and filing season readiness for paid tax return preparers. The program will be in place to help taxpayers during the 2015 filing season.
The Annual Filing Season Program will allow unenrolled return preparers to obtain a record of completion when they voluntarily complete a required amount of continuing education (CE), including a course in basic tax filing issues and updates, ethics and other federal tax law courses.
“This voluntary program will be a step to help protect taxpayers during the 2015 filing season,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “About 60 percent of tax return preparers operate without any type of oversight or education requirements. Our program will give unenrolled return preparers a way to stay to up-to-date on tax laws and changes, which we believe will improve service to taxpayers.”
Tax return preparers who elect to participate in the program and receive a record of completion from the IRS will be included in a database on IRS.gov that will be available by January 2015 to help taxpayers determine return preparer qualifications.
The database will also contain information about practitioners with recognized credentials and higher levels of qualification and practice rights. These include attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents (ERPAs) and enrolled actuaries who are registered with the IRS.
“It’s also important to note this program is not to replace the important tax work done by certified public accountants, enrolled agents and attorneys,” Koskinen said. “Tax professionals with recognized credentials will be publicly listed on IRS.gov, and we plan to help inform taxpayers about the professional options available.”
Anyone who prepares all, or substantially all, of any federal tax return or refund claim for compensation is required to obtain a preparer tax identification number (PTIN). The pending guidance will also explain that tax return preparers with a valid PTIN who do not obtain a record of completion as part of the Annual Filing Season Program, or are not an attorney, CPA, enrolled agent, ERPA or enrolled actuary, may still prepare tax returns, but will not be included in the public directory.
In 2011, the Treasury Department and the IRS issued regulations that mandated testing and CE for paid tax return preparers and created a Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP) credential. The RTRP designation was for preparers with valid PTINs, who passed an IRS competency test and completed 15 hours of CE.
Earlier this year, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld the lower court’s determination that the IRS regulations from 2011 mandating competency testing and CE for paid tax return preparers were invalid. The IRS continues to believe regulation of paid tax return preparers is important for the proper functioning of the U.S. tax system. To that end, the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget includes a proposal to explicitly authorize the IRS to regulate all paid tax return preparers.
Prior to the 2013 court decision, over 62,000 return preparers passed an IRS-administered competency test and completed the requirements to become Registered Tax Return Preparers. The Annual Filing Season Program will exempt RTRPs and others who have successfully completed certain recognized national or state tests from the filing season refresher course that will be required for other participants.
The Annual Filing Season Program will be an interim step to help taxpayers and encourage education for unenrolled tax return preparers. The IRS will assess the feasibility of administering a uniform voluntary examination in future years in order to ensure basic return preparer competency.
Annual Filing Season Program — Record of Completion Requirements
In general, non-exempt return preparers with a valid PTIN for the program year will need to complete 18 hours of CE annually from IRS-approved CE providers to obtain an IRS record of completion. The hours will need to include:
For the first year, a transition rule will apply to prorate the required hours. For a return preparer to obtain a record of completion for the 2015 filing season, a total of 11 hours will need to be earned in 2014, including the six hour refresher course, three hours of other federal tax law topics and two hours of ethics.
Once the official guidance is issued, IRS-approved CE providers will begin to offer qualifying federal tax filing season refresher courses. A list of all IRS-approved CE providers is available and includes a new column to indicate which providers are planning to offer the qualifying courses. The list is updated daily. For 2015, qualifying courses will be offered through Dec. 31, 2014.
The IRS will begin issuing records of completion to those who have met the requirements in mid-October 2014 after the 2015 PTIN renewal season starts.
Consent to Circular 230 restrictions
As a prerequisite to receiving a record of completion, an individual will be required to consent to the duties and restrictions relating to practice before the IRS in subpart B and section 10.51 of Treasury Department Circular No. 230.
Modification to limited practice permissions
The pending guidance will also announce that effective for tax returns and claims for refunds prepared or signed after Dec. 31, 2015, only unenrolled tax return preparers who have a record of completion under the Annual Filing Season Program for the calendar year of preparation and the calendar year of representation will be permitted to represent taxpayers before the IRS during an examination of a return that they signed or prepared.
Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents will continue to have unlimited representation rights and can represent clients before any office of the IRS.