Reminder: Employers Must File Forms W-2 by Jan. 31 This Year

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service today reminds employers that the due date for filing Forms W-2, the Wage and Tax Statement for their employees for calendar year 2016, is now Jan, 31, 2017. Also, those who hire contract workers and have to file Form 1099-MISC now must file by Jan. 31.

The new deadline applies whether an employer e-files or files a paper Form W-2. Employers who pay an employee $600 or more for the year must file a Form W-2 for each employee with the Social Security Administration.

The new deadline is part of legislation signed into law at the end of 2015 to combat identity-theft related refund fraud.

The Social Security Administration encourages all employers to e-file their Forms W-2 by using its Business Services Online.  Employers who file paper Forms W-2 should file them with the Social Security Administration, Data Operations Center, Wilkes-Barre, PA 18769-0001.

E-filing can save time and effort and helps ensure accuracy. Employers must e-file if they file 250 or more Forms W-2 or W-2c. Employers who are required to e-file but fail to do so may incur a penalty. E-filing can save time and effort and helps ensure accuracy.

The IRS projects that employers will file more than 250 million Forms W-2 this year; the vast majority will be e-filed.

The new rule does not affect the filing deadline for other types of Form 1099 or Forms 1097, 1098, 3921, 3922, or W-2G, which are filed on paper by Feb. 28, 2018, or by April 2, 2018 if filed electronically.

Advertisements

Things to Remember When Choosing a Tax Preparer

Taxpayers should choose their tax return preparer wisely – with good reason. Taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return. That’s true no matter who prepares the return. Here are ten tax tips to keep in mind:

1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that they prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers with a credentials or filing season qualifications. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:

  • Attorneys.
  • Certified Public Accountants.
  • Enrolled Agents.
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.
  • Enrolled Actuaries.
  • Annual Filing Season Program participants.

Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Annual Filing Season Program participants may represent clients in more limited situations. Non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program may only represent clients before the IRS on returns they prepared and signed on or before December 31, 2015.

For more information, check the Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications page.

2. Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.

3. Ask about Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When inquiring about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers and other information. Some preparers have improperly used this information to file returns without the taxpayer’s permission.

4. Ask to E-file. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has safely processed billions of e-filed tax returns.

5. Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 18 due date. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.

6. Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure the total income, tax deductions, credits, etc. Taxpayers should not use a preparer who will e-file their return using their last pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

7. Never Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer who asks a taxpayer to sign a blank tax form.

8. Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. They should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. Review the routing and bank account number on the completed return.

9. Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.

10. Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their return without the taxpayer’s consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Taxpayers can get these forms on IRS.gov any time.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:

Share this tip on social media — Things to Remember When Choosing a Tax Preparer. http://go.usa.gov/x9sb9#IRS

Claim the Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit has helped workers with low and moderate incomes get a tax break for 40 plus years. Yet, one out of every five eligible workers fails to claim it. Here are some things taxpayers should know about the EITC:

  • Review Your Eligibility. Taxpayers who worked and earned under $53,505 may qualify for EITC. Filers should review EITC eligibility rules if their household income or family situation has changed. They may qualify for EITC this year, even if they did not in the past. To qualify, a taxpayer must file a federal income tax return claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit.  This is true even if a taxpayer is not otherwise required to file a tax return. Use the EITC Assistant tool to find out about eligibility rules and amounts.
  • Know the Rules. Taxpayers need to understand the rules before they claim the EITC. It is important to get this right. Here are some factors to consider:
    • Taxpayers who are married and file a separate return do not qualify for the EITC.
    • Filers must have a Social Security number valid for employment for themselves, their spouse (if married), and any qualifying child listed on their filed tax return.
    • Taxpayers must have earned income. This may include earnings from working for someone else as an employee or being self-employed.
    • Filers may be married or single, with or without children to qualify. Those who do not have children must also meet the age, residency and dependency rules. For a child to qualify, they must have lived with the taxpayer for more than six months in 2016. In addition, the child must meet the age, residency, relationship and joint return rules to qualify.
    • U.S. Armed Forces members serving in a combat zone have special rules that apply.
  • Lower Your Tax or Get a Refund. Filers who qualify for EITC could pay less federal tax, no tax or even get a refund. The EITC could be worth up to $6,269. The average credit was $2,482 last year.
  • Use Free Services. For those who do their own taxes, the best way to file a return to claim EITC is to use IRS Free File. Free brand name software will figure out taxes and the EITC automatically. Combining e-file with direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to get a refund. Free File is only available on IRS.gov/freefile.

