Wednesday, January 17, 2018

IRS, States and Tax Industry Warn Employers to Beware of Form W-2 Scam; Tax Season Could Bring New Surge in Phishing Scheme

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry today urged all employers to educate their payroll personnel about a Form W-2 phishing scam that made victims of hundreds of organizations and thousands of employees last year.

The Form W-2 scam has emerged as one of the most dangerous phishing emails in the tax community. During the last two tax seasons, cybercriminals tricked payroll personnel or people with access to payroll information into disclosing sensitive information for entire workforces. The scam affected all types of employers, from small and large businesses to public schools and universities, hospitals, tribal governments and charities.

Reports to phishing@irs.gov from victims and nonvictims about this scam jumped to approximately 900 in 2017, compared to slightly over 100 in 2016. Last year, more than 200 employers were victimized, which translated into hundreds of thousands of employees who had their identities compromised.

By alerting employers now, the IRS and its partners in the Security Summit effort hope to limit the success of this scam in 2018. The IRS last year also created a new process by which employers should report these scams. There are steps the IRS can take to protect employees, but only if the agency is notified immediately by employers about the theft.

Here’s how the scam works: Cybercriminals do their homework, identifying chief operating officers, school executives or others in positions of authority. Using a technique known as business email compromise (BEC) or business email spoofing (BES), fraudsters posing as executives send emails to payroll personnel requesting copies of Forms W-2 for all employees.

The Form W-2 contains the employee’s name, address, Social Security number, income and withholdings. Criminals use that information to file fraudulent tax returns, or they post it for sale on the Dark Net.

The initial email may be a friendly, “hi, are you working today” exchange before the fraudster asks for all Form W-2 information. In several reported cases, after the fraudsters acquired the workforce information, they immediately followed that up with a request for a wire transfer.

In addition to educating payroll or finance personnel, the IRS and Security Summit partners also urge employers to consider creating a policy to limit the number of employees who have authority to handle Form W-2 requests and that they require additional verification procedures to validate the actual request before emailing sensitive data such as employee Form W-2s.

If the business or organization victimized by these attacks notifies the IRS, the IRS can take steps to help prevent employees from being victims of tax-related identity theft. However, because of the nature of these scams, some businesses and organizations did not realize for days, weeks or months that they had been scammed.

The IRS established a special email notification address specifically for employers to report Form W-2 data thefts. Here’s how Form W-2 scam victims can notify the IRS:
  • Email dataloss@irs.gov to notify the IRS of a Form W-2 data loss and provide contact information, as listed below.
  • In the subject line, type “W2 Data Loss” so that the email can be routed properly. Do not attach any employee personally identifiable information data.
  • Include the following:
  • Business name
  • Business employer identification number (EIN) associated with the data loss
  • Contact name
  • Contact phone number
  • Summary of how the data loss occurred
  • Volume of employees impacted
Businesses and organizations that fall victim to the scam and/or organizations that only receive a suspect email but do not fall victim to the scam should send the full email headers to phishing@irs.gov and use “W2 Scam” in the subject line.


Employers should be aware that cybercriminals’ scams constantly evolve. Finance and payroll personnel should be alert to any unusual requests for employee data.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Deciding Whether and How to File? Here’s What to Remember

As people prepare to file their taxes, there are things to consider. They will want to determine if they need to file and the best way to do so.

Here are three things for people to keep in mind as they prepare to file their taxes:
  • Who is Required to File.  In most cases, income, filing status and age determine if a taxpayer must file a tax return. Other rules may apply if the taxpayer is self-employed or if they are a dependent of another person. For example, if a taxpayer is single and younger than age 65, they must file if their income was at least $10,400. There are other instances when a taxpayer must file. Go to IRS.gov/filing  for more information.
  • Filing to get a refund. Even if a taxpayer doesn’t have to file, they should file a tax return if they can get money back. If a taxpayer answers “yes” to any of these questions, they could be due a refund: ◦Did my employer withhold federal income tax from my pay?
    • Did I make estimated tax payments?
    • Did I overpay last year and have it applied to this year’s tax?  
  • Taxpayers can File for Free. Join the millions of Americans who safely file their taxes and save money using IRS Free File. Seventy percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. Commercial partners of the IRS offer free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $66,000 or less. Taxpayers who earned more can use Free File Fillable Forms. This option allows taxpayers to complete IRS forms electronically. It is best for those who are used to doing their own taxes.
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.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

More Information:

Thursday, January 11, 2018

IRS Withholding Tables Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Why are these changes being made?
A: The new withholding tables are needed to reflect the changes in tax rates and tax brackets, increased standard deduction and repeal of personal exemptions that were included in the new tax reform law signed in December. The withholding guidance issued today is for employers to make changes to their payroll systems and is designed to work with existing W-4s that employees have on file.
Q: How soon will people see the changes in their paychecks?
A: Employees should begin to see withholding changes in their checks in February. The exact timing depends on when their employer can make the change and how often they are paid. It typically takes payroll providers and employers about a month to update withholding changes on their systems.
Q: Will employees need to take any action to get the new withholding rates?
A: No. Payroll changes required each year are made by employers and their payroll providers, so employees are not required to take any extra steps. However, employees should review their withholding to make sure that it is accurate. IRS will be releasing a new calculator and Form W-4 soon, to help employees ensure withholding is accurate.
Q: What is a withholding table?
A: A withholding table shows payroll service providers and employers how much tax to withhold from employee paychecks, given each employee’s wages, marital status, and the number of withholding allowances they claim.
Q: What is a Form W-4?
A: This is an IRS form that employees provide to their employers, to determine the amount of federal income tax to withhold from the employees’ paychecks. The form helps employees adjust withholding based on their personal circumstances, such as whether they have children or a spouse who is also working. The IRS always recommends employees check their withholding any time their personal or financial information changes.
Q: Will people need to fill out a new W-4 form right now?
A: No, the new withholding tables are designed to minimize taxpayer burden as much as possible and will work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances. The IRS is working on revising the Form W-4 to more fully reflect the new law and provide taxpayers information to determine whether they need to adjust their withholding.
Q: Is the IRS working on a new Form W-4 to reflect the new tax law?
A: Yes. The IRS continues to work on more detailed withholding information, which will be available soon in Publication 15 and related publications. In addition, the IRS is working on revising the Form W-4 to more fully reflect the new law and providing taxpayers information to determine whether they need to adjust their withholding. The IRS is also revising the withholding tax calculator on IRS.gov to help employees who wish to update their withholding in response to the new law or other changes in their personal circumstances in 2018. The IRS anticipates this calculator should be available by the end of February.
Q: Should people check their withholding after the new 2018 Form W-4 and the withholding calculator are available?
A: Yes. It’s always a good idea for people to check their withholding status. The IRS encourages all taxpayers to check their withholding when the new information is available in February. The IRS will help educate taxpayers about the new withholding guidelines and the calculator. The effort will be designed to help workers ensure that they are not having too much or too little tax taken out of their pay.
Q: Are some taxpayers at risk of being under-withheld on their taxes with the changes to the withholding tables?
A: Some people have more complicated tax situations and face the possibility of being under-withheld. For example, people who itemize their deductions, couples with multiple jobs or individuals with more than one job a year will be encouraged to review their tax situations. The IRS will be encouraging people – particularly those with more than one income in their household—to check their withholding. The IRS is updating the 2018 Form W-4 and the IRS.gov withholding calculator to help with this process.
Q: Are many people under-withheld on their taxes?
A: Most people are over-withheld on their taxes, meaning that more taxes are held out of their paychecks than what they owe.
Q: Will the IRS be making further changes to Form W-4 in 2019?

A: In 2019, the IRS anticipates making further changes involving withholding. The IRS will work with the business and payroll community to encourage workers to file new Forms W-4 next year and share information on changes in the new tax law that impact withholding.

Updated 2018 Withholding Tables Now Available; Taxpayers Could See Paycheck Changes by February

The Internal Revenue Service today released Notice 1036, which updates the income-tax withholding tables for 2018 reflecting changes made by the tax reform legislation enacted last month. This is the first in a series of steps that IRS will take to help improve the accuracy of withholding following major changes made by the new tax law.

The updated withholding information, posted today on IRS.gov, shows the new rates for employers to use during 2018. Employers should begin using the 2018 withholding tables as soon as possible, but not later than Feb. 15, 2018. They should continue to use the 2017 withholding tables until implementing the 2018 withholding tables.

Many employees will begin to see increases in their paychecks to reflect the new law in February. The time it will take for employees to see the changes in their paychecks will vary depending on how quickly the new tables are implemented by their employers and how often they are paid — generally weekly, biweekly or monthly.   The new withholding tables are designed to work with the Forms W-4 that workers have already filed with their employers to claim withholding allowances. This will minimize burden on taxpayers and employers. Employees do not have to do anything at this time.

“The IRS appreciates the help from the payroll community working with us on these important changes,” said Acting IRS Commissioner David Kautter. “Payroll withholding can be complicated, and the needs of taxpayers vary based on their personal financial situation. In the weeks ahead, the IRS will be providing more information to help people understand and review these changes."

The new law makes a number of changes for 2018 that affect individual taxpayers. The new tables reflect the increase in the standard deduction, repeal of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates and brackets.

For people with simpler tax situations, the new tables are designed to produce the correct amount of tax withholding. The revisions are also aimed at avoiding over- and under-withholding of tax as much as possible.

To help people determine their withholding, the IRS is revising the withholding tax calculator on IRS.gov. The IRS anticipates this calculator should be available by the end of February. Taxpayers are encouraged to use the calculator to adjust their withholding once it is released.

The IRS is also working on revising the Form W-4. Form W-4 and the revised calculator will reflect additional changes in the new law, such as changes in available itemized deductions, increases in the child tax credit, the new dependent credit and repeal of dependent exemptions.

The calculator and new Form W-4 can be used by employees who wish to update their withholding in response to the new law or changes in their personal circumstances in 2018, and by workers starting a new job. Until a new Form W-4 is issued, employees and employers should continue to use the 2017 Form W-4.

In addition, the IRS will help educate taxpayers about the new withholding guidelines and the calculator. The effort will be designed to help workers ensure that they are not having too much or too little withholding taken out of their pay.


For 2019, the IRS anticipates making further changes involving withholding. The IRS will work with the business and payroll community to encourage workers to file new Forms W-4 next year and share information on changes in the new tax law that impact withholding.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Here’s Five Reasons to Use Direct Deposit for a Tax Refund

As taxpayers prepare for the January 29 start of filing season, they should consider a direct deposit of any refunds due. It’s easy, safe, fast — and the best way to get a refund. That’s why 80 percent of taxpayers choose it every year.

IRS Direct Deposit:
  • Is Fast. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and use direct deposit. They can use IRS Free File to prepare and e-file federal returns for free.  Taxpayers who file a paper return can also use direct deposit.  
  • Is Secure. Since refunds go right into a bank account, there’s no risk of having a paper check stolen or lost. This is the same electronic transfer system that deposits nearly 98 percent of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.
  • Is Easy.  Choosing direct deposit is easy. With e-file, just follow the instructions in the tax software. For paper returns, the tax form instructions serve as a guide. Make sure to enter the correct bank account and routing number.  
  • Has Options. Taxpayers can split a refund into several financial accounts. These include checking, savings, health, education and certain retirement accounts. Use IRS Form 8888, Allocation of Refund (including Savings Bond Purchases), to deposit a refund in up to three accounts. Do not use this form to designate part of a refund to pay tax preparers.
Taxpayers should deposit refunds into accounts in their own name, their spouse’s name or both. Avoid making a deposit into accounts owned by others. Some banks require both spouses’ names on the account to deposit a tax refund from a joint return. Taxpayers should check with their bank for direct deposit rules.

There is a limit of three electronic direct deposit refunds made into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card. The IRS will send a notice and a refund check in the mail to taxpayers who exceed the limit.

Additional IRS Resources:

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018 Tax Filing Season Begins Jan. 29, Tax Returns Due April 17; Help Available for Taxpayers

The Internal Revenue Service announced today that the nation’s tax season will begin Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 and reminded taxpayers claiming certain tax credits that refunds won’t be available before late February.

The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on Jan. 29, with nearly 155 million individual tax returns expected to be filed in 2018. The nation’s tax deadline will be April 17 this year – so taxpayers will have two additional days to file beyond April 15.

Many software companies and tax professionals will be accepting tax returns before Jan. 29 and then will submit the returns when IRS systems open. Although the IRS will begin accepting both electronic and paper tax returns Jan. 29, paper returns will begin processing later in mid-February as system updates continue. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically for faster refunds.

The IRS set the Jan. 29 opening date to ensure the security and readiness of key tax processing systems in advance of the opening and to assess the potential impact of tax legislation on 2017 tax returns.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that, by law, the IRS cannot issue refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. While the IRS will process those returns when received, it cannot issue related refunds 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.    The IRS also reminds taxpayers that they should keep copies of their prior-year tax returns for at least three years. Taxpayers who are using a tax software product for the first time will need their adjusted gross income from their 2016 tax return to file electronically. Taxpayers who are using the same tax software they used last year will not need to enter prior-year information to electronically sign their 2017 tax return. Using an electronic filing PIN is no longer an option. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/GetReady for more tips on preparing to file their 2017 tax return.

April 17 Filing Deadline

The filing deadline to submit 2017 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, 2018, rather than the traditional April 15 date. In 2018, April 15 falls on a Sunday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday – April 16. However, Emancipation Day – a legal holiday in the District of Columbia – will be observed on that Monday, which pushes the nation’s filing deadline to Tuesday, April 17, 2017. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation.

The IRS also has been working with the tax industry and state revenue departments as part of the Security Summit initiative to continue strengthening processing systems to protect taxpayers from identity theft and refund fraud. The IRS and Summit partners continued to improve these safeguards to further protect taxpayers filing in 2018.

Refunds in 2018

Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund. The IRS expects more than four out of five tax returns will be prepared electronically using tax software.

The IRS still anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, but there are some important factors to keep in mind for taxpayers.

By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit before mid-February. This applies to the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC.

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 those taxpayers chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return. This additional period is due to several factors, including banking and financial systems needing time to process deposits.

After refunds leave the IRS, it takes additional time for them to be processed and for financial institutions to accept and deposit the refunds to bank accounts and products. The IRS reminds taxpayers many financial institutions do not process payments on weekends or holidays, which can affect when refunds reach taxpayers. For EITC and ACTC filers, the three-day holiday weekend involving Presidents’ Day may affect their refund timing.

The Where's My Refund? ‎tool on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app will be updated with projected deposit dates for early EITC and ACTC refund filers in late February. Taxpayers 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 Where’s My Refund? remains the best way to check the status of a refund.

IRS Offers Help for Taxpayers

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.

In addition, 70 percent of the nation’s taxpayers are eligible for IRS Free File. Commercial partners of the IRS offer free brand-name software to about 100 million individuals and families with incomes of $66,000 or less.

The online fillable forms provide electronic versions of IRS paper forms to all taxpayers regardless of income that can be prepared and filed by people comfortable with completing their own returns.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) offer free tax help to people who qualify. Go to IRS.gov and enter “free tax prep” in the search box to learn more and find a nearby VITA or TCE site, or download the IRS2Go smartphone app to find a free tax prep provider. If eligible, taxpayers can also locate help from a community volunteer. Go to IRS.gov and click on the Filing tab for more information.


The IRS also reminds taxpayers that a trusted tax professional can provide helpful information and advice. Tips for choosing a return preparer and details about national tax professional groups are available on IRS.gov.