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Tax Time Guide wrap-up


Tips on payment options, penalty waivers, refunds and more

WASHINGTON—The Internal Revenue Service urges taxpayers to file an accurate tax return on time, even if they owe but can’t pay in full. The IRS also recommends that taxpayers do a Paycheck Checkup early in 2019 to avoid having too much or too little tax withheld.

Most taxpayers are being affected by major tax law changes. While most will get a tax refund, others may find that they owe taxes. Those who owe may qualify for a waiver of the estimated tax penalty that normally applies. See Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates and Trusts, and its instructions for details.

This news release is part of a series called the Tax Time Guide, a resource to help taxpayers file an accurate tax return. Additional help is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the tax reform information page.

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriot’s 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.

Checking on refunds

The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. Using the “Where’s My Refund?” online tool, taxpayers can start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS receives an e-filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mailed a paper return. The tool has a tracker that displays progress through three phases: (1) Return Received; (2) Refund Approved; and (3) Refund Sent.

All that is needed to use “Where’s My Refund?” is the taxpayer’s Social Security number, tax filing status (such as single, married, head of household) and exact amount of the tax refund claimed on the return.

“Where’s My Refund?” is updated no more than once every 24 hours, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check the status more often.

Check withholding

The IRS encourages taxpayers to review their tax withholding using the IRS Withholding Calculator and make any needed adjustments early in 2019. Taxpayers should check their withholding each year and when life changes occur, such as marriage, childbirth, adoption or buying a home. Doing a Paycheck Checkup can help taxpayers avoid having too little or too much tax withheld from their paychecks. The IRS reminds taxpayers that they can generally control the size of their tax refund by adjusting their tax withholding.

For 2019, it’s important to review withholding and do a Paycheck Checkup. This is especially true for taxpayers who adjusted their withholding in 2018, specifically in the middle or later parts of the year. And it’s also important for taxpayers who received a tax bill when they filed this year or want to adjust the size of their tax refund for next year.

How to make a tax payment

Taxpayers should visit the “Pay tab” on IRS.gov to see their payment options. Most tax software products give taxpayers various payment options, including the option to withdraw the funds from a bank account. These include:

*IRS Direct Pay offers taxpayers a free, fast, secure and easy way to make an electronic payment from their bank account to the U.S. Treasury.

*Use an approved payment processor to pay by credit or debit card for a fee.

*Mail checks or money orders made out to the U.S. Treasury.

*Make monthly or quarterly tax payments using IRS Direct Pay or through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System.

Can’t pay a tax bill?

Everyone should file their 2018 tax return by the tax-filing deadline regardless of whether they can pay in full. Taxpayers who can’t pay all their taxes have options including:

Online Payment Agreement: Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined income tax, penalties and interest and businesses that owe $25,000 or less in payroll tax and have filed all tax returns may qualify for an Online Payment Agreement. Most taxpayers qualify for this option and an agreement can usually be set up on IRS.gov in a matter of minutes.

Installment Agreement: Installment agreements are paid by direct deposit from a bank account or a payroll deduction.

Delaying Collection: If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until the taxpayer’s financial condition improves.

Offer in Compromise (OIC): Taxpayers who qualify enter into an agreement with the IRS that settles their tax liability for less than the full amount owed.

Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov. They can use these resources to get help when it’s needed at home, at work or on the go.

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Things taxpayers should know about claiming dependents


As they are preparing their 2018 tax returns, taxpayers should remember that personal exemptions are suspended for 2018. Taxpayers cannot claim a personal exemption for anyone on their tax return. This means that an exemption can no longer be claimed for a tax filer, spouse or dependents.

Here are some quick key things for these taxpayers to know about claiming dependents on their 2018 tax return:

Claiming dependents 

A dependent is either a child or a qualifying relative who meets a set of tests. Taxpayers should remember to list the name and Social Security number for each dependent on their tax return.

Dependents cannot claim dependents. Taxpayers cannot claim any dependents if someone can claim the taxpayer or their spouse, if filing jointly, as a dependent.

Dependents may have to file a tax return. This depends on certain factors like total income, whether they’re married and if they owe certain taxes.

Child Tax Credit. Taxpayers may be able to claim this credit for each qualifying child under age 17 at the end of the year, if the taxpayer claimed that child as a dependent.

Credit for Other Dependents. Taxpayers may be able to claim this credit for qualifying relatives and children who don’t qualify for the Child Tax Credit.

Taxpayers can get answers to questions about claiming dependents, such as Whom May I Claim as a Dependent, by using the Interactive Tax Assistant tool at www.irs.gov.

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IRS Dirty Dozen list of tax scams for 2019


Agency encourages taxpayers to remain vigilant year-round

The Internal Revenue Service wrapped up issuing its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams this week. The IRS reminds taxpayers to remain vigilant to these often aggressive and evolving schemes throughout the year.

This year’s Dirty Dozen list highlights a wide variety of schemes that taxpayers may encounter at any time, although many may peak during tax-filing season. The schemes run the gamut from simple refund inflation scams to complex tax shelter deals. A common theme throughout all: scams put taxpayers at risk.

Taxpayers are encouraged to review the list in a special section on IRS.gov and be on the lookout for these ruses throughout the year.

Taxpayers should remember that they are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Consumers can help protect themselves by choosing a reputable tax preparer. For more, see the Choosing a Tax Professional page.

Here is a recap of this year’s Dirty Dozen scams:

Phishing: Taxpayers should be alert to potential fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email about a bill or tax refund. Don’t click on one claiming to be from the IRS. Be wary of emails and websites that may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information. (IR-2019-26)

Phone Scams: Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat to taxpayers. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as con artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation and license revocation, among other things. (IR-2019-28)

Identity Theft: Taxpayers should be alert to tactics aimed at stealing their identities, not just during the tax filing season, but all year long. The IRS, working in conjunction with the Security Summit partnership of state tax agencies and the tax industry, has made major improvements in detecting tax return related identity theft during the last several years. But the agency reminds taxpayers that they can help in preventing this crime. The IRS continues to aggressively pursue criminals that file fraudulent tax returns using someone else’s Social Security number. (IR-2019-30)

Return Preparer Fraud: Be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service. There are some dishonest preparers who operate each filing season to scam clients, perpetuate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers. (IR-2019-32)

Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should take note of anyone promising inflated tax refunds. Those preparers who ask clients to sign a blank return, promise a big refund before looking at taxpayer records or charge fees based on a percentage of the refund are probably up to no good. To find victims, fraudsters may use flyers, phony storefronts or word of mouth via community groups where trust is high. (IR-2019-33)

Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: Con artists may convince unsuspecting taxpayers to invent income to erroneously qualify for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Taxpayers should file the most accurate tax return possible because they are legally responsible for what is on their return. This scam can lead to taxpayers facing large bills to pay back taxes, interest and penalties. (IR-2019-35)

Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns: Taxpayers should avoid the temptation to falsely inflate deductions or expenses on their tax returns to pay less than what they owe or potentially receive larger refunds. Think twice before overstating deductions, such as charitable contributions and business expenses, or improperly claiming credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit. (IR-2019-36)

Fake Charities: Groups masquerading as charitable organizations solicit donations from unsuspecting contributors. Be wary of charities with names similar to familiar or nationally-known organizations. Contributors should take a few extra minutes to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate charities. IRS.gov has the tools taxpayers need to check out the status of charitable organizations. (IR-2019-39)

Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Avoid improperly claiming the fuel tax credit, a tax benefit generally not available to most taxpayers. The credit is usually limited to off-highway business use, including use in farming. Taxpayers should also avoid misuse of the research credit. Improper claims often involve failures to participate in or substantiate qualified research activities or satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses. (IR-2019-42)

Offshore Tax Avoidance: Successful enforcement actions against offshore cheating show it’s a bad bet to hide money and income offshore. People involved in offshore tax avoidance are best served by coming in voluntarily and getting caught up on their tax-filing responsibilities. (IR-2019-43)

Frivolous Tax Arguments: Frivolous tax arguments may be used to avoid paying tax. Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims about the legality of paying taxes despite being repeatedly thrown out in court. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. (IR-2019-45)

Abusive Tax Shelters: Abusive tax structures including trusts and syndicated conservation easements are sometimes used to avoid paying taxes. The IRS is committed to stopping complex tax avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them. The vast majority of taxpayers pay their fair share, and everyone should be on the lookout for people peddling tax shelters that sound too good to be true. When in doubt, taxpayers should seek an independent opinion regarding complex products they are offered. (IR-2019-47)


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Business taxpayers should take another look at their estimated tax payments


Taxpayers who pay quarterly estimated tax payments may want to revisit the amount they pay. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act changed the way most taxpayers calculate their tax. These taxpayers include those with substantial income not subject to withholding, such as small business owners and self-employed individuals. The tax reform changes include:

• Revised tax rates and brackets

• New and revised business deductions

• Limiting or discontinuing deductions

• Increasing the standard deduction

• Removing personal exemptions

• Increasing the child tax credit

As a result of these changes, many taxpayers may need to raise or lower the amount of tax they pay each quarter through estimated taxes.

Alternatively, many taxpayers who receive income not subject to withholding, but who also receive income as an employee, may be able to avoid the requirement to make estimated tax payments by having more tax taken out of their pay. These taxpayers can use the Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov to perform a Paycheck Checkup. Doing so now will help avoid an unexpected year-end tax bill and possibly a penalty in the future. 

Taxpayers with more complex situations might need to use Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, instead.  This includes people who owe self-employment tax, the alternative minimum tax, or tax on unearned income from dependents, and people with capital gains or dividends.

Form 1040-ES can also help taxpayers figure these payments simply and accurately. The estimated tax package includes a quick rundown of key tax changes, income tax rate schedules for 2019 and a useful worksheet for figuring the right amount of tax to pay.

Estimated tax penalty relief

The IRS is waiving the estimated tax penalty for many taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year. This relief is designed to help taxpayers who were unable to properly adjust their withholding and estimated tax payments to reflect an array of changes under TCJA.

The IRS will generally waive the penalty for any taxpayer who paid at least 85 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two. The usual percentage threshold is 90 percent to avoid a penalty. For more information about the penalty and requesting the waiver, see Form 2210 and its instructions.

Separately, farmers and fishermen qualify for a waiver if they file their 2018 tax return and pay all taxes due by April 15, 2019; April 17 for residents of Maine and Massachusetts. The usual deadline is March 1.

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Taxpayers should be ready to verify their identity when calling the IRS


Taxpayers and tax professionals who call the IRS will be asked to verify their identities. Being prepared before a call or visit can save taxpayers time by avoiding having to make multiple calls.

Before calling, taxpayers and tax professionals should instead consider using IRS.gov to access resources like the IRS Service Guide to get faster answers to their tax questions.

If a taxpayer decides to call, they should know that IRS phone assistors take great care to only discuss personal information with the taxpayer or someone the taxpayer authorizes to speak on their behalf. To make sure that taxpayers do not have to call back, the IRS reminds taxpayers to have the following information ready:

*Social Security numbers and birth dates for those who were named on the tax return.

*An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number letter if the taxpayer has one instead of an SSN.

*Their filing status: single, head of household, married filing joint or married filing separate.

*The prior-year tax return. Telephone assistors may need to verify taxpayer identity with information from the return before answering certain questions.

*A copy of the tax return in question.

*Any IRS letters or notices received by the taxpayer.

By law, IRS telephone assistors will only speak with the taxpayer or to the taxpayer’s legally designated representative.

If taxpayers or tax professionals are calling about someone else’s account, they should be prepared to verify their identities and provide information about the person they are representing. Before calling about a third-party, they should have the following information available:

*Verbal or written authorization from the third-party to discuss the account.

*The ability to verify the taxpayer’s name, SSN or ITIN, tax period, and tax forms filed.

*Preparer Tax Identification Number or PIN if a third-party designee.

One of these forms, which is current, completed and signed:

*Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization

*Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative

Questions regarding a deceased taxpayer require different steps. The caller should be prepared to fax:

*The deceased taxpayer’s death certificate.

*Either copies of Letters Testamentary approved by the court, or IRS Form 56, Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship.

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Tax Time Guide


Most people affected by major tax reform changes 

WASHINGTON—With major tax law changes impacting every taxpayer, the Internal Revenue Service has developed a special electronic publication and other online resources designed to help people understand how tax reform affects them this year and the years ahead.

This news release is part of a series called the Tax Time Guide, a resource to help taxpayers file an accurate tax return. Additional help is available in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, and the tax reform information page.

Last fall, the IRS released an online publication, called Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families. Available at IRS.gov/getready, Publication 5307 provides an overview of these and other key changes affecting tax returns:

Tax rates lowered. Starting in 2018, there are seven income tax brackets, ranging from 10 percent to 37 percent.

Standard deduction nearly doubled over last year. For 2018, the basic standard deduction is $12,000 for singles, $18,000 for heads of household and $24,000 for married couples filing a joint tax return. Higher amounts apply to people who are blind or filers who are at least age 65. The increased standard deduction, coupled with other changes, mean that more than half of those who itemized their deductions for mortgage interest, charitable contributions and state and local taxes in tax year 2017 may instead take the higher standard deduction in 2018, according to IRS projections.

Various deductions limited or discontinued. For example, the state and local tax deduction is limited to $10,000, $5,000 if married and filing a separate return, and new limits apply to mortgage interest. In addition, the miscellaneous itemized deduction for job-related costs and certain other expenses is not available.

Child Tax Credit doubled, and more people now qualify. The maximum credit is now $2,000 for each qualifying child under age 17. In addition, the income limit for getting the full credit is $400,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for other taxpayers.

New credit for other dependents. A $500 credit is available for each dependent who does not qualify for the Child Tax Credit. This includes older children and qualifying relatives, such as a parent.

