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The IRS LOVES Social Media

The IRS apparently likes social media. Here are all the ways you can connect.

1. IRS2Go 2.0 IRS’s smartphone application allows you to check your refund status, get tax updates and follow the IRS via Twitter. IRS2Go 2.0 is available in the Apple App store for iPhone or iPod touch devices and in the GooglePlay store for Android devices.

2. YouTube IRSvideos YouTube Channel offers short, informative clips on various tax-related topics. The videos are available in English, American Sign Language and Spanish.

3. Twitter IRS tweets include tax-related announcements, news for tax professionals and updates for job seekers. Follow us @IRSnews.

4. Facebook IRS has Facebook pages that post tax information for individuals, tax professionals, and for those needing help resolving long-standing tax issues with the IRS.

5. Audio files for Podcasts These short audio recordings provide information on tax-related topics — one per podcast. The audio files (along with transcripts) are available on iTunes or through the Multimedia Center on IRS.gov.

6. Widgets These tools, which can be placed on websites, blogs or social media networks, direct people to visit IRS.gov for information. The widgets feature the latest tax initiatives and programs and can be found on Marketing Express, the marketing site that allows IRS partners and tax preparers to customize their IRS communications products.

As a reminder, the IRS uses these tools to share information with you. Do not post any personal information on social media sites, especially your Social Security number or other confidential information. The IRS will not be able to answer personal tax or account questions on any of these platforms.

For more about IRS’s social media tools, visit IRS.gov and click on “Social Media.”

Problem Resolving An Issue With The IRS? The Taxpayer Advocate Service: Helping You Resolve Tax Problems

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers who are experiencing unresolved federal tax problems. Here are 10 things every taxpayer should know about TAS:

1. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is your voice at the IRS.

2. TAS assistance is free and tailored to meet your needs.

3. You may be eligible for TAS help if you’ve tried to resolve your tax problem through normal IRS channels and have gotten nowhere, or if you are facing (or your business is facing) an immediate action from the IRS that will adversely affect you.

4. The worst thing you can do is nothing at all!

5. TAS helps individual and business taxpayers whose tax problems are causing financial difficulty, which could include the cost of hiring professional representation, such as a tax attorney.

6. If you qualify for TAS help, you’ll be assigned one advocate who will do everything possible to get your problem resolved.

7. There is at least one local Taxpayer Advocate office in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. You can obtain the number of your local Taxpayer Advocate from your local phone book, in Pub. 1546, Taxpayer Advocate Service – Your Voice at the IRS and on the IRS website at IRS.gov/advocate. You can also call TAS toll-free at 1-877-777-4778.

8. As a taxpayer, you have rights that the IRS must abide by when working with you. Our tax toolkit website at http://www.TaxpayerAdvocate.irs.gov can help you understand these rights.

9. TAS also handles tax problems that may have a broad impact on more than just one taxpayer. You can report these “systemic” issues to TAS through the Systemic Advocacy Management System at IRS.gov/advocate.

10. You can get updates on hot tax topics by visiting the TAS YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/TASNTA and the TAS Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/YourVoiceAtIRS, or by following TAS tweets at http://www.twitter.com/YourVoiceatIRS.

IRS SUMMERTIME TAX TIPS- Don’t Forget Those Pesky Misc Deductions

Don’t Overlook the Benefits of Miscellaneous Deductions

If you are able to itemize your deductions on your tax return instead of claiming the standard deduction, you may be able to claim certain miscellaneous deductions. A tax deduction reduces the amount of your taxable income and generally reduces the amount of taxes you may have to pay.

Here are some things you should know about miscellaneous tax deductions:

Deductions Subject to the 2 Percent Limit. You can deduct the amount of certain miscellaneous expenses that exceed 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. Deductions subject to the 2 percent limit include:

Unreimbursed employee expenses such as searching for a new job in the same profession, certain work clothes and uniforms, work tools, union dues, and work-related travel and transportation.
Tax preparation fees.
Other expenses that you pay to:
– Produce or collect taxable income,
– Manage, conserve, or maintain property held to produce taxable income, or
– Determine, contest, pay, or claim a refund of any tax.

Examples of other expenses include certain investment fees and expenses, some legal fees, hobby expenses that are not more than your hobby income and rental fees for a safe deposit box if it is not used to store jewelry and other personal effects.

Deductions Not Subject to the 2 Percent Limit. The list of deductions not subject to the 2 percent limit of adjusted gross income includes:

Casualty and theft losses from income-producing property such as damage or theft of stocks, bonds, gold, silver, vacant lots, and works of art.
Gambling losses up to the amount of gambling winnings.
Impairment-related work expenses of persons with disabilities.
Losses from Ponzi-type investment schemes.
Qualified miscellaneous deductions are reported on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. Keep records of your miscellaneous deductions to make it easier for you to prepare your tax return when the filing season arrives.

There are also many expenses that you cannot deduct such as personal living or family expenses. You can find more information and examples in IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, which is available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions (PDF)
Tax Topic 508 – Miscellaneous Expenses
Schedule A Itemized Deductions (PDF)
Instructions for Schedule A (PDF)

From the IRS Summer Series – Tips on Gambling Income and Losses

IRS-Whether you roll the dice, bet on the ponies, play cards or enjoy slot machines, you should know that as a casual gambler, your gambling winnings are fully taxable and must be reported on your income tax return. You can also deduct your gambling losses…but only up to the extent of your winnings.

Here are five important tips about gambling and taxes:

1. Gambling income includes, but is not limited to, winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races, and casinos. It includes cash winnings and the fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips.

2. If you receive a certain amount of gambling winnings or if you have any winnings that are subject to federal tax withholding, the payer is required to issue you a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings. The payer must give you a W-2G if you receive:

$1,200 or more in gambling winnings from bingo or slot machines;
$1,500 or more in proceeds (the amount of winnings minus the amount of the wager) from keno;
More than $5,000 in winnings (reduced by the wager or buy-in) from a poker tournament;
$600 or more in gambling winnings (except winnings from bingo, keno, slot machines, and poker tournaments) and the payout is at least 300 times the amount of the wager; or
Any other gambling winnings subject to federal income tax withholding.
3. Generally, you report all gambling winnings on the “Other income” line of Form 1040, U.S. Federal Income Tax Return.

4. You can claim your gambling losses up to the amount of your winnings on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, under ‘Other Miscellaneous Deductions.’ You must report the full amount of your winnings as income and claim your allowable losses separately. You cannot reduce your gambling winnings by your gambling losses and report the difference. Your records should also show your winnings separately from your losses.

5. Keep accurate records. If you are going to deduct gambling losses, you must have receipts, tickets, statements and documentation such as a diary or similar record of your losses and winnings. Refer to IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, for more details about the type of information you should write in your diary and what kinds of proof you should retain in your records.

For more information on gambling income and losses, see IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, or Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income, both available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income
Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions
Tax Topic 419, Gambling Income and Expenses
Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings
YouTube Videos:

Miscellaneous Income – English | Spanish | ASL
Record Keeping – English | Spanish | ASL

Way Busy Here, But This IRS News is to Good to Pass Up – Unemployed? Can’t Pay Your Tax?

Tax

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.”

Penalty Relief

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.

Installment Agreements

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:

IRS YouTube Video: Fresh Start: English

IRS Podcast: Fresh Start: English

HeLp fOr PeOpLe iN DiSaStEr SiTuAtIoNS

"Elk Bath" – A wildfire in the Bitte...

Help in Disaster Situations

Reprinted from the IRS

Tax Relief for Victims of Aug. 30 Wildfires in Texas

Updated 9/29/11 to include Anderson, Caldwell, Fayette, Henderson, Hill and Rusk counties.
Updated 9/27/11 to include Harrison, Smith and Upshur counties.
Updated 9/20/11 to include Cass and Marion counties.
Updated 9/19/11 to include Gregg, Grimes, Montgomery, Walker and Waller counties.
Updated 9/15/11 to include Colorado, Houston, Leon, Travis and Williamson counties.

