The IRS has launched “Identity Theft Central,” a new website devoted to identity theft and data security for taxpayers, tax professionals, and businesses. Available 24/7, the site provides resources on reporting identity theft and guarding against phishing, online scams, and more. Specifically, the site (1) lists steps to take if you become a victim of identity theft; (2) summarizes the responsibilities of tax professionals under the law; and (3) instructs businesses on how to recognize the signs of identity theft. Also, the page features videos on key topics that can be used by taxpayers or partner groups. The IRS encourages tax professionals to bookmark the site and periodically check the guidance for updates. Identity Theft Central can be accessed at www.irs.gov/identity-theft-central .
If you’re lucky enough to be a winner at gambling or the lottery, congratulations! After you celebrate, be ready to deal with the tax consequences of your good fortune.
Winning at gambling
Whether you win at the casino, a bingo hall, or elsewhere, you must report 100% of your winnings as taxable income. They’re reported on the “Other income” line on Schedule 1 of your 1040 tax return. To measure your winnings on a particular wager, use the net gain. For example, if a $30 bet at the race track turns into a $110 win, you’ve won $80, not $110.
You must separately keep track of losses. They’re deductible, but only as itemized deductions. Therefore, if you don’t itemize and take the standard deduction, you can’t deduct gambling losses. In addition, gambling losses are […]
The IRS has unveiled its latest online tool, the “Tax Withholding Estimator.” The estimator, which replaces the “Withholding Calculator,” assists workers, retirees, self-employed individuals, and other taxpayers in determining how much income tax should be withheld from wages and pension payments. Among other things, the estimator features (1) plain language to improve user comprehension; (2) a mobile-friendly design; (3) enhanced tips and links on various tax credits and deductions; and (4) an automatic calculation of the taxable portion of any Social Security benefits. In addition, the tool makes it easier to enter wages and withholding for each job held by the taxpayer and his or her spouse. The IRS encourages all taxpayers to use the tool to do a “Paycheck Checkup” and review their withholding for 2019. The new estimator is available at www.irs.gov/individuals/irs-tax-withholding-estimator . If you have questions about withholdings and your tax estimates, please contact your Linkenheimer CPA.
The IRS uses Audit Techniques Guides (ATGs) to help IRS examiners get ready for audits. Your business can use the same guides to gain insight into what the IRS is looking for in terms of compliance with tax laws and regulations.
Many ATGs target specific industries or businesses, such as construction, aerospace, art galleries, child care providers and veterinary medicine. Others address issues that frequently arise in audits, such as executive compensation, passive activity losses and capitalization of tangible property.
How they’re used
IRS auditors need to examine all types of businesses, as well as individual taxpayers and tax-exempt organizations. Each type of return might have unique industry issues, business practices and terminology. Before meeting with taxpayers and their advisors, auditors do their homework to understand various industries or issues, the accounting methods commonly used, how income is received, and areas where taxpayers may not be in compliance.
By using a specific ATG, an auditor may be able to reconcile discrepancies when reported income or expenses aren’t consistent with what’s normal for the industry or to identify anomalies within the geographic area in which the business is located.
For example, one ATG focuses specifically on businesses […]
The IRS just released its audit statistics for the 2018 fiscal year, and fewer taxpayers had their returns examined as compared with prior years. However, even though a small percentage of tax returns are being chosen for audit these days, that will be little consolation if yours is one of them.
Overall, just 0.59% of individual tax returns were audited in 2018, as compared with 0.62% in 2017. This was the lowest percentage of audits conducted since 2002.
However, as in the past, those with very high incomes face greater odds. For example, in 2018, 2.21% of taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of between $1 million and $5 million were audited (down from 3.52% in 2017).
The richest taxpayers, those with AGIs of $10 million and more, experienced a steep decline in audits. In 2018, 6.66% of their returns were audited, compared with 14.52% in 2017.
Due to the massive changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the 2019 filing season resulted in surprises. Some filers who have gotten a refund in past years wound up owing money. The IRS reports that the number of refunds paid this year is down from last year — and the average refund is lower. As of May 10, 2019, the IRS paid out 101,590,000 refunds averaging $2,868. This compares with 102,582,000 refunds paid out in 2018 with an average amount of $2,940.
Of course, receiving a tax refund shouldn’t necessarily be your goal. It essentially means you’re giving the government an interest-free loan.
Law changes and withholding
Last year, the IRS updated the withholding tables that indicate how much employers should hold back from their employees’ paychecks. In general, the amount withheld was reduced. This was done to reflect changes under the TCJA — including the increase in the standard deduction, suspension of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates.
The new tables may have provided the correct amount of tax withholding for some individuals, but they might have caused other taxpayers to not have enough money withheld to pay their ultimate […]