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IRS Announces Abatements of Frivolous Filing Penalty

From the IRS

Taxpayers who have filed all required tax returns and paid all outstanding tax liabilities, including penalties (except for the Sec. 6702 penalty) and related interest, may qualify for a one-time reduction to $500 of any unpaid penalties that the IRS has assessed (Rev. Proc. 2012-43).

Under Sec. 6702, a $5,000 penalty is imposed for filing a frivolous tax return or for making a specified frivolous submission to the IRS, which includes a frivolous request for a collection due process hearing, an offer-in-compromise, an installment agreement, or a taxpayer assistance order. The IRS has the discretion to reduce this penalty under Sec. 6702(d).

To promote compliance with the Code, the IRS has determined that taxpayers who abandon any frivolous positions and meet these other requirements in the revenue procedure will qualify for relief, effective Nov. 5, 2012:

    The request must be made on Form 14402, IRC 6702(d) Frivolous Tax Submissions Penalty Reduction, which must be signed under penalties of perjury.
    Taxpayers must pay at least $250 of the reduced penalty with the form, except for taxpayers who have installment agreements.
    Taxpayers who are currently paying a full payment installment agreement can pay the reduced penalty as part of the agreement.
    Taxpayers must file the request before the IRS files suit to collect the full penalty or to reduce any assessment of the penalty to judgment.
    Taxpayers must be in full compliance by having filed any tax returns for any type of tax for all tax periods for six years before the request, including individual returns and returns for any entity for which the taxpayer has a controlling interest.
    Taxpayers must have either paid in full all tax liabilities, penalties, interest, and additions to tax (other than the Sec. 6702 penalty) for all types of tax and all periods for which the statute of limitation remains open or have entered into and be in compliance with a full payment installment agreement.
    Taxpayers who are employers must have made all required deposits of employment taxes for the current and prior two quarters.

The IRS will not grant penalty relief to a taxpayer (1) who previously had Sec. 6702 penalty reductions; (2) who has an offer-in-compromise pending or is currently participating in a partial payment installment agreement; (3) who has entered into a closing agreement that includes the penalty; (4) who submits a frivolous return or submission after applying for penalty relief; or (5) who is currently in bankruptcy, whether or not the taxpayer is seeking to have the penalty discharged in the bankruptcy proceedings.

The penalty relief does not apply to any Sec. 6702 penalty that has already been paid. The IRS must give taxpayers written notice whether their request has been accepted. If the IRS denies a request, it will not be subject to administrative appeal.

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IRS Offers Tips to Help Taxpayers with the January 30 Tax Season Opening

The IRS will begin processing most individual income tax returns on Jan. 30 after updating forms and completing programming and testing of its processing systems. The IRS anticipated many of the tax law changes made by Congress under the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), but the final law requires some changes before the IRS can begin accepting tax returns.

The IRS will not process paper or electronic tax returns before the Jan. 30 opening date, so there is no advantage to filing on paper before then. Using e-file is the best way to file an accurate tax return, and using e-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get a refund.

Many major software providers are accepting tax returns in advance of the Jan. 30 processing date. These software providers will hold onto the returns and then electronically submit them after the IRS systems open. If you use commercial software, check with your provider for specific instructions about when they will accept your return. Software companies and tax professionals send returns to the IRS, but the timing of the refunds is determined by IRS processing, which starts Jan. 30.

After the IRS starts processing returns, it expects to process refunds within the usual timeframes. Last year, the IRS issued more than nine out of 10 refunds to taxpayers in less than 21 days, and it expects the same results in 2013. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, some tax returns will require additional review and take longer. To help protect against refund fraud, the IRS has put in place stronger security filters this filing season.

After taxpayers file a return, they can track the status of the refund with the “Where’s My Refund?” tool available on the IRS.gov website. New this year, instead of an estimated date, Where’s My Refund? will give people an actual personalized refund date after the IRS processes the tax return and approves the refund.

“Where’s My Refund?” will be available for use after the IRS starts processing tax returns on Jan. 30. Here are some tips for using “Where’s My Refund?” after it’s available on Jan. 30:

  • Initial information will generally be available within 24 hours after the IRS receives the taxpayer’s e-filed return or four weeks after mailing a paper return.
  • The system updates every 24 hours, usually overnight. There’s no need to check more than once a day.
  • “Where’s My Refund?” provides the most accurate and complete information that the IRS has about the refund, so there is no need to call the IRS unless the web tool says to do so.
  • To use the “Where’s My Refund?” tool, taxpayers need to have a copy of their tax return for reference. Taxpayers will need their social security number, filing status and the exact dollar amount of the refund they are expecting.

