K. W. “Hutch” Hutchinson, CPA, CFP®

Providing solutions to your taxing problems

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Some taxpayers may need to make estimated tax payments

Some taxpayers earn income not subject to withholding. For small business owners and self-employed people this can mean making quarterly estimated tax payments.

Anyone in this situation should check their withholding using the Tax Withholding Estimator on IRS.gov. If the estimator suggests a change, the taxpayer can submit a new Form W-4 to their employer.

Here are some important things taxpayers should know about estimated tax payments:

  • Taxpayers generally must make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe $1,000 or more when they file their 2020 tax return.
  • Aside from business owners and self-employed individuals, people who might also need to make estimated payments include sole proprietors, partners and S corporation shareholders. It also often includes people involved in the sharing economy.
  • Estimated tax requirements are different for farmers and fishermen.
  • Corporations generally must make these payments if they expect to owe $500 or more on their 2019 tax return.
    The remaining deadlines for paying 2020 estimated taxes are September 15, 2020 and January 15, 2021.
  • Taxpayers can review these forms for help figuring their estimated payments:
  • Taxpayers have options for paying estimated taxes. These include:

Taxpayers who don’t pay enough tax throughout the year may have to pay an underpayment penalty.

More information:
Publication 505Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax

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Keep Economic Impact Payment notice with other tax records

People who receive an Economic Impact Payment this year should keep Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment, with their tax records. This notice provides information about the amount of their payment, how the payment was made and how to report any payment that wasn’t received.

For security reasons, the IRS mails this notice to each recipient’s last known address within 15 days after the payment goes out. It’s especially important for people to keep this notice if they think their payment amount is wrong. When they file their 2020 tax return, they can refer to Notice 1444 and claim additional credits, if they are eligible for them.

Taxpayers should keep this notice filed with all their other important tax records. These include, W-2s from employers,1099s from banks and other payers, other income documents and virtual currency transaction records.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their past tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years. Key information from their prior year return may be required to file next year. Life changes like employment or marital status and financial gains or losses can affect a tax refund or the amount of taxes a person may owe.

The tax filing deadline has been postponed to Wednesday, July 15, 2020. The IRS is processing tax returns, issuing refunds and accepting payments. Taxpayers who mailed a tax return will experience a longer wait. There is no need to mail a second tax return or call the IRS.

More information:
Publication 5349, Year-round Tax Planning is for Everyone
Economic Impact Payment FAQs

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Here’s how much individuals will get from the Economic Impact Payments

Employed full or part time? Unemployed? A temporary or gig worker? Retired or disabled? Receive public benefits? Have no income? Most U.S. residents – under certain income levels – will receive the Economic Impact Payment if they are not claimed as a dependent of another taxpayer and have a Social Security number.

Here’s how much the payments will be:

  • Eligible individuals will receive up to $1,200.
  • Eligible married couples will receive up to $2,400.
  • Eligible individuals will receive up to $500 for each qualifying child.

Taxpayers will receive a reduced payment if their adjusted gross income is between:

  • $75,000 and $99,000 if their filing status was single or married filing separately
  • $112,500 and $136,500 for head of household
  • $150,000 and $198,000 if their filing status was married filing jointly

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an Economic Impact Payment.

Payments will also be automatic for people who receive Social Security retirement, disability (SSDI), or survivor benefits or Railroad Retirement benefits who don’t normally file a tax return. Those receiving these benefits who aren’t claimed as a dependent on someone else’s return or required to file a tax return are eligible for a $1,200 payment. However, people in this group who have qualifying children under age 17 will need to provide information using the Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info tool to claim the $500 payment per child.

The IRS encourages people to share this information with family and friends. Some people who normally don’t file a tax return may not realize they’re eligible for an Economic Impact Payment.

For additional and updated information, visit the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov.

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Filing taxes 101: Common errors taxpayers should avoid

Filing a tax return electronically reduces errors because the tax software does the math, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information.

Using a reputable tax preparer – including certified public accountants, enrolled agents or other knowledgeable tax professionals – can also help avoid errors. Mistakes can result in a processing delay, which can mean it takes more time to get a refund.

Here are some common errors to avoid when preparing a tax return:

  • Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. Each SSN on a tax return should appear exactly as printed on the Social Security card.
  • Misspelled names. Likewise, a name listed on a tax return should match the name on that person’s Social Security card.
  • Incorrect filing status. Some taxpayers choose the wrong filing status. The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help taxpayers choose the correct status especially if more than one filing status applies.  Tax software also helps prevent mistakes with filing status.
  • Math mistakes. Math errors are one of the most common mistakes. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex calculations. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax prep software does it automatically.
  • Figuring credits or deductions. Taxpayers can make mistakes figuring things like their earned income tax creditchild and dependent care credit, and the standard deduction. Taxpayers should always follow the instructions carefully. For example, a taxpayer who’s 65 or older, or blind, should claim the correct, higher standard deduction if they’re not itemizing. The Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible for tax credits or deductions. Attach any required forms and schedules.
  • Incorrect bank account numbers. Taxpayers who are due a refund should choose direct deposit. This is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their money. However, taxpayers need to make sure they use the correct routing and account numbers on their tax return.
  • Unsigned forms. An unsigned tax return isn’t valid…period. In most cases, both spouses must sign a joint return. Exceptions may apply for members of the armed forces or other taxpayers who have a valid power of attorney Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically and digitally signing it before sending it to the IRS.
  • Filing with an expired individual tax identification number. If a taxpayer’s ITIN is expired, they should go ahead and file using the expired number. The IRS will process that return and treat it as a return filed on time. However, the IRS won’t allow any exemptions or credits to a return filed with an expired ITIN. Taxpayers will receive a notice telling the taxpayer to renew their number. Once the taxpayer renews the ITIN, the IRS will process return normally.

More information:

YouTube videos:

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IRS Issues New Regulations on Income Tax Withholding

2020 Form W4 Irs

The IRS and the U.S. Department of the Treasury have issued proposed regulations updating the federal income tax withholding rules to reflect changes made by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) and other legislation.

In general, the proposed regulations, available now in the Federal Register, are designed to accommodate the redesigned Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, to be used starting in 2020, and the related tables and computational procedures in Publication 15-T, Federal Income Tax Withholding Methods. The proposed regulations and related guidance do not require employees to furnish a new Form W-4 solely because of the redesign of the Form W-4.

Employees who have a Form W-4 on file with their employer from years prior to 2020 generally will continue to have their withholding determined based on that form.

To assist with computation of income tax withholding, the redesigned Form W-4 no longer uses an employee’s marital status and withholding allowances, which were tied to the value of the personal exemption. Due to TCJA changes, employees can no longer claim personal exemptions. Instead, income tax withholding using the redesigned Form W-4 will generally be based on the employee’s expected filing status and standard deduction for the year.

The Form W-4 is also redesigned to make it easier for employees with more than one job at the same time or married employees who file jointly with their working spouses to withhold the proper amount of tax.

In addition, employees can choose to have itemized deductions, the child tax credit, and other tax benefits reflected in their withholding for the year. As in the past, employees can choose to have an employer withhold a flat-dollar extra amount each pay period to cover, for example, income they receive from other sources that is not subject to withholding. Under the proposed regulations, employees now also have the option to request that employers withhold additional tax by reporting income from other sources not subject to withholding on the Form W-4.

The proposed regulations permit employees to use the new IRS Tax Withholding Estimator to help them accurately fill out Form W-4. As in the past, taxpayers may use the worksheets in the instructions to Form W-4 and in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, to assist them in filling out this form correctly.

The proposed regulations also address a variety of other income tax withholding issues. For example, the proposed regulations provide flexibility in how employees who fail to furnish Forms W-4 should be treated. Starting in 2020, employers must treat new employees who fail to furnish a properly completed Form W-4 as single and withhold using the standard deduction and no other adjustments. Before 2020, employers in this situation were required to withhold as if the employee was single and claiming zero allowances.

In addition, the proposed regulations provide rules on when employees must furnish a new Form W-4 for changed circumstances, update the regulations for the lock-in letter program, and eliminate the combined income tax and FICA (Social Security and Medicare) tax withholding tables.

Treasury and IRS welcome public comment on these proposed regulations. See the proposed regulations for details.

Updates on TCJA implementation can be found on the Tax Reform page of IRS.gov.

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Here’s the 411 on who can deduct car expenses on their tax returns

Taxpayers who have deducted the business use of their car on past tax returns should review whether or not they can still claim this deduction. Some taxpayers can. Some cannot.

Here’s a breakdown of which taxpayers can claim this deduction when they file their tax returns.

Business owners and self-employed individuals
Individuals who own a business or are self-employed and use their vehicle for business may deduct car expenses on their tax return. If a taxpayer uses the car for both business and personal purposes, the expenses must be split. The deduction is based on the portion of mileage used for business.

There are two methods for figuring car expenses:

1. Using actual expenses

  • These include:
    • Depreciation
    • Lease payments
    • Gas and oil
    • Tires
    • Repairs and tune-ups
    • Insurance
    • Registration fees

2. Using the standard mileage rate

  • Taxpayers who want to use the standard mileage rate for a car they own must choose to use this method in the first year the car is available for use in their business.
  • Taxpayers who want to use the standard mileage rate for a car they lease must use it for the entire lease period.
  • The standard mileage rate for 2018 is 54.5 cents per mile. For 2019, it‘s 58 cents.

There are recordkeeping requirements for both methods. 

Employees
Employees who use their car for work can no longer take an employee business expense deduction as part of their miscellaneous itemized deductions reported on Schedule A.  Employees can’t deduct this cost even if their employer doesn’t reimburse the employee for using their own car. This is for tax years after December 2017. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act suspended miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to the 2% floor.  

However, certain taxpayers may still deduct unreimbursed employee travel expenses, this includes Armed Forces reservists, qualified performing artists, and fee-basis state or local government officials.

More information:
Publication 535, Business Expenses

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Here’s what taxpayers should know if they get a notice from the IRS

Certain taxpayers might get a letter from the IRS this year. It’s called an IRS Notice CP 2000. It gives detailed information about issues the IRS identified. The IRS sends this notice when information from a third party doesn’t match the information the taxpayer reported on their tax return. The notice also provides steps taxpayers should take to resolve those issues.

Here is some information about these notices to help taxpayers understand why they got one and what to do when it arrives:

  • The IRS sends a notice to the taxpayer when a tax return’s information doesn’t match data reported to the IRS by banks and other third parties.
  • This notice isn’t a formal audit notification. It is simply a notice to see if the taxpayer agrees or disagrees with the proposed tax changes.

    Taxpayers should respond to the Notice CP2000. The taxpayer usually has 30 days from the date printed on the notice to respond.

    The IRS provides a phone number on each notice. IRS telephone assistors can explain the notice and what taxpayers need to do to resolve any issues.
  • The IRS will send another notice to the taxpayer if the taxpayer doesn’t respond to the initial Notice CP2000, or if the agency can’t accept the additional information provided. It is called an IRS Notice CP3219A, Statutory Notice of Deficiency.
  • The Notice CP3219A gives detailed information about why the IRS proposes a tax change and how the agency determined the change. The notice tells taxpayers about their right to challenge the decision in Tax Court if they choose to do so. Even if they decide not to go to Tax Court, the IRS will continue to work with the taxpayer to help resolve the issue.

More information:

YouTube Videos:

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Tax tips for taxpayers to consider when selling their home

The IRS has some good news for taxpayers who are selling their home. When filing their taxes, they may qualify to exclude all or part of any gain from the sale from their income. Here are some things that homeowners should think about when selling a home:

Ownership and use
To claim the exclusion, the taxpayer must meet ownership and use tests. During a five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have owned the home and lived in it as their main home for at least two years.

Gains 
Taxpayers who sell their main home and have a gain from the sale may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of that gain from their income. Taxpayers who file a joint return with their spouse may be able to exclude up to $500,000.  
Homeowners excluding all the gain do not need to report the sale on their tax return.

Losses 
Some taxpayers experience a loss when their main home sells for less than what they paid for it. This loss is not deductible.

Multiple homes
Taxpayers who own more than one home can only exclude the gain on the sale of their main home. They must pay taxes on the gain from selling any other home.

Reported sale
Taxpayers who don’t qualify to exclude all of the taxable gain from their income must report the gain from the sale of their home when they file their tax return. Anyone who chooses not to claim the exclusion must report the taxable gain on their tax return.  Taxpayers who receive Form 1099-S must report the sale on their tax return even if they have no taxable gain.

Mortgage debt 
Generally, taxpayers must report forgiven or canceled debt as income on their tax return. This includes people who had a mortgage workout, foreclosure, or other canceled mortgage debt on their home. Taxpayers who had debt discharged after Dec. 31, 2017, can’t exclude it from income as qualified principal residence indebtedness unless a written agreement for the debt forgiveness was in place before January 1, 2018.

Possible exceptions
There are exceptions to these rules for some individuals, including persons with a disability, certain members of the military, intelligence community and Peace Corps workers.

Worksheets
Worksheets included in Publication 523 can help taxpayers figure the adjusted basis of the home sold, the gain or loss on the sale, and the excluded gain on the sale.

