Eight Facts about Penalties for Filing and Paying Late

April 15 is the tax day deadline for most people. If you’re due a refund there’s no penalty if you file a late tax return. But if you owe taxes and you fail to file and pay on time, you’ll usually owe interest and penalties on the taxes you pay late. Here are eight facts that you should know about these penalties. 

1. If you file late and owe federal taxes, two penalties may apply. The first is a failure-to-file penalty for late filing. The second is a failure-to-pay penalty for paying late.

2. The failure-to-file penalty is usually much more than the failure-to-pay penalty. In most cases, it’s 10 times more, so if you can’t pay what you owe by the due date, you should still file your tax return on time and pay as much as you can. You should try other options to pay, such as getting a loan or paying by credit card. The IRS will work with you to help you resolve your tax debt. Most people can set up a payment plan with the IRS using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov.

3. The failure-to-file penalty is normally 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late. It will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

4. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty for late filing is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

5. The failure-to-pay penalty is generally 0.5 percent per month of your unpaid taxes. It applies for each month or part of a month your taxes remain unpaid and starts accruing the day after taxes are due. It can build up to as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

6. If the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty and the 0.5 percent failure-to-pay penalty both apply in any month, the maximum penalty amount charged for that month is 5 percent.

7. If you requested an extension of time to file your income tax return by the tax due date and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe, you may not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay the remaining balance by the extended due date. You will owe interest on any taxes you pay after the April 15 due date.

8. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not filing or paying on time.

IRS Renews Phone Scam Warning

The IRS today renewed its Oct. 2013 warning about a pervasive phone scam that continues to target people across the nation, including recent immigrants. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration called it the largest scam of its kind. As of March 20, TIGTA reported that it has received reports of over 20,000 contacts related to this scam. TIGTA also stated that thousands of victims have paid over $1 million to fraudsters claiming to be from the IRS.

In this scam, the thief poses as the IRS and makes an unsolicited call to their target. The caller tells the victim they owe taxes to the IRS. They demand that the victim pay the money immediately with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. The caller often threatens the victim with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Thieves who run this scam often:

  • Use common names and fake IRS badge numbers.
  • Know the last four digits of the victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Make caller ID appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Send bogus IRS e-mails to support the bogus calls.
  • Call a second time claiming to be the police or department of motor vehicles. The caller ID again appears to support their claim.

If you get a call from someone who claims to be with the IRS asking you to pay back taxes, here’s what you should do:

  • If you owe, or think you might owe federal taxes, hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help you with your payment questions.
  • If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
  • You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. Add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments in your complaint.

Here are a few warning signs so you can protect yourself and avoid becoming a victim of these crimes:

  • Be wary of any unexpected phone or email communication allegedly from the IRS.
  • Don’t fall for phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Thieves often pose as the IRS using a bogus refund or warnings to pay past-due taxes.
  • The IRS usually first contacts people by mail – not by phone – about unpaid taxes.
  • The IRS won’t ask for payment using a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. The IRS also won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone.
  • The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of e-communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
  • The IRS doesn’t ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential information for credit card, bank or other accounts.

The IRS urges you to be vigilant against the many different types of tax scams. Their common goal is to steal your money, and often to steal your identity. Visit the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov, for more on what you should do to avoid becoming a victim.

Find Out if Your Health Insurance Coverage is Considered Minimum Essential Coverage Under the Affordable Care Act

The Affordable Care Act calls for individuals to have qualifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, have an exemption, or make a shared responsibility payment when filing their federal income tax return next year.

Qualifying health insurance coverage, called minimum essential coverage, includes coverage under various, but not all, types of health care coverage plans. The majority of coverage that people have today counts as minimum essential coverage.

Examples of minimum essential coverage include:

  • Health insurance coverage provided by your employer,
  • Health insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace in the area where you live, where you may qualify for financial assistance,
  • Coverage provided under a government-sponsored program for which you are eligible (including Medicare, Medicaid, and health care programs for veterans),
  • Health insurance purchased directly from an insurance company, and
  • Other health insurance coverage that is recognized by the Department of Health & Human Services as minimum essential coverage. 

