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Tuesday February 18, 2020

Washington News

Washington Hotline

IRS Offers Advice to Taxpayers Who Missed the Tax-Filing Deadline

In IR-2019-81, the IRS provided guidance for those taxpayers who have not yet filed their 2018 tax returns. The IRS urges taxpayers to file as soon as possible, even if they cannot pay, in order to avoid possible penalties and interest.

For those who did not file by April 15, penalties and interest will not apply if a refund is due. Penalties and interest may apply, however, if taxpayers owe taxes and did not file their tax returns by April 15 (or April 17 for taxpayers residing in Maine or Massachusetts). As such, the IRS urges taxpayers who have not filed and owe taxes to file a return as soon as possible. Taxpayers may use "IRS Free File" on IRS.gov through October 15 to prepare and file their returns.

There are, however, some taxpayers who have additional time to file their taxes and pay any taxes due. This includes some disaster victims, military service members, eligible support personnel in combat zones and U.S. citizens and resident aliens who live and work outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico (see IRS publication IR-2019-73 for more information).

The IRS also notes that there may be penalty relief available for those whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year. The IRS is waiving the penalty for taxpayers who paid at least 80% of their tax liability through federal income tax withholding and/or quarterly estimated tax payments.

For those who do not have additional time to file or do not qualify for penalty relief, penalty fees can add up quickly, so it is important to file as soon as possible. The IRS explains that the late filing penalty on unpaid taxes, also known as the failure-to-file penalty, is usually 5% of the unpaid balance for each month, or part of each month, that the return is late. Note that the failure-to-file penalty may be reduced for any month where the failure-to-pay penalty also applies (see IRS.gov/penalties for more information). If a return is more than 60 days late, then the minimum penalty is the lesser of $210 or 100% of the unpaid tax.

In some instances, taxpayers may qualify for penalty relief. If the taxpayer has a legitimate reason for filing late, he or she should contact the IRS to explain why it was not possible to file or pay by the due date. Additionally, if a taxpayer has not been assessed a penalty for the past three years, he or she may qualify for penalty relief. For more information, visit the first time penalty abatement page on IRS.gov.

The IRS also provided tips for the following issues:
  1. Errors on Already-Filed Returns – Taxpayers typically are not required to submit amended returns for mathematical errors or missing forms or schedules. The IRS will normally correct mathematical errors and notify the taxpayer if there are missing forms or schedules. An amended form may be required to change filing status, correct total income or amend deductions or credits claimed. To determine if the error necessitates an amended return, use the "Interactive Tax Assistant" tool on the IRS website.
  2. Taxes Owed or Additional Payments Needed – If taxes are owed, taxpayers can view their balances online and pay using IRS Direct Pay. Other electronic payment options are available on IRS.gov/payments.
  3. Refund Information – Taxpayers can use the IRS's "Where's My Refund" tool to check on the status of their federal income tax refund. The tool is available on IRS.gov, the "IRS2Go" app or by phone at 800-829-1954. Taxpayers will need to provide the primary Social Security number on the return, the filing status and the expected refund amount.
  4. Responding to an IRS Notice or Letter – Notices and letters from the IRS will typically explain why the IRS is contacting the taxpayer and provide the steps that should be taken. If taxpayers have additional questions after receiving a letter or notice from the IRS, they should visit "Understanding Your Notice or IRS Letter" on IRS.gov or call the Taxpayer Advocate Service office at 877-777-4778.
  5. Amending Withholding Amounts –The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) implemented far-reaching tax changes. As such, the IRS urges all employees to check their withholding amounts using its "Withholding Calculator" on IRS.gov to avoid an unexpected tax bill and penalties.
The IRS reminds taxpayers that its employees will never make initial, unsolicited contact via email, text or social media regarding filing, payment or refund issues. The IRS typically only initiates contact through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. Unsolicited emails claiming to be from the IRS are likely a scam and should be forwarded to phishing@irs.gov.

Published May 3, 2019
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