Fraud Referral a Priority for IRS Small Business Unit’s New Head

For answers to your questions regarding small business tax returns, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by Bloomberg BNA.

September 12, 2019 3:43 PM

Referring more cases for criminal investigation will be a top priority for the IRS’s Small Business/Self-Employed division, the unit’s new leader said.

Strengthening the relationship between SB/SE and the IRS’s Criminal Investigation division “is an important component as to why I’m in this position,” Eric Hylton, the new commissioner of SB/SE, said Sept. 12 on a call with reporters. He worked at CI for 26 years before taking his new position Sept. 1.

  •  Hylton’s appointment aligns with IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig’s previously stated goal of increasing the number of cases that the agency’s civil divisions refer to CI. The referrals now are only 7% of CI’s total caseload, both Rettig and Hylton have said.
  •  “Fraud referrals should represent a much higher percentage of CI’s inventory,” Hylton said on the call. “This definitely will be an area of emphasis.”
  •  SB/SE also will aim to increase outreach to external agencies like the Justice Department, and will ramp up enforcement and make better use of data analytics, he said.
  •  Hylton was joined on the call by Darren Guillot, new deputy commissioner for collection and operations support at SB/SE, and De Lon Harris, the new deputy commissioner for examination. They also began their new roles Sept. 1.

To contact the reporter on this story: Allyson Versprille in Washington at aversprille@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Patrick Ambrosio at pambrosio@bloombergtax.com; Kathy Larsen at klarsen@bloombergtax.com

 

 

 

It’s important for tax pros to know the signs they are a cyberthief’s victim

If you are a taxpayer or tax preparer experiencing these issues, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by the IRS.

Tax professionals should learn the tell-tale signs that their office may have experienced a data theft. Such thefts could have resulted in fraudulent tax returns filed in their clients’ names.

Here is a list of warning signs that a tax professional or their office may have experienced a data theft:

  • Their clients’ e-filed returns are rejected by the IRS or state tax agencies. This happens because someone else already filed a tax return with their client’s Social Security number.
  • Clients who haven’t filed tax returns begin to receive taxpayer authentication letters from the IRS. The IRS sends letters such as the 5071C, 4883C and 5747C to confirm a taxpayer’s identity for a submitted tax return.
  • Clients who haven’t filed tax returns receive refunds.
  • Clients receive tax transcripts that they didn’t request.
  • Clients who created an IRS Online Services account receive an IRS notice that their account was accessed.
  • Clients who have an account get an IRS emails saying their account is disabled.
  • Clients unexpectedly receive an IRS notice that an IRS online account was created in their names.
  • The number of returns filed with the tax professional’s Electronic Filing Identification Number is higher than the number of clients they have.
  • Tax professionals or clients responding to emails that the firm did not send.
  • Network computers running slower than normal.
  • Computer cursors moving or changing numbers when the user is not even touching the keyboard.
  • Network computers locking out employees.

More information:

Share this tip on social media — #IRSTaxTip: It’s important for tax pros to know the signs they are a cyberthief’s victim https://go.usa.gov/xV85p

 

Tips for taxpayers who make money from a hobby

For answers to your questions regarding tax returns, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by the IRS.

Many people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. From painting and pottery to scrapbooking and soap making, these activities can be sources of both fun and finances. Taxpayers who make money from a hobby must report that income on their tax return.

However, the rules for how to report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business.

There are special rules and limits for deductions taxpayers can claim for hobbies. Here are five things to consider:

If the activity is a business or a hobby.
If someone has a business, they operate the business to make a profit. In contrast, people engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. Taxpayers should consider nine factors when determining whether their activity is a business or a hobby. They should base their determination on all the facts and circumstances of their activity.

Allowable hobby deductions.
Taxpayers can only deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses:

  • Ordinary expense is common and accepted for the activity.
  • Necessary expense is appropriate for the activity.

Limits on hobby expenses.
Taxpayers can generally only deduct hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If hobby expenses are more than its income, taxpayers have a loss from the activity. However, a hobby loss can’t be deducted from other income.

How to deduct hobby expenses.
Taxpayers must itemize deductions on their tax return to deduct hobby expenses. Taxpayers can look into this now to determine if they will itemize their deductions when they file their 2019 tax return next year. Expenses may fall into three types of deductions, and special rules apply to each type.

Use IRS Free File.
Hobby rules can be complex. IRS Free File can make filing a tax return easier.

More Information:
Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business
Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income
Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions
Publication 535, Business Expenses
Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax
About Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business
Estimated Taxes

Share this tip on social media — #IRSTaxTip: Tips for taxpayers who make money from a hobby. https://go.usa.gov/xyYHj

IRS releases Data Book for 2018 showing range of tax data including audits, collection actions and taxpayer service

For answers to your questions regarding tax returns, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service today released the 2018 IRS Data Book, a snapshot of agency activities for the fiscal year.

The 2018 IRS Data Book describes activities conducted by the IRS from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018, and includes information about tax returns, refunds, examinations and appeals. The annual publication is illustrated with charts showing changes in IRS enforcement activities, taxpayer assistance levels, tax-exempt activities, legal support workload and IRS budget and workforce levels when compared to fiscal year 2017 and prior years. Included this year is a section on taxpayer attitudes from a long-running opinion survey.

“Underlying the numbers in this year’s edition of the Data Book is the hard work of IRS employees,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Our employees are the backbone of this agency, delivering our mission efficiently and effectively. They work hard to help taxpayers, and the numbers outlined in the Data Book reflect their commitment.”

Revenue Collection, Returns Processing, Taxpayer Service and Enforcement Actions

During fiscal year 2018, the IRS collected nearly $3.5 trillion, processed more than 250 million tax returns and other forms, and issued over 120 million individual income tax refunds totaling almost $395 billion.

The IRS received and processed more of every major type of form during FY 2018 than during the prior year, with the exception of estate tax returns; those filings were down slightly less than 1 percent compared to the prior year. However, filings by pass-through entities were up in FY 2018; partnerships filed almost 5 percent more forms with the IRS in FY 2018 than in the prior year, S-corporation filings were up almost 6 percent in the same time frame.

The IRS provided taxpayer assistance through more than a half-billion visits to IRS.gov and helped more than 64.8 million taxpayers through different service channels, such as correspondence, toll-free telephone helplines or at Taxpayer Assistance Centers. There were also more than 309 million inquiries to the “Where’s My Refund?” application, up 11 percent compared to the prior year.

Net revenue from delinquent collection activities rose to just over $40 billion, an increase of 1.6 percent compared to the prior year. IRS levies were up 8.3 percent compared to the prior year, but the agency filed about 8 percent fewer liens than in fiscal year 2017.

Compared to the prior year, there were fewer audits during fiscal year 2018. The IRS audited more than 892,000 individual income tax returns during the fiscal year, down slightly from the prior year.

Comprehensive Taxpayer Attitude Survey

The IRS Data Book contains the results of the 2018 Comprehensive Taxpayer Attitude Survey (CTAS) which drew from feedback from 2,000 taxpayers through cell phone, landline phone or online surveys. Their opinions continue to inform IRS’ efforts to improve taxpayer service. Some of the results of the survey for 2018 show the following results:

  • Most taxpayers continued to agree that it is not at all acceptable to cheat on their income taxes. This attitude has remained within a four-point range since 2009.
  • Most taxpayers are still satisfied with their personal interactions with the IRS.
  • Almost half of the taxpayers who responded in 2018 agreed that service and enforcement are properly balanced.

The IRS Data Book’s online format makes navigating data on taxpayer assistance, enforcement, and IRS operations easier. The publication contains depictions of key areas and quick links to the underlying data.

An electronic version of the 2018 IRS Data Book can be found on the Tax Stats page of IRS.gov. Printed copies of the 2018 IRS Data Book, Publication 55B, will be available June 2019 from the U.S. Government Printing Office. To obtain a copy, write to the Superintendent of Documents, P.O. Box 371954, Pittsburgh, PA 15250-7954, or call (202) 512-1800 for voicemail or fax a request to (202) 512-2250.

Proposed Changes to Form W-4 Could Complicate Tax Filing

For answers to your questions regarding tax withholding options, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by Rachel Fausnaught of PrimePay.com.

…And you thought tax filing season was over.

Just when you thought you understood the IRS’ changes to withholding from last year, there are more changes coming.

The IRS plans to release a new Form W-4 that will incorporate changes brought on by the new tax law. This is to help ensure that the amount held back for taxes in each paycheck is more accurate.

The overall goal of this change is so that taxpayers shouldn’t owe anything or be owed anything once tax time rolls around.

Here are the proposed changes.

Last summer, the IRS released a draft version of the new Form W-4, seeking feedback on it. Here are some of the changes.

As for marital status, employees would now have three marital status options:

  • Single or married, filing separately.
  • Married, filing jointly.
  • Head of household.

