Top Six Things You Should Know about the Child Tax Credit

The Child Tax Credit may save you money at tax-time if you have a qualified child. Here are six things you should know about the credit.

1. Amount.  The Child Tax Credit may help reduce your federal income tax by up to $1,000 for each qualifying child that you are eligible to claim on your tax return.

2. Additional Child Tax Credit.  If you qualify and get less than the full Child Tax Credit, you could receive a refund even if you owe no tax with the Additional Child Tax Credit.

  1.  Qualifications.  For this credit, a qualifying child must pass several tests:
  • Age test.  The child must have been under age 17 at the end of 2014.
  • Relationship test.  The child must be your son, daughter, stepchild, foster child, brother, sister, stepbrother, or stepsister. The child may be a descendant of any of these individuals. A qualifying child could also include your grandchild, niece or nephew. You would always treat an adopted child as your own child. An adopted child includes a child lawfully placed with you for legal adoption.
  • Support test.  The child must not have provided more than half of their own support for the year.
  • Dependent test.  The child must be a dependent that you claim on your federal tax return.
  • Joint return test.  The child cannot file a joint return for the year, unless the only reason they are filing is to claim a refund.
  • Citizenship test.  The child must be a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national or a U.S. resident alien.
  • Residence test.  In most cases, the child must have lived with you for more than half of 2014.

4. Limitations.  The Child Tax Credit is subject to income limitations. The limits may reduce or eliminate your credit depending on your filing status and income.

5. Schedule 8812.  If you qualify to claim the Child Tax Credit, make sure to check whether you must complete and attach Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your tax return.

6. IRS E-file.  Electronic filing is the best way to file your tax return. IRS E-file is the safe, accurate and easiest way to file.

800,000 Taxpayers Received Wrong Tax Info from Health Insurance Marketplace

Approximately 800,000 taxpayers who received health care coverage through the federal insurance marketplace Healthcare.gov were sent the wrong information on their Form 1095-A and are being urged to wait to file their taxes until the first week of March when they receive the correct information from the federal government.

“About 20 percent of the tax filers who had Federally-facilitated Marketplace coverage in 2014 and used tax credits to lower their premium cost —about 800,000 (< 1% of total tax filers) —will soon receive an updated Form 1095-A because the original version they were issued listed an incorrect benchmark plan premium amount,” said a blog post on the Web site of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Based upon preliminary estimates, we understand that approximately 90-95% of these tax filers haven’t filed their tax return yet. We are advising them to wait until the first week of March when they receive their new form or go online for correct information before filing. For those who have filed their taxes—approximately 50,000 (< 0.05% of total tax filers) —the Treasury Department will provide additional information soon.”

CMS noted that taxpayers who received health coverage under the Affordable Care Act should have received a statement in the mail in February from the health insurance marketplace called a Form 1095-A. The statement includes important information needed to complete and file their tax returns. One piece of information included on the 1095-A is the premium amount for the “second lowest cost Silver plan” in the taxpayer’s area. This premium amount represents the benchmark plan used to determine the amount of premium tax credit they were eligible to receive. Unfortunately that information was calculated incorrectly for many taxpayers, although CMS stressed that it won’t be an issue for the majority who received health coverage through Healthcare.gov.

“It’s important to note that this issue does not affect the majority of Marketplace consumers and only affects people who signed up through one of the 37 states using HealthCare.gov,” said CMS. “About 80 percent of Marketplace consumers who received a 1095-A from the federal Marketplace do not have affected forms and should go ahead and file their annual tax return. Additionally, this issue does not mean that consumers received the incorrect amount of tax credit throughout the year. It’s also important to note that this does not affect the vast majority of tax filers who will just need to check a box on their tax return to indicate that they had health coverage in 2014 either through their employer, Medicare, Medicaid, veterans care, or other qualified health coverage programs.“

CMS noted that taxpayers whose forms were affected will receive a phone call about the problem from the Marketplace by early March, in addition to letters and emails with additional information about the status of their forms.

Taxpayers who are concerned about the status of their 1095-A forms can find out if they are affected by logging in to their account at HealthCare.gov. They will see a notice message that will let them know if their form was or was not affected. Approximately 80 percent of tax filers with Marketplace coverage through HealthCare.gov who received a 1095-A will find that their form was not affected by the issue, according to CMS, and will be able to file their taxes with their current form.

If their form was affected, CMS advised them to wait to file their tax return until they receive a corrected 1095-A Form from the Marketplaces. New forms will be sent from the Marketplace beginning in early March and taxpayers will also receive a message in their Marketplace account on HealthCare.gov.

If taxpayers need to file their taxes before them, CMS is making available a tool to help them determine the correct amount of the second lowest cost Silver plan that applied to their household in 2014. They can also call the Marketplace Call Center at 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325) for assistance.

