Thursday, February 1, 2018

Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017: What You Need to Know

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is a United States Congressional bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, effectively altering the rate of taxation for individuals and businesses. Major components of the Act include:
  • Reducing tax rates for individuals and businesses;
  • Increasing the standard deduction and family tax credits;
  • Limiting the mortgage interest deduction;
  • Limiting the Alternative Minimum Tax for individuals and eliminating it for corporations;
  • Reducing the number of estates impacted by the estate tax; and
  • Reducing the penalty for the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
There are items in the Act that will affect employers and employees alike. Regardless of the extent of changes employers and employees are faced with due to legislative changes, you can rest assured that MasterType Accounting & Business Services, P.C. is staying up-to-date and ensuring your business is ready to comply with any and all new requirements.

Withholding Tables / Tax Rates

What You Need to Know as an Individual Taxpayer

  • Tax rates will reduce for all tax brackets for married & single taxpayers with the highest tax bracket dropping to 37 percent.
  • The Supplemental Tax Rate will be set to 22 percent for payments up to $1 million and 37 percent for bonus payments in excess of $1 million paid after January 1, 2018.
  • The number of income tax brackets remain at seven, but the income ranges in several brackets have been updated.

What You Need to Know as an Employer

  • The IRS has posted the updated tax withholding tables to IRS.gov, showing the new rates for employers to use during 2018.
  • Employers should begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but no later han February 15, 2018.

Exemptions

What You Need to Know as an Employer

  • Since personal exemptions were eliminated, this required changes to Federal Forms W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate.
  • The IRS has stated that a new form may not be released until March 2018.
    • Until the new form is available, employers must use the prior versions.
    • Any exemptions claimed on Form W-4s completed before the new form is released will be null.
  • The removal of personal exemptions will happen concurrently with the release of the new withholding tables.

Fringe Benefits

What You Need to Know as an Employer

Several items that previously were not subject to Federal Employment tax are now required to be added to gross wages and subject to Federal Income, Social Security, Medicare, and FUTA taxes.
  • These items include: Moving Expense Reimbursements, Exclusion for Bicycle Commuting Reimbursements, and Employee Achievement Awards.
  • Employers will need to update any deductions used for these reimbursements to include them as wages, subject to Federal Income Tax Withholding, Social Security, Medicare, and SUTA taxes.

Busines Income Tax Deductions Eliminated

What You Need to Know as an Employer

The Act also contains repeals of deductions from business income tax such as:
  • Eating facilities (meals furnished for convenience of employer)
  • Entertainment Expenses
  • Settlements - Sexual Harassment
  • Transportation Fringe Benefits

Family and Medical Paid Leave

What You Need to Know as an Employer

  • A business tax credit is now available if certain requirements are met.
  • Qualified paid leave does not include paid family leave benefits provided under a state plan.
  • Employers may need to track leave in order to determine eligibility of the credit.
  • For MasterType Accounting & Business Services, P.C. (MABS) clients, MABS will monitor the requirements and determine any required changes to reports or analytics to aid in determining eligibility.

A Final Note

Many provisions of this Act are set to expire on December 31, 2025. If no legislation is passed to extend the tax changes beyond that date, tax rates and exemption rules will revert to 2017 law.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Tax Scams — How to Report Them

The IRS would like your help in identifying promoters of “too good to be true” abusive tax schemes, and tax preparers using illegal schemes to avoid paying taxes.

Use the Report Suspected Abusive Tax Promotions or Preparers form to make a referral to the IRS. Learn more about the role of the IRS Lead Development Center and its efforts to stop abusive tax schemes at IRS.gov/scams.

These Tax Credits Can Mean a Refund for Individual Taxpayers

Taxpayers who are not required to file a tax return may want to do so. They might be eligible for a tax refund and don’t even know it. Some taxpayers might qualify for a tax credit that can result in money in their pocket. Taxpayers need to file a 2017 tax return to claim these credits.