For the latest information about the Jan. 30 tax season opening, tax law changes and tax refunds, visit IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:


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Simplified home-office deduction safe harbor announced

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.
January 15, 2013

On Tuesday, the IRS released Rev. Proc. 2013-13, which gives taxpayers an optional safe-harbor method to calculate the amount of the deduction for expenses for business use of a residence during the tax year under Sec. 280A, beginning with the current tax year.

Individual taxpayers who elect this method can deduct an amount determined by multiplying the allowable square footage by $5. The allowable square footage is the portion of the house used in a qualified business use, but not to exceed 300 square feet. The maximum a taxpayer can deduct annually under the safe harbor is $1,500. The IRS may update the $5 allowance from time to time.

Electing the safe-harbor is done on a timely filed original tax return (instead of on Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, which is used for the actual expense method), and taxpayers are allowed to change their treatment from year-to-year. However, the election made for any tax year is irrevocable.

No depreciation is allowed for the years in which the safe harbor is elected, but it is permitted in the years in which the actual expense method is used. The revenue procedure has detailed examples of how depreciation is calculated in a year subsequent to a year the safe-harbor method is used.

To use the sale-harbor method, taxpayers must continue to satisfy all the other requirements for a home-office deduction, including the requirement that the space in the residence used as an office be used exclusively for that purpose and the limitation that an employee qualifies for the home-office deduction only if the office is for the convenience of the taxpayer’s employer.

The deduction under the safe-harbor method cannot exceed the amount of gross income derived from the qualified business use of the home minus business deductions, and a taxpayer cannot carry over any excess to another tax year. If a taxpayer uses the actual expense method for calculating the deduction and has had his or her deduction limited by the gross income limitation in that year, the taxpayer can deduct this amount in the next year he or she uses the actual expense method, but cannot use the disallowed amount in a year he or she elects the safe harbor. This limit on carryovers for the safe-harbor method means taxpayers must be careful before electing it to be sure they will not lose any of their deduction.

Taxpayers sharing a home (for example, roommates or spouses, regardless of filing status), if otherwise eligible, may each use the safe harbor method provided by the revenue procedure, but not for qualified business use of the same portion of the home. The revenue procedure contains detailed rules for use of the home for part of the year. It allows taxpayers who have a qualified business use of more than one home for a tax year to use the safe harbor for only one home, but it permits them to use the actual expense method for the other homes.  


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Tax tables, other inflation adjustments, issued for 2013

On Friday, the IRS issued Rev. Proc. 2013-15, which contains
inflation-adjusted items for 2013, as well as the new income tax rate
tables now in effect as a result of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of
2012, P.L. 112-240 (the Act). In October 2012, when the IRS issued its
usual end-of-the-year inflation
adjustment revenue procedure (Rev. Proc. 2012-41), it noted that many of
the items normally included would have to wait until Congress acted.
This release contains many of those items.

Among the inflation-adjusted amounts that have increased are the personal
exemption, which increased from $3,800 in 2012 to $3,900 for 2013, and
the standard deduction, which for married filing jointly status
increased from $11,900 in 2012 to $12,200 in 2013. In addition, the
adoption credit under Sec. 23 is inflation-adjusted from $12,650 in 2012
to $12,970 in 2013.

The revenue procedure also contains the  inflation-adjusted unified credit against the estate tax, which is $5.25  million for 2013.

The AMT exemption amount for 2013 is $80,800
for married taxpayers filing joint returns and $51,900 for single
taxpayers. The American Taxpayer Relief Act set the 2012 exemption
amounts at $78,750 for married taxpayers filing jointly and $50,600 for
single filers and indexed the numbers for inflation, so Congress will no
longer have to pass annual AMT “patches.”

The revenue  procedure provides the beginning income levels for the limitation on
certain itemized deductions and the beginning income levels for the
phaseout of personal exemptions, which were reinstated by the Act. It
also includes the 2013 amounts for the child tax credit; the Hope
scholarship, American opportunity, and lifetime learning credits; the
earned income credit; and the phaseout limits for interest paid on
qualified education loans.

One curious item in the  revenue procedure is the inclusion of the amount for the qualified
transportation fringe benefit for 2012. The Act retroactively reinstated
parity between the benefits for parking and for transportation in a
commuter highway vehicle or a transit pass for 2012 at $240 a month,
which the IRS notes in the revenue procedure. However, as a practical
matter, taxpayers have received their benefits for 2012, and it is
unclear what the mechanism would be to refund the tax paid on amounts
that would have been excluded from income under the higher $240 a month
level.