Wednesday, August 31, 2016

IRS Urges Taxpayers to Check Their Withholding; New Factors Increase Importance of Mid-Year Check Up

WASHINGTON  —  The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to consider a mid-year tax withholding checkup following several new factors that could affect their refunds in 2017.  Taking a closer look at the taxes being withheld can help ensure the right amount is withheld, either for tax refund purposes or to avoid an unexpected tax bill next year.

The withholding review takes on even more importance this year given a new tax law change that requires the IRS to hold refunds a few weeks for some early filers in 2017 claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. In addition, the IRS and state tax administrators continue to strengthen identity theft and refund fraud protections, which means some tax returns could again face additional review time next year to protect against fraud.

"With these changes, it makes good sense on many different levels to check on your withholding and plan ahead for next tax season," said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. "It's a personal choice if you want to have extra money withheld to get a bigger tax refund, but you have options available if you prefer to have a smaller refund next year and more take-home money now."

So far in 2016, the IRS has issued more than 102 million tax refunds out of 140 million total individual returns processed, with the average refund well over $2,700. Historically, the refund figure has increased over time in size.

By adjusting the Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, taxpayers can ensure that the right amount is taken out of their pay throughout the year so that they don’t pay too much tax and have to wait until they file their tax return to get any refund. Employers use the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from pay.

Some Refunds Delayed in 2017

When considering refund issues, the IRS wants taxpayers to be aware several factors could affect the timing of their tax refunds next year.

A major change will affect some early tax filers claiming two key credits who won't see their refunds until after Feb. 15.

Beginning in 2017, a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until mid-February. Under the change required by Congress in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund – even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC -- until at least Feb. 15. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the agency more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should also submit returns as they normally do. Even though the IRS cannot issue refunds for some early filers until at least Feb. 15, the IRS reminds taxpayers that most refunds will still be issued within the normal timeframe: 21 days or less, after being accepted for processing by the IRS.

''This is an important change to be aware of for some taxpayers used to getting an early refund," Koskinen said. "We'll be focusing on awareness of this change throughout the fall, but it's important for taxpayers who might be affected by this to be aware of the change for their planning purposes. Although we still expect to issue most refunds within 21 days, we don't want people caught by surprise if they get their refund a few weeks later than previous years."

Stronger Security Filters and Tax Refund Processing

As the IRS steps up its efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud through its many processing filters, legitimate refund returns sometimes get delayed. While the IRS is working diligently to stop fraudulent refunds from being issued, it is also focused on releasing legitimate refunds as quickly as possible.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the private sector tax industry continue to work together to fight fraud through their unprecedented Security Summit partnership. Additional safeguards will be set in place for the upcoming 2017 filing season.

"These increased security screenings are invisible to most taxpayers," Koskinen said. "But we want people to be aware we are taking additional steps to protect taxpayers from identity theft, and that sometimes means the real taxpayers face a slight delay in their refunds. As we continue improving our processes and working with the states and the tax industry, we will stop more fraud while also fine-tuning our tools to reduce the number of innocent taxpayers who might see a refund delay."

The agency encourages taxpayers to check their tax withholding now. Whether they prefer more earned money during the year or a large refund, checking withholding can ensure people don’t receive an unexpected tax bill next year. Making these checks in the late summer or early fall can give taxpayers enough time to adjust their withholdings before the tax year ends in December.

Changes in Circumstances and Advance Premium Tax Credits

There are also some important reminders for taxpayers who receive advance payments of the Premium Tax Credit under the Affordable Care Act.

People who have advance payments of the premium tax credit made to their insurance company on their behalf should report life changes to their Marketplace. Changes in circumstances that should be reported include moving to a new address and changes to income or family size. Reporting these changes will help individuals avoid large differences between the advance credit payments and the amount of the premium tax credit allowed on their tax return, which may affect their refund or balance due.

People Working in the Shared Economy

The IRS encourages people in the shared economy who also have a job with an employer to take a close look at their withholding, which can help avoid unexpected tax issues with their income from such things as driving a car or renting a home.

Making a Withholding Adjustment

In many cases, a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, is all that is needed to make an adjustment. Taxpayers submit it to their employer, and the employer uses the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from pay

The IRS offers several online resources to help taxpayers bring taxes paid closer to what is owed. They are available anytime on They include:
Self-employed taxpayers, including those involved in the sharing economy, can use the Form 1040-ES worksheet to correctly figure their estimated tax payments. If they also work for an employer, they can often forgo making these quarterly payments by instead having more tax taken out of their pay.

Five Tax Tips for Gambling Income and Losses

Report any gambling winnings as income on your tax return. Be sure you itemize to deduct gambling losses up to the amount of your winnings. If you are a casual gambler, these tax tips can help:
  1. Gambling income.  Income from gambling includes winnings from the lottery, horse racing and casinos. It also includes cash and non-cash prizes. You must report the fair market value of non-cash prizes like cars and trips.
  2. Payer tax form.  If you win, the payer may give you a Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings. The payer also sends a copy of the W-2G to the IRS. The payer must issue the form based on the type of gambling, the amount you win and other factors. You’ll also get a form W-2G if the payer must withhold income tax from what you win.
  3. How to report winnings.  You normally report your winnings for the year on your tax return as “Other Income.” You must report all your gambling winnings as income. This is true even if you don’t get a Form W-2G.
  4. How to deduct losses.  You can deduct your gambling losses on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The total you can deduct, however, is limited to the amount of the gambling income you report on your return.
  5. Keep gambling receipts.  Keep records of your wins and losses. This means keeping items such as a gambling log or diary, receipts, statements or tickets.
See Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income for rules on this topic. Refer to Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions for more on losses. It also lists some of the types of records you should keep. You can download and view both on at any time.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scams, taxpayer rights and more.

Additional IRS Resources:

Monday, August 29, 2016

Home Energy Tax Credits Save You Money at Tax Time

Certain energy-efficient home improvements can cut your energy bills and save you money at tax time. Here are some key facts that you should know about home energy tax credits:

Non-Business Energy Property Credit 
  • Part of this credit is worth 10 percent of the cost of certain qualified energy-saving items you added to your main home last year. This may include items such as insulation, windows, doors and roofs.
  • The other part of the credit is not a percentage of the cost. This part of the credit is for the actual cost of certain property. This may include items such as water heaters and heating and air conditioning systems. The credit amount for each type of property has a different dollar limit.
  • This credit has a maximum lifetime limit of $500. You may only use $200 of this limit for windows.
  • Your main home must be located in the U.S. to qualify for the credit.
  • Be sure you have the written certification from the manufacturer that their product qualifies for this tax credit. They usually post it on their website or include it with the product’s packaging. You can rely on it to claim the credit, but do not attach it to your return. Keep it with your tax records.
  • You must place qualifying improvements in service in your principal residence by Dec. 31, 2016.
Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit
  • This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment installed on or in your home.
  • Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters, solar electric equipment, wind turbines and fuel cell property.
  • Qualified wind turbine and fuel cell property must be placed into service by Dec. 31, 2016. Hot water heaters and solar electric equipment must be placed in to service by Dec. 31, 2021.
  • The tax credit for qualified fuel cell property is limited to $500 for each one-half kilowatt of capacity. The amount for other qualified expenditures does not have a limit. If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year’s tax return. • The home must be in the U.S. It does not have to be your main home, unless the alternative energy equipment is qualified fuel cell property.
Use Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits, to claim these credits. For more on this topic refer to the form’s instructions. You can get IRS forms on anytime.