IR-2013-88: Fast Track Settlement Program Now Available Nationwide; Time-Saving Option Helps Small Businesses Under Audit

IR-2013-88, Nov. 6, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced the nationwide rollout of a streamlined program designed to enable small businesses under audit to more quickly settle their differences with the IRS.

The Fast Track Settlement (FTS) program is designed to help small businesses and self-employed individuals who are under examination by the Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE) Division of the IRS. Modeled on a similar program long available to large and mid-size businesses (those with more than $10 million in assets), FTS uses alternative dispute resolution techniques to help taxpayers save time and avoid a formal administrative appeal or lengthy litigation. As a result, audit issues can usually be resolved within 60 days, rather than months or years. Plus, taxpayers choosing this option lose none of their rights because they still have the right to appeal even if the FTS process is unsuccessful.

Jointly administered by SB/SE and the IRS Appeals office, FTS is designed to expedite case resolution. Under FTS, taxpayers under examination with issues in dispute work directly with IRS representatives from SB/SE’s Examination Division and Appeals to resolve those issues, with the Appeals representative typically serving as mediator.

The taxpayer or the IRS examination representative may initiate Fast Track for eligible cases, usually before a 30-day letter is issued. The goal is to complete cases within 60 days of acceptance of the application in Appeals.

SB/SE originally launched FTS as a pilot program in September 2006. For more information on taking advantage of the Fast Track Settlement program, please view the short FTS video. Additional background is available on IRS.gov on the Alternative Dispute Resolution webpage and in IRSAnnouncement 2011-05.

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-11: Keep the Child Care Credit in Mind for Summer

If you are a working parent or plan to look for work this summer, you may need to pay for the care of your child or children. These expenses may qualify for a tax credit that can reduce your federal income taxes. The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit is available not only while school’s out for summer, but also throughout the year. Here are eight key points the IRS wants you to know about this credit.

  1. You must pay for care so you – and your spouse if filing jointly – can work or actively look for work. Your spouse meets this test during any month they are full-time student, or physically or mentally incapable of self-care.
  2. You must have earned income. Earned income includes earnings such as wages and self-employment. If you are married filing jointly, your spouse must also have earned income. There is an exception to this rule for a spouse who is full-time student or who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care.
  3. You must pay for the care of one or more qualifying persons. Qualifying children under age 13 who you claim as a dependent meet this test. Your spouse or dependent who lived with you for more than half the year may meet this test if they are physically or mentally incapable of self-care.
  4. You may qualify for the credit whether you pay for care at home, at a daycare facility outside the home or at a day camp. If you pay for care in your home, you may be a household employer. For more information, see Publication 926, Household Employer’s Tax Guide.
  5. The credit is a percentage of the qualified expenses you pay for the care of a qualifying person. It can be up to 35 percent of your expenses, depending on your income.
  6. You may use up to $3,000 of the unreimbursed expenses you pay in a year for one qualifying person or $6,000 for two or more qualifying person.
  7. Expenses for overnight camps or summer school tutoring do not qualify. You cannot include the cost of care provided by your spouse or a person you can claim as your dependent. If you get dependent care benefits from your employer, special rules apply.
  8. Keep your receipts and records to use when you file your 2013 tax return next year. Make sure to note the name, address and Social Security number or employer identification number of the care provider. You must report this information when you claim the credit on your return.

For more details about the rules to claim this credit, see Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses. You can get both publications at IRS.gov or have them mailed by calling 800-TAX-FORM(800-829-3676). Additional IRS Resources:

 

California Issues Mandatory E-Pay Penalty Waiver

The California Franchise Tax Board has issued the following information for taxpayers who were unable to pay amounts with their tax returns, extensions, or estimated tax payments electronically due to problems with their website on April 15, 2013.

Due to the problems encountered by mandatory e-pay taxpayers with our website on April 15, we will waive the mandatory e-pay penalty for taxpayers that paid their tax, extension, or estimated tax payment by check.

Taxpayers may request a waiver of the mandatory e-pay penalty for the 04.15.2013 payment by:

Phone (Preferred Method):
• Tax Practitioner Hotline 916.845.7057
• Taxpayers 800.852.5711

Fax:
Complete FTB 4107, Mandatory e-Pay Election to Discontinue or Waiver Request. In Part 1, check the second box and enter 04.15.2013 Website Problem.
• Fax your request to 916.843.0468

Mail:
Complete FTB 4107, Mandatory e-Pay Election to Discontinue or Waiver Request. In Part 1, check the second box and enter 04.15.2013 Website Problem. In red, write 04.15.2013 Website Problem. Mail your request:

STATE OF CALIFORNIA
FRANCHSIE TAX BOARD
PO BOX 942840
SACRAMENTO, CA 94240-0040

Important:This is a one-time waiver of the mandatory e-pay penalty; your clients are still required to make future payments electronically unless they are granted a waiver. See FTB 4107 for more information or go to our website and search for mandatory e-pay.

