Update on Recent IRS Actions During COVID-19
There have been a significant number of recent IRS updates that impact taxpayers from both a controversy and compliance perspective. While our focus is to always provide the absolute best tax controversy updates and counsel for our clients, the IRS is currently modifying many current compliance procedures in the wake of the pandemic that are important to pass on to keep readers informed of the latest changes. Here, we’ve compiled many of the IRS’s recent initiatives and guidance for your review.
Topics covered here:
- IRS People First Initiative
- IRS Economic Impact Payment to Taxpayers
- Employee Retention Credit
- Gift and GST Filing Extension
- Extension of time to File FACTA Returns
- IRS Acceptance of Digital Signatures
Andreozzi Bluestein is well versed in all areas of IRS Compliance and Controversy. Should you have any questions or concerns relating to any of these issues, please contact us today for an immediate no obligation consultation.
IRS People First Initiative
To help people facing the challenges of COVID-19 issues, the Internal Revenue Service has recently announced a sweeping series of steps to assist taxpayers by providing relief on a variety of issues ranging from easing payment guidelines to postponing compliance actions. Highlights of the key actions in the IRS People First Initiative include:
Existing Installment Agreements –For taxpayers under an existing Installment Agreement, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020 are suspended. Taxpayers who are currently unable to comply with the terms of an Installment Payment Agreement, including a Direct Debit Installment Agreement, may suspend payments during this period if they prefer. Furthermore, the IRS will not default any Installment Agreements during this period. By law, interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.
New Installment Agreements – The IRS reminds people unable to fully pay their federal taxes that they can resolve outstanding liabilities by entering into a monthly payment agreement with the IRS.
Offers in Compromise (OIC) – The IRS is taking several steps to assist taxpayers in various stages of the OIC process:
- Pending OIC applications – The IRS will allow taxpayers until July 15 to provide requested additional information to support a pending OIC. In addition, the IRS will not close any pending OIC request before July 15, 2020, without the taxpayer’s consent.
- OIC Payments – Taxpayers have the option of suspending all payments on accepted OICs until July 15, 2020, although by law interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances.
- Delinquent Return Filings – The IRS will not default an OIC for those taxpayers who are delinquent in filing their tax return for tax year 2018. However, taxpayers should file any delinquent 2018 return (and their 2019 return) on or before July 15, 2020.
- New OIC Applications – The IRS reminds people facing a liability exceeding their net worth that the OIC process is designed to resolve outstanding tax liabilities by providing a “Fresh Start.”
Non-Filers –The IRS reminds people who have not filed their return for tax years before 2019 that they should file their delinquent returns. More than 1 million households that haven’t filed tax returns during the last three years are actually owed refunds; they still have time to claim these refunds. Many should consider contacting a tax professional to consider various available options since the time to receive such refunds is limited by statute. Once delinquent returns have been filed, taxpayers with a tax liability should consider taking the opportunity to resolve any outstanding liabilities by entering into an Installment Agreement or an Offer in Compromise with the IRS to obtain a “Fresh Start.”
Field Collection Activities – Liens and levies (including any seizures of a personal residence) initiated by field revenue officers will be suspended during this period. However, field revenue officers will continue to pursue high-income non-filers and perform other similar activities where warranted.
Automated Liens and Levies – New automatic, systemic liens and levies will be suspended during this period.
Passport Certifications to the State Department – IRS will suspend new certifications to the Department of State for taxpayers who are “seriously delinquent” during this period. These taxpayers are encouraged to submit a request for an Installment Agreement or, if applicable, an OIC during this period. Certification prevents taxpayers from obtaining or renewing passports.
Private Debt Collection – New delinquent accounts will not be forwarded by the IRS to private collection agencies to work during this period.
Field, Office and Correspondence Audits – During this period, the IRS will generally not start new field, office or correspondence examinations. IRS will continue to work refund claims where possible, without in-person contact. However, the IRS may start new examinations where deemed necessary to protect the government’s interest in preserving the applicable statute of limitations.