Instead of claiming withholding allowances, the new Form W-4 gives taxpayers the option of providing annual dollar amounts for the following:

  • Non-wage income (ex. interest).
  • Deductions from income for the household (ex. itemized of other deductions).
  • Income tax credits expected for the tax year.
  • For employees who have multiple jobs, the total annual taxable wages for all lower paying jobs.

According to Ernst & Young, here are a few more things employers need to know.

Before implementing the income tax withholding calculation in Publication 15 or Publication 15-A, employers would need to adjust the employee’s pay period taxable wages according to the annual dollar amounts entered on lines 5 through 8 on the Form W-4 draft.

If an employee leaves those lines blank, federal income tax would be withheld according to the normal federal income tax withholding calculation. This means it will default two withholding allowances for single or married, filing separately and three withholding allowances for married, filing jointly or head of household.

The revised Form W-4 and the updated method of calculating federal income tax and withholding would apply to employees hired on and after Jan. 1, 2019. It would also apply to existing employees who change their Form W-4 at any time in 2019.

What’s next.

According to the IRS, another draft version of the new Form W-4 is expected by May 31. This will also seek public comment. Once the comments are reviewed, the plan is to post a second draft later in the summer, with the final Form W-4 version to be released by the end of the year.

 

IRS issues guidance relating to deferral of gains for investments in a qualified opportunity fund

For answers to your questions regarding tax returns, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service today issued guidance (PDF) providing additional details about investment in qualified opportunity zones.

The proposed regulations allow the deferral of all or part of a gain that is invested into a Qualified Opportunity Fund (QO Fund) that would otherwise be includible in income. The gain is deferred until the investment is sold or exchanged or Dec. 31, 2026, whichever is earlier. If the investment is held for at least 10 years, investors may be able to permanently exclude gain from the sale or exchange of an investment in a QO Fund.

Qualified opportunity zone business property is tangible property used in a trade or business of the QO Fund if the property was purchased after Dec. 31, 2017. The guidance permits tangible property acquired after Dec. 31, 2017, under a market rate lease to qualify as “qualified opportunity zone business property” if during substantially all of the holding period of the property, substantially all of the use of the property was in a qualified opportunity zone.

A key part of the newly released guidance clarifies the “substantially all” requirements for the holding period and use of the tangible business property:

  • For use of the property, at least 70 percent of the property must be used in a qualified opportunity zone.
  • For the holding period of the property, tangible property must be qualified opportunity zone business property for at least 90 percent of the QO Fund’s or qualified opportunity zone business’s holding period.
  • The partnership or corporation must be a qualified opportunity zone business for at least 90 percent of the QO Fund’s holding period.

The guidance notes there are situations where deferred gains may become taxable if an investor transfers their interest in a QO Fund. For example, if the transfer is done by gift the deferred gain may become taxable. However, inheritance by a surviving spouse is not a taxable transfer, nor is a transfer, upon death, of an ownership interest in a QO Fund to an estate or a revocable trust that becomes irrevocable upon death.

The guidance (PDF) is posted on IRS.gov. These regulations relate to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the tax reform legislation enacted in December 2017.

For information about other TCJA provisions, visit IRS.gov/taxreform

With new SALT limit, IRS explains tax treatment of state and local tax refunds

For ways to save on taxes on business and investment transactions, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by the IRS.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today clarified the tax treatment of state and local tax refunds arising from any year in which the new limit on the state and local tax (SALT) deduction is in effect.

In Revenue Ruling 2019-11, posted today on IRS.gov, the IRS provided four examples illustrating how the long-standing tax benefit rule interacts with the new SALT limit to determine the portion of any state or local tax refund that must be included on the taxpayer’s federal income tax return. Today’s announcement does not affect state tax refunds received in 2018 for tax returns currently being filed.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), enacted in December 2017, limited the itemized deduction for state and local taxes to $5,000 for a married person filing a separate return and $10,000 for all other tax filers. The limit applies to tax years 2018 to 2025.

As in the past, state and local tax refunds are not subject to tax if a taxpayer chose the standard deduction for the year in which the tax was paid. But if a taxpayer itemized deductions for that year on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, part or all of the refund may be subject to tax, to the extent the taxpayer received a tax benefit from the deduction.

Taxpayers who are impacted by the SALT limit—those taxpayers who itemize deductions and who paid state and local taxes in excess of the SALT limit—may not be required to include the entire state or local tax refund in income in the following year. A key part of that calculation is determining the amount the taxpayer would have deducted had the taxpayer only paid the actual state and local tax liability—that is, no refund and no balance due.

