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Stacie Kitts, CPA Tax Partner Katherman Kitts & Co. LLP
May is almost over and June represents another big filing deadline for persons who have foreign bank accounts and investments. So here is your reminder. Your FBAR Form TD F 90-22.1 Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts is due at the IRS office – not mailed by – but received in their office by June 30. Don’t forget, the penalty for not filing this form is scary.
Also, if you are doing it yourself or hired a person who is not familiar with foreign reporting requirements, you might want to familiarize yourself with the chart below – prepared by our friendly IRS for your viewing pleasure.
The new Form 8938 Statement of Specified Foreign Assets is due with your tax return but not later than the extended due date should you decide for some crazy reason that you don’t want to file your tax return by the due date. Don’t blow this off either, as the penalty for not filing is just as scary as the FBAR.
Comparison of Form 8938 and FBAR Requirements
**Unmarried taxpayer living in the United States. If you are not married and not living abroad, you satisfy the reporting threshold only if the total value of your specified foreign financial assets is more than $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or more than $75,000 at any time during the tax year.
- More On IRS Form 8938 vs. FBAR (forbes.com)
- Is Closing Foreign Bank Accounts An Alternative To Disclosure? (forbes.com)
- Last week at my other blog: Foreign account reporting; E-file fears grow (dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com)
- Relinquishing U.S. Citizenship (forbes.com)
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced a major expansion of its “Fresh Start” initiative to help struggling taxpayers by taking steps to provide new penalty relief to the unemployed and making Installment Agreements available to more people.
Under the new Fresh Start provisions, part of a broader effort started at the IRS in 2008, certain taxpayers who have been unemployed for 30 days or longer will be able to avoid failure-to-pay penalties. In addition, the IRS is doubling the dollar threshold for taxpayers eligible for Installment Agreements to help more people qualify for the program.
“We have an obligation to work with taxpayers who are struggling to make ends meet,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. ”This new approach makes sense for taxpayers and for the nation’s tax system, and it’s part of a wider effort we have underway to help struggling taxpayers.”
The IRS announced plans for new penalty relief for the unemployed on failure-to-pay penalties, which are one of the biggest factors a financially distressed taxpayer faces on a tax bill.
To assist those most in need, a six-month grace period on failure-to-pay penalties will be made available to certain wage earners and self-employed individuals. The request for an extension of time to pay will result in relief from the failure to pay penalty for tax year 2011 only if the tax, interest and any other penalties are fully paid by Oct. 15, 2012.
The penalty relief will be available to two categories of taxpayers:
- Wage earners who have been unemployed at least 30 consecutive days during 2011 or in 2012 up to the April 17 deadline for filing a federal tax return this year.
- Self-employed individuals who experienced a 25 percent or greater reduction in business income in 2011 due to the economy.
This penalty relief is subject to income limits. A taxpayer’s income must not exceed $200,000 if he or she files as married filing jointly or not exceed $100,000 if he or she files as single or head of household. This penalty relief is also restricted to taxpayers whose calendar year 2011 balance due does not exceed $50,000.
Taxpayers meeting the eligibility criteria will need to complete a new Form 1127A to seek the 2011 penalty relief. The new form is available on IRS.gov.
The failure-to-pay penalty is generally half of 1 percent per month with an upper limit of 25 percent. Under this new relief, taxpayers can avoid that penalty until Oct. 15, 2012, which is six months beyond this year’s filing deadline. However, the IRS is still legally required to charge interest on unpaid back taxes and does not have the authority to waive this charge, which is currently 3 percent on an annual basis.
Even with the new penalty relief becoming available, the IRS strongly encourages taxpayers to file their returns on time by April 17 or file for an extension. Failure-to-file penalties applied to unpaid taxes remain in effect and are generally 5 percent per month, also with a 25 percent cap.
The Fresh Start provisions also mean that more taxpayers will have the ability to use streamlined installment agreements to catch up on back taxes.
The IRS announced today that, effective immediately, the threshold for using an installment agreement without having to supply the IRS with a financial statement has been raised from $25,000 to $50,000. This is a significant reduction in taxpayer burden.
Taxpayers who owe up to $50,000 in back taxes will now be able to enter into a streamlined agreement with the IRS that stretches the payment out over a series of months or years. The maximum term for streamlined installment agreements has also been raised to 72 months from the current 60-month maximum.
Taxpayers seeking installment agreements exceeding $50,000 will still need to supply the IRS with a Collection Information Statement (Form 433-A or Form 433-F). Taxpayers may also pay down their balance due to $50,000 or less to take advantage of this payment option.
An installment agreement is an option for those who cannot pay their entire tax bills by the due date. Penalties are reduced, although interest continues to accrue on the outstanding balance. In order to qualify for the new expanded streamlined installment agreement, a taxpayer must agree to monthly direct debit payments.
Taxpayers can set up an installment agreement with the IRS by going to the On-line Payment Agreement (OPA) page on IRS.gov and following the instructions.
These changes supplement a number of efforts to help struggling taxpayers, including the “Fresh Start” program announced last year. The initiative includes a variety of changes to help individuals and businesses pay back taxes more easily and with less burden, including the issuance of fewer tax liens.
“Our goal is to help people meet their obligations and get back on their feet financially,” Shulman said.
Input from the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council and the IRS National Taxpayer Advocate’s office contributed to the formulation of Fresh Start.
Offers in Compromise
Under the first round of Fresh Start, the IRS expanded a new streamlined Offer in Compromise (OIC) program to cover a larger group of struggling taxpayers. An offer-in-compromise is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed.
The IRS recognizes that many taxpayers are still struggling to pay their bills so the agency has been working to put in place more common-sense changes to the OIC program to more closely reflect real-world situations.
For example, the IRS has more flexibility with financial analysis for determining reasonable collection potential for distressed taxpayers.
Generally, an offer will not be accepted if the IRS believes that the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay.
Details on IRS Collection and Other Information
A series of eight short videos are available to familiarize taxpayers and practitioners with the IRS collection process. The series “Owe Taxes? Understanding IRS Collection Efforts”, is available on the IRS website, www.irs.gov.
The IRS website has a variety of other online resources available to help taxpayers meet their payment obligations:
- IR-2011-20: IRS Announces New Effort to Help Struggling Taxpayers Get a Fresh Start; Major Changes Made to Lien Process
- Offer in Compromise
- Tax Tip: Ten Tips for Taxpayers Who Owe Money to the IRS
- The What If’s of an Economic Downturn
- Video on How to Complete Form 656: Offer in Compromise
IRS YouTube Video: Fresh Start: English
IRS Podcast: Fresh Start: English
Here is a reminder about the W2 reporting requirements attached to the Affordable Care Act and employer sponsored group health plans.
Many small employers that pay at least half of the premiums for employee health insurance coverage under a qualifying arrangement may be eligible for the small business health care tax credit. This credit can enable small businesses and small tax-exempt organizations to offer health insurance coverage for the first time. It also helps those already offering health insurance coverage to maintain the coverage they already have. The credit is specifically targeted to help small businesses and tax-exempt organizations that primarily employ 25 or fewer workers with average income of $50,000 or less.
Here is what small employers need to know so they don’t miss out on the credit for tax year 2010:
- Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and other recent disaster-related tax relief postponed certain tax filing and payment deadlines to Oct. 31, 2011. Qualifying businesses affected by these natural disasters still have time to file and claim the small employer health care credit on Form 8941 and claim it as part of the general business credit on Form 3800, which they would include with their tax return. For more information on the disaster relief visit IRS.gov.
- Sole proprietors who file Form 1040, Partners and S-corporation shareholders who report their income on Form 1040 and had requested an extension have until Oct. 17 to complete their returns. They would also use Form 8941 to calculate the small employer health care credit and claim it as a general business credit on Form 3800, reflected on line 53 of Form 1040.
- Tax-exempt organizations that file on a calendar year basis and requested an extension to file to Nov. 15 can use Form 8941 and then claim the credit on Form 990-T, Line 44f.
- Businesses who have already filed can still claim the credit. For small businesses that have already filed and later determine they are eligible for the credit, they can always file an amended 2010 tax return. Corporations use Form 1120X and individual sole proprietors use Form 1040X.
