IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2015-14: Surf the Net to IRS.gov this Summer

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SURF THE NET TO IRS.GOV THIS SUMMER

Summertime or anytime, get the tax help and information you need on IRS.gov. Our many online tools and services make it easy for you to do business with the IRS. Here are the top reasons to visit IRS.gov this summer:

  • Use IRS Free File.  If you still need to file your 2014 tax return, you can use IRS Free File to e-file for free. Free File is available through Oct. 15. If you earned $60,000 or less you can prepare and e-file your taxes with free tax software. If you made more, use Free File Fillable Forms to e-file for free. This option is the electronic version of IRS paper forms.
  • Check on your refund.  The Where’s My Refund? tool is a fast and easy way to check on your tax refund. Use the IRS2Go mobile app to access it or click on the “Refunds” tab on IRS.gov.
  • Try IRS Direct Pay.  If you owe taxes, pay them with IRS Direct Pay. It’s the safe, easy and free way to pay from your checking or savings account. Just click on the “Pay Your Tax Bill” link on the IRS home page.
  • Apply to make payments.  If you are not able to pay your tax in full, you may apply for an Online Payment Agreement. Check out the direct debit payment plan. It has a lower set-up fee and you will not miss a payment. With a direct debit plan the IRS will not send you a monthly reminder to send your check.
  • Correct your tax withholding.  Did you get a big refund or owed more tax than you expected when you filed your tax return? If so, you may want to change your tax withholding. To make a change, complete and give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. The IRS Withholding Calculator tool can help you fill out a new Form W-4.
  • Get health care tax information.   The IRS website also has information about the Affordable Care Act tax provisions at IRS.gov/aca. You can visit this site for educational material that describes how the health care law tax provisions affect individuals and businesses. There you will find information about the law and its provisions, legal guidance, the latest news, frequently asked questions and links to additional resources.
  • Check out a charity.  If you donate to a charity, the value of your gift may be deductible. Use the Select Check tool to see if your charity qualifies.
  • Get answers to tax questions.  The Interactive Tax Assistant covers many common tax topics. Type in your question or search terms and it can lead you step-by-step to the answer. The IRS Tax Map gives you a single point of access to tax law information by subject. It integrates tax topics, forms, instructions and publications into one tool.
  • Get forms and publications.  View, download and print federal tax forms and publications on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

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IRS Special Edition Tax Tip 2015-10: Prepare for a Disaster – Plan to Keep Your Tax Records Safe‏

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Prepare for a Disaster – Plan to Keep Your Tax Records Safe

To mark the start of the hurricane season, the IRS urges you to make a plan to keep your tax records safe. Plans made before a disaster strikes can help you recover from the destruction left in its wake. The following tips can help you make that plan:

  • Use Electronic Records.  You may have access to bank and other financial statements online. If so, your statements are already securely stored there. You can also keep an additional set of records electronically. One way is to scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You may want to download important records to an external hard drive, USB flash drive or burn them onto CD or DVD. Be sure you keep duplicates of your records in a safe place. For example store them in a waterproof container away from the originals. If a disaster strikes your home, it may also affect a wide area. If that happens you may not be able to retrieve the records that are stored in that area.
  • Document Valuables.  Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should also store these in a safe place. For example, you might store them with a friend or relative who lives out of the area.

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  • Count on the IRS for Help.  If you fall victim to a disaster, know that the IRS stands ready to help. You can call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 for special help with disaster-related tax issues.
  • Get Copies of Prior Year Tax Records.  If you need a copy of your tax return you should file Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. The usual fee per copy is $50. However, the IRS will waive this fee if you are a victim of a federally declared disaster. If you just need information that shows most line items from your tax return, you can call 1-800-908-9946 to request a free transcript. You can also get it if you file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

Visit IRS.gov for more information about disaster assistance.  Click on the “Disaster Relief” link in the lower left section of the home page. You can also type “disaster” in the
search box. Get IRS tax forms and publications on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

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IRS Announce That All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized For Federal Tax Purposes

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August 29, 2013

Ruling Provides Certainty, Benefits and Protections Under Federal Tax Law for Same-Sex Married Couples

The U.S. Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) today ruled that same-sex couples, legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages, will be treated as married for federal tax purposes. The ruling applies regardless of whether the couple lives in a jurisdiction that recognizes same-sex marriage or a jurisdiction that does not recognize same-sex marriage.

The ruling implements federal tax aspects of the June 26 Supreme Court decision invalidating a key provision of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act.

Under the ruling, same-sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

Any same-sex marriage legally entered into in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, a U.S. territory or a foreign country will be covered by the ruling. However, the ruling does not apply to registered domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar formal relationships recognized under state law.

Legally-married same-sex couples generally must file their 2013 federal income tax return using either the married filing jointly or married filing separately filing status.