CMS said it acted quickly once it learned about the problem. “As soon as we discovered the error, we immediately began examining who was affected, how to communicate about the error, and how to make the corrections process as simple as possible for consumers,” said CMS. “We are committed to making sure that consumers who need corrected forms are contacted with updates and will receive new forms quickly. We are focused on making sure that every Marketplace consumer understands how taxes and health care intersect and if they need to get a corrected form, the steps they need to take.”

An unidentified Treasury spokesperson also issued a statement on the announcement about the 1095-A Forms. “Today, CMS announced that approximately 800,000 1095-A forms containing errors were issued to Marketplace consumers,” said the spokesperson. “CMS is in the process of notifying affected individuals and the Marketplace will be issuing corrected forms in early March.  Affected individuals who have not yet filed their taxes should wait to file until they receive their corrected form. For affected individuals who have already filed their taxes, the IRS and Treasury are currently reviewing the issue and will be providing additional information shortly.”

Separately, CMS also announced Friday that it will implement a special enrollment period for individuals who learn, at the time they file their taxes, of the Affordable Care Act-mandated tax penalty for not having health insurance coverage.

Several lawmakers in Congress expressed their outrage about the glitch. Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., a member of the House Ways & Means Health Subcommittee and a nurse for more than 40 years, said in a statement, “The Obama Administration has built a healthcare law so complex, so confusing, and so costly that even they don’t know how to properly administer it. From a faulty website, to staggering cost estimates, to more Administration-led delays, the hits just keep coming under Obamacare. Now, the White House tells us in a classic Friday news dump that nearly one million Americans could see their tax refunds delayed because of this President’s inability to implement his own law. This is beyond embarrassing for President Obama and is an unfair blow to taxpayers who are once again left holding the bag for this Administration’s incompetence. Moreover, it is yet another example of why the House voted earlier this month with my support to repeal this disastrous law once and for all.”

Senate Finance Committee chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, also issued a statement criticizing the Obama administration for the problem. “While the Administration struggles with how to enforce the individual mandate, taxpayers and patients are suffering the real consequences of the law,” he said. “Whether it’s providing taxpayers with incorrect subsidy information or having to create special enrollment periods so that taxpayers can avoid costly penalties, Obamacare continues to frustrate and confuse Americans. The Administration’s latest attempt to unilaterally tweak their own law to avoid political fallout once again underscores the failed policies rooted in Obamacare’s DNA.”

 

BY MICHAEL COHN

www.accountingtoday.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. (FEBRUARY 20, 2015)

Taxable or Not – What You Need to Know about Income

All income is taxable unless the law excludes it. Here are some basic rules you should know to help you file an accurate tax return:

  • Taxed income.  Taxable income includes money you earn, like wages and tips. It also includes bartering, an exchange of property or services. The fair market value of property or services received is taxable.

Some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:

  • Life insurance.  Proceeds paid to you because of the death of the insured person are usually not taxable. However, if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that you get that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
  • Qualified scholarship.  In most cases, income from this type of scholarship is not taxable. This means that amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required books, are not taxable. On the other hand, amounts you use for room and board are taxable.
  • State income tax refund.  If you got a state or local income tax refund, the amount may be taxable. You should have received a 2014 Form 1099-G from the agency that made the payment to you. If you didn’t get it by mail, the agency may have provided the form electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Report any taxable refund you got even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.

Here are some types of income that are usually not taxable:

  • Gifts and inheritances
  • Child support payments
  • Welfare benefits
  • Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
  • Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
  • Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses

What You Should Know if You Changed Your Name

Did you change your name last year? If you did, it can affect your taxes. All the names on your tax return must match Social Security Administration records. A name mismatch can delay your refund. Here’s what you should know if you changed your name:

  • Report Name Changes.  Did you get married and are now using your new spouse’s last name or hyphenated your last name? Did you divorce and go back to using your former last name? In either case, you should notify the SSA of your name change. That way, your new name on your IRS records will match up with your SSA records.
  • Dependent Name Change.  Notify the SSA if your dependent had a name change. For example, this could apply if you adopted a child and the child’s last name changed.

If you adopted a child who does not have a SSN, you may use an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on your tax return. An ATIN is a temporary number. You can apply for an ATIN by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions, with the IRS. You can visit IRS.gov to view, download, print or order the form at any time.

