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IRS: 9,600 Louisiana Tax Professionals must renew their PTIN

From the IRS:

New OrleansThe Internal Revenue Service is reminding 9,600 Louisiana tax professionals that their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) will expire on Dec. 31, 2013.  

Nationwide, almost 690,000 federal tax return preparers must renew their PTIN for 2014.  Anyone who prepares or assists in preparing federal tax returns for compensation must have a valid PTIN. 

In Louisiana, 9,600 tax professionals with active and provisional PTINs are affected by this requirement. That includes 2,758 CPAs, 346 Enrolled Agents and 213 Attorney’s.

“We ask that you renew your PTIN as soon as possible to avoid a last-minute rush. It’s easy to let this slip as the holiday season approaches,” said Carol A. Campbell, Director, IRS Return Preparer Office.

The IRS is now processing applications and renewals for 2014.  The fee to renew a 2013 PTIN is $63.  If you are registering for the first time, the PTIN application fee is $64.25.  Both can be completed online at www.irs.gov/ptin.

For more information about requirements for federal tax professionals and access to the online PTIN system, go to www.irs.gov/for-Tax-Pros

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 More details in IRS News Release-2013-85, 2014 PTIN Renewal Period Underway for Tax Professionals  http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/2014-PTIN-Renewal-Period-Underway-for-Tax-Professionals.

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IRS: 2014 PTIN Renewal Period Underway for Tax Professionals

From the Internal Revenue Service:

IR-2013-85, Oct. 31, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded the nation’s almost 690,000 federal tax return preparers that they must renew their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTINs) for 2014. All current PTINs will expire on Dec. 31, 2013.

Anyone who, for compensation, prepares or helps prepare any federal return or claim for refund must have a valid PTIN from the IRS. The PTIN must be used as the identifying number on returns prepared.

“We ask that you renew your PTIN as soon as possible to avoid a last-minute rush. It’s easy to let this slip as the holiday season approaches,” said Carol A. Campbell, Director, IRS Return Preparer Office.

The PTIN system is ready to accept applications for 2014.

For those who already have a 2013 PTIN, the renewal process can be completed online and only takes a few moments. The renewal fee is $63. If you can’t remember your user ID and password, there are online tools to assist you. Preparers can get started at www.irs.gov/ptin.

If you are registering for the first time, the PTIN application fee is $64.25 and the process may also be completed online.

Form W-12, IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number Application and Renewal, is available for paper applications and renewals, but takes four to six weeks to process. Failure to have and use a valid PTIN may result in penalties. All enrolled agents, regardless of whether they prepare returns, must have a PTIN in order to maintain their status.

There have been a number of enhancements to the online PTIN system since last year. They include:

  • The fully functional “Manage My Account” tool allowing preparers to self-correct almost any field at any time (including professional credentials). Previously, most changes had to be made during renewal. A phone call was required for users to make changes during the rest of the year. However, for security reasons, name changes still require written documentation.
  • Preparers can now view completed continuing education programs reported by IRS-approved providers beginning with 2013 courses. Providers report completed CE programs to the IRS based on your PTIN number. Enrolled agents must have a minimum of 16 CE hours annually and a total of 72 hours every  three years. Others can also view voluntary programs completed. If something is missing, contact your provider directly as we only display what providers send to us.
  • Planning to take a year off for any reason? A new function allows certain preparers to inactivate their PTINs voluntarily and then reactivate the same number when they return to work. This is only for those preparers who plan to take a full year off. If you are paid to prepare tax returns during any part of a year, you must have a valid PTIN. Note: Enrolled agents must maintain a valid PTIN each year in order to maintain their EA credential and therefore are not eligible to inactivate their PTIN.

For more information about requirements for federal tax professionals and access to the online PTIN system, go to www.irs.gov/for-Tax-Pros.

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IRS Warns of Pervasive Telephone Scam

From the IRS:

IR-2013-84, Oct. 31, 2013

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country.  We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves.  Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail

Other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.  Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.  This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.

