IRS Provides Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Ida

Hurricane Ida, which began on August 26, barreled through the state of Louisiana and has left millions without power and much of Louisiana in a state of disaster. If you were impacted by Hurricane Ida we want you to know TurboTax is here for you, and we want to keep you up to date with important tax relief information that may help you in this time of need.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared the recent events as a disaster and the IRS announced that victims of the hurricane that occurred in Louisiana now have until January 3, 2022 to file various individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments. Currently, this includes the entire state of Louisiana, but taxpayers in Ida-impacted localities designated by FEMA in neighboring states will automatically receive the same filing and payment relief.

What are the extended tax and payment deadlines for victims of Hurricane Ida?

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred starting on August 26, 2021. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until January 3, 2022 to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. These include:

Your resource on tax filing
Tax season is here! Check out the Tax Center on AOL Finance for all the tips and tools you need to maximize your return.
  • 2020 Individual and Business Returns with Valid Extensions: Individuals that had a valid extension to file their 2020 return due to run out on October 15, 2021 will now have until January 3, 2022 to file. Businesses with extensions also have until January 3, 2022 including, among others, calendar-year corporations whose 2020 extensions run out on October 15, 2021. The IRS noted that because tax payments related to 2020 returns were due on May 17, 2021, those payments are not eligible for an extension.
  • 2020 Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments: 2021 quarterly estimated tax payments with a deadline of September 15, 2021 have been extended until January 3, 2022.
  • Quarterly Payroll and Excise Tax Returns: Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns that are normally due on November 1, 2021, are also extended until January 3, 2022. In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after August 26 and before September 10 will be abated as long as the deposits were made by September 10, 2021.

Calendar-year tax-exempt organizations, operating on a calendar-year basis that have a valid 2020 tax return extension due to run out on November 15, 2021 also qualify for the extra time.

What do I need to do to claim the tax extension?

The IRS automatically provides filing and penalty relief to any taxpayer with an IRS address of record located in the disaster area. Taxpayers do not need to contact the IRS to get this relief. However, if an affected taxpayer receives a late filing or late payment penalty notice from the IRS that has an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date falling within the postponement period, the taxpayer should call the number on the notice to have the penalty abated.

The current list of eligible localities is always available on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

Do surrounding areas outside of Louisiana qualify for an extension?

The IRS will work with any taxpayer who lives outside the disaster area but whose records necessary to meet a deadline occurring during the postponement period are located in the affected area. Taxpayers qualifying for relief who live outside the disaster area need to contact the IRS at 866-562-5227. This also includes workers, assisting the relief activities, who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization.

How can I claim a casualty and property loss on my taxes if impacted?

Individuals or businesses who suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related casualty losses can choose to claim them on either the tax return for the year the loss occurred (in this instance, the 2021 return filed in 2022), or the loss can be deducted on the tax return for the prior year (2020). Individuals may also deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. Be sure to write the FEMA declaration number – 4611 − for Hurricane Ida in Louisiana on any return claiming a loss.

The tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by the harsh storms and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. For information on disaster recovery, visit disasterassistance.gov.

If you are not a victim, but you are looking to help those in need, this is a great opportunity to donate or volunteer your time to legitimate 501(c)(3) not-for-profit charities who are providing relief efforts for storm victims.

Check back with the TurboTax blog for more updates on disaster relief. For more tax tips in 5 minutes or less, subscribe to the Turbo Tips podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and iHeartRadio

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Source: IRS Provides Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Ida

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The IRS Goes Undercover As A Bitcoin Trader In $180,000 Sting

On the hunt for tax cheats, fraudsters, money launderers and dark web drug dealers, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has sent an undercover agent to work on a market for trading bitcoin, ether and other cryptocurrency.

In a search warrant reviewed by Forbes, the undercover IRS agent went by the name of “Mr. Coins” on LocalCryptos.com, a platform exchanging cryptocurrency for dollars and other fiat currencies. Mr. Coins’ profile, still live at the time of publication, had 100% positive feedback after shifting up to $200,000 in digital money.

But his biggest success may have been to take down an alleged dark web drug dealer, tricking him into sending more than $180,000 in cash to the IRS in exchange for cryptocurrencies, according to the warrant.

In June of last year, Mr. Coins put up an advertisement offering to buy bitcoin via cash by mail and above market prices. All sellers had to do was get in touch over encrypted messaging apps Wickr or WhatsApp.

Shortly afterward, a person going by the name “Lucifallen21” got in touch to inquire about the ad, according to the search warrant. The IRS, without saying how, determined that Lucifallen21 was actually Evansville, Indiana, resident Chase Hite. By July, he’d agreed to buy from Mr. Coins, wrapping up $15,040 in cash in clothes, putting the money in a box and posting it to the agent in exchange for approximately 1.59 bitcoin, according to the government’s account.

More payments came in, with nearly $20,000 posted in August, in exchange for approximately 1.34 bitcoin and 45.2 monero, another cryptocurrency that promises better privacy protections than its rivals, the government said, adding that nearly $65,000 was sent to the agent over following months.

Come March this year, investigators were getting ready to home in on the conclusion to the sting operation. A $28,000 cash package from Hite was intercepted and marked as lost by the Postal Service, according to the IRS, which then monitored calls to the post office, waiting for the suspect to call and complain. Investigators linked this call with a phone number that was paid for by Hite.

Further messages over Wickr indicated Hite was involved in dark web drug sales, claiming to sell “pills and opioids,” as well as cocaine and marijuana, the IRS claimed. As they deepened their relationship, the undercover officer agreed to provide Hite with a loan, by which the suspect would send $54,000 in cash and get $79,000 worth of cryptocurrency in return, according to the search warrant. When that last package arrived, forensics took fingerprints and linked them to Hite, the government added.

Hite was arrested in July and has not yet filed a plea. The charges were filed in the Eastern District of New York. His lawyer declined to comment. LocalCryptos hadn’t responded to requests for comment. The IRS declined to provide more information than what had been filed in court.

The tax collecting agency has a track record of going undercover to snare cryptocurrency-using criminals. Earlier this year, it was revealed that the agency had organized a payment to a service called Bitcoin Fog, which offered to launder money.

The agents said they wanted to launder cryptocurrency they’d earned by selling Ecstasy, according to a criminal complaint, first reported by Wired, in which a Russian-Swedish administrator was charged. And in March, the IRS pretended to be a seller of counterfeit Gucci products sourced from China, asking the defendant in that case to convert bitcoin that they claimed to have acquired in selling the merchandise.

But this latest sting is a rare case where the IRS set up a profile on a cryptocurrency trading platform and created what amounts to a watering hole, with agents just waiting for criminals to dive in.

This story is part of The Wire IRL feature in my newsletter, The Wiretap. Out every Monday, it’s a mix of strange true crime and real-world surveillance, with all the relevant search warrants and court documents for you to pore over. There’s also all the cybersecurity and privacy news you need to read. Sign up here.

Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. Send me a secure tip.

I’m associate editor for Forbes, covering security, surveillance and privacy. I’m also the editor of The Wiretap newsletter, which has exclusive stories on real-world

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The IRS Bottleneck Most Taxpayers Have Never Heard Of

The one-day deadline for taxpayers to approve authorization requests only applies to authorizations for multiple representatives. All representatives must be approved on the same day or later approvals will overwrite prior approvals. Currently there is no deadline for taxpayers to approve authorization requests.

Bottlenecks are nothing new to the Internal Revenue Service. IRS issues with mail processing, return processing, and issuing refunds have been well publicized. Nevertheless, one of the most common IRS bottlenecks is one that many taxpayers, including many members of Congress, are unaware of.

IRS notices about return adjustments, balances due, delays in refund processing, and a host of other issues continued to be sent automatically during the Covid-19 pandemic and continue to be issued after what most tax practitioners agree was the worst income tax filing season ever (even worse than filing season 2020).

Taxpayers who choose to pay a professional to assist with an IRS notice must provide proper authorization, typically using either Form 2848, Power of Attorney, or Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization. The representative then files the signed 2848 or 8821 with the Centralized Authorization File (CAF) unit either by mailing it, faxing it, or (more recently) via online submission. Once CAF approval has been granted, the tax practitioner can then represent the taxpayer, but getting CAF approval has become an increasingly fraught process.

The Internal Revenue Manual (or IRM) specifies that “receipts” [of authorization requests] are processed within five business days. Nevertheless, over the last few years processing times of three to six weeks or even longer have become increasingly common. This January tax practitioners were given the ability to submit authorizations online. Online submission was greeted with enthusiasm because it also allowed for the use of electronic (as opposed to “wet”) signatures.

Online submission definitely made the process of getting a client’s signature and submitting the authorization form to the CAF unit much simpler, but because online submissions are processed in order along with mailed or faxed in submissions, uploading authorization forms has not been an expedient option for taxpayers needing immediate assistance.

Typically practitioners representing taxpayers with short deadlines call the Practitioner Priority Line (PPL) and fax the form to the answering representative. Because all faxed forms require a “wet” signature the electronic signature and online submission process has proved less than helpful except for non-urgent matters.

The IRS CAF units in Memphis and Ogden were completely shut down in March 2020 in response to the pandemic (as was a third unit that serves taxpayers located outside of the U.S.). Consequently, authorization processing (which was already slow) was brought to a standstill—and then it went into reverse. Although all three CAF units re-opened in July 2020, and although the IRS has added additional staff to help clear the backlog, the CAF units are still taking several weeks to process mailed or faxed submissions.

While there have been anecdotal reports of uploaded forms being processed in two weeks (as opposed to the six or more it sometimes takes for a mailed or faxed-in authorization), the IRS continues to state that the CAF units process all mailed, faxed, and uploaded forms on a first-in, first out basis.

John Sheeley, Enrolled Agent and owner of Tax Practice Pro, Inc. (which provides continuing education to tax practitioners), has recommended that the IRS stop issuing automatic notices and re-direct any available staff to the CAF units to assist with processing backlogged authorization requests (and then move those staff on to processing notice responses that have also been languishing, sometimes since mid-2020).

Additional improvements to the traditional CAF authorization process that have been recommended by many practitioners include notifying the practitioner via their e-Services account when an authorization form has been accepted for processing (similar to the acknowledgement received for electronically filed tax returns and that includes the date of acknowledgment and the taxpayer’s identification number) and again when the authorization has been processed.

These two additional notifications would allow tax practitioners to quickly determine if their authorization request got to the CAF unit and if it was approved. Currently practitioners must log into their e-services accounts and manually check to see if an authorization form has been processed (again, with no way of knowing if it was even received).

Tax practitioners would also like notification if the authorization request form is rejected and why so that any errors can be corrected. Currently forms submitted by mail, fax, or upload go into a black hole that requires practitioners to continue to check to see if the form has been accepted.

It is never clear whether a long delay is an actual delay in processing, if the form was lost, or if it was rejected. This is inefficient both for practitioners and the IRS. Practitioners who can’t wait for the authorizations to be accepted are often forced to call an already overburdened PPL only to be told the form was rejected and will have to be corrected and resubmitted.

On July 18, 2021 the IRS opened a practitioner portal that is supposed to make filing and obtaining authorizations easier. The new submission and approval system promises to greatly improve efficiency for practitioners whose clients have or can get an IRS online account. Tax practitioners can log into a special Tax Pro account to submit authorization requests for their clients who can then approve the request.

In general, the requests record in real-time to the CAF database. The practitioner is alerted to many issues (e.g., a CAF number mismatch) before the authorization is submitted. Once the request has been approved by the client, authorization approval should be displayed in the practitioner’s Tax Pro account within two business days. Marc Dombrowski, Enrolled Agent Owner of Tax Help Associates, a Buffalo, New York, firm that specializes in resolving tax issues had his first two submissions record in real time and the third in approximately 30 hours. That’s a huge improvement over the several weeks which had become the norm since at least 2020.

Of course, there is some fine print. Authorizations requested using the new portal are limited in scope (most notably they can only be used for individual accounts, not businesses and they can only authorize access back to tax year 2000). Additionally, while the practitioner is notified that an online request has not been approved, the unapproved request is not identified in any way (for example using the taxpayer’s name or TIN). While this may be a necessary security precaution it does pose problems for tax resolution specialists who often submit multiple authorization requests each day.

Processing the older authorization backlog may be even more important with the new portal now online. The IRS has always stressed to practitioners not to submit multiple copies of the same authorizations as it will delay CAF processing. Tax practitioners tend to be a methodical bunch and most will typically check to determine if a client authorization has been granted before attempting to upload an authorization using the new portal.

It would be extremely helpful (and would help to avoid duplicate submissions) if the information provided to practitioners reflects up-to-date CAF information. Dombrowski states that when it comes to the CAF process, “It’s simplicity is its perfection.” New submissions will reliably always overwrite older submissions. That means that the limited scope authorization requests submitted online using the new Tax Pro accounts will replace any full-scope authorizations (2848 or 8821) the IRS currently has on file, so practitioners should be mindful when using the portal for requests on existing clients.

Of course new submissions overwriting older submissions also means that full-scope authorizations submitted by mail, fax, or upload will overwrite limited scope authorizations if the full-scope authorizations are processed after an authorization submitted using the portal. Morris Armstrong, an Enrolled Agent who owns an independent tax practice in Cheshire, Connecticut, says “it is likely safer to request the 8821 [which allows a practitioner to obtain information but not to negotiate] and preserve the 2848, barring urgency to negotiate.”

Finally, client approval of an online authorization request must also be provided the same day as the request is made by the practitioner and, depending on the client, that is not always possible. Truthfully, many practitioners can resolve their clients’ issues if the client has an IRS online account and is willing to request the necessary transcripts and provide them to their practitioner.

Nevertheless, while a transcript review may resolve some problems, often further intervention by the tax practitioner is required. Still, anything that speeds up CAF approval and provides simpler options for obtaining taxpayer transcripts has the potential to greatly reduce IRS phone traffic. And anything that reduces IRS phone traffic will be enthusiastically welcomed by taxpayers, tax practitioners, and the IRS.

I own Tax Therapy, LLC, in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am an Enrolled Agent and non-attorney practitioner admitted to the bar of the U.S. Tax Court. I work as a tax general practitioner preparing returns for individuals and (really) small businesses as well as representing individuals before the IRS and, occasionally, the U.S. Tax Court. My passion is translating “taxspeak” into English for taxpayers and tax practitioners. I write to dispel myths with facts and to explain “the fine print” behind seemingly simple tax concepts. I cover individual tax issues and IRS developments with a focus on items of interest to taxpayers and retail tax practitioners. Follow me on Twitter @taxtherapist505

Source: The IRS Bottleneck Most Taxpayers Have Never Heard Of

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How the New Child Tax Credit Is Helping Parent Entrepreneurs

Eligible parents are slated to receive their monthly child tax credit payments starting Thursday. How you use the money could affect your business or help you start one.

The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 expanded the tax credit score to $3,600 per baby underneath the age of six and to $3,000 for these aged six to 17. It is in impact only for 2021, although Biden has advocated making it making it everlasting.

Half of the funds might be despatched to folks in installments via December. For instance, a mum or dad with one baby underneath six would obtain $300 per 30 days. Dad and mom can declare the remainder upon submitting taxes for 2021–unless they choose out to allow them to obtain all the cash once they file.

Madilynn A. Beck, founder and CEO of Palm Springs, California-based Fountful–an app that gives “life-style providers” like manicures or DJ appearances on demand–is contemplating that strategy. Beck says that if she meets her enterprise targets this 12 months, Fountful might generate sufficient income to considerably enhance her tax burden come subsequent April. “I am protecting my head above water now,” she says. “What occurs if I’m absolutely underwater then and do not have a life vest?”

The kid tax credit score will have an effect on individuals at a “wide selection” of earnings ranges, says Daniel Milan, managing accomplice at Cornerstone Monetary Providers primarily based in Southfield, Michigan. For aspiring entrepreneurs, it’d offset childcare prices for just a few months whereas they work on getting a enterprise off the bottom. For others, the cash might simply assist alleviate day by day monetary stress.

That is the case for Ruby Taylor, CEO and founding father of Baltimore-based Monetary Pleasure Faculty, which supplies monetary literacy training and produces a card sport that teaches the topic to younger individuals. In April 2021, she and her spouse’s monetary scenario modified consequently of the pandemic however they nonetheless needed to cowl issues like a brand new roof and fence for his or her home.

Their financial savings account dwindled, and Taylor’s nervousness spiked, leading to her occurring blood stress and nervousness treatment. The additional $500 the mom of two expects to obtain means the couple can construct up their security web once more, taking the stress off each of them. “When she’s not pressured, I am not pressured,” Taylor says. It “will assist the enterprise not directly, as a result of I may be extra productive.”

Guardian entrepreneurs face the extra problem of staying current with spouses and kids, says James Oliver Jr., founder and CEO of ParentPreneur Basis, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that helps Black mum or dad founders financially and with an internet neighborhood (of which Beck and Taylor are each members).

 Month-to-month funds “may very well be the distinction of sending the youngsters to summer season camp, shopping for further groceries, taking a bit trip, or taking the youngsters to the amusement park as soon as a month to assist the household bond,” he says.

Source: How the New Child Tax Credit Is Helping Parent Entrepreneurs | Inc.com

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Critics:

The Internal Revenue Service today launched two new online tools designed to help families manage and monitor the advance monthly payments of Child Tax Credits under the American Rescue Plan. These two new tools are in addition to the Non-filer Sign-up Tool, announced last week, which helps families not normally required to file an income tax return to quickly register for the Child Tax Credit. The new Child Tax Credit Eligibility Assistant allows families to answer a series of questions to quickly determine whether they qualify for the advance credit.

The Child Tax Credit Update Portal allows families to verify their eligibility for the payments and if they choose to, unenroll, or opt out from receiving the monthly payments so they can receive a lump sum when they file their tax return next year. This secure, password-protected tool is available to any eligible family with internet access and a smart phone or computer. Future versions of the tool planned in the summer and fall will allow people to view their payment history, adjust bank account information or mailing addresses and other features. A Spanish version is also planned.

The IRS Has 35 Million Tax Returns In Backlog. Here’s How To Track Your Money

The IRS is facing numerous challenges that have caused setbacks in issuing tax refunds this year. A recent National Taxpayer Advocate report confirmed that some 35 million tax returns are yet to be processed and explained the long delays. The tax agency is tasked with more than usual this time of year. Many 2020 tax returns are requiring adjustments or corrections, disbursing stimulus checks, calculating other tax credits and refunding overpayment on 2020 unemployment compensation.

And then there’s the unprecedented situation brought on by the pandemic. The IRS is taking more than the standard 21 days to send refunds — some taxpayers are waiting months. It’s hard to get live assistance by phone, as many callers wait on hold or aren’t connected due to high call volumes. So what if you need your tax money to cover debt or household expenses? How can you check the status of your money without calling the IRS?

We’ll walk you through how to see your personalized refund status online through IRS tracking tools and what to do if you’re waiting for a tax refund on unemployment benefits, as well. For more on economic relief aid, here are some ways to know if you qualify for the child tax credit payments that start next week. If you’re curious about future stimulus payments or the latest infrastructure deal, we can tell you about that, too. This story has been recently updated.

Why is there a tax refund delay this year?

Because of the pandemic, the IRS ran at restricted capacity in 2020, which put a strain on its ability to process tax returns and created a massive backlog. The combination of the shutdown, three rounds of stimulus payments, challenges with paper-filed returns and the tasks related to implementing new tax laws and credits caused a “perfect storm,” according to a National Taxpayer Advocate review of the 2021 filing season to Congress.

The IRS is open again and currently processing mail, tax returns, payments, refunds and correspondence, but limited resources continue to cause delays. Earlier in the tax season, some refunds were already taking longer than 21 days, including those that required manual processing. The IRS said it’s also taking more time for 2020 tax returns that need review, such as determining recovery rebate credit amounts for the first and second stimulus checks — or figuring earned income tax credit and additional child tax credit amounts.

