What’s The Earliest I Can Expect To Receive My 2016 Refund?

Share

Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.

The IRS still anticipates issuing more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, but there are some important factors to keep in mind for taxpayers.

Beginning in 2017, a new law requires the IRS to hold refunds on tax returns claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit until mid-February. Under the change required by Congress in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS must hold the entire refund — even the portion not associated with the EITC and ACTC — until at least Feb. 15. This change helps ensure that taxpayers get the refund they are owed by giving the IRS more time to help detect and prevent fraud.

As in past years, the IRS will begin accepting and processing tax returns once the filing season begins. All taxpayers should file as usual, and tax return preparers should also submit returns as they normally do — including returns claiming EITC and ACTC.

The IRS will begin releasing EITC and ACTC refunds starting Feb. 15. However, the IRS cautions taxpayers that these refunds likely won’t arrive in bank accounts or on debit cards until the week of Feb. 27 (assuming there are no processing issues with the tax return and the taxpayer chose direct deposit). This additional period is due to several factors, including banking and financial systems needing time to process deposits.

After refunds leave the IRS, it takes additional time for them to be processed and for financial institutions to accept and deposit the refunds to bank accounts and products. The IRS reminds taxpayers many financial institutions do not process payments on weekends or holidays, which can affect when refunds reach taxpayers. For EITC and ACTC filers, the three-day holiday weekend involving President’s Day may affect their refund timing.

Where’s My Refund? ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app will be updated with projected deposit dates for early EITC and ACTC refund filers a few days after Feb. 15. Taxpayers will not see a refund date on Where’s My Refund? ‎or through their software packages until then. The IRS, tax preparers and tax software will not have additional information on refund dates, so Where’s My Refund? remains the best way to check the status of a refund.

If you need assistance with your refund, contact Steve Siesser at steve@taxlawmd.com

Share

Benefits of Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA)

Share

The Internal Revenue Service reminds eligible employees that now is the time to begin planning to take full advantage of their employer’s health flexible spending arrangement (FSA) during 2017.

FSAs provide employees a way to use tax-free dollars to pay medical expenses not covered by other health plans. Because eligible employees need to decide how much to contribute through payroll deductions before the plan year begins, many employers this fall are offering their employees the option to participate during the 2017 plan year.

Interested employees wishing to contribute during the new year must make this choice again for 2017, even if they contributed in 2016. Self-employed individuals are not eligible.

An employee who chooses to participate can contribute up to $2,600 during the 2017 plan year. Amounts contributed are not subject to federal income tax, Social Security tax or Medicare tax. If the plan allows, the employer may also contribute to an employee’s FSA.

Throughout the year, employees can then use funds to pay qualified medical expenses not covered by their health plan, including co-pays, deductibles and a variety of medical products and services ranging from dental and vision care to eyeglasses and hearing aids. Interested employees should check with their employer for details on eligible expenses and claim procedures.

Under the use or lose provision, participating employees often must incur eligible expenses by the end of the plan year, or forfeit any unspent amounts. But under a special rule, employers may, if they choose, offer participating employees more time through either the carryover option or the grace period option.

Under the carryover option, an employee can carry over up to $500 of unused funds to the following plan year — for example, an employee with $500 of unspent funds at the end of 2017 would still have those funds available to use in 2018. Under the grace period option, an employee has until 2½ months after the end of the plan year to incur eligible expenses — for example, March 15, 2018, for a plan year ending on Dec. 31, 2017. Employers can offer either option, but not both, or none at all.

Employers are not required to offer FSAs. Accordingly, interested employees should check with their employer to see if they offer an FSA. More information about FSAs can be found in Publication 969, available on IRS.gov.

If you need further assistance, contact Steve Siesser at steve@taxlawmd.com

Share

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Share

The Internal Revenue Service, the states and the tax industry recently urged taxpayers to take steps to protect themselves online to help in the fight against identity theft.

Scammers, hackers and identity thieves are looking to steal taxpayers’ personal information and ultimately their money. But, there are simple steps taxpayers can take to help protect themselves, like keeping computer software up-to-date and being cautious about giving out their personal information.

This is the first reminder to taxpayers during “National Tax Security Awareness Week,” which runs through Friday. This week, the IRS, the states and the tax community are joining together to send out a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals as a part of the ongoing Security Summit effort.

Here are some best practices taxpayers can follow to protect their tax and financial information:

  • Understand and Use Security Software. Security software helps protect computers against the digital threats that are prevalent online. Generally, the operating system will include security software or you can access free security software from well-known companies or Internet providers. Essential tools include a firewall, virus/malware protection and file encryption if you keep sensitive financial/tax documents on your computer. Do not buy security software offered as an unexpected pop-up ad on your computer or email. It’s likely from a scammer.
  • Allow Security Software to Update Automatically. Set security software to update automatically. Malware — malicious software — evolves constantly, and your security software suite updated routinely to keep pace.
  • Look for the “S.” When shopping or banking online, always look to see that the site uses encryption to protect your information. Look for “https” at the beginning of the web address. The “s” is for secure. Unencrypted sites begin with an http address. Additionally, make sure the https carries through on all pages, not just the sign-on page.
  • Use Strong Passwords. Use passwords of eight or more characters, mixing letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use your name, birth date or common words. Don’t use the same password for several accounts. Keep your password list in a secure place or use a password manager. Don’t share passwords with anyone. Calls, texts or emails pretending to be from legitimate companies or the IRS asking to update accounts or seeking personal financial information are almost always scams.
  • Secure Wireless Networks. A wireless network sends a signal through the air that allows it to connect to the Internet. If your home or business Wi-Fi is unsecured, it also allows any computer within range to access your wireless and potentially steal information from your computer. Criminals also can use your wireless to send spam or commit crimes that would be traced back to your account. Always encrypt your wireless. Generally, you must turn on this feature and create a password.
  • Be Cautious When Using Public Wireless Networks. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are convenient but often not secure. Tax or financial Information you send though websites or mobile apps may be accessed by someone else. If a public Wi-Fi hotspot does not require a password, it probably is not secure. Remember, if you are transmitting sensitive information, look for the “s” in https in the website address to ensure that the information will be secure.
  • Avoid E-mail Phishing Attempts. Never reply to emails, texts or pop-up messages asking for your personal, tax or financial information. One common trick by criminals is to impersonate a business such as your financial institution, tax software provider or the IRS, asking you to update your account and providing a link. Never click on links even if they seem to be from organizations you trust. Go directly to the organization’s website. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through unsecured channels.

To learn additional steps you can take to protect your personal and financial data, visit Taxes. Security. Together. Also, read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

If you need additional assistance, please contact Steve Siesser at steve@taxlawmd.com

Share