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One of the benefits of being part of the NAEA/CSEA/NBEA family is the access to current information about tax law and changes in the taxing agencies.  This saves you a ton of time and keeps you on the cutting edge of our industry.

Our blog is here to provide you the latest local tax news and to share insights among our members.

Franchise Tax Board delayed in processing June 2019 payments

July 12, 2019

Franchise Tax Board

Late Arrival of Some June Payments

Due to a significant delay at the Post Office, some June payments arrived via mail up to a month late at the Franchise Tax Board.

However, these payments will be posted with a timely date of June 15, 2019. No action is needed by taxpayers or their representatives.

On Tuesday July 9, FTB received approximately 115,000 estimate and other payments with dates mostly between June 5 and June 20.

If a taxpayer or representative contacts FTB regarding a payment sent in June that has not yet posted, FTB customer service representatives will use all available resources to locate the payment.

FTB is asking taxpayers and representatives to allow some additional time to process and post their payment. It is not necessary to stop payment on a check that was delayed.  MyFTB users may log in to their MyFTB account to verify payment.

Summertime Tax Tips from the IRS

IR-2019-124, July 10, 2019

WASHINGTON — Buying a home? Working a summer job? Volunteering? Activities that are common in the summer often qualify for tax credits or deductions. And, while summertime and part-time workers may not earn enough to owe federal income tax, they should remember to file a return to get a refund for taxes withheld early next year.

Here are some summertime tax tips from the IRS that can help taxpayers during tax season next year:

  • Marital tax bliss. Newlyweds should report any name change to the Social Security Administration before filing next year’s tax return. Then, report any address change to the United States Postal Service, employers and the IRS to ensure receipt of tax-related items.
  • Cash back for summer day camp. Unlike overnight camps, the cost of summer day camp may count as an expense towards the Child and Dependent Care Credit. See IRS Publication 503, Child and Dependent Care Expenses, for more information.
  • Part-time and summer work. Employers usually must withhold Social Security and Medicare taxes from pay for part-time and season workers even if the employees don’t earn enough to meet the federal income tax filing threshold. Self-employed workers or independent contractors need to pay their own Social Security and Medicare taxes, even if they have no income tax liability. Normally, employees receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from their employer — even if they don’t work there anymore — to account for the summer’s work by January 31 of the following year. The Form W-2 shows the amount of earnings, withholdings for state and federal taxes, Social Security, Medicare wages and tips. Employees use the information on this form when they file their annual tax returns.
  • Worker classification matters.  Business owners must correctly determine whether summer workers are employees or independent contractors. Independent contractors are not subject to withholding, making them responsible for paying their own income taxes plus Social Security and Medicare taxes. Workers can avoid higher tax bills and lost benefits if they know their proper status.

Though the higher standard deduction means fewer taxpayers are itemizing their deductions, those that still plan to itemize next year should keep these tips in mind:

  • Deducting state and local income, sales and property taxes. The total deduction that taxpayers can deduct for state and local income, sales and property taxes is limited to a combined, total deduction of $10,000 or $5,000 if married filing separately. Any state and local taxes paid above this amount cannot be deducted.
  • Refinancing a home. The deduction for mortgage interest is limited to interest paid on a loan secured by the taxpayer’s main home or second home that they used to buy, build, or substantially improve their main home or second home.
  • Buying a home. New homeowners buying after Dec. 15, 2017, can only deduct mortgage interest they pay on a total of $750,000, or $375,000 if married filing separately, in qualifying debt for a first and second home. For existing mortgages if the loan originated on or before Dec. 15, 2017, taxpayers continue to deduct interest on a total of $1 million in qualifying debt secured by first and second homes.
  • Donate items. Deduct money. Those long-unused items in good condition found during a summer cleaning and donated to a qualified charity may qualify for a tax deduction. Taxpayers must itemize deductions to deduct charitable contributions and have proof of all donations. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant to help determine whether you can deduct your charitable contributions.
  • Donate time. Deduct mileage. Driving a personal vehicle while donating services on a trip sponsored by a qualified charity could qualify for a tax break. Itemizers can deduct 14 cents per mile for charitable mileage driven in 2019.
  • Reporting gambling winnings and claiming gambling losses. Taxpayers who itemize can deduct gambling losses up to the amount of gambling winnings. Use the Interactive Tax Assistant to find out more about reporting gambling winnings and  losses next year.