Individuals who were in same-sex marriages may, but are not required to, file original or amended returns choosing to be treated as married for federal tax purposes for one or more prior tax years still open under the statute of limitations.

Generally, the statute of limitations for filing a refund claim is three years from the date the return was filed or two years from the date the tax was paid, whichever is later. As a result, refund claims can still be filed for tax years 2010, 2011 and 2012. Some taxpayers may have special circumstances, such as signing an agreement with the IRS to keep the statute of limitations open, that permit them to file refund claims for tax years 2009 and earlier.

Additionally, employees who purchased same-sex spouse health insurance coverage from their employers on an after-tax basis may treat the amounts paid for that coverage as pre-tax and excludable from income.

How to File a Claim for Refund

Taxpayers who wish to file a refund claim for income taxes should use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return.

Taxpayers who wish to file a refund claim for gift or estate taxes should file Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. For information on filing an amended return, see Tax Topic 308, Amended Returns, available on IRS.gov, or the Instructions to Forms 1040X and 843. Information on where to file your amended returns is available in the instructions to the form.

Future Guidance

Treasury and the IRS intend to issue streamlined procedures for employers who wish to file refund claims for payroll taxes paid on previously-taxed health insurance and fringe benefits provided to same-sex spouses. Treasury and IRS also intend to issue further guidance on cafeteria plans and on how qualified retirement plans and other tax-favored arrangements should treat same-sex spouses for periods before the effective date of this Revenue Ruling.

Other agencies may provide guidance on other federal programs that they administer that are affected by the Code.

Revenue Ruling 2013-17, along with updated Frequently Asked Questions for same-sex couples and updated FAQs for registered domestic partners and individuals in civil unions, are available today on IRS.gov. See also Publication 555, Community Property.

Treasury and the IRS will begin applying the terms of Revenue Ruling 2013-17 on Sept. 16, 2013, but taxpayers who wish to rely on the terms of the Revenue Ruling for earlier periods may choose to do so, as long as the statute of limitations for the earlier period has not expired.

IRS Special Edition Tax Tip: IRS Offers Tax Tips for “The Season of Giving”

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December is traditionally a month for giving generously to charities, friends and family. But it’s also a time that can have a major impact on the tax return you’ll file in the New Year. Here are some “Season of Giving” tips from the IRS covering Holidayseverything from charity donations to refund planning:

 

  • Contribute to Qualified Charities If you plan to take an itemized charitable deduction on your 2012 tax return, your donation must go to a qualified charity by Dec. 31. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status. You can also visit IRS.gov and use the Exempt Organizations Select Check tool to check if your favorite charity is a qualified charity. Donations charged to a credit card by Dec. 31 are deductible for 2012, even if you pay the bill in 2013. A gift by check also counts for 2012 as long as you mail it in December. Gifts given to individuals, whether to friends, family or strangers, are not deductible.
  • What You Can Deduct.  You generally can deduct your cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified charity. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including clothing or household items, cars and boats.
  • Keep Records of All Donations.  You need to keep a record of any donations you deduct, regardless of the amount. You must have a written record of all cash contributions to claim a deduction. This may include a cancelled check, bank or credit card statement or payroll deduction record. You can also ask the charity for a written statement that shows the charity’s name, contribution date and amount.
  • Gather Records in a Safe Place.  As long as you’re gathering those records for your charitable contributions, it’s a good time to start rounding up documents you will need to file your tax return in 2013. This includes receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you will claim on your tax return. Be sure to store them in a safe place so you can easily access them later when you file your tax return.
  • Plan Ahead for Major Purchases.  If you are making major purchases during the holiday season, don’t base them solely on the expectation of receiving your tax refund before the bills arrive. Many factors can impact the timing of a tax refund. The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days after receiving a tax return. However, if your tax return requires additional review, it may take longer to receive your refund.

 

For more information about contributions, check out Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. The booklet is available on IRS.gov or order by mail at 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

 

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IRS Special Edition Tax Tip: Don’t Fall for Phony IRS Websites

The Internal Revenue Service is issuing a warning about a new tax scam that uses a website that mimics the IRS e-Services online registration page.

The actual IRS e-Services page offers web-based products for tax preparers, not the general public. The phony web page looks almost identical to the real one.

The IRS gets many reports of fake websites like this. Criminals use these sites to lure people into providing personal and financial information that may be used to steal the victim’s money or identity.

The address of the official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Don’t be misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.

If you find a suspicious website that claims to be the IRS, send the site’s URL by email to phishing@irs.gov. Use the subject line, ‘Suspicious website’.

Be aware that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.

If you get an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS, report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

The IRS has information at www.irs.gov that can help you protect yourself from tax scams of all kinds. Search the site using the term “phishing.”

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IRS Tax Tip: How to Get a Transcript or Copy of a Prior Year’s Tax Return from the IRS

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Taxpayers should keep copies of their tax returns, but if they cannot be located or have been destroyed during natural disasters or by fire, the IRS can help. Whether you need your prior year’s tax return to apply for a loan or for legal reasons, you can obtain copies or transcripts from the IRS.

Here are 10 things to know if you need federal tax return information from a previously filed tax return.

1. Get copies of your federal tax return via the web, phone or by mail.

2. Transcripts are free and are available for the current and past three tax years.

3. A tax return transcript shows most line items from your tax return as it was originally filed, including any accompanying forms and schedules. It does not reflect any changes made after the return was filed.

4. A tax account transcript shows any later adjustments either you or the IRS made after you filed your tax return. This transcript shows basic data including marital status, type of return filed, adjusted gross income and taxable income.

5. To request either type of transcript online, go to IRS.gov and use the online tool called Order A Transcript. To order by phone, call 800-908-9946 and follow the prompts in the recorded message.

6. To request a 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ tax return transcript through the mail, complete IRS Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript. Businesses, partnerships and individuals who need transcript information from other forms or need a tax account transcript must use Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

7. If you order online or by phone, you should receive your tax return transcript within five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives your request. Allow 30 calendar days for delivery of a tax account transcript if you order by mail.

8. If you need an actual copy of a previously filed and processed tax return, it will cost $57 for each tax year you order. Complete Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, and mail it to the IRS address listed on the form for your area.  Copies are generally available for the current year and past six years. Please allow 60 days for delivery.

9. The fee for copies of tax returns may be waived if you are in an area that is declared a federal disaster by the President. Visit IRS.gov, keyword “disaster,” for more guidance on disaster relief.

10. Forms 4506, 4506-T and 4506T-EZ are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
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IRS Tax Tip: Ten Tax Tips for Individuals Selling Their Home

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Picture of the "Gingerbread House" i...

The Internal Revenue Service has some important information for those who have sold or are about to sell their home. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude all or part of that gain from your income.

Here are 10 tips from the IRS to keep in mind when selling your home.

1. In general, you are eligible to exclude the gain from income if you have owned and used your home as your main home for two years out of the five years prior to the date of its sale.

2. If you have a gain from the sale of your main home, you may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from your income ($500,000 on a joint return in most cases).

3. You are not eligible for the full exclusion if you excluded the gain from the sale of another home during the two-year period prior to the sale of your home.

4. If you can exclude all of the gain, you do not need to report the sale of your home on your tax return.

5. If you have a gain that cannot be excluded, it is taxable. You must report it on Form 1040, Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses.

6. You cannot deduct a loss from the sale of your main home.

7. Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the adjusted basis of the home you sold, the gain (or loss) on the sale, and the gain that you can exclude. Most tax software can also help with
this calculation.

8. If you have more than one home, you can exclude a gain only from the sale of your main home. You must pay tax on the gain from selling any other home. If you have two homes and live in both of them, your main home is ordinarily the one you live in most of the time.

9. Special rules may apply when you sell a home for which you received the first-time homebuyer credit. See Publication 523, Selling Your Home, for details.

10. When you move, be sure to update your address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service to ensure you receive mail from the IRS. Use Form 8822, Change of Address, to notify the IRS of your address change.

For more information about selling your home, see IRS Publication 523, Selling Your Home. This publication is available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM
(800-829-3676).

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IRS Tax Tip: Tax Tips for Recently Married Taxpayers

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If you’ve recently updated your status from single to married, you’re not alone – late spring and summertime is a popular period for weddings. Marriage also brings about some changes with your taxes. Here are several tips for newlyweds from the IRS.

  • Notify the Social Security Administration  It’s important that your name and Social Security number match on your next tax return, so if you’ve taken on a new name, report the change to the Social Security Administration. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The form is available on SSA’s website at www.ssa.gov, by calling 800-772-1213, or visiting a local SSA office.
  • Notify the IRS if you move  IRS Form 8822, Change of Address, is the official way to update the IRS of your address change. Download Form 8822 from IRS.gov or order it by calling 800-TAX-FORM
    (800-829-3676).
  • Notify the U.S. Postal Service  To ensure your mail – including mail from the IRS – is forwarded to your new address, you’ll need to notify the U.S. Postal Service. Submit a forwarding request online at www.usps.com or visit your local post office.
  • Notify your employer  Report your name and/or address change to your employer(s) to make sure you receive your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, after the end of the year.
  • Check your withholding  If you both work, keep in mind that you and your spouse’s combined income may move you into a higher tax bracket. You can use Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, to help determine the correct amount of withholding for your marital status, and it will also help you complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Fill out and print Form W-4 online and give it to your employer(s) so the correct amount will be withheld from your pay.
  • Select the right tax form  Choose your individual income tax form wisely because it can help save you money. Newlywed taxpayers may find that they now have enough deductions to itemize on their tax returns rather than taking the standard deduction. Itemized deductions must be claimed on a Form 1040, not a 1040A or 1040EZ.
  • Choose the best filing status  A person’s marital status on Dec. 31 determines whether the person is considered married for that year for tax purposes. Tax law generally allows married couples to choose to file their federal income tax return either jointly or separately in any given year. Figuring the tax both ways can determine which filing status will result in the lowest tax, but filing jointly is usually more beneficial.

Bottom line: planning for your wedding may be over, but don’t forget about planning for the tax-related changes that marriage brings. More information about changing your name, address and income tax withholding is available on IRS.gov. IRS forms and publications can be obtained from IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

To automatically receive IRS tax tips, visit IRS.gov, click on “News” and select “e-News Subscriptions.”

Links:

  • Form 8822, Change of Address (PDF)
  • Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate (PDF)
  • Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax (PDF)

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IRS Tax Tip: Six Tips for Charitable Taxpayers

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Contributing money and property are ways that you can support a charitable cause, but in order for your donation to be tax-deductible, certain conditions must be met.  Read on for six things the IRS wants taxpayers to know about deductibility of donations.

1. Tax-exempt status. Contributions must be made to qualified charitable organizations to be deductible. Ask the charity about its tax-exempt status, or look for it on IRS.gov in the Exempt Organizations Select Check, an online search tool that allows users to select an exempt organization and check certain information about its federal tax status as well as information about tax forms an organization may file that are available for public review. This search tool can also be used to find which charities have had their exempt status automatically revoked.

2. Itemizing. Charitable contributions are deductible only if you itemize deductions using Form 1040, Schedule A.

3. Fair market value. Cash contributions and the fair market value of most property you donate to a qualified organization are usually deductible. Special rules apply to several types of donated property, including cars, boats, clothing and household items. If you receive something in return for your donation, such as merchandise, goods, services, admission to a charity banquet or sporting event only the amount exceeding the fair market value of the benefit received can be deducted.

4. Records to keep. You should keep good records of any donation you make, regardless of the amount. All cash contributions must be documented to be deductible – even donations of small amounts. A cancelled check, bank or credit card statement, payroll deduction record or a written statement from the charity that includes the charity’s name, contribution date and amount usually fulfill this record-keeping requirement.

5. Large donations. All contributions valued at $250 and above require additional documentation to be deductible. For these, you should receive a written statement from the charity acknowledging your donation. The statement should specify the amount of cash donated and/or provide a description and fair market value of the property donated. It should also say whether the charity provided any goods or services in exchange for your donation. If you donate non-cash items valued at $500 or more, you must also complete a Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, and attach the form to your return. If you claim a contribution of noncash property worth more than $5,000, you typically must obtain a property appraisal and attach it to your return along with Form 8283.

6. Timing. If you pledge to donate to a qualified charity, keep in mind that for most taxpayers contributions are only deductible in the tax year they are actually made. For example, if you pledged $500 in September but paid the charity just $200 by Dec. 31 of that same year, only $200 of the pledged amount may qualify as tax-deductible for that tax year. End-of-year donations by check or credit card usually qualify as tax-deductible for that tax year, even though you may not pay the credit card bill or have your bank account debited until after Dec. 31.

Bottom line: your support of a qualified charitable organization may provide you with a money-saving tax deduction, but conditions do apply. For more information, see IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, and for information on determining value, refer to Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. These publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).
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IRS Tax Tip: Eight Tips for Taxpayers Who Receive an IRS Notice

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Receiving a notice from the Internal Revenue Service is no cause for alarm. Every year the IRS sends millions of letters and notices to taxpayers. In the event one shows up in your mailbox, here are eight things you should know.

1. Don’t panic. Many of these letters can be dealt with very simply.

2. There are a number of reasons the IRS sends notices to taxpayers. The notice may request payment of taxes, notify you of a change to your account or request additional information. The notice you receive normally covers a very specific issue about your account or tax return.

3. Each letter and notice offers specific instructions on what you need to do to satisfy the inquiry.

4. If you receive a notice about a correction to your tax return, you should review the correspondence and compare it with the information on your return.

5. If you agree with the correction to your account, usually no reply is necessary unless a payment is due.

6. If you do not agree with the correction the IRS made, it is important that you respond as requested. Respond to the IRS in writing to explain why you disagree. Include any documents and information you wish the IRS to consider, along with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Mail the information to the IRS address shown in the lower left corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response from the IRS.

7. Most correspondence can be handled without calling or visiting an IRS office. However, if you have questions, call the telephone number in the upper right corner of the notice. When you call, have a copy of your tax return and the correspondence available.

8. Keep copies of any correspondence with your tax records.

For more information about IRS notices and bills, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. For information about penalties and interest charges, see Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax for Individuals. Both publications are available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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