Collaboration

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.

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.

Businesses can take these steps after a disaster

When disaster strikes, many business owners might find themselves needing to reconstruct records. This will help them prove a loss, which may be essential for tax purposes, getting federal assistance, or insurance reimbursement.

Here are tips for businesses that need to reconstruct their records:

  • To create a list of lost inventories, business owners can get copies of invoices from suppliers. Whenever possible, the invoices should date back at least one calendar year.
  • For information about income, business owners can get copies of last year’s federal, state and local tax returns. These include sales tax reports, payroll tax returns, and business licenses from the city or county. These will reflect gross sales for a given period.
  • Owners should check their mobile phone or other cameras for pictures and videos of their building, equipment and inventory.
  • Business owners who don’t have photographs or videos can simply sketch an outline of the inside and outside of their location. For example, for the inside the building, they can draw out where equipment and inventory was located. For the outside of the building, they can map out the locations of items such as shrubs, parking, signs, and awnings.

More Information:

2019 Inflation-Related Tax provisions, rates and phase-outs

On November 15, IRS announced tax year 2019 annual inflation adjustments for more than 60 tax provisions, including tax rate schedules and other tax changes. Among other changes, the inflation adjustments include the following:

  • The standard deduction
    • increases from $24,000 to $24,400 for taxpayers who are married but file jointly
    • rises from $12,000 to $12,200 for single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately
    • increases from $18,000 to $18,350 for heads of households.
  • The earned income credit increases from $6,431 to $6,557 for taxpayers filing jointly, who have three or more qualifying children.
  • The adoption credit increases from $13,810 to $14,080.
  • Per TCJA changes, the dollar amount used to determine the penalty for not maintaining minimum essential health coverage in calendar year 2019 is reduced from $695 to zero.
  • Raises the alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption amount increases from $70,300 to $71,700. The phase-out threshold increases from $500,000 to $510,300. But for married couples filing jointly, the AMT exemption amount increases from $109,400 to $111,700, and the phase-out threshold increases from 1 million dollars to $1,020,600.
  • Sets the §179 amount will be $1,020,000 with a phase-out threshold of $2,550,000.
  • Increases the qualified business income threshold under §199A(e)(2) to $321,400 for married individuals filing jointly, $160,725 for married individuals filing separately, and $160,700 for single individuals and heads of household (from $315,000 for joint returns and $157,500 for other taxpayers in 2018).
  • Raises $11,180,000 basic exclusion amount for estates of decedents who die in 2018 to $11,400,000 for estates of decedents who die in 2019.
  • Increases the monthly limitation for the qualified transportation fringe benefit from $260 to $265.
  • Raises the dollar limitation for employee salary reductions for contributions to HSAs from $2,650 to $2,700.
  • And various penalty amounts for failure to file tax and information returns or furnish payee statements are also adjusted for inflation for 2019.