TX-2011-64, Sept. 12, 2011

HOUSTON — Victims of wildfires that began on Aug. 30, 2011 in parts of Texas may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

The President has declared the following counties a federal disaster area: Anderson, Bastrop, Caldwell, Cass, Colorado, Fayette, Gregg, Grimes, Harrison, Henderson, Hill, Houston, Leon, Marion, Montgomery, Rusk, Smith, Travis, Upshur, Walker, Waller and Williamson. Individuals who reside or have a business in these counties may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Aug. 30 and on or before Oct. 31 have been postponed to Oct. 31. This includes corporations and other businesses that previously obtained an extension until Sept. 15 to file their 2010 returns, and individuals and businesses that received a similar extension until Oct. 17. It also includes the estimated tax payment for the third quarter, normally due Sept. 15.

In addition, the IRS is waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Aug. 30 and on or before Sept. 14, 2011, as long as the deposits were made by Sept. 14, 2011.

If an affected taxpayer receives a penalty notice from the IRS, the taxpayer should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. Penalties or interest will be abated only for taxpayers who have an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date, including an extended filing or payment due date, that falls within the postponement period.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. But affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 1-866-562-5227 to request this tax relief.

Covered Disaster Area

The counties listed above constitute a covered disaster area for purposes of Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(2) and are entitled to the relief detailed below.

Affected Taxpayers

Taxpayers considered to be affected taxpayers eligible for the postponement of time to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts are those taxpayers listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(1), and include individuals who live, and businesses whose principal place of business is located, in the covered disaster area. Taxpayers not in the covered disaster area, but whose records necessary to meet a deadline listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c) are in the covered disaster area, are also entitled to relief. In addition, all relief workers affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization assisting in the relief activities in the covered disaster area and any individual visiting the covered disaster area who was killed or injured as a result of the disaster are entitled to relief.

Grant of Relief

Under section 7508A, the IRS gives affected taxpayers until Oct. 31 to file most tax returns (including individual, corporate, and estate and trust income tax returns; partnership returns, S corporation returns, and trust returns; estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax returns; and employment and certain excise tax returns), or to make tax payments, including estimated tax payments, that have either an original or extended due date occurring on or after Aug. 30 and on or before Oct. 31.

The IRS also gives affected taxpayers until Oct. 31 to perform other time-sensitive actions described in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c)(1) and Rev. Proc. 2007-56, 2007-34 I.R.B. 388 (Aug. 20, 2007), that are due to be performed on or after Aug. 30 and on or before Oct. 31.

This relief also includes the filing of Form 5500 series returns, in the manner described in section 8 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56. The relief described in section 17 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56, pertaining to like-kind exchanges of property, also applies to certain taxpayers who are not otherwise affected taxpayers and may include acts required to be performed before or after the period above.

The postponement of time to file and pay does not apply to information returns in the W-2, 1098, 1099 series, or to Forms 1042-S or 8027. Penalties for failure to timely file information returns can be waived under existing procedures for reasonable cause. Likewise, the postponement does not apply to employment and excise tax deposits. The IRS, however, will abate penalties for failure to make timely employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Aug. 30 and on or before Sept. 14 provided the taxpayer made these deposits by Sept. 14.

Casualty Losses

Affected taxpayers in a federally declared disaster area have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either this year or last year. Claiming the loss on an original or amended return for last year will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on this year’s return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors.

Individuals may deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. For details, see Form 4684 and its instructions.

Affected taxpayers claiming the disaster loss on last year’s return should put the Disaster Designation “Texas/Wildfires” at the top of the form so that the IRS can expedite the processing of the refund.

Other Relief

The IRS will waive the usual fees and expedite requests for copies of previously filed tax returns for affected taxpayers. Taxpayers should put the assigned Disaster Designation in red ink at the top of Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, as appropriate, and submit it to the IRS.

Affected taxpayers who are contacted by the IRS on a collection or examination matter should explain how the disaster impacts them so that the IRS can provide appropriate consideration to their case.

Taxpayers may download forms and publications from the official IRS website, irs.gov, or order them by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). The IRS toll-free number for general tax questions is 1-800-829-1040.

