The IRS announced it is opening the 2019 individual income tax return filing season on January 27. Even if you typically don’t file until much closer to the April 15 deadline (or you file for an extension), consider filing as soon as you can this year. The reason: You can potentially protect yourself from tax identity theft — and you may obtain other benefits, too.
In a tax identity theft scam, a thief uses another individual’s personal information to file a fraudulent tax return early in the filing season and claim a bogus refund. The legitimate taxpayer discovers the fraud when he or she files a return and is informed by the IRS that the return has been rejected because one with the same Social Security number has already been filed for the tax year. While the taxpayer should ultimately be able to prove that his or her return is the valid one, tax identity theft can cause major headaches to straighten out and significantly delay a refund. Filing early may be your best defense: If you file first, it will be the tax return filed by a would-be thief that will be rejected, rather than yours. Note: You can get your individual tax return prepared by us before January 27 if you have all the required documents. It’s just that processing of the return will begin after IRS systems open on that date.
To file your tax return, you must have received all of your W-2s and 1099s. January 31 is the deadline for employers to issue 2019 Form W-2 to employees and, generally, for businesses to issue Form 1099 to recipients of any 2019 interest, dividend or reportable miscellaneous income payments (including those made to independent contractors). If you haven’t received a W-2 or 1099 by February 1, first contact the entity that should have issued it. If that doesn’t work, you can contact the IRS for help.
Besides protecting yourself from tax identity theft, another benefit of early filing is that, if you’re getting a refund, you’ll get it faster. The IRS expects most refunds to be issued within 21 days. The time is typically shorter if you file electronically and receive a refund by direct deposit into a bank account. Direct deposit also avoids the possibility that a refund check could be lost or stolen or returned to the IRS as undeliverable. And by using direct deposit, you can split your refund into up to three financial accounts, including a bank account or IRA. Part of the refund can also be used to buy up to $5,000 in U.S. Series I Savings Bonds.
What if you owe tax? Filing early may still be beneficial. You won’t need to pay your tax bill until April 15, but you’ll know sooner how much you owe and can plan accordingly. Be an early-bird filer If you have questions about tax identity theft or would like help filing your 2019 return early, please contact us. We can help you ensure you file an accurate return that takes advantage of all of the breaks available to you.
Here are some key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the first quarter of 2020. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. If you have any questions. contact us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.
January 31: File 2019 Forms W-2, “Wage and Tax Statement”, with the Social Security Administration and provide copies to your employees. Provide copies of 2019 Forms 1099-MISC, “Miscellaneous Income”, to recipients of income from your business where required. File 2019 Forms 1099-MISC reporting nonemployee compensation payments in Box 7 with the IRS. File Form 940, “Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return”, for 2019. If your undeposited tax is $500 or less, you can either pay it with your return or deposit it. If it’s more than $500, you must deposit it. However, if you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return. File Form 941, “Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return”, to report Medicare, Social Security and income taxes withheld in the fourth quarter of 2019. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the quarter in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return. (Employers that have an estimated annual employment tax liability of $1,000 or less may be eligible to file Form 944, “Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return”.) File Form 945, “Annual Return of Withheld Federal Income Tax”, for 2019 to report income tax withheld on all nonpayroll items, including backup withholding and withholding on accounts such as pensions, annuities and IRAs. If your tax liability is less than $2,500, you can pay it in full with a timely filed return. If you deposited the tax for the year in full and on time, you have until February 10 to file the return.
February 28: File 2019 Forms 1099-MISC with the IRS if 1. They’re not required to be filed earlier and 2. You’re filing paper copies. (Otherwise, the filing deadline is March 31.)
March 16: If a calendar-year partnership or S corporation, file or extend your 2019 tax return and pay any tax due. If the return isn’t extended, this is also the last day to make 2019 contributions to pension and profit-sharing plans
If you’re starting to fret about your 2019 tax bill, there’s good news — you may still have time to reduce your liability. Three strategies are available that may help you cut your taxes before year-end, including:
1. Accelerate deductions/defer income. Certain tax deductions are claimed for the year of payment, such as the mortgage interest deduction. So, if you make your January 2020 payment this month, you can deduct the interest portion on your 2019 tax return (assuming you itemize). Pushing income into the new year also will reduce your taxable income. If you’re expecting a bonus at work, for example, and you don’t want the income this year, ask if your employer can hold off on paying it until January. If you’re self-employed, you can delay your invoices until late in December to divert the revenue to 2020. You shouldn’t pursue this approach if you expect to land in a higher tax bracket next year. Also, if you’re eligible for the qualified business income deduction for pass-through entities, you might reduce the amount of that deduction if you reduce your income.
2. Maximize your retirement contributions. What could be better than paying yourself instead of Uncle Sam? Federal tax law encourages individual taxpayers to make the maximum allowable
contributions for the year to their retirement accounts, including traditional IRAs and SEP plans, 401(k)s and deferred annuities. For 2019, you generally can contribute as much as $19,000 to 401(k)s and $6,000 for traditional IRAs. Self-employed individuals can contribute up to 25% of your net income (but no more than $56,000) to a SEP IRA.
3. Harvest your investment losses. Losing money on your investments has a bit of an upside — it gives you the opportunity to offset taxable gains. If you sell underperforming investments before the end of the year, you can offset gains realized this year on a dollar-for-dollar basis. If you have more losses than gains, you generally can apply up to $3,000 of the excess to reduce your ordinary income. Any remaining losses are carried forward to future tax years. We can help The strategies described above are only a sampling of strategies that may be available.
Contact us if you have questions about these or other methods for minimizing your tax liability for 2019.
As the filing season for tax year 2018 draws to a close with the October 15th extension deadline, taxpayers across the country can breathe a sigh of relief knowing their obligation to Uncle Sam has been satisfied for the year. The 2019 season, however, is just around the corner and the April 15th filing deadline will be here before you know it. The following are just a few different approaches to consider as you start your end-of-year tax planning for 2019 and beyond.
In 2016, former Governor Nathan Deal signed into law a program aimed at “Helping Enhance Access to Rural Treatment” – the Georgia HEART Hospital Program. This program allows Georgia taxpayers to route their tax dollars to an eligible rural hospital of their choice by means of a charitable contribution to the hospital. Through a pre-approval process with the Georgia Department of Revenue, taxpayers can obtain a dollar-for-dollar state tax credit of up to $5,000 ($10,000 for married filing jointly). Essentially, every dollar you contribute to the hospital reduces your state tax liability by the same amount. Donations are capped statewide at $60 million. If the limit is not reached by June 30th of each taxable year, taxpayers can then make unlimited contributions for the remainder of the year until the cap is reached, and claim their contributions fully as a state tax credit. It is important to note that these pre-approved credits have generally been exhausted shortly after the application process begins each year. The application process usually begins in October for the following tax year, which means the application process for 2020 should begin shortly!
For the first year enacted, these credits were also fully deductible as a charitable contribution on Schedule A of the federal tax return. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), however, would eliminate this federal deduction entirely for Georgia taxpayers once signed into law at the end of 2017. One of the elements of the act limited the deductibility of state and local taxes to a maximum of $10,000. To try to bypass this limit, many states began credit programs similar to the Georgia HEART Hospital Program as a way to afford their taxpayers a federal deduction for state taxes paid, since the charitable contribution would also reduce their state income tax liability. Via regulations effective August 11, 2019 (and applicable to contributions made after August 27, 2018), the US Treasury Department ruled that taxpayers can only deduct the net value of the donation as a charitable contribution. Because Georgia taxpayers receive a 100% tax credit for each dollar contributed, $0 of the donation is deductible on the federal return. This should not dissuade taxpayers from utilizing the credit, however, as it is a good way for you to specifically determine where your tax dollars go to work!
Another element of the TCJA increased the standard deduction for taxpayers, which is $12,200 for single individuals in 2019 and $24,400 for couples filing a joint return. For many individuals, this increase was enough to force them to take the standard deduction rather than itemizing their expenses, as their itemized deductions were far less than these standard amounts. Though the increase is favorable to the federal return, it can be somewhat less beneficial on the Georgia return. Taxpayers who take the standard deduction on the federal return must also take the standard deduction on the Georgia return. This amount is far lower than its federal counterpart: $4,600 for single taxpayers and $6,000 for couples filing jointly. A couple that could previously deduct $20,000 on the federal return and $20,000 on the state return by itemizing would now deduct $24,000 on the federal return and only $6,000 on the Georgia return. Taxpayers may consider bunching certain itemized deductions, such as medical expenses and charitable contributions, into alternating years, if this would push them over the threshold to itemize. Of course, the taxpayer would have to take the standard deduction in the alternate years, but would at least see a greater benefit with these expenses every other year. Through the use of donor-advised funds, taxpayers can make one large donation and take the charitable deduction in the year of contribution, but distribute the funds to one or more organizations over multiple years.
For most taxpayers, bunching medical expenses is not very practical. Though we always hope to live in good health, we cannot always control our medical needs as they arise. Life happens. For this reason, taxpayers may want to consider the use of health savings accounts. Contributions to these accounts (a maximum $3,500 for individuals and $7,000 for families in 2019) are deducted from gross income, a.k.a. pre-tax dollars, and can be used to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses in the future. Withdrawals for qualified medical expenses are also tax-free and without penalty. However, withdrawals made for expenses other than qualified medical expenses before age 65 are subject to both tax and a 20% penalty. Individuals 65 and older can make withdrawals for expenses other than medical without penalty, but this income is still subject to income tax.
It is never too early to start thinking about tax planning for the future, and your trusty CPA can help! For more information about these and other year-end planning strategies, be sure to contact your tax preparer. For more information on the Georgia HEART Hospital Program, visit www.georgiaheart.org.
Ethan is a licensed CPA with KRT, CPAs and is chock-full of useless pop culture trivia.
Fall is approaching, along with some key tax-related deadlines affecting businesses and other employers during the fourth quarter of 2019. Keep in mind that this list isn’t all-inclusive, so there may be additional deadlines that apply to you. If you aren’t sure, reach out to us to ensure you’re meeting all applicable deadlines and to learn more about the filing requirements.
- October 15: If a calendar-year C corporation that filed an automatic six-month extension: File a 2018 income tax return (Form 1120) and pay any tax, interest and penalties due. Make contributions for 2018 to certain employer-sponsored retirement plans.
- October 31: Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2019 (Form 941) and pay any tax due. (See exception below under “November 12.”)
- November 12: Report income tax withholding and FICA taxes for third quarter 2019 (Form 941), if you deposited on time (and in full) all of the associated taxes due.
- December 16: If a calendar-year C corporation, pay the fourth installment of 2019 estimated income taxes.
Remember, don’t hesitate to reach out to us if you have any questions. We are here to help.