The IRS has warned taxpayers of a clever scheme by internet scammers to dupe tax-payers into revealing their bank account information under the guise of receiving the $1,200 Economic Impact Payment (EIP) that Congress authorized last Spring.
Criminals are relentlessly using COVID-19 and Economic Impact Payments as cover to try to trick taxpayers out of their money or identities. This new scam is a twist on those the IRS has been seeing much of this year, and the IRS urges people to remain alert to these types of scams.
The current scam is a text message that reads: “You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account. Continue here to accept this payment …” The text includes a link to a fake phishing web address.
To cope with inflation, the tax code requires the IRS to adjust the tax rates, standard deductions, and a variety of other tax related numbers each year. Due to the relatively low rate of inflation from 2020 to 2021 (at least according to the calculation method prescribed by law for this purpose), several categories had no or only a slight change. The following is a summary of the most commonly encountered items for 2021.
To say COVID-19 has made 2020 a disastrous year for just about everyone would be an understatement. In response to the economic slowdown and losses of income, Congress passed several extensive laws to benefit individuals and businesses that suffered financial hardship because of COVID-19. However, 2020 has given rise to more than the usual tax-planning opportunities. Thus, you may find it appropriate to schedule a tax-planning appointment well before the close of the year to take advantage of the tax benefits and strategies available for 2020. Although everyone’s situation is unique, the following are examples of tax opportunities and strategies that may apply to your circumstances.
Health insurance premiums, especially in the wake of the Affordable Care Act, have risen dramatically and are one of the greatest expenses that most individuals pay. Although the cost of health insurance is allowed as part of an individual’s medical deductions when itemizing deductions, only the amount of total medical expenses that exceeds 7.5% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income (AGI) is deductible. The 7.5% limitation is increased to 10% for years after 2020.
The purpose of this article is twofold: first, to remind you what insurance can be included as a medical deduction; and second, to inform you of an alternate means of deducting health insurance for certain self-employed individuals—a means that avoids the AGI limitation and allows for deduction without itemizing.
You have probably heard others discussing living trusts but may not understand the reasons for them or whether you should have one.
Living trusts are an estate-planning tool, and there is not a one-type-fits-all living trust. Each one is customized to suit the special circumstances of the individual for whom it was created. The vast majority of the population can get by without using a living trust, and a simple will is perfect for most people, unless their estate is large or there are some special circumstances to deal with.
There actually are two types of these trusts: revocable and irrevocable. As the names imply, an irrevocable trust generally cannot be undone once made, while the provisions of a revocable trust can be changed or rescinded as long as the grantor (the individual who established the trust) is still living. A living trust becomes irrevocable when the grantor passes.
Keeping your designated IRA beneficiary current is very important. You may not want your account going to your ex-spouse, and you certainly do not want a deceased individual to be your beneficiary.
What’s more, a periodic review of your named IRA beneficiaries is vital to ensure that your overall estate planning objectives will be achieved in light of changes in the performance of your IRAs and your personal, financial, and family situations. For example, if your spouse was named your beneficiary when you first opened the account several years ago and you’ve subsequently divorced, your ex-spouse will remain the beneficiary of your IRA unless you notify your IRA custodian to change the beneficiary designation.
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.
The Internal Revenue Service has resurrected a form that has not been used since the early 1980s, Form 1099-NEC (the NEC stands for non-employee compensation). This form will be used to report non-employee compensation in place of the 1099-MISC, which has been used since 1983 to report payments to contract workers and freelancers. Form 1099-MISC has also been used to report rents, royalties, crop insurance proceeds and several other types of income unrelated to independent contractors.
The revival of the 1099-NEC was mandated by Congress with the passage of the PATH Act back in 2015. However, there have been some complications with implementing the form, so its use has been delayed. It will now make its return debut in 2021 for payments made in 2020.
As this pandemic continues to wreak havoc on people’s finances, the Federal Housing Finance Agency said that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will extend foreclosure moratoriums to December 31, 2020 and perhaps longer.
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.