Minimum essential coverage does not include coverage providing only limited benefits, such as:

  • Coverage consisting solely of excepted benefits, such as:
    • Stand-alone vision and dental insurance
    • Workers' compensation
    • Accident or disability income insurance
  • Medicaid plans that provide limited coverage such as only family planning services or only treatment of emergency medical conditions.

What You Should Know if You Need More Time to File Your Taxes

April 10, 2014 : The April 15 tax deadline is approaching. What happens if you can’t get your taxes done by the due date? If you need more time, you can get an automatic six-month extension from the IRS. You don’t have to explain why you’re asking for more time. Here are five important things to know about filing an extension:

1. File on time even if you can’t pay.  If you complete your tax return but can’t pay the taxes you owe, do not request an extension. Instead, file your return on time and pay as much as you can. That way you will avoid the late filing penalty, which is higher than the penalty for not paying all of the taxes you owe on time. Plus, you do have payment options. Apply for a payment plan using the Online Payment Agreement tool. You can also file Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, with your tax return. If you are unable to make payments because of a financial hardship, the IRS will work with you.

2. Extra time to file is not extra time to pay.  An extension to file will give you six more months to file your taxes, until Oct. 15. It does not give you extra time to pay your taxes. You still must estimate and pay what you owe by April 15. You will be charged interest on any amount not paid by the deadline. You may also owe a penalty for not paying on time.

3. Use IRS Free File to request an extension.  You can use IRS Free File to e-file your extension request. Free File is only available through the IRS.gov website. You must e-file the request by midnight on April 15. If you e-file your extension request, the IRS will acknowledge receipt. You also can return to Free File any time by Oct. 15 to prepare and e-file your tax return for free.

4. Use Form 4868.  You can also request an extension by mailing aForm 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. You must submit this form to the IRS by April 15. 

You don’t need to submit a paper Form 4868 if you make a payment using an IRS electronic payment option. The IRS will automatically process your extension when you pay electronically. You can pay online or by phone.

5. Electronic funds withdrawal.  If you e-file an extension request, you can also pay any balance due by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal from your checking or savings account. To do this you will need your bank routing and account numbers.

Four Things to Know about Net Investment Income Tax

April 4th, 2014 : Starting in 2013, some taxpayers may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax. You may owe this tax if you have income from investments and your income for the year is more than certain limits. Here are four things from the IRS that you should know about this tax:

1. Net Investment Income Tax.  The law requires a tax of 3.8 percent on the lesser of either your net investment income or the amount by which your modified adjusted gross income exceeds a threshold amount based on your filing status.

2. Net investment income.  This amount generally includes income such as:

  • interest
  • dividends
  • capital gains
  • rental and royalty income
  • non-qualified annuities

This list is not all-inclusive. Net investment income normally does not include wages and most self-employment income. It does not include unemployment compensation, Social Security benefits or alimony. Net investment income also does not include any gain on the sale of your main home that you exclude from your income.

After you add up your total investment income, you then subtract your deductions that are properly allocable to this income. The result is your net investment income. Refer to the instructions for Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax for more on how to figure your net investment income or MAGI.

3. Income threshold amounts.  You may owe the tax if you have net investment income and your modified adjusted gross income is more than the following amount for your filing status:

 Filing Status                            Threshold Amount
 Single or Head of household            $200,000
 Married filing jointly                        $250,000
 Married filing separately                  $125,000
 Qualifying widow(er) with a child       $250,000

4. How to report.  If you owe this tax, you must file Form 8960 with your federal tax return. If you had too little tax withheld or did not pay enoughestimated taxes, you may have to pay an estimated tax penalty.

Changes in Circumstances can affect your Premium Tax Credit

March 25, 2014 : If you receive advance payment of the premium tax credit in 2014 it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace.

Most people already have insurance and they won’t have to do anything new. If you are looking for health insurance, you may be able to get it through the Health Insurance Marketplace and you may qualify for the premium tax credit.  You can “get it now” as an advance payment or you can “get it later” when you file your tax return.

Advance payments of the premium tax credit provide financial assistance to help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Having at least some of your credit paid in advance directly to your insurance company will reduce the out-of-pocket cost of the health insurance premiums you’ll pay each month.

If you decide to get the credit in advance, it’s important to report any changes in your income or family size to the Marketplace throughout the year. Reporting these changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

The government makes advance payments of the credit based on an estimate of the credit that you will claim on your tax return when you file in 2015. If you report changes in your income or family size to the Marketplace when they happen in 2014, the advance payments will more closely match the credit amount on your 2014 federal tax return.  This will help you avoid getting a smaller refund than you expected or even owing money that you did not expect to owe.

Tips on Deducting Charitable Contributions

March 24, 2014 : If you are looking for a tax deduction, giving to charity can be a ‘win-win’ situation. It’s good for them and good for you. Here are eight things you should know about deducting your gifts to charity:

1. You must donate to a qualified charity if you want to deduct the gift. You can’t deduct gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates.

2. In order for you to deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your federal tax return.

3. If you get a benefit in return for your contribution, your deduction is limited. You can only deduct the amount of your gift that’s more than the value of what you got in return. Examples of such benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event or other goods and services.

4. If you give property instead of cash, the deduction is usually that item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get if you sold the property on the open market.

5. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.

6. You must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, if your deduction for all noncash gifts is more than $500 for the year.

7. You must keep records to prove the amount of the contributions you make during the year. The kind of records you must keep depends on the amount and type of your donation. For example, you must have a written record of any cash you donate, regardless of the amount, in order to claim a deduction. It can be a cancelled check, a letter from the organization, or a bank or payroll statement. It should include the name of the charity, the date and the amount donated. A cell phone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.

8. To claim a deduction for donated cash or property of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the organization. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

Tax Rules for Children with Investment Income

March 21, 2014 : You normally must pay income tax on your investment income. That is also true for a child who must file a federal tax return. If a child can’t file his or her own return, their parent or guardian is normally responsible for filing their tax return.

Special tax rules apply to certain children with investment income. Those rules may affect the tax rate and the way you report the income.

Here are four facts from the IRS that you should know about your child’s investment income:

1. Investment income normally includes interest, dividends and capital gains. It also includes other unearned income, such as from a trust.

2. Special rules apply if your child's total investment income is more than $2,000. Your tax rate may apply to part of that income instead of your child's tax rate.

3. If your child's total interest and dividend income was less than $10,000 in 2013, you may be able to include the income on your tax return. If you make this choice, the child does not file a return. See Form 8814, Parents' Election to Report Child's Interest and Dividends. 

4. Children whose investment income was $10,000 or more in 2013 must file their own tax return. File Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Investment Income, along with the child’s federal tax return.

Starting in 2013, a child whose tax is figured on Form 8615 may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax. NIIT is a 3.8% tax on the lesser of either net investment income or the excess of the child's modified adjusted gross income that is over a threshold amount. Use Form 8960, Net Investment Income Tax, to figure this tax. For more on this topic.

For more on this topic, see Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents.

Don’t Overlook the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

March 20, 2014 : Many people pay for the care of their child or other dependent while they’re at work. The Child and Dependent Care Credit can reduce that cost. Here are few facts about this important tax credit:

1. You may qualify for the credit if you paid someone to care for your child, dependent or spouse last year.

2. The care you paid for must have been necessary so you could work or look for work. This also applies to your spouse if you are married and filing jointly.

3. The care must have been for ‘qualifying persons.’ A qualifying person can be your child under age 13. They may also be a spouse or dependent who is physically or mentally incapable of self-care. They must also have lived with you for more than half the year.

4. You, and your spouse if you file jointly, must have earned income, such as wages from a job. Special rules apply to a spouse who is a student or disabled.

5. The payments for care can’t go to your spouse, the parent of your qualifying person or to someone you can claim as a dependent on your return. Care payments also can’t go to your child under the age of 19, even if the child isn’t your dependent.

6. The credit is worth up to 35 percent of the qualifying costs for care, depending on your income. The limit is $3,000 of your total cost for the care of one qualifying person. If you pay for the care of two or more qualifying persons, you can claim up to $6,000 of your costs.

7. If your employer provides dependent care benefits, special rules apply. For more see Form 2441, Child and Dependent Care Expenses.

8. You must include the Social Security number of each qualifying person to claim the credit.

9. You must include the name, address and identifying number of your care provider to claim the credit. This is usually the Social Security number of an individual or the Employer Identification Number of a business.

10. To claim the credit, attach Form 2441 to your tax return. If you use IRS e-file to prepare and file your return, the software will do this for you.

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