Get ready for tax season using IRS Online Account

IR-2021-36, Feb. 11, 2021

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers they can securely access their IRS account information through their individual online account.

The IRS regularly adds features to online account. For example, people can now check the amounts of their Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) to help them accurately calculate any Recovery Rebate Credit they may be eligible for on their 2020 tax return. The EIP amounts can be found on the Tax Records tab. Amounts will show as “Economic Impact Payment” for the first payment and “Additional Economic Impact Payment” for the second payment. For married filing joint individuals, each spouse will need to sign into their own account to retrieve their portion of the payments. For more information regarding the credit, see Recovery Rebate Credit. Additionally, taxpayers can view:

  • The amount they owe, updated for the current calendar day
  • Their balance details by year
  • Their payment history and any scheduled or pending payments
  • Key information from their most recent tax return
  • Details about their payment plan, if they have one
  • Digital copies of select notices or letters from the IRS (under the Message Center tab)

They can also:

  • Make a payment online
  • See payment plan options and request a plan via Online Payment Agreement
  • Access their tax records via Get Transcript

Later in 2021, taxpayers will be able to digitally sign certain authorization forms, such as a power of attorney, initiated by their tax professional.

Here’s how to get started for new users:

  1. View Your Account at IRS.gov homepage
  • Select the “Create or View Your Account” button
  • Click “Create Account”
  • Pass “Secure Access” authentication. This is a rigorous process to verify that the taxpayers are who they say they are. They must be able to authenticate their identity to continue. See www.irs.gov/secureaccess for details.
  • Create a profile.

Once the initial authentication process is complete, returning users can use the same username and password to access other IRS online services such as Get Transcript and Get An Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) (if applicable).

All password-protected online IRS tools for taxpayers are protected by multi-factor authentication, offering extra security precautions.


Avoid pandemic paper delays: Use e-file with direct deposit for faster refunds as IRS prepares to open 2020 filing season

IR-2021-35, Feb. 11, 2021

WASHINGTON – With filing season opening on Feb. 12, the Internal Revenue Service urged taxpayers to take some simple steps to help ensure they file accurate tax returns and speed their tax refunds to avoid a variety of pandemic-related issues.

Although every year the IRS encourages taxpayers to e-file their returns and use direct deposit to receive refunds, to those taxpayers who have previously not used e-file, the IRS emphasizes using it this year to avoid paper-related processing delays. Taxpayers can file electronically by using a tax professional, IRS Free File or other commercial tax preparation software. The IRS cautioned paper-filed tax returns and paper checks will take even longer this year due to a variety of reasons.

Taxpayers have until Thursday, April 15, 2021, to file their 2020 tax return and pay any tax owed. The IRS expects to receive more than 160 million individual tax returns this year with nine out of 10 returns filed electronically. At least eight out of 10 taxpayers get their refunds by using direct deposit.

“The pandemic has created a variety of tax law changes and has created some unique circumstances for this filing season,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “To avoid issues, the IRS urges taxpayers to take some simple steps to help ensure they get their refund as quickly as possible, starting with filing electronically and using direct deposit.

“Following months of hard work, we are ready to start this year’s tax season,” Rettig added. “Getting to this point is always a year-round effort for the IRS and the nation’s tax community. Doing it in a continuing COVID-19 environment while simultaneously delivering stimulus payments for the nation is an unprecedented accomplishment by IRS employees. I also want to thank all our tax partners and tax professionals for their hard work that makes tax time smoother for the nation. All of us stand ready to serve America’s taxpayers during this important filing season.”

Wage and Investment Commissioner and Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer Ken Corbin provides an in-depth perspective on how the IRS is preparing for a successful filing season in his A Closer Look column.

Be tax ready: Review pandemic-related changes

Last year’s sweeping set of tax changes not only affected individuals and their families but may also affect the tax return they’re filing this year. A new IRS Fact Sheet explains what taxpayers need to know to file a complete and accurate tax return. The IRS recognizes that filing this year may be challenging for some taxpayers and it’s important to understand how to claim credits and deductions, get a refund timely and meet all tax responsibilities.

Recovery Rebate Credit helps people still eligible for Economic Impact Payments

For those who may be eligible for stimulus payments, they should carefully review the guidelines for the Recovery Rebate Credit. Most people received Economic Impact Payments automatically, and anyone who received the maximum amount does not need to include any information about their payments when they file. However, those who didn’t receive a payment or only received a partial payment may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return. Tax preparation software, including IRS Free File, will help taxpayers figure the amount.

