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Get Ready for Taxes: What to do before the tax year ends December 31

IR-2019-207, December 16, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers there are things they should do now to get ready for the tax-filing season ahead.

Charitable Contributions

For most taxpayers, December 31 is the last day to take actions that will impact their 2019 tax return. For example, those who plan to itemize deductions should know that charitable contributions are deductible in the year made. Donations charged to a credit card before the end of 2019 count for the 2019 tax year, even if the bill isn't paid until 2020. Checks to a charity count for 2019 if they are mailed by the last day of the year.

Retirement Plans

Taxpayers who are over age 70 ½ are generally required to take distributions from their individual retirement accounts and workplace retirement plans by the end of 2019. However, a special rule allows those who reached 70 ½ in 2019 to wait until April 1, 2020, to receive them.

Most workplace retirement account contributions should be made by the end of the year, but taxpayers can make 2019 IRAcontributions until April 15, 2020. For 2019, the basic limit for 401(k) contributions is $19,000, plus another $6,000 for those who are at least age 50.

For 2019, total contributions to all traditional and Roth IRAs cannot exceed $6,000, or for taxpayers age 50 and older, $7,000. Taxpayers should check IRS.gov for more information about contribution limits, as well as cost-of-living adjustments affecting pension plans and other retirement-related items for tax year 2019.

Some taxpayers may be eligible for the Retirement Savings Contributions Credit, also known as the Saver's Credit. The income limit is $64,000 for married couples filing jointly, $48,000 for heads of household, and $32,000 for singles and married individuals filing separately for 2019.

Refunds

The vast majority of taxpayers get their refunds faster by filing electronically and using direct deposit. It is simple, safe and secure. This is the same electronic transfer system used to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits into millions of accounts.

Just as each tax return is unique and individual, so is each taxpayer's refund. Here are a few things taxpayers should keep in mind if they are waiting on their refund but hear or see on social media that other taxpayers have already received theirs.

Different factors can affect the timing of a refund. Even though the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, it's possible a particular taxpayer's refund may take longer. Some tax returns require additional review and take longer to process than others. It may be necessary when a return has errors, is incomplete or is affected by identity theft or fraud. The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail when more information is needed to process a return.

By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds to people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund, including the portion not associated with the credits. This helps ensure taxpayers receive the refund they're due by giving the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud.

Taxpayers should not count on getting a refund by a certain date, especially when planning major purchases or paying other financial obligations.

Update address

Taxpayers who moved during 2019 should tell the US Postal Service, employers and the IRS. Notify the IRS by mailing IRS Form 8822, Change of Address, to the address listed on the form's instructions. Taxpayers who purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace should also notify the Marketplace when they move out of the area covered by their current plan.

For name changes due to marriage or divorce, notify the Social Security Administration so the new name will match IRS and SSA records. Also notify the SSA if a dependent's name changed. A mismatch between the name shown on a tax return and SSA records often causes refund delays.

ITINs

Taxpayers with expiring Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers can get their ITINs renewed more quickly and avoid refund delays next year by submitting their renewal application soon.

An ITIN is a tax ID number used by any taxpayer who doesn't qualify to get a Social Security number. Any ITIN with middle digits 83, 84, 85, 86 or 87 will expire at the end of this year. In addition, any ITIN not used on a tax return in the past three years will expire. ITINs with middle digits 70 through 82 that expired in 2016, 2017 or 2018 can also be renewed.

Affected ITIN holders can avoid delays by starting the renewal process now. Those who fail to renew before filing a return could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for some important tax credits. More information, including answers to frequently asked questions, is available on IRS.gov/itin.

Recordkeeping

Keeping copies of tax returns is important. Taxpayers may need a copy of their 2018 return to make it easier to fill out a 2019 return. Anyone using a software product for the first time may need the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount shown on Line 7 of their 2018 return to file their 2019 return electronically.

Taxpayers can also visit View Your Tax Account on IRS.gov. Anyone using the tool must verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about that process and electronically signing a return at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

IRS finalizes safe harbor to allow rental real estate to qualify as a business for qualified business income deduction

IR-2019-158, September 24, 2019

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued Revenue Procedure 2019-38 (PDF) that has a safe harbor allowing certain interests in rental real estate, including interests in mixed-use property, to be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the qualified business income deduction under section 199A of the Internal Revenue Code (section 199A deduction).

If all the safe harbor requirements are met, an interest in rental real estate will be treated as a single trade or business for purposes of the section 199A deduction. If an interest in real estate fails to satisfy all the requirements of the safe harbor, it may still be treated as a trade or business for purposes of the section 199A deduction if it otherwise meets the definition of a trade or business in the section 199A regulations.

This safe harbor is available for taxpayers who seek to claim the section 199A deduction with respect to a "rental real estate enterprise." Solely for purposes of this safe harbor, a rental real estate enterprise is defined as an interest in real property held to generate rental or lease income. It may consist of an interest in a single property or interests in multiple properties. The taxpayer or a relevant passthrough entity (RPE) relying on this revenue procedure must hold each interest directly or through an entity disregarded as an entity separate from its owner, such as a limited liability company with a single member.

The following requirements must be met by taxpayers or RPEs to qualify for this safe harbor:

  • Separate books and records are maintained to reflect income and expenses for each rental real estate enterprise.

  • For rental real estate enterprises that have been in existence less than four years, 250 or more hours of rental services are performed per year. For other rental real estate enterprises, 250 or more hours of rental services are performed in at least three of the past five years.

  • The taxpayer maintains contemporaneous records, including time reports, logs, or similar documents, regarding the following: hours of all services performed; description of all services performed; dates on which such services were performed; and who performed the services.

  • The taxpayer or RPE attaches a statement to the return filed for the tax year(s) the safe harbor is relied upon.

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