Individual Taxpayers: Recap for 2020
As we close out the year and get ready for tax season, here's what individuals and families need to know about tax provisions for 2020.
Personal exemptions are eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025.
The standard deduction for married couples filing a joint return in 2020 is $24,800. For singles and married individuals filing separately, it is $12,400, and for heads of household, the deduction is $18,650.
The additional standard deduction for blind people and senior citizens in 2020 is $1,300 for married individuals and $1,650 for singles and heads of household.
Income Tax Rates
In 2020 the top tax rate of 37 percent affects individuals whose income exceeds $518,400 ($625,050 for married taxpayers filing a joint return). Marginal tax rates for 2020 are as follows: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35%, and 37%. As a reminder, while the tax rate structure remained similar to prior years under tax reform (i.e., with seven tax brackets), the tax-bracket thresholds increased significantly for each filing status.
Estate and Gift Taxes
In 2020 there is an exemption of $11.58 million per individual for estate, gift, and generation-skipping taxes, with a top tax rate of 40 percent. The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000.
Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT)
For 2020, exemption amounts increased to $72,900 for single and head of household filers, $113,400 for married people filing jointly and for qualifying widows or widowers, and $56,700 for married taxpayers filing separately.
Pease and PEP (Personal Exemption Phaseout)
Both Pease (limitations on itemized deductions) and PEP (personal exemption phase-out) have been eliminated under TCJA.
Flexible Spending Account (FSA)
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is limited to $2,750 per year in 2020 (up from $2,700 in 2019) and applies only to salary reduction contributions under a health FSA. The term "taxable year" as it applies to FSAs refers to the plan year of the cafeteria plan, which is typically the period during which salary reduction elections are made.
Long-Term Capital Gains
In 2020 tax rates on capital gains and dividends remain the same as 2019 rates (0%, 15%, and a top rate of 20%); however, taxpayers should be reminded that threshold amounts don't correspond to the tax bracket rate structure as they have in the past. For example, taxpayers whose income is below $40,000 for single filers and $80,000 for married filing jointly pay 0% capital gains tax. For individuals whose income is at or above $441,450 ($496,600 married filing jointly), the rate for both capital gains and dividends is capped at 20 percent.
Miscellaneous deductions that exceed 2 percent of AGI (adjusted gross income) are eliminated for tax years 2018 through 2025. As such, you can no longer deduct on Schedule A expenses related to tax preparation, moving (except for members of the Armed Forces on active duty who move because of a military order), job hunting, or unreimbursed employee expenses such as tools, supplies, required uniforms, travel, and mileage.
Business owners are not affected and can still deduct business-related expenses on Schedule C.
Individuals - Tax Credits
In 2020 a nonrefundable (i.e., only those with tax liability will benefit) credit of up to $14,300 is available for qualified adoption expenses for each eligible child.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
The Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit was permanently extended for taxable years starting in 2013 and remained under tax reform. As such, if you pay someone to take care of your dependent (defined as being under the age of 13 at the end of the tax year or incapable of self-care) in order to work or look for work, you may qualify for a credit of up to $1,050 or 35 percent of $3,000 of eligible expenses.
For two or more qualifying dependents, you can claim up to 35 percent of $6,000 (or $2,100) of eligible expenses. For higher-income earners, the credit percentage is reduced, but not below 20 percent, regardless of the amount of adjusted gross income.
Child Tax Credit and Credit for Other Dependents
For tax years 2018 through 2025, the Child Tax Credit increases to $2,000 per child. The refundable portion of the credit increases from $1,000 to $1,400 - 15 percent of earned income above $2,500, up to a maximum of $1,400 - so that even if taxpayers do not owe any tax, they can still claim the credit. Please note, however, that the refundable portion of the credit (also known as the additional child tax credit) applies higher-income when the taxpayer isn't able to fully use the $2,000 nonrefundable credit to offset their tax liability.
