Feb. 20 IRS webinar focuses on gig economy

The Internal Revenue Service is holding a free webinar designed to help gig workers, employers, contractors and other businesses understand their tax reporting responsibilities.

This free 60-minute webinar will take place on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. Eastern Time. It is open to gig workers, businesses, tax professionals and anyone else interested in the tax rules that affect the gig economy. Tax pros can earn one continuing education credit.

Topics to be covered include:

  • What is the gig economy?
  • How does a gig worker know whether they are an employee or self-employed?
  • Business expenses and recordkeeping.
  • Rules for home rentals.
  • Tax payment options.

The webinar will feature a live question and answer session and will be closed captioned for viewers who are deaf or hearing impaired. Anyone interested in attending can register online.

For more information on the gig economy, visit Understanding the Gig Economy and the Gig Economy Tax Center on IRS.gov.

Archived versions of past IRS webinars are available at www.irsvideos.gov.

IRS launches Identity Theft Central

Focuses on needs of taxpayers, tax professionals and businesses-

The Internal Revenue Service has launched Identity Theft Central, designed to improve online access to information on identity theft and data security protection for taxpayers, tax professionals and businesses.

Located on IRS.gov, Identity Theft Central is available 24/7 at irs.gov/identitytheft. It is a resource on how to report identity theft, how taxpayers can protect themselves against phishing, online scams and more.  

Improving awareness and outreach are hallmarks of initiatives to combat identity theft coordinated by the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry, all working in partnership under the Security Summit banner.

Since 2015, the Security Summit partners have made substantial progress in the fight against tax-related identity theft. But thieves are still constantly looking for ways to steal the identities of individuals, tax professionals and businesses in order to file fraudulent tax returns for refunds.

The partnership has taken a number of steps to help educate and improve protections for taxpayers, tax professionals and businesses. As part of this effort, the IRS has redesigned the information into a new, streamlined page − Identity Theft Central − to help people get information they need on ID theft, scams and schemes.

From this special page, people can get specific information including:

  • Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, including what to do if someone becomes a victim of identity theft
  • Identity Theft Information for Tax Professionals, including knowing responsibilities under the law
  • Identity Theft Information for Businesses, including how to recognize the signs of identity theft

The page also features videos on key topics that can be used by taxpayers or partner groups. The new page includes a video message from IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig, warning signs for phishing email scams – a common tactic used for identity theft – and steps for people to protect their computer and phone.

Tax professionals and others may want to bookmark Identity Theft Central and check their specific guidance periodically for updates.

This is part of an ongoing effort by the IRS to share identity theft-related information with the public. The IRS continues to look for ways to raise awareness and improve education and products related to identity theft for taxpayers and the tax professional community.

IRS kicks off 2020 tax filing season with returns due April 15; help available on IRS.gov for fastest service

The Internal Revenue Service successfully opened the 2020 tax filing season as the agency begins accepting and processing federal tax returns for tax year 2019.

The deadline to file a 2019 tax return and pay any tax owed is Wednesday, April 15, 2020.  More than 150 million individual tax returns for the 2019 tax year are expected to be filed, with the vast majority of those coming before the April 15 tax deadline.

“The IRS workforce has worked for nearly a year to prepare for the opening of tax season,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Our dedicated employees are committed to help taxpayers, process tax returns and serve the nation − not just through the April 15 tax deadline but throughout the year.”

While the IRS’ Free File program as well as many tax software companies and tax professionals began accepting tax returns earlier this month, processing of those tax returns begins as IRS systems open.

The IRS expects about 90 percent of individuals to file their returns electronically. Filing electronically and choosing direct deposit remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.

“The IRS reminds taxpayers there are many options to get help,” Rettig said. “Our website has around the clock information available and is the fastest way to get assistance. We’ve made improvements to the Free File program and filing electronically with direct deposit remains the best way to speed refunds and minimize errors. As always, experts in the nation’s tax professional community stand ready to help people navigate their tax issues. And we also remind people our IRS-trained community volunteers are ready to help file tax returns in locations across the country.”

Revised 2019 Form 1040 includes virtual currency questions

Using feedback from taxpayers and the tax professional community, IRS revised the Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for tax year 2019. Taxpayers will use fewer schedules to supplement the base Form 1040 as six schedules were consolidated into three numbered schedules.