Related Information

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Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Irene in Puerto Rico

Updated 9/29/11 to add the municipalities of Adjuntas, Ciales, Guaynabo.Updated 9/13/11 to add the municipalities of Fajardo, Gurabo, Las Piedras, Naguabo, Naranjito, Río Grande, San Lorenzo, Trujillo Alto, Vega Baja, Vieques and Villalba.Updated 9/6/11 to add the municipalities of Arroyo, Aguas Buenas, Cidra, Coamo, Comerio, Humacao, Jayuya, Juncos, Orocovis, Patillas and Ponce.

SP-FL-2011-14, Aug. 30, 2011

MIAMI — Victims of Hurricane Irene that began on Aug. 21, 2011 in parts of Puerto Rico may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

The President has declared the following municipalities a federal disaster area: Adjuntas, Arroyo, Aguas Buenas, Caguas, Canóvanas, Carolina, Cayey, Cidra, Ciales, Coamo, Comerío, Fajardo, Guaynabo, Gurabo, Humacao, Jayuya, Juncos, Las Piedras, Loíza, Luquillo, Naguabo, Naranjito, Orocovis, Patillas, Ponce, Río Grande,  San Juan, San Lorenzo, Trujillo Alto, Vega Baja, Vieques and Villalba. Individuals who reside or have a business in these municipalities may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Aug. 21, and on or before Oct. 31, have been postponed to Oct. 31, 2011. This includes corporations and other businesses that previously obtained an extension until Sept. 15 to file their 2010 returns, and individuals and businesses that received a similar extension until Oct. 17. It also includes the estimated tax payment for the third quarter, normally due Sept. 15.

In addition, the IRS is waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Aug. 21, and on or before Sept. 6, as long as the deposits are made by Sept. 6, 2011.

If an affected taxpayer receives a penalty notice from the IRS, the taxpayer should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. Penalties or interest will be abated only for taxpayers who have an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date, including an extended filing or payment due date, that falls within the postponement period.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. But affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 1-866-562-5227 to request this tax relief.

Covered Disaster Area

The municipalities listed above constitute a covered disaster area for purposes of Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(2) and are entitled to the relief detailed below.

Affected Taxpayers

Taxpayers considered to be affected taxpayers eligible for the postponement of time to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts are those taxpayers listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(1), and include individuals who live, and businesses whose principal place of business is located, in the covered disaster area. Taxpayers not in the covered disaster area, but whose records necessary to meet a deadline listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c) are in the covered disaster area, are also entitled to relief. In addition, all relief workers affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization assisting in the relief activities in the covered disaster area and any individual visiting the covered disaster area who was killed or injured as a result of the disaster are entitled to relief.

Grant of Relief

Under section 7508A, the IRS gives affected taxpayers until Oct. 31 to file most tax returns (including individual, corporate, and estate and trust income tax returns; partnership returns, S corporation returns, and trust returns; estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax returns; and employment and certain excise tax returns), or to make tax payments, including estimated tax payments, that have either an original or extended due date occurring on or after Aug. 21 and on or before Oct. 31.

The IRS also gives affected taxpayers until Oct. 31 to perform other time-sensitive actions described in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c)(1) and Rev. Proc. 2007-56, 2007-34 I.R.B. 388 (Aug. 20, 2007), that are due to be performed on or after Aug. 21 and on or before Oct. 31.

This relief also includes the filing of Form 5500 series returns, in the manner described in section 8 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56. The relief described in section 17 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56, pertaining to like-kind exchanges of property, also applies to certain taxpayers who are not otherwise affected taxpayers and may include acts required to be performed before or after the period above.

The postponement of time to file and pay does not apply to information returns in the W-2, 1098, 1099 series, or to Forms 1042-S or 8027. Penalties for failure to timely file information returns can be waived under existing procedures for reasonable cause. Likewise, the postponement does not apply to employment and excise tax deposits. The IRS, however, will abate penalties for failure to make timely employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Aug. 21 and on or before Sept. 6 provided the taxpayer makes these deposits by Sept. 6.

Casualty Losses

Affected taxpayers in a federally declared disaster area have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either this year or last year. Claiming the loss on an original or amended return for last year will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on this year’s return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors.

Individuals may deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. For details, see Form 4684 and its instructions.
Affected taxpayers claiming the disaster loss on last year’s return should put the Disaster Designation “Puerto Rico/Hurricane Irene” at the top of the form so that the IRS can expedite the processing of the refund.