New language preferences to help taxpayers Additionally, this year for the first time, Forms 1040 and 1040-SR are available in Spanish, and the IRS has a new form allowing taxpayers to request that they receive information from the IRS in their preferred

language. The Schedule LEP, Request for Change in Language Preference, will allow taxpayers to request information in some 20 different languages besides English.

The IRS also wants to remind taxpayers of other important changes that could impact their tax return this year.

Remember to factor in retirement plan distributions

Some taxpayers found it necessary to take coronavirus-related early distributions from 401(k) plans and traditional IRAs in 2020. Under the CARES Act, those distributions – up to $100,000 – are not subject to the 10% additional tax that otherwise generally applies to distributions made before an individual reaches age 59 ½. In addition, a coronavirus-related distribution can be included in income in equal installments over a three-year period, and an individual has three years to repay a coronavirus-related distribution to a plan or IRA and undo the tax consequences of the distribution.

Taxpayers should also remember that they can make contributions to traditional IRAs until April 15, 2021, and still deduct that amount on their 2020 tax return, if eligible.

New for 2020: non-itemizers can deduct $300 for charitable cash contributions

Previously, charitable contributions could only be deducted if taxpayers itemized their deductions.

However, with the CARES act, taxpayers who don’t itemize deductions may take a charitable deduction of up to $300 for cash contributions made in 2020 to qualifying organizations. For the purposes of this deduction, qualifying organizations are those that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific or literary in purpose.

Now more than ever, e-file is best

Now more than ever, the safest and best way to file a complete and accurate tax return and get a refund is to file electronically and use direct deposit. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov/filing for more details about IRS Free File, Free File Fillable Forms and Free tax preparation sites. E-filing is also available through a trusted tax professional. Free File is a great option for people who are only filing a tax return to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit, either because they didn’t receive an Economic Impact Payment or did not receive the full amount.

The fastest way to get a refund is to file electronically and use direct deposit. Most refunds are issued in less than 21 days, but some refunds may take longer for a variety of reasons. Taxpayers can track their refund using “Where’s My Refund?” on IRS.gov or by downloading the IRS2Go mobile app where they’ll get a personalized refund date as soon as 24 hours after the tax return is electronically submitted.

Most early Earned Income Tax Credit/Additional Child Tax Credit filers should see an update to “Where’s My Refund?” by Feb. 22. The IRS cannot answer refund status inquiries unless it has been 21 days since the return was electronically filed.

IRS tax help is available 24 hours a day on IRS.gov, where people can find answers to tax questions and resolve tax issues online from the safety of their home. The Let Us Help You page helps answer most tax questions, and the IRS Services Guide PDF links to other important IRS services.


Double-check for missing or incorrect Forms W-2, 1099 before filing taxes

IR-2021-33, Feb. 9, 2021

WASHINGTON — With some areas seeing mail delays, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers to double-check to make sure they have all of their tax documents, including Forms W-2 and 1099, before filing a tax return.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that many of these forms may be available online. When other options aren’t available, taxpayers who haven’t received a W-2 or Form 1099 should contact the employer, payer or issuing agency directly to request the missing documents before filing their 2020 federal tax return. This also applies for those who received an incorrect W-2 or Form 1099.

Those who don’t get a response, are unable to reach the employer/payer/issuing agency or cannot otherwise get copies or corrected copies of their Forms W-2 or 1099 must still file their tax return on time by the April 15 deadline (or October 15 if requesting an automatic extension). They may need to use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, or Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. to avoid filing an incomplete or amended return.

If the taxpayer doesn’t receive the missing or corrected form in time to file their tax return by the April deadline, they may estimate the wages or payments made to them, as well as any taxes withheld. Use Form 4852 to report this information on their federal tax return.

If the taxpayer receives the missing or corrected Form W-2 or Form 1099-R after filing their return and the information differs from their previous estimate, they must file Form 1040-X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. For additional information on filing an amended return, see Topic No. 308 and Should I File an Amended Return?

Taxpayers should allow enough time for tax records to arrive in the mail before filing their 2020 tax return. In a normal year, most taxpayers should have received income documents near the end of January, including:

  • Forms W-2, Wage and Tax Statement
  • Form 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income
  • Form 1099-INT, Interest Income
  • Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation
  • Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments; like unemployment compensation or state tax refund
Incorrect Form 1099-G for unemployment benefits

Millions of Americans received unemployment compensation in 2020, many of them for the first time. This compensation is taxable and must be included as gross income on their tax return.

Taxpayers who receive an incorrect Form 1099-G for unemployment benefits they did not receive should contact the issuing state agency to request a revised Form 1099-G showing they did not receive these benefits. Taxpayers who are unable to obtain a timely, corrected form from states should still file an accurate tax return, reporting only the income they received.

