Five Reasons to Use Direct Deposit for a Tax Refund

As taxpayers prepare for the January 29 start of filing season, they should consider a direct deposit of any refunds due. It’s easy, safe, fast — and the best way to get a refund. That’s why 80 percent of taxpayers choose it every year.

IRS Direct Deposit:

  • Is Fast. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and use direct deposit. They can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file federal returns for free.  Taxpayers who file a paper return can also use direct deposit.
  • Is Secure. Since refunds go right into a bank account, there’s no risk of having a paper check stolen or lost. This is the same electronic transfer system that deposits nearly 98 percent of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.
  • Is Easy.  Choosing direct deposit is easy. With e-file, just follow the instructions in the tax software. For paper returns, the tax form instructions serve as a guide. Make sure to enter the correct bank account and routing number.
  • Has Options. Taxpayers can split a refund into several financial accounts. These include checking, savings, health, education and certain retirement accounts. Use IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (including Savings Bond Purchases), to deposit a refund in up to three accounts. Do not use this form to designate part of a refund to pay tax preparers.

Taxpayers should deposit refunds into accounts in their own name, their spouse’s name or both. Avoid making a deposit into accounts owned by others. Some banks require both spouses’ names on the account to deposit a tax refund from a joint return. Taxpayers should check with their bank for direct deposit rules.

There is a limit of three electronic direct deposit refunds made into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card. The IRS will send a notice and a refund check in the mail to taxpayers who exceed the limit.

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Five Signs of Small Business Identity Theft, New Protection Methods

Small business identity theft is a big business. Just like individuals, businesses can be victims too. Thieves use a business’s information to file fake tax returns or get credit cards.

Identity thieves are more sophisticated than they used to be. They know the tax code and filing practices and how to get valuable data. The IRS has seen a sharp increase in fraudulent business tax forms. These include Forms 11201120S and 1041, as well as Schedule K-1. These affect business, partnership, estate and trust filers.

Signs of Identity Theft

Business filers should be alert for signs of identity theft. They should contact the IRS if they experience any of these issues:

  • The IRS rejects an e-filed return saying it already has one with that identification number.
  • The IRS rejects an extension to file request saying it already has a return with that identification number.
  • The filer receives an unexpected tax transcript.
  • The filer receives an IRS notice that doesn’t relate to anything they submitted.
  • The filer doesn’t receive expected or routine mailings from the IRS.

New Procedures to Protect Businesses in 2018

The IRS, state tax agencies and software providers have ways to detect suspicious returns. However, some new measures can help validate returns in advance. The IRS and states are asking businesses and tax professionals to help verify if a tax return is legitimate. These procedures are new for 2018. Software for business tax returns will ask questions related to:

  • The person authorized to sign the return
  • Payment history
  • Parent company information
  • Past deductions
  • Filing history

Early Due Dates for W-2, W-3 and Form 1099-MISC

Employers face a January 31, 2018, due date for filing 2017 Forms W-2 and W-3 with the Social Security Administration. This date applies to both electronic and paper filers.

Form 1099-MISC is due to the IRS and individuals by January 31when reporting non-employee compensation payments in box 7.

Penalties for failure to file correct information returns or furnish correct payee statements have increased and are now subject to inflationary adjustments. These increased penalties are effective for information returns required to be filed after December 31, 2015.

 

Form 1098-T Reporting Changes and Limited Penalty Relief for 2017 Returns

 

Eligible educational institutions are required to report the total amount of payments received for qualified tuition and related expenses from all sources during the calendar year on Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement.

Announcement 2016-42 provides relief from penalties under Section 6721 and 6722 to 2017 Forms 1098-T. The IRS will not impose penalties on eligible education institutions that report the aggregate amount billed (instead of amount received) for qualified tuition and related expenses on 2017 Form 1098-T.

New presentations 

Review these informative StayExempt videos:

Reasonable Cause – Focuses on reasonable cause for abating first-tier excise taxes imposed on private foundations. Examples included.

    • Self-Dealing Exemption – Discusses self-dealing under Code Section 4941 and the exception for compensation to disqualified persons.
    • Disqualified Persons: Private Foundations – Covers Section 4946, which addresses disqualified persons with respect to a private foundation.
    • Disaster Relief: Existing Organizations – Discusses requirements for established disaster-relief organizations.

National Tax Security Awareness: Victims of Data Breaches Should Consider These Steps

TIPS FROM THE IRS

The number of data breaches was already on a record pace for 2017 before the reported theft of nearly 145 million Americans’ names, addresses and Social Security numbers brought the issue to the forefront.

Every day, data thefts large and small put people’s personal and financial information at risk. There are steps that data theft victims may take to protect their financial accounts and their identities once cybercriminals have their names and other sensitive information.

