joseph castellano

If you are divorcing or recently divorced, taxes may be the last thing on your mind. However, these events can have a big impact on your wallet. Alimony and a name or address change are just a few items you may need to consider. Here are some key tax tips to keep in mind:

  • Child Support.  Child support payments are not deductible and if you received child support, it is not taxable.
  • Alimony Paid.  You can deduct alimony paid to or for a spouse or former spouse under a divorce or separation decree, regardless of whether you itemize deductions. Voluntary payments made outside a divorce or separation decree are not deductible. You must enter your spouse’s Social Security Number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number on your Form 1040 when you file.
  • Alimony Received.  If you get alimony from your spouse or former spouse, it is taxable in the year you get it. Alimony is not subject to tax withholding so you may need to increase the tax you pay during the year to avoid a penalty. To do this, you can make estimated tax payments or increase the amount of tax withheld from your wages.
  • Spousal IRA.  If you get a final decree of divorce or separate maintenance by the end of your tax year, you can’t deduct contributions you make to your former spouse’s traditional IRA. You may be able to deduct contributions you make to your own traditional IRA.
  • Name Changes.  If you change your name after your divorce, be sure to notify the Social Security Administration. File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on SSA.gov or call 800-772-1213 to order it. The name on your tax return must match SSA records. A name mismatch can cause problems in the processing of your return and may delay your refund.  Health Care Law Considerations.
  • Special Marketplace Enrollment Period.  If you lose health insurance coverage due to divorce, you are still required to have coverage for every month of the year for yourself and the dependents you can claim on your tax return. You may enroll in health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace during a Special Enrollment Period, if you lose coverage due to a divorce.
  • Changes in Circumstances.  If you purchase health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you may get advance payments of the premium tax credit. If you do, you should report changes in circumstances to your Marketplace throughout the year. These changes include a change in marital status, a name change, a change of address, and a change in your income or family size. Reporting these changes will help make sure that you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance. This will also help you avoid getting too much or too little credit in advance.
  • Shared Policy Allocation. If you divorced or are legally separated during the tax year and are enrolled in the same qualified health plan, you and your former spouse must allocate policy amounts on your separate tax returns to figure your premium tax credit and reconcile any advance payments made on your behalf. Publication 974, Premium Tax Credit, has more information about the Shared Policy Allocation. For more on this topic, see Publication 504, Divorced or Separated Individuals. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. IRS.gov offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scamstaxpayer rights and more.

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service is proposing a revised schedule of user fees that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, and apply to any taxpayer who enters into an installment agreement.

The proposal, one of several user fee changes made this year, reflects the law that federal agencies are required to charge a user fee to recover the cost of providing certain services to the public that confer a special benefit to the recipient. Although some installment agreement fees are increasing, the IRS will continue providing reduced-fee or no-cost services to low-income taxpayers.

Installment Agreement Fees
The revised installment agreement fees of up to $225 would be higher for some taxpayers than those currently in effect, which can be up to $120. However, under the revised schedule any affected taxpayer could qualify for a reduced fee by making their request online using the Online Payment Agreement  application on IRS.gov. Moreover, there would be no change to the current $43 rate that applies to the approximately one in three taxpayer requests that qualify under low-income guidelines. These guidelines, which change with family size, would enable a family of four with total income of around $60,000 or less to qualify for the lower fee.  Also, for the first time, any taxpayer regardless of income would qualify for a new low $31 rate by requesting an installment agreement online and choosing to pay what they owe through direct debit.

The top rate of $225 applies to taxpayers who enter into an installment agreement in person, over the phone, by mail or by filing Form 9465 with the IRS. But a taxpayer who establishes an agreement in this manner can substantially cut the fee to just $107 by choosing to make their monthly payments by direct debit from their bank account.

Alternatively, a taxpayer who chooses to set up an installment agreement using the agency’s Online Payment Agreement application will pay a fee of $149. Similarly, they can cut this amount to just $31 by also choosing direct debit.

Proposed Fees
Here is the proposed schedule of user fees:

Regular installment agreement:    $225

Regular direct debit installment agreement:  $107

Online payment agreement:    $149

Direct debit online payment agreement:   $31

Restructured or reinstated installment agreement: $89

Low-income rate:      $43

Further details on these proposed changes can be found in proposed regulations (REG-108792-16), now available in the Federal Register. The IRS welcomes comment on these changes, and a public hearing on the regulations will take place in Washington, D.C. See the proposed regulations for details on submitting comments.