Here’s a list of reasons your refund might be delayed:

  • Your tax return has errors.
  • It’s incomplete.
  • Your refund is suspected of identity theft or fraud.
  • You filed for the earned income tax credit or additional child tax credit.
  • Your return needs further review.
  • Your return includes Form 8379 (PDF), injured spouse allocation — this could take up to 14 weeks to process.

If the delay is due to a necessary tax correction made to a recovery rebate credit, earned income tax or additional child tax credit claimed on your return, the IRS will send you an explanation. If there’s a problem that needs to be fixed, the IRS will first try to proceed without contacting you. However, if it needs any more information, it will write you a letter.

How can you track the status of your refund online?

To check the status of your income tax refund using the IRS tracker tools, you’ll need to give some information: your Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, your filing status — single, married or head of household — and your refund amount in whole dollars, which you can find on your tax return. Also, make sure it’s been at least 24 hours (or up to four weeks if you mailed your return) before you start tracking your refund.

Using the IRS tool Where’s My Refund, go to the Get Refund Status page, enter your SSN or ITIN, your filing status and your exact refund amount, then press Submit. If you entered your information correctly, you’ll be taken to a page that shows your refund status. If not, you may be asked to verify your personal tax data and try again. If all the information looks correct, you’ll need to enter the date you filed your taxes, along with whether you filed electronically or on paper.

The IRS also has a mobile app called IRS2Go that checks your tax refund status. The IRS updates the data in this tool overnight, so if you don’t see a status change after 24 hours or more, check back the following day. Once your return and refund are approved, you’ll receive a personalized date to expect your money.

Where’s My Refund has information on the most recent tax refund that the IRS has on file within the past two years, so if you’re looking for return information from previous years you’ll need to contact the IRS for further help.

How can you check the status of unemployment tax refunds online?

Taxpayers who collected unemployment benefits in 2020 and filed their tax returns early have started to receive additional tax refunds from the IRS. Under new rules from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, millions of people who treated their unemployment compensation as income are eligible for a tax break and could get a hefty sum of money back.

However, it’s not easy to track the status of that refund using the online tools above. To find out when the IRS processed your refund and for how much, we recommend locating your tax transcript by logging in to your account and viewing the transactions listed there. We explain how to do that step-by-step.

What is the wait time for a standard tax refund?

The IRS usually issues tax refunds within three weeks, but some taxpayers have been waiting months to receive their payments. If there are any errors, or if you filed a claim for an earned income tax credit or the child tax credit, the wait could be pretty lengthy. If there is an issue holding up your return, the resolution “depends on how quickly and accurately you respond, and the ability of IRS staff trained and working under social distancing requirements to complete the processing of your return,” according to its website.

The date you get your tax refund also depends on how you filed your return. For example, with refunds going into your bank account via direct deposit, it could take an additional five days for your bank to post the money to your account. This means if it took the IRS the full 21 days to issue your check and your bank five days to post it, you could be waiting a total of 26 days to get your money. If you submitted your tax return by mail, the IRS says it could take six to eight weeks for your tax refund to arrive.

What do the IRS tax refund status messages mean?

Both IRS tools (online and mobile app) will show you one of three messages to explain your tax return status.

  • Received: The IRS now has your tax return and is working to process it.
  • Approved: The IRS has processed your return and confirmed the amount of your refund, if you’re owed one.
  • Sent: Your refund is now on its way to your bank via direct deposit or as a paper check sent to your mailbox. (Here’s how to change the address on file if you moved.)

What does an IRS TREAS 310 deposit mean?

If you receive your tax refund by direct deposit, you may see IRS TREAS 310 for the transaction. The 310 identifies the transaction as an IRS tax refund. This would also apply to the case of those receiving an automatic adjustment on their tax return or a refund due to new legislation on tax-free unemployment benefits. You may also see TAX REF in the description field for a refund.

If you see a 449 instead, it means your refund has been offset for delinquent debt.

What is the IRS phone number to check on a tax refund?

The IRS received 167 million calls this tax season, which is four times the number of calls in 2019. And based on the recent report, only seven percent of calls reached a telephone agent for help. While you could try calling the IRS to check your status, the agency’s live phone assistance is extremely limited right now because the IRS says it’s working hard to get through the backlog. You shouldn’t file a second tax return or contact the IRS about the status of your return.

Even though the chances of getting live assistance are slim, the IRS says you should only call if it’s been 21 days or more since you filed your taxes online, or if the Where’s My Refund tool tells you to contact the IRS. Here’s the number to call: 800-829-1040.

Why will a refund come by mail instead of direct deposit?

There are a couple of reasons that your refund would be mailed to you. Your money can only be electronically deposited into a bank account with your name, your spouse’s name or a joint account. If that’s not the reason, you may be getting multiple refund checks, and the IRS can only direct deposit up to three refunds to one account. Additional refunds must be mailed. Lastly, your bank may reject the deposit and this would be the IRS’ next best way to refund your money quickly.

For more information about your 2020 taxes, here’s the latest on federal unemployment benefits on your taxes and everything to know about the third stimulus check.

Katie Teague headshot

 

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Source: The IRS has 35 million tax returns in backlog. Here’s how to track your money – CNET

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Critics:

Tax returns in the United States are reports filed with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or with the state or local tax collection agency (California Franchise Tax Board, for example) containing information used to calculate income tax or other taxes. Tax returns are generally prepared using forms prescribed by the IRS or other applicable taxing authority.

Under the Internal Revenue Code returns can be classified as either tax returns or information returns, although the term “tax return” is sometimes used to describe both kinds of returns in a broad sense. Tax returns, in the more narrow sense, are reports of tax liabilities and payments, often including financial information used to compute the tax. A very common federal tax form is IRS Form 1040.

A tax return provides information so that the taxation authority can check on the taxpayer’s calculations, or can determine the amount of tax owed if the taxpayer is not required to calculate that amount. In contrast, an information return is a declaration by some person, such as a third party, providing economic information about one or more potential taxpayers.

References:

The Crypto Tax Nightmare Facing New Traders

Digital Cryptocurrency

Everyone is talking about cryptocurrency these days, and it’s easy to see why. After all, the value of Bitcoin (BTC) temporarily surpassed the $60,000 threshold earlier this year, and Ethereum (ETH) has quadrupled in value since the beginning of 2021. Of course, there are other cryptocurrencies currently making waves and helping at least some people rake in the cash, which continues creating hype among investors and everyone else.

But, there’s one aspect of crypto investing that hardly anyone is talking about — the tax implications. This is partly because taxes are boring in general, but it’s also because a lot of crypto investors have no idea what they’re doing. And — for the record — the same problem is going to come into play this year regarding NFTs, or non-fungible tokens.

How Is Cryptocurrency Taxed Anyway?

Tax partner Jon D. Feldhammer of Baker Botts says that, generally speaking, cryptocurrency is treated as property and taxed accordingly. This means that you’ll face tax implications when you sell your crypto or NFT or you trade either one for another investment or even a purchase.

Let’s say you buy 1 Bitcoin (BTC) for $30,000 on January 1, 2021, and then sell it on May 6, 2021 for $50,000. In that case, Feldhammer says you would have $20,000 of taxable short-term gains.

However, he says things get tricky from here, because it’s common for people to make frequent trades for various purposes. For example, let’s say someone has $50,000 in BTC and they want to buy an NFT. In that case, they might need Ethereum to buy a specific NFT, so they trade BTC for ETH to make the purchase. In this case, Feldhammer says you still face $20,000 of taxable income because you exchanged the property (BTC) for other property (ETH), which is a taxable transaction.

Also consider this scenario: You bought BTC for $5,000 at some point in 2020, and your investment has now grown to over $50,000 in value. Law partner Asher Rubinstein at Gallet Dreyer & Berkey says that, if you decide to use your BTC to pay for a new Tesla TSLA -1.3%, you will have earned $45,000 in taxable income to report on your tax return.

You might like to think of it as a swap, he says, but “it’s like buying $5,000 worth of stock and selling it for $50,000.”

Short-Term Vs. Long-Term Capital Gains

Another factor to be aware of is the fact that, for many crypto and NFT traders, frequent transactions are the norm. For example, there are a slew of investors who constantly “buy the dip” on the favorite cryptocurrency then sell when prices are high only to do it all over again.

Aaron Sherman, who is President of Odyssey Group Wealth Advisors, says many newbie investors may not realize how gains are taxed when you don’t keep crypto for very long. If the asset was held for at least one full year, the gain will be taxed at a long-term capital gain rate, which is lower than ordinary income tax rates, he says. Meanwhile, if the asset was held for less than a year, the gain is taxed as a short-term capital gain, with a rate equal to the investor’s ordinary income tax rate.

“The difference between short-term and long-term tax treatment is meant to encourage investors to hold assets for longer periods,” says Sherman. “Because of this difference, those who are day trading crypto assets could face a large tax bill on any gains they may have.”

In the meantime, Feldhammer points out that NFTs may be considered a “collectible,” in which case they would be subject to a top tax rate of 28%, rather than 20%.

Facing A Crypto Tax Nightmare? Here’s What You Should Do

If you’re someone who believes cryptocurrency is anonymous and thus not subject to taxes, think again. Matthew Unger, CEO and founder of global compliance solution iComply, says that this is not true, and that new regulation called the FATF “travel rule” will effectively capture nearly every wallet owner on a public chain.

“This regulation starts coming into effect in most countries in June 2021…a few weeks away,” he says. “Once travel rule systems are in place, users can expect their local tax authorities to come calling.”

According to tax withholding expert Wendy Walker of global tax compliance firm Sovos, you cannot avoid your tax obligations and expect them to go away.

“Unpaid taxes accrue interest and penalties every single day they go unpaid,” she says, adding that filing an extension “does not get you off the hook because even during the extension period, unpaid taxes will continue to accrue interest.”

Further, the IRS aggressively pursues unpaid tax amounts via liens on personal property, seizures of assets, garnishments of wages, and so forth.

However, Chief Tax Information Officer Mark Steber of Jackson Hewitt says that taxpayers can get on a payment plan with the IRS if they’re unable to pay before the Tax Day deadline. Just keep in mind that telling the IRS you didn’t know your crypto transactions would be taxed isn’t good enough.

“The IRS wants their money and won’t ignore unpaid bills,” he says.

Thomas Shea, Tax Partner at EY, also says that, if you’ve triggered a taxable exchange but don’t have the fiat to cover the tax, you could exchange additional assets for fiat, essentially a “sell to cover.”

If one pursues this route, however, Shea says they should be mindful of the tax consequences of disposing of such additional property (e.g., additional taxable gains on appreciated property, potential offsetting losses of depreciated property).

No matter what, you’re probably better off consulting a tax professional if you’re even a little worried about mucking up your crypto tax bill. Walker says there are a variety of deductions you can take on capital gains liabilities and there are a variety of tax credits and deductions that taxpayers can leverage to minimize the amount of income taxes actually due.

“Navigating the IRS can be daunting if you don’t have experience,” she says. “So rely on someone who does.”

I’m a personal finance expert that focuses on helping millennials get out of student loan debt and start investing for their future. I also help parents make smart choices about college financing options and navigating the complex world of paying for school. I started The College Investor in 2009 as a forum to discuss the myriad of financial issues facing young adults. I majored in Political Science at UC San Diego, and received my MBA from the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego. To learn more about me, go to TheCollegeInvestor.com, or follow me on Twitter @collegeinvestin.

Source: The Crypto Tax Nightmare Facing New Traders

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Bitcoin Taxes: Overview of the Rules and How to Report Taxes

https://i1.wp.com/onlinemarketingscoops.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/shutterstock_1060313306.jpg?resize=924%2C578&ssl=1

Bitcoin seems to be everywhere these days. From its mysterious origins in 2008, it has grown into a widely accepted currency, used for everything from investing to shopping to employees’ wages. But many Bitcoin users don’t realize that buying/selling, exchanging, and even using Bitcoin to pay for things has tax implications. Yes, you read that last phrase right. In some cases, just spending your Bitcoin could be considered a profitable investment — and taxable.

From how exactly it’s taxed to how to prepare for filing, here’s what you need to know about Bitcoin taxes.

How Bitcoin is taxed

Bitcoin and its comrade cryptocurrencies (Ethereum, Ripple, Tether, and Litecoin) appeal to users because they are secure and provide a degree of anonymity. It’s that anonymity, along with the growing value of cryptocurrency transactions taking place worldwide, that has increasingly drawn attention from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in recent years.

Since you can use Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies for everything from online shopping to donating to charity, you might assume the IRS treats cryptocurrency like cash. That assumption can get you into hot water.

According to IRS Notice 2014-21, the IRS classifies cryptocurrencies as property, not cash or currency. That means it treats Bitcoin transactions like sales of stocks and other investments. Purchasing cryptocurrency with cash and holding on to it isn’t a taxable transaction, but selling, exchanging, or using it to purchase goods and services is.

For example, say you purchase 10 crypto coins for $10 (basically, $1 apiece) on December 1, 2020, and load them onto a cryptocurrency debit card. On December 20, 2020, that cryptocurrency is trading for $5 per coin, up from the $1 per coin you paid for it back at the beginning of December. On that day, you use your cryptocurrency debit card to pay for a $5 cup of coffee.

On your 2021 tax return, you are supposed to report a $4 short-term capital gain (“short-term” because it happened within one year). That’s the $5 per coin value you received when you purchased the cup of coffee, minus your $1 per-coin basis (what you paid for it) in the cryptocurrency.

That’s a level of record keeping that few taxpayers are willing to keep up with – if they’re aware of the requirement at all.

Why is Bitcoin taxed?

According to a survey conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Blockchain Capital, roughly 9% of American adults own Bitcoin. However, the IRS estimates that only a tiny percentage of them report crypto-related gains and losses on their tax returns.

In 2017, the IRS searched its database for the 2013 through 2015 tax years. It found:

  • 807 individuals reported cryptocurrency transactions in 2013
  • 893 individuals reported cryptocurrency transactions in 2014
  • 802 individuals reported cryptocurrency transactions in 2015

That discrepancy is why the IRS is making cryptocurrency taxes an enforcement priority in 2021. In fact, Form 1040 for the 2020 tax year includes a question about cryptocurrency on the front page. It asks whether you’ve received, sold, sent, exchanged or otherwise acquired a financial interest in any virtual currency.

If you check “no” to this question when you did, in fact, engage in cryptocurrency transactions, the IRS can consider that a willful attempt to avoid taxes, and you could face harsher penalties if the IRS uncovers your omission.

How to prepare and report Bitcoin tax filing

The IRS taxes Bitcoin as an investment. That means it’s subject to the same tax rate of capital gains and losses that other financial assets are subject to when you sell any holdings in it, realizing a profit or loss.

Step 1: Gather information for Bitcoin tax reporting

For each transaction, you need to know the following:

  • The amount (in dollars) you spent to buy the cryptocurrency
  • The date you purchased (or received) them
  • The date you sold or exchanged the coins
  • The amount in dollars the cryptocurrency was worth when you sold it (or value you received in the exchange)

When you sell stocks, at the end of the year, your broker will send you a Form 1099-B that includes all of the necessary information to report those sales on your tax return. But don’t expect the same service from a cryptocurrency exchange. Most crypto exchanges only send 1099 forms to customers with gross payments over $20,000 or more than 200 cryptocurrency transactions during the year.

However, you can typically generate reports through your cryptocurrency exchange platform that will include all buys, sells, sends, and receipts of cryptocurrency from the account. If all of your cryptocurrency transactions take place on one exchange, gathering the information you need for tax reporting should be relatively easy. If your cryptocurrencies are scattered across several exchanges, you’ll need to download separate reports from each of them.

Step 2: Calculate your Bitcoin gains and losses

Once you have all of the information on your cryptocurrency activity during the year, you need to determine whether you incurred a gain or loss on each transaction. To do this, you’ll need to decide which method you’ll use to value the cryptocurrencies you sell. Your options are:

  • First-in-first-out (FIFO). The coins you purchase first are the ones you sell first.
  • Specific identification. You select which coins you’re disposing of in each transaction.

The method you choose can greatly impact the amount of taxes you end up owing in a particular year.

Say you purchase 100 crypto coins for $1 each on January 1, 2021, and another 100 coins for $20 each on June 1, 2021. On February 1 of the following year, you sell 40 coins for $15 each.

Using the FIFO method assumes the 40 coins sold came from the January 2021 lot. As a result, you would have a long-term gain of $560. That’s 40 coins at $15 each less 40 coins at $1 each, or $600 – $40 = $560.

Using the specific identification method, you could decide that the four coins sold in February of 2022 came from the lot purchased in June of 2021. In that case, you would have a short-term loss of $200. That’s 40 coins at $15 each less 40 coins at $20 each, or $600 – $800 = -$200.

Some cryptocurrency exchanges provide a gain/loss report. However, these reports are typically only provided on the FIFO method, so you won’t be able to benefit from using the specific identification method if you rely on them.

Step 3: Report your Bitcoin transactions

Capital gain transactions are reported on IRS Form 8949. The form is divided into two sections:

  • Cryptocurrencies held for one year or less go in the short-term section. Short-term gains are taxed at the same rates as ordinary income, with the top rate being 37%.
  • Cryptocurrencies held for longer than one year go in the long-term section. Long-term gains qualify for more favorable long-term capital gains rates, which cap out at 20%.

Include your totals from Form 8949. If you sold other non-crypto investments, report those on a separate Form 8949. Carry the totals from all 8949 forms to IRS Schedule D.

The financial takeaway

You might have figured that investing in Bitcoin could have tax implications, especially if you make a profit on it. But it might surprise you to know that just spending your Bitcoin could trigger that taxable profit.

Purchasing cryptocurrency with cash and holding on to it isn’t a taxable transaction, but selling, exchanging, or using it to purchase goods and services is.

Tracking the ins and outs of cryptocurrency transactions can be challenging. If you own cryptocurrency and have many transactions, it’s a good idea to talk to a CPA or other tax professional familiar with cryptocurrency tax reporting. They may be able to recommend software to help track transactions and ensure you’re properly accounting for them on your tax return.

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Source: Bitcoin Taxes: Overview of the Rules and How to Report Taxes

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For more information, Checkout our Complete Guide To Cryptocurrency Taxes: https://www.cryptotrader.tax/blog/the… To learn how to import your cryptocurrency data into TurboTax: https://www.cryptotrader.tax/blog/how… To learn more about the “Cryptocurrency Tax Problem”: https://www.cryptotrader.tax/blog/cry… To learn how Cryptocurrency Mining is Treated for Tax Purposes: https://www.cryptotrader.tax/blog/how…
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Delaying Required IRA Distributions Again Would Largely Help Only The Wealthy

Senior couple on a sailing cruise.

The House Ways & Means Committee is once again tinkering with the law that requires retirees to take minimum distributions from their individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s. Each time, Congress eases the required minimum distribution (RMD) rules at great cost to the federal government. Yet the beneficiaries would overwhelmingly be wealthy retirees and their future heirs.

The committee bill, approved today, would make two big changes to RMDs. It would allow retirees to wait until age 75 before taking required minimum annual distributions and paying tax on them. Currently, they must begin taking distributions at age 72. And it would make it easier for older adults to avoid taking required distributions by investing their retirement funds in annuities.

The new RMD rules are included in the Securing a Strong Retirement (SECURE) Act of 2021. To be sure,  the measure would make some beneficial changes, including provisions that encourage more employers to auto-enroll workers in retirement plans, an important tool to encourage participation. But it also includes some clunkers, and the RMD rules are high on the list.

Fiddling

Congress can’t help fiddling with the RMD rules.

In December, 2019, Congress allowed workers to delay taking RMDs from age 70.5 to age 72. Last year, Congress waived minimum distributions entirely in response, it said, to the pandemic. Lawmakers felt it would not be fair to require retirees to take distributions after the stock market plunged in March, 2020. Except, whoops, the S&P index rose 16 percent for the year.

Now SECURE would gradually extend the delay to 75. It would rise to 73 in 2022, then 74 in 2029, and finally 75 in 2032. But don’t be surprised if a future Congress accelerates the timetable.

Remember, the purpose of tax-free retirement plans is to help older adults save for their, um, retirement. It was not supposed to be another tool for bequests to family members. RMD rules are intended to make sure that these assets are taxed during a person’s expected life. Without the rules, rich retirees could simply stash assets in tax-advantage accounts until they die, then pass them on to heirs.

Not cheap

Delaying RMDs again would have major consequences, some unintended.  And it would not be cheap. At a time when lawmakers say they are worried about growing deficits, delaying RMDs would reduce federal revenue by almost $7 billion over 10 years. But the real cost would begin once the age phases up to 74 in 2029. At that point, revenue would fall by about $1.4 billion annually.

But its biggest problem is that delaying RMDs would be so regressive.

In 2015, the roughly 17 percent of taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes of $100,000-plus took more than half of the $253 billion in IRA distributions. Those making $50,000 or less took only about 20 percent.

In 2019, the median retirement account balance was only about $65,000, according to the latest Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances. Another survey found that nearly one-third of people in their 60s or older had less than $100,000 in defined contribution plan assets.

No help to many

Many low-income retirees with such limited retirement assets already take more than the required minimum annually to pay routine bills. Delaying required distributions would not benefit them in any way.

Keep in mind, as well, the life expectancy for low income people is far lower than for the wealthy. The RMD delay also is of no benefit for those who die before age 73.

It is the same story with enhanced annuities. Retirees with relatively little wealth receive few benefits from these investment. Someone investing that median $65,000 at age 65 would get an average payout of only about $250 a month.

Unintended losers

Charities may be unintended losers from these changes. They benefit from another complicated provision called qualified charitable distributions (QCDs). By contributing required distributions to charity, seniors can avoid tax on mandatory withdrawals. And QCDs have become a popular way for wealthy seniors to donate to charity.

It appears that these gifts fell sharply in 2020, largely in response to the temporary waiver of RMDs. And it would be no surprise if they continue to fall if wealthy seniors can delay distributions until age 75.

Some heirs are required to close, and pay tax on, their inherited IRAs within 10 years, although spouses and minor children and exempt from that requirement. Even for those subject the 10-year rule, the long deferral can be extremely valuable.

The Biden Administration is proposing a major shift in the tax treatment of assets held outside of retirement accounts by taxing at death unrealized capital gains in excess of $1 million. By doing so, it would prevent wealthy people from passing on a large share of their wealth tax free.

The RMD change in the SECURE Act, by contrast, would make it easier for wealthy seniors to pass on retirement plan assets, with any tax liability delayed for years.

I am author of the book “Caring for Our Parents” and senior fellow at The Urban Institute, where I am affiliated with the Tax Policy Center and the Program on Retirement Policy. I also write a tax and budget policy blog, TaxVox, which you may read at Forbes.com or at http://taxvox.taxpolicycenter.org/ Before joining Urban, I was a senior correspondent in the Washington bureau of Business Week.

Source: Delaying Required IRA Distributions—Again— Would Largely Help Only The Wealthy

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For more information on IRAs, including required withdrawals, see:

These frequently asked questions and answers provide general information and should not be cited as legal authority.

  1. What are Required Minimum Distributions?
  2. What types of retirement plans require minimum distributions?
  3. When must I receive my required minimum distribution from my IRA?
  4. How is the amount of the required minimum distribution calculated?
  5. Can an account owner just take a RMD from one account instead of separately from each account?
  6. Who calculates the amount of the RMD?
  7. Can an account owner withdraw more than the RMD?
  8. What happens if a person does not take a RMD by the required deadline?
  9. Can the penalty for not taking the full RMD be waived?
  10. Can a distribution in excess of the RMD for one year be applied to the RMD for a future year?
  11. How are RMDs taxed?
  12. Can RMD amounts be rolled over into another tax-deferred account?
  13. Is an employer required to make plan contributions for an employee who has turned 70½ and is receiving required minimum distributions?
  14. What are the required minimum distribution requirements for pre-1987 contributions to a 403(b) plan?

How is the amount of the required minimum distribution calculated?

Generally, a RMD is calculated for each account by dividing the prior December 31 balance of that IRA or retirement plan account by a life expectancy factor that IRS publishes in Tables in Publication 590-B, Distributions from Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). Choose the life expectancy table to use based on your situation.

See the worksheets to calculate required minimum distributions and the FAQ below for different rules that may apply to 403(b) plans.

IRS Rules On Crypto Reporting Just Got Even More Confusing

At any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?

On March 2, the IRS updated the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Virtual Currency Transactions. The new FAQ provides that taxpayers whose only crypto transactions include the purchase of virtual currency with real currency need not answer yes to the question on the front page of the 2020 IRS Form 1040. This instruction is directly contrary to the plain reading of the simple question on cryptocurrency, which is highlighted in red here:

I’ve previously written about IRS enforcement of Crypto account holders here, here, and here. Uncovering crypto account holders is a key part of stepping up enforcement in this area, and as I explained just two weeks ago, the IRS is laser-focused on criminal and civil enforcement in this emerging area of taxation.

Both the 2020 IRS Form 1040 and the 1040 instructions provide that a taxpayer who engaged in any transaction involving virtual currency must check the “yes” box next to the question on page 1 of Form 1040. But the 1040 instructions provide a little more color, explaining that “A transaction involving virtual currency does not include the holding of virtual currency in a wallet or account, or the transfer of virtual currency from one wallet or account you own or control to another that you own or control.”

The FAQs released today provide:

Should crypto account holders who bought, but did not sell, virtual currency in the year 2020 answer “No” to the question based on this FAQ and the 1040 instructions?

I wouldn’t bet a single Bitcoin on it.

First, informal IRS guidance such as FAQs – and even the Internal Revenue Manual – can’t be relied on by taxpayers. Yes, you read that right. The IRS is allowed to and does publish guidance in the form of FAQs and the Internal Revenue Manual to assist taxpayers (and Revenue Agents) in navigating the web of tax law. But there is an abundance of caselaw that says taxpayers don’t have “rights” based on them and can’t try to enforce them.

Eaglehawk Carbon, Inc. v. United States, 122 Fed. Cl. 209, 221 (2015) (noting that “it is beyond cavil” that I.R.M. provisions “do[ ] not have the force of law”); Fargo v. Commissioner, 447 F.3d 706, 713 (9th Cir. 2006) (noting that “[th]e Internal Revenue Manual does not have the force of law and does not confer rights on taxpayers”); Valen Mfg. Co. v. United States, 90 F.3d 1190, 1194 (6th Cir. 1996) (noting that [“[t]he provisions of the manual, however, only ‘govern the internal affairs of the Internal Revenue Service.

They do not have the force and effect of law,’” quoting United States v. Horne, 714 F.2d 206, 207 (1st Cir. 1983)); and Marks v. Commissioner, 947 F.2d 983, 986, n.1 (D.C. Cir. 1991) (noting that [i]t is well-settled … that the provisions of the [I.R.M.] are directory rather than mandatory, are not codified regulations, and clearly do not have the force and effect of law.”).

Second, answering no to the question when the actual answer is yes based on the FAQ or instructions to the 1040, while technically correct, could lead to adverse consequences. Simply purchasing virtual currency does not create a taxable event. Even if no tax is due in year 2020, if a taxpayer answers no in 2020 based on the FAQ but then does not file a tax return for 2021, or files a tax return that omits a crypto transaction, rest assured that the IRS will argue that answering no in 2020 was evidence of intent to conceal the crypto.

And for that matter, so will the Department of Justice, Tax Division. Even if a taxpayer is later vindicated, simply going through an IRS civil or criminal exam can be costly in time, emotional distress, and money on professional fees.

While common sense says it should be perfectly fine to answer “No” based on the FAQ, as a tax litigator who defends clients in civil and criminal tax disputes with the IRS, I’ll advise my clients who bought but did not sell crypto to answer yes, unless there is a compelling non-tax reason not to.

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn. Check out my website.

I try tax cases in tax court and federal courts, represent taxpayers who are examined by the IRS, and represent tax professionals who get into disciplinary trouble.  I’m also a professional partnership representative.  My practice is in Chicago but my clients are all over the country and the world.  Email me at guinevere.moore@mooretaxlawgroup.com and follow me at @Mommytax

Source: IRS Rules On Crypto Reporting Just Got Even More Confusing

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IRS Delivers Covid-19 Surprise To Workers:  A Chance To Redo Their 2021 Health Plan And FSA Choices

If your employer lets you make changes to your workplace healthcare elections for 2021 under new Treasury guidance, it could cut your tax bill.

 

Wish you could change your health plan for 2021? In newly released guidance on new flexible rules for healthcare and dependent care FSAs, the Internal Revenue Service has included a new Covid-19-relief surprise: Employers can allow employees to make changes prospectively to health care coverage for 2021.

“The guidance is very employer and employee friendly; it really gives a lot of flexibility,” says Jake Mattinson, an employee benefits lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery in Chicago.

Notice 2021-15 allows for mid-year changes to employer-sponsored health care coverage, healthcare flexible spending accounts and dependent care accounts. It will help employees whose medical and caregiving situations have changed because of the coronavirus pandemic. That is, if your employer is on board.

Usually healthcare elections are set in stone on a calendar year basis. Last May, the Treasury Department came up with a partial mid-year fix for 2020, allowing prospective changes and extending grace periods and carryovers through year-end (IRS Notice 2020-29). But employees still cried foul: they had socked away more money than they could spend in these workplace tax-favored accounts, and would be subject to forfeiture rules.

In December, in the tax provisions tied onto the year-end spending package, Congress passed new special rules allowing rollovers and more for leftover 2020 and 2021 FSA money for employees and ex-employees. Notice 2021-15 answers a lot of the open questions about how to implement the new rules.

For 2021, you can revoke an existing healthcare plan election and make a new election, or revoke an existing election and attest that you’re getting coverage elsewhere. Say you picked an HMO plan, but really want to be in a PPO plan. Or say you decide you’d be better off under a spouse’s plan. This gives you the chance to make a mid-year change. That allowance is not in the December law, so it was a surprise, Mattinson says.

For healthcare and dependent care FSAs, the guidance says employers can allow employees to carryover unused amounts they’ve stashed in these accounts from the 2020 and 2021 plan years. It wasn’t clear before, but the IRS says that any plan can implement a 100% carryover or extended grace period, no matter what feature the plan had before, Mattinson says. That means employees might be able to carry over their whole balance (instead of just $550 under current law) from one year to the next.

The extended grace period could go out 12 months, instead of just 2.5 months. as of January 1, 2022, everything would shift back to the regular rules. Under the regular rules, you can stash up to $5,000 pretax per year in a dependent care FSA, but if you don’t use the money for the specified year, you lose it. You can put up to $2,750 in a healthcare FSA, and if you don’t use it, you may be able to either use it up during a grace period or carry over $550.

Don’t get your hopes up just yet: Employers have to adopt these changes, and while some have already been working on amendments to their plans based on the December law even before today’s guidance, others have decided to do nothing. “The reaction among employers is mixed; everyone has their own ideas of what to implement. It’s all optional,” says Mattinson. One client said they would implement it all, while another client said they wouldn’t make any of the changes, for example.

Some of the nitty-gritty guidance surrounds COBRA and health savings accounts. For COBRA, the guidance makes clear that if an employer lets terminated workers seek reimbursement from an FSA, that won’t hurt their qualification for COBRA. For health savings accounts, the guidance clarifies that for employees who want to make a midyear change into a high deductible health plan with an HSA, they could convert a general purpose FSA to a limited purpose FSA so as not to be disqualified from contributing to the HSA.

Notice 2021-15 is 34 pages long and includes detailed examples, suggesting this is an area of the tax code that could be simplified! Here’s a bullet point summary of the law changes addressed in the IRS guidance; employers can:

 

  • allow employees to carry over unused money up to the full annual amount from the plan year 2020 to 2021, and also from the plan year 2021 to 2022 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
  • allow up to a 12-month grace period for employees to incur new expenses and submit claims against unused accumulated funds for plan years ending in 2020 or 2021 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
  • allow midyear election changes on a prospective basis without a change in status event for plan years ending in 2021 for healthcare and dependent care FSAs
  • allow dependent care reimbursement up to age 14 in cases where an employee’s dependent turned 13 in 2020 and the employee had leftover funds from 2020 (this special carry forward rule helps employees whose dependents “aged out” during the pandemic) for dependent care FSAs
  • allow health FSA participants who stop participating in the plan (ex-employees) during calendar year 2020 or 2021 to continue to receive reimbursements through the end of the year, including grace periods (this post-termination benefit applies to healthcare FSAs, not dependent care FSAs)

 

Further reading: Healthcare And Childcare FSA Fix For 2021, Finally: Special Carry Over Rules And More

Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

I cover personal finance, with a focus on retirement planning, trusts and estates strategies, and taxwise charitable giving. I’ve written for Forbes since 1997. Follow me on Twitter: @ashleaebeling and contact me by email: ashleaebeling — at — gmail — dot — com

Source: IRS Delivers Covid-19 Surprise To Workers:  A Chance To Redo Their 2021 Health Plan And FSA Choices

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