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax community — partners in the Security Summit — are marking “National Tax Security Awareness Week” with a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals. Today, the topic is data breaches.

In the first half of 2017, the number of data breaches increased by 29 percent, to a record 791 incidents, according to Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout, which sponsored the report. For the past five years, ITRC has tracked data breaches in five key sectors.

Generally, thieves want to take advantage of the stolen data as quickly as possible. That may mean selling the data on the Dark Web for use by other criminals. It may mean the crook tries to access financial accounts for withdrawals or credit cards for charges. It may also mean a thief quickly files a fraudulent tax return in victims’ names for a refund.

Those Who’re Victims Should Consider These Steps:

  • If possible, learn what information was compromised. Was it emails and passwords or more sensitive data such as name and Social Security number?
  • Take advantage of any credit monitoring offers made by the company that was breached.
  • Place a freeze on credit accounts to prevent access to credit records. There may be a fee for requesting one. This varies by state. At a minimum, place a fraud alert on credit accounts by contacting one of the three major credit bureaus. A fraud alert on credit records is not as secure as a freeze, but a fraud alert is free.
  • Reset passwords on online accounts, especially financial, email and social media accounts. Experts recommend at least 10-digit passwords, mixing letters, numbers and special characters. Use different passwords for each account. Use a password manager, if necessary.
  • Use two-factor authentication wherever it is offered on financial, email and social media accounts. Two-factor authentication requires entry of a username and password and then a security code, generally sent via text to a mobile phone you’ve pre-registered.

The scale of the credit bureau breach, which was reported this summer, has prompted many questions, especially about how a victim’s taxes may be affected. Because of the work by the Security Summit, more protections are in place to protect taxpayers from tax-related identity theft. Thieves will need more than a name, address, birth data and SSN to file a fraudulent tax return.

Tips for the 2018 Tax Season; Will Filing Early Help?

The IRS reminds taxpayers that they should file their tax return as early as they can, but not before they are sure they have all the proper information and supporting Forms W-2 and 1099. Taxpayers should always file an accurate tax return. Filing before all information is received puts taxpayers at risk of needing to file an amended tax return, paying interest or penalties or even receiving an IRS notice or audit.

The IRS and states have put many new defenses in place to help protect taxpayers from identity theft. The new IRS protections have worked well to protect taxpayers, and some key indicators of identity theft on tax returns have dropped by around two-thirds since 2015.

These protections are especially helpful if criminals only have names, addresses and SSNs – which was the information stolen in recent incidents. However, there are continuing concerns that cybercriminals will try to build on this basic information by trying to obtain more specific financial details from taxpayers and tax professionals to help them file fraudulent tax returns.

In addition, no one yet knows what thieves may do with information from the data breaches. The Summit partners believe cybercriminals will increasingly look to steal more detailed information from taxpayers, tax professionals and businesses to help file a fraudulent tax return. The volume of victims means everyone – the tax agencies, tax professionals and taxpayers – must be vigilant going into the 2018 tax filing season and be alert to any unusual activity.

Here Are a Few Signs of Tax-Related Identity Theft:

  • An electronically filed tax return rejects because a return with the taxpayer’s SSN already has been filed;
  • Taxpayers receive a letter from the IRS asking them to confirm whether they submitted a tax return being held for review;
  • Taxpayers receive a notice from the IRS indicating that they owe additional tax, have a refund offset or have a collection action for a year in which they did not file a tax return;
  • Taxpayers receive a notice from the IRS that they received wages from an employer for whom the taxpayer did not work.

Taxpayers should file a Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, only if their return rejects because a return using their SSN already has been filed or if told to do so by the IRS. This form is how taxpayers report that they are an identity-theft victim.

The IRS stops the vast majority of fraudulent returns. Each year, the IRS stops returns it deems suspicious and asks the filer to verify whether they filed the return. The IRS will send a notice asking taxpayers to confirm whether they filed the return.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry are working together to fight against tax-related identity theft and to protect taxpayers. Everyone can help. Visit the “Taxes. Security. Together.” awareness campaign or review IRS Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, to learn more.

Standard Mileage Rates for 2018 Up from Rates for 2017

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2018 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2018, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 54.5 cents for every mile of business travel driven, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, up 1 cent from the rate for 2017.
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations.

The business mileage rate and the medical and moving expense rates each increased 1 cent per mile from the rates for 2017. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.  These and other requirements are described in Rev. Proc. 2010-51.

Notice 2018-03, posted today on IRS.gov, contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

Get Ready for Taxes: What to Do Before the Tax Year Ends Dec. 31

As tax filing season approaches, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers there are things they should do now to get ready for filing season.

