Things You Should Know about Filing Late and Paying Penalties

April 18 was this year’s deadline for most people to file their federal tax return and pay any tax they owe. If you are due a refund there is no penalty if you file a late tax return. If you owe tax, and you failed to file and pay on time, you will most likely owe interest and penalties on the tax you pay late. To keep interest and penalties to a minimum, you should file your tax return and pay the tax as soon as possible. Click here for some facts that you should know. 

What You Need to Know if You Get a Letter in the Mail from the IRS

Each year, the IRS mails millions of notices and letters to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. If you receive correspondence from them:

1. Don’t panic. You can usually deal with a notice simply by responding to it.

2. Most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice has specific instructions, so read your notice carefully because it will tell you what...

Click here to read more... 

 

Consumer Alert: Scammers Change Tactics, Once Again

WASHINGTON — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but now the IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone.

The latest variation being seen in the last few weeks tries to play off the current tax season. Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.

“These schemes continue to adapt and evolve in an attempt to catch people off guard just as they are preparing their tax returns,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t be calling you out of the blue asking you to verify your personal tax information or aggressively threatening you to make an immediate payment.”

The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that continually change. The IRS, the states and the tax industry came together in 2015 and launched a public awareness campaign called Taxes. Security. Together. to help educate taxpayers about the need to maintain security online and to recognize and avoid “phishing” and other schemes.

The IRS continues to hear reports of phone scams as well as e-mail phishing schemes across the country.

“These schemes touch people in every part of the country and in every walk of life. It’s a growing list of people who’ve encountered these. I’ve even gotten these calls myself,” Koskinen said.

This January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 phone scam contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam. Just this year, the IRS has seen a 400 percent increase in phishing schemes.

Protect Yourself

Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via a phishing email. They’ve even begun politely asking taxpayers to verify their identity over the phone.

Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

Here are some things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you several bills.
  • Call or email you to verify your identity by asking for personal and financial information.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or email.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money or to verify your identity, here’s what you should do:

If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax:

  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.

Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Tax Savings from Higher Education Costs

Money you paid for higher education in 2015 can mean tax savings in 2016. If you, your spouse or your dependent took post-high school coursework last year, there may be a tax credit or deduction for you. Here are some facts from the IRS about key tax breaks for higher education.

The American Opportunity Credit (AOTC) is:

  • Worth up to $2,500 per eligible student.
  • Used only for the first four years at an eligible college or vocational school.
  • For students earning a degree or other recognized credential.
  • For students going to school at least half-time for at least one academic period that started during or shortly after the tax year. Claimed on your tax return using Form 8863, Education Credits.  

The Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC) is:

  • Worth up to $2,000 per tax return, per year, no matter how many students qualify.
  • For all years of higher education, including classes for learning or improving job skills.
  • Claimed on your tax return using Form 8863, Education Credits.

The Tuition and Fees Deduction is:

  • Claimed as an adjustment to income.
  • Claimed whether or not you itemize.
  • Limited to tuition and certain related expenses required for enrollment or attendance at eligible schools.
  • Worth up to $4,000.

Additionally:

  • You should receive Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from your school by Feb. 1, 2016. Your school also sends a copy to the IRS.
  • You may only claim qualifying expenses paid in 2015.
  • You can’t claim either credit if someone else claims you as a dependent.
  • You can’t claim either AOTC or LLC and the Tuition and Fees Deduction for the same student or for the same expense, in the same year.
  • Income limits could reduce the amount of credits or deductions you can claim.
  • The Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov can help you check your eligibility.

IRS Free File. You can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file your federal tax return for free. File Form 8863, Education Credits, with your Form 1040. Free File is only available at IRS.gov/freefile.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:

Your Social Security Benefits May be Taxable

If you receive Social Security benefits, you may have to pay federal income tax on part of your benefits. These IRS tips will help you determine if you need to pay taxes on your benefits.

Form SSA-1099 - If you received Social Security benefits in 2015, you should receive a Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement, showing the amount of your benefits.

Only Social Security - If Social Security was your only income in 2015, your benefits may not be taxable. You also may not need to file a federal income tax return. If you get income from other sources you may have to pay taxes on some of your benefits.

