Tax Refund Withholdings and Offsets

If you owe money because of certain delinquent debts, the IRS or the Department of Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS), which issues IRS tax refunds, can offset or reduce your federal tax refund or withhold the entire amount to satisfy the debt.
Here are seven important facts the IRS wants you to know about tax refund offsets:

1. If you owe federal or state income taxes your refund will be offset to pay those taxes. If you had other debt such as child support or student loan debt that was submitted for offset, FMS will take as much of your refund as is needed to pay off the debt, and send it to the agency authorized to collect the debt. Any portion of your refund remaining after an offset will be refunded to you.

2. You will receive a notice if an offset occurs. The notice will reflect the original refund amount, your offset amount, the agency receiving the payment, and the address and telephone number of the agency.

3. You should contact the agency shown on the notice if you believe you do not owe the debt or you are disputing the amount taken from your refund.

4. If you filed a joint return and you’re not responsible for the debt, but you are entitled to a portion of the refund, you may request your portion of the refund by filing IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation. Attach Form 8379 to your original Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ or file it by itself after you are notified of an offset.

5. If you file a Form 8379 with your return, write “INJURED SPOUSE” at the top left corner of the Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ. IRS will process your allocation request before an offset occurs.

6. If you are filing Form 8379 by itself, it must show both spouses’ social security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. You, the “injured” spouse, must sign the form. Do not attach the previously filed Form 1040 to the Form 8379. Send Form 8379 to the Service Center where you filed your original return.

7. The IRS will compute the injured spouse’s share of the joint return for you. Contact the IRS only if your original refund amount shown on the FMS offset notice differs from the refund amount shown on your tax return.
Follow the instructions on Form 8379 carefully and be sure to attach the required forms to avoid delays. If a notice is not received contact the Financial Management Service at 800–304–3107, Monday through Friday from 7:30AM to 5 PM (Central Time).
For assistance with completing Form 8379, call the IRS toll-free number 800-829-1040.

Link:
Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation

IRS to Start Processing Delayed Returns on Feb. 14

IRS to Start Processing Delayed Returns on Feb. 14; Most People Unaffected and Can File Now

IR-2011-7, Jan. 20, 2011

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service plans a Feb. 14 start date for processing tax returns delayed by last month’s tax law changes. The IRS reminded taxpayers affected by the delay they can begin preparing their tax returns immediately because many software providers are ready now to accept these returns.

Beginning Feb. 14, the IRS will start processing both paper and e-filed returns claiming itemized deductions on Schedule A, the higher education tuition and fees deduction on Form 8917 and the educator expenses deduction. Based on filings last year, about nine million tax returns claimed any of these deductions on returns received by the IRS before Feb. 14.

People using e-file for these delayed forms can get a head start because many major software providers have announced they will accept these impacted returns immediately. The software providers will hold onto the returns and then electronically submit them after the IRS systems open on Feb. 14 for the delayed forms.

Taxpayers using commercial software can check with their providers for specific instructions. Those who use a paid tax preparer should check with their preparer, who also may be holding returns until the updates are complete.

Most other returns, including those claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), education tax credits, child tax credit and other popular tax breaks, can be filed as normal, immediately.

The IRS needed the extra time to update its systems to accommodate the tax law changes without disrupting other operations tied to the filing season. The delay followed the Dec. 17 enactment of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which extended a number of expiring provisions including the state and local sales tax deduction, higher education tuition and fees deduction and educator expenses deduction.

Related Items:

  • IR-2011-1, IRS Kicks Off 2011 Tax Season with Deadline Extended to April 18; Taxpayers Impacted by Recent Tax Breaks Can File Starting in Mid- to Late February
  • IR-2011-4, IRS e-file Launches Today; Most Taxpayers Can File Immediately

Issue Number: RP-2010-44

Revenue Procedure 2010-44 provides two safe harbor methods of accounting for certain motor vehicle dealerships to
(1) treat certain sales facilities as retail sales facilities for purposes of § 263A, and (2) be treated as resellers without production activities for purposes of § 263A.

Revenue Procedure 2010-44 will be published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2010-49 on December 6, 2010.

