Skip Lovette, CPA
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With filing season opening on February 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.
Here is an in-depth perspective on how the IRS is preparing for a successful filing season.
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?
Lovette, CPA, PA, is a full-service tax and accounting firm serving customers for more than 13 years. We serve the Triad, the Triangle, and the Sandhills. For more information, call us at 336.346.1960, visit our website, www.lovettecpa.com, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.