Missed the Tax Return Deadline? IRS Offers Help

he tax deadline for most taxpayers was Tuesday, April 18, 2017. The IRS has some advice for taxpayers who missed the filing deadline.

  • File and pay as soon as possible. Taxpayers who owe federal income tax should file and pay as soon as they can to minimize any penalty and interest charges. For taxpayers due a refund, there is no penalty for filing a late return.
  • Use IRS Free File. Nearly everyone can use IRS Free File to e-file their federal taxes for free. Taxpayers whose income was $64,000 or less can use free brand-name tax software. Those who made more than $64,000 can use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file. This program uses electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Fillable forms work best for those who are used to doing their own taxes. Taxpayers can file — even if they missed the deadline — using free options on IRS.gov through the Oct. 16 extension period.
  • File electronically. No matter who prepares a tax return, taxpayers can use IRS e-file through Oct. 16. E-file is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file a tax return. The IRS will send electronic confirmation when it receives the tax return and issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days.
  • Pay as much as possible. If taxpayers owe but can’t pay in full, they should pay as much as they can when they file their tax return. IRS electronic payment options are the quickest and easiest way to pay taxes. IRS Direct Pay is a free, secure and easy way to pay a balance due directly from a checking or savings account. Pay any owed amounts as soon as possible to minimize penalties and interest.
  • Make monthly payments through an installment agreement. Those who need more time to pay taxes can apply for a direct debit installment agreement through the IRS Online Payment Agreement tool. There’s no need to write and mail a check each month with a direct debit plan. Taxpayers who don’t use the online tool can still apply on Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. Get the form at IRS.gov/forms.
  • File as soon as possible to get a refund. Taxpayers who are not required to file may still get a refund if they had taxes withheld from wages or they qualified for certain tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit. Those who don’t file their return within three years could lose their right to the refund.

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.

What to Do When an IRS Letter Arrives in the Mail

The IRS mails millions of pieces of correspondence every year to taxpayers for a variety of reasons.

Below are some suggestions on how to best handle a letter or notice from the IRS:

  1. Do not panic. Simply responding will take care of most IRS letters and notices.
  2. Most IRS notices are about federal tax returns or tax accounts. Each notice deals with a specific issue and provides specific instructions on what to do. Careful reading is essential.
  3. A notice may likely be about changes to a taxpayers’ account, taxes owed or a payment request. Sometimes a notice may ask for more information about a specific issue or item on a tax return.
  4. If a notice indicates a changed or corrected tax return, review the information and compare it with your original return.
  5. There is usually no need to reply to a notice unless specifically instructed to do so, or to make a payment.
  6. Taxpayers must respond to a notice they do not agree with. Mail a letter explaining why there is a disagreement with the IRS. The address to mail the letter is on the contact stub at the bottom of the notice. Include information and documents for the IRS to consider and allow at least 30 days for a response.
  7. There is no need to call the IRS or make an appointment at a taxpayer assistance center for most notices. If a call seems necessary, use the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Be sure to have a copy of the tax return and notice when calling.
  8. Always keep copies of any notices received with tax records.
  9. Be alert for tax scams. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail. IRS does not contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information. The IRS will not demand payment a certain way, such as prepaid debit or credit card. Taxpayers have several payment options for taxes owed.

For more on this topic, visit IRS.gov. Click on the link ‘Respond to a Notice’ at the bottom center of the home page. Also, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. Get IRS.gov/forms at any time.

To make a payment, visit IRS.gov/payments or use the IRS2Go app to make a payment with Direct Pay for free, or by debit or credit card through an approved payment processor for a fee.

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 Offers Last-Minute Tips for Those Who Haven’t Filed

The federal income tax filing deadline has arrived and the IRS estimates it will receive approximately 12 million 2016 federal income tax returns and nearly 8.4 million extension requests in the final days of the filing season.

For those taxpayers who have yet to file, the IRS offers this advice:

  • E-file The IRS encourages taxpayers to file electronically. E-file vastly reduces tax return errors, as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. Free File partners make their brand-name software products available for free to taxpayers earning $64,000 or less. Taxpayers who earned more may use Free File Fillable Forms. For the first time, taxpayers also can prepare their taxes from their mobile phone or tablet as well as computer. Taxpayers who changed tax software products, either using Free File or other software products, this year may be asked for their Adjusted Gross Income to verify their identity. See Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return for details.
  • Refunds The fastest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to e-file and have it electronically deposited into their bank or other financial account. The IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. Taxpayers waiting to receive their refunds can use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on IRS.gov or check the status of their refund through the smartphone app, IRS2Go. The “Where’s My Refund?” tool is updated once daily, usually overnight, so there’s no reason to check more than once per day or call the IRS to get information about a refund. Taxpayers can check “Where’s My Refund?” within 24 hours after the IRS has received an e-filed return or four weeks after receipt of a mailed paper return. “Where’s My Refund?” has a tracker that displays progress through three stages: (1) Return Received, (2) Refund Approved and (3) Refund Sent.
  • Payment Options Many taxpayers who owe money often wait until the last minute to file. Taxpayers who owe have many payment options. They can pay online, by phone or with their mobile device using the IRS2Go app. Available payment options include Direct Pay; Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS); electronic funds withdrawal; same-day wire; debit or credit card; check or money order; or cash. Some of these options are free; others require a fee.
  • File an Extension Taxpayers who are not ready to file by the deadline should request an extension. An extension gives the taxpayer until Oct. 16 to file but does not extend the time to pay. Interest and penalties will be charged on all taxes not paid by the April 18 filing deadline. Although some people automatically get an extension – such as those in a federally declared disaster area – most people need to request one. One way to get an extension is through Free File on IRS.gov where some partners offer free electronic filing of the extension request. Extensions are free for everyone, regardless of income. Another option for taxpayers is to pay electronically to get an extension. IRS will automatically process an extension when taxpayers select Form 4868 and they are making a full or partial federal tax payment using Direct Pay, Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or a debit or credit card by the April due date. There is no need to file a separate Form 4868 when making an electronic payment and indicating it is for a 4868 or extension. Electronic payment options are available at IRS.gov/payments. Taxpayers can also download, print and file a paper Form 4868 from IRS.gov/forms. The form must be mailed to the IRS with a postmark on or before midnight on April 18.
  • Penalties and Interest Taxpayers who are thinking of missing the filing deadline because they can’t pay all of the taxes they owe should consider filing and paying what they can to lessen interest and penalties. Penalties for those who owe tax and fail to file either a tax return or an extension request by April 18 can be higher than if they had filed and not paid the taxes they owed. That’s because the failure-to-file penalty is generally 5 percent per month and can be as much as 25 percent of the unpaid tax, depending on how late a taxpayer files. The failure-to-pay penalty, which is the penalty for any taxes not paid by the deadline, is ½ of 1 percent of the unpaid taxes per month. The failure-to-pay penalty continues to accrue on any unpaid tax balance and can be up to 25 percent of the unpaid amount. Taxpayers must also pay interest, currently at the annual rate of 4 percent, compounded daily, on taxes not paid by the filing deadline.
  • Installment Agreements Taxpayers who find they are unable to pay the entire amount of taxes due should consider filing the return and requesting a payment agreement. Most people can set up a payment plan with the IRS online in a matter of minutes. Those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement application to set up a short-term payment plan of 120-days or less, or a monthly payment agreement for up to 72 months. With the Online Payment Agreement, no paperwork is required, there is no need to call, write or visit the IRS and qualified taxpayers can avoid the IRS filing a Notice of Federal Tax Lien unless it previously filed one. Alternatively, taxpayers can request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465. This form can be downloaded from IRS.gov and mailed along with a tax return, IRS bill or notice.

No matter how or when they file, taxpayers are reminded to keep a copy of their tax return and all supporting documents.

Tax Time Guide: Get an Automatic Six More Months to File; Free File Now Available for Extensions

The Internal Revenue Service reminded taxpayers today that if they are unable to file their tax returns by this year’s April 18 deadline there is an easy, online option to get more time to complete their return.

The advice for those who cannot complete their tax return by April 18: Do not panic. Taxpayers who need more time to complete their return can request an automatic six-month extension. An extension allows for extra time to gather, prepare and file paperwork with the IRS, however, it does not extend the time to pay any tax due.

The fastest and easiest way to get an extension is through Free File on IRS.gov. Taxpayers can electronically request an extension on Form 4868. This service is free for everyone, regardless of income. Filing this form gives taxpayers until Oct. 16 to file their tax return. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and should pay any amount due.

Other fast, free and easy ways to get an extension include using IRS Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by paying with a credit or debit card. There is no need to file a separate Form 4868 extension request when making an electronic payment and indicating it is for an extension. The IRS will automatically count it as an extension.

Direct Pay is available online and on the IRS2Go app. It’s free, does not require preregistration and gives instant confirmation when taxpayers submit a payment. It also provides the option of scheduling a payment up to 30 days in advance. Taxpayers using a credit or debit card can pay online, by phone or with the IRS2Go app. The card processor charges a fee, but the IRS does not charge any fees for this service.

Besides Free File and electronic payments, taxpayers can request an extension through a paid tax preparer, by using tax-preparation software or by mailing in a paper Form 4868. Tax forms can be downloaded from IRS.gov/forms.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that a request for an extension provides extra time to file a tax return, but not extra time to pay any taxes owed. Payments are still due by the original deadline. Taxpayers should file even if they can’t pay the full amount. By filing either a regular return or requesting an extension by the April 18 filing deadline, they will avoid the late-filing penalty, which can be 10 times as costly as the penalty for not paying.

Taxpayers who pay as much as they can by the due date reduce the overall amount subject to penalty and interest charges. The interest rate is currently four percent per year, compounded daily. The late-filing penalty is generally five percent per month and the late-payment penalty is normally 0.5 percent per month.

The IRS will work with taxpayers who cannot pay the full amount of tax they owe. Other options to pay, such as getting a loan or paying by credit card may help resolve a tax debt. Most people can set up an installment agreement with the IRS using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov.

When the President makes a disaster area declaration, the IRS can postpone certain taxpayer deadlines for residents and businesses in the affected area. Taxpayers who are victims of a natural disaster may apply for automatic filing and payment relief. Taxpayers outside the covered disaster area but whose tax records required for filing or payment are located in a covered disaster area may also be eligible for this tax relief. Taxpayers who have been affected by recent severe weather should check Around the Nation on IRS.gov for disaster tax relief for their state.

Other taxpayers who get more time to file without having to ask for extensions include:

  • U.S. citizens and resident aliens who live and work outside of the United States and Puerto Rico get an automatic two-month extension to file their tax returns. They have until June 15 to file. However, tax payments are still due April 18.
  • Members of the military on duty outside the United States and Puerto Rico also receive an automatic two-month extension to file. Those serving in combat zones have up to180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay any taxes due. Details are available in the Armed Forces’ Tax Guide Publication 3.

April 18 Tax-Filing Deadline

Have you filed your tax return? Many don’t know, but an extension gives the taxpayer until Oct. 16 TO FILE but DOES NOT extend the time to pay.

The Internal Revenue Service has received 103.6 million 2016 individual income tax returns as of April 7 and expects millions more to be filed by the April 18 deadline. Special filing deadline rules apply to members of the military serving in combat zones, those living outside the U.S. and those living in declared disaster areas.

The IRS also expects more than 13 million taxpayers to request a filing extension, giving them six additional months to complete and file their tax return.

Who Needs to File?

Not everyone is required to file a tax return. The requirement to file depends on a person’s income, filing status, age and whether they can be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return. Anyone not sure whether they need to file a return should see Do I Need to File a Tax Return or refer to Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals, on IRS.gov.

For an estimated one million taxpayers who did not file a 2013 tax return, April 18, 2017, is the last day to file to claim their part of tax refunds totaling more than $1 billion. Taxpayers due a refund must file a return within three years of its due date or the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury. There are no late filing penalties if a refund is due.

According to the IRS, the most common reasons people do not file a return who should are: they don’t know how, may not have the documents needed or owe more tax than they can pay. Taxpayers who owe more than they can pay should pay as much as they can by the due date in order to minimize interest and penalties.

Extensions of Time to File

Taxpayers who are not ready to file by the deadline should request an extension of time to file. An extension gives the taxpayer until Oct. 16 to file but does not extend the time to pay. Penalties and interest will be charged on all taxes not paid by the April 18 filing deadline.

There are several ways to do this. The fastest and easiest way to get an extension is through Free File on IRS.gov where some partners offer free electronic filing of the extension request. Extensions are free for everyone, regardless of income. Taxpayers who earn $64,000 or less can return to Free File before Oct. 16 to prepare and e-file their taxes for free

IRS will automatically process an extension of time to file when taxpayers select Form 4868 and they are making a full or partial federal tax payment using IRS Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System or by paying with a credit or debit card by the April due date. There is no need to file a separate Form 4868 extension request when making an electronic payment and indicating it is for an extension.

Taxpayers also can complete and mail in Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to get a six-month extension.

Taxpayers Who Can’t Pay

Taxpayers should file by the deadline, even if they can’t pay, or pay as much as possible and ask the IRS about payment options. By filing a tax return, even without full payment, taxpayers will avoid the failure-to-file penalty. This penalty is assessed when the required return is not filed by the due date or extended due date if an extension is requested.

The failure-to-file penalty is generally 5 percent per month and can be as much of 25 percent of the unpaid tax. The penalty for returns filed more than 60 days late can be $205 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

The failure-to-pay penalty, which is the penalty for any taxes not paid by the deadline, is ½ of 1 percent of the unpaid taxes per month and can be up to 25 percent of the unpaid amount. Taxpayers must also payinterest on taxes not paid by the filing deadline.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that there is no law that permits taxpayers to refuse to file a federal tax return or refuse to pay their taxes. This includes for reasons based on programs or policies with which they disagree on moral, ethical, religious or other grounds. Taxpayers who file a frivolous tax return can be assessed a $5,000 penalty and civil penalties of up to 75 percent of the underpaid tax. Frivolous tax returns are those tax returns that do not include enough information to figure the correct tax or that contain information clearly showing that the tax reported is substantially incorrect.

Know these Facts Before Deducting a Charitable Donation

If taxpayers gave money or goods to a charity in 2016, they may be able to claim a deduction on their federal tax return. Taxpayers can use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool, Can I Deduct my Charitable Contributions?, to help determine if their charitable contributions are deductible.

Here are some important facts about charitable donations:

  1. Qualified Charities. Taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. Gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates are not deductible. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool.
  2. Itemize Deductions. To deduct charitable contributions, taxpayers must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with a federal tax return.
  3. Benefit in Return. If taxpayers get something in return for their donation, they may have to reduce their deduction. Taxpayers can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to events or other goods and services.
  4. Type of Donation. If taxpayers give property instead of cash, their deduction amount is normally limited to the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price they would get if the property sold on the open market. If they donate used clothing and household items, those items generally must be in good condition or better. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations.
  5. Noncash Charitable Contributions. File Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, for all noncash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year. Complete section-A for noncash property contributions worth $5,000 or less. Complete section-B for noncash property contributions more than $5,000 and include a qualified appraisal to the return. Taxpayers may be able to prepare and e-file their tax return for free using IRS Free File. The type of records they must keep depends on the amount and type of their donation. To learn more about what records to keep, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.
  6. Donations of $250 or More. If taxpayers donated cash or goods of $250 or more, they must have a written statement from the charity. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether they received any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

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.