- In-Person Meetings – In-person meetings regarding current field, office and correspondence examinations will be suspended. Even though IRS examiners will not hold in-person meetings, they will continue their examinations remotely, where possible. To facilitate the progress of open examinations, taxpayers are encouraged to respond to any requests for information they already have received – or may receive – on all examination activity during this period if they are able to do so.
- Unique Situations – Particularly for some corporate and business taxpayers, the IRS understands that there may be instances where the taxpayers desire to begin an examination while people and records are available and respective staffs have capacity. In those instances, when it’s in the best interest of both parties and appropriate personnel are available, the IRS may initiate activities to move forward with an examination — understanding that COVID-19 developments could later reduce activities for an agreed period.
- General Requests for Information – In addition to compliance activities and examinations, the IRS encourages taxpayers to respond to any other IRS correspondence requesting additional information during this time if possible.
Earned Income Tax Credit and Wage Verification Reviews – Taxpayers have until July 15, 2020, to respond to the IRS to verify that they qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or to verify their income. These taxpayers are encouraged to exercise their best efforts to obtain and submit all requested information, and if unable to do so, please reach out to the IRS indicating the reason such information is not available. Until July 15, 2020, the IRS will not deny these credits for a failure to provide requested information.
Independent Office of Appeals – Appeals employees will continue to work their cases. Although Appeals is not currently holding in-person conferences with taxpayers, conferences may be held over the telephone or by videoconference. Taxpayers are encouraged to promptly respond to any outstanding requests for information for all cases in the Independent Office of Appeals.
Statute of Limitations – The IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized during this period, taxpayers are encouraged to cooperate in extending such statutes. Otherwise, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statutes. Where a statutory period is not set to expire during 2020, the IRS is unlikely to pursue the foregoing actions until at least July 15, 2020.
Practitioner Priority Service – The IRS has temporarily closed the Practitioner Priority Service line.
Economic Impact Payments
Economic impact payments will begin in the next three weeks and will be distributed automatically, with no action required for most people. Details and FAQ’s are here:
Who is eligible for the economic impact payment?
Tax filers with adjusted gross income up to $75,000 for individuals and up to $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns will receive the full payment. For filers with income above those amounts, the payment amount is reduced by $5 for each $100 above the $75,000/$150,000 thresholds. Single filers with income exceeding $99,000 and $198,000 for joint filers with no children are not eligible.
Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for either 2019 or 2018 will automatically receive an economic impact payment of up to $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for married couples, subject to the income thresholds identified above. Parents also receive $500 for each qualifying child.
How will the IRS know where to send my payment?
The vast majority of people do not need to take any action. The IRS will calculate and automatically send the economic impact payment to those eligible.
For people who have already filed their 2019 tax returns, the IRS will use this information to calculate the payment amount. For those who have not yet filed their return for 2019, the IRS will use information from their 2018 tax filing to calculate the payment. The economic impact payment will be deposited directly into the same banking account reflected on the return filed.
The IRS does not have my direct deposit information. What can I do?
In the coming weeks, Treasury plans to develop a web-based portal for individuals to provide their banking information to the IRS online, so that individuals can receive payments immediately as opposed to checks in the mail.
I receive Social Security and am not typically required to file a tax return. Can I still receive my payment?
Yes. IRS recently announced that Social Security recipients who are not required to file annual income tax returns will receive their economic impact payment in the same manner that they receive their Social Security payments. No additional filing is required.
How can I file the tax return needed to receive my economic impact payment?
IRS.gov/coronavirus will soon provide information instructing people in these groups on how to file a 2019 tax return with simple, but necessary, information including their filing status, number of dependents and direct deposit bank account information.
I have not filed my tax return for 2018 or 2019. Can I still receive an economic impact payment?
Yes. The IRS urges anyone with a tax filing obligation who has not yet filed a tax return for 2018 or 2019 to file as soon as they can to receive an economic impact payment. Taxpayers should include direct deposit banking information on the return.
I need to file a tax return. How long are the economic impact payments available?
For those concerned about visiting a tax professional or local community organization in person to get help with a tax return, these economic impact payments will be available throughout the rest of 2020.
Employee Retention Credit
The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service launched the Employee Retention Credit, designed to encourage businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. Details and FAQ’s on the program can be found here.
Does my business qualify to receive the Employee Retention Credit?
The credit is available to all employers regardless of size, including tax-exempt organizations. There are only two exceptions: State and local governments and their instrumentalities and small businesses who take certain small business loans.
Qualifying employers must fall into one of two categories:
- The employer’s business is fully or partially suspended by government order due to COVID-19 during the calendar quarter; or
- The employer’s gross receipts are below 50% of the comparable quarter in 2019. Once the employer’s gross receipts go above 80% of a comparable quarter in 2019, they no longer qualify after the end of that quarter.
These measures are calculated each calendar quarter.
How is the credit calculated?
The amount of the credit is 50% of qualifying wages paid, up to $10,000 per employee. Wages paid after March 12, 2020, and before Jan. 1, 2021, are eligible for the credit. Wages taken into account are not limited to cash payments, but also include a portion of the cost of employer provided health care.
How do I know which wages qualify?
Qualifying wages are based on the average number of a business’s employees in 2019.
Employers with less than 100 employees: If the employer had 100 or fewer employees on average in 2019, the credit is based on wages paid to all employees, regardless if they worked or not. If the employees worked full time and were paid for full time work, the employer still receives the credit.
Employers with more than 100 employees: If the employer had more than 100 employees on average in 2019, then the credit is allowed only for wages paid to employees who did not work during the calendar quarter.
I am an eligible employer. How do I receive my credit?
The credit is allowed against the employer portion of social security taxes under I.R.C. Section 3111(a) and the portion of taxes imposed on railroad employers under Section 3221(a) of the RRTA.
The IRS issued Notice 2020-22 providing guidance to employers regarding penalty relief allowing for an offset of the refundable credits due under this provision for failing to deposit payroll taxes, including taxes withheld from an employee’s wages, in an amount equal to or less than the credit for that quarter. This is effective for the quarter beginning April 1, 2020.
Eligible employers will report their total qualified wages and the related health insurance costs for each quarter on their quarterly employment tax returns or Form 941 beginning with the quarter beginning on April 1, 2020.
Eligible employers can also request an advance of the Employee Retention Credit by submitting Form 7200.
Gift Tax Filing Date Extension
The Internal Revenue Service is postponing the date for filing gift tax and generation-skipping transfer tax returns and making payments until July 15, 2020.
The IRS issued Notice 2020-20, which extends the relief it provided earlier this month on the tax-filing and payment dates for most other types of tax returns. The IRS also said the associated interest, additions to tax, and penalties for late filing or late payment will be suspended for the gift tax and generation-skipping transfer tax until July 15.
This relief is automatic; there is no requirement to file Form 8892 (Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File Form 709 and/or Payment of Gift/Generation Skipping Transfer Tax) to obtain the benefit of this filing and payment postponement until July 15, 2020. However, an Affected Taxpayer may choose to file Form 8892 by July 15, 2020, to obtain an extension to file Form 709 by October 15, 2020 (any Federal gift and generation-skipping transfer tax payments postponed by this notice will still be due on July 15, 2020).
IRS Grants Extension of Time to File FATCA Information Returns
In response to the COVID-19 virus, the Internal Revenue Service will provide an extension of time for a Reporting Model 2 FFI or a Participating FFI to file the FATCA Report (Form 8966) to the IRS. The filing deadline for the FATCA Report (Form 8966) will be extended from March 31, 2020 to July 15, 2020. Form 8809-I, Application for Extension of Time to File FATCA Form 8966, will not be required for this extension.
IRS Acceptance of Digital Signatures
The Internal Revenue Service is now accepting email and digital signatures on tax documents to make it easier for tax professionals and taxpayers to communicate with the agency during the novel coronavirus pandemic.
The IRS said Monday that, effective immediately, it would “begin temporarily accepting images of signatures (scanned or photographed) and digital signatures on documents related to the determination or collection of tax liability.”
Details can be found here.
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