  • Get a New Card.  File Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, to notify SSA of your name change. You can get the form on SSA.gov or call 800-772-1213 to order it. Your new card will show your new name with the same SSN you had before.
  • Report Changes in Circumstances in 2015.  If you purchase health insurance coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace you may get advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2015. If you do, be sure to report changes in circumstances, such as a name change, a new address and a change in your income or family size to your Marketplace throughout the year. Reporting changes will help make sure that you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance and will help you avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

Stay Vigilant Against Bogus IRS Phone Calls and Emails

Tax scams take many different forms. Recently, the most common scams are phone calls and emails from thieves who pretend to be from the IRS. They use the IRS name, logo or a fake website to try to steal your money. They may try to steal your identity too. Here are several tips from the IRS to help you avoid being a victim of these tax scams:

The real IRS will not:

  • Initiate contact with you by phone, email, text or social media to ask for your personal or financial information.
  • Call you and demand immediate payment. The IRS will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.
  • Require that you pay your taxes a certain way. For example, telling you to pay with a prepaid debit card.

Be wary if you get a phone call from someone who claims to be from the IRS and demands that you pay immediately. Here are some steps you can take to avoid and stop these scams.

If you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you do:

  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page to report the incident.
  • You should also report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your report.

If you think you may owe taxes:

  • Ask for a call back number and an employee badge number.
  • Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS employees can help you.

In most cases, an IRS phishing scam is an unsolicited, bogus email that claims to come from the IRS. They often use fake refunds, phony tax bills, or threats of an audit. Some emails link to sham websites that look real.  The scammers’ goal is to lure victims to give up their personal and financial information. If they get what they’re after, they use it to steal a victim’s money and their identity.

If you get a ‘phishing’ email, the IRS offers this advice:

  • Don’t reply to the message.
  • Don’t give out your personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov. Then delete it.
  • Don’t open any attachments or click on any links. They may have malicious code that will infect your computer.

IRS Can Help if W-2s Are Missing

In most cases you get your W-2 forms by the end of January. Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, shows your income and the taxes withheld from your pay for the year. You need your W-2 form to file an accurate tax return.

If you haven’t received your form by mid-February, here’s what you should do:

• Contact your employer.  Ask your employer (or former employer) for a copy. Be sure that they have your correct address.

• After Feb. 23.  If you can’t get a copy from your employer, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 after Feb. 23. The IRS will send a letter to your employer on your behalf. You’ll need the following when you call:

o Your name, address, Social Security number and phone number;

o Your employer’s name, address and phone number;

o The dates you worked for the employer; and

o An estimate of your wages and federal income tax withheld in 2014. You can use your final pay stub for these amounts.

Note: Important New Health Insurance Form. If you bought health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should have received a Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, by early February. You will need the new form to help you complete an accurate federal tax return. You will use the information from the Form 1095-A to calculate the amount of your premium tax credit. The form is also used to reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit made on your behalf with the amount of premium tax credit that you are eligible to claim.

If you did not receive your Form 1095-A, you should contact the Marketplace from which you received coverage to get a copy.

TurboTax halts state filings amid fraud outbreak

TurboTax turned off the ability of its software to e-file state tax returns across the USA on Thursday after the company found “an increase in suspicious filings,” the company said Friday.

The tax-preparation software company has found an increase in criminal activity where stolen personal data is used to file fake state returns with state authorities. This illegal act allows fraudsters to claim tax refunds from state governments.

An internal TurboTax investigation has found the breaches are not due to a problem with its own systems, but criminals digging up the personal information elsewhere. The company said the investigation is ongoing. Intuit says it’s working with state tax officials to get the e-filing security back to where it needs to be to turn it back on. TurboTax customers who already e-filed their state returns don’t have to do anything. The returns will be transmitted again when the problem is resolved, TurboTax says.

The e-filing halt only affects state returns. Federal tax returns can still be filed electronically, says TurboTax and confirmed by Anthony Burkes, spokesman at the IRS.

ntuit’s move comes after Minnesota’s Department of Revenue says it will no longer accept tax filings submitted electronically using TurboTax, according to a statement. The state says two taxpayers logged into TurboTax to file their tax forms but were told filings were already made, reports the StarTribune. The state is reviewing thousands of other state filings sent electronically.

The District of Columbia’s tax authority has also halted TurboTax filing, says a TurboTax spokeswoman.

So far, the problem appears to be centered on TurboTax.

All the necessary personal information to fill out a fraudulent tax return is readily available for purchase in underground sites online, said Victor Searcy, IDT911, an identity management company based in Scottsdale, Ariz..

“It’s almost like going to Amazon, you can buy just one or in bulk. And just like at Costco, if you buy in bulk it costs less,” he said.

This type of boiler room tax fraud operation isn’t uncommon, although most previously uncovered fraudsters have focused on federal tax returns. A by the Government Accountability Office released in 2014 found that the IRS paid $5.2 billion in refunds filed with fraudulent identities in 2013.