In 2019, taxpayers who engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency will need to file Schedule 1, Additional Income and Adjustments To Income. The Internal Revenue Code and regulations require taxpayers to maintain records that support the information provided on tax returns. Taxpayers should maintain, for example, records documenting receipts, sales, exchanges or other dispositions of virtual currency and the fair market value of the virtual currency.

“Virtual currency is an important addition to the 1040 this year,” Rettig said. “This emerging area is a priority for the IRS, and we want to help taxpayers understand their obligations involving virtual currency. We will also take steps to ensure fair enforcement of the tax laws for those who don’t follow the rules involving virtual currency.”

New Form 1040-SR alternative for seniors available

While all taxpayers file Form 1040, taxpayers born before Jan. 2, 1955, have an additional option to use new Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors. Taxpayers age 65 or older will have the option to use this new form – either filing electronically or mailing a paper return − when they file their 2019 federal income tax return in 2020. Form 1040-SR generally mirrors Form 1040.

Form 1040-SR allows income reporting from certain other sources such as investment income, Social Security, and distributions from qualified retirement plans, annuities or similar deferred-payment arrangements to eligible taxpayers over age 65. Taxpayers 65 and older have the option to file Form 1040-SR whether they are working, not working or retired.

The Form 1040-SR includes a standard deduction chart listing the standard deduction amounts, including the extra standard deduction amount that taxpayers 65 and older qualify for. Eligible taxpayers 65 and older who plan to itemize deductions − instead of taking the standard deduction − will be able to file Form 1040-SR along with Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, when they file their 2019 tax return.

The Form 1040 Instructions cover both Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR. Both forms use the same “building block” approach introduced last year that can be supplemented with additional schedules as needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations will only need to file the Form 1040 or Form 1040-SR with no additional schedules.

Since nearly 90% of taxpayers now use tax software, the IRS expects the change to Form 1040 and the introduction of the Form 1040-SR and its schedules to be seamless for those who file electronically including those who are eligible to use IRS Free File,  the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.

Free help preparing and filing taxes electronically

The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically and choose direct deposit for faster refunds. Filing electronically reduces tax return errors as the tax software does the calculations, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information.

The IRS supports free online and in-person tax preparation options for qualifying taxpayers through IRS Free File online or free tax help from trained volunteers at community sites around the country.

Taxpayers with incomes that were $69,000 or less last year – and that’s most taxpayers – can use IRS  Free File  now through Oct. 15. Free File is a public-private partnership between the Internal Revenue Service and Free File Inc. (FFI), a consortium of tax software providers who make their Free File products available at IRS.gov/FreeFile.

Taxpayers can use a “look up” tool to choose from one of 10 featured online products. Each of the 10 providers sets its own eligibility standards, generally based on income, age and state residency giving taxpayers who earned $69,000 or less at least one product to use for free. There are also products in Spanish. For taxpayers who earned more, there is Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.

Free File is just one way the IRS provides free tax preparation options to taxpayers through a partnership model. Taxpayers wanting more personal help can visit one of thousands of community volunteer sites through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program or Tax Counseling for the Elderly offered by AARP. The IRS partners with community organizations and AARP to train volunteers to prepare free returns for taxpayers.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who generally make $56,000 or less, persons with disabilities and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need help preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free basic income tax return preparation with electronic filing to qualified individuals.

In addition to VITA, the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program offers free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 and older, specializing in questions about pensions and retirement-related issues unique to seniors. The IRS-certified volunteers who provide tax counseling are often retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

Taxpayers: Rely on a reputable tax professional; IRS.gov can help

The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a trusted tax professional can prepare their tax return and provide helpful information and advice. Tips for choosing a return preparer and details about national tax professional groups are available on IRS.gov.

No matter who prepares a federal tax return, by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for the accuracy of all information included.

Gather documents and organize tax records

The IRS urges all taxpayers to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before filing. This includes Forms W-2 from employers and Forms 1099 from banks and other payers. Taxpayers should confirm that each employer, bank or other payer has a current mailing address or email address. Typically, year-end forms start arriving by mail – or are available online – in January. Review them carefully and, if any of the information shown is inaccurate, contact the payer right away for a correction.