Here is information about four tax credits that can mean a refund for eligible taxpayers:
  • Earned Income Tax Credit. A taxpayer who worked and earned less than $53,930 last year could receive the EITC as a tax refund. They must qualify for the credit, and may do so with or without a qualifying child. They may be eligible for up to $6,318. Taxpayers can use the 2017 EITC Assistant tool to find out if they qualify.
  • Premium Tax Credit.Taxpayers who chose to have advance payments of the premium tax credit sent directly to their insurer during 2017 must file a federal tax return to reconcile any advance payments with the allowable premium tax credit. In addition, taxpayers who enrolled in health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2017 and did not receive the benefit of advance credit payments may be eligible to claim the premium tax credit when they file. They can use the Interactive Tax Assistant to see if they qualify for this credit.
  • Additional Child Tax Credit. If a taxpayer has at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit, they might be eligible for the ACTC. This credit is for certain individuals who get less than the full amount of the child tax credit.
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit. To claim the AOTC, the taxpayer, their spouse or their dependent must have been a student who was enrolled at least half time for one academic period. The credit is available for four years of post-secondary education. It can be worth up to $2,500 per eligible student. Even if the taxpayer doesn’t owe any taxes, they may still qualify. They are required to have Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, to be eligible for an education benefit. Students receive this form from the school they attended. There are exceptions for some students. Taxpayers should complete Form 8863, Education Credits, and file it with their tax return.
By law, the IRS is required to hold EITC and Additional Child Tax Credit refunds until mid-February — even the portion not associated with the EITC or ACTC.  The IRS expects the earliest of these refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or debit cards starting February 27, 2018, if these taxpayers choose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return.

Instructions for Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ list income tax filing requirements. Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to answer many tax questions. They should look for “Do I need to file a return?” under general topics.

This tax tip covers information for tax year 2017 and is not affected by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Most of the changes in this legislation take effect in 2018 and will affect the tax returns filed in 2019.

More Information:

Bookkeeper: The NEW Definition

Bookkeeper: A management accounting professional, often specializing in financial compliance, business strategy, technology setup, execution, and maintenance.

If you look up the definition of a Bookkeeper in Webster's Dictionary, or online, most of the time, the definition of a Bookkeeper is extremely outdated, and no longer applies to the bookkeeping profession. The above definition of a Bookkeeper is more up-to-date, and a much more accurate description of what a Bookkeeper does today.

Tax Issues for Alaska Native American Corporations and Alaska Native Settlement Trusts

The Internal Revenue Service today reminds Alaska Native Corporations and Alaska Native Settlement Trusts that they may be able to take advantage of certain benefits in the recently enacted tax reform legislation. The new law also requires that certain contributions made by Native Corporations to Settlement Trusts in 2017 be reported to the Settlement Trusts by January 31, 2018.

Assignment of Payments to a Settlement Trust

The new law allows a Native Corporation to assign certain payments to a Settlement Trust without treating the payments as income for federal tax purposes.

The assignments must be in writing and the Native Corporations must not have received the payments prior to the assignment to the trust. The Settlement Trust must include the payments in its gross income in the taxable year received, for taxable years beginning in 2017.

If a Native Corporation assigns payments to a Settlement Trust, they are not allowed to deduct those same payments.

Deduction for Contributions by a Native Corporation to a Settlement Trust

Native Corporations may also choose to deduct contributions made to a Settlement Trust. The deduction is limited to the amount of the Native Corporation’s taxable income for that year. Any unused deduction may be carried forward 15 additional years.

A Native Corporation makes the election to deduct contributions to a Settlement Trust for a specific taxable year by including a statement with its original or amended income tax return. The election is effective only for the taxable year for which the return is filed. Additionally, the election may be revoked on a timely filed amendment or supplement to that income tax return.

A Native Corporation may make this election for any taxable year for which the statute of limitations period has not expired. If the refund statute of limitations period expires before December 22, 2018, the Native Corporation has until December 21, 2018 to make a claim for credit or refund.

