Monday, May 15, 2017

Tips for Taxpayers Who Owe Taxes

The IRS offers a variety of payment options where taxpayers can pay immediately or arrange to pay in installments. Those who receive a bill from the IRS should not ignore it. A delay may cost more in the end. As more time passes, the more interest and penalties accumulate.

Here are some ways to make payments using IRS electronic payment options:
  • Direct Pay. Pay tax bills directly from a checking or savings account free with IRS Direct Pay. Taxpayers receive instant confirmation once they’ve made a payment. With Direct Pay, taxpayers can schedule payments up to 30 days in advance. Change or cancel a payment two business days before the scheduled payment date.
  • Credit or Debit Cards. Taxpayers can also pay their taxes by debit or credit card online, by phone or with a mobile device. A payment processor will process payments.  The IRS does not charge a fee but convenience fees apply and vary by processor.
Those wishing to use a mobile devise can access the IRS2Go app to pay with either Direct Pay or debit or credit card. IRS2Go is the official mobile app of the IRS. Download IRS2Go from Google Play, the Apple App Store or the Amazon App Store.
  • Installment Agreement. Taxpayers, who are unable to pay their tax debt immediately, may be able to make monthly payments. Before applying for any payment agreement, taxpayers must file all required tax returns. Apply for an installment agreement with the Online Payment Agreement tool.
Who's eligible to apply for a monthly installment agreement online?
    • Individuals who owe $50,000 or less in combined  tax, penalties and interest and have filed all required returns
    • Businesses that owe $25,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest for the current year or last year's liabilities and have filed all required returns
Those who owe taxes are reminded to pay as much as they can as soon as possible to minimize interest and penalties. Visit for all payment options.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

IRS Offers Tips for Disaster Preparedness

Hurricane Preparedness Week is May 7-13. The IRS wants to remind taxpayers to prepare for hurricanes and other natural disasters now. By taking a few steps before disaster strikes, taxpayers can reduce their stress when it comes time to file claims or rebuild after the catastrophic event.

Here are some things to consider:
  • Update Emergency Plans -- Because a disaster can strike any time, be sure to review emergency plans annually. Personal and business situations change over time, as do preparedness needs. Make plans ahead of time and be sure to practice them.
  • Create Electronic Copies of Documents -- Taxpayers should keep a duplicate set of key documents. Keep documents including bank statements, tax returns and insurance policies in a safe place. Doing so is easier now that many financial institutions provide statements and documents electronically, available on the Internet. Even if original documents are available only on paper, scan them into an electronic format and store them on DVD, CD or cloud storage.
  • Document Valuables -- It’s a good idea to photograph or videotape the contents of any home, especially items of higher value. Documenting these items ahead of time will make it easier to claim insurance and tax benefits after a disaster strikes. The IRS has a disaster loss workbook, Publication 584, which can help taxpayers compile a room-by-room list of belongings. Photographs can help prove the fair market value of items for insurance and casualty loss claims.
  • IRS Ready to Help -- In the case of a federally declared disaster, impacted taxpayers can call 866-562-5227 to speak with an IRS specialist trained to handle disaster-related issues. Taxpayers can request copies of previously filed tax returns and attachments, including Forms W-2, by filing Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return.  Alternatively, order transcripts showing most line items through the Get Transcript link on, by calling 800-908-9946 or by using Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.
Find other tips and more information about Hurricane Preparedness Week on the National Weather Service web site.

Additional IRS Resources:

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Many Tax-Exempt Organizations Must File by May 15; Do Not Include Social Security Numbers or Personal Data

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded tax-exempt organizations that many have a filing deadline for Form 990-series information returns in mid-May.

With the May 15 filing deadline fast approaching, the IRS cautions these groups not to include Social Security numbers or other unnecessary personal information on their Form 990. The agency also asks them to consider taking advantage of the speed and convenience of electronic filing.

Form 990-series information returns and notices are due on the 15th day of the fifth month after an organization’s tax-year ends. Many organizations use the calendar year as their tax year, making May 15 the deadline to file for 2016.

Many Organizations Risk Loss of Tax-Exempt Status

By law, organizations that fail to file annual reports for three consecutive years will see their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked as of the due date of the third year they are required to file. The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that most tax-exempt organizations file annual Form 990-series information returns or notices with the IRS. The law, which went into effect at the beginning of 2007, also imposed a new annual filing requirement for small organizations. Churches and church-related organizations are not required to file annual reports.

No Social Security Numbers on Forms 990

The IRS generally does not ask organizations for SSNs and cautions filers not to provide them on the Form 990. By law, both the IRS and most tax-exempt organizations are required to publicly disclose most parts of Form 990 filings, including schedules and attachments. Public release of SSNs and other personally identifiable information about donors, clients or benefactors could give rise to identity theft.

The IRS also urges tax-exempt organizations to file forms electronically to reduce the risk of inadvertently including SSNs or other unnecessary personal information. Electronic filing also provides acknowledgement that the IRS has received the return and reduces normal processing time, making compliance with reporting and disclosure requirements easier.

Tax-exempt forms that must be made public by the IRS are clearly marked “Open to Public Inspection” in the top right corner of the first page. These include Form 990, Form 990-EZ, Form 990-PF and others.

What to File

Small tax-exempt organizations with average annual gross receipts of $50,000 or less may file an electronic notice called a Form 990-N (e-Postcard). This form requires only a few basic pieces of information. Tax-exempt organizations with average annual gross receipts above $50,000 must file a Form 990 or 990-EZ, depending on their receipts and assets. Private foundations must file Form 990-PF.

Organizations that need additional time to file a Form 990, 990-EZ or 990-PF may obtain an automatic six-month extension. Use Form 8868, Application for Extension of Time to File an Exempt Organization Return, to request an extension. The request must be filed by the due date of the return. Note that no extension is available for filing the Form 990-N (e-Postcard).

Check Tax-Exempt Status Online

The IRS publishes a list of organizations identified as having automatically lost tax-exempt status for failing to file annual reports for three consecutive years. Organizations that have had their exemptions automatically revoked and wish to have that status reinstated must file an application and pay the appropriate user fee.

The IRS offers an online search tool, Exempt Organizations Select Check, to help users more easily find key information about the federal tax status and filings of certain tax-exempt organizations, including whether organizations have had their federal tax exemptions automatically revoked.

Friday, May 5, 2017

IRS: Home Office Deduction Often Overlooked by Small Business Owners

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded small business owners who work from a home office that there are two options for claiming the Home Office Deduction. The Home Office Deduction is often overlooked by small business owners.

As part of National Small Business Week (April 30-May 6), the IRS is highlighting a series of tips and resources available for small business owners.

Regular Method

The first option for calculating the Home Office Deduction is the Regular Method. This method requires computing the business use of the home by dividing the expenses of operating the home between personal and business use. Direct business expenses are fully deductible and the percentage of the home floor space used for business is assignable to indirect total expenses. Self-employed taxpayers file Form 1040, Schedule C , Profit or Loss From Business (Sole Proprietorship), and compute this deduction on Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home.

Simplified Method

The second option, the Simplified Method, reduces the paperwork and recordkeeping burden for small businesses. The simplified method has a prescribed rate of $5 a square foot for business use of the home. There is a maximum allowable deduction available based on up to  300 square feet. Choosing this option requires taxpayers to complete a short worksheet in the tax instructions and entering the result on the tax return. There is a special calculation for daycare providers. Self-employed individuals claim the home office deduction on Form 1040, Schedule C , Line 30; farmers claim it on Schedule F, Line 32 and eligible employees claim it on Schedule A, Line 21.

Regardless of the method used to compute the deduction, business expenses in excess of the gross income limitation are not deductible. Deductible expenses for business use of a home include the business portion of real estate taxes, mortgage interest, rent, casualty losses, utilities, insurance, depreciation, maintenance and repairs. In general, expenses for the parts of the home not used for business are not deductible.

Deductions for business storage are deductible when the dwelling unit is the sole fixed location of the business or for regular use of a residence for the provision of daycare services; exclusive use isn't required in these cases.

Further details on the home office deduction and the simplified method can be found in Publication 587 on 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Hobby or Business? IRS Offers Tips to Decide

Millions of people enjoy hobbies that are also a source of income. From catering to cupcake baking, crafting homemade jewelry to glass blowing -- no matter what a person’s passion, the Internal Revenue Service offers some tips on hobbies.

Taxpayers must report on their tax return the income earned from hobbies. The rules for how to report the income and expenses depend on whether the activity is a hobby or a business. There are special rules and limits for deductions taxpayers can claim for hobbies. Here are five tax tips to consider:
  1. Is it a Business or a Hobby?  A key feature of a business is that people do it to make a profit. People engage in a hobby for sport or recreation, not to make a profit. Consider nine factors when determining whether an activity is a hobby. Make sure to base the determination on all the facts and circumstances. For more about ‘not-for-profit’ rules, see Publication 535, Business Expenses.
  2. Allowable Hobby Deductions.  Within certain limits, taxpayers can usually deduct ordinary and necessary hobby expenses. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted for the activity. A necessary expense is one that is appropriate for the activity.
  3. Limits on Hobby Expenses.  Generally, taxpayers can only deduct hobby expenses up to the amount of hobby income. If hobby expenses are more than its income, taxpayers have a loss from the activity. However, a hobby loss can’t be deducted from other income.
  4. How to Deduct Hobby Expenses.  Taxpayers must itemize deductions on their tax return to deduct hobby expenses. Expenses may fall into three types of deductions, and special rules apply to each type. See Publication 535 for the rules about how to claim them on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.
  5. Use IRS Free File.  Hobby rules can be complex and IRS Free File can make filing a tax return easier. IRS Free File is available until Oct. 16. Taxpayers earning $64,000 or less can use brand-name tax software. Those earning more can use Free File Fillable Forms, an electronic version of IRS paper forms. Free File is available only through the website.
Additional IRS Resources:

Small Business Week Reminder: Startups Can Choose New Option for Claiming Research Credit

Eligible small business startups can now choose to apply part or all of their research credit against their payroll tax liability, instead of their income tax liability, according to the Internal Revenue Service. During National Small Business Week—April 30 to May 6—the IRS is highlighting tax benefits and resources designed to help new and existing small businesses.

This new option will be available for the first time to any eligible small business when filing its 2016 federal income tax return. Before 2016, the research credit, like most tax credits, could only be taken against income tax liability. The option to elect the new payroll tax credit may especially benefit any eligible startup that has little or no income tax liability.

To qualify for the new option for the current tax year, a small business must have gross receipts of less than $5 million and could not have had gross receipts prior to 2012. A small business meeting this standard with qualifying research expenses can then choose to apply up to $250,000 of its research credit against its payroll tax liability.

To choose this option, fill out Form 6765, Credit for Increasing Research Activities, and attach it to a timely-filed business income tax return. Because many business taxpayers request a tax-filing extension, they still have time to make the choice on a timely-filed return. A number of special rules and computations apply to this credit. See the instructions to Form 6765 for details.

For eligible small businesses that already filed and failed to choose this option, there is still time to make the choice. Under a special rule for tax-year 2016, they can still do so by filing an amended return. This return must be filed by Dec. 31, 2017.

Amended return forms vary depending upon the type of business. Sole proprietors file Form 1040X. Regular corporations file Form 1120X. S corporations file Form 1120S, identifying it as a corrected return (line H(4). For information on amending a partnership return, see the instructions to Form 1065.

After choosing this option, either on an original or amended return, a small business claims the payroll tax credit by filling out Form 8974, Qualified Small Business Payroll Tax Credit for Increasing Research Activities. This form must be attached to its payroll tax return, usually Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return.

Further details on how and when to claim the credit are in Notice 2017-23, available on The notice also provides interim guidance on other technical issues, such as controlled groups and the definition of gross receipts.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Tax Tips to Consider for Cash Intensive Small Businesses in the Sharing Economy

Small business owners that offer goods and services through an online platform may be part of the sharing economy. Some participate part time while others operate full time. Activities such as ride sharing, freelancing, renting a spare bedroom and crowd funding are usually taxable. The IRS has a Sharing Economy Tax Center to help these taxpayers find the information and help they need to meet their tax obligations.

Some sharing economy tips for small businesses to consider:

  1. Taxes. Sharing economy activity is generally taxable. Payments received in the form of money, goods, property or services may require filing a tax return to report that income to the IRS.Tips. People often conduct sharing-economy activities electronically but tips in cash are still a common occurrence. Tips are generally subject to withholding. Small businesses or self-employed persons should report tips they receive as income on Schedule C or C-EZ. See Publication 334, Tax Guide for Small Business, for more details.
  2. Large Cash Amounts. Any person in a trade or business who receives more than $10,000 in cash in a single transaction or in related transactions must file Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business, within 15 days after receiving payment.
  3. Deductions. Expenses to carry on a trade or business are usually deductible. Examples include claiming the 54 cents per mile rate for 2016 when using a car for a ride-sharing business. Or deducting the commission/fee charged by a freelancer marketplace service.
  4. Estimated Payments. Small businesses in the sharing economy often need to make quarterly estimated tax payments to cover their tax obligation. Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, will help to figure these payments. IRS Direct Pay is the fastest and easiest way to make these payments. The Treasury Department’s (EFTPS) system is also an option.
  5. Records. Good records assist in monitoring a business’s progress, tracking deductible expenses and can substantiate items reported on tax returns. A good recordkeeping system includes a summary of all business transactions. Generally, it is best to record transactions on a daily basis.

Small Business Week Reminder: Work Opportunity Tax Credit can Help Employers Hiring New Workers; Key Certification Requirement Applies

The Internal Revenue Service today reminded employers planning to hire new workers that there’s a valuable tax credit available to those who hire long-term unemployment recipients and others certified by their state workforce agency. During National Small Business Week—April 30 to May 6—the IRS is highlighting tax benefits and resources designed to help new and existing small businesses.

The Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) is a long-standing income tax benefit that encourages employers to hire designated categories of workers who face significant barriers to employment. The credit, usually claimed on Form 5884, is generally based on wages paid to eligible workers during the first two years of employment.

To qualify for the credit, an employer must first request certification by filing IRS Form 8850 with the state workforce agency within 28 days after the eligible worker begins work. Other requirements and further details can be found in the instructions to Form 8850.

There are now 10 categories of WOTC-eligible workers. The newest category, added effective Jan. 1, 2016, is for long-term unemployment recipients who had been unemployed for a period of at least 27 weeks and received state or federal unemployment benefits during part or all of that time. The other categories include certain veterans and recipients of various kinds of public assistance, among others.

The 10 categories are:
  • Qualified IV-A Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients
  • Unemployed veterans, including disabled veterans
  • Ex-felons
  • Designated community residents living in Empowerment Zones or Rural Renewal Counties
  • Vocational rehabilitation referrals
  • Summer youth employees living in Empowerment Zones
  • Food stamp (SNAP) recipients
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipients
  • Long-term family assistance recipients
  • Qualified long-term unemployment recipients.
Eligible businesses claim the WOTC on their income tax return. The credit is first figured on Form 5884 and then becomes a part of the general business credit claimed on Form 3800.

Though the credit is not available to tax-exempt organizations for most categories of new hires, a special rule allows them to get the WOTC for hiring qualified veterans. These organizations claim the credit on Form 5884-C. Visit the WOTC page on for more information.

Monday, May 1, 2017

IRS offers help to students, families to get tax information for student financial aid applications

You must have information from your tax return in order to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) or apply for an income-driven repayment (IDR) plan.

The IRS Data Retrieval Tool (DRT) on and is currently unavailable. The DRT provides tax data that automatically fills in information for part of the FAFSA and IDR plan. The IRS and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid issued a joint statement advising students, parents and borrowers to use other options to provide financial data on your applications.

This does not limit your ability to apply for financial aid. Applicants filling out the FAFSA and applying for an IDR plan can manually provide the requested financial information from copies of your 2015 tax returns. The online FAFSA and IDR application remain operational, and you can continue filing the FAFSA or applying for an IDR plan as you normally would.

Students and parents completing a 2016-17 and 2017-18 FAFSA should manually enter 2015 tax information (not 2016). Borrowers applying for an IDR plan should submit alternative documentation of income to your federal loan servicers after you complete and submit the online IDR application.

The IRS has online resources that can help you get tax information for financial aid applications. Read the joint IRS and U.S. Department of Education Office of Federal Student Aid statement and related questions and answers for more information about the IRS Data Retrieval Tool.

Employee or Independent Contractor? Know the Rules

The IRS encourages all businesses and business owners to know the rules when it comes to classifying a worker as an employee or an independent contractor.

An employer must withhold income taxes and pay Social Security, Medicare taxes and unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. Employers normally do not have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors.

Here are two key points for small business owners to keep in mind when it comes to classifying workers:

1. Control. The relationship between a worker and a business is important. If the business controls what work is accomplished and directs how it is done, it exerts behavioral control. If the business directs or controls financial and certain relevant aspects of a worker’s job, it exercises financial control. This includes:
  • The extent of the worker's investment in the facilities or tools used in performing services
  • The extent to which the worker makes his or her services available to the relevant market
  • How the business pays the worker, and
  • The extent to which the worker can realize a profit or incur a loss
2. Relationship. How the employer and worker perceive their relationship is also important for determining worker status. Key topics to think about include:
  • Written contracts describing the relationship the parties intended to create
  • Whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation or sick pay
  • The permanency of the relationship, and
  • The extent to which services performed by the worker are a key aspect of the regular business of the company
  • The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed business expenses

The IRS can help employers determine the status of their workers by using form Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding. IRS Publication 15-A, Employer's Supplemental Tax Guide, is also an excellent resource.