In 2019, taxpayers who engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency will need to file Schedule 1, Additional Income and Adjustments To Income. The Internal Revenue Code and regulations require taxpayers to maintain records that support the information provided on tax returns.  Taxpayers should maintain, for example, records documenting receipts, sales, exchanges, or other dispositions of virtual currency and the fair market value of the virtual currency.

To avoid refund delays, be sure to gather all year-end income documents before filing a 2019 tax return. Doing so will help avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return. Filing too early, before receiving a key document, often means a taxpayer must file an amended return to report additional income or claim a refund. It can take up to 16 weeks to process an amended return and issue any related refund.

Most refunds sent in less than 21 days; however, some require further review and take longer

Just as each tax return is unique and individual, so is each taxpayer’s refund. There are a few things taxpayers should keep in mind if they are waiting on their refund but hear or see on social media that other taxpayers have already received theirs.

Different factors can affect the timing of a taxpayer’s refund after the IRS receives the return. Also, remember to take into consideration the time it takes for the financial institution to post the refund to the taxpayer’s account or to receive a check in the mail.

Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, some tax returns require additional review and take longer to process than others. This may be necessary when a return has errors, is incomplete or is affected by identity theft or fraud. The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail when more information is needed to process a return.

Choosing electronic filing and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund. The IRS expects about 90 percent of individual tax returns will be prepared electronically using tax software.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that, by law, the IRS cannot issue refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. This applies to the entire refund − even the portion not associated with the EITC or ACTC. The IRS expects most EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by the first week of March, if the taxpayer chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.

After refunds leave the IRS, it takes additional time for them to be processed and for financial institutions to accept and deposit the refunds to bank accounts and products. The IRS reminds taxpayers many financial institutions do not process payments on weekends or holidays, which can affect when refunds reach taxpayers.

Refund information will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an electronically filed return on the Where’s My Refund? ‎tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app. These tools will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC and ACTC refund filers by Feb. 22, so those filers will not see an update to their refund status date on Where’s My Refund? ‎or through their software packages until then. The IRS, tax preparers and tax software will not have additional information on refund dates. Where’s My Refund? is the best way to check the status of a refund.

Reconcile advance payments of Marketplace premium tax credits; health care reporting changes

The premium tax credit helps pay premiums for health insurance purchased from the Health Insurance Marketplace. Taxpayers who receive advance credit payments must compare and reconcile their advance credit payments to the actual premium tax credit they are allowed for the year. They do this reconciliation when they file their tax return on Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit. Failing to file Form 8962 and reconcile 2019 advance credit payments may affect return processing, generate an IRS letter and delay the taxpayer’s refund. It may also affect a taxpayer’s eligibility for advance payments of the premium tax credit or cost-sharing reductions to help pay Marketplace health insurance coverage in the future.

On a separate note, the IRS removed the “full-year health care coverage or exempt” box on Form 1040 to report health care coverage. Taxpayers will not make a shared responsibility payment or file Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions, to claim a coverage exemption for tax year 2019.

Renew expired ITINs to avoid refund delays

Many Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) expired on Dec. 31, 2019. This includes any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years. Any ITIN with middle digits 83, 84, 85, 86 or 87 expired Dec. 31, 2019. ITINs with middle digits 70 through 82 that expired in 2016, 2017 or 2018 can also be renewed. Affected taxpayers should act soon to avoid refund delays and possible loss of eligibility for some key tax benefits until the ITIN is renewed. An ITIN is used by anyone who has tax filing or payment obligations under U.S. tax law but is not eligible for a Social Security number.

It can take up to 11 weeks to process a complete and accurate ITIN renewal application. For that reason, the IRS urges anyone with an expired ITIN needing to file a tax return this tax season to submit their ITIN renewal application soon.

Sign and validate electronically filed tax returns

The IRS also reminds taxpayers that they should keep copies of their prior-year tax returns for at least three years. Taxpayers who are using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter prior-year information to electronically sign their 2019 tax return.

Taxpayers who are using a tax software product for the first time will need their adjusted gross income from their 2018 tax return to file electronically. Review these steps to validate and sign an electronically filed return.

Identity Theft Central; IP PIN expansion

The Internal Revenue Service launched Identity Theft Central to improve online access to information on identity theft or data security protection for taxpayers, tax professionals and businesses.