Reporting Requirements for Electing Native Corporations

Native Corporations that choose to deduct contributions made to a Settlement Trust are under a new reporting requirement. They must furnish a statement to the Settlement Trust providing information about the contributed property by January 31 of the year after the contribution was made.

The statement must include:
  • the total amount of contributions to which the election applies,
  • for each contribution, whether the contribution was in cash,
  • for each contribution of other than cash, the date the contributed property was acquired by the Native Corporation, the adjusted tax basis and fair market value of the property at the time of its contribution; and
  • the date of each contribution.
Deferral of Income Recognition by Settlement Trusts

Generally, the Settlement Trust must include income equal to the deduction by the Native Corporation. However, under the new law, Settlement Trusts may choose to defer recognizing contributions of property other than cash as income until the Settlement Trust sells or disposes of the property. The new law allows a Settlement Trust to amend the terms of its agreement to allow this choice up to December 21, 2018, with certain restrictions.

To defer recognition of income related to any property contributed to it by a Native Corporation, the Settlement Trust must identify and describe the property on a statement attached to its original or amended income tax return for the year in which the contribution was made. A Settlement Trust may make this election for any taxable year for which the statute of limitations period has not expired.  If the refund statute of limitations period expires before December 22, 2018, the Settlement Trust has until December 21, 2018 to make a claim for credit or refund.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

IRS Encourages Native Americans to Check Eligibility for Earned Income Tax Credit

The IRS urges Native American taxpayers to check if they qualify for the earned income tax credit since many workers in Tribal communities often overlook this credit.

EITC benefits Native Americans who meet basic rules. Taxpayers must have income from a job, be self-employed, or run their own business. This includes home-based businesses and work in the service industry, construction and farming.

Income Limits and Maximum Credit Amounts

For tax year 2017, the income limits for all taxpayers’ earned income and adjusted gross income must each be less than:

Filing Status
Qualifying Children Claimed
Zero
One
Two
Three or More
Single
$15,010
$39,617
$45,007
$48,340
Head of Household
$15,010
$39,617
$45,007
$48,340
Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child
$15,010
$39,617
$45,007
$48,340
Married Filing Jointly
$20,600
$45,207
$50,957
$53,930

The maximum credit for Tax Year 2017 is:
  • $6,318 with three or more qualifying children
  • $5,616 with two qualifying children
  • $3,400 with one qualifying child
  • $510 with no qualifying children
By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds before mid-February for tax returns that claim the EITC or the additional child tax credit. The law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC or ACTC. The IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting Feb. 27, 2018, if these taxpayers choose direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return.

More Information:

IRS Reminds Employers: Forms W-2, W-3 Some Forms 1099-MISC Due Jan. 31

The Internal Revenue Service is reminding employers that the deadline for filing employee Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, for calendar year 2017 is Jan. 31, 2018. This includes Forms W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements.

In addition, reporting payments to contract workers on Form 1099-MISC (box 7, nonemployee compensation) must also be filed by Jan. 31.

Employers must file Form W-2 showing the wages paid and taxes withheld for the year for each employee with the Social Security Administration. The due date applies to both e-filed and paper filed W-2s. The Jan. 31 deadline began last year as part of the Protecting Americans Against Tax Hikes (PATH) Act legislation to combat identity theft and refund fraud.

The Social Security Administration encourages all employers to e-file their Forms W-2 by using its Business Services Online. The online filing checklist provides a step-by-step process for employers to file W-2s quickly and securely. Employers are required to use e-file if they file 250 or more Forms W-2 or W-2c, and failing to do so may incur a penalty. The IRS projects that employers will file more than 250 million Forms W-2 this year and that the vast majority will be e-filed. E-filing can save time and effort and helps ensure accuracy.


Employers that file Forms 1097, 1098, 1099 (except a Form 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation), 3921, 3922 or W-2G electronically, have an extended filing due date with the IRS of April 2, 2018. However, the due date for giving the recipient these forms generally remains Jan. 31.

