Articles Posted in IRS Tax Relief

Congress has passed two major pieces of legislation intended to stimulate the economy and provide direct support to businesses, their employees, and others hurt by the economic effects of the fight against the coronavirus and COVID-19. Many benefits take the form of refundable payroll tax credits for employers. The IRS is waiving certain penalties related to payroll taxes, and allowing employers to request advance payment of refunds under these new laws.

Payroll Tax Credits

Paid Sick Leave and Family Leave

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) creates temporary systems for paid sick leave, paid family leave, and expanded unpaid family leave. Employers with fewer than five hundred employees are subject to these provisions, although employers with fewer than fifty employees may request a waiver.

The amount of leave and rate of pay depends on the purpose of the leave. Paid leave for one’s own diagnosis or quarantine is capped at $511 per day. Paid leave to care for a sick or quarantined family member or a child out of school is capped at $200 per day.

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The IRS recently began sending stimulus payments authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. These payments, which are technically tax rebates, can be up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, with some exceptions. To assist individuals and families who have not received their payment yet, the IRS launched an online tool that allows people to check on their status. It is reportedly similar to the tool used to track tax refunds. The IRS has also issued a warning about possible financial scams targeting these payments.

Coronavirus Stimulus Payments

Section 2201 of the CARES Act establishes “2020 recovery rebates for individuals.” These are more commonly known as stimulus payments. The IRS sometimes refers to them as Economic Impact Payments. The “payments” are a credit against future federal income taxes, but since the CARES Act makes them refundable, the IRS is sending payments to individuals and families.

The maximum amount of $1,200 is available to any individual whose 2018 or 2019 federal income tax return shows adjusted gross income (AGI) of $75,000 or less. For married couples who filed a joint return, the maximum payment of $2,400 is available to anyone with AGI of no more than $150,000. Additionally, households with minor dependent children receive $500 per child.

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Student loans account for a substantial portion of this country’s total indebtedness. Outstanding student loan debt is estimated at $1.5 to 1.6 trillion. The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) holds almost all of this debt, giving it substantial power over repayment, forgiveness, and discharge. Normally, discharge of debt is considered a taxable event. The IRS has established revenue procedures creating a “safe harbor” for discharges under certain DOE programs. Our Los Angeles tax advisors observed that it recently issued a new revenue procedure expanding that safe harbor.

Student Loan Discharge Programs

The DOE maintains several programs that allow partial or total discharge of student loan debt in specific situations. These programs only apply to student loans made or guaranteed by the DOE.

Closed School Discharge

The Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended in 1986, directs the DOE to discharge the student loan debt of a borrower who is unable to complete their studies because their school closes, or because of certain fraudulent actions on the part of the school. Borrowers must apply to the DOE to obtain a discharge under this program. They must be able to demonstrate that they were either enrolled in the school or on an “approved leave of absence” at the time of closure, or that they withdrew 120 days or less before the school closed.

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Retirement planning is crucial to a person’s financial well-being. Contributing to a retirement account as early and often as possible can offer peace of mind, with the knowledge that many years of hard work will pay off. Certain types of retirement accounts can also offer tax benefits, either now or in the future. Starting in the early 1970s, Congress authorized favorable tax treatment for employee contributions to individual retirement accounts (IRAs). Our Los Angeles tax professionals can advise you on the benefits that each type of IRA may provide.

What Is an IRA?

An IRA is a type of financial account that offer tax advantages as a way to encourage people to save for retirement. Many employers include IRAs as a benefit for their employees. Individuals may also open IRAs on their own. The IRS refers to these accounts as “individual retirement arrangements.”

The two most well-known IRAs are:

Traditional IRA: Congress established the tax benefits of a traditional IRA in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) of 1974.
Roth IRA: The Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997 created this type of account, named for Senator William V. Roth, Jr. (R-DE).

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In 2003, Congress allowed eligible taxpayers to deduct contributions up to a certain amount to a health savings account (HSA). In order to qualify for the HSA deduction, a taxpayer must be covered by a high-deductible health plan (HDHP). This means that the plan must require the covered individual to pay a rather large amount out-of-pocket before the insurer must contribute. The HDHP is not, however, required to have a high deductible for services deemed “preventive care.” In July 2019, the IRS issued Notice 2019-45, which describes an expanded list of medical services and medications that will be considered preventive care for the purposes of HSA deductions. This is hopefully good news for people who need various preventive medical services.

What Is a Health Savings Account?

Congress created HSA’s in the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003. Title XII of the bill, entitled “Tax Incentives for Health and Retirement Security,” adds a new § 223 to the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), codified at 26 U.S.C. § 223. It allows “eligible individuals” to deduct contributions to an HSA, with an annual limit of $2,250 for a health insurance plan with single coverage, or $4,500 for a family plan. Additional contributions are allowed for people who are 55 years old or older. In order to be an “eligible individual,” they must be covered by an HDHP.

What Is a High-Deductible Health Plan?

Section 223(c)(2) of the IRC defines an HDHP as a health insurance plan with an annual deductible of at least $1,000 for a single individual, or $2,000 for a family; and an annual sum of the deductible and out-of-pocket expenses of no more than $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for a family.
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Nearly every adult in the U.S. must file an annual federal income tax return with the IRS that discloses their income, identifies tax deductions and credits, and states the amount of tax that is owed. What happens if a taxpayer fails to file on time? The consequences could include penalties and interest, as well as limits on the ability to obtain relief if they cannot afford to pay their tax bill.

What Are the Tax Deadlines?

Federal income tax returns are due on April 15 of each year. If the 15th falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or federal holiday, the due date is the next business day. California has the same deadline for state income tax returns.

Taxpayers may be able to obtain an extension of up to six months to file their federal tax return. This typically requires filing an extension form, and paying their estimated tax owed, prior to the April deadline.
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Our tax system requires most taxpayers to make regular payments to the IRS throughout the year. The tax return that is due to the IRS every April 15 shows the final amount of tax owed for the year, as well as the amount of tax already paid by, or on behalf of, the taxpayer. If the amount paid is less than the amount owed, the taxpayer could be liable for underpayment penalties. In January 2019, the IRS announced that it was expanding eligibility for waivers of underpayment penalties. Taxpayers who paid at least eighty-five percent of their final tax bill can have their entire underpayment penalty waived.

Ongoing Tax Payments

Federal income tax is a “pay-as-you-go” system. Taxpayers must pay tax on the income they earn as they earn it. Payments are due every quarter.

Employers can withhold taxes from their employees’ paychecks. The amount of withholding is based on information provided by each employee on Form W-4. Every quarter, employers must remit all amounts withheld from payroll.
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Federal tax law is complicated, to put it lightly. Taxpayers routinely find themselves having difficulty understanding various provisions of tax laws and regulations. Congress has tried to help by creating the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR), which identifies ten key rights, and which serves as a directive to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner and all IRS employees.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights

1. Information

Taxpayers have a right to know what tax laws and regulations affect them. To the greatest extent possible, the IRS has a duty to explain the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) and IRS regulations. It has met this duty through a truly impressive volume of publications, including instructions for every tax form.

2. Quality Service

This involves the right to prompt, polite, and helpful interactions with the IRS.
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