Improving awareness and outreach have been hallmarks of the initiatives to combat identity theft coordinated by the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry who work in partnership under the Security Summit banner. Tax-related identity theft happens when someone steals personal information to commit tax fraud.

More taxpayers in selected locations will be eligible for a new online-only Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program. The IP PIN is a six-digit number that adds a layer of protection for taxpayers’ Social Security numbers and helps protect against tax-related identity theft.

Taxpayers will be eligible for this voluntary program if they filed a federal tax return last year as a resident from Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas or Washington.

The IRS has created a new publication – Publication 5367, Identity Protection PIN Opt-In Program for Taxpayers – to help taxpayers understand the required steps. Or, taxpayers can read more at the Get an IP PIN page. Taxpayers opting into this program must use the Get an IP PIN tool; an IP PIN cannot be issued via a phone call to the IRS.

IRS offers help and online tools for taxpayers

The IRS reminds taxpayers they have a variety of options to get help filing and preparing their tax return on IRS.gov, the official IRS website. Taxpayers can find answers to their tax questions and resolve tax issues online. The Let Us Help You page helps answer most tax questions, and the IRS Services Guide links to these and other IRS services.

Use the Interactive Tax Assistant to find answers to tax questions. This tool provides answers to tax law questions and reflects 2019 tax changes. The ITA is a tax law resource that takes the taxpayer through a series of questions and provides an answer based on their input. It can determine if a type of income is taxable, if the taxpayer is eligible to claim certain credits or deduct certain expenses on their tax return. It also provides answers for general questions, such as determining filing status or if they are required to file a tax return.

Refund information will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an electronically filed return on the Where’s My Refund? ‎tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app.

Taxpayers can go to View Your Account Information to securely access information about their federal tax account. They can view the amount they owe, pay online or set up an online payment agreement; access their tax records online; review the past 24 months of payment history; and view key tax return information for the current year as filed. Visit IRS.gov/secureaccess to review the required identity authentication process.

IRS helps workers, businesses with new Gig Economy Tax Center

The Internal Revenue Service launched a new Gig Economy Tax Center on IRS.gov to help people in this growing area meet their tax obligations through more streamlined information.

“The IRS developed this online center to help taxpayers in this emerging segment of the economy,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Whether renting out a spare bedroom or providing car rides, we want people to understand the rules so they can stay compliant with their taxes and avoid surprises down the line.”

The gig economy is also known as the sharing, on-demand or access economy. It usually includes businesses that operate an app or website to connect people to provide services to customers. While there are many types of gig economy businesses, ride-sharing and home rentals are two of the most popular.

Educating gig economy workers about their tax obligations is vital because many don’t receive form W-2s, 1099s or other information returns for their work in the gig economy. However, income from these sources is generally taxable, regardless of whether workers receive information returns. This is true even if the work is fulltime, part-time or if the person is paid in cash. Workers may also be required to make quarterly estimated income tax payments, pay their share of Federal Insurance Contribution (FICA), Medicare and Additional Medicare taxes if they are employees and pay self-employment taxes if they are not considered to be employees.

The Gig Economy Tax Center streamlines various resources, making it easier for taxpayers to  find information about the tax implications for the companies that provide the services and the individuals who perform them.

It offers tips and resources on a variety of topics including:

  • filing requirements
  • making quarterly estimated income tax payments
  • paying self-employment taxes
  • paying FICA, Medicare and Additional Medicare
  • deductible business expenses
  • special rules for reporting vacation home rentals

For more information, check out the new Gig Economy Tax Center on IRS.gov.

Members of the military can take advantage of special offer to file taxes for free

Active duty military personnel have multiple options for free federal tax preparation. IRS Free File allows taxpayers to prepare and file their federal individual income tax return for free using brand name tax-preparation-and-filing software.

While Free File is for individuals or families whose adjusted gross income was $69,000 or less last year, there’s a special offer for active duty military and their spouses. Members of military and their families who meet the income limitation may choose from any of nine companies without regard to additional eligibility requirements.

Active duty military stationed in combat zones also have more time to file their tax returns. However, those with spouses and families may opt to file as soon as they are able to claim various tax benefits for which they may be eligible. If only one spouse is present to file a joint return, they must have proper authorization to file a joint tax return on behalf of their spouse.