Free File - Use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file your tax return for free. If you earned $62,000 or less, you can use brand-name software. The software does the math for you and helps avoid mistakes. If you earned more, you can use Free File Fillable Forms. This option uses electronic versions of IRS paper forms. It’s best for people who are used to doing their own taxes. Free File is available only by going to IRS.gov/freefile.

Interactive Tax Assistant - You can get answers to your tax questions with this helpful tool and see if any of your benefits are taxable.  Visit IRS.gov and use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool.

Tax Formula - Here’s a quick way to find out if you must pay taxes on your Social Security benefits: Add one-half of your Social Security to all your other income, including tax-exempt interest. Then compare the total to the base amount for your filing status. If your total is more than the base amount, some of your benefits may be taxable.

Base Amounts - The three base amounts are:

$25,000 – if you are single, head of household, qualifying widow or widower with a dependent child or married filing separately and lived apart from your spouse for all of 2015
$32,000 – if you are married filing jointly
$0 – if you are married filing separately and lived with your spouse at any time during the year
Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.
 
Additional IRS Resources:
Social Security Income - Frequently Asked Questions
Publication 915, Social Security and Equivalent Railroad Retirement Benefits

Questions about income related to Social Security? Don't hesitate to call.

 

Phone Scams Continue to be a Threat

WASHINGTON — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, headlining the annual "Dirty Dozen" list of tax scams for the 2016 filing season, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.
The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise during any filing season.

"Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these aggressive phone scams. Don't be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you're not hearing from us.”

"There are many variations. The caller may threaten you with arrest or court action to trick you into making a payment,” Koskinen added. “Some schemes may say you're entitled to a huge refund. These all add up to trouble. Some simple tips can help protect you."
The Dirty Dozen is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so.
This January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.

"The IRS continues working to warn taxpayers about phone scams and other schemes," Koskinen said. "We especially want to thank the law-enforcement community, tax professionals, consumer advocates, the states, other government agencies and particularly the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for helping us in this battle against these persistent phone scams."

Protect Yourself

Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via a phishing email.

Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.
Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:
·    Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
·    Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
·    Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
·    Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
·    Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:
·    Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
·    Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
·    Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.

If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax:
·    Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.
·    
Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

IRS: IP PIN valid for 2015 returns

Due to an error, taxpayers are receiving Identity Protection PIN letters with an incorrect year listed. Taxpayers and tax professionals should be advised the IP PIN listed on the CP 01A Notice dated January 4, 2016 is valid for use on all individual tax returns filed in 2016.
The notice incorrectly indicates the IP PIN issued is to be used for filing the 2014 tax return when the number is actually to be used for the 2015 tax return.  The IRS emphasizes the IP PIN listed on the CP 01A notice is valid for the 2015 returns. Taxpayers and their tax professionals should use this PIN number for 2015 tax returns, which the IRS will begin accepting from taxpayers starting Jan. 19, 2016.
The IRS apologizes for the confusion and any inconvenience.

2016 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2016 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.
Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
·         54 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2015
·         19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 23 cents for 2015
·         14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The business mileage rate decreased 3.5 cents per mile and the medical, and moving expense rates decrease 4 cents per mile from the 2015 rates. The charitable rate is based on statute.
The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.
Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.
A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.
These and other requirements for a taxpayer to use a standard mileage rate to calculate the amount of a deductible business, moving, medical or charitable expense are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51.  Notice 2016-01 contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

The IRS offers these basic tips to taxpayers making charitable donations:

The IRS offers these basic tips to taxpayers making charitable donations:

Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible.

Don’t give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or passwords to anyone who solicits a contribution from you.

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Tax Fraud

Tax Fraud

A nationwide phone scam that took off at the end of last year isn't slowing down, says the IRS and Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  By August, over 90,000 complaints had been received, and it's believed that more than 1,100 victims have lost around $5 million.  The IRS shares warning signs, explaining that it never:

  • Asks for credit card, debit card, or prepaid card info over the phone.
  • Insists that taxpayers use a specific payment method
  • Requests immediate payment over the phone.
  • Takes enforcement action immediately following a phone conversation.
  • Initiates contact with taxpayers via email or other electronic communications to request personal or financial information.
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