The IRS has long been a bogeyman for the American public, and there’s good reason for that. They have the unique ability to do what few other creditors can: taking your home and selling it out from under you. Still, despite its remarkable powers, fear has created mythologies around the agency. People both overestimate and underestimate the IRS’ abilities.
Unfortunately, not being well versed in IRS procedures makes dealing with them that much more frustrating and fear-inducing, and there are very few taxpayers who are up to the task. Between the complexities involved in all aspects of tax audits and the overwhelming stress and emotions that arise when confronted by the agency, even highly capable people find themselves feeling defenseless and intimidated. It is this specific combination that leads to simple acceptance of what the IRS says and being afraid to push back and protect themselves. As wrong as it may seem, this reaction is exactly what the IRS counts on to keep people compliant with tax law. According to a former Commissioner of Internal Revenue, the agency relies on this fear to ensure that people report their income honestly and file and pay their taxes correctly and on time.
There is a real need for people to either educate themselves about the audit process or to seek professional help from someone familiar with the IRS. Ignorance is not an excuse in the face of an audit, and mistakes can lead to additional taxes, penalties, and even seizure of your property if you do not have other assets with which to pay.
The Internal Revenue Service has released a midyear report to Congress that details a significant backlog of tax returns dating back to the end of tax filing season, and many of those returns have yet to be processed. While backlogs are not unusual, this year’s is far greater than in previous years.
That’s bad news for those taxpayers who are eagerly waiting for tax refunds. For tax year 2020, roughly 70 percent of the individual returns that have already been processed have resulted in refunds being paid. Those refunds have averaged $2,827.00, but there were still more than 35 million returns for last year that had not yet been addressed by mid-May. An independent advocacy group within the IRS says that at the same point in time the previous year, there were a third the number of backlogged returns as now.
The vast majority of Americans get a tax refund from the IRS each spring, but what if you are one of those who end ends up owing?
The IRS encourages you to pay the full amount of your tax liability on time by imposing significant penalties and interest on late payments if you don’t. So if you are unable to pay the tax you owe, it is generally in your best interest to make other arrangements to obtain the funds for paying your taxes rather than be subjected to the government’s penalties and interest. Here are a few options to consider. Although they all have negative connotations, they are all better than the penalties and interest the IRS could impose, not to mention the time and headache of dealing with IRS communications and the possibility of wage, bank account and asset levies.
The IRS announced on March 31, that it will take steps to automatically refund money this spring and summer to people who filed their tax return reporting unemployment compensation before the recent law change made by the American Rescue Plan Act.
The American Rescue Plan Act, signed on March 11, allows each taxpayer who earned less than $150,000 in modified adjusted gross income to exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment compensation from taxation. Since it applies to each taxpayer, married couples where both spouses received unemployment benefits may be able to exclude up to $20,400 if married filing status. The legislation excludes only 2020 unemployment benefits from taxes.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRS has furloughed many of its employees or had them work from home to mitigate the spread of the virus. Many IRS offices remained shuttered for months, and a backlog of millions of pieces of unopened mail accumulated in trailers set up outside IRS facilities.
This includes unopened mail with payment checks, which creates a problem for many e-filed returns with tax due because the IRS computer shows a tax return filed but no payment made. Because the IRS utilizes a significant amount of automation, its computers began automatically spitting out tax-due notices, including to those who had mailed in payments. While most IRS facilities have reopened and IRS employees have returned to work, it will take them weeks, if not months, to get all of the backlogged mail opened and processed.
President Trump issued a Presidential Memorandum on August 8, 2020, that directs the Treasury Secretary to use his authority to defer the withholding, deposit and payment of employees’ portions of Social Security taxes from September 1 through December 31, 2020. The goal is to put more money in the pockets of workers during the COVID-19 pandemic emergency. The deferral applies to the 6.2% tax on wages or compensation paid for a bi-weekly pay period of less than $4,000 or the equivalent threshold amount for other pay periods. In other words, employees with annual wages up to $104,000 are generally eligible for the deferral.
Just a few days before the start of the deferral period, the IRS has issued guidance explaining that the due date for withholding and paying Social Security taxes has been postponed; they are now due between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021. This means that Social Security taxes not withheld in the last 4 months of 2020 are to be ratably withheld from employees’ wages during the first 4 months of 2021, along with the required withholding on the 2021 wages.
Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the IRS provided taxpayers with an automatic three-month extension to July 15 to file their 2019 tax returns and pay the 2019 tax, among other tax actions normally due on April 15. So, with July 15th fast approaching, it is important to understand that the day is more than just the deadline for filing your 2019 tax return. It is also the deadline for other things tax. Here is a rundown.
Some refer to it as “creative accounting” or just “a little fudging here and there,” but if your tax return is missing some income that should have been reported or includes overstated deductions, regardless of whether you prepared your own return or had it prepared, you are the one who is ultimately responsible. If you get caught, there can be very unpleasant consequences – including substantial monetary penalties and the possibility of jail time for blatant cases.
This is a question many taxpayers ask during this time of year, and the question is far more complicated than people believe. To fully understand, we need to consider that there are times when individuals are REQUIRED to file a tax return, and then there are times when it is to the individuals’ BENEFIT to file a return even if they are not required to file.
Congress, at almost the last minute, has passed a large number of tax changes, including retirement plan issues that will become effective in 2020, as well as extensions through 2020 of a number of tax provisions that had expired or were about to end. The list of changes is quite large, so we have only included those that are most likely to affect individual tax returns. Here is a run-down on some of the new tax provisions.