Personal and dependency exemptions suspended. This means that an exemption can no longer be claimed for a tax filer, spouse and dependents.

Another helpful resource is the newly-revised edition of Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, the agency’s s comprehensive tax guide for individual taxpayers. Besides providing further details on each of these changes, this publication is also packed with tax-filing information and tips on a wide variety of topics, ranging from what income needs to be reported and how to report it, to claiming dependents and using IRAs to save for retirement.

Publications 17 and 5307 are just two of many helpful resources available at no charge on IRS.gov. Among other things, people can find answers to their tax questions and ways to resolve tax issues online. The Let Us Help You page helps answer most questions, and the IRS Services Guide links to these and other IRS services. The IRS TaxMap can also be used to find answers to tax questions. IRS.gov/TaxMap searches Publication 17 and all other publications, instructions, and web pages on IRS.gov for content on the searched topic.

Taxpayers can find answers to questions, forms and instructions and easy-to-use tools online at IRS.gov. They can use these resources to get help when needed from the convenience of home or office.

More resources: FS-2019-2; Be Tax Ready—understanding tax reform changes affecting individuals and families.

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Payment options for taxpayers who owe but can’t pay in full


WASHINGTON ― As the 2019 tax filing season gets into full swing, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers who owe of the many easy payment options.

The IRS anticipates that most taxpayers will be affected by major tax law changes. While most will get a tax refund, others may find that they owe taxes, many of whom may qualify for a waiver of the estimated tax penalty that normally applies. See Form 2210, Underpayment of Estimated Tax by Individuals, Estates and Trusts, and its instructions for details.

“The IRS understands there were many changes that affected people last year, and the new penalty waiver will help taxpayers who inadvertently had too little tax withheld,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “We encourage people to check their withholding again this year to make sure they have the right amount of tax withheld for 2019.”

The IRS urges people with a filing requirement and a balance due to file by the April 15 deadline even if they cannot pay in full. Taxpayers in this situation should pay what they can and consider a payment plan for the remaining balance.

Taxpayers who owe taxes can choose among the following payment options:

*IRS Direct Pay allows payment directly from a checking or savings account. This service is free.

*Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS. Pay by phone or online. This service is free.

*Debit or credit card payment. This service is free, but the processing company may charge a fee. Fees vary by company.

*Check or money order made payable to the United States Treasury (or U.S. Treasury) either in person or through the mail.

*Cash payments at some IRS offices or at a participating PayNearMe location. Some restrictions apply. Taxpayers should not send cash through the mail.

Taxpayers who are unable to pay their taxes in full should act quickly. Several payment options are available including:

*Online Payment Agreement: Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined income tax, penalties and interest and businesses that owe $25,000 or less in payroll tax and have filed all tax returns may qualify for an Online Payment Agreement. Most taxpayers qualify for this option, and an agreement can usually be set up in a matter of minutes. Online applications to establish tax payment plans, like online payment agreements and installment agreements, are available Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 12:30 a.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Sunday, 6 p.m. to midnight. All times are Eastern time.

Installment Agreement: Installment agreements paid by direct deposit from a bank account or a payroll deduction will help taxpayers avoid default on their agreements. It also reduces the burden of mailing payments and saves postage costs. Even taxpayers who don’t qualify for a payment agreement may still pay by installment. Certain fees apply.

Delaying Collection: If the IRS determines a taxpayer is unable to pay, it may delay collection until the taxpayer’s financial condition improves.

Offer in Compromise: Certain taxpayers qualify to settle their tax bill for less than the amount they owe by submitting an offer in compromise. To help determine eligibility, use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool.

In addition, taxpayers can consider other options for payment, including getting a loan to pay the amount due. In many cases, loan costs may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties the IRS must charge under federal law.

Check tax withholding

The IRS urges all taxpayers to check their withholding for 2019, especially those who made withholding adjustments in 2018 or had a major life change. Those most at risk of having too little tax withheld from their pay include taxpayers who itemized in the past but now take the increased standard deduction as well as two-wage-earner households, employees with non-wage sources of income, and those with complex tax situations.

To help taxpayers allocate the appropriate withholding to their paychecks throughout the year in 2019, an updated version of the agency’s online Withholding Calculator is now available on IRS.gov. It’s never too early to check your withholding. While it’s a good idea any year, starting early in 2019 is particularly important as most tax filers adjust to the revised tax rates, deductions and credits.

Online tools

The IRS urges taxpayers to take advantage of the many tools and other resources available on IRS.gov. Taxpayers have a variety of options to get help filing and preparing their tax returns on IRS.gov, the official IRS website. Taxpayers can also find answers to their tax questions and resolve tax issues online. The Let Us Help You page answers most tax questions, and Publication 5136, 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.

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