Other Relief

The IRS will waive the usual fees and expedite requests for copies of previously filed tax returns for affected taxpayers. Taxpayers should put the assigned Disaster Designation in red ink at the top of Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, as appropriate, and submit it to the IRS.

Affected taxpayers who are contacted by the IRS on a collection or examination matter should explain how the disaster impacts them so that the IRS can provide appropriate consideration to their case.

Taxpayers may download forms and publications from the official IRS website, irs.gov, or order them by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). The IRS toll-free number for general tax questions is 1-800-829-1040.

Related Information

SP-FL-2011-14SP, Alivio Tributario a Víctimas del Huracán Irene en Puerto Rico
Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief for Individuals and Businesses
Recent IRS Disaster Relief Announcements

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Tax Relief for Victims of Tropical Storm Lee in Pennsylvania

Updated 9/27/11 to include Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton and Philadelphia counties.PA-34-2011, Sept. 13, 2011PHILADELPHIA — Victims of Tropical Storm Lee that began on Sept. 3, 2011 in parts of Pennsylvania may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

The President has declared the following counties a federal disaster area: Adams, Berks, Bradford, Bucks, Chester, Columbia, Cumberland, Dauphin, Delaware, Lancaster, Lebanon, Luzerne, Lycoming, Montgomery, Montour, Northampton, Northumberland, Perry, Philadelphia, Schuylkill, Snyder, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Union, Wyoming and York. Individuals who reside or have a business in these counties may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Sept. 3, and on or before Oct. 31, have been postponed to Oct. 31, 2011. This includes corporations and other businesses that previously obtained an extension until Sept. 15 to file their 2010 returns, and individuals and businesses that received a similar extension until Oct. 17. It also includes the estimated tax payment for the third quarter, normally due Sept. 15.

In addition, the IRS is waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Sept. 3, and on or before Sept. 19, as long as the deposits are made by Sept. 19, 2011.

If an affected taxpayer receives a penalty notice from the IRS, the taxpayer should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. Penalties or interest will be abated only for taxpayers who have an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date, including an extended filing or payment due date, that falls within the postponement period.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. But affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 1-866-562-5227 to request this tax relief.

Covered Disaster Area

The counties listed above constitute a covered disaster area for purposes of Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(2) and are entitled to the relief detailed below.

Affected Taxpayers

Be Sure To Get Your Refund

Cash

Refund Refund Refund

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

Unclaimed Refunds

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.

Undeliverable Refunds

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.

Lions and Tigers and IRS Notices Oh My

Mug shot of Wesley Snipes.

Open Your Tax Notices

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.

  1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.
  2. 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.
  3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.
  4. If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.
  5. If you agree with the correction to your account, usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.

Fixing Your Tax Return If You Messed It Up

By Stacie Kitts, CPA

So you filed your tax return and now you’ve discovered that it’s all wrong or you simply forgot to include something.  Not to fret, there is a way to fix it all up.

Ultimately, the IRS will “fix” it for you if you forget to add a W2 or a Form 1099.  However, if you wait for the IRS to find and correct the error, and you owe additional tax, they are going to charge you interest on the taxes that are due until you pay them.  If you are going to owe a large amount of tax, you should consider filing an amended return and paying what you owe as soon as possible.

The Form you use to amend your return is Form 1040X.  Be sure to read the instructions carefully before you begin to complete this form.

You are required to explain the reason for the amendment and the effect on the tax return – there is a place for this on the form.  Plus, additional attachments will likely be required to be filed with the Form 1040X including updated / corrected Form 1040, the originally filed Form 1040 and associated schedules.