By law, federal agencies are required to charge a user fee to recover the cost of providing certain services to the public that confer a special benefit to the recipient. Installment agreements are an example of a service that confers a special benefit to eligible taxpayers. Agencies must review these fees every two years to determine whether they are recovering the costs of providing these services.

In the past, the IRS often charged less than the full cost for many services in an effort to make them accessible to a broader range of taxpayers. But given current constraints on agency resources, the IRS can no longer continue this practice in most cases.

Nevertheless, the IRS intends to continue providing reduced-fee or no-cost services to low-income taxpayers. For that reason, the IRS will continue subsidizing part of the cost of providing installment agreements to low-income taxpayers.

Understanding your tax obligation is one key to business success. When you start a business, you need to know about income taxes, payroll taxes and much more. Here are five IRS tax tips that can help you get your business off to a good start:

  1. Business Structure. An early choice you need to make is to decide on the type of structure for your business. The most common types are sole proprietor, partnership and corporation. The type of business you choose will determine which tax forms you file.
  2. Business Taxes.  There are four general types of business taxes. They are income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax and excise tax. In most cases, the types of tax your business pays depends on the type of business structure you set up. You may need to make estimated tax payments. If you do, you can use IRS Direct Pay to make them. It’s the fast, easy and secure way to pay from your checking or savings account.
  3. Employer Identification Number (EIN).  You may need to get an EIN for federal tax purposes. Search “do you need an EIN” on IRS.gov to find out if you need this number. If you do need one, you can apply for it online.
  4. Accounting Method.  An accounting method is a set of rules that you use to determine when to report income and expenses. You must use a consistent method. The two that are most common are the cash and accrual methods. Under the cash method, you normally report income and deduct expenses in the year that you receive or pay them. Under the accrual method, you generally report income and deduct expenses in the year that you earn or incur them. This is true even if you get the income or pay the expense in a later year.
  5. Employee Health Care.  The Small Business Health Care Tax Credit helps small businesses and tax-exempt organizations pay for health care coverage they offer their employees. You’re eligible for the credit if you have fewer than 25 employees who work full-time, or a combination of full-time and part-time. The maximum credit is 50 percent of premiums paid for small business employers and 35 percent of premiums paid for small tax-exempt employers, such as charities. For more information on your health care responsibilities as an employer, see the Affordable Care Act for Employers page on IRS.gov.

Get all the basics of starting a business on IRS.gov at the Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. IRS.gov offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scamstaxpayer rights and more.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced important changes to help taxpayers comply with revisions to the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) program made under a new law. The changes require some taxpayers to renew their ITINs beginning in October.

The new law will mean ITINs that have not been used on a federal tax return at least once in the last three years will no longer be valid for use on a tax return unless renewed by the taxpayer. In addition, ITINs issued prior to 2013 that have been used on a federal tax return in the last three years will need to be renewed starting this fall, and the IRS is putting in place a rolling renewal schedule, described below, to assist taxpayers.

If taxpayers have an expired ITIN and don’t renew before filing a tax return next year, they could face a refund delay and may be ineligible for certain tax credits, such as the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit, until the ITIN is renewed.

“The ITIN program is critical to allow millions of people to meet their tax obligations,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “The IRS will be taking steps to help taxpayers with these changes, and we’re designing this effort to minimize the burden as much as possible. We will be working with partner groups on an outreach effort to share information about these changes to ensure people understand what they need to do in advance of next year’s tax season.”

The ITIN changes are required by the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act enacted by Congress in December 2015. These provisions, along with new procedures to help taxpayers navigate these changes, are outlined in IRS Notice 2016-48, which was released today.

Who Has to Renew an ITIN

The IRS emphasizes that no action is needed by ITIN holders if they don’t need to file a tax return next year. There are two key groups of ITIN holders who may need to renew an ITIN so it will be in effect for returns filed in 2017:

  • Unused ITINs. ITINs not used on a federal income tax return in the last three years (covering 2013, 2014, or 2015) will no longer be valid to use on a tax return as of Jan. 1, 2017. ITIN holders in this group who need to file a tax return next year will need to renew their ITINs. The renewal period begins Oct. 1, 2016.
  • Expiring ITINs. ITINs issued before 2013 will begin expiring this year, and taxpayers will need to renew them on a rolling basis. The first ITINs that will expire under this schedule are those with middle digits of 78 and 79 (Example: 9XX-78-XXXX). The renewal period for these ITINs begins Oct. 1, 2016. The IRS will mail letters to this group of taxpayers starting in August to inform them of the need to renew their ITINs if they need to file a tax return and explain steps they need to take. The schedule for expiration and renewal of ITINs that do not have middle digits of 78 and 79 will be announced at a future date.

How to Renew an ITIN

Only ITIN holders who need to file a tax return need to renew their ITINs. Others do not need to take any action.

Starting Oct. 1, 2016, ITIN holders can begin renewing ITINs that are no longer in effect because of three years of nonuse or that have a middle digit of 78 or 79.  To renew an ITIN, taxpayers must complete a Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, follow the instructions and include all information and documentation required. To reduce burden on taxpayers, the IRS will not require individuals renewing an ITIN to attach a tax return when submitting their Form W-7. Taxpayers are reminded to use the newest version of the Form W-7 available at the time of renewal which will be posted in September (Use version “Rev. 9-2016”).

There are three methods taxpayers can use to submit their W-7 application package to renew their ITIN. They can:

  • Mail their Form W-7 – along with the original identification documents or certified copies by the agency that issued them — to the IRS address listed on the form (identification documents will be returned within 60 days),
  • Use one of the many IRS authorized Certified Acceptance Agents or Acceptance Agents around the country, or
  • In advance, call and make an appointment at an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center in lieu of mailing original identification documents to the IRS.

Other Steps to Help Taxpayers

To make this renewal effort easier and reduce paperwork, the IRS will be offering a family option for ITIN renewal. If any individual having an ITIN middle digit of 78 or 79 receives a renewal letter from the IRS, they can choose to renew the ITINs of all of their family members at the same time rather than doing them separately over several years. Family members include the tax filer, the spouse and any dependents claimed on their tax return.

The IRS is also working closely with a variety of partner and outreach groups to share information about the ITIN changes and help raise awareness about the new guidelines. The IRS will be providing additional information and material to share with these groups and taxpayers in the near future.

“We encourage people who need to renew their ITINs to plan ahead and take action this fall to avoid issues when they file tax returns in early 2017,” Koskinen said.

New requirement for dependents whose passports do not have a date of entry into the U.S.

Beginning Oct. 1, 2016, the IRS will no longer accept passports that do not have a date of entry into the U.S. as a stand-alone identification document for dependents from countries other than Canada or Mexico or dependents of military members overseas. Affected applicants will now be required to submit either U.S. medical records for dependents under age six or U.S. school records for dependents under age 18, along with the passport. Dependents aged 18 and over can submit a rental or bank statement or a utility bill listing the applicant’s name and U.S. address, along with their passport.

Other information about ITINs

ITINs are for federal tax purposes only and are not intended to serve any other purpose. ITINs that are only used on information returns filed with the IRS by third parties do not need to be renewed. An ITIN does not authorize one to work in the United States or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit. ITINs are not valid identification outside the tax system and do not establish immigration status.

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

If you pay for college in 2016, you may receive some tax savings on your federal tax return, even if you’re studying outside of the U.S. Both the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit may reduce the amount of tax you owe, but only the AOTC is partially refundable.

Here are a few things you should know about education credits:

  • American Opportunity Tax Credit ‒ The AOTC is worth up to $2,500 per year for an eligible student. This credit is available for the first four years of higher education. Forty percent of the AOTC is refundable. That means, if you’re eligible, you can get up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund, even if you do not owe any tax.
  • Lifetime Learning Credit ‒ The LLC is worth up to $2,000 per tax return. There is no limit on the number of years that you can claim the LLC for an eligible student.
  • Qualified expenses ‒ You may use only qualified expenses paid to figure your credit. These expenses include the costs you pay for tuition, fees and other related expenses for an eligible student to enroll at, or attend, an eligible educational institution. Refer to IRS.gov for more on the rules that apply to each credit.
  • Eligible educational institutions ‒ Eligible educational schoolsare those that offer education beyond high school. This includes most colleges and universities. Vocational schools or other postsecondary schools may also qualify. If you aren’t sure if your school is eligible:
    • Ask your school if it is an eligible educational institution, or
    • See if your school is on the U.S. Department of Education’s Accreditation database.
  • Form 1098-T ‒ In most cases, you should receive Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement, from your school by February 1. This form reports your qualified expenses to the IRS and to you. The amounts shown on the form may be either:  (1) the amount you paid for qualified tuition and related expenses, or (2) the amount that your school billed for qualified tuition and related expenses; therefore, the amounts shown on the form may be different than the amounts you actually paid. Don’t forget that you can only claim an education credit for the qualified tuition and related expenses that you paid in the tax year and not just the amount that your school billed.
  • Income limits ‒ The education credits are subject to income limitations and may be reduced, or eliminated, based on your income.
  • Interactive Tax Assistant tool ‒ To see if you’re eligible to claim education credits, use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS YouTube Videos:

IRS Podcasts:

Share this tip on social media — #IRStaxtip: Back to School? Learn about Tax Credit for Eduction. http://go.usa.gov/x2rHC #IRS

Each year, many people get a larger refund than they expect. Some find they owe a lot more tax than they thought they would. If this has happened to you, review your situation to prevent a tax surprise. Did you marry? Have a child? Change in income? Life events can have a major impact on your taxes. Bring the taxes you pay closer to the amount you owe. Here are some tips to help you come up with a plan:

  • New Job. When you start a new job, you must fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, and give it to your employer. Your employer will use the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your pay. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov to help you fill out the form. This tool is easy to use and it’s available 24/7.
  • Estimated Tax. If you earn income that is not subject to withholding you may need to pay estimated tax. This may include income such as self-employment, interest, dividends or rent. If you expect to owe $1,000 or more in tax, and meet other conditions, you may need to pay this tax. You normally pay it four times a year. Use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure the tax.
  • Life Events. Check to see if you need to change your Form W-4 or change the amount of estimated tax you pay when certain life events take place. A change in your marital status, the birth of a child or the purchase of a new home can change the amount of taxes you owe. In most cases, you can submit a new Form W–4 to your employer anytime.
  • Changes in Circumstances. If you are receiving advance payments of the premium tax credit, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance payments of the premium tax credit help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

For more see Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. IRS.gov offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scams, taxpayer rights and more.

Miscellaneous deductions may reduce your tax bill. These may include certain expenses you paid for in your work if you are an employee. You must itemize deductions when you file to claim these costs. Many taxpayers claim the standard deduction, but you might pay less tax if you itemize. Here are some IRS tax tips you should know about these deductions:

The Two Percent Limit. You can deduct most miscellaneous costs only if their sum is more than two percent of your adjusted gross income. These include expenses such as:

  • Unreimbursed employee expenses.
  • Job search costs for a new job in the same line of work.
  • Tools for your job.
  • Union dues.
  • Work-related travel and transportation.
  • The cost you paid to prepare your tax return. These fees include the cost you paid for tax preparation software. They also include any fee you paid for e-filing of your return.

Deductions Not Subject to the Limit. Some deductions are not subject to the two percent limit. They include:

  • Certain casualty and theft losses. In most cases, this rule is for damaged or stolen property you held for investment. This may include property such as stocks, bonds and works of art.
  • Gambling losses up to the total of your gambling winnings.
  • Losses from Ponzi-type investment schemes.

You can’t deduct some expenses. For example, you can’t deduct personal living or family expenses. Claim allowable miscellaneous deductions on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. For more about this topic see Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

IRS Tax Tips provide valuable information throughout the year. IRS.gov offers tax help and info on various topics including common tax scams, taxpayer rights and more.

 

The Internal Revenue Service today announced the winners of its first crowdsourcing competition, called the “Tax Design Challenge,” that encouraged innovative ideas for the taxpayer experience of the future.

Out of 48 submissions, winners from California, Minnesota and Washington, D.C., were among those selected in categories covering overall design, taxpayer usefulness and best financial capability.

The three-week competition invited the public to imagine the taxpayer experience of the future and specifically design an online experience that better organizes and presents a person’s tax information.  The goal was to make it easier for a person to manage their tax responsibilities, and use their own tax data to make informed and effective decisions about their personal finances.

“This was a first-time endeavor for the IRS and one that reflects our strong commitment to engaging the public in efforts to build for the future state of tax administration,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We saw a strong response from the participants, and the winning designs are creative displays of what a future online taxpayer account could look like.”

The effort was done in coordination with the Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA) and engaged teams of designers, developers and innovative thinkers across the U.S. to envision options for taxpayer interactions.

“MBA was honored to join with IRS and sponsor this innovative partnership. The winning designs represent critical first steps towards the worthy goal of making taxpayer information easier to safely and swiftly obtain, for instance, when one is applying for a mortgage,” said David H. Stevens, CMB, President and CEO of the Mortgage Bankers Association. “The mortgage banking industry is innovating, and we are looking forward to continuing to work with the IRS and all stakeholders to build on the Tax Design Challenge’s success.”

A review panel considered each submission for all three prize categories listed below and selected winners based on defined criteria. The winners selected are:

Overall Design

$10,000 (1st):  Andrew Miller, “IRS MyService,” San Francisco

$5,000 (2nd): Andrea Angquist, “IRS 365,” San Francisco

Best Taxpayer Usefulness

$2,000 (1st): Andrew Miller, “IRS MyService,” San Francisco

$1,000 (2nd): Andrea Angquist, “IRS 365,” San Francisco

Best Financial Capability

$2,000 (1st): Sam Nguyen and Vidhika Bansal, “taxes,” Washington D.C.

$1,000 (2nd): Dante Vono, “MyTax Online,” Minnesota

The Tax Design Challenge is part of the broader effort to plan for the future state of tax administration.  Participants were challenged to organize and present tax data in new ways that make tax information easier to understand and use.

Monetary prizes were funded exclusively by the Mortgage Bankers Association, and winners were recognized at an event today in Washington.

Since 2010, the federal government has administered more than 660 prize competitions.  The Tax Design Challenge is authorized under the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act (Pub. L. 111-358).

For more about this government-wide program, visit www.challenge.gov.

Must-Know Tips about the Home Office Deduction

If you use your home for business, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. If you qualify, you can claim the deduction whether you rent or own your home. You may use either the simplified method or the regular method to claim your deduction. Here are six tips that you should know about the home office deduction:

  1. Regular and Exclusive Use.As a general rule, you must use a part of your home regularly and exclusively for business purposes. The part of your home used for business must also be:
  • Your principal place of business, or
  • A place where you meet clients or customers in the normal course of business, or
  • A separate structure not attached to your home. Examples could include a garage or a studio.
  1. Simplified Option.If you use the simplified option, multiply the allowable square footage of your office by a rate of $5. The maximum footage allowed is 300 square feet. This option will save you time because it simplifies how you figure and claim the deduction. It will also make it easier for you to keep records. This option does not change the rules for claiming a home office deduction.
  2. Regular Method.This method includes certain costs that you paid for your home. For example, if you rent your home, part of the rent you paid may qualify. If you own your home, part of the mortgage interest, taxes and utilities you paid may qualify. The amount you can deduct usually depends on the percentage of your home used for business.
  3. Deduction Limit.If your gross income from the business use of your home is less than your expenses, the deduction for some expenses may be limited.
  4. Self-Employed.If you are self-employed and choose the regular method, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount you can deduct. You can claim your deduction using either method on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business. See the Schedule C instructions for how to report your deduction.
  5. Employees.You must meet additional rules to claim the deduction if you are an employee. For example, your business use must also be for the convenience of your employer. If you qualify, you claim the deduction on Schedule A, Itemized Deductions.

For more on this topic, see Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home. You can view, download and print IRS tax forms and publications on IRS.gov/forms anytime.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

If you gave money or goods to a charity in 2015, you may be able to claim a deduction on your federal tax return. Here are six important facts you should know about charitable donations.

1. Qualified Charities. You must donate to a qualified charity. Gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates are not deductible. An exception to this rule is contributions under the Slain Officer Family Support Act of 2015. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool.

2. Itemize Deductions. To deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your federal tax return.

3. Benefit in Return. If you get something in return for your donation, you may have to reduce your deduction. You can only deduct the amount of your gift that is more than the value of what you got in return. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event or other goods and services.

4. Type of Donation. If you give property instead of cash, your deduction amount is normally limited to the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get if you sold the property on the open market. If you donate used clothing and household items, they generally must be in good condition, or better, to be deductible. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations.

5. Form to File and Records to Keep. You must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, for all noncash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year. If you need to prepare a Form 8283, you can prepare and e-file your tax return for free using IRS Free File. The type of records you must keep depends on the amount and type of your donation. To learn more about what records to keep see Publication 526.

6. Donations of $250 or More. If you donated cash or goods of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the charity. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether you received any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

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