Thursday, June 22, 2017

IRS Website Provides Tools to Help Small Businesses Understand Employment Taxes

The Internal Revenue Service reminds small businesses of the many free products available to help them understand and comply with the law. Products ranging from online calculators, printable calendars, step-by-step guides and a series of educational webinars are all available on IRS.gov.

Federal law requires most employers to withhold federal taxes from their employees' wages. IRS tools can help small businesses understand some of the requirements for withholding, reporting, and paying employment taxes. The IRS website, IRS.gov, provides easily accessible information and guides on what forms employers should use as well as how and when to deposit and report employment taxes.

Federal Income Tax- Small businesses first need to figure out how much tax to withhold. Small business employers can better understand the process by starting with an employee’s Form W-4 and the withholding tables described in Publication 15, Employer's Tax Guide.

Social Security and Medicare Taxes- Most employers also withhold social security and Medicare taxes from employees' wages and deposit them along with the employers’ matching share. In 2013, employers became responsible for withholding the Additional Medicare Tax on wages that exceed a threshold amount. There is no employer match for the Additional Medicare Tax and certain types of wages and compensation are not subject to withholding.

Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax- Employers report and pay FUTA tax separately from other taxes. Employees do not pay this tax or have it withheld from their pay. Businesses pay FUTA taxes from their own funds.

Depositing Employment Taxes- Generally, employers pay employment taxes by making federal tax deposits through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). The amount of taxes withheld during a prior one-year period determines when to make the deposits. Publication 3151-A, The ABCs of FTDs: Resource Guide for Understanding Federal Tax Deposits and the IRS Tax Calendar for Businesses and Self-Employed are helpful tools.

Failure to make a timely deposit can mean being subject to a failure-to-deposit penalty of up to 15 percent. But the penalty can be waived if an employer has a history of filing required returns and making tax payments on time. For more information, see the Penalty Relief Due to First Time Penalty Abatement page on IRS.gov.

Reporting Employment Taxes - Generally, employers report wages and compensation paid to an employee by filing the required forms with the IRS. E-filing Forms 940, 941, 943, 944 and 945 is an easy, secure and accurate way to file employment tax forms. Employers filing quarterly tax returns with an estimated total of $1,000 or less for the calendar year may now request to file Form 944 annually instead. At the end of the year, the employer must provide employees with Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to report wages, tips and other compensation. Small businesses file Forms W-2 and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, with the Social Security Administration and if required, state or local tax departments.

See Understanding Employment Taxes and Employment Taxes on IRS.gov for more.

Related Resources:

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

IRS Now Accepting Renewal Applications for ITINs Set to Expire by End of 2017

The Internal Revenue Service is now accepting renewal applications for the Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) set to expire at the end of 2017. The agency urges taxpayers affected by changes to the ITIN program to submit their renewal applications as soon as possible to avoid the rush.

In the second year of the renewal program, the IRS has made changes to make the process smoother for taxpayers. The renewal process for 2018 is beginning now, more than three months earlier than last year.

“This is an important program, and the IRS is opening the renewal process several months earlier to help taxpayers and make the process smoother,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We encourage taxpayers affected by the ITIN changes to review the program’s details and renew ITINs this summer to avoid delays that could affect their tax filing and refunds next year.”

Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, ITINs that have not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three consecutive years will expire Dec. 31, 2017, and ITINs with middle digits 70, 71, 72 or 80 will also expire at the end of the year. Affected taxpayers who expect to file a tax return in 2018 must submit a renewal application.

As a reminder, ITINs with middle digits of 78 and 79 already expired last year. Taxpayers with these ITIN numbers can renew at any time.
ITINs are used by people who have tax filing or payment obligations under U.S. law but who are not eligible for a Social Security number. ITIN holders who have questions should visit the ITIN information page on IRS.gov and take a few minutes to understand the guidelines.
Last year, the IRS launched a wider education effort to share information with ITIN holders. To help taxpayers, the IRS has a variety of informational materials, including flyers and fact sheets, available in several languages on IRS.gov.
The IRS continues to work with partner groups and others in the ITIN community to share information widely about these important changes.  
Who Should Renew an ITIN
Taxpayers whose ITIN is expiring and who need to file a tax return in 2018 must submit a renewal application. Others do not need to take any action.
  • ITINs with the middle digits 70, 71, 72, or 80 (For example: 9NN-70-NNNN; NNN-71-NNNN; 9NN-72-NNNN; 9NN-80-NNNN) need to be renewed even if the taxpayer has used it in the last three years. The IRS will begin sending the CP-48 Notice, You must renew your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to file your U.S. tax return, later this summer to affected taxpayers. The notice explains the steps to take to renew the ITIN if it will be included on a U.S. tax return filed in 2018. Taxpayers who receive the notice after taking action to renew their ITIN do not need to take further action unless another family member is affected.
  • Taxpayers can also renew their ITINs with middle digits 78 and 79 that have already expired.
Family Option Remains Available

Taxpayers with an ITIN with middle digits 70, 71, 72 or 80 have the option to renew ITINs for their entire family at the same time. Those who have received a renewal letter from the IRS can choose to renew the family’s ITINs together even if family members have an ITIN with middle digits other than 70, 71, 72 or 80. Family members include the tax filer, spouse and any dependents claimed on the tax return.

How to Renew an ITIN

To renew an ITIN, a taxpayer must complete a Form W-7 and submit all required documentation. Taxpayers submitting a Form W-7 to renew their ITIN are not required to attach a federal tax return. However, taxpayers must still note a reason for needing an ITIN on the Form W-7. See the Form W-7 instructions for detailed information.

The IRS began accepting ITIN renewals today. There are three ways to submit the W-7 application package:
  • Mail the Form W-7, along with original identification documents or copies certified by the agency that issued them, to the IRS address listed on the Form W-7 instructions. The IRS will review the identification documents and return them within 60 days.
  • Taxpayers have the option to work with Certified Acceptance Agents (CAAs) authorized by the IRS to help them apply for an ITIN. CAAs can certify all identification documents for primary and secondary taxpayers and certify that an ITIN application is correct before submitting it to the IRS for processing. A CAA can also certify passports and birth certificates for dependents. This saves taxpayers from mailing original documents to the IRS.
  • In advance, taxpayers can call and make an appointment at a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center instead of mailing original identification documents to the IRS.
Avoid Common Errors Now and Prevent Delays Next Year

Federal returns that are submitted in 2018 with an expired ITIN will be processed. However, exemptions and/or certain tax credits will be disallowed. Taxpayers will receive a notice in the mail advising them of the change to their tax return and their need to renew their ITIN. Once the ITIN is renewed, any applicable exemptions and credits will be restored and any refunds will be issued.

Additionally, several common errors can slow down and hold some ITIN renewal applications. The mistakes generally center on missing information and/or insufficient supporting documentation. The IRS urges any applicant to check over their form carefully before sending it to the IRS.

As a reminder, the IRS no longer accepts passports that do not have a date of entry into the U.S. as a stand-alone identification document for dependents from a country other than Canada or Mexico, or dependents of U.S. military personnel overseas. The dependent’s passport must have a date of entry stamp, otherwise the following additional documents to prove U.S. residency are required:
  • U.S. medical records for dependents under age 6,
  • U.S. school records for dependents under age 18, and
  • U.S. school records (if a student), rental statements, bank statements or utility bills listing the applicant’s name and U.S. address, if over age 18

IRS Encourages More Applicants for the Acceptance Agent Program to Expand ITIN Services
To increase the availability of ITIN services nationwide, particularly in communities with high ITIN usage, the IRS is actively recruiting Certified Acceptance Agents, and applications are now accepted year-round. Interested individuals, community outreach partners and volunteers at tax preparation sites are encouraged to review all program changes and requirements.

For more information, visit the ITIN information page on IRS.gov

Thursday, June 15, 2017

IRS Warns of New Phone Scam Involving Bogus Certified Letters; Reminds People to Remain Vigilant Against Scams, Schemes this Summer

The Internal Revenue Service today warned people to beware of a new scam linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), where fraudsters call to demand an immediate tax payment through a prepaid debit card. This scam is being reported across the country, so taxpayers should be alert to the details.

In the latest twist, the scammer claims to be from the IRS and tells the victim about two certified letters purportedly sent to the taxpayer in the mail but returned as undeliverable. The scam artist then threatens arrest if a payment is not made through a prepaid debit card. The scammer also tells the victim that the card is linked to the EFTPS system when, in fact, it is entirely controlled by the scammer. The victim is also warned not to contact their tax preparer, an attorney or their local IRS office until after the tax payment is made.

“This is a new twist to an old scam,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Just because tax season is over, scams and schemes do not take the summer off. People should stay vigilant against IRS impersonation scams. People should remember that the first contact they receive from IRS will not be through a random, threatening phone call.”

EFTPS is an automated system for paying federal taxes electronically using the Internet or by phone using the EFTPS Voice Response System. EFTPS is offered free by the U.S. Department of Treasury and does not require the purchase of a prepaid debit card. Since EFTPS is an automated system, taxpayers won’t receive a call from the IRS. In addition, taxpayers have several options for paying a real tax bill and are not required to use a specific one.

Tell Tale Signs of a Scam:

The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:
  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:

The IRS does not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. For more information, visit the “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

IRS Continues to Expand Taxpayer Services; Adds New Features to Taxpayers Online Account

The Internal Revenue Service announced today the addition of several new features to the online account tool first introduced late last year as part of the IRS’s commitment to improve and expand taxpayer services.

The online account allows individual taxpayers to access the latest information available about their federal tax account through a secure and convenient tool on IRS.gov. When it first launched in December 2016, the tool assisted taxpayers with basic account inquiries such as information about their balance due and access to the various IRS payment options. Since then, the IRS has added new features allowing taxpayers to:
  • View up to 18 months of tax payment history
  • View payoff amounts and tax balance due for each tax year
  • Obtain online transcripts of various Form 1040-series through Get Transcript
  • Give feedback on their experience with their online account and make suggestions for improvements
“We are constantly looking for ways to improve taxpayers’ interactions with the IRS and adding these new features to the taxpayer’s online account is an important step in that direction,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS is committed to serving taxpayers in multiple ways and now taxpayers who want to interact digitally with us in a secure environment have access to even more helpful features.”

Before accessing the tool, taxpayers must authenticate their identities through the rigorous Secure Access process. This is a two-step authentication process, which means returning users must have their credentials (username and password) plus a security code sent as a text to their mobile phones.

Taxpayers who have registered using Secure Access for Get Transcript Online or Get an IP PIN may use their same username and password. To register for the first time, taxpayers must have their personal and financial information including: Social Security number, specific financial information, such as a credit card number or loan numbers, email address and a text-enabled mobile phone in the user's name. Taxpayers may review the Secure Access  process prior to starting registration.

As part of the security process to authenticate taxpayers, the IRS will send verification, activation or security codes via email and text. The IRS warns taxpayers that it will not initiate contact via text or email asking for log-in information or personal data. The IRS texts and emails will only contain one-time codes.

In addition to the online account, the IRS continues to provide several self-service tools and helpful resources available on IRS.gov for individuals, businesses and tax professionals.

Taxpayers Abroad Must File by June 15; Extensions Available; New Filing Deadline Now Applies to Foreign Account Reports

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers living and working abroad that they must file their 2016 federal income tax return by Thursday, June 15.

The special June 15 deadline is available to both U.S. citizens and resident aliens abroad, including those with dual citizenship. For those who can’t meet the June 15 deadline, tax-filing extensions are available and they can even be requested electronically. In addition, a new filing deadline now applies to anyone with a foreign bank or financial account required to file an annual report for these accounts, often referred to as an FBAR.

Here is a rundown of key points to keep in mind:

Most People Abroad Need to File An income tax filing requirement generally applies even if a taxpayer qualifies for tax benefits, such as the Foreign Earned Income exclusion or the Foreign Tax credit, which substantially reduce or eliminate U.S. tax liability. These tax benefits are only available if an eligible taxpayer files a U.S. income tax return. A taxpayer qualifies for the special June 15 filing deadline if both their tax home and abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico. Those serving in the military outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico also qualify for the extension to June 15.
Be sure to attach a statement indicating which of these two situations applies. Interest, currently at the rate of four percent per year, compounded daily, still applies to any tax payment received after the original April 18 deadline. For details, see the When To File and Pay section in Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad.
Special Income Tax Return Reporting for Foreign Accounts and Assets
Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report any worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts. In most cases, affected taxpayers need to complete and attach Schedule B to their tax return. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts, such as bank and securities accounts, and usually requires U.S. citizens to report the country in which each account is located.

In addition, certain taxpayers may also have to complete and attach to their return Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets. Generally, U.S. citizens, resident aliens and certain nonresident aliens must report specified foreign financial assets on this form if the aggregate value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. See the instructions for this form for details.

Choose Free File

U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad can use IRS Free File to prepare and electronically file their returns for free. This means both U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad with adjusted gross incomes (AGI) of $64,000 or less can use brand-name software to prepare their returns and then e-file them for free. A limited number of companies provide software that can accommodate foreign addresses.

A second option, Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms, has no income limit and is best suited to people who are comfortable preparing their own tax return.

Both the e-file and Free File electronic filing options are available until Oct. 16, 2017, for anyone filing a 2016 return. Check out the e-file link on IRS.gov for details on the various electronic filing options. Free File is not available to nonresident aliens required to file Form 1040NR.

Automatic Extensions Available Taxpayers abroad who can’t meet the June 15 deadline can still get more time to file, but they need to ask for it. Their extension request must be filed by June 15. Automatic extensions give people until Oct. 16, 2017, to file; however, this does not extend the time to pay tax. An easy way to get the extra time to file is through the Free File link on IRS.gov. In a matter of minutes, anyone, regardless of income, can use this free service to electronically request an extension on Form 4868. To get the extension, taxpayers must estimate their tax liability on this form and pay any amount due. Another option for taxpayers is to pay electronically and get an extension of time to file. IRS will automatically process an extension when taxpayers select Form 4868 and they are making a full or partial federal tax payment using Direct Pay, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or a debit or credit card. There is no need to file a separate Form 4868 when making an electronic payment and indicating it is for an extension. Electronic payment options are available at IRS.gov/payments. International taxpayers who do not have a U.S. bank account should refer to the Foreign Electronic Payments section on IRS.gov for more payment options and information. Combat Zone Taxpayers get More Time Without Having to Ask for it Members of the military and eligible support personnel serving in a combat zone have at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to file their tax returns and pay any taxes due. This includes those serving in Iraq, Afghanistan and other combat zone localities. A complete list of designated combat zone localities can be found in Publication 3, Armed Forces’ Tax Guide, available on IRS.gov. Various circumstances affect the exact length of the extension available to any given taxpayer. Details, including examples illustrating how these extensions are calculated, can be found in the Extensions of Deadlines section in Publication 3.
New Deadline for Reporting Foreign Accounts

Starting this year, the deadline for filing the annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) is now the same as for a federal income tax return. This means that the 2016 FBAR, Form 114, was normally required to be filed electronically with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by April 18, 2017. But FinCEN is granting filers missing the original deadline an automatic extension until Oct. 16, 2017 to file the FBAR. Specific extension requests are not required. In the past, the FBAR deadline was June 30 and no extensions were available. In general, the FBAR filing requirement applies to anyone who had an interest in, or signature or other authority, over foreign financial accounts whose aggregate value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2016. Because of this threshold, the IRS encourages taxpayers with foreign assets, even relatively small ones, to check if this filing requirement applies to them. The form is only available through the BSA E-filing System website. Report in U.S. Dollars Any income received or deductible expenses paid in foreign currency must be reported on a U.S. tax return in U.S. dollars. Likewise, any tax payments must be made in U.S. dollars.
Both Forms 114 and 8938 require the use of a Dec. 31 exchange rate for all transactions, regardless of the actual exchange rate on the date of the transaction. Generally, the IRS accepts any posted exchange rate that is used consistently. For more information on exchange rates, see Foreign Currency and Currency Exchange Rates.
Expatriate Reporting

Taxpayers who relinquished their U.S. citizenship or ceased to be lawful permanent residents of the United States during 2016 must file a dual-status alien return, attaching Form 8854, Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement. A copy of the Form 8854 must also be filed with Internal Revenue Service Philadelphia, PA 19255-0049, by the due date of the tax return (including extensions). See the instructions for this form and Notice 2009-85, Guidance for Expatriates Under Section 877A, for further details.

More Information Available Any U.S. taxpayer here or abroad with tax questions can refer to the International Taxpayers landing page and use the online IRS Tax Map and the International Tax Topic Index to get answers. These online tools group IRS forms, publications and web pages by subject and provide users with a single entry point to find tax information. Taxpayers who are looking for return preparers abroad should visit the Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
To help avoid delays with tax refunds, taxpayers living abroad should visit the Helpful Tips for Effectively Receiving a Tax Refund for Taxpayers Living Abroad page.

More information on the tax rules that apply to U.S. citizens and resident aliens living abroad can be found in, Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad, available on IRS.gov.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

For Letter Rulings and Similar Requests: Electronic Payment of User Fees Starts June 15; Replaces Paying by Check

Beginning June 15, taxpayers requesting letter rulings, closing agreements and certain other rulings from the Internal Revenue Service will need to make user fee payments electronically using the federal government’s Pay.gov system.

Pay.gov allows people to pay for a variety of government services online using a credit card, debit card or via direct debit or electronic funds withdrawal from a checking or savings account. In the past, ruling requesters could only make required user fee payments by check or money order. During a two-month transition period, June 15 to Aug. 15, requesters can choose to make user fee payments either through Pay.gov or by check or money order. After Aug. 15, 2017, Pay.gov will become the only permissible payment method.

Rulings described in Revenue Procedure 2017-1 and sent to the Docket, Records and User Fee Branch of the Legal Processing Division of the Associate Chief Counsel (Procedure and Administration) (CC:PA:LPD:DRU) are affected by this change. These include private letter rulings, closing agreements, and rulings using Form 1128, 2553, 3115 or 8716. Determination letters are not affected because they are sent to other offices as described in the revenue procedure.

A letter ruling is a written determination issued to a taxpayer by IRS Chief Counsel in response to the taxpayer’s written inquiry, submitted prior to the filing of returns or reports required under federal law. In general, it concerns the requester's status for tax purposes or the tax effects of its acts or transactions. Letter rulings and other similar ruling requests interpret the tax laws and apply them to the taxpayer’s specific set of facts. User fees range from $200 to $28,300, depending upon the type of ruling being sought.

Pay.gov is used to accept payments only. The original, signed ruling request and supporting materials must still be submitted by mail or hand delivery to the IRS.

To submit a user fee, visit www.pay.gov and use the IRS Chief Counsel User Fees (or Supplemental User Fees) for Form 1128, Form 2553, Form 3115, Form 8716, Private Letter Rulings and Closing Agreements form. This form can be found by entering “IRS Chief Counsel User Fees” in the “Search the Forms” box or by clicking on the “Agency List” link under “What Federal Agencies Can I Pay?” and choosing Internal Revenue Service.

Once payment is made, print a copy of the completed form and the receipt and include these with the  letter ruling request. Then submit the complete package by mail or hand delivery:

Mail to:
Internal Revenue Service
CC:PA:LPD:DRU P.O. Box 7604 Ben Franklin Station Washington, DC  20044;

or Hand deliver, or if using a private courier service, to:

Internal Revenue Service CC:PA:LPD:DRU 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW Room 5336 Washington, DC  20224

In addition, for the fastest processing, please Efax a copy of the pay.gov receipt, the completed form and the ruling request to this eFax line, 877-773-4950.


Anyone with questions about the new payment procedures can call 202-317-6828. Full details on making a ruling request are in Revenue Procedure 2017-1, available on IRS.gov.

IRS Face-To-Face Help Is Now By Appointment

Taxpayers who need in-person help from an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) need to call to schedule an appointment. All TACs provide service by appointment. They are an essential service the IRS provides when a tax issue cannot be resolved online or by phone.

Consider the self-service options on IRS.gov before calling for an appointment. Many questions can be resolved online without taxpayers having to travel to a Tax Assistance Center. Publication 5136, the IRS Services Guide, has additional information about where to find help.

Answering a tax question:
  • The Interactive Tax Assistant asks the taxpayer a series of questions and provides answers based on their input.
  • IRS Publication 17 covers a broad range of topics and updates on tax law changes.
  • The IRS Tax Map finds all the relevant tax information needed in one place.
  • The IRS mails millions of letters every year. Each one deals with a specific issue and provides specific instructions on what to do so careful reading is essential.
Checking on a refund status:
  • Use the “Where’s My Refund?” online tool to check the status of a tax refund.
  • Call 800-829-1954 anytime, to access the audio version of this tool.
  • Taxpayers should have their Social Security number, filing status and exact refund amount ready.
Making a payment:
Getting Forms & Publications:
  • View, download and print federal tax forms and publications anytime. Dozens of IRS publications are available for download in ePub format.
If face-to-face service is necessary, then taxpayers should call 844-545-5640 to schedule an appointment.

The Contact Your Local Office tool on IRS.gov helps taxpayers find the closest IRS TAC, the days and hours of operation, and a list of services provided.


Avoid scams. The IRS does not initiate contact using social media or text message. First contact normally comes in the mail. Those wondering if they owe money to the IRS can check to see if they have a balance due on IRS.gov.