 Here are ten facts from the Internal Revenue Service about amending your federal tax return:

  1. When to amend a return You should file an amended return if your filing status, your dependents, your total income or your deductions or credits were reported incorrectly.
  2. When NOT to amend a return  In some cases, you do not need to amend your tax return.  The IRS usually corrects math errors or requests missing forms – such as W-2s or schedules – when processing an original return.  In these instances, do not amend your return. [ya, I don’t completely agree with this – see my comments above]
  3. Form to use Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to amend a previously filed Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ.  Make sure you check the box for the year of the return you are amending on the Form 1040X. Amended tax returns cannot be filed electronically.
  4. Multiple amended returns If you are amending more than one year’s tax return, prepare a 1040X for each return and mail them in separate envelopes to the appropriate IRS processing center.
  5. Form 1040X The Form 1040X has three columns. Column A shows original figures from the original return (if however, the return was previously amended or adjusted by IRS, use the adjusted figures). Column C shows the corrected figures. The difference between Column A and C is shown in Column B.  There is an area on the back of the form to explain the specific changes and the reason for the change.
  6. Other forms or schedules If the changes involve other schedules or forms, attach them to the Form 1040X.
  7. Additional refund If you are filing to claim an additional refund, wait until you have received your original refund before filing Form 1040X.  You may cash that check while waiting for any additional refund.
  8. Additional tax If you owe additional tax, you should file Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible to limit interest and penalty charges.
  9. When to file Generally, to claim a refund, you must file Form 1040X within three years from the date you filed your original return or within two years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later.
  10. Processing time Normal processing time for amended returns is 8 to 12 weeks.

IRS Patrol – New: Surviving Spouses to Benefit from Portability Election; Estate Tax Return Required to Make this Choice For Some, Form 706 Due as Early as Oct. 3

Kilkenny Castle

Katherman Kitts & Co. LLP Protect Your Castle

By Stacie Kitts

Folks – here is info on the new portability election eliminating the need for spouses to retitled property and create trusts solely to take advantage of each spouses exclusion amount.  Read on…..

IR-2011-97, Sept. 29, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded estates of married individuals dying after 2010 that they must file an estate tax return to pass along their unused estate & gift tax exclusion amount to their surviving spouse.

Available for the first time this year, the new portability election allows estates of married taxpayers to pass along the unused part of their exclusion amount, normally $5 million in 2011, to their surviving spouse. Enacted last December, this provision eliminates the need for spouses to retitle property and create trusts solely to take full advantage of each spouse’s exclusion amount.

The IRS expects that most estates of people who are married will want to make the portability election, including people who are not required to file an estate tax return for some other reason. The only way to make the election is by properly and timely filing an estate tax return on Form 706. There are no special boxes to check or statements needed to make the election.

The first estate tax returns for estates eligible to make the portability election (because the date of death is after Dec. 31, 2010) are due as early as Monday, Oct. 3, 2011. This is because the estate tax return is due nine months after the date of death. Estates unable to meet this deadline can request an automatic six-month filing extension by filing Form 4768. The IRS emphasized that estates of those who died before 2011 are not eligible to make this election.

The IRS plans to issue regulations providing further guidance on this election and welcomes public comment on a number of issues. There are three ways to submit comments:

  • E-mail to: Notice.Comments@irscounsel.treas.gov. Include “Notice 2011-82” in the subject line.
  • Mail to: Internal Revenue Service, CC:PA:LPD:PR (Notice 2011-82), Room 5203, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044.
  • Hand deliver to: CC:PA:LPD:PR (Notice 2011-82), Courier’s Desk, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW, Washington, DC, between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday.

The deadline is Oct. 31, 2011. Further details are in Notice 2011-82, posted today on IRS.gov.

Can’t Pay Your Tax Bill?

Check Writing

Paying Your Tax

If you owe money to the IRS there are many ways to pay, including paying over time.  Here is some helpful info from the IRS tax tips:

  1. Tax bill payments If you get a bill this summer for late taxes, you are expected to promptly pay the tax owed including any penalties and interest.  If you are unable to pay the amount due, it is often in your best interest to get a loan to pay the bill in full rather than to make installment payments to the IRS.
  2. Additional time to pay Based on your circumstances, you may be granted a short additional time to pay your tax in full. A brief additional amount of time to pay can be requested through the Online Payment Agreement application at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-829-1040.
  3. Credit card payments You can pay your bill with a credit card. The interest rate on a credit card may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Code. To pay by credit card contact one of the following processing companies: Link2Gov at 888-PAY-1040 (or www.pay1040.com), RBS WorldPay, Inc. at 888-9PAY-TAX (or www.payUSAtax.com), or Official Payments Corporation at 888-UPAY-TAX (or www.officialpayments.com/fed).
  4. Electronic Funds Transfer You can pay the balance by electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier’s check or cash.  To pay using electronic funds transfer, use the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System by either calling 800-555-4477 or using the online access at www.eftps.gov.
  5. Installment Agreement You may request an installment agreement if you cannot pay the liability in full. This is an agreement between you and the IRS to pay the amount due in monthly installment payments. You must first file all required returns and be current with estimated tax payments.
  6. Online Payment Agreement If you owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest, you can request an installment agreement using the Online Payment Agreement application at www.irs.gov.
  7. Form 9465 You can complete and mail an IRS Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, along with your bill in the envelope you received from the IRS.  The IRS will inform you (usually within 30 days) whether your request is approved, denied, or if additional information is needed.
  8. Collection Information Statement You may still qualify for an installment agreement if you owe more than $25,000, but you are required to complete a Form 433F, Collection Information Statement, before the IRS will consider an installment agreement.
  9. User fees If an installment agreement is approved, a one-time user fee will be charged.  The user fee for a new agreement is $105 or $52 for agreements where payments are deducted directly from your bank account.  For eligible individuals with lower incomes, the fee can be reduced to $43.
  10. Check withholding Taxpayers who have a balance due may want to consider changing their W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, with their employer. A withholding calculator at www.irs.gov can help taxpayers determine the amount that should be withheld.

For more information about the Fresh Start initiative, installment agreements and other payment options visit www.irs.gov.  IRS Publications 594, The IRS Collection Process, and 966, Electronic Choices to Pay All Your Federal Taxes, also provide additional information regarding your payment options. These publications and Form 9465 can be obtained from www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
Links:

  • Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process (PDF)
  • Publication 966, Electronic Choices to Pay All Your Federal Taxes (PDF)
  • Form 9465, Installment Agreement (PDF)

IRS Patrol – IRS Announces New Voluntary Worker Classification Settlement Program; Past Payroll Tax Relief Provided to Employers Who Reclassify Their Workers as Employees

Original caption: Farm, farm workers, Mt. Will...

Worker or Contractor that is the question

If you or your clients think there might be an issue with the classification of  employees – that is, are your workers independent contractors or not, now is the time to look into correction.

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service  launched a new program that will enable many employers to resolve past worker classification issues and achieve certainty under the tax law at a low cost by voluntarily reclassifying their workers.

This new program will allow employers the opportunity to get into compliance by making a minimal payment covering past payroll tax obligations rather than waiting for an IRS audit.

This is part of a larger “Fresh Start” initiative at the IRS to help taxpayers and businesses address their tax responsibilities.

“This settlement program provides certainty and relief to employers in an important area,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “This is part of a wider effort to help taxpayers and businesses to help give them a fresh start with their tax obligations.”

The new Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) is designed to increase tax compliance and reduce burden for employers by providing greater certainty for employers, workers and the government. Under the program, eligible employers can obtain substantial relief from federal payroll taxes they may have owed for the past, if they prospectively treat workers as employees. The VCSP is available to many businesses, tax-exempt organizations and government entities that currently erroneously treat their workers or a class or group of workers as nonemployees or independent contractors, and now want to correctly treat these workers as employees.

To be eligible, an applicant must:

  • • Consistently have treated the workers in the past as nonemployees,
  • • Have filed all required Forms 1099 for the workers for the previous three years
  • • Not currently be under audit by the IRS, the Department of Labor or a state agency concerning the classification of these workers

Interested employers can apply for the program by filing Form 8952, Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, at least 60 days before they want to begin treating the workers as employees.

Employers accepted into the program will pay an amount effectively equaling just over one percent of the wages paid to the reclassified workers for the past year. No interest or penalties will be due, and the employers will not be audited on payroll taxes related to these workers for prior years. Participating employers will, for the first three years under the program, be subject to a special six-year statute of limitations, rather than the usual three years that generally applies to payroll taxes.

Full details, including FAQs, are available on the Employment Tax pages of IRS.gov, and in Announcement 2011-64, posted [September 21, 2011].

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