Taxpayers can also get free help preparing and e-filing their return to claim the EITC. The IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance, or VITA program, offers free help at thousands of sites around the country. Get help with health care law tax provisions with Free File or VITA.

  • Refunds Held Until Feb 15. Beginning in 2017, if taxpayers claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit on their tax return, the IRS must hold their refund until at least February 15. This applies to the entire refund, even the portion not associated with these credits. However, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. Taxpayers should file as usual. There is no need to wait until February 15.

For more on EITC, see IRS Publication 596, Earned Income Credit. It’s available in English and Spanish on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers should keep an eye out for IRS EITC Awareness Day. Look for promotional information and locally scheduled events on or around January 27, 2017.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:

EITC Awareness Day: Workers May Qualify for Significant Tax Benefit

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today joined partners across the country in promoting the Earned Income Tax Credit on EITC Awareness Day, Friday, Jan. 27, 2017. This campaign, which started 11 years ago, is a nationwide effort to alert millions of low- and moderate-income workers who may be missing out on this significant tax credit.

Millions of taxpayers who earned $53,505 or less last year may qualify for EITC for the first time in 2017, making awareness critical. Local officials and community organizations nationwide are holding events on EITC Awareness Day highlighting this key benefit.

“The EITC is an important anti-poverty tax credit that helps millions of people every year,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Even though four out of five eligible workers and families benefit from the EITC, millions more miss out because they don’t know about it or don’t realize they’re eligible. We encourage people to look into whether they qualify.”

Workers, self-employed people and farmers who earned $53,505 or less last year could receive larger refunds if they qualify for the EITC. Eligible families with three or more qualifying children could get a maximum credit of up to $6,269. EITC for people without children could mean up to $506 added to their tax refund. Unlike most deductions and credits, the EITC is refundable. In other words, those eligible may get a refund from the IRS even if they owe no tax. Last year, more than 27 million eligible workers and families received almost $67 billion in EITC; with an average EITC amount of more than $2,455.

The IRS recommends that all workers who earned around $54,000 or less learn about EITC eligibility and use the EITC Assistant to find out if they qualify. The tool will help them determine their filing status, if they have a qualifying child or children, if they qualify to receive the EITC and estimate the amount of the credit they could get. If an individual doesn’t qualify for EITC, the Assistant explains why. A summary of the results can be printed and kept with the worker’s tax papers.

The IRS reminds taxpayers to be sure they have valid Social Security numbers in hand for themselves, as well as for each qualifying child, before they file their return. Moreover, to get the EITC on a 2016 return, they must get these SSNs before the tax-filing deadline (April 18, 2017, for most people or Oct. 16, 2017, for those who get extensions).

How to Claim the EITC

To get the EITC, workers must file a tax return and specifically claim the credit. Free tax preparation help is available online and through a nearby volunteer organization. Those eligible for the EITC have these options:

  • Free File on IRS.gov. Free brand-name tax software walks people through a question and answer format to help them prepare their returns and claim every credit and deduction for which they are eligible. Free File also provides online versions of IRS paper forms, an option called Free File Fillable Forms, best suited for taxpayers comfortable preparing their own returns.
  • Free tax preparation sites. EITC-eligible workers can seek free tax preparation at thousands of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites. To locate the nearest site, use the search tool on IRS.gov or the IRS2go smartphone application.

Be sure to bring along all required documents and information.

Refunds

A new law approved by Congress requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the EITC and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. By law, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC. This change helps ensure taxpayers receive the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

Even so, taxpayers can still get their refunds sooner by choosing direct deposit. The IRS will begin releasing these refunds on Feb. 15, but taxpayers should not expect to see them deposited into their bank accounts until the week of Feb. 27– assuming there are no processing issues with the tax return.

Where’s My Refund? ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go mobile app will be updated with projected deposit dates for early EITC / ACTC refund filers a few days after Feb. 15.

Avoid Errors: Get It Right

Taxpayers are responsible for the accuracy of their tax return even if someone else prepares it for them. Since the EITC rules are complicated, the IRS urges taxpayers to seek help if they are not sure they are eligible, at a free tax return preparation site, by using Free File software, or from a paid tax professional. Be sure to choose a tax preparer wisely. Deliberate errors can have lasting impact on future eligibility to claim EITC and leave taxpayers with a penalty.

Be sure to reply promptly to any letter from the IRS requesting additional information about EITC. If taxpayers need assistance or have questions, call the number on the IRS letter.

The IRS also reminds taxpayers about the availability of myRA, a free, retirement savings account from the Treasury Department. Taxpayers who have a myRA account may use Free File to deposit their tax refund or a portion of their refund into their myRA account. Use Form 8888 or follow the software product’s instructions.

Beware of Scams

Beware of scams that claim to increase the EITC refund. Scams that create fictitious qualifying children or inflate income levels to get the maximum EITC could leave taxpayers with a penalty.

Normally, if an EITC claim was reduced or denied in the past any reason other than a mathematical or clerical error, taxpayers must file Form 8862, Information to Claim Earned Income Credit after Disallowance, with their next return to claim the credit.

IRS.gov is a valuable first stop to help taxpayers get it right this filing season. Qualify for EITC? See what other tax credits are available such as the Additional Child Tax Credit.

Related items:

  • FS-2017-02, Do I Qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit?
  • IRS.gov/eitc, Detailed EITC eligibility rules
  • EITC Central at www.eitc.irs.gov, Helpful resources for IRS partners and anyone interested in spreading the word about this benefit.
  • Pub. 596, Earned Income Credit (EIC)
  • Tax Professionals, Another place for valuable EITC resources and assistance.

Use IRS Free File to File Taxes for Free

Join the millions of Americans who safely file their taxes and save money using IRS Free File. Taxpayers can use either name-brand software or fillable forms – for free. Combining IRS Free File with direct deposit is the quickest and safest way to get a refund.

Here are some tips about IRS Free File:

  1. Get Started at IRS.gov. IRS Free File is available only through IRS.gov. Simply choose a Free File company and then click on that link to prepare and e-file the return.
  2. Find Tax Breaks. The tax software’s question-and-answer format helps eligible taxpayers find tax breaks. This could include tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. The software then selects the appropriate tax forms and does the calculations automatically. Free File can help with the health care law tax provisions as well.
  3. Free for All. Taxpayers with income of $64,000 or less can use brand-name software. Taxpayers who earned more can use Free File Fillable Forms. This option allows taxpayers to complete IRS forms electronically. It is best for those who are used to doing their own taxes.
  4. Easy Online Extensions. For those who cannot finish their return by the April 18 deadline, it’s easy to use Free File to request a six-month extension. An extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay. If taxpayers owe federal taxes, they should estimate the amount they owe and pay it with the extension request. This will help avoid penalties and interest.

The IRS partners with leading tax software companies, the Free File Alliance, to make the program available. Some companies offer free state tax return filing as well.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

IRS YouTube Videos:

Five Reasons to Choose Direct Deposit For Your Tax Refund

Easy, safe and fast — that’s direct deposit. It’s the best way to get a tax refund. Eighty percent of taxpayers choose it every year. The IRS knows taxpayers have a choice of how to receive their refunds.

IRS Direct Deposit:

  1. Is Fast. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and use direct deposit. Use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file federal returns for free. Use direct deposit for paper tax returns, too.
  2. Is Secure. Since refunds go right into a bank account, there’s no risk of having a paper check stolen or lost in the mail. This is the same electronic transfer system used to deposit nearly 98 percent of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.
  3. Is Convenient. There’s no need to wait for a refund check to come in the mail.
  4. Is Easy.  Choosing direct deposit is easy. With e-file, just follow the instructions in the tax software. For paper returns, the tax form instructions serve as a guide. Make sure to enter the correct bank account and routing number.
  5. Has Options. Taxpayers can split a refund into several financial accounts. These include checking, savings, health, education and certain retirement accounts. The U.S. Treasury Department offers a retirement account. It’s called a MyRA account.  Designate all or a part of a refund to a new MyRA account. Simply mark the “savings” box in the refund section of the return. Use IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (including Savings Bond Purchases), to deposit a refund in up to three accounts. Do not use Form 8888 to designate part of a refund to pay tax preparers.

Taxpayers should deposit refunds into accounts in their own name, their spouse’s name or both. Avoid making a deposit into accounts owned by others. Some banks require both spouses’ names on the account to deposit a tax refund from a joint return. Taxpayers should check with their bank for direct deposit rules.

There is a limit of three electronic direct deposit refunds made into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card. The IRS will send a notice and a refund check in the mail to taxpayers who exceed the limit. Find tips about direct deposit and the split refund option in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. View, download and print tax products anytime at IRS.gov/forms.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:

  • Direct Deposit for Your Tax RefundSpanish | ASL

How the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights Works

Taxpayers have fundamental rights under the law. The “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” presents these rights in 10 categories. This helps taxpayers when they interact with the IRS.

Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, highlights a list of taxpayer rights and the agency’s obligations to protect them. Here is a wrap-up of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights:

1. The Right to Be Informed.

Taxpayers have the right to know what is required to comply with the tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures in all tax forms, instructions, publications, notices and correspondence. They have the right to know about IRS decisions affecting their accounts and clear explanations of the outcomes.

2. The Right to Quality Service.

Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS and the freedom to speak to a supervisor about inadequate service. Communications from the IRS should be clear and easy to understand.

3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax.

Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due, including interest and penalties. They should also expect the IRS to apply all tax payments properly.

4. The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard.

Taxpayers have the right to object to formal IRS actions or proposed actions and provide justification with additional documentation. They should expect that the IRS will consider their timely objections and documentation promptly and fairly. If the IRS does not agree with their position, they should expect a response.

5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum.

Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including certain penalties. Taxpayers have the right to receive a written response regarding a decision from the Office of Appeals. Taxpayers generally have the right to take their cases to court.

6. The Right to Finality.

Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge an IRS position and the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS concludes an audit.

7. The Right to Privacy.

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary. They should expect such proceedings to respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections. The IRS will provide, where applicable, a collection due process hearing.

8. The Right to Confidentiality.

Taxpayers have the right to expect that their tax information will remain confidential. The IRS will not disclose information unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers should expect the IRS to take appropriate action against employees, return preparers and others who wrongfully use or disclose their return information.

9. The Right to Retain Representation.

Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they cannot afford representation.

10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System.

Taxpayers have the right to expect fairness from the tax system. This includes considering all facts and circumstances that might affect their underlying liabilities, ability to pay or ability to provide information timely. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service if they are experiencing financial difficulty or if the IRS has not resolved their tax issues properly and timely through its normal channels.

The IRS will include Publication 1 when sending a notice to taxpayers on a range of issues, such as an audit or collection matter. IRS offices display the rights for taxpayers and employees to see.

Publication 1 is available in  English, Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Vietnamese.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:

IRS Podcasts: