Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Posts tagged ‘irs’

IRS Offers Tips for Disaster Preparedness

Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 7-13. The IRS wants to remind taxpayers to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters now. By taking a few steps before disaster strikes, taxpayers can reduce their stress when it comes time to file claims or rebuild after the catastrophic event.
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IRS Tips to Determine If The IRS Is At Your Door

The Internal Revenue Service has created a special new page on IRS.gov to help taxpayers determine if a person visiting their home or place of business claiming to be from the IRS is legitimate or an impostor. (more…)

IRS promises more identity theft protections in 2016 filing season

After acknowledging earlier this year that hackers breached one of its popular online apps, the IRS has promised more identity theft protections in the 2016 filing season. The IRS, along with partners in the tax preparation community, has identified and tested more than 20 new data elements on returns to help detect and prevent identity-theft related filings. The agency is also working to prevent criminals from accessing tax-time financial products. (more…)

IRS Commissioner predicts bumpy 2015 filing season due to budget cuts

As the 2015 filing season approaches, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen is bracing taxpayers for more reductions in customer service unless the agency receives more funding. According to Koskinen, the IRS is facing its biggest challenge in recent years. Koskinen, who spoke at the annual conference of the National Society of Accountants in August, also predicted that taxpayers will have to wait until after the November elections to learn the fate of many popular but expired tax incentives.

Budget pressures

IRS tax season burden, Vernoia Enterline, BrewerThe IRS has experienced budgetary pressures since 2010. The Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA) imposed across-the-board spending cuts on many federal agencies, including the IRS. Some funding was restored last year. Looking ahead, the House has voted to cut the IRS’s budget by $341 million for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. The Senate has proposed to increase the IRS’s budget by $240 million. Even with the proposed increase, IRS officials have said that the agency’s budget would still be seven percent below funding levels for FY 2010.

The funding cuts have drawn criticism from senior IRS officials. “Funding reductions have significantly hampered the IRS’s ability to carry out its mission,” National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson told Congress. Olson warned that “underfunding of the IRS poses one of the greatest long-term risks to tax administration today.”

Koskinen echoed Olson’s concerns. “Congress is starving our revenue-generating operation. If voluntary compliance with the tax code drops by 1 percent, it costs the U.S. government $30 billion per year,” he explained. “The IRS annual budget is only $11 billion per year.

Customer service

For many taxpayers, the most visible impact of the budget cuts has been reductions in customer service. Koskinen said that the IRS has cut 5,200 call center employees because of lack of funding. Wait times to speak with the IRS will increase, he predicted. During the 2014 filing season, the IRS’s level of customer service was around 72 percent. The level of customer service for the 2015 filing season could fall to as low as 50 percent without adequate funding, Koskinen cautioned.

Koskinen acknowledged that the funding cuts have fueled efficiencies in the agency’s operations. The agency has reduced hiring, offered buyouts to long-time employees, and cut travel and training costs. “We are becoming more efficient but there is a limit,” he said. “Eventually the effects will show up. We are no longer going to pretend that cutting funding makes no difference.”

Tax extenders

Unless extended, a host of expired tax incentives will be unavailable to taxpayers when they file their 2014 returns. These include widely-used incentives, such as the state and local sales tax deduction, the higher education tuition deduction, and transit benefits parity. Businesses also would be impacted, with failure to renew popular incentives, including the research tax credit and the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.

Legislation to extend many of these incentives will likely not be passed by Congress until after the November elections, Koskinen predicted. “Congress needs to understand that the later these are passed and the more complicated they are, the more challenging it is for taxpayers to file accurate returns on time.” Koskinen added that the IRS will be challenged to reprogram its return processing systems for renewal of the tax extenders. As a result, the start of the 2015 filing season could be delayed, he said.

Identity theft

Koskinen lauded the agency’s work to curb tax-related indentity theft. This initiative is a high-profile one. The IRS has worked with other federal agencies and state and local governments to discover and prosecute identity thieves. The IRS has also upgraded its return processing systems to uncover fraudulent returns and has assigned special identity protection numbers to victims of identity theft. “We rejected 5.7 million suspicious returns last year that may have been tied to identity theft,” he said.

To learn more information or for updates, please contact our offices.

Post filing-season checkup for 2014 tax savings

Future Display - financialWith the April 15th filing season deadline now behind us, it’s not too early to turn your attention to next year’s deadline for filing your 2014 return. That refocus requires among other things an awareness of the direct impact that many “ordinary,” as well as one-time, transactions and events will have on the tax you will eventually be obligated to pay April 15, 2015. To gain this forward-looking perspective, however, taking a moment to look back … at the filing season that has just ended, is particularly worthwhile. This generally involves a two-step process: (1) a look-back at your 2013 tax return to pinpoint new opportunities as well as “lessons learned;” and (2) a look-back at what has happened in the tax world since January 1st that may indicate new challenges to be faced for the first time on your 2014 return.

Your 2013 Form 1040

Examining your 2013 Form 1040 individual tax return can help you identify certain changes that you might want to consider this year, as well encourage you to continue what you’re doing right. These “key ingredients” to your 2014 return may include, among many others considerations, a fresh look at:
Your refund or balance due. While it is nice to get a big refund check from the IRS, it often indicates unnecessary overpayments over the course of the year that has provided the federal government with an interest-free loan in the form of your money. Now’s the time to investigate the reasons behind a refund and whether you need to take steps to lower wage withholding and/or quarterly estimated tax payments.

If on the other hand you had to pay the IRS when filing your return (or requesting an extension), you should consider whether it was due to a sudden windfall of income that will not repeat itself; or because you no longer have the same itemized deductions, you had a change in marital status, or you claimed a one-time tax credit such as for energy savings or education. Likewise, examining anticipated changes between your 2013 and 2014 tax years—marriage, the birth of a child, becoming a homeowner, retiring, etc.—can help warn you whether your’re headed for an underpayment or overpayment of your 2014 tax liability.
Investment income. One area that blindsided many taxpayers on their 2013 returns was the increased tax bill applicable to investment income. Because of the “great recession,” many investors had carryforward losses that could offset gains realized for a number of years as markets gradually improved. For many, however, 2013 saw not only a significant rise in investment income but also a rise in realized taxable investment gains that were no longer covered by carryforward losses used up during the 2010–2012 period.

Furthermore, dividends and long-term capital gains for the first time in 2013 were taxed at a new, higher 20 percent rate for higher income taxpayers and an additional 3.8 percent net investment income tax surtax for those in the higher income brackets. Short-term capital gains saw the highest rate jump, from 35 percent to 43.4 percent rate, which reflected a new 39.6 percent regular rate and the new 3.8 percent net investment income tax rate. This tax structure remains in place for 2014.

Personal exemption/itemized deductions.

Effective January 1, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA) revived the personal exemption phaseout (PEP). The applicable threshold levels are $250,000 for unmarried taxpayers; $275,000 for heads of households; $300,000 for married couples filing a joint return (and surviving spouses); and $150,000 for married couples filing separate returns (adjusted for inflation after 2013). Likewise, for it revived the limitation on itemized deductions (known as the “Pease” limitation after the member of Congress who sponsored the original legislation) for those same taxpayers.

Medical and dental expenses.

Starting in 2013, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) increased the threshold to claim an itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses from 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income (AGI) to 10 percent of AGI. However, there is a temporary exemption for individuals age 65 and older until December 31, 2016. Qualified individuals may continue to deduct total medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income through 2016. If the qualified individual is married and only one spouse is age 65 or older, the taxpayer may still deduct total medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income.

Recordkeeping.

If you cannot find the paperwork necessary to prove your right to a deduction or credit, you cannot claim it. An organized tax recordkeeping system—whether on paper or computerized–therefore is an essential component to maximizing tax savings.

Filing Season Developments

So far this year, the IRS, other federal agencies and the courts have issued guidance on individual and business taxation, retirement savings, foreign accounts, the ACA, and much more. Congress has also been busy working up a “tax extenders” bill as well as tax reform proposals. All these developments can impact how you plan to maximize benefits on your 2014 income tax return.

Tax reform.

President Obama, the chairs of the House and Senate tax writing committees, and individual lawmakers all made tax reform proposals in early 2014. The proposals range from comprehensive tax reform to more piece-meal approaches. Although only small, piecemeal proposals have the most promising chances for passage this year, taxpayers should not ignore the broader push toward tax reform that will be taking shape in 2015 and 2016.

Tax extenders.

