Treasury, IRS and Labor announce plan to implement Coronavirus-related paid leave for workers and tax credits for small and midsize businesses

The U.S. Treasury Department, Internal Revenue Service, and the U.S. Department of Labor recently announced in a March 20 news release that soon, small and midsize employers can begin taking advantage of two new refundable payroll tax credits, designed to immediately and fully reimburse them, dollar-for-dollar, for the cost of providing coronavirus-related leave to their employees.

This relief to employees and small and midsize businesses is provided under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed by President Trump on March 18, 2020.

Tax Day now July 15: Treasury, IRS extend filing deadline and federal tax payments

The Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service announced March 21 that the federal income tax filing due date is automatically extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020.

Taxpayers can also defer federal income tax payments due on April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020, without penalties and interest, regardless of the amount owed. This deferment applies to all taxpayers, including individuals, corporations and other non-corporate tax filers as well as those who pay self-employment tax.

Taxpayers do not need to file any additional forms or call the IRS to qualify for this automatic federal tax filing and payment relief. The IRS urges taxpayers who are due a refund to file as soon as possible.

Tax Withholding Estimator helps retirees, workers and self-employed calculate taxes, fill out new Form W-4

The Internal Revenue Service is encouraging taxpayers to take control of the size of their refund using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov.

The estimator has a “slider” feature to let users to choose the refund they want from a range of amounts based on the information they enter. The feature helps taxpayers set their withholding to get a large refund or more money in their paychecks throughout the year.

This news release is part of a series called the Tax Time Guide with information to help taxpayers file an accurate tax return.

Withholding 
Starting in 2020, income tax withholding is generally based on the worker’s expected filing status and standard deduction. Employers generally use withholding tables to determine how much tax to withhold and send to the IRS. Those who are not subject to withholding should make quarterly estimated tax payments during the year.

The improved and mobile-friendly estimator offers retirees, employees and self-employed individuals a user-friendly way to check their withholding. It also has features specially tailored to the unique needs of those receiving pension payments and Social Security benefits.

People with more than one job and families where both spouses work may need to adjust their withholding to avoid having too little withheld. Not paying enough during the year, either through withholding or by making timely estimated tax payments, may mean paying a penalty.

When to check
Taxpayers should check their withholding annually. They should also check when life changes occur, such as marriage, childbirth, adoption and when buying a home. The IRS recommends anyone who changed their withholding late in 2019 should do a Paycheck Checkup. Taxpayers who receive a tax bill after they file should use the estimator to ensure the right amount is being withheld for 2020.

Taxpayers can use the results from the IRS Withholding Calculator to determine if they should complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate.

Submitting a new Form W-4
Employees submit a completed Form W-4 to their employer, not the IRS. Beginning in 2020, all new employees must use the redesigned form. Employees who submitted Form W-4 in 2019 or before are not required to submit a new form. However, the new form must be used to adjust their withholding. New employees who fail to submit a Form W-4 will be treated as a single filer with no other adjustments. This means that a single filer’s standard deduction with no other entries will be considered in determining withholding.

The new Form W-4 is simpler than the old form and increases the transparency and accuracy of the withholding system. The new design replaces complicated worksheets with more straightforward questions that make accurate withholding easier for employees.

Self-employed
Those who have self-employment income will generally owe both income tax and self-employment tax. Form W-4 is primarily to be used by employees who are not subject to self-employment tax and does not compute self-employment tax. See Form 1040-ES Estimated Tax for Individuals and IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax.

Taxpayers should find out if they can benefit from the earned income tax credit

The earned income tax credit benefits working individuals and families with low to moderate incomes. EITC can lower a taxpayer’s taxes, and even result in a refund.

To take advantage of this credit, taxpayers must file a tax return and claim the credit. They should do so even if they don’t owe tax and aren’t required to file. EITC can be worth up to $6,557 for tax year 2019.

Taxpayers should first find out if they qualify for the credit. Here are some things for taxpayers to consider:

•Major life events may cause taxpayers to move in and out of eligibility for the credit from year to year. Because of this, it’s a good idea for people to find out if they qualify.
•Eligible taxpayers must have earned income from working for an employer or from running or owning a business or farm. They must also meet basic rules.
•Taxpayers without children may also qualify for EITC.
•Taxpayers can’t claim EITC if their filing status is married filing separately.
•Taxpayers must have valid Social Security numbers for themselves, their spouse, and any qualifying child listed for the credit on their tax return.

Before claiming the credit, taxpayers should also learn the EITC rules:

•Taxpayers may be married or unmarried. If married, they must file a joint return.
•Those who claim the credit without a qualifying child must meet rules for age, residency and dependency.
•For a child to qualify, they must live with the taxpayer for more than six months of the year.
•In addition, the child must meet rules for age, relationship, support, citizenship and joint return.
Special rules apply for members of the U.S. military serving in a combat zone.

Taxpayers can use the EITC Assistant to determine if they’re eligible for the credit. This tool also estimates the amount of the taxpayer’s credit. The EITC Assistant is available in English or Spanish.

New Form 1040-SR, alternative filing option available for seniors

The Internal Revenue Service wants seniors to know about the availability of a new tax form, Form 1040-SR, featuring larger print and a standard deduction chart with a goal of making it easier for older Americans to read and use.

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 required the IRS to create a tax form for seniors. Taxpayers age 65 or older now have the option to use Form 1040-SR, U.S. Tax Return for Seniors. Form 1040-SR, when printed, features larger font and better readability.

Taxpayers who electronically file Form 1040-SR may notice the change when they print their return. More than 90% of taxpayers now use tax software to prepare and file their tax return.

Taxpayers born before Jan. 2, 1955, have the option to file Form 1040-SR whether they are working, not working or retired. The form allows income reporting from other sources common to seniors such as investment income, Social Security and distributions from qualified retirement plans, annuities or similar deferred-payment arrangements.

Seniors can use Form 1040-SR to file their 2019 federal income tax return, which is due April 15, 2020. All lines and checkboxes on Form 1040-SR mirror the Form 1040, and both forms use all the same attached schedules and forms. The revised 2019 Instructions cover both Forms 1040 and 1040-SR.

Eligible taxpayers can use Form 1040-SR whether they plan to itemize or take the standard deduction. Taxpayers who itemize deductions can file Form 1040-SR and attach Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, when filing a paper return. For those taking the standard deduction, Form 1040-SR includes a chart listing the standard deduction amounts, making it easier to calculate. It also ensures seniors are aware of the increased standard deduction for taxpayers age 65 and older.

Married people filing a joint return can use the Form 1040-SR regardless of whether one or both spouses are age 65 or older or retired.

Both the 1040 and the 1040-SR use the same “building block” approach introduced last year that can be supplemented with additional Schedules 1, 2 and 3 as needed. Many taxpayers with basic tax situations can file Form 1040 or 1040-SR with no additional schedules.

Tax Time Guide: IRS.gov’s ‘Where’s My Refund?’ tool is fastest, easiest way to check on tax refunds

The Internal Revenue Service is reminding taxpayers that the best way to check on their tax refund is by using the “Where’s My Refund?” tool at IRS.gov or through the IRS2Go Mobile App.

This news release is part of a group of IRS tips called the Tax Time Guide. The guide is designed to help taxpayers as they near the April 15 tax filing deadline.

As of Feb. 21, the IRS had already issued more than 37.4 million refunds averaging $3,125.

While the majority of tax refunds are issued within 21 days, some may 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.

The IRS works hard to issue refunds as quickly as possible, but some tax returns take longer to process than others. Many different factors can affect the timing of your refund after we receive your return. Also, remember to take into consideration the time it takes for your financial institution to post the refund to your account or for you to receive it by mail.

There are several reasons a tax refund may take longer:

  • Some tax returns require additional review.
  • The return may include errors or be incomplete.
  • The return could be affected by identity theft or fraud.
  • The return includes a claim for the Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit.
  • The time between the IRS issuing the refund and the bank posting it to an account since many banks do not process payments on weekends or holidays.

The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail if more information is needed to process a return.

Fast and easy refund updates

Taxpayers can use “Where’s My Refund?” to start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an electronically filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mails a paper return. The tool’s tracker displays progress through three phases: (1) Return Received; (2) Refund Approved; and (3) Refund Sent. To use it a taxpayer must enter their Social security number or ITIN, their filing status and the exact whole dollar amount of their refund. The IRS updates “Where’s My Refund?” once a day, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check more frequently.

Ignore refund myths

Some taxpayers mistakenly believe they can expedite their refund by ordering a tax transcript, calling the IRS or calling their tax preparer. Ordering a tax transcript will not help a taxpayer get their refund faster or find out when they’ll get their refund. The information available on “Where’s My Refund?” is the same information available to IRS telephone assistors.

Filing electronically and using direct deposit is the fastest and safest way to file an accurate return and receive a tax refund. More than four out of five tax returns are expected to be filed electronically, with a similar proportion of refunds issued through direct deposit.

Most taxpayers who want to prepare their own returns can file electronically for free with IRS Free File. Alternatively taxpayers who qualify can get free tax help from trained volunteers at community sites around the country.

Taxpayers can use several options to help find a paid tax preparer. One resource is Choosing a Tax Professional, which includes a list of consumer tips for selecting a tax professional.

The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications is a free searchable and sortable database. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of credentialed return preparers who are CPAs, enrolled agents or attorneys, as well as those who have completed the requirements for the IRS Annual Filing Season Program. A search of the database can help taxpayers verify credentials and qualifications of tax professionals

Some popular tax benefits renewed for 2019

The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that it is processing tax returns claiming benefits extended or changed by recent legislation. Most taxpayers can file when they are ready – and as they normally would – if they are eligible for one or more of these benefits and claim them on their 2019 federal tax return.

Taxpayers can get the most out of various tax benefits and get useful tips on preparing their 2019 federal income tax returns by consulting a free, comprehensive tax guide available on IRS.gov. Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, features an in-depth look at on tax changes for 2019 including recent legislative changes and covers the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. It supplements the information contained in the tax form instruction booklet. This 277-page guide – available online as a PDFHTML or eBook − also provides thousands of interactive links to help taxpayers quickly get answers to their questions.

Certain individual tax provisions extended

  • Deduction for above-the-line qualified tuition and related expenses claimed on Form 8917, Tuition and Fees Deduction
  • Deduction for mortgage insurance premiums treated as qualified residence interest, claimed on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions
  • Deduction for unreimbursed medical and dental expenses as the floor was lowered to 7.5% of adjusted gross income and claimed on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions
  • Credit for nonbusiness energy property claimed on Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits
  • Income exclusion for canceled debt for qualified principal residence indebtedness where the taxpayer defaulted on a mortgage that they took out to buy, build or substantially improve their main home claimed on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness

Kiddie Tax modification

Recent legislation also modified the rules related to what’s commonly called the “Kiddie Tax” for certain children who may be able to calculate their tax based on the tax rate of the child’s parent. For tax year 2019, taxpayers can elect this alternative application for the tax on their unearned income by completing Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Unearned Income, differently depending on their election. See the Form 8615 instructions for Part II Tax for more information. Taxpayers who make this election for 2019 must include a statement with their return specifying “election to modify tax of unearned income.” The statement can be made on the return (for example, on line 7 or at the top of Form 8615) or on an attachment filed with the return.

Disaster tax relief

Disaster tax relief was also enacted for those affected by certain Federally declared disasters. This includes an increased standard deduction based on qualified disaster losses and an election to use 2018 earned income to figure the 2019 earned income credit and additional child tax credit.

Certain taxpayers affected by federally declared disasters may be eligible for an automatic 60-Day extension for filing, paying their taxes, and other administrative deadlines.

Special rules may apply for taxpayers who received a distribution from an individual retirement arrangement, profit-sharing plan or retirement plan and their main home was in one of the federally declared disaster areas eligible for these special rules.

Amended returns

Three tax laws were enacted on Dec. 20, 2019. The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2019 extended certain previously expired tax benefits to 2018 and 2019 and provided tax relief for certain incidents federally declared as disasters in 2018 and 2019. The extended benefits and the disaster relief may now be claimed on 2018 and 2019 tax returns, by those who qualify.

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (the SECURE Act) made other changes, such as increasing the penalty for failing to file a tax return and modifying the rules related to the taxation of unearned income of certain minor children. The SECURE Act relaxed certain retirement plan contribution and distribution requirements beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

While the IRS has released the vast majority of tax year 2019 products, the IRS must also update 2018 tax products affected by these legislative changes. Taxpayers may have to file an amended return to claim these benefits on their 2018 return. See Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and its instructions at IRS.gov/Form1040X. Impacted 2018 forms, instructions and schedules are being revised to reflect the legislation enacted Dec. 20, 2019. The updated 2018 revisions will be posted to IRS.gov for taxpayers to file amended returns accurately.

The IRS works closely with tax professionals and partners in the tax return preparation and tax software industries to prepare for and address issues that may occur during the filing season. This ongoing collaboration ensures that taxpayers can continue to rely on the IRS, tax professionals and tax software programs when it’s time to file their returns. As always, filing electronically and choosing direct deposit is the fastest, most accurate and most convenient way to receive a tax refund.