Keeping Good Records Reduces Stress at Tax Time

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010-18

You may not be thinking about your tax return right now, but summer is a great time to start planning for next year and to make sure your records are organized. Maintaining good records now can make filing your return a lot easier and it will help you remember transactions you made during the year.

Here are a few things the IRS wants you to know about recordkeeping.

Keeping well-organized records also ensures you can answer questions if your return is selected for examination or prepare a response if you receive an IRS notice. In most cases, the IRS does not require you to keep records in any special manner. Generally speaking, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return.

Individual taxpayers should usually keep the following records supporting items on their tax returns for at least three years:

  • Bills
  • Credit card and other receipts
  • Invoices
  • Mileage logs
  • Canceled, imaged or substitute checks or any other proof of payment
  • Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return

You should normally keep records relating to property until at least three years after you sell or otherwise dispose of the property. Examples include:

  • A home purchase or improvement
  • Stocks and other investments
  • Individual Retirement Arrangement transactions
  • Rental property records

If you are a small business owner, you must keep all your employment tax records for at least four years after the tax becomes due or is paid, whichever is later. Examples of important documents business owners should keep Include:

  • Gross receipts: Cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, receipt books, invoices, credit card charge slips and Forms 1099-MISC
  • Proof of purchases: Canceled checks, cash register tape receipts, credit card sales slips and invoices
  • Expense documents: Canceled checks, cash register tapes, account statements, credit card sales slips, invoices and petty cash slips for small cash payments
  • Documents to verify your assets: Purchase and sales invoices, real estate closing statements and canceled checks

For more information about recordkeeping, check out IRS Publications 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals, 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records, and Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses. These publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

Publications 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals ( PDF)

Publications 583, Starting a Business and Keeping Records ( PDF)

Publication 463, Travel, Entertainment, Gift, and Car Expenses ( PDF)

Nine Tips for Taxpayers Who Owe Money to the IRS

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010-15

Did you end up owing taxes this year? The vast majority of Americans get a tax refund from the IRS each spring, but those who receive a bill may not know that the IRS has a number of ways for people to pay. Here are nine tips for taxpayers who owe money to the IRS.

  1. If you get a bill this summer for late taxes, you are expected to promptly pay the tax owed including any penalties and interest. If you are unable to pay the amount due, it is often in your best interest to get a loan to pay the bill in full rather than to make installment payments to the IRS.
  2. You can also pay the bill with your credit card. The interest rate on a credit card or bank loan may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Code. To pay by credit card contact one of the following processing companies: Official Payments Corporation at 888-UPAY-TAX (also www.officialpayments.com/fed) or Link2Gov at 888-PAY-1040 (also www.pay1040.com) or RBS WorldPay, Inc at 888-9PAY-TAX (also www.payUSAtax.com).
  3. You can pay the balance owed by electronic funds transfer, check, money order, cashier’s check or cash. To pay using electronic funds transfer you can take advantage of the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System by calling 800-555-4477 or online at www.eftps.gov.
  4. An installment agreement may be requested if you cannot pay the liability in full. This is an agreement between you and the IRS to pay the amount due in monthly installment payments. You must first file all returns that are required and be current with estimated tax payments.
  5. If you owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest, you can request an installment agreement using the Online Payment Agreement application at IRS.gov.
  6. You can also complete and mail an IRS Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, along with your bill in the envelope that you have received from the IRS.  The IRS will inform you usually within 30 days whether your request is approved, denied, or if additional information is needed. If the amount you owe is $25,000 or less, provide the highest monthly amount you can pay with your request.
  7. You may still qualify for an installment agreement if you owe more than $25,000, but a Form 433F, Collection Information Statement, is required to be completed before an installment agreement can be considered. If your balance is over $25,000, consider your financial situation and propose the highest amount possible, as that is how the IRS will arrive at your payment amount based upon your financial information.
  8. If an agreement is approved, a one-time user fee will be charged.  The user fee for a new agreement is $105 or $52 for agreements where payments are deducted directly from your bank account.  For eligible individuals with incomes at or below certain levels, a reduced fee of $43 will be charged.
  9. Taxpayers who have a balance due, may want to consider changing their W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, with their employer. There is a withholding calculator available on IRS.gov to help taxpayers determine the amount that should be withheld.