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IRS Warns Consumers of Possible Scams Relating to Hurricane Sandy Relief

IR-2012-91, Nov. 9, 2012

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today issued a consumer alert about possible scams taking place in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Following major disasters, it’s common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations.

The IRS cautions both hurricane victims and people wishing to make disaster-related charitable donations to avoid scam artists by following these tips:

  • To help disaster victims, donate to recognized charities. 
  • Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities may also be found on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Web site at fema.gov.
  • Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution from you. Scam artists may use this information to steal your identity and money.
  • Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.
  • Call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number, 1-866-562-5227, if you are a hurricane victim with specific questions about tax relief or disaster related tax issues. 

Scam artists can use a variety of tactics. Some scammers operating bogus charities may contact people by telephone to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds. They may attempt to get personal financial information or Social Security numbers that can be used to steal the victims’ identities or financial resources.

Bogus websites may solicit funds for disaster victims. Such fraudulent sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities, in order to persuade members of the public to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.   Additionally, scammers often send e-mail that steers the recipient to bogus websites that sound as though they are affiliated with legitimate charitable causes.

Taxpayers suspecting disaster-related frauds should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords  “Report Phishing.”

More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.” 

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IRS: ‘Tax-filing and Payment Extensions Expire Oct. 15′

IR-2012-73, Sept. 28, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is urging the estimated 104,000 Louisianans who requested an automatic tax filing extension until Oct. 15 to double check their returns for often-overlooked tax benefits and then file their returns electronically using IRS e-file or the Free File system.

Many of the more than 11 million taxpayers who requested an automatic six-month extension this year have yet to file. Though Oct. 15 is the last day for most people, some still have more time, including members of the military and others serving in Iraq, Afghanistan or other combat zone localities who typically have until at least 180 days after they leave the combat zone to both file returns and pay any taxes due. People with extensions in parts of Louisiana and Mississippi affected by Hurricane Isaac also have more time, until Jan. 11, 2013, to file and pay.  (See list of affected parishes below.)

Check Out Tax Benefits

Before filing, the IRS encourages taxpayers to take a moment to see if they qualify for these and other often-overlooked credits and deductions:

  • Benefits for low-and moderate-income workers and families, especially the Earned Income Tax Credit. The special EITC Assistant can help taxpayers see if they’re eligible.
  • Savers credit, claimed on Form 8880, for low-and moderate-income workers who contributed to a retirement plan, such as an IRA or 401(k.
  • American Opportunity Tax Credit, claimed on Form 8863, and other education tax benefits  for parents and college students.

E-file Now: It’s Fast, Easy and Often Free

The IRS urged taxpayers to choose the speed and convenience of electronic filing. IRS e-file is fast, accurate and secure, making it an ideal option for those rushing to meet the Oct. 15 deadline. The tax agency verifies receipt of an e-filed return, and people who file electronically make fewer mistakes too.

Everyone can use Free File, either the brand-name software, offered by IRS’ commercial partners to individuals and families with incomes of $57,000 or less, or online fillable forms, the electronic version of IRS paper forms available to taxpayers at all income levels.

Taxpayers who purchase their own software can also choose e-file, and most paid tax preparers are now required to file their clients’ returns electronically.

Anyone expecting a refund can get it sooner by choosing direct deposit. Taxpayers can choose to have their refunds deposited into as many as three accounts. See Form 8888 for details.

Quick and Easy Payment Options

For unemployed workers who filed Form 1127-A and qualified to get an extension to pay their 2011 federal income tax, Oct. 15 is also the last day to pay what they owe, including interest at the rate of 3 percent per year, compounded daily. Doing so will avoid the late-payment penalty, normally 0.5 percent per month.

Taxpayers can e-pay what they owe, either online or by phone, through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), by electronic funds withdrawal or with a credit or debit card. There is no IRS fee for any of these services, but for debit and credit card payments only, the private-sector card processors do charge a convenience fee. For those who itemize their deductions, these fees can be claimed on Schedule A Line 23. Those who choose to pay by check or money order should make the payment out to the “United States Treasury”.

Taxpayers with extensions should file their returns by Oct. 15, even if they can’t pay the full amount due. Doing so will avoid the late-filing penalty, normally five percent per month, that would otherwise apply to any unpaid balance after Oct. 15. However, interest and late-payment penalties will continue to accrue.

Fresh Start for Struggling Taxpayers

In many cases, those struggling to pay taxes qualify for one of several relief programs, including those expanded earlier this year under the IRS “Fresh Start” initiative.

Most people can set up a payment agreement with the IRS on line in a matter of minutes. Those who owe $50,000 or less in combined tax, penalties and interest can use the Online Payment Agreement to set up a monthly payment agreement for up to six years or request a short-term extension to pay. Taxpayers can choose this option even if they have not yet received a bill or notice from the IRS.

Taxpayers can also request a payment agreement by filing Form 9465-FS. This form can be downloaded from IRS.gov and mailed along with a tax return, bill or notice.

Alternatively, some struggling taxpayers qualify for an offer-in-compromise. This is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed. Generally, an offer will not be accepted if the IRS believes the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

Details on all filing and payment options are on IRS.gov.

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 Parishes that qualify for tax relief due to Hurricane Isaac:

Ascension, Assumption, East Baton Rouge, East Feliciana, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist, St. Mary, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Terrebonne, Washington and West Feliciana parishes

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IRS: Tax Relief for Victims of Hurricane Isaac in Louisiana

More details from the IRS:

LA/MS-2012-15, Sept. 5, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — Victims of Hurricane Isaac that began on Aug. 26, 2012 in parts of Louisiana may qualify for tax relief from the Internal Revenue Service.

Following recent disaster declarations for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the IRS announced today that affected taxpayers in Louisiana will receive tax relief, and other locations may be added in coming days based on additional damage assessments by FEMA.

The President has declared the parishes of Ascension, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany a federal disaster area. Individuals who reside or have a business in these parishes may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Aug. 26, and on or before Jan. 11, 2013, have been postponed to Jan. 11, 2013. This includes the quarterly estimated tax payment due on Sept. 17, 2012.

In addition, the IRS is waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Aug. 26, and on or before Sept. 10, as long as the deposits are made by Sept. 10, 2012.

If an affected taxpayer receives a penalty notice from the IRS, the taxpayer should call the telephone number on the notice to have the IRS abate any interest and any late filing or late payment penalties that would otherwise apply. Penalties or interest will be abated only for taxpayers who have an original or extended filing, payment or deposit due date, including an extended filing or payment due date, that falls within the postponement period.

The IRS automatically identifies taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and applies automatic filing and payment relief. But affected taxpayers who reside or have a business located outside the covered disaster area must call the IRS disaster hotline at 1-866-562-5227 to request this tax relief.

Covered Disaster Area

The parishes listed above constitutes a covered disaster area for purposes of Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(2) and is entitled to the relief detailed below.

Affected Taxpayers

Taxpayers considered to be affected taxpayers eligible for the postponement of time to file returns, pay taxes and perform other time-sensitive acts are those taxpayers listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(d)(1), and include individuals who live, and businesses whose principal place of business is located, in the covered disaster area. Taxpayers not in the covered disaster area, but whose records necessary to meet a deadline listed in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c) are in the covered disaster area, are also entitled to relief. In addition, all relief workers affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization assisting in the relief activities in the covered disaster area and any individual visiting the covered disaster area who was killed or injured as a result of the disaster are entitled to relief.

Grant of Relief

Under section 7508A, the IRS gives affected taxpayers until Jan. 11, 2013, to file most tax returns (including individual, corporate, and estate and trust income tax returns; partnership returns, S corporation returns, and trust returns; estate, gift, and generation-skipping transfer tax returns; and employment and certain excise tax returns), or to make tax payments, including estimated tax payments, that have either an original or extended due date occurring on or after Aug. 26 and on or before Jan. 11, 2013.

The IRS also gives affected taxpayers until Jan. 11, 2013, to perform other time-sensitive actions described in Treas. Reg. § 301.7508A-1(c)(1) and Rev. Proc. 2007-56, 2007-34 I.R.B. 388 (Aug. 20, 2007), that are due to be performed on or after Aug. 26 and on or before Jan. 11, 2013.

This relief also includes the filing of Form 5500 series returns, in the manner described in section 8 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56. The relief described in section 17 of Rev. Proc. 2007-56, pertaining to like-kind exchanges of property, also applies to certain taxpayers who are not otherwise affected taxpayers and may include acts required to be performed before or after the period above.

The postponement of time to file and pay does not apply to information returns in the W-2, 1098, 1099 series, or to Forms 1042-S or 8027. Penalties for failure to timely file information returns can be waived under existing procedures for reasonable cause. Likewise, the postponement does not apply to employment and excise tax deposits. The IRS, however, will abate penalties for failure to make timely employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Aug. 26 and on or before Sept. 10 provided the taxpayer makes these deposits by Sept. 10.

Casualty Losses

Affected taxpayers in a federally declared disaster area have the option of claiming disaster-related casualty losses on their federal income tax return for either this year or last year. Claiming the loss on an original or amended return for last year will get the taxpayer an earlier refund, but waiting to claim the loss on this year’s return could result in a greater tax saving, depending on other income factors.

Individuals may deduct personal property losses that are not covered by insurance or other reimbursements. For details, see Form 4684 and its instructions.

Affected taxpayers claiming the disaster loss on last year’s return should put the Disaster Designation “LOUISIANA/HURRICANE ISAAC” at the top of the form so that the IRS can expedite the processing of the refund.

Other Relief

The IRS will waive the usual fees and expedite requests for copies of previously filed tax returns for affected taxpayers. Taxpayers should put the assigned Disaster Designation in red ink at the top of Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, as appropriate, and submit it to the IRS.

Affected taxpayers who are contacted by the IRS on a collection or examination matter should explain how the disaster impacts them so that the IRS can provide appropriate consideration to their case.

Taxpayers may download forms and publications from the official IRS website, IRS.gov, or order them by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). The IRS toll-free number for general tax questions is 1-800-829-1040.

Related Information

Disaster Assistance and Emergency Relief for Individuals and Businesses

Recent IRS Disaster Relief Announcements

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IRS Provides Tax Relief to Victims of Hurricane Isaac; Return filing and Tax Payment Deadline Extended to Jan. 11, 2013

IR-2012-70, Sept. 5, 2012

WASHINGTON –– The Internal Revenue Service is providing tax relief to individuals and businesses affected by Hurricane Isaac.

Following recent disaster declarations for individual assistance issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the IRS announced today that affected taxpayers in Louisiana and Mississippi will receive tax relief, and other locations may be added in coming days based on additional damage assessments by FEMA.

The tax relief postpones various tax filing and payment deadlines that occurred on or after Aug. 26. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until Jan. 11, 2013 to file these returns and pay any taxes due. This includes corporations and businesses that previously obtained an extension until Sept. 17, 2012, to file their 2011 returns and individuals and businesses that received a similar extension until Oct. 15. It also includes the estimated tax payment for the third quarter of 2012, normally due Sept. 17.

The IRS will abate any interest, late-payment or late-filing penalty that would otherwise apply. In addition, the IRS is waiving failure-to-deposit penalties for federal employment and excise tax deposits normally due on or after Aug. 26 and before Sept. 10, if the deposits are made by Sept. 10, 2012. Details on available relief, including information on how to claim a disaster loss by amending a prior-year tax return, can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

The tax relief is part of a coordinated federal response to the damage caused by the hurricane and is based on local damage assessments by FEMA. For information on disaster recovery, individuals should visit disasterassistance.gov.

So far, IRS filing and payment relief applies to the following localities:

  • In Louisiana: Ascension, Jefferson, Lafourche, Livingston, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany parishes;
  • In Mississippi: Hancock, Harrison, Jackson and Pearl counties.

IRS YouTube Videos
Help for Disaster Victims: English | Spanish | ASL

How to Request a Copy of Your Tax Return: English | Spanish | ASL

Podcast
Disaster Assistance: English | Spanish

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IRS Urges 5600 Louisiana Tax Preparers to Take Required Test Soon

LA/MS-2012-09, June 21, 2012

NEW ORLEANS — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that more than 12,000 Louisiana tax preparers have now registered with the agency, as required by recent regulations, but about 5,600 of them must take an IRS competency examination by Dec. 31, 2013, or they will not be able to prepare tax returns for compensation.

So far, 49 tax preparers in Louisiana have passed the competency exam and, as a result, have been given the new credential of Registered Tax Return Preparer (RTRP). Enrolled Agents, CPAs and attorneys are not required to take the exam because they already have testing requirements.

“Preparers who are required to take the IRS competency exam have about 18 months left to study and pass it,” said IRS spokesman Dee Harris Stepter. “The IRS urges them to take the exam soon in case they have to retake it and to avoid a potential flood of last-minute exam takers.”

Three years ago, the IRS began a program to register paid preparers and require certain ones to pass a competency test. In addition, paid preparers are expected to take continuing education courses and meet ethics standards.

The IRS will eventually create a publicly searchable database that will allow taxpayers to see if their tax preparers have met IRS standards or to find a tax preparer in their zip code area. The database will also show any credentials held by the preparer, including the new RTRP credential.

Last year more than 1.1 million individual federal returns, about 58 percent of the total returns filed, were prepared for Louisiana filers by paid tax preparers. Nationwide, close to 87 million returns, about 60 percent of the total, were prepared by paid tax preparers.

For returns prepared in 2012, paid tax preparers must, at the least, hold a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), and that the PTIN must be shown on tax returns they prepare.

More information about the IRS return preparer program is available at www.IRS.gov/PTIN.

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New IRS Online Tool Helps Low- and Moderate-Income Taxpayers Find Locations for Help

R-2012-14, Feb. 6, 2012

WASHINGTON — As part of a continuing effort to improve service to taxpayers, the Internal Revenue Service announced today the availability of a new online tool to help people easily find a location for volunteer tax preparation assistance.

The new tool, available 24 hours a day on IRS.gov, makes it easier than ever for qualified individuals to find free help through the IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Volunteers at VITA locations generally offer tax preparation for people with incomes of $50,000 or less free of charge.

Taxpayers can search the word “VITA” in IRS.gov and click on the option “Free Tax Return Preparation For You by Volunteers,” followed by ”Find a VITA site near you” to access the tool.

Once there, an easy-to-use locator prompts users to enter a zip code to search thousands of free tax preparation sites, narrowing the results to a selected radius. VITA sites are listed by location name, address, phone number, days and hours of operation, and the language-assistance options offered. Finally, taxpayers select a specific tax preparation site to get a map to provide step-by-step directions.

The VITA program has enjoyed tremendous support since it was created in 1969. For example, more than 3 million tax returns were prepared during the 2011 filing season by volunteers working under either the VITA program or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program.

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly program provides free tax service for all taxpayers with priority assistance to taxpayers 60 and older. A TCE locator is available on the AARP site at www.AARP.org.

The new VITA locator tool is part of a number of enhancements to IRS.gov. The IRS has updated the front page of its website to make it easier for people to get key forms, information and file tax returns. Additional improvements are planned for IRS.gov in the months ahead.

In addition to these resources, the IRS website has a wealth of free information and tax support. The official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Taxpayers are urged not to be confused by Internet sites that end in .com, .net, .org or anything other than .gov.

IRS YouTube VideoFree Help Available Preparing Your Tax Return
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Free Help Available Preparing Your Tax Return

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‘IRS Offers Tips for Year-End Giving’

WASHINGTON — Individuals and businesses making contributions to charity should keep in mind several important tax law provisions that have taken effect in recent years. Some of these changes include the following:

Special Charitable Contributions for Certain IRA Owners

This provision, currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2011, offers older owners of individual retirement accounts (IRAs) a different way to give to charity. An IRA owner, age 70½ or over, can directly transfer tax-free up to $100,000 per year to an eligible charity. This option, created in 2006, is available for distributions from IRAs, regardless of whether the owners itemize their deductions. Distributions from employer-sponsored retirement plans, including SIMPLE IRAs and simplified employee pension (SEP) plans, are not eligible.

To qualify, the funds must be contributed directly by the IRA trustee to the eligible charity. Amounts so transferred are not taxable and no deduction is available for the transfer.

Not all charities are eligible. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

Amounts transferred to a charity from an IRA are counted in determining whether the owner has met the IRA’s required minimum distribution. Where individuals have made nondeductible contributions to their traditional IRAs, a special rule treats transferred amounts as coming first from taxable funds, instead of proportionately from taxable and nontaxable funds, as would be the case with regular distributions. See Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), for more information on qualified charitable distributions.

Rules for Clothing and Household Items

To be deductible, clothing and household items donated to charity generally must be in good used condition or better. A clothing or household item for which a taxpayer claims a deduction of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if the taxpayer includes a qualified appraisal of the item with the return. Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens.

Guidelines for Monetary Donations

To deduct any charitable donation of money, regardless of amount, a taxpayer must have a bank record or a written communication from the charity showing the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, bank or credit union statements, and credit card statements. Bank or credit union statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the amount paid. Credit card statements should show the name of the charity, the date, and the transaction posting date.

Donations of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. For payroll deductions, the taxpayer should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document furnished by the employer showing the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

These requirements for the deduction of monetary donations do not change the long-standing requirement that a taxpayer obtain an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. However, one statement containing all of the required information may meet both requirements.

Reminders

To help taxpayers plan their holiday-season and year-end giving, the IRS offers the following additional reminders:

  • Contributions are deductible in the year made. Thus, donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2011 count for 2011. This is true even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until 2012. Also, checks count for 2011 as long as they are mailed in 2011.
  • Check that the organization is qualified. Only donations to qualified organizations are tax-deductible. IRS Publication 78, searchable and available online, lists most organizations that are qualified to receive deductible contributions. It can be found at IRS.gov under Search for Charities. In addition, churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies are eligible to receive deductible donations, even if they are not listed in Publication 78.
  • For individuals, only taxpayers who itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A can claim deductions for charitable contributions. This deduction is not available to individuals who choose the standard deduction, including anyone who files a short form (Form 1040A or 1040EZ). A taxpayer will have a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. Use the 2011 Form 1040 Schedule A to determine whether itemizing is better than claiming the standard deduction.
  • For all donations of property, including clothing and household items, get from the charity, if possible, a receipt that includes the name of the charity, date of the contribution, and a reasonably-detailed description of the donated property. If a donation is left at a charity’s unattended drop site, keep a written record of the donation that includes this information, as well as the fair market value of the property at the time of the donation and the method used to determine that value. Additional rules apply for a contribution of $250 or more.
  • The deduction for a motor vehicle, boat or airplane donated to charity is usually limited to the gross proceeds from its sale. This rule applies if the claimed value is more than $500. Form 1098-C, or a similar statement, must be provided to the donor by the organization and attached to the donor’s tax return.
  • If the amount of a taxpayer’s deduction for all noncash contributions is over $500, a properly-completed Form 8283 must be submitted with the tax return.
  • And, as always it’s important to keep good records and receipts.

IRS.gov has Additional information on charitable giving including:

 

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