With Free File, you can use any digital device, personal computer, tablet or smart phone. Here’s how it works:

  • The taxpayer goes to the Free File page on IRS.gov to see all Free File options.
  • Military personnel who meet the income requirement can select from any of the nine providers that have “Free for Active Military for Adjusted Gross Income of $69,000 or less” in their offer. Nine of the 10 partners are making the offer. Two products are in Spanish.
  • The taxpayer selects a provider and follows the links to their web page to begin their tax return.
  • They then complete and e-File their tax return. They will do so only if they have all the income and deduction records needed to file. The fastest way to get a refund is by filing electronically and selecting direct deposit. If a taxpayer owes, they can use direct pay or electronic options.

Most taxpayers eligible for free federal and free state tax return preparation

Most taxpayers can do both their federal and state tax returns for free online through Free File offered either by the IRS or by states that have a similar public-private partnership.

For 2020, taxpayers whose prior-year adjusted gross income was $69,000 or less, and that’s most people, can use IRS Free File. Generally, taxpayers must complete their federal tax return before they can begin their state taxes.

More than 20 states also have a state Free File program patterned after federal partnership which means many taxpayers are eligible for free federal and free state online tax preparation. Those states are: Arkansas, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Mississippi, Montana, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Vermont, Virginia and West Virginia, plus the District of Columbia.

In addition, IRS Free File partners – featuring 10 brand-name online products – offer most or some state tax returns for free as well. Some may also charge so it is important for taxpayers to explore their free options.

Here’s how Free File works:

  1. Go to IRS.gov/FreeFile to see all Free File options.
  2. Browse each of the 10 offers or use a “look up” tool to help you find the right product. Each Free File partner sets its own eligibility standards generally based on income, age and state residency. But if your adjusted gross income was $69,000 or less, you will find at least one free product to use. Two products are in Spanish.
  3. Select a provider and follow the links to their web page to begin your tax return.
  4. Complete and e-File your tax return only if you have all the income and deduction records you need. The fastest way to get a refund is by filing electronically and selecting direct deposit. If you owe, use direct pay or electronic options.

Free File partners will charge a fee for state tax return preparation unless their offer outlines upfront that you can file both federal and state returns for free. If you want to use one of the state Free File program products, go to your state tax agency’s Free File page.

For residents of Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas, Washington and Wyoming, IRS Free File may be the only tax product you need. Those states do not have an income tax.

IRS Free File helps seniors and retires do their taxes for free

Seniors and retirees whose income is under $69,000 a year should explore IRS Free File for free online tax preparation.

Seniors are one of the key constituents for Free File which has served 57 million taxpayers and saved them $1.7 billion since the online filing service debuted in 2003.

Free File – which features 10 brand-name tax software providers – also offers the new Form 1040-SR option for seniors over the age of 65.

“When you’re on a fixed income, every penny saved matters. With Free File, you can save lots of pennies. Free File also does all the hard work for you. It finds the right forms, benefits and does all the math,” said Ken Corbin, commissioner of IRS’ Wage and Investment division.

Free File supports all the major forms that can be filed electronically so even if your return is a bit more complex, you can still use a free service.

Here’s how Free File works:

  1. Go to IRS.gov/FreeFile to see all Free File options.
  2. Browse each of the 10 offers or use a “look up” tool to help you find the right product. Each Free File partner sets its own eligibility standards generally based on income, age and state residency. But if your adjusted gross income was $69,000 or less, you will find at least one free product to use. Two products are in Spanish.
  3. Select a provider and follow the links to their web page to begin your tax return.
  4. Complete and e-File your tax return only if you have all the income and deduction records you need. The fastest way to get a refund is by filing electronically and selecting direct deposit. If you owe, use direct pay or electronic options.

Free File providers also offer state tax return preparation, some for free and some for a fee. Again, use the “look up” tool to find the right product. Here’s another plus for Free File: you can use your smart phone or tablet to do your taxes. Just go to IRS.gov/FreeFile on your device. All Free File products are enabled for mobile devices.

Seniors who are not comfortable preparing their own tax return still have other free options. The IRS helps support the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and AARP supports the Tax Counseling for the Elderly program. Volunteers will prepare your tax return for you for free. Use the VITA locator tool to find a VITA/TCE location near you.