July Law Contains New Tax Compliance Rules
Just as highway funds were set to run out, Congress passed a highway bill and President Obama signed it into law July 31, 2015. To pay for the bill without raising tax rates, Congress included some new compliance provisions that will affect some recipients of inherited property, owners of partnership interests, and taxpayers with mortgages.
details: Surface Transportation Act of 2015
A Tax-Free Fringe You Hope You’ll Never Need
Imagine this. A hacker breaks into the computer system of the company where you work and downloads employee data, including your social security number and date of birth. The company announces that they’ll pay for identity protection services for the employees, but then some wise guy says hey, isn’t that a taxable fringe benefit? Doesn’t the company have to include the value on the employee’s Form W-2, forcing the employee to pay tax on this amount?
Fortunately, the wise guys at the IRS say no. The employer doesn’t have to report this item on Form W-2 (or, for non-employees, on Form 1099-MISC), and the employee doesn’t have to report it on his or her tax return. And the same is true if you received identity protection services from a company where you shopped, if it’s provided because of a data breach. This rule doesn’t apply if you receive these services for reasons other than a data breach, or if you receive cash in lieu of such services.
details: IRS Announcement 2015-22 (PDF)
An Easier Way to Report Capital Gains
If you have more than a few sales of stocks, mutual funds or other investments to report on your tax return, you may want to be aware of a recent change in IRS requirements for reporting these transactions.
details: Easier Capital Gains Reporting
Backdoor Roth Contributions
Backdoor Roth contributions provide a way for some people with income above the Roth IRA contribution limits to add dollars to a Roth IRA. We’ve added two new articles to our online guide to Roth Retirement Accounts, both based on material in our book Go Roth!:
Backdoor Roth IRA Contributions
Some people can use this technique to add to a Roth IRA even when their income is above the limit for Roth IRA contributions.
Possible Challenge to Backdoor Roth Contributions?
Some tax professionals have identified a risk in using this technique, but we believe there is no cause for concern.
New Roth Book Available
The 2015 edition of our book on Roth retirement accounts, Go Roth!, is now available. This update reflects changes in tax rates, legislation and IRS guidance through January 15, 2015.
more info | order from amazon.com
TurboTax Apology 2.0
After getting an earful (and then some) from their customers, the folks at Intuit have come up with a new, improved apology for the mess they created in disabling features in some versions of their products, forcing many of their customers to buy a more expensive version. While they’ll need a few days to roll out the new approach, they say it will include three features:
- For this year, a free upgrade “within the product” for people who buy the desktop version of TurboTax Deluxe but need TurboTax Premier because they removed capabilities from the lower-priced product.
- People who already paid for the upgrade can claim the rebate described earlier up until April 20.
- For next year and presumably thereafter, the capabilities removed from the Deluxe version will be restored.
Details haven’t been provided, so it’s unclear if any of the numerous limitations listed in our previous article will be lifted. In particular, we wonder whether these forms are being restored only to the desktop version of TurboTax Deluxe. Some 80% of TurboTax customers use the online version, but for some reason there was little outcry when similar changes were made to that version a year earlier.
January 24, 2015
By Kaye A. Thomas
Beginning last year, Intuit began disabling key features in some of its TurboTax offerings so users would have to upgrade to more expensive versions. The change rolled out a year ago to people who prepared returns online, and this year it also affects those who buy the software for installation on their computers (CD or download). For some reason, last year’s change in the online version didn’t cause much of a stir, but the angry response to this year’s follow-on change in the installed version has been widely reported, including in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal.
Intuit has responded with an apology for not doing enough to communicate this change. The company offers no apology, however, for the underlying strategy of forcing users to migrate to more expensive products. The TurboTax apology comes with a rebate offer, but one that won’t fully compensate for the difference in cost, and won’t be available to all affected customers.
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Guide to Free Tax Filing
You can pay less than this
Psst! You don’t have to pay for tax software or filing services! Even if you don’t meet the requirements of the IRS Free File program (which we review with all its warts), you may be able to prepare and file your tax return free of charge through other offerings.
details: Free Tax Filing
Can’t Find Pub 590?
One of the most important publications issued each year by the IRS is Publication 590, Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs). Individuals rely on Pub 590 for explanations of the rules, and professionals look to this publication for insight into how the IRS interprets the law in some of the gray areas. You may have trouble finding the 2014 edition, however.
That’s because the IRS decided to split Pub 590 into two publications, 590-A for contributions to IRAs, and 590-B for distributions from IRAs. Many websites, including irs.gov (and, dare we say, this one) have not fully caught up with the change. Links to IRS publications automatically go to the latest version when they appear on the IRS website, so we aren’t used to updating those links. The IRS isn’t redirecting that web traffic, though, so links to Pub 590 will bring up the 2013 edition, even though the 2014 replacements are available:
Internal Revenue But No Service
By Kaye A. Thomas
Current as of January 15, 2015
The Taxpayer Advocate has released a depressing report.
Taxpayer service levels at the IRS have been declining for the last ten years. In 2004, the IRS answered 87% of calls from taxpayers seeking assistance, with an average hold time of 2½ minutes. On its toll-free lines and in roughly 400 walk-in sites, taxpayers received help on a wide range of tax questions. Tax return preparation assistance was provided to hundreds of thousands of taxpayers, many of them low-income, elderly or disabled. Here is what we can expect for 2015:
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