Use IRS.gov

IRS tax help is available 24 hours a day on IRS.gov, the official IRS website, where people can find answers to tax questions and resolve tax issues online. The Let Us Help You page helps answer most tax questions, and the IRS Services Guide links to other important IRS services.


New IRS form available for self-employed individuals to claim COVID-19 sick and family leave tax credits under FFCRA

IR-2021-31, Feb. 8, 2021

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service announced today that a new form is available for eligible self-employed individuals to claim sick and family leave tax credits under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA).

Eligible self-employed individuals will determine their qualified sick and family leave equivalent tax credits with the new IRS Form 7202, Credits for Sick Leave and Family Leave for Certain Self-Employed Individuals. They’ll claim the tax credits on their 2020 Form 1040 for leave taken between April 1, 2020, and Dec. 31, 2020, and on their 2021 Form 1040 for leave taken between Jan. 1, 2021, and March 31, 2021.

The FFCRA, passed in March 2020, allows eligible self-employed individuals who, due to COVID-19 are unable to work or telework for reasons relating to their own health or to care for a family member to claim refundable tax credits to offset their federal income tax. The credits are equal to either their qualified sick leave or family leave equivalent amount, depending on circumstances. IRS.gov has instructions to help calculate the qualified sick leave equivalent amount and qualified family leave equivalent amount. Certain restrictions apply.

Who may file Form 7202

Eligible self-employed individuals must:

Taxpayers must maintain appropriate documentation establishing their eligibility for the credits as an eligible self-employed individual.

Resources:


Beware of ‘ghost’ preparers who don’t sign tax returns

IR-2021-30, Feb. 5, 2021

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers to avoid “ghost” tax return preparers whose refusal to sign returns can cause a frightening array of problems. It is important to file a valid, accurate tax return because the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for it.

Ghost preparers get their scary name because they don’t sign tax returns they prepare. Like a ghost, they try to be invisible to the fact they’ve prepared the return and will print the return and get the taxpayer to sign and mail it. For e-filed returns, the ghost preparer will prepare but refuse to digitally sign it as the paid preparer.

By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on the return. Not signing a return is a red flag that the paid preparer may be looking to make a fast buck by promising a big refund or charging fees based on the size of the refund.

Unscrupulous tax return preparers may also:

  • Require payment in cash only and not provide a receipt.
  • Invent income to qualify their clients for tax credits.
  • Claim fake deductions to boost the size of the refund.
  • Direct refunds into their bank account, not the taxpayer’s account.

The IRS urges taxpayers to choose a tax return preparer wisely. The Choosing a Tax Professional page on IRS.gov has information about tax preparer credentials and qualifications. The IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications can help identify many preparers by type of credential or qualification.

No matter who prepares the return, the IRS urges taxpayers to review it carefully and ask questions about anything not clear before signing. Taxpayers should verify both their routing and bank account number on the completed tax return for any direct deposit refund. And taxpayers should watch out for preparers putting their bank account information onto the returns.

Taxpayers can report preparer misconduct to the IRS using IRS Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their tax return without their consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Tax Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.


Educators can now deduct out-of-pocket expenses for COVID-19 protective items

IR-2021-28, Feb. 4, 2021

WASHINGTON – Eligible educators can deduct unreimbursed expenses for COVID-19 protective items to stop the spread of COVID-19 in the classroom. COVID-19 protective items include, but are not limited to: 

  • face masks;
  • disinfectant for use against COVID-19;
  • hand soap;
  • hand sanitizer;
  • disposable gloves;
  • tape, paint or chalk to guide social distancing;
  • physical barriers (for example, clear plexiglass);
  • air purifiers; and
  • other items recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be used for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19.

Rev. Proc. 2021-15, issued today, provides guidance related to educators and their expenses under the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020, which was enacted as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021. The new law clarifies that unreimbursed expenses paid or incurred after March 12, 2020, by eligible educators for protective items to stop the spread of COVID-19 qualify for the educator expense deduction.

The educator expense deduction rules permit eligible educators to deduct up to $250 of qualifying expenses per year ($500 if married filing jointly and both spouses are eligible educators, but not more than $250 each).

Eligible educators include any individual who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year.

This deduction is for expenses paid or incurred during the tax year. Taxpayers claim the deduction on Form 1040, Form 1040-SR or Form 1040-NR (attach Schedule 1 (Form 1040) ).

For additional information regarding the deduction for certain expenses of an eligible educator, see the Instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR or the Instructions for Form 1040-NR.

For more information about this, the COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 and other tax changes, visit IRS.gov.