Tax Law Changes Started or Continuing in 2017

Tax Law Changes Started or Continuing in 2017

 IR-2016-139, Oct. 25, 2016

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today announced the tax year 2017  annual inflation adjustments for more than 50 tax provisions, including the tax rate schedules, and other tax changes. Revenue Procedure 2016-55 provides details about these annual adjustments. The tax year 2017 adjustments generally are used on tax returns filed in 2018.

The tax items for tax year 2017 of greatest interest to most taxpayers include the following:

Estate Tax

Estates of decedents who die during 2017 have a basic exclusion amount of $5,490,000, up from a total of $5,450,000 for estates of decedents who died in 2016.

Social Security Wage Base

The Social Security wage base remains $127,200.

Individual Responsibility Penalties

Penalties are assessed for each month that any individual does not have the minimum essential health insurance coverage. In 2017 the penalty remains at $695 per adult, or 2.5% of income with a family maximum of $2,085.

Premium Tax Credits for Health Coverage

Some taxpayers who obtain health insurance coverage through a qualified marketplace may qualify for health premium tax credits to subsidize the cost of coverage.

Deduction for State and Local Income Taxes

State and local income taxes remains an itemized deduction.

Exclusion From Income of Canceled Debt on Qualified Principal Residence

Debt cancelled from the short sale, foreclosure, or mortgage modification for Qualified Principal Residences is no longer excludable from income under the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act. This was extended to the end of 2016. This could also apply to debt that was discharged in 2017 provided that there was a written agreement entered into in 2016.

Standard & Itemized Deductions – Schedule A

The standard deduction for married filing jointly rises to $12,700 for tax year 2017, up $100 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $6,350 in 2017, up from $6,300 in 2016, and for heads of households, the standard deduction will be $9,350 for tax year 2017, up from $9,300 for tax year 2016.

The limitation for itemized deductions to be claimed on tax year 2017 returns of individuals begins with incomes of $287,650 or more ($313,800 for married couples filing jointly).

Personal Exemption Amount Increases

The personal exemption for tax year 2017 remains as it was for 2016: $4,050.  However, the exemption is subject to a phase-out that begins with adjusted gross incomes of $261,500 ($313,800 for married couples filing jointly). It phases out completely at $384,000 ($436,300 for married couples filing jointly.)

Tuition and Fees Deduction

The deduction for tuition and fees is no longer available. The  American Opportunity Credit and Lifetime Learning Credit are both still available to qualified taxpayers.

Deduction for Medical Expenses

Starting in 2017, all taxpayers, including those over 65, are now subject to the 10% of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) threshold for deducting medical expenses.

Earned Income Credit

The tax year 2017 maximum Earned Income Credit amount is $6,318 for taxpayers filing jointly who have 3 or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,269 for tax year 2016. The revenue procedure has a table providing maximum credit amounts for other categories, income thresholds and phase-outs.

Medical Savings Accounts

For tax year 2017 participants who have self-only coverage in a Medical Savings Account, the plan must have an annual deductible that is not less than $2,250 but not more than $3,350; these amounts remain unchanged from 2016. For self-only coverage the maximum out of pocket expense amount  is $4,500, up $50 from 2016. For tax year 2017 participants with family coverage, the floor for the annual deductible is $4,500, up from $4,450 in 2016, however the deductible cannot be more than $6,750, up $50 from the limit for tax year 2016. For family coverage, the out of pocket expense limit is $8,250 for tax year 2017, an increase of $100 from  tax year 2016.

The Alternative Minimum Tax

The exemption amount for tax year 2017 is $54,300 and begins to phase out at $120,700 ($84,500, for married couples filing jointly for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $160,900). The 2016 exemption amount was $53,900 ($83,800 for married couples filing jointly).  For tax year 2017, the 28 percent tax rate applies to taxpayers with taxable incomes above $187,800 ($93,900 for married individuals filing separately).

Foreign Earned Income

For tax year 2017, the foreign earned income exclusion is $102,100, up from $101,300 for tax year 2016.

Seven Mid-Year Tax Moves

Seven Mid-Year Tax Moves

After April 15, most of us are happy to ban all thoughts of income tax until next April’s deadline looms. But taking a little time to do a mid-year check-in and tune up can really be worth it – saving you last-minute panic and big bucks. Summer is a good time to make sure you’re on track because, for a lot of people, the pace is a little slower.  If you wait until year-end to check on your tax status, you’ll be right in the middle of holiday season. And summer is your tax advisor’s slow time, too. Here are some points experts recommend you cover in a mid-year checkup.

