IRS.gov is the first place to go for tax help

Taxpayers are encouraged to visit IRS.gov for helpful tax information and tools that can make filing taxes easier. Here are some things taxpayers can do when they visit IRS.gov:

  • Use IRS Free File. Taxpayers with income of $66,000 or less can file using free brand-name tax software through IRS Free File. Those who earned more can use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms. Either way, everyone has a free e-file option.
  • Explore other electronic filing options. IRS e-file, which includes Free File, is the easiest, safest and most popular way to file a complete and accurate tax return. The fastest way to get a refund is to combine e-file with direct deposit. On IRS.gov, taxpayers can see if they qualify for free tax preparation help by volunteersfind software options to e-file their own taxes, and find an authorized e-file provider.
  • Find a tax preparer. Taxpayers can use the Directory of Tax Return Preparers tool to find tax preparers near them.
  • Get answers to tax questions. The Interactive Tax Assistant tool and the IRS Tax Map answer many tax-law questions. Many IRS tools and products are also available in other languages, including Spanish.
  • Check on a refund. The best way to  track the status of a refund is to use Where’s My Refund? Taxpayers can check the status of their refund within 24 hours after the IRS has received the e-filed return. Those who file a paper return can check the refund status four weeks after mailing it.
  • Pay taxes online. Taxpayers will find information about different waysto pay their taxes. This includes IRS Direct Pay, electronic funds withdrawal, and payment by debit or credit card.
  • Use the EITC Assistant. Taxpayers who worked and earned less than $54,884 in 2018 may be eligible for the earned income tax credit. Taxpayers can use the EITC Assistant tool to see if they qualify.
  • Use Get Transcript. Taxpayers who need a copy of their original tax return information may use Get Transcript Online or Get Transcript by Mail. A transcript shows most line items from your return, which is usually all you need.
  • View account information. Taxpayers can go to IRS.gov/account to securely access information about their federal tax account. They can also visit this page to access their tax records online, review the past 18 months of payment history, and view tax return information for the current year. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/secureaccess to review the required identity authentication process.

Beware of Scammers Pretending to be Social Security

Please take note; there’s a scam going around right now.

From the Social Security Administration:

In the digital age, frauds and scams are an unfortunate part of doing business online. During the holiday season, Social Security has traditionally seen a spike in phishing scams, and we want to protect you as best we can.

We urge you to always be cautious and to avoid providing sensitive information such as your Social Security Number (SSN) or bank account information to unknown individuals over the phone or internet. If you receive a call and aren’t expecting one, you must be extra careful. You can always get the caller’s information, hang up, and — if you do need more clarification — contact the official phone number of the business or agency that the caller claims to represent. Never reveal personal data to a stranger who called you.

Please take note; there’s a scam going around right now. You might receive a call from someone claiming to be from Social Security or another agency. Calls can even display the 1-800-772-1213, Social Security’s national customer service number, as the incoming number on your caller ID. In some cases, the caller states that Social Security does not have all of your personal information, such as your Social Security number (SSN), on file. Other callers claim Social Security needs additional information so the agency can increase your benefit payment, or that Social Security will terminate your benefits if they do not confirm your information. This appears to be a widespread issue, as reports have come from people across the country. These calls are not from Social Security.

Callers sometimes state that your Social Security number is at risk of being deactivated or deleted. The caller then asks you to provide a phone number to resolve the issue. People should be aware the scheme’s details may vary; however, you should avoid engaging with the caller or calling the number provided, as the caller might attempt to acquire personal information.

Social Security employees occasionally contact people by telephone for customer-service purposes. In only a few special situations, such as when you have business pending with us, a Social Security employee may request the person confirm personal information over the phone.

Social Security employees will never threaten you or promise a Social Security benefit approval or increase in exchange for information. In those cases, the call is fraudulent, and you should just hang up. If you receive these calls, please report the information to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online.

Remember, only call official phone numbers and use secured websites of the agencies and businesses you know are correct. Protecting your information is an important part of Social Security’s mission to secure today and tomorrow.

IRS waives penalty for many whose tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short in 2018

The Internal Revenue Service announced that it is waiving the estimated tax penalty for many taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year.

The IRS is generally waiving the penalty for any taxpayer who paid at least 85 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two. The usual percentage threshold is 90 percent to avoid a penalty.

The waiver computation announced today will be integrated into commercially-available tax software and reflected in the forthcoming revision of Form 2210 and instructions.

This relief is designed to help taxpayers who were unable to properly adjust their withholding and estimated tax payments to reflect an array of changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the far-reaching tax reform law enacted in December 2017.

“We realize there were many changes that affected people last year, and this penalty waiver will help taxpayers who inadvertently didn’t have enough tax withheld,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “We urge people to check their withholding again this year to make sure they are having the right amount of tax withheld for 2019.”

The updated federal tax withholding tables, released in early 2018, largely reflected the lower tax rates and the increased standard deduction brought about by the new law. This generally meant taxpayers had less tax withheld in 2018 and saw more in their paychecks.

However, the withholding tables couldn’t fully factor in other changes, such as the suspension of dependency exemptions and reduced itemized deductions. As a result, some taxpayers could have paid too little tax during the year, if they did not submit a properly-revised W-4 withholding form to their employer or increase their estimated tax payments. The IRS and partner groups conducted an extensive outreach and education campaign throughout 2018 to encourage taxpayers to do a “Paycheck Checkup” to avoid a situation where they had too much or too little tax withheld when they file their tax returns.

Although most 2018 tax filers are still expected to get refunds, some taxpayers will unexpectedly owe additional tax when they file their returns.

Additional Information

Because the U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go, taxpayers are required, by law, to pay most of their tax obligation during the year, rather than at the end of the year. This can be done by either having tax withheld from paychecks or pension payments, or by making estimated tax payments.

Usually, a penalty applies at tax filing if too little is paid during the year. Normally, the penalty would not apply for 2018 if tax payments during the year met one of the following tests:

  • The person’s tax payments were at least 90 percent of the tax liability for 2018 or
  • The person’s tax payments were at least 100 percent of the prior year’s tax liability, in this case from 2017. However, the 100 percent threshold is increased to 110 percent if a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income is more than $150,000, or $75,000 if married and filing a separate return.

For waiver purposes only, today’s relief lowers the 90 percent threshold to 85 percent. This means that a taxpayer will not owe a penalty if they paid at least 85 percent of their total 2018 tax liability. If the taxpayer paid less than 85 percent, then they are not eligible for the waiver and the penalty will be calculated as it normally would be, using the 90 percent threshold. For further details, see Notice 2019-11, posted today on IRS.gov.

Like last year, the IRS urges everyone to check their withholding for 2019. This is especially important for anyone now facing an unexpected tax bill when they file. This is also an important step for those who made withholding adjustments in 2018 or had a major life change to ensure the right tax is still being withheld. Those most at risk of having too little tax withheld from their pay include taxpayers who itemized in the past but now take the increased standard deduction, as well as two-wage-earner households, employees with nonwage sources of income and those with complex tax situations.