- Businesses that couldn’t use the credit in 2010 may be eligible to claim it in future years. Some businesses that already locked into health insurance plan structures and contributions for 2010 may not have had the opportunity to make any needed adjustments to qualify for the credit for 2010. So these businesses may be eligible to claim the credit on 2011 returns or in years beyond. Small employers can claim the credit for 2010 through 2013 and for two additional years beginning in 2014.
For tax years 2010 to 2013, the maximum credit for eligible small business employers is 35 percent of premiums paid and for eligible tax-exempt employers the maximum credit is 25 percent of premiums paid. Beginning in 2014, the maximum tax credit will go up to 50 percent of premiums paid by eligible small business employers and 35 percent of premiums paid by eligible tax-exempt organizations.
Additional information about eligibility requirements and calculating the credit can be found on the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for Small Employers page of IRS.gov.
- Form 8941, Credit for Small Employer Health Insurance Premiums (PDF)
- Form 3800, General Business Credit (PDF)
- Small Business Health Care Tax Credit for Small Employers
By Stacie Kitts, CPA
Unbelievably, there are people who never bother to check up on their tax refunds. Really.
If you move be sure to complete a change of address Form 8822 and check out this info from the IRS
Some people earn income and may have taxes withheld from their wages but are not required to file a tax return because they have too little income. In this case, you can claim a refund for the tax that was withheld from your pay. Other workers may not have had any tax withheld but would be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit, but must file a return to claim it.
- To collect this money a return must be filed with the IRS no later than three years from the due date of the return.
- If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.
- There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.
- Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
- Information about the Earned Income Tax Credit and how to claim it is also available on www.irs.gov.
Were you expecting a refund check but didn’t get it?
- Refund checks are mailed to your last known address. Checks are returned to the IRS if you move without notifying the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service.
- You may be able to update your address with the IRS on the “Where’s My Refund?” feature available on IRS.gov. You will be prompted to provide an updated address if there is an undeliverable check outstanding within the last 12 months.
- You can also ensure the IRS has your correct address by filing Form 8822, Change of Address, which is available on www.irs.gov or can be ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
- If you do not have access to the Internet and think you may be missing a refund, you should first check your records or contact your tax preparer. If your refund information appears correct, call the IRS toll-free assistance line at 800-829-1040 to check the status of your refund and confirm your address.
By Stacie Kitts, CPA
Once upon a time, a long time ago, I knew a taxpayer who was afraid to open correspondence from the IRS and accumulated a pile of letters hoping it would all go away. It didn’t and bad things happened.
If you receive correspondence, open it right away while there is still time to do something about it.
Most of the time correspondence from the IRS is no big deal – you forgot to report some investment income, or you made an estimated tax payment a little later than your were supposed to so you owe some interest.
Honestly, I can’t think of many things you should be worried about when the IRS comes a-callin unless…..
- You’re a crook and you know it
- You don’t have advisers or you don’t listen to them
- Someone was feeding you a line that was to good to be true. Wesley Snipes is a good example of what not to believe. Mr Snipes failed to file several years of tax returns based on the advice of shyster tax preparer and is now serving time in jail.
Getting a letter from the IRS informing you of an audit of your tax return can be distressing. And let’s face it, even if you did everything hunky dory, it can be costly to have someone represent you.
There are things you can do ahead of time to help mitigate the cost of an audit should you win that lottery.
- Choose the right tax preparer. Do your research and make sure they are qualified to help you
- Have your accountant look over your accounting records before the end of each tax year.
- If you have a business, make sure you give details of your accounting transactions to your preparer. (full general ledger detail)
- Do some tax planning with your tax professional
- Keep records of your income and deductions organized and easy to find
- During the audit process – provide your representative the requested information timely and as organized as possible. Messy records are not going to help you and will likely drive up the cost of the audit.
The IRS published the following points they think you should know if you receive a notice.
- Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
- There are number of reasons the IRS sends notices to taxpayers. The notice may request payment of taxes, notify you of a change to your account or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.
- Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.
- If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
- If you agree with the correction to your account, usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due.
- If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. Write to explain why you disagree. Include any documents and information you wish the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the lower left part of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.
- Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call.
- It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.