Spread the word about a tax credit that helps millions of Americans

All individual taxpayers and families should claim tax credits for which they are eligible. Tax credits can not only reduce the amount of taxes owed, but some can result in a tax refund. The earned income tax credit is such a credit. It benefits millions of taxpayers by putting more money in their pockets.

The IRS encourages taxpayers who have claimed the credit to help their friends, family members and neighbors find out about EITC. They can go to IRS.gov/eitc or use the EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov, available in English and Spanish. Word of mouth is a great way to help people who may be eligible for this credit in 2019 for the first time. People often become eligible for the credit when their family or financial situation changed in the last year.

Based on income, family size and filing status, the maximum amount of EITC for Tax Year 2018 is:

  • $6,431 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,716 with two qualifying children
  • $3,461 with one qualifying child
  • $519 with no qualifying children

Every year, millions of taxpayers don’t claim the EITC because they don’t know they’re eligible. Here are some groups the IRS finds often overlook this valuable credit:

  • American Tribal communities
  • People living in rural areas
  • Working grandparents raising grandchildren
  • Taxpayers with disabilities
  • Parents of children with disabilities
  • Active duty military and/or veterans
  • Healthcare and Hospitality workers

Free tax help from volunteers:

The IRS works with community organizations around the country to offer free tax preparation services. They train volunteers who prepare taxes for people with low and moderate income. These volunteers can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible to claim the EITC. There are two IRS-sponsored programs:

  • Volunteer Income Tax Assistance: This program, also known as VITA, offers free tax return preparation to eligible taxpayers who generally earn $55,000 or less.
  • Tax Counseling for the Elderly: TCE is mainly for people age 60 or older but offers service to all taxpayers. The program focuses on tax issues unique to seniors. AARP participates in the TCE program through AARP Tax-Aide.

IRS offers free March 28 webinar: Understanding how to do a ‘Paycheck Checkup’

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) will provide a free online, web-based information session in two languages on Thursday, March 28, 2019, to help people understand how to do a ‘Paycheck Checkup.’

Doing a Paycheck Checkup means checking tax withholding using the IRS Withholding Calculator and making any necessary adjustments to avoid having too little or too much tax withheld from paychecks.

The webinar is part of a continuing effort by the IRS to share information with taxpayers and partners to help people review their tax withholding, especially if they have already filed and noticed a significant change to their tax refund or amount owed brought about by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) enacted in 2017. The TCJA lowered tax rates, increased standard deductions, suspended personal exemptions, increased the Child Tax Credit and limited or discontinued deductions.

Sooner is better

The IRS urges all taxpayers to do a “Paycheck Checkup” now so that if a withholding adjustment is needed, there is more time for withholding to happen evenly during the rest of the year. Waiting means there are fewer pay periods to withhold the necessary federal tax – so the change in withholding from each remaining paycheck will be more.

Reviewing withholding is especially important if people did a Paycheck Checkup in 2018 and adjusted their withholding during the middle or late in the year. Another review early this year can help make sure they’re having the right amount withheld for the rest of 2019.

The Withholding Calculator is an accurate, simple way for most taxpayers to determine their correct withholding amount. The tool allows taxpayers to enter their expected 2019 income, deductions, adjustments, and credits – including the Child Tax Credit.

Webinar helps diagnose who needs a ‘Paycheck Checkup’

The two 60-minute webinars, one in English and one in Spanish, include a special Q&A session. The sessions cover the basics of using the online IRS Withholding Calculator and detail the different situations that may require taxpayers to adjust their withholding, including those who:

  • Had a large tax refund or tax bill for 2018 when they filed their tax return this year.
  • Adjusted their tax withholding in the middle or later part of 2018.
  • Had a major life change this year.
  • Are a two-income family.
  • Have two or more jobs at the same time or only work part of the year.
  • Claim credits like the Child Tax Credit.
  • Have dependents age 17 or older.
  • Itemized deductions in the past.
  • Have high income or a complex tax return.
  • Have a large tax refund or tax bill for 2018.

Register to attend either language version of this webinar on March 28; the Spanish webinar starts at 11 a.m. Eastern, and the English webinar begins at 2 p.m. Eastern. It is recommended attendees log in 10 minutes prior to the start time. Closed captioning will be available. Find previous archived webinars on www.irsvideos.gov.

BEWARE: Phony IRS calls increase during filing season

The tax filing season is a busy time for taxpayers, but scammers also stay busy. Taxpayers should be aware of several types of tax scams, but phone scams start to increase during the beginning of tax season and then remain active throughout the remainder of the year. Here’s how this scam generally works:

  • Scammers impersonating the IRS call taxpayers telling them they owe taxes and face arrest if they don’t pay.
  • The scammer may leave a message asking taxpayers to call back to clear up a tax matter or face arrest.
  • When taxpayers call back, the scammers often use threatening and hostile language.
  • The thief demands that the taxpayers pay their tax debts with a gift card, other pre-paid cards or a wire transfer.

Taxpayers who receive these phone calls should:

Taxpayers should remember that the IRS does not:

  • Call taxpayers demanding immediate payment using a specific payment method. Generally, the IRS first mails a bill to the taxpayer.
  • Threaten to have taxpayers arrested for not paying taxes.
  • Demand payment without giving taxpayers an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

Tax reform changes to fringe benefit deductions affect business’s bottom line

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes tax law changes that affect businesses and the 2018 tax returns they file this year. One change is to fringe benefit deductions, which can affect both a business’s bottom line and its employees’ deductions.