In one example described in the ruling, a single taxpayer itemizes and claims deductions totaling $15,000 on the taxpayer’s 2018 federal income tax return. A total of $12,000 in state and local taxes is listed on the return, including state and local income taxes of $7,000. Because of the limit, however, the taxpayer’s SALT deduction is only $10,000. In 2019, the taxpayer receives a $750 refund of state income taxes paid in 2018, meaning the taxpayer’s actual 2018 state income tax liability was $6,250 ($7,000 paid minus $750 refund). Accordingly, the taxpayer’s 2018 SALT deduction would still have been $10,000, even if it had been figured based on the actual $6,250 state and local income tax liability for 2018. The taxpayer did not receive a tax benefit on the taxpayer’s 2018 federal income tax return from the taxpayer’s overpayment of state income tax in 2018. Thus, the taxpayer is not required to include the taxpayer’s 2019 state income tax refund on the taxpayer’s 2019 return.

See the ruling for details on all four examples.

Today’s ruling has no impact on state or local tax refunds received in 2018 and reportable on 2018 returns taxpayers are filing this season. For information, including worksheets for reporting these refunds, see the 2018 instructions for Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, and Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income.

For information about other TCJA provisions, visit IRS.gov/taxreform.

 

Trump’s shutdown could hinder tax collectors for ‘months, and even years’

For answers to your tax questions, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following article by Joe Davidson was originally published by The Washington Post.

Taxpayer trust in tax system and voluntary compliance have been undermined.

President Trump’s partial government shutdown is over, but the haunting effects are not.

Perhaps nowhere is that demonstrated more than in the Internal Revenue Service, one agency that affects all Americans.

Listen to the words of advocate Nina Olson, an independent official within the IRS. Her latest report describes an agency with a “shocking” level of service, suffering a “cycle of frustration,” and one beset with long-standing problems made worse by the 35-day partial shutdown.

She described an agency so damaged that taxpayer trust and confidence in our tax system have been crippled.

“It is irresponsible for an agency that touches all aspects of people’s lives to be underfunded, understaffed, and at the mercy of shutdowns,” she wrote. “It is making strategic decisions that ultimately burden taxpayers, increase its own rework, and create distance and distrust between taxpayers and the tax agency, thereby undermining voluntary compliance.”

The report provided a slew of statistics demonstrating the depth of the problem. For the last week of the shutdown, ending Jan. 26, 12.8 percent of taxpayer calls on installment agreements and balance-due questions were answered. Those that were answered waited 93 minutes. The day before the shutdown stopped, the IRS had:

  • “Over 5 million pieces of mail that had not been batched for processing.”
  • “80,000 responses to FY 2018 Earned Income Tax Credit audits that had not been addressed.”
  • “87,000 amended returns waiting to be processed.”

Metrics like these “translate into real harm to real taxpayers,” Olson said. “And they represent increased rework for the IRS downstream, at a time when the IRS is already resource challenged.”

IRS officials responded with a statement that said the agency “successfully reopened operations following the shutdown, and the agency is seeing a good start to the 2019 filing season. We are continuing to assess the impact of the shutdown on our various operations across the agency and remain proud of the many IRS employees who have risen to the resulting challenges.”

The full impact of the shutdown won’t be known for “months, and even years, down the road,” Olson predicted. She praised IRS employees who “returned to work with energy.”

National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU) President Tony Reardon said that “in some cases, employees are being asked to work overtime specifically to get the agency caught up. Orientation for new hires and refresher training for employees is also behind schedule in some areas. These are all signs of an agency still grappling with a record five-week shutdown on the eve of a tax filing season that was already going to be challenging because of the new tax law.”

Despite its many difficulties, the IRS remains the lifeblood of the federal government. Tax collectors raise about 93 percent of the national budget. They do so on a relative shoestring. The $3.5 trillion collected in fiscal 2018 was on an $11.43 billion IRS budget, a return on investment of about 300 to 1.

“I don’t know how anyone can read this report,” Reardon said, “and not be alarmed at the massive amount of damage that has been done to the agency’s workforce and the taxpayers they want to serve.”

The damage did not begin with the shutdown. Years of taxpayer-advocate reports, congressional testimony, taxpayer protests and employee complaints have chronicled an agency that suffered at the hands of Republican appropriators who wanted to punish the tax collectors. Republicans charged the IRS with unfairly scrutinizing conservative nonprofit organizations under the Obama administration, despite evidence that progressive groups also were scrutinized.

The IRS still has not recovered. The title of the report’s list of “Most Serious Problems” is illustrative — “The Taxpayer’s Journey.”

The problems, which cause “extreme frustration” for taxpayers and employees, include “antiquated technology systems” that if not replaced will “increasingly harm taxpayers and impair revenue collection,” according to the report. Olson also cited agreements between private tax collectors (PCA) and low-income taxpayers “to make payments they cannot afford.” Of “taxpayers who made commissionable payments while their debts were assigned to PCAs,” she added, “24 percent had incomes at or below the federal poverty level.”

Because of the shutdown, employees estimate that “it may take them almost a year to catch up, but many taxpayers cannot wait that long because they need their responses” by April 15, when 2018 taxes are due, said David Carron, a revenue agent speaking as president of NTEU Chapter 6 covering Louisiana and Arkansas. “We would relate this to an assembly line that has been stopped for over a month, but the same amount of products have to be produced” by then.

Federal charity drive extended

The donation period for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the federal workplace-giving vehicle for a variety of charities, has been extended until Friday. The original date was Jan. 11, which came during the shutdown.

“Many charities came to the aid of Federal employees throughout the shutdown in December and January,” said a memorandum announcing the extension from Keith Willingham, CFC director for the Office of Personnel Management. “Those organizations are under fiscal pressure with increased demands and because of an interruption.”

That represents a reversal of position.

On Dec. 19, shortly before the shutdown began, Willingham said that “under no circumstances will the 2019 CFC solicitation period be extended.”

Wiser heads prevailed.

 

IRS kicks off 2019 tax-filing season as tax agency reopens

For ways to save on taxes on business and investment transactions, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by the IRS.

WASHINGTON ― The Internal Revenue Service successfully opened the 2019 tax-filing season today as the agency started accepting and processing federal tax returns for tax year 2018. Despite the major tax law changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS was able to open this year’s tax-filing season one day earlier than the 2018 tax-filing season.

More than 150 million individual tax returns for the 2018 tax year are expected to be filed, with the vast majority of those coming before the April tax deadline. Through mid-day Monday, the IRS had already received several million tax returns during the busy opening hours.

“I am extremely proud of the entire IRS workforce. The dedicated IRS employees have worked tirelessly to successfully implement the biggest tax law changes in 30 years and launch tax season for the nation,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Although we face various near- and longer-term challenges, our employees are committed to doing everything we can to help taxpayers and get refunds out quickly.”

Following the government shutdown, the IRS is working to promptly resume normal operations.

“The IRS will be doing everything it can to have a smooth filing season,” Rettig said. “Taxpayers can minimize errors and speed refunds by using e-file and IRS Free File along with direct deposit.”

The IRS expects the first refunds to go out in the first week of February and many refunds to be paid by mid- to late February like previous years. The IRS reminds taxpayers to check “Where’s My Refund?” for updates. Demand on IRS phones during the early weeks of tax season is traditionally heavy, so taxpayers are encouraged to use IRS.gov to find answers before they call.

April deadline; help for taxpayers through e-file, Free File

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17 to file their returns.

With major changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the IRS encouraged taxpayers seeking more information on tax reform to consult two online resources: Publication 5307, Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families, and Publication 5318; Tax Reform What’s New for Your Business. For other tips and resources, visit IRS.gov/taxreform or check out the Get Ready page on IRS.gov.

The IRS expects about 90 percent of returns to be filed electronically. Choosing e-file and direct deposit remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.

The IRS Free File program, available at IRS.gov, gives eligible taxpayers a dozen options for filing and preparing their tax returns using brand-name products. IRS Free File is a partnership with commercial partners offering free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $66,000 or less. About 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. People who earned more than $66,000 may use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.

Most refunds sent in less than 21 days; EITC/ACTC refunds starting Feb. 27

The IRS expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible a tax return may require additional review and take longer. “Where’s My Refund?” has the most up to date information available about refunds. The tool is updated only once a day, so taxpayers don’t need to check more often.

The IRS also notes that refunds, by law, cannot be issued before Feb. 15 for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. This applies to the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. While the IRS will process the EITC and ACTC returns when received, these refunds cannot be issued before Feb. 15. Similar to last year, the IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to actually be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on Feb. 27, 2019, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.

“Where’s My Refund?” ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go mobile app remain the best way to check the status of a refund. “Where’s My Refund?” will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC and ACTC refund filers on Feb. 17, so those filers will not see a refund 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, so these filers should not contact or call about refunds before the end of February.

This law was changed to give the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. Even with the EITC and ACTC refunds and the additional security safeguards, the IRS still expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible a particular tax return may require additional review and a refund could take longer. Even so, taxpayers and tax return preparers should file when they’re ready. For those who usually file early in the year and are ready to file a complete and accurate return, there is no need to wait to file.

New Form 1040

Form 1040 has been redesigned for tax year 2018. The revised form consolidates Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040-EZ into one form that all individual taxpayers will use to file their 2018 federal income tax return.

The new form uses a “building block” approach that can be supplemented with additional schedules as needed. Taxpayers with straightforward tax situations will only need to file the Form 1040 with no additional schedules. People who use tax software will still follow the steps they’re familiar with from previous years. Since nearly 90 percent of taxpayers now use tax software, the IRS expects the change to Form 1040 and its schedules to be seamless for those who e-file.

Free tax help

Low- and moderate-income taxpayers can get help filing their tax returns for free. Tens of thousands of volunteers around the country can help people correctly complete their returns.

To get this help, taxpayers can visit one of the more than 12,000 community-based tax help sites that participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) programs. To find the nearest site, use the VITA/TCE Site Locator on IRS.gov or the IRS2Go mobile app.

Filing assistance

No matter who prepares a federal tax return, by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for the accuracy of all information included. IRS.gov offers a number of tips about selecting a preparer and information about national tax professional groups.

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. Doing so will help avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return.

Online tools

The IRS reminds taxpayers they have a variety of options to get help filing and preparing their tax returns 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.

Taxpayers can go to IRS.gov/account 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 18 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.

The IRS urges taxpayers to take advantage of the many tools and other resources available on IRS.gov.

The IRS continues to work with state tax agencies and the private-sector tax industry to address tax-related identity theft and refund fraud. As part of the Security Summit effort, stronger protections for taxpayers and the nation’s tax system are in effect for the 2019 tax filing season.

The new measures attack tax-related identity theft from multiple sides. Many changes will be invisible to taxpayers but will help the IRS, states and the tax industry provide additional protections, and tighter security requirements will better protect tax software accounts and personal information.

Renew ITIN to avoid refund delays

Many Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) expired on Dec. 31, 2018. This includes any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years. Also, any ITIN with middle digits of 73, 74, 75, 76, 77, 81 and 82 (Example: 9NN-73-NNNN) is now expired. ITINs that have middle digits 70, 71, 72 or 80 expired Dec. 31, 2017, but taxpayers can still renew them. 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

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Some taxpayers using a tax filing software product for the first time may need their adjusted gross income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity.

Taxpayers using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter their prior year information to electronically sign their 2017 tax return. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Like-Kind Exchanges Now Limited to Real Property

For ways to save on taxes on business and investment transactions, please call Kevin M. Sayed, J.D., LL.M., at 252-321-2020. The following materials were originally published by the IRS.

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers that like-kind exchange tax treatment is now generally limited to exchanges of real property. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in December 2017, made tax law changes that will affect virtually every business and individual in 2018 and the years ahead.

Effective Jan. 1, 2018, exchanges of personal or intangible property such as machinery, equipment, vehicles, artwork, collectibles, patents, and other intellectual property generally do not qualify for nonrecognition of gain or loss as like-kind exchanges. However, certain exchanges of mutual ditch, reservoir or irrigation stock are still eligible.

Like-kind exchange treatment now applies only to exchanges of real property that is held for use in a trade or business or for investment. Real property, also called real estate, includes land and generally anything built on or attached to it. An exchange of real property held primarily for sale still does not qualify as a like-kind exchange.

A transition rule in the new law allows like-kind treatment for some exchanges of personal or intangible property. If the taxpayer disposed of the personal or intangible property on or before Dec. 31, 2017, or received replacement property on or before that date, the exchange may qualify for like-kind exchange treatment.

Properties are of like-kind if they’re of the same nature or character, even if they differ in grade or quality. Improved real property is generally of like-kind to unimproved real property. For example, an apartment building would generally be of like-kind to unimproved land. However, real property in the United States is not of like-kind to real property outside the U.S.

To report a like-kind exchange, taxpayers must file Form 8824, Like-Kind Exchanges, with their tax return for the year the taxpayer transfers property as part of a like-kind exchange. This form helps a taxpayer figure the amount of gain deferred as a result of the like-kind exchange, as well as the basis of the like-kind property received, if cash or property that isn’t of like kind is involved in the exchange. Form 8824 helps compute the amount of gain the taxpayer must report.

For more information about this and other tax reform changes, visit irs.gov/taxreform.