IRS Announces 2018 Tax Filing Season Opens with April 17 Deadline; 155 Million Tax Returns Projected, 70 Percent Expect Refunds

Marking the beginning of the nation’s tax season, the Internal Revenue Service said today that it successfully started accepting and processing 2017 federal individual income tax returns. More than 155 million returns are expected to be filed this year.

People have until Tuesday, April 17, 2018, to file their 2017 returns and pay any taxes due. The filing tax deadline is later this year due to several factors. The usual April 15 deadline falls on Sunday this year, which would normally give taxpayers until at least the following Monday. However, Emancipation Day, a Washington, D.C., holiday, is observed on Monday, April 16, giving taxpayers nationwide an additional day to file. By law, Washington holidays impact tax deadlines for everyone in the same way federal holidays do. Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Monday, Oct. 15, 2018, to file.

The IRS expects more than 70 percent of taxpayers to get tax refunds this year. Last year, nearly 112 million refunds were issued, with an average refund of $2,895.

“The IRS has a number of ways to help taxpayers this filing season, and we encourage people to look into the many options available,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “The nation’s tax professionals and software community work with the IRS and help make the tax filing process easier for Americans. Today’s filing season kick-off reflects many months of hard work by the nation’s tax community and IRS employees. And we also appreciate the time and attention taxpayers take as they prepare and file their taxes."

Use e-File and Free File

The IRS expects about 90 percent of returns to be filed electronically. Choosing e-file and direct deposit remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.

The IRS Free File program, available at IRS.gov, gives eligible taxpayers a dozen options for brand-name products. Free File is a partnership with commercial partners offering free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $66,000 or less. About 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. People who earned more than $66,000 may use Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms.

Refunds in 2018: More than 90 Percent in Less than 21 days; EITC/ACTC Refunds Starting Feb. 27

The IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible a tax return may require additional review and take longer. “Where’s My Refund?” has the most up to date information available about refunds. The tool is updated no more than once a day, so taxpayers don’t need to check more often.

The IRS also notes that refunds cannot be issued before mid-February for tax returns that claim the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit. This applies to the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC. While the IRS will process the EITC and ACTC returns when received, these refunds cannot be issued before mid-February. The IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on Feb. 27, 2018, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return.

“Where's My Refund?” ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go mobile app remain the best way to check the status of a refund. “Where’s My Refund?” will be updated with projected deposit dates for most early EITC and ACTC refund filers Feb. 17, so those filers will not see a refund date on “Where's My Refund?” ‎or through their software packages until then. The IRS, tax preparers and tax software will not have additional information on refund dates, so these filers should not contact or call about refunds before the end of February.

This law change gives the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud. Even with the EITC and ACTC refunds and the additional security safeguards, the IRS still expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, it’s possible a particular tax return may require additional review and take longer. Taxpayers are reminded that state tax agencies have their own refund processing timeframes that vary, and some states may make additional reviews to ensure their refunds are being issued properly. Even so, taxpayers and tax return preparers should file when they’re ready. For those who usually file early in the year and are ready to file a complete and accurate return, there is no need to wait to file.

Free Tax Help

Low- and moderate-income taxpayers can get help filing their tax return for free. More than 90,000 volunteers around the country can help people correctly complete their return.

To get this help, taxpayers can visit one of the more than 12,000 community-based tax help sites that participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs. To find the nearest site, use the VITA/TCE Site Locator on IRS.gov or the IRS2Go mobile app.

Filing Assistance

No matter who prepares a federal tax return, by signing the return, the taxpayer becomes legally responsible for the accuracy of all information included. IRS.gov offers a number of tips about selecting a preparer and information about national tax professional groups.

The IRS urges all taxpayers to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before filing. This includes Forms W-2 from employers and Forms 1099 from banks and other payers. Doing so will help avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return.