1. If you have an extension to file your 2016 tax return, do it now.

Why wait until Oct. 15, when the return is due? If you’re expecting a refund, the money should be earning interest for you, not the government. And if by some chance you’ve miscalculated (and underpaid) the tax you owe, the sooner you pay up the better. Penalties and interest start to accrue the day after the April tax deadline, even if you have filed for an extension.  And if the reason you’ve been procrastinating about filing is because you can’t pay what you owe, “don’t let that stop you ….. File the return – you can always ask for an installment plan to pay.”

2. Are you on track with tax payments so far?

If you’ve had, or expect to have, any life-changing events during the year – marriage, divorce, having a child, buying a house, a spouse taking or leaving a job – you may need to adjust the amount of tax that’s being withheld from your paycheck. You don’t want to give Uncle Sam a big interest-free loan, but you don’t want any underpayment penalties, either (although they’re only 3% right now). The IRS has a withholding calculator, so you can get it right. If you need to make any adjustments, file a new W-4 form with your employer.

If you’re self-employed and make estimated tax payments it’s helpful to closely monitor your income and expenses throughout the year, so that you know what you owe and set aside enough money to make the quarterly installments. There’s a “safe harbor” with no underpayment penalties if you pay at least 100% of the tax you owed last year (110% if your adjusted gross income last year was more than $150,000) or 90% of the current year’s tax.

But there may be surprises in store for high-income taxpayers, especially if you’re landing in that category for the first time.  It’s not so hard for a married couple to find themselves hitting the $250,000 threshold. When that happens, new tax issues come up, such as additional Medicare taxes and the phase-out of personal exemptions and itemized deductions, which you’ll need to account for in your estimated taxes and withholding.

3. Eyeball your retirement accounts.

Could you afford to bump up your contributions or even max them out? “Some companies are limiting and cutting back on their 401(k) contributions, but that doesn’t mean YOU should. Check on your investments and asset allocation.

4. Are you close to the itemize/don’t-itemize point for deductions?

If so, you may want to use a strategy called bunching, in which you push discretionary write-offs into a year when you’re going to itemize, rather than one when you take the standard deduction. Think of scenarios / examples such as the following: At mid-year, it looks like you’re almost at the point where you could itemize. You usually give $1,000 to a particular charity each year. You’re close to retirement, so next year you won’t need the deductions to offset as much income. So this year you double up on your contribution to take advantage of itemization when you need it.

5. Get organized – there’s an app for that.

Who hasn’t vowed on April 16, “Next year I’m going to stay on top of my tax receipts”.  If you still haven’t acted on that vow, avoid another marathon session of receipt logging next April by enlisting the help of an app. For instance, Shoeboxed Receipt and Mileage Tracker lets you scan receipts (valid for IRS documentation) with your iPhone, iPad or Android mobile device, making it easy to track your expenses and deductions as you go along. The DIY program is free, or you can choose a paid plan (starting at $9.95/month after a free trial) that lets you mail in your receipts. Keeping up-to-date with expenses and maximizing your tax deductions is particularly important if you have business travel and entertainment expenses, or need to track business use of your personal car.

6. Are you within tax limits for renting out your vacation home?

If you rent out your vacation home when you’re not using it, you can generally deduct expenses such as mortgage interest, real estate taxes, casualty losses, maintenance, utilities, insurance and depreciation against your rental income. But you won’t be able to take a loss if you make personal use of the home for more than 14 days a year, or 10% of the days it is rented to others at a fair rental price (whichever is greater). If you spend the day at your home making repairs, it’s not considered personal use, even if your family is there for other reasons. But if you rent the home to a close family member, even at market rate, it is.

7. Could you be taking advantage of the 25D energy credit?

The 25C energy credit expired at the end of 2013, but the 25D credit has been extended to last through Dec. 31, 2021. It covers 30% of the cost of solar water heaters, solar panels that generate electricity directly for your home, small wind turbines, “qualified fuel cell property” and geothermal heat pumps. It can be used for a primary residence or a vacation home that you own.

The Bottom Line

Take advantage of summer to lock in tax breaks and catch up with any payments you owe. It’s the slow period in the world of tax advising, and, therefore, a good time to plan ahead before the year speeds up in December.

 

Due Date Approaches for 2016 Federal Income Tax Returns

Due Date Approaches for 2016 Federal Income Tax Returns

Tax filing season is here again. If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to start pulling things together — that includes getting your hands on a copy of last year’s tax return and gathering W-2s, 1099s, and deduction records. You’ll need these records whether you’re preparing your own return or paying someone else to do your taxes for you.

Don’t procrastinate

The filing deadline for most individuals is Tuesday, April 18, 2017. That’s because April 15 falls on a Saturday, and Emancipation Day, a legal holiday in Washington, D.C., is celebrated on Monday, April 17. Unlike last year, there’s no extra time for residents of Massachusetts or Maine to file because Patriots’ Day (a holiday in those two states) falls on April 17 — the same day that Emancipation Day is being celebrated.

Filing for an extension

If you don’t think you’re going to be able to file your federal income tax return by the due date, you can file for and obtain an extension using IRS Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Filing this extension gives you an additional six months (to October 16, 2017) to file your federal income tax return. You can also file for an extension electronically — instructions on how to do so can be found in the Form 4868 instructions.

Filing for an automatic extension does not provide any additional time to pay your tax! When you file for an extension, you have to estimate the amount of tax you will owe and pay this amount by the April filing due date. If you don’t pay the amount you’ve estimated, you may owe interest and penalties. In fact, if the IRS believes that your estimate was not reasonable, it may void your extension.

Note: Special rules apply if you’re living outside the country or serving in the military and on duty outside the United States. In these circumstances you are generally allowed an automatic two-month extension without filing Form 4868, though interest will be owed on any taxes due that are paid after April 18. If you served in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area, you may be eligible for a longer extension of time to file.

What if you owe?

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not filing your return because you owe money. If your return shows a balance due, file and pay the amount due in full by the due date if possible. If there’s no way that you can pay what you owe, file the return and pay as much as you can afford. You’ll owe interest and possibly penalties on the unpaid tax, but you’ll limit the penalties assessed by filing your return on time, and you may be able to work with the IRS to pay the remaining balance (options can include paying the unpaid balance in installments).

Expecting a refund?

The IRS is stepping up efforts to combat identity theft and tax refund fraud. New, more aggressive filters that are intended to curtail fraudulent refunds may inadvertently delay some legitimate refund requests. In fact, beginning this year, a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds on all tax returns claiming the earned income tax credit or the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit until at least February 15.

Most filers, though, can expect a refund check to be issued within 21 days of the IRS receiving a return.

IRS Issue Number: HCTT-2016-68 Maintaining Eligibility for Advance Payments of the Premium Tax Credit

To Maintain Eligibility for Advance Payments of the Premium Tax Credit, File ASAP

The IRS is sending letters to taxpayers who received advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2016, but who have not yet filed their tax return. You must file a tax return to reconcile any advance credit payments you received in 2016 and to maintain your eligibility for future premium assistance. If you do not file, you will not be eligible for advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2017.

If you receive Letter 5858 or 5862, you are being reminded to file your 2016 federal tax return along with Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit.  The letter encourages you to file within 30 days of the date of the letter to substantially increase your chances of avoiding a gap in receiving assistance with paying Marketplace health insurance coverage in 2017.

Here’s what you need to do if you received a 5858

  • Read your letter carefully.
  • Review the situation to see if you agree with the information in the letter.
  • Use the Form 1095-A that you received from your Marketplace to complete your return. If you need a copy of your Form 1095-A, log in to your HealthCare.gov or state Marketplace account or call your Marketplace call center.
  • File your 2016 tax return with Form 8962 as soon as possible, even if you don’t normally have to file.
  • If you have already filed your 2016 tax return with Form 8962, you can disregard the letter.

Here’s what you need to do if you received a 5862 letter:

  • Read your letter carefully.
  • Review the situation to see if you agree with the information in the letter.
  • Use the Form 1095-A that you received from your Marketplace to complete Form 8962. If you need a copy of your Form 1095-A, log in to your HealthCare.gov or state Marketplace account or call your Marketplace call center.
  • File your 2016 tax return with Form 8962 as soon as possible, even though you have an extension until October 15, 2017, to file.

.

New Tax Due Dates & Extension Periods

New Tax Due Dates & Extension Periods for Most Entities for Tax Year 2016

Many bills that Congress passes contain provisions that affect items that aren’t related to the main bill. The “Surface Transportation and Veteran’s Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015” is one such bill. Primarily a stopgap extension of the Highway Trust Fund, this bill also includes tax provisions that impact the due dates of a number of returns and other required filings.

The due date changes with the most impact will likely be those changes for partnership tax returns (Form 1065) and C Corporation tax returns. Essentially the due dates have swapped. The significant reorganization of due dates is intended to assist individuals involved in pass-through entities in receiving information required to prepare their individual returns in a more timely fashion.

For tax returns reporting 2016 information that are due in 2017, the following due date changes will apply.  These changes are effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2015 for calendar year filers (tax year 2016 and beyond):

Form 2016 Filing Due Date(Tax   Year 2015) 2017 Filing Due Date(Tax Year 2016)
Form 1065 – Partnerships April 15th March 15th
Form 1065 Extension September 15th September 15th
C Corporations March 15th April 15th
S Corporations March 15th March 15th
C Corporations & S Corporation Extensions September 15th September 15th
Form 1040 Individual April 15th April 15th
Form 1120 C Corporation w/June 30 Fiscal Year September 15th September 15th
C Corporation Extension w/June 30 Fiscal Year March 15th April 15th
C CorporationFiscal   Year End (other than Dec. 31 or June 30) 15th day of 3rd month after year-end 15th day of 4th month after year-end
C Corporation Extension Fiscal Year End (other than Dec. 31 or June 30) 15th day of 9th monthafter year-end 15th day of 10th month after year-end
Form 1040 Extension October 15th October 15th
Form 1041 Trust & Estate April 15th April 15th
Form 1041 Extension September 15th September 30th
Form 5500 series –   Employee Benefit Plan July15th July 15th
Form 5500 series – Employee Benefit Plan Extension October 15th October 15th
Information Returns (i.e., W-2 and 1099s) To   IRS/SSA — Feb. 28 andMarch 31 if filed electronically Forms   W-2 and certain 1099-MISC due to IRS/SSA Jan. 31. All other Forms 1099 due   Feb. 28; March 31 if filed electronically

For fiscal year filers:

  • Partnership and S Corporation tax returns will be due the 15th day of the third month after the end of their tax year. The filing date for S Corporations is unchanged.
  • C Corporation tax returns will be due the 15th day of the fourth month after the end of the tax year.  A special rule to defer the due date change for C Corporations with fiscal years that end on June 30 defers the change until December 31, 2025 – a full ten years.

Other changes include:

  • Filers of U.S. Return of Partnership Income (Form 1065) will have a longer extension period, a maximum of six months, rather than the current five month extension, leaving the current (2015 and prior years) extended due date in place (September 15th for calendar year taxpayers.)
  • U.S. Income Tax Return for Estates and Trusts (Form 1041) will have a maximum extension of five and a half months, two weeks longer than the current (2015 and prior years) five month extension.
  • Annual Return/Report of Employee Benefit Plans will have a maximum automatic extension of three and a half months.
  • The Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (FinCEN Report 114, FBAR) will be due on April 15th and permitted to extend for six months, thus aligning the FBAR reporting with the individual tax return reporting. Additionally, the IRS may waive the penalty for failure to file a timely extension request for any taxpayer required to file for the first time.

If you have any questions about these new due dates and/or the impact on your tax filings, please contact Alice, our qualified tax professional at (928)680-1300

 

Understanding the Net Investment Income Tax

Understanding the Net Investment Income Tax

It’s been around since 2013, but many are still struggling to come to grips with the net investment income tax. The 3.8% tax, which is sometimes referred to as the Medicare surtax on net investment income, affected approximately 3.1 million federal income tax returns for 2013 (the only year for which data is available) to the tune of almost $11.7 billion.1 Here’s what you need to know.

What is it?

The net investment income tax is a 3.8% “extra” tax that applies to certain investment income in addition to any other income tax due. Whether you’re subject to the tax depends on two general factors: the amount of your modified adjusted gross income for the year, and how much net investment income you have.

Note:  Nonresident aliens are not subject to the net investment income tax.

What income thresholds apply?

Modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is basically adjusted gross income–the amount that shows up on line 37 of your IRS Form 1040–with certain amounts excluded from income added back in.

The net investment income tax applies only   if your modified adjusted gross income exceeds the following thresholds:

Filing Status MAGI
Married filing jointly or qualifying   widow(er) $250,000
Married filing   separately $125,000
Single or head of   household $200,000

What is net investment income?

Investment income generally includes interest, dividends, capital gains, rental and royalty income, income from nonqualified annuities, and income from passive business activities and businesses engaged in the trade of financial instruments or commodities. Investment income does not include wages, unemployment compensation, Social Security benefits, tax-exempt interest, self-employment income, or distributions from most qualified retirement plans and IRAs.

Note:  Even though items like wages and retirement plan distributions aren’t included in net investment income, they are obviously a factor in calculating MAGI. So higher levels of non-investment income can still make a difference in whether the net investment income tax applies.

Gain from the sale of a personal residence would generally be included in determining investment income. However, investment income does not include any amount of gain that is excluded from gross income for regular income tax purposes. Qualifying individuals are generally able to exclude the first $250,000–or $500,000 for married couples filing jointly–of gain on the sale of a principal residence; any of the gain that’s excluded for regular income tax purposes would not be included in determining investment income.

To calculate net investment income, you reduce your gross investment income by any deductible expenses that can be allocated to the income.  So, for example, associated investment interest expense, investment and brokerage fees, expenses associated with rental and royalty income, and state and local income taxes can all be factored in.

How is the tax calculated?

You know your modified adjusted gross income. You know your net investment income. To calculate the net investment income tax, first subtract the threshold figure (shown above) for your filing status from your MAGI. Then compare the result with your net investment income. Multiply the lower of the two figures by 3.8%.

For example, assume you and your spouse file a joint federal income tax return and have $270,000 in MAGI and $50,000 in net investment income. Your MAGI is $20,000 over the $250,000 threshold for married couples filing jointly. You would owe $760 (3.8% multiplied by $20,000), because the tax is based on the lesser of net investment income or MAGI exceeding the threshold.

How is it reported?

If you’re subject to the net investment income tax, you must complete IRS Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax–Individuals, Estates, and Trusts, and attach it to your federal income tax return (you must file IRS Form 1040). The instructions for IRS Form 8960 provide an overview of the rules that apply and can be a good source of additional information. If you think you may be affected by the net investment income tax, though, it’s a good idea to consider  discussing your individual situation with a tax professional.

1IRS Statistics of Income Bulletin, Spring 2015

Health Insurance Documents – Forms 1095-A, 1095-B & 1095-C

irs.gov Issue Number:    HCTT 2016-36

Keep your Health Insurance Documents with Your Tax Records

Gathering documents and keeping well-organized records make it easier to prepare a tax return. They can also help provide answers if the IRS needs to follow-up with you for more information.

This year marks the first time that you may receive information forms about health insurance coverage.

The information forms are:

You do not need to send these forms to IRS as proof of your health coverage. However, you should keep any documentation with your other tax records. This includes records of your family’s employer-provided coverage, premiums paid, and type of coverage. You should keep these – as you do other tax records – generally for three years after you file your tax return.

When preparing 2015 tax returns, most people will simply have to check a box to indicate they and everyone on their tax return had health care coverage for the entire year. You will not need to file any additional forms, unless you are claiming the premium tax credit or a coverage exemption. In which case, you will use Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit, or Form 8965, Health Coverage Exemptions.

For more information about the information forms, see our Questions and Answers on IRS.gov/aca.

WHO CAN BE CLAIMED AS A DEPENDENT?

WHAT IS A DEPENDENT:

This is a question I get asked all the time…Who and what qualifies as a dependent on my tax return?? To help taxpayers navigate this gray area, here are the tests necessary to claim someone as your dependent

First and foremost, whether they are your child or your girlfriend/boyfriend, a dependent is a person other than the taxpayer or spouse who entitles the taxpayer to claim a dependency exemption.

  1. You cannot claim them if you can be claimed as a dependent by another person.
  2. They cannot file a joint tax return (in most cases).
  3. They must be a U.S. citizen, resident alien, national, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.

In order to claim a child as a dependent, these five additional tests must be met:

  • Relationship test: Must be your child, adopted child, foster-child, brother or sister, or a descendant of one of these (grandchild or nephew).
  • Residency test: Must have the same residence for more than half the year.
  • Age test: Must be under age 19 or under 24 and a full-time student for at least 5 months. Can be any age if they are totally and permanently disabled.
  • Support test: Must not have provided more than half of their own support during the year.
  • Joint support test: The child cannot file a joint return for the year.

The next four tests determine where a relative or sweetheart qualifies as a dependent:

  • They are not the “qualifying child” of another taxpayer or your “qualifying child.”
  • Gross income: Dependent earns less than $3950 taxable income in 2014
  • Total support: You provide more than half of the total support for the year.
  • Member of household or relationship: The person must live with you all year as a member of your household or be one of the relatives who doesn’t have to live with you (see IRS Publication 501 for a list of qualifying relatives.)

You can even claim a boyfriend, girlfriend, domestic partner, or friend as a qualifying relative if:

  • They are a member of your household the entire year.
  • The relationship between you and the dependent does not violate the law, meaning you can’t still be married to someone else. Also check your individual state law, since some states do not allow you to claim a boyfriend or girlfriend as a dependent even if your relationship doesn’t violate the law.
  • You meet the other criteria for “qualifying relatives” (gross income and support).

Once you’ve determined who in your life can be claimed as a dependent, be sure to take advantage of the following tax deductions and credits:

Dependent exemption: Have you been supporting your boyfriend or girlfriend? If he or she meets the above tests, this may entitle you to a deduction of $4,000

Child tax credit: Depending on your income, you can claim up to $1,000 per qualifying child (>16 years)

• The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC): This is a tax credit that helps working families pay expenses for the care of children, adult dependents or an incapacitated spouse. Families can claim up to $3,000 in dependent care expenses for one child/dependent and $6,000 for two children/dependents per year. The credit is worth between 20 percent and 35 percent of these expenses, depending on a family’s income. Eligible families with adjusted gross income (AGI) of $15,000 or less can claim 35 percent of these expenses for a maximum potential credit of $2,100. The percentage of expenses a family can claim steadily decreases as income rises, until families with AGI of $43,000 or more reach the minimum claim rate of 20 percent, qualifying for a maximum potential credit of $1,200.

IRS: “Phone Scams Continue to be a Serious Threat!!”

Phone Scams Continue to be a Serious Threat, Remain on IRS “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for the 2016 Filing Season

IRS YouTube Video:
Tax Scams – English | Spanish | ASL
Security Summit Identity Theft Tips Overview English
Be Careful When Using Wi-Fi English
Update Your Password Regularly English

WASHINGTON — Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, headlining the annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams for the 2016 filing season, the Internal Revenue Service announced today.

The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams as scam artists threaten police arrest, deportation, license revocation and other things. The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that arise during any filing season.

“Taxpayers across the nation face a deluge of these aggressive phone scams. Don’t be fooled by callers pretending to be from the IRS in an attempt to steal your money,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “We continue to say if you are surprised to be hearing from us, then you’re not hearing from us.”

“There are many variations. The caller may threaten you with arrest or court action to trick you into making a payment,” Koskinen added. “Some schemes may say you’re entitled to a huge refund. These all add up to trouble. Some simple tips can help protect you.”

The Dirty Dozen is compiled annually by the IRS and lists a variety of common scams taxpayers may encounter any time during the year. Many of these con games peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns or hire someone to do so.

This January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam.

“The IRS continues working to warn taxpayers about phone scams and other schemes,” Koskinen said. “We especially want to thank the law-enforcement community, tax professionals, consumer advocates, the states, other government agencies and particularly the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for helping us in this battle against these persistent phone scams.”

Protect Yourself

Scammers make unsolicited calls claiming to be IRS officials. They demand that the victim pay a bogus tax bill. They con the victim into sending cash, usually through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls,” or via a phishing email.

Many phone scams use threats to intimidate and bully a victim into paying. They may even threaten to arrest, deport or revoke the license of their victim if they don’t get the money.

Scammers often alter caller ID numbers to make it look like the IRS or another agency is calling. The callers use IRS titles and fake badge numbers to appear legitimate. They may use the victim’s name, address and other personal information to make the call sound official.

Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment, nor will the agency call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  • Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

If you don’t owe taxes, or have no reason to think that you do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page. You can also call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

If you know you owe, or think you may owe tax:

  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you.

Stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

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.

2016 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced

2016 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced 

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2016 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 54 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2015
  • 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 23 cents for 2015
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The business mileage rate decreased 3.5 cents per mile and the medical, and moving expense rates decrease 4 cents per mile from the 2015 rates. The charitable rate is based on statute.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

These and other requirements for a taxpayer to use a standard mileage rate to calculate the amount of a deductible business, moving, medical or charitable expense are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51Notice 2016-01 contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan