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Do you have to file a return? Don't shoot the messenger, but the answer usually is yes. If you are a U.S. citizen or resident who made money last year, whether you must tell the Internal Revenue Service about it depends on three things: Your gross income, Your filing status, and Your age. The IRS created the table below to give you an idea of whether you should start getting your filing material together. A quick filing note for some older New Year's Day babies. The IRS says that if you were born on Jan. 1, 1952, you are considered... Read more →


Tax filing season 2017 opens today! Yes, that is cheering you're hearing. It's from folks who file their taxes early, usually because they are getting refunds. They also are fortunate that they have all the materials they need to fill out their returns. The key document for most taxpayers is their W-2 form. Employers aren't required to get these out until the end of the month, but some companies are quite efficient. And some taxpayers this year are going to discover something new on their W-2s. Verification code addition: Around 50 million of these officially named Wage and Income Statements... Read more →


Free File 2017 has been open for a week. Have you tried it out yet? The partnership between Uncle Sam and the private tax software industry has been around since 2003. This year, a dozen companies are offering their services to eligible taxpayers. The Internal Revenue Service and the Free File Alliance say these participating software manufactures should meet the filing needs of 70 percent of the around 153,000 million taxpayers expected to send in 2016 returns this year. Does free tax preparation and e-filing appeal to you? Check it out. But first check out these five things you should... Read more →


Rep. Mick Mulvaney is going to have to answer some nanny tax questions if he hopes to become President-elect Donald Trump's budget director. Rep. Mick Mulvaney speaks to some of his South Carolina constituents on last September's Constitution Day. (Photo by Erik B. Corcoran via Twitter) The South Carolina Republican was elected to Congress in 2010 as part of the midterm Tea Party wave. Since then, the man whom some have called a debt warrior has been a major player in the conservative Freedom Caucus and has focused on ways to cut federal spending. He probably should have focused on... Read more →


It's been 10 years since the Internal Revenue Service Whistleblower Office was created to reward those who turn in tax cheats. It's been a pretty good decade. In particular, notable advances were made last year, according to the Whistleblower Office's fiscal year 2016 annual report. More rewards, less money: The Whistleblower Office awarded more than $61 million to 418 whistleblowers in the last fiscal year. That's a 322 percent increase from fiscal 2015, in which only 99 total awards were paid. The number of whistleblower claims filed last fiscal year also was up 6.4 percent from those submitted the prior... Read more →


Millions of taxpayers prepare their own returns using tax software. Even the Internal Revenue Service encourages this do-it-yourself approach with Free File. So it's no surprise that many tax professionals are looking at ways to retain and add to their client base. Unfortunately, crooks know this, too, and are taking advantage with a new phishing scam in which they target accounting and tax preparation firms and pose as potential clients. Instead of looking for help in completing their returns, the cybercrooks are trying to gather sensitive information from tax professionals that the criminals then will use to file fraudulent tax... Read more →


Tax filing season is about to start. Most tax returns -- almost 90 percent, according to the Internal Revenue Service -- are filled out using tax preparation software. A tax preparer helps a client file her taxes. (U.S. Army photo) But most of those electronically prepared 1040s actually were completed by tax professionals. No kidding. Of the almost 132 million e-filed returns last year, around 60 percent were filed by tax professionals. DIY vs. professionally prepared taxes: Yes, the do-it-yourself e-filing segment is growing. IRS statistics from 2016 show that the self-prepared segment of e-filers increased by more than 5... Read more →


Tax season is here. You know what that means. Tax scams are here in full force. Even before the official 2017 filing season started, the Internal Revenue Service warned tax professionals to be on the lookout (sorry, I know that the BOLO phrase is a touchy one when it comes to the IRS) for yet another tax scam. This one, according to the IRS and its Security Summit partners, is a new e-mail phishing scheme aimed at tax pros that has the subject line "Mails on Hold!" It comes just two months after the crooks tried to get tax preparer... Read more →


The first Friday the 13th of 2017 is lucky for some taxpayers. That's the day that Free File once again opens, allowing eligible folks to electronically prepare and file their 2016 tax returns. The Internal Revenue Service hasn't yet issued an official announcement about Free File 2017, but if you peruse the IRS web site (c'mon, I know I'm not the only one doing this!) you'll find the agency has updated its Free File page, a screenshot excerpt of which is shown above. UPDATE: It's official! The IRS says you can now access Free File by going to IRS.gov and... Read more →


There weren't any major tax bills in 2016. That's going to change in some form in 2017 now that the Republicans control Congress and the White House. via GIPHY But there still were plenty of tax-related matters that got attention last year. Below is my list of top 10 tax stories of 2016, starting with the one I saw as most important. And as a bonus, I also pulled out my slightly cracked crystal ball -- really, who saw the presidential election turning out like it did? -- to forecast five tax issues that we're likely to see in 2017.... Read more →


Hello, 2017. For some of us, you sure took your sweet time. Others think you arrived a tad too soon. Few of us, however, are as ready to get our taxes as done-diddly-done as is Ned Flanders, Homer Simpson's annoying cheery neighbor. If you click the image, you'll see a GIF that gives you a good idea of Ned Flanders' obsessive-compulsive tendencies. While even a dedicated tax geek like myself thinks Neddie is a bit too filing gung-ho for the first day of the New Year, we all should take advantage of January's 31 days to get our 2016 taxes... Read more →


One of the big sticks that the Internal Revenue Service wields is penalties for our mistakes or willful disregard of tax laws. Some of the penalties were increased in 2016 thanks to law changes. Others are hiked each year if inflation so warrants. Here's a roundup of some major tax penalties changes ahead in 2017. Don't file, pay more: The biggie for individual taxpayers is the charge for late filing. In 2016, if you filed a return more than 60 days after the due date or any extension to file that you got, then you faced a penalty of the... Read more →


Social media sites are overrun with folks bemoaning the terrible things that happened during this year. I've even aired my grievances about 2016 before and after Festivus, so far be it from me to be pity party pooper. But here's some perspective for all of us. Military vehicles make their way down a flooded North Carolina following October's devastating Hurricane Matthew. (Photo courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency) For millions of people worldwide, 2016 literally was a disastrous year. In the United States alone, Mother Nature pummeled the country throughout the year, with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, issuing... Read more →


Most of us can use some extra cash. That's particularly true during the holiday shopping season. But unfortunately, recent emails I got from two federal financial officials offering unexpected windfalls are fake. Worse, the messages from Jacob Lew and Janet Yellen are identity theft phishing scams. ID theft impersonation scams: I know most of the ol' blog's loyal readers recognize this duo as, respectively, the U.S. Treasury Secretary and the Chair of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, popularly known as the Fed. As flattered as I might be to learn that Lew and Yellen follow my... Read more →


Get out your calendars! The IRS has some tax-related dates for us. The biggie is the start of the upcoming tax-filing season. That will happen on Jan. 23, 2017. That Monday, the Internal Revenue Service says it will start processing our 2016 tax year returns. Here are some details on that day, as well as three other important tax days/deadlines in 2017. Jan. 23, 2017: In announcing the official start of the 2017 tax filing season, the IRS acknowledged that eager filers expecting refunds are likely to get their 1040s filled out well before next Jan. 23. Many software companies... Read more →


Most of us are knee-deep (or deeper!) into holiday tasks, but the Internal Revenue Service thinks it's also a great time to think about security measures that can protect our tax data during the upcoming tax filing season. That's right, smack in the middle of seasonal shopping and parties, it's National Tax Security Awareness Week. The IRS and its Security Summit partners from the tax software and preparation industry, the tax professionals' community and the state tax world are offering tips this week on scams to be guard against, as well as ways to prevent crooks from stealing our IDs... Read more →


Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen got an early Christmas present on Tuesday, Dec. 6, when the House overwhelmingly rejected a last-ditch effort to impeach him. Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, introduced a resolution Dec. 6 to impeach IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. The effort failed, with House members instead voting to send the matter back to the Judiciary Committee for yet another review. Click image to view full C-SPAN video clip. A faction of conservative Congressional Republicans have been trying to remove Koskinen from his job for more than a year. The lawmakers, led by the House Freedom Caucus, believe that... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is continuing its Future State efforts to get more of us digitally involved with our taxes. The latest move is a new an online way to check on our tax balances. Essentially, each of us has a taxpayer account with the IRS based on our filings. The online access option introduced last week lets us view our tax account balances, including what we owe in tax and any added penalties and interest. The IRS is hoping that when we digitally discover that we owe Uncle Sam some money, we'll then take advantage of the agency's various... Read more →


Attention users of Internal Revenue Service online options. Some of you soon will be getting letters from the IRS about proving who you are. This is not a scam. The coming IRS letters will be real. Some folks will be getting real letters from the IRS asking them to validate the IDs they use to access online tax services. The mailing is not a scam, but it's always good to be careful when you get any request for personal data. New ID validation effort: The IRS notified tax professionals this week via email that during the next five weeks, the... Read more →


With the 2016 election over, a lame duck Congress will return to Washington, D.C., next week to begin the job of wrapping up some pending legislation. One tax measure that passed the House earlier this year, but is still awaiting Senate action, is the RESPECT Act, which tax attorney Darrin Mish discusses in this guest post. A bank customer working with a teller to complete a transaction. If some large withdrawals seem suspicious to bank officials, a person could end up having assets seized by the Internal Revenue Service. In a rare show of bipartisanship, the Clyde-Hirsch-Sowers RESPECT Act was... Read more →