For more information about installment agreements and other payment options visit IRS.gov.  IRS Publications 594, The IRS Collection Process and 966, Electronic Choices to Pay All Your Federal Taxes also provide additional information regarding your payment options.  These publications and Form 9465 can be obtained from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Links:

Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process ( PDF)

Publication 966, Electronic Choices to Pay All Your Federal Taxes ( PDF)

Form 9465, Installment Agreement ( PDF)

Does the IRS Owe You Money?

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010-13

The Internal Revenue Service may have money for you. Was your income below the limit that requires you to file a tax return? If so, you may still be due a refund.

If you have not filed a prior year tax return and are due a refund, you should consider filing the return to claim that refund. If you are missing a refund for a previously filed tax return, you should contact the IRS to check the status of your refund and confirm your current address.

Unclaimed Refunds
Some people may have had taxes withheld from their wages but were not required to file a tax return because they had too little income. Others may not have had any tax withheld but would be eligible for the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

  • To collect this money a return must be filed with the IRS no later than three years from the due date of the return.
  • If no return is filed to claim the refund within three years, the money becomes the property of the U.S. Treasury.
  • There is no penalty assessed by the IRS for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.
  • Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
  • Information about the Earned Income Tax Credit and how to claim it is also available on IRS.gov.

Undeliverable Refunds
Were you expecting a refund check but didn’t get it?

  • Refund checks are mailed to your last known address. Checks are returned to the IRS if you move without notifying the IRS or the U.S. Postal Service.
  • You may be able to update your address with the IRS on the “Where’s My Refund?” feature available on IRS.gov. You will be prompted to provide an updated address if there is an undeliverable check outstanding within the last 12 months.
  • You can also ensure the IRS has your correct address by filing Form 8822, Change of Address, which is available on IRS.gov or can be ordered by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
  • If you do not have access to the Internet and think you may be missing a refund, you should first check your records or contact your tax preparer. If your refund information appears correct, call the IRS toll-free assistance line at 800-829-1040 to check the status of your refund and confirm your address.

Link:

Form 8822, Change of Address

Ten Tips for Taxpayers Making Charitable Donations

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010-21

Did you make a donation to a charity this year? If so, you may be able to take a deduction for it on your 2010 tax return.

Here are the top 10 things the IRS wants every taxpayer to know before deducting charitable donations.

1. Charitable contributions must be made to qualified organizations to be deductible. You can ask any organization whether it is a qualified organization and most will be able to tell you. You can also check IRS Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations, which lists most qualified organizations. IRS Publication 78 is available at IRS.gov.

2. Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.

3. You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.

4. If your contribution entitles you to receive merchandise, goods, or services in return – such as admission to a charity banquet or sporting event – you can deduct only the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit received.

5. Be sure to keep good records of any contribution you make, regardless of the amount. For any contribution made in cash, you must maintain a record of the contribution such as a bank record – including a cancelled check or a bank or credit card statement – a written record from the charity containing the date and amount of the contribution and the name of the organization, or a payroll deduction record.

6. Only contributions actually made during the tax year are deductible. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity only $200 by Dec. 31, your deduction would be $200.

7. Include credit card charges and payments by check in the year they are given to the charity, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until the next year.

8. For any cash or property contribution of $250 or more, you must have written acknowledgment from the organization to substantiate your donation. This written proof must include the amount of cash or a description of any property you contributed, and whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift, including a good faith estimate of the value of the goods or services you received.

9. To deduct charitable contributions of items valued at $500 or more you must complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attached the form to your return.

10. An appraisal generally must be obtained if you claim a deduction for a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000. In that case, you must also fill out Section B of Form 8283 and attach the form to your return.

For more information see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-TAX-FORM end_of_the_skype_highlighting (800-829-3676 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-829-3676 end_of_the_skype_highlighting).

Links:

Publication 78, Cumulative List of Organizations

Publication 526, Charitable Contributions ( PDF)

Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property ( PDF)

Six Facts about the American Opportunity Tax Credit

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010-23

There is still time left to take advantage of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, a credit that will help many parents and college students offset the cost of college. This tax credit is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is available through December 31, 2010. It can be claimed by eligible taxpayers for college expenses paid in 2009 and 2010.