Online tools

The IRS reminds taxpayers they have a variety of options to get help filing and preparing their tax return on IRS.gov, the official IRS website. Taxpayers can find answers to their tax questions and resolve tax issues online. The Let Us Help You page helps answer most tax questions, and the 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.

The IRS urges taxpayers to take advantage of the many tools and other resources available on IRS.gov. IRS phone lines will be busy again this year, so to save time, people should first visit the IRS website for tax assistance.

The IRS continues to work with state tax authorities and the tax industry to address tax-related identity theft and refund fraud. As part of the Security Summit effort, stronger protections for taxpayers and the nation’s tax system are in effect for the 2018 tax filing season.

The new measures attack tax-related identity theft from multiple sides. Many changes will be invisible to taxpayers but will help the IRS, states and the tax industry provide new protections. New security requirements will better protect tax software accounts and personal information. 

Renew ITIN to Avoid Refund Delays

Many Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) expired on Dec. 31, 2017. This includes any ITIN not used on a tax return at least once in the past three years. Also, any ITIN with middle digits of 70, 71, 72 or 80 (Example: 9NN-70-NNNN or 9NN-80-NNNN) is now expired. ITINs that have middle digits 78 or 79 expired Dec. 31, 2016, but taxpayers can still renew them. Affected taxpayers should act soon to avoid refund delays and possible loss of eligibility for some key tax benefits until the ITIN is renewed. An ITIN is used by anyone who has tax-filing or payment obligations under U.S. tax law but is not eligible for a Social Security number.

It can take up to 11 weeks to process a complete and accurate ITIN renewal application. For that reason, the IRS urges anyone with an expired ITIN needing to file a tax return this tax season to submit their ITIN renewal application soon.

Sign and Validate Electronically Filed Tax Returns

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Some taxpayers using a tax filing software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity.


Taxpayers using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter their prior year information to electronically sign their 2017 tax return. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Check Out These Three Tools on IRS.gov

With the tax filing season kicking off today, the IRS reminds taxpayers about tools that will help answer questions. Taxpayers can access Publication 17, the Interactive Tax Assistant, and Where’s My Refund? on IRS.gov.
This publication covers the general rules for filing a federal income tax return. It explains the tax law to make sure someone pays only the tax they owe and no more.  Using eBooks taxpayers can view   Publication 17 and other frequently used tax publications on their mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets and eReaders. IRS tax products are generally available online six to eight weeks before paper products are distributed. To view and download tax products, use the ‘Forms and Pubs’ tab on IRS.gov.
The ITA provides answers to several tax law questions. The ITA includes question-and-answer session for a variety of topics. Users simply respond to basic questions to find the answers they need. Topics include:
    • Do I Need to File a Tax Return?
    • Who Can I Claim as a Dependent?
    • How Much Is My Standard Deduction?
    • What Is My Filing Status?
    • Am I Eligible to Claim an Education Credit?
Taxpayers can use this tool on IRS.gov or with the IRS2Go mobile app for a personalized refund status. Taxpayers can generally check the status of their refund 24 hours after the IRS receives their e-filed return. Where’s My Refund? has the most up-to-date information available. It is updated no more than once a day, so taxpayers don’t need to check more often.

More Information:

N-2018-14: Guidance on Withholding Rules

Notice 2018-14: 1) extends the effective period of Forms W-4 furnished to claim exemption from income tax withholding under § 3402(n) for 2017 until February 28, 2018 and temporarily permits employees to claim exemption from withholding under § 3402(n) for 2018 by using 2017 Form W-4, (2) suspends the requirement that employees must furnish their employers new Forms W-4 within 10 days of changes of status resulting in fewer withholding allowances, (3) provides that the optional withholding rate on supplemental wage payments is 22% for taxable years 2018 through 2025, and (4) provides that, for 2018, withholding on annuities or similar periodic payments where no withholding certificate is in effect is based on treating the payee as a married individual claiming three withholding allowances  under § 3405(a)(4).


Notice 2018-14 will be in IRB 2018-07, dated 02/12/2018.