IRS Encourages Taxpayers to Check Their Withholding; Checking Now Helps Avoid Surprises at Tax Time

WASHINGTON — As the end of 2017 approaches, the Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to consider a tax withholding checkup. Taking a closer look at the taxes being withheld now can help ensure the right amount is withheld, either for tax refund purposes or to avoid an unexpected tax bill next year.

The withholding review takes on even more importance given a tax law change that started last year. This change requires the IRS to hold refunds a few weeks for some early filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. In addition, the IRS and state tax administrators continue to strengthen identity theft and refund fraud protections, which means some tax returns could require additional review time next year to protect against fraud.

“With only a few months left in the year, this is a good time to check on your withholding,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “How much you choose to withhold is a personal choice, but checking now can reduce the chance for a surprise tax bill when you file in 2018.”

By adjusting the Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, taxpayers can ensure that the right amount is taken out of their pay throughout the year. Having the correct amount withheld from paychecks helps to ensure that taxpayers don’t pay too much tax during the year – and it also means taxpayers have money upfront rather than waiting for a bigger refund after filing their tax return.

The IRS also cautions people to be careful and check to make sure they have enough withheld from their paychecks. Under-withholding can lead to a tax bill as well as an additional penalty. The IRS especially encourages people with a second job, such as those in the sharing economy, or with a major life change to check whether they are having enough withheld or if they are making the appropriate estimated tax payments.

In many cases, a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, is all that is needed to make an adjustment. Taxpayers submit it to their employer, and the employer uses the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from pay. But remember – it takes time for employers to process these payroll changes, so any adjustments should be made quickly so it can take affect during the final pay periods of 2017.

The IRS offers several online resources to help taxpayers bring taxes paid closer to what is owed. They are available anytime on IRS.gov. They include:

  • IRS Withholding Calculator – Online tool helps determine the correct amount of tax to withhold.
  • IRS Publication 505 – Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.
  • Tax Withholding – Complete information on withholding, estimated taxes, FAQs and more.Self-employed taxpayers, including those involved in the sharing or gig economy, can use the Form 1040-ES worksheet to correctly figure their estimated tax payments. If they also work for an employer, they can often forgo making these quarterly payments by instead having more tax taken out of their pay.

    People Working in the Sharing Economy

    The IRS encourages people in the sharing or ‘gig’ economywho also have a job with an employer to take a close look at their withholding. Doing so can help avoid unexpected tax issues.

    Some Refunds Delayed in 2018

    The IRS wants taxpayers to be aware of several factors that could affect the timing of their tax refunds next year. Due to a December 2015 law, the IRS cannot issue refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit before mid-February. Under thechange required by Congress in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund – even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC.

    This law change, which went into effect in 2017, helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

    Stronger Security Filters and Tax Refund Processing

    As the IRS steps up its efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud through its many processing filters, legitimate refund returns sometimes get delayed. While the IRS is working diligently to stop fraudulent refunds from being issued, it is also focused on releasing legitimate refunds as quickly as possible.

    The IRS, state tax agencies and the private sector tax industry continue to work together to fight fraud through their Security Summit partnership. Additional safeguards will be set in place for the 2018 filing season.

Taxpayers Who are Victims of Domestic Abuse Should Know Their Rights

Domestic abuse often includes control over finances. An important part of managing finances is understanding one’s tax rights. Taxpayers have the right to expect the IRS to consider facts and circumstances that might affect the individual’s taxes.

Taxpayers have the right to:

  • File a separate return even if they’re married.
  • Review the entire tax return before signing a joint return.
  • Review supporting documents for a joint return.
  • Refuse to sign a joint return.
  • Request more time to file their tax return.
  • Get copies of prior year tax returns from the IRS.
  • Seek independent legal advice.

Taxpayers also have the right to request relief from the liability shown on a joint return. This is known as innocent spouse relief. Here are a couple of examples:

Example 1:

  • A taxpayer signs a joint return with their spouse.
  • The taxpayer thought their spouse paid all taxes due.
  • The IRS contacts the taxpayer because the taxes shown on the joint return were not paid.

Example 2:

  • The taxpayer signs a joint return with their spouse.
  • The taxpayer didn’t know about their spouse’s unreported income or erroneous deductions.
  • The IRS adjusted the taxes due because of their spouse’s improper items.

To apply for Innocent Spouse Relief, a taxpayer fills out Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief.   More Information:

With 2017 Extension Deadline Passed, All Eyes on 2018

Now that the tax return extension filing deadline has passed, the IRS suggests that taxpayers look ahead and get ready for next year.

Taxpayers still have time to take these three actions that may affect the 2017 tax return they will file in 2018.

  1. Charitable contributions. Taxpayers can deduct contributions that they make to charitable organizations only in the year the donation is made. There is still time for taxpayers to contribute to a charity before the end of 2017. After several storms this year, many taxpayers are making donations to disaster relief organizations. Taxpayers can use the IRS Exempt Organization Select Check tool on IRS.gov to make sure that these charities and any other tax-exempt organization is eligible to receive tax-deductible contributions.
  2. IRA distributions. Taxpayers over age 70 ½ should receive payments from their individual retirement accounts and workplace retirement plans by the end of 2017. A special rule allows those who reached 70 ½ in 2017 to wait until April 1, 2018 to receive their distributions.
  3. IRA Contributions. Taxpayers generally must make workplace retirement account contributions by the end of the year. However, they can make 2017 IRA contributions until April 17, 2018.

More Information:

IRS Offers Web Conference on Tax Relief for Disaster Victims

In response to recent natural disasters, the IRS is offering two webinars. These online events help tax professionals better understand tax relief for victims of disasters.

  • The web conferences cover:
  • Tax relief for individuals and businesses
  • Special rules for disaster areas
  • How disaster losses affect taxes
  • Calculating and reporting disaster area losses
  • Tax issues related to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria

Each session will also include a live question and answer session.

The IRS designed these webinars to help tax professionals with disaster related issues.  Tax preparers receive a certificate of completion. They can also earn up to two continuing education credits for attending.  Use these links to register:

For more information about tax issues related to disasters, tax preparers and taxpayers can visit the Tax Relief in Disaster Situations page on IRS.gov.

IRS Gives Tax Relief to Victims of California Wildfires; Extension Filers Have Until Jan. 31 to File

WASHINGTON –– Victims of wildfires ravaging parts of California now have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.

This includes an additional filing extension for taxpayers with valid extensions that run out this coming Monday, Oct. 16.

Currently, the IRS is providing relief to seven California counties: Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Sonoma and Yuba. Individuals and businesses in these localities, as well as firefighters and relief workers who live elsewhere, qualify for the extension. The agency will continue to closely monitor this disaster and may provide other relief to these and other affected localities.

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on Oct. 8, 2017. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until Jan. 31, 2018, to file returns and pay any taxes originally due during this period.

This includes the Jan. 16, 2018 deadline for making quarterly estimated tax payments. For individual tax filers, it also includes 2016 income tax returns that received a tax-filing extension until Oct. 16, 2017. The IRS noted, however, that because tax payments related to these 2016 returns were originally due on April 18, 2017, those payments are not eligible for this relief.

A variety of business tax deadlines are also affected, including the Oct. 31deadline for quarterly payroll and excise tax returns. Calendar-year tax-exempt organizations whose 2016 extensions run out on Nov. 15, 2017 also qualify for the extra time.

In addition, the IRS is waiving late-deposit penalties for federal payroll and excise tax deposits normally due after Oct. 8 and before Oct. 23, if the deposits are made by Oct. 23, 2017. Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Thus, taxpayers need not contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

In addition, the IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes firefighters and workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

Individuals and businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses can choose to claim them on either the return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2017 return normally filed next year) or the return for the prior year (2016). See Publication 547 for details.

The tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by these wildfires and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. For information on disaster recovery, visit disasterassistance.gov.

Tax Tips to Help You Determine What Makes a Gift Taxable

Taxpayers who give money or property to others may wonder about the federal gift tax and if it applies. Most gifts are not subject to the gift tax.

Here are seven tax tips about the gift tax and giving:

1. Nontaxable Gifts. The general rule is that any gift is potentially taxable. However, there are exceptions to this rule. The following are nontaxable gifts:

  • Gifts that do not exceed the annual exclusion amount for the calendar year,
  • Tuition or medical expenses a taxpayer pays directly to a medical or educational institution for another person,
  • A taxpayer’s gifts to their spouse,
  • Gifts to a political organization for its use, and
  • Gifts to charities.

2. Annual Exclusion. For 2016, the annual exclusion amount is $14,000. Most gifts are not subject to the gift tax. For example, there is usually no tax if the taxpayer makes a gift to their spouse or to a charity. If a taxpayer makes a gift to another person, the gift tax usually does not apply until the value of the gift exceeds the annual exclusion amount for the year.

3. No Tax on Recipient. Generally, the person who receives the gift will not have to pay tax on it.

4. Gifts Not Deductible. Making a gift does not ordinarily affect the taxpayer’s situation. A taxpayer cannot deduct the value of gifts they make (other than deductible charitable contributions as subject to the tax code).

5. Forgiven Debt and Certain Loans. Taxpayers who forgive debt or make a loan interest-free or below the applicable market interest rate may be subject to the gift tax.

6. Gift-Splitting. A taxpayer and their spouse can give up to $28,000 to a third party without making that gift taxable. Taxpayers need to consider one-half of the gift as from them and one-half given by their spouse.

7. Filing Requirement. Taxpayers need to file Form 709, United States Gift (and Generation-Skipping Transfer) Tax Return, if any of the following apply:

  • The taxpayer gave gifts to at least one person (other than their spouse) that amounts to more than the annual exclusion for the year.
  • The taxpayer and their spouse are splitting a gift. This is true even if half of the split gift is less than the annual exclusion.
  • If the taxpayer gave a person (other than their spouse) a gift of a future interest that the recipient can’t actually possess, enjoy, or from which that person will receive income later.
  • A taxpayer gifting their spouse an interest in property that will terminate due to a future event.

Extension Filers Should Review Tax Credits Before Filing

Taxpayers who requested an extension of time to file their federal tax returns have until Oct.16 to double-check their returns for tax benefits that people often overlook. These taxpayers still have time to see if they can benefit from these four credits.

Earned Income Tax Credit

The Earned Income Tax Credit – also known as EITC and EIC –  benefits people who work and who have low-to-moderate incomes. This credit reduces the amount of tax owed and may result in a refund. To qualify for this credit, a person must meet certain requirements. They must also file a tax return.

Child Tax Credit

This is a credit of up to $1,000 per qualifying child. Taxpayers who claim this credit – but who do not qualify for the full amount – may also be able to take the additional child tax credit.

Saver’s Credit

This credit helps low-to-moderate-income workers save for retirement. It is also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit.

American Opportunity Credit

A credit for tuition, enrollment fees, and class material for the first four years of higher education. The amount of this credit is up to $2,500 per eligible student per year.

Taxpayers should check IRS.gov/credits-deductions to learn more about other credits they may be qualified to claim when they file. Taxpayers who must file their 2016 taxes by October 16 should consider filing electronically using IRS e-file or the Free File system.

Additional filing information for taxpayers in disaster areas and combat zones:

Although Oct. 16 is the last day for most people to file, some still have more time. This includes taxpayers in places recently hit by hurricanes that are federally-declared disaster areas. It also includes members of the military and others serving in a combat zone who have at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file returns and pay their taxes due.