Under TCJA, a new tax credit - Credit for Other Dependents - is also available for dependents who do not qualify for the Child Tax Credit. The $500 credit is nonrefundable and covers children older than age 17 as well as parents or other qualifying relatives supported by a taxpayer.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
For tax year 2020, the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) for low and moderate-income workers and working families increased to $6,660 (up from $6,557 in 2019). The maximum income limit for the EITC increased to $56,844 (up from $55,952 in 2019) for married filing jointly. The credit varies by family size, filing status, and other factors, with the maximum credit going to joint filers with three or more qualifying children.
Individuals - Education Expenses
Coverdell Education Savings Account
You can contribute up to $2,000 a year to Coverdell savings accounts in 2020. These accounts can be used to offset the cost of elementary and secondary education, as well as post-secondary education.
American Opportunity Tax Credit
For 2020, the maximum American Opportunity Tax Credit that can be used to offset certain higher education expenses is $2,500 per student. For 2020, the amount of your credit begins to phase out if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is between $80,000 and $90,000 ($160,000 and $180,000 if you file a joint return). You cannot claim a credit if your MAGI is $90,000 or more ($180,000 or more if you file a joint return).
Lifetime Learning Credit
A credit of up to $2,000 is available for an unlimited number of years for certain costs of post-secondary or graduate courses or courses to acquire or improve your job skills. For 2020, the modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) threshold at which the Lifetime Learning Credit begins to phase out is $118,000 for joint filers and $59,000 for singles and heads of household. The credit cannot be claimed if your MAGI is $69,000 or more ($138,000 for joint returns).
Employer-Provided Educational Assistance
As an employee in 2020, you can exclude up to $5,250 of qualifying postsecondary and graduate education expenses that are reimbursed by your employer.
Student Loan Interest
In 2020, you can deduct up to $2,500 in student-loan interest as long as your modified adjusted gross income is less than $70,000 (single) or $140,000 (married filing jointly). The credit cannot be claimed if your modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) is more than $85,000 for single filers ($170,000 if married filing jointly).
Individuals - Retirement
For 2020, the elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan is $19,500 ($19,000 in 2019). For persons age 50 or older in 2020, the limit is $26,000 ($6,500 catch-up contribution).
Retirement Savings Contributions Credit (Saver's Credit)
In 2020, the adjusted gross income limit for the saver's credit for low and moderate-income workers is $65,000 for married couples filing jointly, $48,750 for heads of household, and $32,500 for married individuals filing separately and for singles. The maximum credit amount is $2,000 ($4,000 if married filing jointly). As a reminder, starting in 2018, the Saver's Credit can be taken for your contributions to an ABLE (Achieving a Better Life Experience) account if you're the designated beneficiary. However, keep in mind that your eligible contributions may be reduced by any recent distributions you received from your ABLE account.
If you have any questions about these and other tax provisions that could affect your tax situation, don't hesitate to call.
Business Tax Provisions: The Year in Review
Here's what business owners need to know about tax changes for 2020.
Standard Mileage Rates
The standard mileage rate in 2020 is 57.5 cents per business mile driven.
Health Care Tax Credit for Small Businesses
Small business employers who pay at least half the premiums for single health insurance coverage for their employees may be eligible for the Small Business Health Care Tax Credit as long as they employ fewer than the equivalent of 25 full-time workers and average annual wages do not exceed $50,000 (adjusted annually for inflation). This amount is $55,200 for 2020 returns.
In 2020 (as in 2014-2018), the tax credit is worth up to 50 percent of your contribution toward employees' premium costs (up to 35 percent for tax-exempt employers).
Section 179 Expensing and Depreciation
Under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Section 179 expense deduction increases to a maximum deduction of $1.04 million of the first $2.59 million of qualifying equipment placed in service during the current tax year. The deduction was indexed to inflation for tax years after 2018 and enhanced to include improvements to nonresidential qualified real property such as roofs, fire protection, and alarm systems and security systems, and heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems.
Businesses are allowed to immediately deduct 100% of the cost of eligible property placed in service after September 27, 2017, and before January 1, 2023, after which it will be phased downward over a four-year period: 80% in 2023, 60% in 2024, 40% in 2025, and 20% in 2026. The standard business depreciation amount is 27 cents per mile (up from 26 cents per mile in 2019).
