Tax help Feed

Free File is under fire again. The annual tax season program, in which some tax software programs participate via a special Internal Revenue Service website, was created 17 years ago to offer no-cost tax filing to low-to-middle income taxpayers. The current agreement private/public tax filing deal is in place through Oct. 31, 2021. This year, eligible taxpayers — that's those with adjusted gross incomes of $69,000 or less, regardless of filing status — can use Free File to meet the coronavirus-delay July 15 tax filing and payment deadline. Those who decided to get an extension can use Free File until... Read more →


Tropical Storm Cristobal made landfall Sunday evening in Louisiana. Even though it quickly weakened to a tropical depression, it still is dumping copious amounts of rain across the Pelican State. The potential for flooding was part of the reason that the White House on Sunday, June 7, issued a federal disaster declaration for Louisiana. That decision allows the federal government to help pick up some of the state's disaster response costs. It also will give those who sustained Cristobal-related damages a chance to claim those losses on their taxes. Major disasters only need apply: Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs... Read more →


Video conferencing is becoming more acceptable, even in IRS communications with some taxpayers. It's possible that a few good things might come from COVID-19. We might be able to adapt our infection precautions to post-pandemic processes that are more worker friendly and business efficient. Yes, I am talking about expanded use of technology. And yes, I mean beyond subscribing to every streaming service to fill your days while you were (or are) in isolation mode. The latest example comes from the Internal Revenue Service. Uncle Sam's tax collector has for years been urging us taxpayers to file our returns electronically... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service is beginning the process of sending out COVID-19 economic relief payments. Americans who filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, as well as folks who got Social Security retirement or disability payments or Railroad Retirement benefits, don't have to do anything. The IRS will use the tax return or other government payment information on file to send the money, which could be a maximum of $1,200 per individual or $2,400 for married couples who file jointly, to these eligible recipients. Some people, however, don’t fall into these already on-record categories. The most notable group here... Read more →


Photo courtesy MoneyBogNewz via Flickr CC This weekend many businesses and their tax advisers are still trying to sort out the complexities of Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program. It's part of the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package, officially known as the CARES Act, that became law on March 27. The Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, was created to get cash relatively quickly to small business owners whose operations have taken hits due to the pandemic and efforts to stem it, such as forced closures. It's supposed to have less red tape than the existing SBA loan programs and... Read more →


Thank you, Internal Revenue Service. The tax agency has confirmed that 2019 tax year contributions to individual retirement arrangements (IRAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs) can be made as late July 15. These accounts are among the very few areas where a tax break doesn't have a Dec. 31 deadline. In normal tax seasons, contributions to an IRA or HSA can be made and claimed for the prior tax year as late as April 15, which is the usual tax filing deadline. However, this year, as everyone already knows, the chaotic convergence of COVID-19 and taxes prompted the IRS to... Read more →


Retailers aren't the only ones closing their doors to customers during the coronavirus crisis. So is the Internal Revenue Service and other tax-related operations. As cases of COVID-19 increased, the IRS has acted to protect not only taxpayers but its employees. The goal is the new global mantra — to flatten the curve of the potentially deadly virus' transmission. IRS in-person actions curtailed: "We're taking several immediate steps to protect employees while still delivering on the mission-critical functions," said IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig, in a message to his staff that also is posted on the tax agency's website. These virus-affected... Read more →


UPDATE, March 24, 2020: As the coronavirus spread across the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and many associated tax programs have been adversely impacted. Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites were among those affected, with most closing earlier this tax season. If COVID-19 conditions improve in some clinic areas before the new July 15 tax filing and payment deadline, some VITA and TCE operations may reopen. Meanwhile, some are offering phone help. Check with your local clinic (details on how to do that in the post below). Volunteer tax preparers help Florida... Read more →


Law schools and their students, like these at Georgia State University College of Law, are major contributors to the success of Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics nationwide. (Photo courtesy Philip C. Cook LITC) Sometimes, taxpayers encounter issues more serious that just filing their returns. They discover that the Internal Revenue Service has some questions about a prior return or an appeal of an agency decision isn't going as expected or that the federal tax collector is taking his name to heart and initiating collection procedures. What to do? Specifically, what to do if you don't have much money? Find your nearest Low-Income... Read more →


(Pixabay via Pexels) When you're in the military, taxes are likely far down on your list of concerns. Members of the military, however, bear the same tax responsibility as do all U.S. citizens. The one bit of good tax news here is that the tax code and Internal Revenue Service take into account the special circumstances that armed services personnel face. Here are some tax highlights for military taxpayers. Affected armed forces: Military tax benefits typically apply to active duty or reserve members of the armed forces. The eligible forces are: United States Army (including Army Reserve and Army National... Read more →


Taxpayer Advocacy Panel members provide information on how to improve the IRS at the agency's annual Tax Forums. (Photo courtesy TAP News) How many times, perhaps times per day, have you said, "If I were in charge, I'd do things differently." Now's your chance to follow up on that, at least when it comes to how U.S. taxpayers interact with our tax system and the agency that administers it. Become a member of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, or TAP as it's called, and improve the Internal Revenue Service. My personal TAP dance: I can hear the skepticism coming through the... Read more →


Millions of us file taxes every year. And millions of us, even those who get refunds, dread it. Why? We worry that we'll make a mistake. That's a legitimate concern. Despite lawmakers' perpetual promises to make our tax lives easier, they somehow seem to screw up that political pledge. Yes, I am looking at you Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), with your new forms and confusing tax breaks even when they provide some relief. Thanks, Congress! But sometimes, we filers have to bear some of the blame. We make things worse by making easily avoidable mistakes when we fill... Read more →


If this filing season is anything like previous ones, millions of taxpayers have already sent their 1040s to the Internal Revenue Service. One of the perennial questions is how many filers use tax software, specifically the options offered by the IRS-tax software industry partnership known as Free File. Again, if the 2020 filing season is like most before it, the news isn't likely to be good. Despite efforts by the IRS over the years, the Free File program is just not that popular with taxpayers. And making things worse for the program is a just-released report that says more than... Read more →


The shortest month of the year is a little longer in 2020. It's a Leap Year. What will we do with that extra day, Feb. 29? Of course, we're going to devote those additional 24 hours to our taxes. OK, maybe not. For many, this first full week of February is getting off to a slow part, thanks to the annual Super Bowl Sunday hangover. Others simply aren't ready to think taxes yet. It's not their fault. They, and that includes me, are still waiting for necessary tax-filing statements. And some eager and on-the-ball taxpayers don't want to think about... Read more →


What would you do with an extra $2,504? That's the average amount received by taxpayers who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in 2019. Overall, the Internal Revenue Service says that across the country last year, 25 million taxpayers received more than $61 billion from this tax break for lower-and middle-income workers. Every tax year, however, folks who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit don't claim it. Many don't know about the tax break. Others don't realize that changes in their marital, parental or financial status means they now qualify. That's why for more than a decade, the... Read more →


The second filing season under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) is about to start. This one will be easier, right? Right? Maybe. At least this year, we and the Internal Revenue Service aren't dealing with the longest federal government shutdown in history. Plus, folks got a good look with their filings last year at how the massive Republican tax reform law affects them, although some areas are still a bit fuzzy. And of course, everyone adjusted their payroll withholding so there won't be a replay of 2019's reduced/no-tax-refund drama. Yeah, I'm rolling my eyes at that statement, too.... Read more →


Before you can file your taxes, you need some tax statements. The key among them for most of us is the W-2. Here's a look at all — and there's a lot — that's on this document. Taxes are all about the numbers. That includes the numerical names of tax documents. For wage earning taxpayers, the most important form is the W-2 they get early (hopefully!) each year. Officially titled Wage and Tax Statement, it has (true to its name) the details on earnings and taxes paid throughout the past tax year. This form is starting point in figuring any... Read more →


Taxpayers got their first experience with new filing forms with last year's 2018 returns. There are more changes to the 1040 for 2019 taxes, too, but the revisions actually could be helpful. Tax season is about to start in a less than two weeks. Jan. 27, in case you forgot. Many of us are already working on our 2019 returns, either by working with a tax preparer or filling out our forms on our own. Doing taxes has never been a fun job for most folks. But filing under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) has made that job... Read more →


Ready to file your taxes? Ready to do so for free? The Internal Revenue Service is ready, too. Its Free File tax preparation and electronic filing option is open for business. As usual, the online no-cost way for millions to complete and electronically file their taxes is available before the IRS actually starts accepting and processing returns. That won't happen until Jan 27. But you can still get a jump on your annual tax filing obligation. The Free File program you select will simply hold your return until Jan. 27 and then submit as soon as the IRS officially kicks... Read more →


Image via GotCredit.com The year's first obvious and, for some, painful acknowledgement of taxes is next week. Jan. 15 is the due date for the final estimated tax payment for the 2019 tax year. That upcoming deadline day is this weekend's By the Numbers figure. Generally, if you expect you'll owe more than $1,000 in taxes, then you must pay estimated taxes throughout the year. If you've been paying estimated taxes for a while, you already know that these payments cover earnings that aren't subject to withholding. This includes things like investment earnings that pay out periodically during the year... Read more →