Still Time to Contribute to an IRA for 2016

The Internal Revenue Service reminded taxpayers that they still have time to contribute to an IRA for 2016 and, in many cases, qualify for a deduction or even a tax credit.

This is the eighth in a series of 10 IRS tips called the Tax Time Guide. These tips are designed to help taxpayers navigate common tax issues as this year’s tax deadline approaches.

Available in one form or another since the mid-1970s, individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) are designed to enable employees and the self-employed to save for retirement. Contributions to traditional IRAs are often deductible, but distributions, usually after age 59½, are generally taxable. Though contributions to Roth IRAs are not deductible, qualified distributions, usually after age 59½, are tax-free. Those with traditional IRAs must begin receiving distributions by April 1 of the year following the year they turn 70½, but there is no similar requirement for Roth IRAs.

Most taxpayers with qualifying income are either eligible to set up a traditional or Roth IRA or add money to an existing account. To count for a 2016 tax return, contributions must be made by April 18, 2017. In addition, low- and moderate-income taxpayers making these contributions may also qualify for the saver’s credit when they complete their 2016 tax returns.

Generally, eligible taxpayers can contribute up to $5,500 to an IRA. For someone who was at least age 50 at the end of 2016, the limit is increased to $6,500. There’s no age limit for those contributing to a Roth IRA, but anyone who was at least age 70½ at the end of 2016 is barred from making contributions to a traditional IRA for 2016 and subsequent years.

The deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA is generally phased out for taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan whose incomes are above certain levels. For someone covered by a workplace plan during any part of 2016, the deduction is phased out if the taxpayer’s modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) for that year is between $61,000 and $71,000 for singles and heads of household and between $0 and $10,000 for those who are married filing separately. For married couples filing a joint return where the spouse who makes the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the income phase-out range for the deduction is $98,000 to $118,000. Where the IRA contributor is not covered by a workplace retirement plan but is married to someone who is covered, the MAGI phase-out range is $184,000 to $194,000.

The deduction for contributions to a traditional IRA is claimed on Form 1040 Line 32 or Form 1040A Line 17. Any nondeductible contributions to a traditional IRA must be reported on Form 8606.

Even though contributions to Roth IRAs are not tax deductible, the maximum permitted amount of these contributions is phased out for taxpayers whose incomes are above certain levels. The MAGI phase-out range is $184,000 to $194,000 for married couples filing a joint return, $117,000 to $132,000 for singles and heads of household and $0 to $10,000 for married persons filing separately. For detailed information on contributing to either Roth or Traditional IRAs, including worksheets for determining contribution and deduction amounts, see Publication 590-A, available on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers whose employer does not offer a retirement plan may want to consider enrolling in myRA®, a retirement savings plan offered by the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It’s safe, affordable and a great option for people who don’t have a retirement savings plan at work. Taxpayers can direct deposit their entire refund or a portion of it into an existing myRA – Retirement Account.  For further details and to open a myRA account online, visit www.myRA.gov.

Also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, the Saver’s Credit is often available to IRA contributors whose adjusted gross income falls below certain levels. For 2016, the income limit is $30,750 for singles and married filing separate, $46,125 for heads of household and $61,500 for married couples filing jointly.

Eligible taxpayers get the credit even if they qualify for other retirement-related tax benefits. Like other tax credits, the Saver’s Credit can increase a taxpayer’s refund or reduce the taxes they owe. The amount of the credit is based on a number of factors, including the amount contributed to either a Roth or Traditional IRA and other qualifying retirement programs. Form 8880 is used to claim the Saver’s Credit, and its instructions have details on figuring the credit correctly.