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Some Good News for Innocent Spouses

By Stacie Kitts, CPA

What is innocent spouse relief?

Basically, if your spouse cheated on your jointly filed tax return – and you didn’t know about it – you can apply for relief from the taxes, penalties and interest that resulted from the misreporting.

The prior rules applied a two year limit from the time the IRS first took collection actions for the innocent spouse to file for relief.  The two year limit is now removed.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service  announced that it will extend help to more innocent spouses by eliminating the two-year time limit that now applies to certain relief requests.

“In recent months, it became clear to me that we need to make significant changes involving innocent spouse relief,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “This change is a dramatic step to improve our process to make it fairer for an important group of taxpayers. We know these are difficult situations for people to face, and today’s change will help innocent spouses victimized in the past, present and the future.”

The IRS launched a thorough review of the equitable relief provisions of the innocent spouse program earlier this year. Policy and program changes with respect to that review will become fully operational in the fall and additional guidance will be forthcoming. However, with respect to expanding the availability of equitable relief:

  • The IRS will no longer apply the two-year limit to new equitable relief requests or requests currently being considered by the agency.
  • A taxpayer whose equitable relief request was previously denied solely due to the two-year limit may reapply using IRS Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, if the collection statute of limitations for the tax years involved has not expired. Taxpayers with cases currently in suspense will be automatically afforded the new rule and should not reapply.
  • The IRS will not apply the two-year limit in any pending litigation involving equitable relief, and where litigation is final, the agency will suspend collection action under certain circumstances.

The change to the two-year limit is effective immediately, and details are in Notice 2011-70, posted today on IRS.gov.

Existing regulations, adopted in 2002, require that innocent spouse requests seeking equitable relief be filed within two years after the IRS first takes collection action against the requesting spouse. The time limit, adopted after a public hearing and public comment, was designed to encourage prompt resolution while evidence remained available. The IRS plans to issue regulations formally removing this time limit.

By law, the two-year election period for seeking innocent spouse relief under the other provisions of section 6015 of the Internal Revenue Code, continues to apply. The normal refund statute of limitations also continues to apply to tax years covered by any innocent spouse request.

Available only to someone who files a joint return, innocent spouse relief is designed to help a taxpayer who did not know and did not have reason to know that his or her spouse understated or underpaid an income tax liability. Publication 971, Innocent Spouse Relief, has more information about the program.

WooHoo Mileage Rate Increases to 55.5 Cents for Last 6 Months of Year

1910 Model T Ford

Katherman Kitts & Co. LLP Mileage Rates Update

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced an increase in the optional standard mileage rates for the final six months of 2011. Taxpayers may use the optional standard rates to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business and other purposes.

The rate will increase to 55.5 cents a mile for all business miles driven from July 1, 2011, through Dec. 31, 2011. This is an increase of 4.5 cents from the 51 cent rate in effect for the first six months of 2011, as set forth in Revenue Procedure 2010-51.
In recognition of recent gasoline price increases, the IRS made this special adjustment for the final months of 2011. The IRS normally updates the mileage rates once a year in the fall for the next calendar year.

“This year’s increased gas prices are having a major impact on individual Americans. The IRS is adjusting the standard mileage rates to better reflect the recent increase in gas prices,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We are taking this step so the reimbursement rate will be fair to taxpayers.”

While gasoline is a significant factor in the mileage figure, other items enter into the calculation of mileage rates, such as depreciation and insurance and other fixed and variable costs.

The optional business standard mileage rate is used to compute the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business use in lieu of tracking actual costs. This rate is also used as a benchmark by the federal government and many businesses to reimburse their employees for mileage.

The new six-month rate for computing deductible medical or moving expenses will also increase by 4.5 cents to 23.5 cents a mile, up from 19 cents for the first six months of 2011. The rate for providing services for charitable organizations is set by statute, not the IRS, and remains at 14 cents a mile.

The new rates are contained in Announcement 2011-40 on the optional standard mileage rates.

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

Mileage Rate Changes

Purpose Rates 1/1 through 6/30/11    Rates 7/1 through 12/31/11 
Business 51 55.5
  Medical/Moving 19 23.5
Charitable 14 14

IRS Patrol:IRS to Hold Special Open House Saturday, Sept. 25 for Veterans and Persons with Disabilities

Seal of the United States Department of Vetera...

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WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service will host a special nationwide open house on Saturday, Sept. 25 to help taxpayers –– especially veterans and people with disabilities –– solve tax problems and respond to IRS notices.

One hundred offices, at least one in every state, will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. local time. IRS staff will be available on site or by telephone to help taxpayers work through issues and leave with solutions.

In many locations, the IRS will partner with organizations that serve veterans and the disabled to offer additional help and information to people in these communities. Partner organizations include the National Disability Institute (NDI), Vets First, Department of Veterans Affairs, National Council on Independent Living and the American Legion.

“Taxpayers have tremendous success solving their tax issues at our open houses,” IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “I want to encourage veterans and people with disabilities to come in on Sept. 25. Just like we reached out earlier this year to small businesses and victims of the Gulf Oil Spill, we want to help other taxpayers put their toughest problems behind them.”

IRS locations will be equipped to handle issues involving notices and payments, return preparation, audits and a variety of other issues. At a previous IRS open house on June 5, over 6,700 taxpayers sought and received assistance and 96 percent had their issues resolved the same day.

At the Sept. 25 open house, anyone who has a tax question or has received a notice can speak with an IRS employee to get an answer to their question or a clear explanation of what is necessary to satisfy the request. A taxpayer who cannot pay a balance due can find out whether an installment agreement is appropriate and, if so, fill out the paperwork then and there. Assistance with offers-in-compromise — an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s debt for less than the full amount owed — will also be available. Likewise, a taxpayer struggling to complete a certain IRS form or schedule can work directly with IRS staff to get the job done.

Taxpayers requiring special services, such as interpretation for the deaf or hard of hearing, should check local listings and call the local IRS Office/Taxpayer Assistance Center ahead of time to schedule an appointment.

The open house on Sept. 25 is the third of three events scheduled after this year’s tax season. Plans are underway for similar events next year. Details will be available at a later date.

Reminder for Small Tax-Exempt Organizations

The IRS also encourages representatives of small tax-exempt charitable community organizations, many of which serve people with disabilities and veterans, to file Form 990-N before the Oct. 15 deadline. Community organizations that fail to file a Form 990-N by this date risk losing their tax exempt status. As of June 30, more than 320,000 organizations were at risk of losing their exempt status.

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