 

IRS Tax Tip 2013-59: Ten Facts on Filing an Amended Tax Return

 

What should you do if you already filed your federal tax return and then discover a mistake? Don’t worry; you have a chance to fix errors by filing an amended tax return. This year you can use the new IRS tool, ‘Where’s My Amended Return?’ to easily track the status of your amended tax return. Here are 10 facts you should know about filing an amended tax return.

 

  1. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to file an amended tax return. An amended return cannot be e-filed. You must file it on paper.
  2. You should consider filing an amended tax return if there is a change in your filing status, income, deductions or credits.
  3. You normally do not need to file an amended return to correct math errors. The IRS will automatically make those changes for you. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms, such as W-2s or schedules. The IRS normally will send a request asking for those.
  4. Generally, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original tax return or within two years of the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. Be sure to enter the year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X.
  5. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them to the IRS in separate envelopes. You will find the appropriate IRS address to mail your return to in the Form 1040X instructions.
  6. If your changes involve the need for another schedule or form, you must attach that schedule or form to the amended return.
  7. If you are filing an amended tax return to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original tax refund before filing Form 1040X. Amended returns take up to 12 weeks to process. You may cash your original refund check while waiting for the additional refund.
  8. If you owe additional taxes with Form 1040X, file it and pay the tax as soon as possible to minimize interest and penalties.
  9. You can track the status of your amended tax return three weeks after you file with the IRS’s new tool called, ‘Where’s My Amended Return?’ The automated tool is available on IRS.gov and by phone at 866-464-2050. The online and phone tools are available in English and Spanish. You can track the status of your amended return for the current year and up to three prior years.
  10. To use either ‘Where’s My Amended Return’ tool, just enter your taxpayer identification number (usually your Social Security number), date of birth and zip code. If you have filed amended returns for more than one year, you can select each year individually to check the status of each. If you use the tool by phone, you will not need to call a different IRS phone number unless the tool tells you to do so.

 

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2013-08: Protect Yourself from the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams

The IRS’s annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ list includes common tax scams that often peak during the tax filing season. The IRS recommends that taxpayers be aware so they can protect themselves against claims that sound too good to be true. Taxpayers who buy into illegal tax scams can end up facing significant penalties and interest and even criminal prosecution.

The tax scams that made the Dirty Dozen list this filing season are:

Identity Theft.  Tax fraud through the use of identity theft tops this year’s Dirty Dozen list. Combating identity theft and refund fraud is a top priority for the IRS. The IRS’s ID theft strategy focuses on prevention, detection and victim assistance. During 2012, the IRS protected $20 billion of fraudulent refunds, including those related to identity theft. This compares to $14 billion in 2011. Taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should immediately contact the IRS so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. If you have received a notice from the IRS, call the phone number on the notice. You may also call the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. Find more information on the identity protection page on IRS.gov.

Phishing.  Phishing typically involves an unsolicited email or a fake website that seems legitimate but lures victims into providing personal and financial information. Once scammers obtain that information, they can commit identity theft or financial theft. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS, send it to phishing@irs.gov.

Return Preparer Fraud.  Although most return preparers are reputable and provide good service, you should choose carefully when hiring someone to prepare your tax return. Only use a preparer who signs the return they prepare for you and enters their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).  For tips about choosing a preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

Hiding Income Offshore.  One form of tax evasion is hiding income in offshore accounts. This includes using debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access those funds. While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements taxpayers need to fulfill. Failing to comply can lead to penalties or criminal prosecution. Visit IRS.gov for more information on the Voluntary Disclosure Program.

“Free Money” from the IRS & Tax Scams Involving Social Security.  Beware of scammers who prey on people with low income, the elderly and church members around the country. Scammers use flyers and ads with bogus promises of refunds that don’t exist. The schemes target people who have little or no income and normally don’t have to file a tax return. In some cases, a victim may be due a legitimate tax credit or refund but scammers fraudulently inflate income or use other false information to file a return to obtain a larger refund. By the time people find out the IRS has rejected their claim, the promoters are long gone.

Impersonation of Charitable Organizations. Following major disasters, it’s common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or personal information from well-intentioned people. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds. Taxpayers need to be sure they donate to recognized charities.

False/Inflated Income and Expenses.  Falsely claiming income you did not earn or expenses you did not pay in order to get larger refundable tax credits is tax fraud. This includes false claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit. In many cases the taxpayer ends up repaying the refund, including penalties and interest. In some cases the taxpayer faces criminal prosecution. In one particular scam, taxpayers file excessive claims for the fuel tax credit. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is a frivolous claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000.

False Form 1099 Refund Claims.  In this scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099-OID, to justify a false refund claim.

Frivolous Arguments.  Promoters of frivolous schemes advise taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. These are false arguments that the courts have consistently thrown out. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law.

Falsely Claiming Zero Wages.  Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, scammers use a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. Filing this type of return can result in a $5,000 penalty.

Disguised Corporate Ownership.  Scammers improperly use third parties form corporations that hide the true ownership of the business. They help dishonest individuals underreport income, claim fake deductions and avoid filing tax returns. They also facilitate money laundering and other financial crimes.

Misuse of Trusts.  There are legitimate uses of trusts in tax and estate planning. But some questionable transactions promise to reduce the amount of income that is subject to tax, offer deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the promised tax benefits. They primarily help avoid taxes and hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.

For more on the Dirty Dozen, see IRS news release IR-2013-33.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:

IRS Tax Tip 2013-37: Itemizing vs. Standard Deduction: Six Facts to Help You Choose

When you file a tax return, you usually have a choice to make: whether to itemize deductions or take the standard deduction. You should compare both methods and use the one that gives you the greater tax benefit.

The IRS offers these six facts to help you choose.

1. Figure your itemized deductions.  Add up the cost of items you paid for during the year that you might be able to deduct. Expenses could include home mortgage interest, state income taxes or sales taxes (but not both), real estate and personal property taxes, and gifts to charities. They may also include large casualty or theft losses or large medical and dental expenses that insurance did not cover. Unreimbursed employee business expenses may also be deductible.

2. Know your standard deduction.  If you do not itemize, your basic standard deduction amount depends on your filing status. For 2012, the basic amounts are:

• Single = $5,950
• Married Filing Jointly  = $11,900
• Head of Household = $8,700
• Married Filing Separately = $5,950
• Qualifying Widow(er) = $11,900

3. Apply other rules in some cases. Your standard deduction is higher if you are 65 or older or blind. Other rules apply if someone else can claim you as a dependent on his or her tax return. To figure your standard deduction in these cases, use the worksheet in the instructions for Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

4. Check for the exceptions.  Some people do not qualify for the standard deduction and should itemize. This includes married people who file a separate return and their spouse itemizes deductions. See the Form 1040 instructions for the rules about who may not claim a standard deduction.

5. Choose the best method.  Compare your itemized and standard deduction amounts. You should file using the method with the larger amount.

6. File the right forms.  To itemize your deductions, use Form 1040, and Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. You can take the standard deduction on  Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.

For more information about allowable deductions, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the instructions for Schedule A. Tax forms and publications are available on the IRS website at IRS.gov  You may also call 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to order them by mail.
Additional IRS Resources:

 

IRS Tax Tip 2013-36: Home Office Deduction: a Tax Break for Those Who Work from Home

If you use part of your home for your business, you may qualify to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. Here are six facts from the IRS to help you determine if you qualify for the home office deduction.

1. Generally, in order to claim a deduction for a home office, you must use a part of your home exclusively and regularly for business purposes. In addition, the part of your home that you use for business purposes must also be:

• your principal place of business, or

• a place where you meet with patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your business, or

• a separate structure not attached to your home. Examples might include a studio, workshop, garage or barn. In this case, the structure does not have to be your principal place of business or a place where you meet patients, clients or customers.

2. You do not have to meet the exclusive use test if you use part of your home to store inventory or product samples. The exclusive use test also does not apply if you use part of your home as a daycare facility.

3. The home office deduction may include part of certain costs that you paid for having a home. For example, a part of the rent or allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and utilities could qualify. The amount you can deduct usually depends on the percentage of the home used for business.

4. The deduction for some expenses is limited if your gross income from the business use of your home is less than your total business expenses.

5. If you are self-employed, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount you can deduct. Report your deduction on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

6. If you are an employee, you must meet additional rules to claim the deduction. For example, in addition to the above tests, your business use must also be for your employer’s convenience.

For more information, see Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home. It’s available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Additional IRS Resources:

 

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