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Don’t fall for myth-leading information about tax refunds

Now that the April tax-filing deadline has come and gone, many taxpayers are eager to get details about their tax refunds. When it comes to refunds, there are several common myths going around social media.

Here are five of these common myths:

Myth 1: Getting a refund this year means there’s no need to adjust withholding for 2019
To help avoid an unexpected tax outcome next year, taxpayers should make changes now to prepare for next year. One way for a taxpayer to do this is to adjust their tax withholding with their employer. The IRS encourages people to do a Paycheck Checkup using the IRS Withholding Calculator to determine whether their employer is withholding the right amount. This is especially important for anyone who got an unexpected result from filing their tax return this year. This could have happened because the taxpayer’s employer withheld too much or too little tax from the employee’s paycheck in 2018.  

Myth 2: Calling the IRS or a tax professional will provide a better refund date
Many people mistakenly think that talking to the IRS or calling their tax professional is the best way to find out when they will get their refund. In reality, the best way to check the status of a refund is online through the “Where’s My Refund?” tool at IRS.gov or with the IRS2Go mobile app. Taxpayers without Internet access can call the automated refund hotline at 800-829-1954. “Where’s My Refund?” has the same information available to IRS telephone assistors, so there is no need to call unless “Where’s My Refund?” says to do so.

Myth 3: Ordering a tax transcript is a ‘secret way’ to get a refund date
Doing so will not help taxpayers find out when they will get their refund. “Where’s My Refund?” tells the taxpayer their tax return has been received and if the IRS has approved or sent the refund.

Myth 4: ‘Where’s My Refund?’ must be wrong because there’s no deposit date yet
Updates to “Where’s My Refund?” ‎on both IRS.gov and the IRS2Go mobile app are made once each day. These updates are usually made overnight. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, it’s possible a refund may take longer. This means that in some cases, a taxpayer who filed later may receive their refund sooner than someone who filed earlier in the season. The IRS contacts a taxpayer by mail when it needs more information to process their tax return. Taxpayers should also remember to consider the time it takes for the banks to post the refund to the taxpayer’s account. Taxpayers waiting for a refund in the mail should plan for the time it takes a check to arrive.

Myth 5: ‘Where’s My Refund?’ must be wrong because a refund amount is less than expected
There are several factors that could cause a tax refund to be larger or smaller than expected. Situations that could decrease a refund include:

  • The taxpayer made math errors or mistakes
  • The taxpayer owes federal taxes for a prior year
  • The taxpayer owes state taxes, child support, student loans or other delinquent federal nontax obligations
  • The IRS holds a portion of the refund while it reviews an item claimed on the return

The IRS will mail the taxpayer a letter of explanation if these adjustments are made. Some taxpayers may also receive a letter from the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service if their refund was reduced to offset certain financial obligations.

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Office Depot computer scans gave fake results

Federal Trade Commission

FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION

Consumer Information

March 27, 2019by Bridget SmallConsumer Education Specialist

Most of us manage basic computer safety on our own. We keep security software and firewalls up to date, and ignore pesky pop-up ads about computer health. Many of us would gladly take advantage of a free computer tune-up from a big-name retailer. We wouldn’t suspect the tune-up might be a tech support scam.

But according to a recent FTC complaint, that’s exactly what happened at Office Depot and OfficeMax stores. Many customers who took their computers in for a free “PC Health Check” at Office Depot or OfficeMax stores between 2009 and November 2016 were told their computers had malware symptoms or infections — but that wasn’t true. The FTC says Office Depot and OfficeMax ran PC Health Check, a diagnostic scan program created and licensed by Support.com, that tricked those consumers into thinking their computers had symptoms of malware or actual “infections,” even though the scan hadn’t found any such issues. Many consumers who got false scan results bought computer diagnostic and repair services from Office Depot and OfficeMax that cost up to $300. Suppport.com completed the services and got a cut of each purchase.

Office Depot, Inc. and Support.com, Inc. have both agreed to proposed settlements with the FTC to resolve the FTC’s allegations. This press release has details about the terms of the proposed settlements. The companies will be prohibited from making various deceptive claims and will also turn over a total of $35 million to the FTC, which the FTC expects to use for refunds. If the FTC can give refunds, we will publish another blog with details.

The FTC has information to help you manage security online. Read about ways to keep your computer security up to date. Learn how to avoid, discover, and get rid of malware that may download viruses onto your computer or cause it to crash. If you find malware was installed on your computer, you can report it to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint.