The Internal Revenue Service will be closed on Friday, May 24th, 2013. This day is the first in a series of five furlough days that were planned in response to the automatic budget cuts known as the sequester.
"This means that all IRS offices, including all toll-free hotlines, the Taxpayer Advocate Service and the agency's nearly 400 taxpayer assistance centers nationwide, will be closed," says the IRS in a news release. The IRS will also be closed the following Monday, May 27th, in observance of Memorial Day.
Some Web-based services will be shut down, while other Web services will remain functional, the agency said.
IRS Services that will be closed:
- Telephone hotlines
- Walk-in taxpayer assistance centers
- Taxpayer Advocate Service
- Where's My Refund? application
- Online Payment Agreement application
- Online EIN application
- e-Services for practitioners
IRS Services that will be open:
- Electronic Federal Tax Payment System
- Withholding Calculator
- Order a Transcript
- EITC Assistant
- Interactive Tax Assistant
- PTIN system for tax professionals
- TeleTax (800) 829-4477
- First Time Homebuyer Credit Account Look-up
Tax returns and documents related items on the tax return are important to keep. From a tax perspective, such documents may be needed in the event that the IRS's wants to review information relating to the tax return. Tax returns come in handy for other purposes, such as to verify income when applying for a loan from a bank.
Generally speaking, tax returns and their related documents should be retained for at least as long as the IRS or a state tax department is permitted to audit the return. This period of time is referred to as the statute of limitations for audits. For federal audits, that statute of limitations is three years from the date the tax return was actually filed, or three years from the April 15th deadline if the return was filed before the deadline. At the state level, each state has different statute of limitations on audits. Many states follow the federal time period of three years, while some states have longer time periods. Montana, for example, has a five year time period for audits.
Along with a copy of your tax return, keep any documents that are related to the income or deductions or credits claimed on the return. This would include copies of Form W-2, Form 1099, acknowledgement letters for charitable donations, and receipts for tax-deductible expenses. Self-employed persons should also keep copies of any accounting records (such as profit and loss statements, or a backup of their data from accounting software) as well as copies of bank statements.
Besides tax returns, taxpayers will also want to keep keep any documents about real estate, business assets, stocks and bonds, and other assets you own for as long as you own the asset, and then for another 3 years (or longer, depending on your state) after the asset is sold. These records will be needed for calculating cost basis and gain or loss when the asset is sold.
Tax returns and their related documents can be maintained in a number of different ways, including:
- Paper files organized by year, with tax returns and related documents in the same folder.
- Scan your documents, and store on a hard drive, flash drive or CD-ROM.
- Use an accordion file or box for each year.
- Keep separate files for your long-term assets.
- Make CD-ROMs or flash drives of your most valuable documents, and put these in a safe deposit box.
Before you discarding old tax documents, make these final checks:
Check your Social Security statement and compare your earnings to the information on your W2s and tax returns. If you haven't received your Social Security statement, you can request from for the Social Security Administration. Every so often, income from your W2 or self-employment income from your tax return doesn't show up on your Social Security Statement. The SSA has procedures in place to help you correct an error in your record of earnings. Do this before discarding any documents relating to your earned income, such as Form W-2 or Schedule C.
Check the date you filed your tax return. Make sure it has been at least three years after the tax return has been filed before discarding a tax return.
Call the IRS and ask for a "Record of Account" for a particular tax year. Your accountant can do this for you, and help you read this IRS printout. Sometimes, adjustments have been made to a tax return, and either you didn't know about it, or you forgot about it. This is an opportunity to make sure any IRS problems for a tax year have been settled before you throw away your important documentation.
Scan your tax documents and save them to a CD-ROM. Having scanned copies of your tax documents takes less space than paper files.
Shred your old tax and financial documents. This will prevent anyone from gaining access to your identifying information.
Additional information from the IRS: Publication 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals.
President Obama and Vice President Biden released copies of their 2012 tax returns to the public on April 12, 2013. The tax returns can be downloaded from the White House blog.
President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama filed a joint return showing total income of $662,076, of which $394,840 was from the president's salary and another $258,772 in income related to the president's publishing. The President itemized his deductions, for state income tax, real estate taxes, mortgage interest and charity. The first family donated $150,034 to charity. Obama's return shows a total federal tax of $112,214, which includes $21,221 in alternative minimum tax. Obama's Form 6521 shows that his alternative minimum tax was triggered by his deductions for state and local taxes. (Link to PDF of Obama's 2012 tax return.)
Vice President Joseph Biden and his wife Jill Biden filed a joint tax return showing total income of $385,072 for the year 2012. The Bidens itemized their deductions for state income taxes, property taxes, mortgage interest, and charity. The Bidens donated $7,190 to various charities. The Bidens' return shows total federal tax of $86,871, including $5,987 in alternative minimum tax. Biden's Form 6521 shows that their alternative minimum tax was triggered by their deduction for state and local taxes. (Link to PDF of Biden's 2012 tax return.)
The Internal Revenue Service will furlough its employees for at least five days in 2013. On each furlough day, most IRS employees will take an unpaid leave of absence, and all public operations of the IRS will be closed.
The IRS's Acting Commissioner Steve Miller informed employees that "the first furlough days will be May 24, June 14, July 5, July 22 and August 30, with another two days possible in August or September." Miller also noted, "All public-facing operations will be closed on these dates, including our toll-free operations and Taxpayer Assistance Centers. Some mission-essential IT and security personnel, who maintain systems and building safety, may need to work on these furlough days, however they will be taking furlough days on alternative dates within those pay periods. Everyone is covered by this furlough, and that means everyone from the Acting Commissioner and executives to managers and employees." A copy of the Acting Commissioner's memo to employees is posted at the BNA Web site.
IRS offices will be closed on the furlough days, including walk-in service centers and telephone call centers. "All public operations of the IRS will be shut down, leaving taxpayers without access to information and assistance from frontline workers," according to a statement released by the National Treasury Employees Union.
The IRS is furloughing its employees as part of the budget cuts mandated by sequestration. The Journal of Accountancy previously reported that "the IRS faces budget cuts under the sequester totaling $597 million for taxpayer services, enforcement, operations support, and business systems modernization," citing a report from the Office of Management and Budget.
The Internal Revenue Service is providing extended deadlines for taxpayers in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and in parts of the South and Midwest.
Relief provided due to Boston Marathon explosion
All individual taxpayers living in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, as well as individuals who live outside Suffolk County and who were impacted by the explosion at the Boston Marathon (including victims, their families, and first responders) are granted a three-month extension to July 15, 2013 to file any tax returns and to pay any taxes. The IRS will waive any late filing or late payment penalties as long as tax returns are filed by and tax payments remitted by July 15. Individuals can also request additional time to file by submitting a federal extension (Form 4868) by July 15th, which will extend their filing deadline to October 15.
"Taxpayers living outside Suffolk County can claim this relief by calling 1-866-562-5227 starting Tuesday, April 23, and identifying themselves to the IRS before filing a return or making a payment. Eligible taxpayers who receive penalty notices from the IRS can also call this number to have these penalties abated," the IRS says.
The IRS will not waive interest on any payments, however.
Relief provided due to storms in the South and Midwest
Taxpayers who were unable to file their tax returns by April 15, 2013, due to severe storms in the southern and midwestern areas of the United States are granted a waiver of the late filing and late payment penalties. The IRS urges such taxpayers to "file the return or pay the tax within a reasonable time after the power outages and transportation problems have been resolved."
Taxpayers may receive a notice from the IRS informing them of penalties. The IRS will waive these penalties if the taxpayer calls or writes to the IRS to request abatement of the penalties due to reasonable cause based on the April storms.
The IRS will not waive interest on any payments made after April 15th.
From the IRS:
April 18th is the day when, on average, Americans have earned enough income to pay their federal and state tax bill in full, a concept called Tax Freedom DayŽ.
The Tax Foundation calculates a Tax Freedom Day based on the federal budget and projections for state and local taxes, and data from the Census and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. The Tax Foundation calculates a Tax Freedom Day for each state. The Tax Foundation calculates the total amount of federal, state and local taxes, and divides this by the nation's income to arrive at a ratio. This ratio is then expressed as a day of the year.
On average, Americans will spend about 32 days earning enough income sufficient to pay their federal income tax and another 24 days to earn enough income to pay for Social Security and Medicare taxes. The following chart from the Tax Foundation shows the number of days needed to pay for various types of taxes.
The Tax Foundation notes that federal income taxes and payroll taxes have increased for 2013, resulting in 2013's Tax Freedom Day being later than it was for the year 2012. The increased taxes for 2013 includes the new 39.6% tax bracket, the new Medicare surtax on investment and wage incomes, and the new 20% tax rate on long-term gains.
Additional information about Tax Freedom Day:
- Tax Freedom DayŽ 2013 is April 18, Five Days Later Than Last Year (Tax Foundation)
- Tax Freedom Day: A Description of Its Calculation and Answers to Some Methodological Questions (Tax Foundation)
- Today Is Tax Freedom Day -- Earlier in MS, LA & TN, Later in CT, NY & NJ (TaxProf Blog)
- Tax Freedom Day (Wikipedia)
- What Is Tax Freedom Day? (About US Economy)
- Happy Tax Freedom Day (Bankrate.com)
There are a number of safe and relatively affordable ways to pay the IRS for any taxes due for the year 2012. What follows is a number of tips I've collected over the years for managing a balance due that's more than can be paid off immediately.
First, analyze how much you owe and when you will be able to pay the taxes in full. Read More...
April 15th, 2013, is the last date to make a funding contribution to an individual retirement account (IRA) for the year 2012, whether set up as a Traditional IRA or as a Roth IRA. This deadline cannot be extended. The maximum amount that can be contributed to an IRA of either type is $5,000, or $6,000 if the taxpayer is age 50 or older.
Taxpayers who put their returns on extension can recharacterize their IRA contributions (to change their nature from Traditional to Roth or from Roth to Traditional) by October 15th. This is a useful provision for taxpayers are are not yet sure if they'll be eligible to fund a Roth IRA or to fully deduct contributions to a Traditional IRA due to income limitations.
An extension does, however, grant additional time to fund a SEP-IRA for self-employed persons until October 15th.
Need a specific form or instruction booklet so you can finish up your federal taxes? I've compiled links to the most common federal tax forms and their related instructions. Need a specific form that's not on the list? The IRS has a comprehensive directory of forms, instructions and publications on the Forms & Pubs section of IRS.gov.
If you need to get started on your tax return, there's several varieties of software to help you finish up your tax return. Shelley Elmblad has tested the following five tax preparation programs: