Tips to help taxpayers hire a reputable tax preparer

Tips to help taxpayers hire a reputable tax preparer

The tax filing deadline less than a month away. The IRS reminds all taxpayers but especially those who haven’t yet filed, to choose a tax return preparerwisely. Taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return regardless of who prepares the return.

Here are some tips to remember when selecting a tax return preparer:

Check the preparer’s qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.

Check the preparer’s history. Taxpayers can ask the local Better Business Bureau about the preparer.  Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. Here’s how to check on  specific types of preparers:

  • Enrolled Agents: Go to the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov.
  • Certified Public Accountants: Check with the State Board of Accountancy.
  • Attorneys: Check with the State Bar Association.

Ask about service fees. People should avoid tax return preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.

Ask to e-file. To avoid pandemic related paper delays, taxpayers should ask their preparer to file electronically and choose direct deposit.

Make sure the preparer is available. Taxpayers may want to contact their tax return preparer after this year’s April 18 due date.

Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.

Never sign a blank return. Taxpayers should not use a tax return preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.

Review before signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it.

Review details about any refund. Taxpayers should confirm the routing and bank account number on their completed return if they’re requesting direct deposit.

Ensure the preparer signs the return and includes their PTIN. All paid tax return preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN on the return they file. The taxpayer’s copy of the return is not required to have the PTIN on it.

Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. People can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer.

IRS reminds taxpayers they must check a box on Form 1040, 1040-SR or 1040-NR on virtual currency transactions for 2021

IRS reminds taxpayers they must check a box on Form 1040, 1040-SR or 1040-NR on virtual currency transactions for 2021

WASHINGTON — The IRS reminds taxpayers that there is a virtual currency question at the top of Form 1040, Form 1040-SR and Form 1040-NR. It asks: “At any time during 2021, did you receive, sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of any financial interest in any virtual currency?”

All taxpayers filing Form 1040, Form 1040-SR or Form 1040-NR must check one box answering either “Yes” or “No” to the virtual currency question. The question must be answered by all taxpayers, not just taxpayers who engaged in a transaction involving virtual currency in 2021.

When taxpayers can check “No”Taxpayers who merely owned virtual currency at any time in 2021 can check the “No” box when they have not engaged in any transactions involving virtual currency during the year, or their activities were limited to:

  • Holding virtual currency in their own wallet or account.
  • Transferring virtual currency between their own wallets or accounts.
  • Purchasing virtual currency using real currency, including purchases using real currency electronic platforms such as PayPal and Venmo.
  • Engaging in a combination of holding, transferring, or purchasing virtual currency as described above.

When taxpayers must check “Yes”The list below covers the most common transactions in virtual currency that require checking the “Yes” box:

  • The receipt of virtual currency as payment for goods or services provided;
  • The receipt or transfer of virtual currency for free (without providing any consideration) that does not qualify as a bona fide gift;
  • The receipt of new virtual currency as a result of mining and staking activities;
  • The receipt of virtual currency as a result of a hard fork;
  • An exchange of virtual currency for property, goods, or services;
  • An exchange/trade of virtual currency for another virtual currency;
  • A sale of virtual currency; and
  • Any other disposition of a financial interest in virtual currency.

If a taxpayer disposed of any virtual currency that was held as a capital asset through a sale, exchange or transfer, they must check “Yes” and use Form 8949 to figure their capital gain or loss and report it on Schedule D (Form 1040).

If a taxpayer received any virtual currency as compensation for services or disposed of any virtual currency that they held for sale to customers in a trade or business, they must report the income as they would report other income of the same type (for example, W-2 wages on Form 1040, 1040-SR, or 1040-NR, line 1, or inventory or services from Schedule C on Schedule 1).

For more information, see page 17 of the 2021 Form 1040 Instructions and visit IRS.gov for general information on virtual currency and other related resources.

Common tax return mistakes that can cost taxpayers

Common tax return mistakes that can cost taxpayers

Tax laws are complicated but the most common tax return errors are surprising simple. Many mistakes can be avoided by filing electronically. Tax software does the math, flags common errors and prompts taxpayers for missing information. It can also help taxpayers claim valuable credits and deductions.

Using a reputable tax preparer – including certified public accountants, enrolled agents or other knowledgeable tax professionals – can also help avoid errors.

  • Filing too early. While taxpayers should not file late, they also should not file prematurely. People who don’t wait to file before they receive all the proper tax reporting documents risk making a mistake that may lead to a processing delay.

  • Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers. Each SSN on a tax return should appear exactly as printed on the Social Security card.

  • Misspelled names. Likewise, a name listed on a tax return should match the name on that person’s Social Security card.

  • Entering information inaccurately. Wages, dividends, bank interest, and other income received and that was reported on an information return should be entered carefully. This includes any information needed to calculated credits and deductions. Using tax software should help prevent math errors, but individuals should always review their tax return for accuracy.

  • Incorrect filing status. Some taxpayers choose the wrong filing status. The Interactive Tax Assistant on IRS.gov can help taxpayers choose the correct status especially if more than one filing status applies. Tax software also helps prevent mistakes with filing status.

  • Math mistakes. Math errors are some of the most common mistakes. They range from simple addition and subtraction to more complex calculations. Taxpayers should always double check their math. Better yet, tax prep software does it automatically.

  • Figuring credits or deductions. Taxpayers can make mistakes figuring things like their earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit, child tax credit, and recovery rebate credit. The Interactive Tax Assistant can help determine if a taxpayer is eligible for tax credits or deductions. Tax software will calculate these credits and deductions and include any required forms and schedules. Taxpayers should Double check where items appear on the final return before clicking the submit button.

  • Incorrect bank account numbers. Taxpayers who are due a refund should choose direct deposit. This is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their money. However, taxpayers need to make sure they use the correct routing and account numbers on their tax return.

  • Unsigned forms. An unsigned tax return isn’t valid. In most cases, both spouses must sign a joint return. Exceptions may apply for members of the armed forces or other taxpayers who have a valid power of attorney. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically and digitally signing it before sending it to the IRS. 

The IRS urges all taxpayers to file electronically and choose direct deposit to get their refund faster.

Tax filing step 1: Gather all year-end income documents

Tax filing step 1: Gather all year-end income documents

As taxpayers are getting ready to file their taxes, the first thing they should do is gather their records. To avoid processing delays that may slow their refund, taxpayers should gather all year-end income documents before filing a 2021 tax return.

It’s important for people to have all the necessary documents before starting to prepare their return. This helps them file a complete and accurate tax return. Here are some things taxpayers need to have before they begin doing their taxes.

• Social Security numbers of everyone listed on the tax return. Many taxpayers have these numbers memorized. Still, it’s a good idea to have them on hand to double check that the numbers on the tax return are correct. An SSN with one number wrong or two numbers switched will cause processing delays.
 
• Bank account and routing numbers. People will need these for direct deposit refunds. Direct deposit is the fastest way for taxpayers to get their money and avoids a check getting lost, stolen or returned to IRS as undeliverable.

• Don’t have a bank account? Learn how to open an account at an FDIC-Insured bank or through the National Credit Union Locator Tool. Veterans can access the Veterans Benefits Banking Program.

• Forms W-2 from employer(s).

• Forms 1099 from banks, issuing agencies and other payers including unemployment compensation, dividends, distributions from a pension, annuity or retirement plan.

• Form 1099-K, 1099-MISC, W-2 or other income statement for workers in the gig economy.

• Form 1099-INT for interest received.

• Other income documents and records of virtual currency transactions.

Forms 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement. Taxpayers will need this form to reconcile advance payments or claim the premium tax credit.

• Letter 6419, 2021 Total Advance Child Tax Credit Payments, to reconcile advance child tax credit payments.

• Letter 6475, Your 2021 Economic Impact Payment, to determine eligibility to claim the recovery rebate credit.

Forms usually start arriving by mail or are available online from employers and financial institutions in January. Taxpayers should review them carefully. If any information shown on the forms is inaccurate, the taxpayer should contact the payer ASAP for a correction.

What taxpayers can do now to get ready to file taxes in 2022

What taxpayers can do now to get ready to file taxes in 2022

There are steps people, including those who received stimulus payments or advance child tax credit payments, can take now to make sure their tax filingexperience goes smoothly in 2022. They can start by visiting the Get Ready page on IRS.gov. Here are some other things they should do to prepare to file their tax return.

Gather and organize tax records
Organized tax records make preparing a complete and accurate tax return easier. They help avoid errors that lead to processing delays that slow refunds. Having all needed documents on hand before taxpayers prepare their return helps them file it completely and accurately. This includes:

Taxpayers should also gather any documents from these types of earnings. People should keep copies of tax returns and all supporting documents for at least three years.

Income documents can help taxpayers determine if they’re eligible for deductions or credits. People who need to reconcile their advance payments of the child tax credit and premium tax credit will need their related 2021 information. Those who did not receive their full third Economic Impact Payments will need their third payment amounts to figure and claim the 2021 recovery rebate credit.

Taxpayers should also keep end of year documents including:

  • Letter 6419, 2021 Total Advance Child Tax Credit Payments, to reconcileadvance child tax credit payments
  • Letter 6475, Your 2021 Economic Impact Payment, to determine eligibility to claim the recovery rebate credit
  • Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, to reconcileadvance premium tax credits for Marketplace coverage

Confirm mailing and email addresses and report name changes
To make sure forms make it to the them on time, taxpayers should confirm now that each employer, bank and other payer has their current mailing address or email address. People can report address changes by completing Form 8822,Change of Address and sending it to the IRS. Taxpayers should also notify the postal service to forward their mail by going online at USPS.com or their local post office. They should also notify the Social Security Administration of a legal name change.

View account information online
Individuals who have not set up an Online Account yet should do so soon. People who have already set up an Online Account should make sure they can still log in successfully. Taxpayers can use Online Account to securely access the latest available information about their federal tax account.

Review proper tax withholding and make adjustments if needed
Taxpayers may want to consider adjusting their withholding if they owed taxes or received a large refund in 2021. Changing withholding can help avoid a tax bill or let individuals keep more money each payday. Life changes – getting married or divorced, welcoming a child or taking on a second job – may also be reasons to change withholding. Taxpayers might think about completing a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, each year and when personal or financial situations change.

People also need to consider estimated tax payments. Individuals who receive a substantial amount of non-wage income like self-employment income, investment income, taxable Social Security benefits and in some instances, pension and annuity income should make quarterly estimated tax payments. The last payment for 2021 is due on Jan. 18, 2022.

IRS announces changes to retirement plans for 2022

IRS announces changes to retirement plans for 2022

Next year taxpayers can put an extra $1,000 into their 401(k) plans. The IRS recently announced that the 2022 contribution limit for 401(k) plans will increase to $20,500. The agency also announced cost‑of‑living adjustments that may affect pension plan and other retirement-related savings next year.

Highlights of changes for 2022

The contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is increased to $20,500. Limits on contributions to traditional and Roth IRAs remains unchanged at $6,000.

Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If neither the taxpayer nor their spouse is covered by a retirement plan at work, their full contribution to a traditional IRA is deductible. If the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced or phased out until it is eliminated. The amount of the deduction depends on the taxpayer’s filing status and their income.

Traditional IRA income phase-out ranges for 2022 are:

  • $68,000 to $78,000 – Single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan
  • $109,000 to $129,000 – Married couples filing jointly. This applies when the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan.
  • $204,000 to $214,000 – A taxpayer not covered by a workplace retirement plan married to someone who’s covered.
  • $0 to $10,000 – Married filing a separate return. This applies to taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan

Roth IRA contributions income phase-out ranges for 2022 are:

  • $129,000 to $144,000 – Single taxpayers and heads of household
  • $204,000 to $214,000 – Married, filing jointly
  • $0 to $10,000 – Married, filing separately

Saver’s Credit income phase-out ranges for 2022 are:

  • $41,000 to $68,000 – Married, filing jointly.
  • $30,750 to $51,000 – Head of household.
  • $20,500 to $34,000 – Singles and married individuals filing separately.

The amount individuals can contribute to SIMPLE retirement accounts also increases to $14,000 in 2022.

More information:
Notice 2021-61
Roth IRAs
Traditional IRAs
Traditional and Roth IRAs — A comparison chart
Publication 590-A, Contributions to Individual Retirement Arrangements
COLA Increases for Dollar Limitations on Benefits and Contributions

 

Common tax scams and tips to help taxpayers avoid them

Common tax scams and tips to help taxpayers avoid them

In recent years, tax schemes and scams have been on the rise. Con artists work year-round which means taxpayers must remain vigilant to avoid being victimized. Here are some tips to help people recognize and avoid some of the most common tax-related scams.

Email phishing scams

The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. Generally, the IRS first mails a paper bill to the person who owes taxes. In some special situations, the IRS will call or come to a home or business.

Taxpayers should report IRS, Treasury or tax-related suspicious phishing scams by saving the email and then sending that file as an attachment to phishing@irs.gov. They should not open any attachments, click on any links, reply to the sender, or take any other actions that could put them at risk.

Phone scams

The IRS generally first mails a bill to the taxpayer who owes taxes. There are specific ways to pay taxes. The agency and its authorized private collection agencies will not:

• Leave pre-recorded, urgent, or threatening messages on an answering system.• Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to arrest the taxpayer for not paying, deport them or revoke their licenses.• Call to demand immediate payment with a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer.• Ask for checks to third parties.• Demand payment without giving the taxpayer an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

Criminals can fake or spoof caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country. Scammers can even spoof an IRS office phone number or the numbers of various local, state, federal or tribal government agencies.

If a taxpayer receives an IRS or Treasury-related phone call, but doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do, they should:

• Not give out any information. Hang up immediately.• Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the IRS impersonation scam call.• Report the caller ID and callback number to the IRS by sending it to phishing@irs.gov. The subject line should include “IRS Phone Scam.”• Report the call to the Federal Trade Commission.

If a taxpayer wants to verify what taxes they owe the IRS, they should:

• View tax account information online at IRS.gov.• Review their payment options.

More information:IRS Dirty Dozen Tax ScamsAvoiding Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks – Department of Homeland SecuritySecurity Awareness for Taxpayers

Year-end giving reminder: Special tax deduction helps most people give up to $600 to charity, even if they don’t itemize

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers that a special tax provision will allow more Americans to easily deduct up to $600 in donations to qualifying charities on their 2021 federal income tax return.

Ordinarily, people who choose to take the standard deduction cannot claim a deduction for their charitable contributions. But a temporary law change now permits them to claim a limited deduction on their 2021 federal income tax returns for cash contributions made to qualifying charitable organizations. Nearly nine in 10 taxpayers now take the standard deduction and could potentially qualify.

Under this provision, individual tax filers, including married individuals filing separate returns, can claim a deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made to qualifying charities during 2021. The maximum deduction is increased to $600 for married individuals filing joint returns.

Included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted in March 2020, a more limited version of this temporary tax benefit originally only applied to tax-year 2020. The Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, enacted last December, generally extended it through the end of 2021.

Cash contributions include those made by check, credit card or debit card as well as amounts incurred by an individual for unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses in connection with their volunteer services to a qualifying charitable organization. Cash contributions don’t include the value of volunteer services, securities, household items or other property.

The IRS reminds taxpayers to make sure they’re donating to a recognized charity. To receive a deduction, taxpayers must donate to a qualified charity. To check the status of a charity, they can use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search tool.

Cash contributions to most charitable organizations qualify. But contributions made either to supporting organizations or to establish or maintain a donor advised fund do not. Contributions carried forward from prior years do not qualify, nor do contributions to most private foundations and most cash contributions to charitable remainder trusts.

In general, a donor-advised fund is a fund or account maintained by a charity in which a donor can, because of being a donor, advise the fund on how to distribute or invest amounts contributed by the donor and held in the fund. A supporting organization is a charity that carries out its exempt purposes by supporting other exempt organizations, usually other public charities.

Keep good recordsSpecial recordkeeping rules apply to any taxpayer claiming a charitable contribution deduction. Usually, this includes obtaining an acknowledgment letter from the charity before filing a return and retaining a cancelled check or credit card receipt for contributions of cash.

For details on the recordkeeping rules for substantiating gifts to charity, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov.

Remind families about the Child Tax CreditBesides  the special charitable contribution deduction, the IRS also encourages employers to help get the word out about the advanced payments of the Child Tax Credit because they have direct access to many employees and individuals who receive this credit. In particular, remind low-income workers, especially those who don’t normally file returns, that the deadline for signing up for these payments is now Nov. 15, 2021. More information on the Advanced Child Tax Credit is available on IRS.gov.

For more information about other Coronavirus-related tax relief, visit IRS.gov/Coronavirus.

People can stay connected to the IRS through social media and e-news subscriptions

People can stay connected to the IRS through social media and e-news subscriptions

Taxpayers can stay in the know on all things tax-related by following the IRS verified social media accounts and subscribing to the agency’s e-news services. Here are some details about these valuable information resources.

IRS social media platforms

• TwitterTaxpayersbusinesses and tax professionals can follow the IRS handles for up to the minute announcements, tips and alerts in English and Spanish.• Facebook: News and information for everybody. Also available in Spanish.• Instagram: The IRS Instagram account shares taxpayer-friendly information.• YouTube: The IRS offers three video channels — EnglishMultilingual and American Sign Language.• LinkedIn: The IRS shares key agency communications and job opportunities.

The agency continues to increase multilingual outreach on social media. For example, IRS has created individual Twitter Moments in six languages, highlighting key messages in SpanishVietnameseRussianKoreanHaitian Creole and Simplified Chinese.

The IRS also has a free mobile app, IRS2Go, where taxpayers can check their refund status, pay taxes, find free tax help, watch IRS YouTube videos, and get daily tax tips. The IRS2Go app is available from the Google Play Store for Android devices, or from the Apple App Store for Apple devices. It is available in both English and Spanish.

Taxpayers should not reply to an IRS direct message on social media asking for personal or financial information. These are common scams that try to lure taxpayers on social media platforms or with unsolicited emails, texts, or calls.

Get automatic updates by emailThe IRS e-News subscription service issues tax information by email for many different audiences. It provides tips, tools, and helpful materials of interest to taxpayers and organizations. The IRS offers subscription services tailored to tax exempt and government entities, small and large businesses as well as individuals. The service is easy to use. Anyone can sign up by visiting IRS e-News Subscriptions.

IRS e-news options include:

• IRS Outreach Connection − This subscription offering delivers up-to-date materials for tax professionals and partner groups inside and outside the tax community. The material for Outreach Connection is specifically designed so subscribers can share the material with their clients or members through email, social media, internal newsletters, e-mails or external websites.

• IRS Tax Tips – These brief, concise tips in plain language cover a wide-range of topics of general interest to taxpayers. They include the latest on tax scams, tax reform, tax deductions, filing extensions and amending returns. IRS Tax Tips generally come out each weekday. • IRS Newswire − Subscribers to IRS Newswire receive news releases the day they are issued. These cover a wide range of tax administration issues ranging from breaking news to details related to legal guidance. • IRS News in Spanish – Noticias del IRS en Español − Readers get IRS news releases, tax tips and updates in Spanish as they are released. Subscribe at Noticias del IRS en Español. • e-News for Tax Professionals − Includes a weekly roundup of news releases and legal guidance specifically designed for the tax professional community. Subscribing to e-News for Tax Professionals gets tax pros a weekly summary, typically delivered on Friday afternoons.

Here’s how taxpayers can track the status of their refund

Here’s how taxpayers can track the status of their refund


Tracking the status of a tax refund is easy with the
Where’s My Refund? tool. It’s conveniently accessible at IRS.gov or through the IRS2Go App.

Taxpayers can start checking their refund status within 24 hours after an e-filed return is received.

Refund timing
Where’s My Refund provides a personalized date after the return is processed and a refund is approved. While most tax refunds are issued within 21 days, some may take longer if the return requires additional review.

Here are some reasons a tax refund may take longer:

  • The return may include errors or be incomplete.
  • The return could be affected by identity theft or fraud.
  • Many banks do not process payments on weekends or holidays.

Claiming the recovery rebate credit on a 2020 tax return will not delay processing of a tax return. However, it is important that taxpayers claim the correct amount. If a correction is needed, there may be a slight delay in processing the return. If corrections are made, the IRS will send the taxpayer notice explaining any changes. The recovery rebate credit will be included in the tax refund.

The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail if more information is needed to process their tax return.

Fast and easy refund updates
Taxpayers can start checking on the status of their return within 24 hours after the IRS acknowledges receipt of an electronically filed return or four weeks after the taxpayer mails a paper return. The tool’s tracker displays progress in three phases:

  1. Return received
  2. Refund approved
  3. Refund sent

To use Where’s My Refund, taxpayers must enter their Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, their filing status and the exact whole dollar amount of their refund. The IRS updates the tool once a day, usually overnight, so there’s no need to check more often.

Calling the IRS won’t speed up a tax refund. The information available on Where’s My Refund? is the same information available to IRS phone assistors.