Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Posts tagged ‘information return’

How do I? Amend a return

Sometimes in a rush to file your income tax return, you may unintentionally overlook some income that had to be reported, or a deduction that you should or should not have taken.  Now what?  The solution is usually straightforward: you should file what is called an amended return.

Taxable income is measured on an annual basis so you cannot generally wait on correcting a mistake by “making up the difference” on the return that you file next year.  You need to make the correction(s) directly on a revised return for the same tax year.  Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, is used to amend any individual income tax return.  Income tax returns other than individual income tax returns or returns filed on Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, or Form 1120-A, U.S. Corporation Short Form Income Tax Return, are amended by filing the same form originally used to file the return.  Partnerships may use Form 1065X.  Amended returns should clearly be marked as such.  Some return forms such as Form 1041, U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts, contain a box to be checked if it is being filed as an amended return.  For returns other than income tax returns, Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement, is used to claim a refund.

To amend a non-income tax return other than to claim a refund, the same form originally used to file the return generally should be used.  Estate tax returns cannot be amended after they are due.  However, supplemental information may be filed that can change the amount of estate tax due from the amount shown on the return.

When to file an amended return.  A taxpayer must file an amended return and pay the additional tax due if the taxpayer omitted an item of income or incorrectly claimed a deduction for a tax year for which the limitation period is still open.  A tax year ordinarily remains open for three years from the filing of a return.  The three-year period starts running the day after the return is filed.  A return that is filed early is treated as filed on the due date of the return.  The limitations period on assessment for which a return remains open does not start over if an amended return is filed.

If you realize that you made a mistake on your return that is not in IRS’s favor, it is best to correct it through filing an amended return as soon as possible.  If the IRS starts to audit you and finds the mistake first before you file your amended return, it can assess penalties on the original amount and treat you as if you had not come forward voluntarily on your own.

Special disaster loss option.  Not all amended returns are filed to correct a mistake.  One in particular –claiming a disaster loss—may be filed to effectively accelerate a casualty-loss deduction.  A taxpayer may elect to deduct a disaster loss in the year of occurrence or the immediately preceding year.  To qualify for the election, the loss must occur in a federally-declared disaster area.  The election is made on a return (if you have not filed your return yet for the preceding tax year), an amended return or a refund claim.  The amount of the deduction is determined using the casualty loss limitations.

Scope of information reporting continues to expand

Information reporting continues to expand as Congress seeks to close the tax gap: the estimated $350 billion difference between what taxpayers owe and what they pay. Despite the recent rollback of expanded information reporting for business payments and rental property expense payments, the trend is for more – not less – information reporting of various transactions to the IRS.

Transactions

A large number of transactions are required to be reported to the IRS on an information return. The most common transaction is the payment of wages to employees. Every year, tens of millions of Forms W-2 are issued to employees. A copy of every Form W-2 is also provided to the IRS. Besides wages, information reporting touches many other transactions. For example, certain agricultural payments are reported on Form 1099-G, certain dividends are reported on Form 1099-DIV, certain IRA distributions are reported on Form 1099-R, certain gambling winnings are reported on Form W-2G, and so on. The IRS receives more than two billion information returns every year.

Valuable to IRS

Information reporting is valuable to the IRS because the agency can match the information reported by the employer, seller or other taxpayer with the information reported by the employee, purchaser or other taxpayer. When information does not match, this raises a red flag at the IRS. Let’s look at an example:

Silvio borrowed funds to pay for college. Silvio’s lender agreed to forgive a percentage of the debt if Silvio agreed to direct debit of his monthly repayments. This forgiveness of debt was reported by the lender to Silvio and the IRS. However, when Silvio filed his federal income tax return, he forgot, in good faith, to report the forgiveness of debt. The IRS was aware of the transaction because the lender filed an information return with the IRS.

Expansion

In recent years, Congress has enacted new information reporting requirements. Among the new requirements are ones for reporting the cost of employer-provided health insurance to employees, broker reporting of certain stock transactions and payment card reporting (all discussed below).

Employer-provided health insurance. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act requires employers to advise employees of the cost of employer-provided health insurance. This information will be provided to employees on Form W-2.

This reporting requirement is optional for all employers in 2011, the IRS has explained. There is additional relief for small employers. Employers filing fewer than 250 W-2 forms with the IRS are not required to report this information for 2011and 2012. The IRS may extend this relief beyond 2012. Our office will keep you posted of developments.

Reporting of employer-provided health insurance is for informational purposes only, the IRS has explained. It is intended to show employees the value of their health care benefits so they can be more informed consumers.

Broker reporting. Reporting is required for most stock purchased in 2011 and all stock purchased in 2012 and later years, the IRS has explained. The IRS has expanded Form 1099-B to include the cost or other basis of stock and mutual fund shares sold or exchanged during the year. Stock brokers and mutual fund companies will use this form to make these expanded year-end reports. The expanded form will also be used to report whether gain or loss realized on these transactions is long-term (held more than one year) or short-term (held one year or less), a key factor affecting the tax treatment of gain or loss.

Payment card reporting. Various payment card transactions after 2010 must be reported to the IRS. This reporting does not affect individuals using a credit or debit card to make a purchase, the IRS has explained. Reporting will be made by the payment settlement entities, such as banks. Payment settlement entities are required to report payments made to merchants for goods and services in settlement of payment card and third-party payment network transactions.

Roll back

In 2010, Congress expanded information reporting but this time there was a backlash. The PPACA required businesses and certain other taxpayers to file an information return when they make annual purchases aggregating $600 or more to a single vendor (other than a tax-exempt vendor) for payments made after December 31, 2011. The PPACA also repealed the long-standing reporting exception for payments made to corporations. The Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 required information reporting by landlords of certain rental property expense payments of $600 or more to a service provider made after December 31, 2011.

Many businesses, especially small businesses, warned that compliance would be costly. After several failed attempts, Congress passed legislation in April 2011 (H.R. 4, the Comprehensive 1099 Taxpayer Protection Act) to repeal both expanded business information reporting and rental property expense reporting.

The future

In April 2011, IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman described his vision for tax collection in the future in a speech in Washington, D.C. Information reporting is at the center of Shulman’s vision.

Shulman explained that the IRS would get all information returns from third parties before taxpayers filed their returns. Taxpayers or their professional return preparers would then access that information, online, and download it into their returns. Taxpayers would then add any self-reported and supplemental information to their returns, and file their returns with the IRS. The IRS would embed this core third-party information into its pre-screening filters, and would immediately reject any return that did not match up with its records.

Shulman acknowledged that this system would take time and resources to develop. But the trend is in favor of more, not less, information reporting.