The last two tips are for taxpayers who have not yet filed but may be due a refund and those who may need to adjust their withholding.

  • Refunds require a tax return. Although workers may not have earned enough money from a summer job to require filing a tax return, they may still want to file when tax time comes around. It is essential to file a return to get a refund of any income tax withheld. There is no penalty for filing a late return for those receiving refunds, however, by law, a return must be filed within three years to get the refund. See the Interactive Tax Assistant, Do I need to file a tax return?
  • Check withholding. Newlyweds, summertime workers, homeowners and every taxpayer in between should take some time this summer to check their tax withholding to make sure they are paying the right amount of tax as they earn it throughout the year. The Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov helps employees estimate their income tax, credits, adjustments and deductions and determine whether they need to adjust their withholding by submitting a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Taxpayers should remember that, if needed, they should submit their new W-4 to their employer, not the IRS.

In addition to these tips, taxpayers can get helpful consumer tips by signing up for the IRS Tax Tips email service. For details on any of these tips, visit IRS.gov.

IRS waives penalty for many whose tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short in 2018

IR-2019-03, January 16, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it is waiving the estimated tax penalty for many taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year.

The IRS is generally waiving the penalty for any taxpayer who paid at least 85 percent of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two. The usual percentage threshold is 90 percent to avoid a penalty.

The waiver computation announced today will be integrated into commercially-available tax software and reflected in the forthcoming revision of Form 2210 and instructions.

This relief is designed to help taxpayers who were unable to properly adjust their withholding and estimated tax payments to reflect an array of changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the far-reaching tax reform law enacted in December 2017.

“We realize there were many changes that affected people last year, and this penalty waiver will help taxpayers who inadvertently didn’t have enough tax withheld,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “We urge people to check their withholding again this year to make sure they are having the right amount of tax withheld for 2019.”

The updated federal tax withholding tables, released in early 2018, largely reflected the lower tax rates and the increased standard deduction brought about by the new law. This generally meant taxpayers had less tax withheld in 2018 and saw more in their paychecks.

However, the withholding tables couldn’t fully factor in other changes, such as the suspension of dependency exemptions and reduced itemized deductions. As a result, some taxpayers could have paid too little tax during the year, if they did not submit a properly-revised W-4 withholding form to their employer or increase their estimated tax payments. The IRS and partner groups conducted an extensive outreach and education campaign throughout 2018 to encourage taxpayers to do a “Paycheck Checkup” to avoid a situation where they had too much or too little tax withheld when they file their tax returns.

Although most 2018 tax filers are still expected to get refunds, some taxpayers will unexpectedly owe additional tax when they file their returns.

Additional Information

Because the U.S. tax system is pay-as-you-go, taxpayers are required, by law, to pay most of their tax obligation during the year, rather than at the end of the year. This can be done by either having tax withheld from paychecks or pension payments, or by making estimated tax payments.

Usually, a penalty applies at tax filing if too little is paid during the year. Normally, the penalty would not apply for 2018 if tax payments during the year met one of the following tests:

  • The person’s tax payments were at least 90 percent of the tax liability for 2018 or
  • The person’s tax payments were at least 100 percent of the prior year’s tax liability, in this case from 2017. However, the 100 percent threshold is increased to 110 percent if a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income is more than $150,000, or $75,000 if married and filing a separate return.

For waiver purposes only, today’s relief lowers the 90 percent threshold to 85 percent. This means that a taxpayer will not owe a penalty if they paid at least 85 percent of their total 2018 tax liability. If the taxpayer paid less than 85 percent, then they are not eligible for the waiver and the penalty will be calculated as it normally would be, using the 90 percent threshold. For further details, see Notice 2019-11, posted today on IRS.gov.

Like last year, the IRS urges everyone to check their withholding for 2019. This is especially important for anyone now facing an unexpected tax bill when they file. This is also an important step for those who made withholding adjustments in 2018 or had a major life change to ensure the right tax is still being withheld. Those most at risk of having too little tax withheld from their pay include taxpayers who itemized in the past but now take the increased standard deduction, as well as two-wage-earner households, employees with nonwage sources of income and those with complex tax situations.

To help taxpayers get their withholding right in 2019, an updated version of the agency’s online Withholding Calculator is now available on IRS.gov.With tax season starting Jan. 28, the IRS reminds taxpayers it’s never too early to get ready for the tax-filing season ahead. While it’s a good idea any year, starting early in 2019 is particularly important as most tax filers adjust to the revised tax rates, deductions and credits.

Although the IRS won’t begin processing 2018 returns until Jan. 28, software companies and tax professionals will be accepting and preparing returns before that date. Free File is also now available.

The IRS also reminds taxpayers there are two useful resources for anyone interested in learning more about tax reform. They are Publication 5307, Tax Reform: Basics for Individuals and Families, and Publication 5318, Tax Reform What’s New for Your Business. For other tips and resources, visit IRS.gov/taxreform or check out the Get Ready page on IRS.gov .

IRS will accept individual tax returns on January 28, 2019

IR-2019-01, January 7, 2019

WASHINGTON ― Despite the government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service today confirmed that it will process tax returns beginning January 28, 2019 and provide refunds to taxpayers as scheduled.

“We are committed to ensuring that taxpayers receive their refunds notwithstanding the government shutdown. I appreciate the hard work of the employees and their commitment to the taxpayers during this period,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

Congress directed the payment of all tax refunds through a permanent, indefinite appropriation (31 U.S.C. 1324), and the IRS has consistently been of the view that it has authority to pay refunds despite a lapse in annual appropriations. Although in 2011 the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) directed the IRS not to pay refunds during a lapse, OMB has reviewed the relevant law at Treasury’s request and concluded that IRS may pay tax refunds during a lapse.

The IRS will be recalling a significant portion of its workforce, currently furloughed as part of the government shutdown, to work. Additional details for the IRS filing season will be included in an updated FY2019 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan to be released publicly in the coming days.

“IRS employees have been hard at work over the past year to implement the biggest tax law changes the nation has seen in more than 30 years,” said Rettig.

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing individual tax returns once the filing season begins. For taxpayers who usually file early in the year and have all of the needed documentation, there is no need to wait to file. They should file when they are ready to submit a complete and accurate tax return.

The filing deadline to submit 2018 tax returns is Monday, April 15, 2019 for most taxpayers. Because of the Patriots’ Day holiday on April 15 in Maine and Massachusetts and the Emancipation Day holiday on April 16 in the District of Columbia, taxpayers who live in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019 to file their returns.

Software companies and tax professionals will be accepting and preparing tax returns before Jan. 28 and then will submit the returns when the IRS systems open later this month. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically to minimize errors and for faster refunds.

Qualified Opportunity Funds

IRS Tax Reform Tax Tip 2018-191: Tax reform creates opportunity zone tax incentive

Qualified Opportunity Zones were created by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. These zones are designed to spur economic development and job creation in distressed communities throughout the country and U.S. possessions by providing tax benefits to investors who invest eligible capital into these communities. Taxpayers may defer tax on eligible capital gains by making an appropriate investment in a Qualified Opportunity Fund and meeting other requirements.

In the case of an eligible capital gain realized by a partnership, the rules allow either a partnership or its partners to elect deferral. Similar rules apply to other pass-through entities, such as S corporations and its shareholders, as well as estates and trusts and its beneficiaries.

To qualify for deferral:

  • Capital gains must be invested in a QOF within 180 days.
  • Taxpayer elects deferral on Form 8949 and files with its tax return.
  • Investment in the QOF must be an equity interest, not a debt interest.

If a taxpayer holds its QOF investment at least five years, the taxpayer may exclude 10 percent of the original deferred gain. If a taxpayer holds its QOF investment for at least seven years, the taxpayer may exclude an additional five percent of the original deferred gain for a total exclusion of 15 percent of the original deferred gain. The original deferred gain – less the amount excluded due to the five and seven year holding periods – is recognized on the earlier of sale or exchange of the investment, or December 31, 2026. If the taxpayer holds the investment in the QOF for at least 10 years, the taxpayer may elect to increase its basis of the QOF investment equal to its fair market value on the date that the QOF investment is sold or exchanged. This may eliminate all or a substantial amount of gain due to appreciation on the QOF investment.

More information:

Note: California does not currently conform to this tax incentive.