The Senate Finance Committee (SFC) approved legislation (EXPIRE Act) in April that would extend nearly all of the tax extenders that expired after 2013. Included in the EXPIRE Act are individual incentives such as the state and local sales tax deduction, the higher education tuition deduction, transit benefits parity, and the classroom teacher’s deduction; along with business incentives such as enhanced Code 179 small business expensing, bonus depreciation, the research tax credit, and more. Congress may now move quickly on an extenders bill or it may not come up with a compromise until after the November mid-term elections. Many of these tax benefits are significant and will directly impact the 2014 tax that taxpayers will pay.

Individual mandate.

The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate took effect January 1, 2014. Individuals failing to carry minimum essential coverage after January 1, 2014 and who are not exempt from the requirement will make an individual shared responsibility payment when they file their 2014 federal income tax returns in 2015. There are some exemptions, including a hardship exemption if the taxpayer experienced problems in signing up with a Health Insurance Marketplace before March 31, 2014. Further guidance is expected before 2014 tax year returns need to be filed, especially on how to calculate the payment and how to report to the IRS that an individual has minimum essential coverage.

Employer mandate.

The ACA’s shared responsibility provision for employers (also known as the “employer mandate”) will generally apply to large employers starting in 2015, rather than the original 2014 launch date. Transition relief provided in February final regulations provides additional time to mid-size employers with 50 or more but fewer than 100 employees, generally delaying implementation until 2016. Employers that employ fewer than 50 full-time or full time equivalent employees are permanently exempt from the employer mandate. The final regulations do not change this treatment under the statute.

Other recent tax developments to be aware of for 2014 planning purposes include:

  • IRA rollovers. The IRS announced that, starting in 2015, it intends to follow a one-rollover-per-year limitation on Individual Retirement Account (IRA) rollovers as an aggregate limit.
  • myRAs. In January, President Obama directed the Treasury Department to create a new retirement savings vehicle, “myRA,” to be rolled out before 2015.
  • Same-sex married couples. In April, the IRS released guidance on how the Supreme Court’s Windsor decision, which struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), applies to qualified retirement plans, opting not to require recognition before June 26, 2013.
  • Passive activity losses. The Tax Court found in March that a trust owning rental real estate could qualify for the rental real estate exception to passive activity loss treatment.
  • FATCA deadline. The IRS has indicated that it is holding firm on the July 1, 2014, deadline for foreign financial institutions (FFIs) to comply with the FATCA information reporting requirements or withhold 30 percent from payments of U.S.-source income to their U.S. account holders.
  • Vehicle depreciation. The IRS announced that inflation-adjusted limitations on depreciation deductions for business use passenger autos, light trucks and vans first placed in service during calendar year 2014 are relatively unchanged from 2013 (except for first year $8,000 bonus depreciation that may be removed if Congress does not act in time.
  • Severance payments. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court held that supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB) payments made to terminated employees and not tied to the receipt of state unemployment benefits are wages for FICA tax purposes.
  • Virtual currency. The IRS announced that convertible virtual currencies, such as Bitcoin, would be treated as property and not as currency, thus creating immediate tax consequences for those using Bitcoins to pay for goods.

Please contact this office at (908) 725-4414 if you’d like further information on how an examination of your 2013 return, and examination of recent tax developments, may point to revised strategies for lowering your eventual tax bill for 2014.

FAQ: What is an information document request (IDR)?

When an IRS is conducting a detailed audit of a taxpayer, it may want to see documents and records retained by the taxpayer. The examiner will ask the taxpayer what type of documents are maintained, and will request that the taxpayer produce particular documents for inspection.

The IRS uses Form 4564, Information Document Request, to request information from a taxpayer for an audit. There are several versions of Form 4564, such as those for income tax audits, tax-exempt organizations, and tax-exempt bonds. Form 4564 will list documents needed to support taxpayer items that the IRS wants to verify. Taxpayers may want to consult with legal counsel to ensure that they do not provide too much information and do not provide privileged documents.

IDR enforcement

IRS_idrThe IRS has put into effect a new IDR enforcement process for IRS examiners to obtain information. In particular, the IRS’s Large Business and International Division (LB&I) issued several memos in 2013 and 2014 to provide guidance on the use of IDRs and to explain the new IDR enforcement process. Other divisions follow, or will be following, similar procedures.

Under the guidelines, examiners are instructed to prepare one IDR for each issue being examined; the IDR should describe the issue for which the documents are being requested. IDRs should be clear and concise, and customized to the taxpayer under audit. There is an exception to the requirement that the IDR state the issue. An initial IDR that requests basic books and records and general information about a taxpayer’s business does not have to meet this requirement.

Examiners are further instructed to discuss the proposed IDR with the taxpayer and to agree on a reasonable time for the taxpayer to respond. LB&I instituted a three-step process for enforcing the IDR, with strict deadlines: a delinquency notice; a pre-summons letter; and a summons. The process is mandatory. IRS Chief Counsel will enforce IDRs through summons issuance when necessary. The IRS may also apply this stricter process if it believes that the taxpayer’s response is incomplete.


If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.

How do I? As an employer, report health insurance coverage?

One of the most complex, if not the most complex, provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is the employer shared responsibility requirement (the so-called “employer mandate”) and related reporting of health insurance coverage. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, the Obama administration has twice delayed the employer mandate and reporting. The employer mandate and reporting will generally apply to applicable large employers (ALE) starting in 2015 and to mid-size employers starting in 2016. Employers with fewer than 50 employees, have never been required, and continue to be exempt, from the employer mandate and reporting.

Employer mandate

The employer mandate under Code Sec. 4980H and employer reporting under Code Sec. 6056 are very connected. Code Sec. 4980H generally provides that an ALE is required to pay a penalty if it fails to offer minimum essential coverage and any full-time employee receives cost-sharing or the Code Sec. 36B premium assistance tax credit. An ALE would also pay a penalty if it offers coverage and any full-time employee receives cost-sharing or the Code Sec. 36B credit.

To receive the Code Sec. 36B credit, an individual must have obtained coverage through an Affordable Care Act Marketplace. The Marketplaces will report the names of individuals who receive the credit to the IRS. ALEs must report the terms and conditions of health care coverage provided to employees (This is known as Code Sec. 6056 reporting). The IRS will use all of this information to determine if the ALE must pay a penalty.

ALEs

Only ALEs are subject to the employer mandate and must report health insurance coverage under Code Sec. 6056. Employers with fewer than 50 employees are never subject to the employer mandate and do not have to report coverage under Code Sec. 6056.

In February, the Obama administration announced important transition rules for the employer mandate that affects Code Sec. 6056 reporting. The Obama administration limited the employer mandate in 2015 to employers with 100 or more full-time employees. ALEs with fewer than 100 full-time employees will be subject to the employer mandate starting in 2016. At all times, employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees are exempt from the employer mandate and Code Sec. 6056 reporting.

Reporting

The IRS has issued regulations describing how ALEs will report health insurance coverage. The IRS has not yet issued any of the forms that ALEs will use but has advised that ALEs generally will report the requisite information to the agency electronically.

ALEs also must provide statements to employees. The statements will describe, among other things, the coverage provided to the employee.

30-Hour Threshold

A fundamental question for the employer mandate and Code Sec. 6056 reporting is who is a full-time employee. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, the IRS and other federal agencies have issued much guidance to answer this question. The answer is extremely technical and there are many exceptions but generally a full-time employee means, with respect to any month, an employee who is employed on average at least 30 hours of service per week. The IRS has designed two methods for determining full-time employee status: the monthly measurement method and the look-back measurement method. However, special rules apply to seasonal workers, student employees, volunteers, individuals who work on-call, and many more. If you have any questions about who is a full-time employee, please contact our office.

Form W-2 reporting

The Affordable Care Act also requires employers to disclose the aggregate cost of employer-provided health coverage on an employee’s Form W-2. This requirement is separate from the employer mandate and Code Sec. 6056 reporting. The reporting of health insurance costs on Form W-2 is for informational purposes only. It does not affect an employee’s tax liability or an employer’s liability for the employer mandate.

Shortly after the Affordable Care Act was passed, the IRS provided transition relief to small employers that remains in effect today. An employer is not subject the reporting requirement for any calendar year if the employer was required to file fewer than 250 Forms W-2 for the preceding calendar year. Special rules apply to multiemployer plans, health reimbursement arrangements, and many more.

Please contact our office at (908) 725-4414 if you have any questions about ALEs, the employer mandate or Code Sec. 6056 reporting.