For most taxpayers, Dec. 31 is the last day to take actions that will impact their 2017 tax returns. For example, charitable contributions are deductible in the year made. Donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2017 count for the 2017 tax year, even if the bill isn’t paid until 2018. Checks to a charity count for 2017 as long as they are mailed by the last day of the year.

Taxpayers who are over age 70 ½ are generally required to receive payments from their individual retirement accounts and workplace retirement plans by the end of 2017, though a special rule allows those who reached 70 ½ in 2017 to wait until April 1, 2018, to receive them.

Most workplace retirement account contributions should be made by the end of the year, but taxpayers can make 2017 IRA contributions until April 18, 2018. For 2018, the limit for a 401(k) is $18,500. For traditional and Roth IRAs, the limit is $6,500 if age 50 or older and up to $15,500 for a Simple IRA for age 50 or older. Check IRS.gov for more information about cost-of-living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2018.

Taxpayers should be careful not to count on getting a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying other financial obligations. Taxpayers can take steps now to make sure the IRS can process their return next year.

Taxpayers who have moved should tell the US Postal Service, employers and the IRS. To notify the IRS, mail IRS Form 8822, Change of Address, to the address listed on the form’s instructions. For taxpayers who purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, they should also notify the Marketplace when they move out of the area covered by their current Marketplace plan.

For name changes due to marriage or divorce, notify the Social Security Administration so the new name will match IRS and SSA records. Also notify the SSA if a dependent’s name changed.  A mismatch between the name shown on your tax return and the SSA records can cause problems in the processing of a return and may even delay a refund.

Some refunds cannot be issued before mid-February. By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds before mid-February for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. The IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on Feb 27, 2018, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.

Some Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers must be renewed. Any Individual Taxpayer Identification Number not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years will expire on December 31, 2017. Additionally, all ITINs issued before 2013 with middle digits of 70, 71, 72 or 80 (Example: 9XX-70-XXXX) will also expire at the end of the year. As a reminder, ITINs with middle digits 78 and 79 that expired in 2016 can also be renewed. Only taxpayers who need to file a U.S. federal tax return or are claiming a refund in 2018 must renew their expired ITINs. Affected ITIN holders can avoid delays by starting the renewal process now.

Those who fail to renew before filing a return could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for some important tax credits. More information, including answers to frequently asked questions is available on IRS.gov/ITIN.

Keeping copies of tax returns is important. Taxpayers may need a copy of their 2016 tax return to make it easier to fill out a 2017 tax return. Some taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need to provide their 2016 Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI, to e-file their 2017 tax return.

Taxpayers who do not have a copy of their 2016 return and are existing users can log in to IRS.gov/account if they need their AGI. Otherwise the IRS will mail a Tax Return Transcript if requested online or by calling 800-908-9946. Plan ahead. Allow five to 10 days for delivery. Learn more about identification verification and electronically signing tax returns.

The IRS has a special page on IRS.gov with steps to take now for the 2018 tax filing season.

IRS Offers Small Businesses a One-Stop Resource Center for Help Preparing, Filing and Paying Taxes

WASHINGTON — Small businesses across the country are preparing for their special day — Small Business Saturday – taking place on Nov. 25. The Internal Revenue Service wants new small business owners, including those involved in the sharing economy, to know that IRS.gov has an online resource center to help them learn all they need to know about the tax implications of running a small business. The Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center offers a variety of useful tools that small business owners can access to prepare, file and pay taxes.

The Center is a virtual one-stop tax shop with an A to Z index that gives answers for most business-related tax questions. It includes the Virtual Workshop, an educational video series that walks small business owners step-by-step through the basics. New owners can learn the ins and outs of their taxes at their own pace with other educational tools and products linked from the page. One of the Center’s newest features is the Sharing Economy Tax Center for those who use various online platforms to rent rooms, provide rides and offer other goods and services. Those involved in the Sharing Economy may visit the Pay as You Go, So You Don’t Owe page to learn more about ways to avoid paying the Estimated Tax Penalty.

Getting an Employer Identification Number (EIN) is often the first step for new small businesses, and the Center’s page makes it easy. There are links to the downloadable tax calendar and a variety of videos. Figuring out what is the best form of business entity to establish is easier with the selecting a business structure section. It explains the tax implications of  setting up a Sole ProprietorshipPartnershipCorporationS Corporation or a Limited Liability Company (LLC) .

The Center features relevant tax forms and instructions for small businesses. It serves as a resource on how to handle employment taxes, if employees are part of a business, or figuring out self-employment taxes for the sole proprietor. The section on filing and paying business taxes details which IRS forms to use for what sort of business entity and when to file.

The resources on Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center are not just for new small businesses but can be used for every stage of a small business lifecycle; from starting up and operating a business to selling or closing one. In addition, the page has information on topics like recordkeepingtypes of retirement plans and the Affordable Care Act.