Here is a rundown of these changes:

Transportation fringe benefits
The new law disallows deductions for expenses associated with qualified transportation fringe benefits or expenses incurred providing transportation for commuting, except as necessary for employee safety.

Bicycle commuting reimbursements
Under the new tax law, employers can deduct qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements as a business expense for 2018 through 2025. The new tax law suspends the exclusion of qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements from an employee’s income for 2018 through 2025. Employers must now include these reimbursements in the employee’s wages.

Moving expenses
Employers must now include moving expense reimbursements in employees’ wages. The new tax law suspends the former exclusion for qualified moving expense reimbursements. There is one exception for active duty members of the U.S. Armed Forces. They can still exclude moving expenses from their income. There is additional guidance on reimbursements for employees’ 2017 moves if an employer reimburses the expenses in 2018. Generally, reimbursements in this situation are not taxed.

Achievement awards
Special rules allow an employee to exclude achievement awards from wages if the awards are tangible personal property. An employer also may deduct awards that are tangible personal property, subject to certain deduction limits. The new law clarifies the definition of tangible personal property.

Taxpayers must report health care coverage on 2018 tax return

As taxpayers are completing their 2018 tax returns this year, they must complete the lines related to health care.

For tax year 2018, the IRS will not consider a return complete and accurate if individuals do not do one of the following on their return:

  • Report full-year health coverage
  • Claim a coverage exemption
  • Report and make a shared responsibility payment for everyone on the tax return

The law continues to require taxpayers who do not qualify for an exemption to maintain health care coverage in 2018 or make a shared responsibility payment when they file their tax return.

Most taxpayers have qualifying health coverage or a coverage exemption for all 12 months in the year and will check the box on the front of their tax return. Taxpayers who can check the box don’t have to file Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, to claim any coverage exemptions. This includes the coverage exemption for household income below the filing threshold.

Taxpayers who did not have coverage for the entire year and therefore can’t check the box generally must report a shared responsibility payment when they file. They will report this payment for each month that anyone listed on the tax return didn’t have qualifying health care coverage or a coverage exemption.

Taxpayers can determine if they are eligible for a coverage exemption or are responsible for the individual shared responsibility payment by using the Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov.

In addition, taxpayers may be eligible for the premium tax credit if they purchased health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Anyone who needs health coverage can visit HealthCare.gov to learn about health insurance options that are available for them and their family.

Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the shared responsibility payment is reduced to zero for tax year 2019 and all subsequent years. See Publication 5307, Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families, for information about the shared responsibility payment for tax year 2019.

Here’s how a name change affects a tax return

When someone legally changes their name, there are tax consequences they need to know about., especially at tax time. People change their names for several reasons:

  • Taking their spouse’s last name after a marriage
  • Hyphenating their last name with their spouse’s after getting married
  • Going back to their former name after a divorce
  • Giving an adopted child the last name of their new family

The IRS wants people experiencing a name change to remember these important things:

Reporting change to SSA. Taxpayers should notify the Social Security Administration of a name change ASAP. When a taxpayer files their taxes, the IRS checks SSA records to ensure names and social security numbers on the forms match.

Failing to report a name change. If a name on a taxpayer’s tax return doesn’t match SSA records, it can delay the IRS processing of that return. In that case, if the taxpayer is due a refund, it will take longer for them to get their money.

Name Change Due to Adoption. In the case of an adoption, if the child has a Social Security number, the taxpayer should be sure to inform the SSA of a name change. If the child does not have a Social Security number, the taxpayer may use an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on their tax return. An ATIN is a temporary number. Taxpayers can apply for an ATIN by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions. Taxpayers file this form with the IRS.

Getting a New SS Card. After a name change, a taxpayer should file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The form is available on SSA.gov or by calling 800-772-1213. The taxpayer’s new Social Security card will reflect the name change.

Here’s how taxpayers can pay their taxes

The IRS offers several payment options where taxpayers can pay immediately or arrange to pay in installments. Taxpayers can pay online, by phone, or with their mobile device and the IRS2Go app. Taxpayers should pay in full whenever possible to avoid interest and penalty charges.

Here are some electronic payment options for taxpayers:

  • Electronic Funds Withdrawal. Taxpayers can pay using their bank account when they e-file their tax return. EFW is free and only available through e-File.
  • Direct Pay. Taxpayers can pay directly from a checking or savings account for free with IRS Direct Pay. Taxpayers receive instant confirmation after they submit a payment. With Direct Pay, taxpayers can schedule payments up to 30 days in advance. They can change or cancel their payment two business days before the scheduled payment date. Taxpayers can choose to receive email notifications each time they make a payment.
  • Credit or debit cards. Taxpayers can also pay their taxes by debit or credit card online, by phone, or with a mobile device. Card payment processing fees vary by service provider and no part of the service fee goes to the IRS. Telephone numbers for service providers are at IRS.gov/payments.
  • Pay with cash. Taxpayers can make a cash payment at a participating retail partner. Taxpayers can do this at more than 7,000 locations nationwide. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/paywithcash for instructions on how to pay with cash.
  • Installment agreement. Taxpayers who are unable to pay their tax debt immediately may be able to make monthly payments. Before applying for any payment agreement, taxpayers must file all required tax returns. They can apply for an installment agreement with the Online Payment Agreement tool, which also has more information about who’s eligible to apply for a monthly installment agreement.