Please call if you have any questions about Section 179 expensing and the bonus depreciation.
Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC)
Extended through 2020 under the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, the Work Opportunity Tax Credit can be used by employers who hire long-term unemployed individuals (unemployed for 27 weeks or more). It is generally equal to 40 percent of the first $6,000 of wages paid to a new hire. Please call if you have any questions about the Work Opportunity Tax Credit.
SIMPLE IRA Plan Contributions
Contribution limits for SIMPLE IRA plans increased to $13,500 for persons under age 50 and $16,500 for persons age 50 or older in 2020. The maximum compensation used to determine contributions is $285,000.
Please contact the office if you would like more information about these and other tax deductions and credits to which you are entitled.
Working Remotely Could Affect Your Taxes
When COVID-19 struck last March, employers quickly switched to a work-from-home model for their employees, many of whom began working in a state other than the one in which their office was located. While some workers have returned to their offices, many have not.If you're working remotely from a location in a different state (or country) from that of your office, then you may be wondering if you will have to pay income tax in multiple jurisdictions or whether you will need to file income tax returns in both states.
Generally, states can tax income whether you live there or work there. Whether a taxpayer must include taxable income while living or working in a particular jurisdiction depends on several factors, including nexus, domicile, and residency.
Many states - especially those with large metro areas where much of the workforce resides in surrounding states - have agreements in place that allow credits for tax due in another state so that you aren't taxed twice. In metro Washington, DC, for example, payroll tax withholding is based on the state of residency allowing people to work in another state without causing a tax headache. Other states such as Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New York, and Pennsylvania tax workers based on job location even if they reside in a different state.
Remote Working in Multiple Locations
Let's say you live in Florida. During the pandemic a mandatory office closure allows you to work remotely from your vacation home in North Carolina - a state that is not your domicile (i.e., your home). Next spring, you will need to file a nonresident income tax return on income earned in North Carolina (your remote work location, but not your domicile) in addition to your usual tax returns.
However, in all the pandemic confusion, it's likely that your employer may not have known you were working remotely from NC and did not withhold tax from your pay (income earned). If that's the case, then you may owe money.
If the tax rate in the remote location is higher than the taxpayer's home state or the home state doesn't impose income tax but the state they are working from does, the tax credit in the worker's home state may not be enough to offset all - or any - tax owed.
During the pandemic, 13 states have agreed not to tax workers who temporarily moved there because of the pandemic including Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.
Keep in mind, however, that these waivers are temporary and in some cases may only in effect during a mandated government shutdown. South Carolina's waiver, for instance, expired on September 30, 2020, but was extended through December 31, 2020.
Necessity or Convenience
Another important factor to consider is whether a worker's remote work location is due to necessity or convenience. If there is a mandatory government shutdown, then it is a necessity. If the option to go back to the office exists, but the worker chooses not to because of health concerns, then the state could view it as convenience.
Keeping Good Records
Keeping good records is always important when it comes to your taxes, but even more so when there are so many unknowns. As such, it's a good idea to keep track of how many days were worked in each state and how much money was earned.
Help is Just a Phone Call Away
Tax laws are complex even during the best of times. If you've been working remotely during the pandemic in a different location than your office, then it pays to consult with a tax and accounting professional to figure out your tax liability and recommend a course of action to lower your tax bill such as changing your withholding.
Small Business: Deductions for Charitable Giving
Tax breaks for charitable giving aren't limited to individuals, your small business can benefit as well. If you own a small to medium-size business and are committed to giving back to the community through charitable giving, here's what you should know.
1. Verify that the Organization is a Qualified Charity
Once you've identified a charity, you'll need to make sure it is a qualified charitable organization under the IRS. Qualified organizations must meet specific requirements as well as IRS criteria and are often referred to as 501(c)(3) organizations. Note that not all tax-exempt organizations are 501(c)(3) status, however.
There are two ways to verify whether a charity is qualified:
- Use the IRS online search tool; or
- Ask the charity to send you a copy of their IRS determination letter confirming their exempt status.
2. Make Sure the Deduction is Eligible
Not all deductions are created equal. In order to take the deduction on a tax return, you need to make sure it qualifies. Charitable giving includes the following: cash donations, sponsorship of local charity events, in-kind contributions such as property such as inventory or equipment.
Lobbying. A 501(c)(3) organization may engage in some lobbying, but too much lobbying activity risks the loss of its tax-exempt status. As such, you cannot claim a charitable deduction (or business expense) for amounts paid to an organization if both of the following apply:
- The organization conducts lobbying activities on matters of direct financial interest to your business.
- A principal purpose of your contribution is to avoid the rules discussed earlier that prohibit a business deduction for lobbying expenses.
Further, if a tax-exempt organization, other than a section 501(c)(3) organization, provides you with a notice on the part of dues that is allocable to nondeductible lobbying and political expenses, you cannot deduct that part of the dues.
3. Understand the Limitations
Sole proprietors, partners in a partnership, or shareholders in an S-corporation may be able to deduct charitable contributions made by their business on Schedule A (Form 1040). Corporations (other than S-corporations) can deduct charitable contributions on their income tax returns, subject to limitations.
Cash payments to an organization, charitable or otherwise, may be deductible as business expenses if the payments are not charitable contributions or gifts and are directly related to your business. Likewise, if the payments are charitable contributions or gifts, you cannot deduct them as business expenses.
Sole Proprietorships. As a sole proprietor (or single-member LLC), you file your business taxes using Schedule C of individual tax form 1040. Your business does not make charitable contributions separately. Charitable contributions are deducted using Schedule A, and you must itemize in order to take the deductions.
Partnerships. Partnerships do not pay income taxes. Rather, the income and expenses (including deductions for charitable contributions) are passed on to the partners on each partner's individual Schedule K-1. If the partnership makes a charitable contribution, then each partner takes a percentage share of the deduction on his or her personal tax return. For example, if the partnership has four equal partners and donates a total of $2,000 to a qualified charitable organization in 2020, each partner can claim a $500 charitable deduction on their 2020 tax return.
A donation of cash or property reduces the value of the partnership. For example, if a partnership donates office equipment to a qualified charity, the office equipment is no longer owned by the partnership, and the total value of the partnership is reduced. Therefore, each partner's share of the total value of the partnership is reduced accordingly.
S-Corporations. S-Corporations are similar to Partnerships, with each shareholder receiving a Schedule K-1 showing the amount of charitable contribution.
C-Corporations. Unlike sole proprietors, partnerships, and S-corporations, C-Corporations are separate entities from their owners. As such, a corporation can make charitable contributions and take deductions for those contributions.
4. Categorize Donations
Each category of donation has its own criteria with regard to whether it's deductible and to what extent. For example, mileage and travel expenses related to services performed for the charitable organization are deductible but the time spent on volunteering your services is not.
Here's another example: As a board member, your duties may include hosting fundraising events. While the time you spend as a board member is not deductible, expenses related to hosting the fundraiser such as stationery for invitations and telephone costs related to the event are deductible.
Generally, you can deduct up to 50 percent of adjusted gross income. Non-cash donations of more than $500 require completion of Form 8283, which is attached to your tax return. In addition, contributions are only deductible in the tax year in which they're made.
5. Keep Good Records
The types of records you must keep vary according to the type of donation (cash, non-cash, out of pocket expenses when donating your services) and the importance of keeping good records cannot be overstated.
Ask for - and make sure you receive - a letter from any organizations stating that said organization received a contribution from your business. You should also keep canceled checks, bank and credit card statements, and payroll deduction records as proof or your donation. Furthermore, the IRS requires proof of payment and an acknowledgment letter for donations of $250 or more.
Questions about charitable donations? Help is just a phone call away.