Here are six important facts the IRS wants you to know about the American Opportunity Tax Credit:

1. This credit, which expands and renames the existing Hope Credit, can be claimed for qualified tuition and related expenses that you pay for higher education in 2009 and 2010. Qualified tuition and related expenses include tuition, related fees, books and other required course materials.

2. The credit is equal to 100 percent of the first $2,000 spent per student each year and 25 percent of the next $2,000. Therefore, the full $2,500 credit may be available to a taxpayer who pays $4,000 or more in qualifying expenses for an eligible student.

3. The full credit is generally available to eligible taxpayers who make less than $80,000 or $160,000 for married couples filing a joint return. The credit is gradually reduced, however, for taxpayers with incomes above these levels.

4. Forty percent of the credit is refundable, so even those who owe no tax can get up to $1,000 of the credit for each eligible student as cash back.

5. The credit can be claimed for qualified expenses paid for any of the first four years of post-secondary education.

6. You cannot claim the tuition and fees tax deduction in the same year that you claim the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. You must choose to either take the credit or the deduction and should consider which is more beneficial for you.

Complete details on the American Opportunity Tax Credit and other key tax provisions of the Recovery Act are available at IRS.gov/recovery.

Links:

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009: Information Center

Tax Benefits for Education: Information Center
Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education
YouTubeVideo: Education Credits (Parents): English | Spanish | ASL

Audio File for Podcast: American Opportunity Tax Credit

Eight Things to Know If You Receive an IRS Notice

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010-22

Did you receive a notice from the IRS this year? Every year the IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers but that doesn’t mean you need to worry. Here are eight things every taxpayer should know about IRS notices – just in case one shows up in your mailbox.

1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with simply and painlessly.

2. There are number of reasons the IRS sends notices to taxpayers. The notice may request payment of taxes, notify you of a change to your account or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.

3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.

4. If you receive a correction notice, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.

5. If you agree with the correction to your account, usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due.

6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. Write to explain why you disagree. Include any documents and information you wish the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.

7. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available when you call, to help us respond to your inquiry.

8. It’s important that you keep copies of any correspondence with your records.

For more information about IRS notices and bills, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. Information about penalties and interest charges is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals. Both publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-TAX-FORM end_of_the_skype_highlighting (800-829-3676 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-829-3676 end_of_the_skype_highlighting).

Links:

Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process ( PDF)

Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals ( PDF)

Employee vs. Independent Contractor – Seven Tips for Business Owners

IRS Summertime Tax Tip 2010-20

As a small business owner you may hire people as independent contractors or as employees. There are rules that will help you determine how to classify the people you hire. This will affect how much you pay in taxes, whether you need to withhold from your workers paychecks and what tax documents you need to file.

Here are seven things every business owner should know about hiring people as independent contractors versus hiring them as employees.

1. The IRS uses three characteristics to determine the relationship between businesses and workers:

Behavioral Control covers facts that show whether the business has a right to direct or control how the work is done through instructions, training or other means.

Financial Control covers facts that show whether the business has a right to direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job.

Type of Relationship factor relates to how the workers and the business owner perceive their relationship.

2. If you have the right to control or direct not only what is to be done, but also how it is to be done, then your workers are most likely employees.

3. If you can direct or control only the result of the work done — and not the means and methods of accomplishing the result — then your workers are probably independent contractors.

4. Employers who misclassify workers as independent contractors can end up with substantial tax bills. Additionally, they can face penalties for failing to pay employment taxes and for failing to file required tax forms.

5. Workers can avoid higher tax bills and lost benefits if they know their proper status.

6. Both employers and workers can ask the IRS to make a determination on whether a specific individual is an independent contractor or an employee by filing a Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding, with the IRS.

7. You can learn more about the critical determination of a worker’s status as an Independent Contractor or Employee at IRS.gov by selecting the Small Business link. Additional resources include IRS Publication 15-A, Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide, Publication 1779, Independent Contractor or Employee, and Publication 1976, Do You Qualify for Relief under Section 530? These publications and Form SS-8 are available on the IRS website or by calling the IRS at 800-829-3676 (800-TAX-FORM).
Links:

Publication 15-A, Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide

Publication 1779, Independent Contractor or Employee

Publication 1976, Do You Qualify for Relief under Section 530?

Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding

Source: Tax Tips for 2010