Mary Bamburg, CPA - for Individuals and Small Businesses

Tax Organizers for 2017 Returns:
 
The 2017 Tax Organizer is available in Word or PDF format.  PDF must be printed and filled out, Word document can be completed in soft copy and sent electronically: 
 





  
Additional organizers for income, credits, deductions and more specific tax items:

 
 














Highlights of 2017 Tax Laws/Changes:
Filing your 2017 Return

The IRS will begin accepting electronic tax returns on Monday, January 29th, and reminds taxpayers claiming certain tax credits to expect a longer wait for refunds. 

A new law requires the IRS to hold refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. In addition, the IRS wants taxpayers to be aware it will take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions. Factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, the IRS cautions that many affected taxpayers may not have actual access to their refunds until the week of Feb. 27.

Taxpayers have until Tuesday, April 17, 2018 to file their 2017 tax returns and pay any tax due. The due date is April 17, instead of April 15, because of the Emancipation Day holiday observed in the District of Columbia - even if you do not live in the District of Columbia.

The IRS expects to receive more than 153 million individual income tax returns this year. Like each of the past four years, more than four out of five returns are expected to be filed electronically.  Also like last year, the IRS expects to issue more than nine out of 10 refunds within 21 days.  The fastest way to get a refund is to e-file and choose direct deposit. It takes longer to process paper returns and in light of IRS budget cuts resulting in a smaller staff, it will likely take an additional week or more to process paper returns meaning that those refunds are expected to be issued in seven weeks or more.

What if You Cannot File on Time?
 
You can get an automatic 6-month extension if, no later than the date your return is due, you file Form 4868.  The IRS will NOT honor extensions that are not filed by the original due date.  Note:  An automatic 6-month extension to file does not extend the time to pay your tax. If you do not pay your tax by the original due date of your return, you will owe interest on the unpaid tax and may owe penalties.
 
AFFORDABLE CARE ACT

Health Care Basics

Like 2016, this year’s return will include questions to incorporate provisions of the Affordable Care Act (or ACA).  The Affordable Care Act requires that a taxpayer and each member of their family either has qualifying health insurance coverage for each month of the year, qualifies for an exemption, or makes an individual shared responsibility payment when filing their federal income tax return. Some moderate-income taxpayers may also qualify for financial assistance to help cover the cost of health insurance purchased through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Taxpayers will fall into one or more of the following categories:

• Check the box. 

Most taxpayers will simply check a box on their tax return to indicate that each member of their family had qualifying health coverage for the whole year. No further action is required.

Qualifying health insurance coverage includes coverage under most, but not all, types of health care coverage plans. Taxpayers can use the chart on IRS.gov/aca to find out if their insurance counts as qualifying coverage. 

• Exemptions.

Taxpayers may be eligible to claim an exemption from the requirement to have coverage.  Eligible taxpayers need to complete the new IRS Form 8965Health Coverage Exemptions, and attach it to their tax return.  Taxpayers must apply for some exemptions through the Health Insurance Marketplace. However, most of the exemptions are easily obtained from the IRS when filing a return.

• Individual Shared Responsibility Payment. 

Taxpayers who do not have qualifying coverage or an exemption for each month of the year will need to make an individual shared responsibility payment with their return for choosing not to purchase coverage. Examples and information about figuring the payment are available on the IRS Calculating the Payment page.

• Premium Tax Credit.  

Taxpayers who bought coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace should receive Form 1095-AHealth Insurance Marketplace Statement, from the Marketplace by early February. This form should be saved because it has important information needed to complete a tax return.  If the Form 1095-A is not received by early February, contact the Marketplace where coverage was purchased. Do not contact the IRS because IRS telephone assistors will not have access to this information.

Taxpayers who benefited from advance payments of the premium tax credit must file a federal income tax return. These taxpayers need to reconcile those advance payments with the amount of premium tax credit they’re entitled to based on their actual income. As a result, some people may see a smaller or larger tax refund or tax liability than they were expecting.  Use IRS Form 8962, Premium Tax Credit (PTC), to calculate the premium tax credit and reconcile the credit with any advance payments.

The IRS urges all taxpayers, especially those claiming the premium tax credit, to make sure they have all their year-end statements in hand before they file their return. This includes Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, and, for those claiming the premium tax credit, and Form 1095-A from the Marketplace. Doing so will help avoid refund delays and the need to file an amended return later.

Personal exemption amount remains
the same for tax year 2017.   

Your personal exemption is unchanged at $4,050. But the amount is reduced if adjusted gross income is more than:
  • $156,900 if married filing separately,
  • $261,500 if single,
  • $287,650 if head of household, or
  • $313,800 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er).

Standard Deduction amounts for 2017.

  • $6,350 Single or Married Filing Separately
  • $9,350  Head of Household
  • $12,700 Married Filing Jointly

Limit on itemized deductions.  

You may not be able to deduct all of your itemized deductions if your adjusted gross income is more than:
  • $156,900 if married filing separately,
  • $261,500 if single,
  • $287,650 if head of household, or
  • $313,800 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er). 

Mileage rates.

For 2017, the reimbursement rates are:

  • 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

For 2018, the  reimbursement rates are: 

  • 54.5 cents per mile for business miles driven
  • 18 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Interest Rates Remain the Same for the First Quarter of 2018.

Interest rates will remain the same for the calendar quarter beginning Jan. 1, 2018. The rates will be: 
  • four (4) percent for overpayments [three (3) percent in the case of a corporation];
  • 1 and one-half (1.5) percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000;
  • four (4) percent for underpayments; and
  • six (6) percent for large corporate underpayments. 
    

Watch Out for IRS Tax Scams

Every tax season, there is an increase in schemes that target innocent taxpayers by email, by phone and on-line.   The IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue involving bills or refunds.  The IRS and Security Summit partners remind taxpayers and tax professionals to be on the lookout for these deceptive schemes.  

Some of the most prevalent IRS impersonation scams include:

Requesting fake tax payments: 
The IRS has seen automated calls where scammers leave urgent callback requests telling taxpayers to call back to settle their “tax bill.” These fake calls generally claim to be the last warning before legal action is taken. Taxpayers may also receive live calls from IRS impersonators. They may demand payments on prepaid debit cards, iTunes and other gift cards or wire transfer. The IRS reminds taxpayers that any request to settle a tax bill using any of these payment methods is a clear indication of a scam. 

Targeting students and parents and demanding payment for a fake “Federal Student Tax”:
Telephone scammers are targeting students and parents demanding payments for fictitious taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested.

Sending a fraudulent IRS bill for tax year 2015 related to the Affordable Care Act:
The IRS has received numerous reports around the country of scammers sending a fraudulent version of CP2000 notices for tax year 2015. Generally, the scam involves an email or letter that includes the fake CP2000. The fraudulent notice includes a payment request that taxpayers mail a check made out to “I.R.S.” to the “Austin Processing Center” at a Post Office Box address. 

Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals:  
Payroll and human resources professionals should be aware of phishing email schemes that pretend to be from company executives and request personal information on employees. The email contains the actual name of the company chief executive officer. In this scam, the “CEO” sends an email to a company payroll office employee and requests a list of employees and financial and personal information including Social Security numbers (SSN).
  
“Verifying” tax return information over the phone:
Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a SSN or personal financial information, including bank numbers or credit cards. 

Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry: 
The emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. The phishing schemes can ask taxpayers about a wide range of topics. E-mails or text messages can seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information. 

If you receive an unexpected call, unsolicited email, letter or text message from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here are some of the tell-tale signs to help protect yourself.

The IRS Will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer or initiate contact by e-mail or text message. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Search the web for telephone numbers scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484. 
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call your tax professional or the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.


Federal Income Tax rates.  

Income tax rates vary from 10% to 39.6%  The highest tax rate of 39.6% remains unchanged from 2016.
 
Capital Gains tax rates.

Tax rates vary depending on whether the gains are short-term or long-term.  Short-term gains are taxed at ordinary income tax rates. The maximum rate for long-term capital gains is 20%.  However, this only applies to taxpayers with incomes exceeding $418,401 ($470,701 for married filing joint).  For taxpayers with ordinary income taxed at a rate below 25%, capital gains and dividends will be taxed at a 0% rate.  For taxpayers who are subject to a 25% or greater rate on ordinary income, but whose income falls below the max $418,401/$470,701 threshold, income will continue to be subject to a 15% rate on capital gains and dividends.

  • 0% if taxable income falls in the 10% or 15% marginal tax brackets
  • 15% if taxable income falls in the 25%, 28%, 33%, or 35% marginal tax brackets
  • 20% if taxable income falls in the 39.6% marginal tax bracket
 
Additional Medicare Tax.  

Beginning in 2013 and still in effect, a 0.9% Additional Medicare Tax applies to Medicare wages, railroad retirement (RRTA) compensation, and
self-employment income that are more than:
  • $125,000 if married filing separately,
  • $250,000 if married filing jointly, or
  • $200,000 if single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er).
 
Net Investment Income Tax.  

Beginning in 2013 and still in effect, you may be subject to Net Investment Income Tax (NIIT). The NIIT is 3.8% of the smaller of (a) your net investment income or (b) the excess of your modified adjusted gross income over:
  • $125,000 if married filing separately,
  • $250,000 if married filing jointly or qualifying widow(er), or
  • $200,000 if single or head of household.



New withholding tables for 2018.

To reflect changes made by the tax reform legislation passed in December 2017, the IRS has released updated income-tax withholding tables.  The new withholding tables are designed to work with the Form W-4 you already filed with your employer.

However, to see if you need to have your withholding increased or decreased, use the IRS Withholding Calculator at IRS.gov/W4App.

The calculator is being revised to take into account these changes and should be available by the end of February.