The criminals often simply set up shop in a hotel room somewhere “and start banging out refunds that they file online,” said Searcy, who works with customers who are the victims of fraud.

“Usually what happens is they go and file their own tax refund and when they get a notification from the IRS that there’s already a return that’s been submitted. They then discover that somebody has already filed, using their information,” he said.

The process is highly remunerative, in part because the IRS has made it so easy for citizens to get their refunds.

Unfortunately, that “also makes it easier for the criminals. They can have checks mailed, they can have them deposited directly or they can have it put on a prepaid debit card,” he said.

The state e-file fiasco is just the latest headache for Intuit’s TurboTax this tax season. This year, users of the software have been outraged by a stealth price hike that forced many investors and self-employed people to pay 50% more for the software. Intuit hopes to put an end to the controversy Saturday when anyone who buys the less expensive Deluxe version can upgrade to the Premier or Home & Business version for free.

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2015/02/06/turbotax-state-filings-halted/22979519/

Matt Krantz and Elizabeth Weise

4:23 p.m. EST February 6, 2015

IRS to Parents: Don’t Miss Out on These Tax Savers

Children may help reduce the amount of taxes owed for the year. If you’re a parent, here are several tax benefits you should look for when you file your federal tax return:

• Dependents.  In most cases, you can claim your child as a dependent. You can deduct $3,950 for each dependent you are entitled to claim. You must reduce this amount if your income is above certain limits.

• Child Tax Credit.  You may be able to claim the Child Tax Credit for each of your qualifying children under the age of 17. The maximum credit is $1,000 per child. If you get less than the full amount of the credit, you may be eligible for the Additional Child Tax Credit.

• Child and Dependent Care Credit.  You may be able to claim this credit if you paid for the care of one or more qualifying persons. Dependent children under age 13 are among those who qualify. You must have paid for care so that you could work or could look for work.

• Earned Income Tax Credit.  You may qualify for EITC if you worked but earned less than $52,427 last year. You can get up to $6,143 in EITC. You may qualify with or without children.

• Adoption Credit.  You may be able to claim a tax credit for certain costs you paid to adopt a child.

• Education tax credits.  An education credit can help you with the cost of higher education.  There are two credits that are available. The American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit may reduce the amount of tax you owe. If the credit reduces your tax to less than zero, you may get a refund. Even if you don’t owe any taxes, you still may qualify.

• Student loan interest.  You may be able to deduct interest you paid on a qualified student loan. You can claim this benefit even if you do not itemize your deductions.

• Self-employed health insurance deduction.  If you were self-employed and paid for health insurance, you may be able to deduct premiums you paid during the year. This may include the cost to cover your children under age 27, even if they are not your dependent.

What You Should Know if You Get Tipped at Work

If you get tips on the job, you should know some things about tips and taxes. Here are a few tips from the IRS to help you file and report your tip income correctly:

• Show all tips on your return.  You must report all tips you receive on your federal tax return. This includes the value of tips that are not in cash. Examples include items such as tickets, passes or other items.

• All tips are taxable.  You must pay tax on all tips you received during the year. This includes tips directly from customers and tips added to credit cards. It also includes your share of tips received under a tip-splitting agreement with other employees. 

• Report tips to your employer.  If you receive $20 or more in tips in any one month, you must report your tips for that month to your employer. You should only include cash, check and credit card tips you received. Do not report the value of any noncash tips on this report. Your employer must withhold federal income, Social Security and Medicare taxes on the reported tips. 

Taxpayers Will Use New Information Statement to claim Premium Tax Credit

The Affordable Care Act is bringing several changes to the tax filing season this year, including a new form some taxpayers will receive. If you or anyone in your household enrolled in a health plan through the Health Insurance Marketplace in 2014, you’ll get Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement.

 

You will receive Form 1095-A from the Marketplace where you purchased your coverage, not the IRS. This form should arrive in the mail from your Marketplace by early February. You should wait to receive your Form 1095-A before filing your taxes.

 

Form 1095-A will tell you the dates of coverage, total amount of the monthly premiums for your insurance plan, information you may use to determine the amount of your premium tax credit, and any amounts of advance payments of the premium tax credit.

 

You will use the information to calculate the amount of your premium tax credit and reconcile advance payments of the premium tax credit made on your behalf to your insurance provider with the premium tax credit you are claiming on your tax return. 

 

If you do not receive your Form 1095-A by early February, you should contact the state or federal Marketplace from which you received coverage. If you believe any information on your Form 1095-A is incorrect, you should contact the state or federal Marketplace from which you received coverage. The Marketplace may need to send you a corrected Form 1095-A.

 

You may receive more than one Form 1095-A if different members of your household had different health plans, you updated your coverage information during the year, or you switched plans during the year.