Applying for Tax-Exempt Status as a Nonprofit
If you're thinking of starting a nonprofit organization, there are a few things you should know before you get started. First, is understanding how nonprofits work under state and federal law. For example, two things you should understand is that state law governs nonprofit status. Nonprofit status is determined by an organization's articles of incorporation or trust documents while federal law governs tax-exempt status (i.e., exemption from federal income tax). Whether you're starting a charity, a social organization, or an association here are the steps you need to take before you can apply for tax-exempt status.
1. Determine the type of organization.
Before a charitable organization can apply for tax-exempt status, it must determine whether it is a trust, corporation or association. Here is how each one is generally defined:
- A trust is defined as a relationship in which one person holds title to property, subject to an obligation to keep or use the property for the benefit of another. It is formed under state law.
- A corporation is formed under state law by the filing of articles of incorporation with the state. The state must generally date-stamp the articles before they are effective.
- An association is a group of persons banded together for a specific purpose. To qualify under section 501(a) of the Code, the association must have a written document, such as articles of association, showing its creation. At least two persons must sign the document, which must be dated. The definition of an association can vary under state law.
2. Gather organization documents.
Each application for exemption - except Form 1023-EZ - must be accompanied by an exact copy of the organization's organizing document, which is generally one of the following:
- Articles of incorporation for a corporation
- Articles of organization for a limited liability company
- Articles of association or constitution for an association
- Trust agreement or declaration of trust for a trust
Organizations that do not have an organizing document will not qualify for exempt status. If the organization's name has been legally changed by an amendment to its organizing documents, they should also attach an exact copy of that amendment to the application. State law generally determines whether an organization is properly created and establishes the requirements for organizing documents.
3. Understand state registration requirements
Next, you will need to take a look at your state's registration requirements for nonprofits. State government websites have useful information for tax-exempt organizations such as tax information, registration requirements for charities, and information for employers.
4. Obtain Employer ID numbers.
Finally, once your organization is legally formed you will need to obtain employer id numbers (EINs) for your new organization. Organizations can apply for an EIN online, by fax, or by mail using Form SS-4, Application for Employer I.D. Number. International applicants may apply by phone.
Third parties can also receive an EIN on a client's behalf by completing the Third Party Designee section. Don't forget to have the client sign the form to avoid having to file a Form 2848, Power of Attorney, or Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization.
One final thing to note, is that nearly all organizations are subject to automatic revocation of their tax-exempt status if they fail to file a required return or notice for three consecutive years. Once an organization applies for an EIN, the IRS presumes the organization is legally formed and the clock starts running on this three-year period.
Questions about starting a nonprofit? Help is just a phone call away.
Retirement Contributions Limits Announced for 2021
Cost of living adjustments affecting dollar limitations for pension plans and other retirement-related items for 2021 are as follows:
401(k), 403(b), 457 plans, and Thrift Savings Plan. Contribution limits for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government's Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $19,500. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over remains unchanged at $6,500.
SIMPLE retirement accounts. Contribution limits for SIMPLE retirement accounts for self-employed persons remains unchanged in 2021 as well at $13,500.
Traditional IRAs. The limit on annual contributions to an IRA remains at $6,000. The additional catch-up contribution limit for individuals aged 50 and over is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $1,000.
Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions; however, if during the year either the taxpayer or their spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income. If a retirement plan at work covers neither the taxpayer nor their spouse, the phase-out amounts of the deduction do not apply.
The phase-out ranges for 2021 are as follows:
- For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is $66,000 to $76,000, up from $65,000 to $54,000.
- For married couples filing jointly, where a workplace retirement plan covers the spouse making the IRA contribution, the phase-out range is $105,000 to $125,000, up from $104,000 to $124,000.
- For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the deduction is phased out if the couple's income is between $198,000 and $208,000, up from $196,000 and $206,000.
- For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
Roth IRAs. The income phase-out range for taxpayers making contributions to a Roth IRA is $125,000 to $140,000 for singles and heads of household, up from $124,000 to $139,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is $198,000 to $208,000, up from $196,000 to $206,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains $0 to $10,000.
Saver's Credit. The income limit for the Saver's Credit (also known as the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit) for low and moderate-income workers is $66,000 for married couples filing jointly, up from $65,000; $49,500 for heads of household, up from $48,750; and $33,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately, up from $32,500.
If you have any questions about retirement plan contributions, don't hesitate to call.
Solar Technology Tax Credits Still Available for 2020
Certain energy-efficient home improvements can cut your energy bills and save you money at tax time. While many of these tax credits expired at the end of 2016, tax credits for residential and non-business energy-efficient solar technologies do not expire until December 31, 2021. Here are some key facts that you should know about these tax credits:
Residential Energy Efficient Property Credit
- This tax credit is 30 percent of the cost of alternative energy equipment installed on or in your home.
- Qualified equipment includes solar hot water heaters and solar electric equipment placed into service on or after January 1, 2006, and on or before December 31, 2021.
- There is no maximum credit for systems placed in service after 2008.
- The tax credit does not apply to solar water-heating property for swimming pools or hot tubs.
- If your credit is more than the tax you owe, you can carry forward the unused portion of this credit to next year's tax return.
- At least half the energy used to heat the dwelling's water must be from solar in order for the solar water-heating property expenditures to be eligible.
- Solar water-heating equipment must be certified for performance by the Solar Rating Certification Corporation (SRCC) or a comparable entity endorsed by the government of the state in which the property is installed.
- The home must be in the U.S. It does not have to be your main home.
- Use Form 5695, Residential Energy Credits, to claim the credit.
Equipment costs such as assembling or installing original systems, on-site labor costs, and costs related to wiring or piping solar technology systems are considered final when the installation is complete. For a new home, the placed-in-service date is the occupancy date.
The maximum allowable credit varies by the type of technology:
- 30% for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019
- 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
- 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022
Solar water-heating property
- 30% for systems placed in service by 12/31/2019
- 26% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2019 and before 01/01/2021
- 22% for systems placed in service after 12/31/2020 and before 01/01/2022
If you would like more information about this topic please contact the office today.
Relief for Drought-Stricken Farmers and Ranchers
Farmers and ranchers who were forced to sell livestock due to drought may have an additional year to replace the livestock and defer tax on any gains from the forced sales. The relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry, are not eligible.
Here are seven facts about this to help farmers understand how the deferral works and if they are eligible.
1. The one-year extension gives eligible farmers and ranchers until the end of the tax year after the first drought-free year to replace the sold livestock.
2. To qualify for relief, the farm or ranch must be in an applicable region. This is a county or other jurisdiction designated as eligible for federal assistance plus counties contiguous to it.
3. This extension is granted to farms and ranches located in the applicable region that qualify for the four-year replacement period if any county that is included in the applicable region is listed as suffering exceptional, extreme or severe drought conditions as determined by the National Drought Mitigation Center. All or part of 46 states, plus the District of Columbia and four U.S. territories are listed in the notice.
4. The relief applies to farmers who were affected by drought that happened between September 1, 2019, and August 31, 2020.
5. This relief generally applies to capital gains realized by eligible farmers and ranchers on sales of livestock held for draft, dairy or breeding purposes. Sales of other livestock, such as those raised for slaughter or held for sporting purposes, or poultry are not eligible.
6. To qualify, the sales must be solely due to drought, flooding or other severe weather causing the region to be designated as eligible for federal assistance.
7. Farmers generally must replace the livestock within a four-year period, instead of the usual two-year period. As a result, qualified farmers and ranchers whose drought-sale replacement period was scheduled to expire at the end of this tax year, December 31, 2020, in most cases, now have until the end of their next tax year. Furthermore, because the normal drought sale replacement period is four years, this extension immediately impacts drought sales that occurred during 2016. But because of previous drought-related extensions affecting some of these areas, the replacement periods for some drought sales before 2016 are also affected.
For additional details or more information on reporting drought sales and other farm-related tax issues, please call.
Beware of Gift Card Tax Scams
There's never an off-season when it comes to scammers and thieves who want to trick people to scam them out of money, steal their personal information, or talk them into engaging in questionable behavior with their taxes. While scam attempts typically peak during tax season, taxpayers need to remain vigilant all year long.
For example, there are many reports of taxpayers being asked to pay a fake tax bill through the purchase of gift cards. While gift cards are a popular and convenient gift for all occasions, they are also a tool that scammers use to steal money from people.
Scammers often target taxpayers by asking them to pay a fake tax bill with gift cards. They may also use a compromised email account to send emails requesting gift card purchases for friends, family or co-workers. The IRS reminds taxpayers gift cards are for gifts, not for making tax payments.
The most common way scammers request gift cards is over the phone through a government impersonation scam. However, they will also request gift cards by sending a text message, email or through social media.
Here's a typical scenario:
A scammer posing as an IRS agent will call the taxpayer or leave a voicemail with a callback number informing the taxpayer that they are linked to some criminal activity. For example, the scammer will tell the taxpayer their identity has been stolen and used to open fake bank accounts.
Here's how the scam unfolds:
- The scammer will threaten or harass the taxpayer by telling them that they must pay a fictitious tax penalty.
- The scammer instructs the taxpayer to buy gift cards from various stores.
- Once the taxpayer buys the gift cards, the scammer will ask the taxpayer to provide the gift card number and PIN.
Scammers are continuously perfecting their tricks and sometimes it is difficult to determine whether it is really the IRS calling. Keep in mind that the IRS will never do the following:
- Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes.
- Demand that taxpayers pay taxes without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they owe. All taxpayers should be aware of their rights.
- Threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
- Threaten to revoke the taxpayer's driver's license, business licenses, or immigration status.
What to do if you think you've been targeted by a scammer
Anyone who believes they've been targeted by a scammer should contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report a phone scam. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page or call 800-366-4484.
Phone scams should also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov and make sure to add "IRS Telephone Scam" in the notes.
Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or an IRS-related component like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, should be reported to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to add "IRS Phone Scam" to the subject line.
Remember, gift cards are for gifts, not for making tax payments.
Charitable Donation Deduction Could Lower Your Tax Bill
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, enacted last spring, includes several temporary tax changes that help charitable organizations. One such provision allows taxpayers to deduct cash donations of up to $300 made before December 31, 2020.
Designed especially forpeople who choose to take the standard deduction, rather than itemize. Intax-year 2018, the most recent year for which complete figures are available,more than 134 million taxpayers claimed the standard deduction, just over 87percent of all filers.
Under this new change,individual taxpayers can claim an "above-the-line" deduction of up to$300 for cash donations made to charity during 2020. This means the deductionlowers both adjusted gross income and taxable income – translating into taxsavings for those making donations to qualifying tax-exemptorganizations.
Before making adonation, however, taxpayers should use the special Tax Exempt OrganizationSearch (TEOS) tool on IRS.gov to make sure the organization is eligible fortax-deductible donations.
Cash donations includethose made by check, credit card, or debit card. They don't include securities,household items, or other property. Though cash contributions to most charitableorganizations qualify, those made to supporting organizations and donor-advisedfunds do not.
Be sure to keep goodrecords. By law, special recordkeeping rules apply to any taxpayer claiming acharitable contribution deduction. Usually, this includes obtaining a receiptor acknowledgment letter from the charity, before filing a return, andretaining a canceled check or credit card receipt.
The CARES Act alsoincludes other temporary provisions designed to help charities. These includehigher charitable contribution limits for corporations, individuals who itemizetheir deductions, and businesses that give food inventory to food banks andother eligible charities.
For more informationabout these and other Coronavirus-related tax relief provisions, don't hesitateto call the office and speak to a tax professional who can assist you.
Tax Due Dates for December 2020
Employees who work for tips - If you received $20 or more in tips during November, report them to your employer. You can use Form 4070.
Corporations - Deposit the fourth installment of estimated income tax for 2020. A worksheet, Form 1120-W, is available to help you estimate your tax for the year.
Employers Social Security, Medicare, and withheld income tax - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November.
Employers Nonpayroll withholding - If the monthly deposit rule applies, deposit the tax for payments in November.
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