IRS Advises Taxpayers to Take a Fresh Look as 2021 Year-End Nears

The Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers that the last quarter of 2021 is a good time to check withholding. Life brings constant changes to individual financial situations. Events like marriage, divorce, a new child or home purchase can all be reasons to adjust withholding. The convenient Tax Withholding Estimator, also available in Spanish, will help taxpayers determine if they have too much withheld and how to make an adjustment to put more cash into their own pocket now. In other cases, it will help taxpayers see that they should withhold more or make an estimated tax payment to avoid a tax bill when they file their tax return next year.

Items that may affect 2021 taxes

Things to consider when adjusting withholding for 2021 are:

  • Coronavirus tax relief – Tax help for taxpayers, businesses, tax-exempt organizations and others – including health plans – affected by coronavirus (COVID-19).
  • Disasters such as wildfires and hurricanes – Special tax law provisions may help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of a disaster, especially
    when the federal government declares their location to be a major disaster area.
  • Job loss – IRS Publication 4128, Tax Impact of Job Loss (.pdf), explains how this unfortunate circumstance can create new tax issues.
  • Workers moving into the gig economy due to the pandemic – IRS advises people earning income in the gig economy to consider estimated tax payments to avoid a
    balance or penalties when they file.
  • Life changes such as marriage or childbirth – Getting married or having a child are just a couple of life events that can affect your refund or how much you owe.

Pay as you go
Taxes are generally paid throughout the year whether from salary withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of both. About 70% of taxpayers, however, over
withhold their taxes every year, which typically results in a refund. The average refund in 2021 was more than $2,700. Taxpayers can pay online, by phone or from the IRS2Go app. They can schedule payments for future dates, which can be useful during filing season, for payment plan payments or for estimated tax payments.

Taxpayers can also log into their IRS.gov/account to view the amount they owe, their payment plan details and options, their payment history (up to 5 years), any scheduled or pending
payments, and key tax return information from their most recent tax return.

Tax Withholding Estimator
The IRS Tax Withholding Estimator makes it easier for everyone to have the right amount of tax withheld. This is especially important for anyone who faced an unexpected tax bill or a penalty
when they filed this year, or whose jobs or tax circumstances have changed during the year. The tool offers workers, as well as retirees, self-employed individuals and other taxpayers, a
user-friendly, step-by-step tool for effectively tailoring the amount of income tax they have withheld from wages and pension payments. For more information about taxes, estimated taxes and tax withholding, see Tax Withholding at IRS.gov.

Reporting COVID Sick and Family Leave in 2021–Same as 2020

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service in September issued Notice 2021-53, which provides guidance to employers about reporting on Form W-2 the amount of qualified sick and family leave wages paid to employees for leave taken in 2021. The notice provides guidance under recent legislation, including: the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), as amended by the COVID-Related Tax Relief Act of 2020, and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

Employers will be required to report these amounts to employees either on Form W-2, Box 14, or in a separate statement provided with the Form W-2. The guidance provides employers with model language to use as part of the Instructions for Employee for the Form W-2 or on the separate statement provided with the Form W-2.

The wage amount that the notice requires employers to report on Form W-2 will provide employees who are also self-employed with the information necessary to determine the amount of any sick and family leave equivalent credits they may claim in their self-employed capacities.

In July 2020, the IRS issued Notice 2020-54, which provided guidance regarding W-2 reporting of qualified sick leave and family leave under FFCRA for wages paid to employees for leave taken in 2020.

Additional information about tax relief for employers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic can be found on IRS.gov.

What’s The IRS Been Up to During the Pandemic? Let The Commissioner Fill You In

Chuck Rettig is the 49th Commissioner of the IRS. As Commissioner, Rettig presides over the nation’s tax system, which collects more than $3.5 trillion in tax revenue each year. This revenue funds most government operations and public services. He manages an agency of about 80,000 employees and a budget of approximately $11 billion. In a recent post to the ” A Closer Look” page on the IRS website,  Mr. Rettig gave an upfront and closer look to the work the IRS has been doing during the pandemic.  He discusses in his post how pandemic-related issues are still causing the IRS to experience record levels of activity and despite all that, the agency is making progress and is serving taxpayers.  Here is the text of his September 14, 2021 column:

The IRS plays an important role in serving our country. We interact with more Americans than any other U.S. government agency – virtually every individual and business in the country. We process 96 percent of the funding for our nation’s vital programs, but our agency and our people have had to really step up in the past year and a half to provide even more support to Americans in need. And just like businesses and other agencies around the country, we had to pause or modify some operations during the pandemic until we had safe and secure remote options in place to enable our employees to perform their work and serve taxpayers. I am extremely proud of the dedication of our workforce toward helping American taxpayers fulfill their tax responsibilities and resolve tax issues while they dealt with the COVID-19 situation.

While we had to temporarily scale back operations, important economic relief measures passed by Congress during the pandemic gave us many new responsibilities, and we have proudly worked to deliver Economic Impact Payments, advance payments of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and many other critical initiatives in 2020 and 2021. We appreciate and understand the frustration caused by the high volume of manually processed returns, the limited information available to taxpayers about the status of the return processing, the refund delays, and the difficulty reaching IRS employees. We also understand that complex tax issues, recent legislation and the pandemic have  record numbers of taxpayers looking for help.

At every turn, our employees have gone above and beyond during the pandemic to keep our operations going, and through it all, we have appreciated the patience and understanding of taxpayers and the tax community. Even so, and despite our best efforts, pandemic-related issues are still causing us to experience record levels of activity that continue to affect operations across the agency, including the processing of tax returns and refunds. To put this in perspective, the IRS has received 199 million phone calls the first six months of this year – five times the normal annual volume – and we have manually reviewed 11 times more tax returns this year (11 million) to correct errors and gather missing information from taxpayers.

I am committed to ensuring the IRS will continue to do all we can to serve taxpayers. During the pandemic, we have had to find new ways to pursue our mission. As we faced enormous challenges, we didn’t always get it right, but we worked hard, often with limited resources. Where possible, we have redeployed resources to accommodate the increased demand. Our goal is to provide the quality of assistance taxpayers deserve, but we have been unable to satisfy this goal despite recent efforts to overcome significant challenges. On behalf of the entire IRS workforce, I want to assure you we will continue making progress, working together with Congress, the Administration and our partners inside and outside the tax community.

We know this has been and continues to be a frustrating time for many taxpayers and tax professionals – and it’s been a challenging time for all of us at the IRS as well. We have done the best we could under the circumstances, and we will continue to do our best as we face the current challenges. Our response to the unprecedented COVID challenges – including issuing almost $1.5 trillion in combined historic economic relief and individual refunds – illustrates the importance of every American to the IRS and the importance of the IRS to every American. I want to give you a glimpse of what we’re facing inside the IRS, and what we’re doing – to help struggling taxpayers and to get caught up during this unprecedented time.

 

APA Recommends Simplified Version of Form W-4

The American Payroll Association has sent a letter to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recommending that the IRS create a new and separate W-4 form for employees who have a single job and no dependents.  The form, Form W-4SN, Employee’s Withholding Certificate — Single Job, No Dependents, would be used by employees whose situation would allow them simply to complete Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, Steps 1, 4(c), and 5.

As most payroll professionals know, employees continue to struggle with completing the Form W-4 in its current form.  They find it difficult to understand the instructions and many times complete the form in error or in a manner that makes it invalid and cannot be processed by payroll. The APA believes that a simplified version using Steps 1, 4(c), and 5 can be implemented effectively for improved accuracy and without creating confusion for employees.

The APA worked with the IRS during the initial stakeholder engagement for the 2020 Form W-4 and a simplified version of the form was discussed back then. However, it was rejected because of the complications of programming and tracking. The new recommended form maintains the same lines and boxes as found on the current Form W-4. This eliminates the original issues with programming and tracking.

The APA attached a sample of the form W-4SN to help explain its recommendations.

The APA is recommending a six-month effective date to allow for payroll software adjustments, payroll training, and employee awareness.

What do you think?  Let us know your opinion of the recommended form in the comments section.

About the APA: Established in 1982, APA is a not-for-profit association serving the interests of more than 20,000 payroll professionals nationwide. APA’s primary mission is to educate its members and the payroll industry about best practices associated with paying America’s workers while complying with applicable federal, state, and local laws and regulations. APA members are directly responsible for calculating wages and employment taxes for their employers.

Independent Contractors–An IRS Reminder

The IRS recently issued a reminder to small businesses to be sure to correctly identify workers as employees or independent contractors during National Small Business Week. An employee is generally considered to be anyone who performs services, if the business can control what will be done and how it will be done. What matters is that the business has the right to control the details of how the worker’s services are performed. Independent contractors are normally people in an independent trade, business or profession in which they offer their services to the public. Doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, accountants, contractors, subcontractors, public stenographers or auctioneers are generally independent contractors.

Independent contractor vs. employee
Whether a worker is an independent contractor or an employee depends on the relationship between the worker and the business. Generally, there are three categories to examine:

  • Behavioral Control − does the company control or have the right to control what the worker does and how the worker does the job?
  • Financial Control − does the business direct or control the financial and business aspects of the worker’s job. Are the business aspects of the worker’s job controlled by the payer? (Things like how the worker is paid, are expenses reimbursed, who provides tools/supplies, etc.)
  • Relationship of the Parties − are there written contracts or employee type benefits (i.e. pension plan, insurance, vacation pay, etc.)? Will the relationship continue and is the work performed a key aspect of the business?

Misclassified worker
Misclassifying workers as independent contractors adversely affects employees because the employer’s share of taxes is not paid, and the employee’s share is not withheld. If a business misclassified an employee without a reasonable basis, it could be held liable for employment taxes for that worker. Generally, an employer must withhold and pay income taxes, Social Security and Medicare taxes, as well as unemployment taxes. Workers who believe they have been improperly classified as independent contractors can use IRS Form 8919, Uncollected Social Security and Medicare Tax on Wages (.pdf) to figure and report their share of uncollected Social Security and Medicare taxes due on their compensation.

Voluntary Classification Settlement Program
The Voluntary Classification Settlement Program (VCSP) is an optional program that provides taxpayers with an opportunity to reclassify their workers as employees for future tax periods for employment tax purposes with partial relief from federal employment taxes for eligible taxpayers that agree to prospectively treat their workers (or a class or group of workers) as employees. Taxpayers must meet certain eligibility requirements, apply by filing Form 8952, Application for Voluntary Classification Settlement Program, and enter into a closing agreement with the IRS.

Who is self-employed?
Generally, someone is self-employed if any of the following apply to them.

Self-employed individuals generally are required to file an annual tax return and pay estimated tax quarterly. They generally must pay self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare tax) as well as income tax. Self-employed taxpayers may be able to claim the home office deduction if they use part of a home for business.

What about the gig economy?
The gig economy − also called sharing economy or access economy−is activity where people earn income providing on-demand work, services or goods. Gig economy income must be reported on a tax return, even if the income is: from part-time, temporary or side work; not reported on a Form 1099-K, 1099-MISC, W-2 or other income statement; or paid in any form, including cash, property, goods or virtual currency.

Help spread the word – Advance Child Tax Credit
The IRS  encourages employers to help get the word out about the advanced payments of the Child Tax Credit during Small Business Week. Employers have direct access to many  who may receive this credit. More information on the Advanced Child Tax Credit is available on IRS.gov. The website has tools employers can use to deliver this information, including e-posters, drop-in articles (for paycheck stuffers, newsletters) and social media posts to share.

For more information and help
The Self-Employed Individuals Tax Center has information for those who are in an independent trade, business or profession in which they offer their services to the general public.

Small Business Taxes: The Virtual Workshop is composed of nine interactive lessons designed to help new small business owners learn their tax rights and responsibilities.

The IRS Video Portal contains video and audio presentations on topics of interest to small businesses, individuals and tax professionals.

 
 

What Employers Need to Know About Repayment of Deferred Payroll Taxes–Per the IRS

The IRS has released following information concerning the repayment of the deferred payroll taxes for the calendar year 2020. The information was contained in their e-news for payroll professionals issue number 2021 – 08.

The Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act – CARES Act – allowed employers to defer withholding and payment of the employee’s Social Security taxes on certain wages paid in calendar year 2020.

Repayment of the employee’s portion of the deferral started January 1, 2021, and will continue through December 31, 2021. The employer should send repayments to the IRS as they collect them. If the employer does not repay the deferred portion on time, penalties and interest will apply to any unpaid balance.

Employers can make the deferral payments through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) or by credit/debit card, money order or with a check. These payments must be separate from other tax payments to ensure they are applied to the deferred payroll tax balance. IRS systems won’t recognize the payment if it is with other tax payments or sent as a deposit.

Also, there are special considerations in repaying the deferred taxes when an employer uses a third party payer that files aggregate Forms 941 and 943 under its own EIN.

Check out this IRS Tax Tip for more information on third party payers and deferred taxes, and learn about:

  • Important dates associated with the deferred taxes
  • How to make payments for deferred tax reported by third party payer aggregate filers

Tax Tuesday: IRS Updates Dependent Care Rules for 2021 and 2022

The Internal Revenue Service today issued guidance on the taxability of dependent care assistance programs for 2021 and 2022, clarifying that amounts attributable to carryovers or an extended period for incurring claims generally are not taxable. The guidance also illustrates the interaction of this standard with the one-year increase in the exclusion for employer-provided dependent care benefits from $5,000 to $10,500 for the 2021 taxable year under the American Rescue Plan Act.

Because of the pandemic, many people were unable to use the money they set aside in their dependent care assistance programs in 2020 and 2021. Generally, under these plans, an employer allows its employees to set aside a certain amount of pre-tax wages to pay for dependent care expenses. The employee’s expenses are then reimbursed from the dependent care assistance program.

Carryovers of unused dependent care assistance program amounts generally are not permitted (although a 2½ month grace period is allowed). However, recent coronavirus-related legislation (the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020) allowed employers to amend their plans to permit the carryover of unused dependent care assistance program amounts to plan years ending in 2021 and 2022, or to extend the permissible period for incurring claims to plan years over the same period.

Today’s Notice 2021-26 clarifies for taxpayers that if these dependent care benefits would have been excluded from income if used during taxable year 2020 (or 2021, if applicable), these benefits will remain excludible from gross income and are not considered wages of the employee for 2021 and 2022.

Notice 2021-15, issued in February 2021, states that if an employer adopted a carryover or extended period for incurring claims, the annual limits for dependent care assistance program amounts apply to amounts contributed, not to amounts reimbursed or available for reimbursement in a particular plan or calendar year. Therefore, participants in dependent care assistance programs may continue to contribute the maximum amount to their plans for 2021 and 2022.

Social Securities BSO Key to Accurate Reporting

In a recent press release, the Social Security Administration (SSA) urged employers to utilize the Business Services Online (BSO) Portal to ensure accurate wage reporting for their employees:

Accurate earnings records are vital to the Social Security Administration and to every worker in the United States. If Social Security cannot match the name and Social Security number (SSN) reported on a W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, to its records, the agency cannot credit the earnings to that worker’s record. When earnings are missing, the worker may not qualify for Social Security benefits or the benefit amount may be wrong.

Historically, approximately 10 percent of the W-2s the agency receives each year from employers initially have mismatched name/SSN combinations. There are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs on W-2s may not match with Social Security’s records, such as typographical errors, unreported name changes, and inaccurate or incomplete employer records. By using more than twenty automated matching routines the agency can identify commonly occurring errors that, when corrected, allow the accurate crediting of reported earnings to the correct worker’s earnings record.

Social Security works hard to educate employers—large and small, at the national and local level—about the importance of accurate wage records and the free tools available to them. The agency works closely with the payroll provider community through organizations such as the American Payroll Association and the National Association of Computerized Tax Processors. Agency employees speak at the Internal Revenue Service’s Nationwide Tax Forums and participate in quarterly meetings with Reporting Agents (large third-party filers). Social Security’s Employer Services Liaison Officers and Public Affairs Specialists educate small business employers throughout the nation through local engagements.

In all of the activities, the agency includes information about its online suite of services, Business Services Online (BSO), at www.ssa.gov/bso/bsowelcome.htm. The tools included in BSO provide employers the opportunity to correct errors before, during, and after the development and submission of their wage reports. These tools include:

AccuWage: Software that tests the accuracy of wage reports before submission by identifying common formatting errors.

Social Security Number Verification Service: A free service to verify that all employees’ names/SSNs match the Social Security Administration’s records before submission.

View Name and Social Security Number Errors: A service for electronic wage reporters to view the processing status and errors (including name and SSN mismatches) after their submission.

“It is extremely important that the Social Security Administration has accurate earnings records for workers throughout the country, and this begins with accurate wage reports from the nation’s employers,” said Andrew Saul, Commissioner of Social Security. “I encourage all employers, large and small, to use the free tools on our Business Services Online portal. The earnings record of every worker determines their future eligibility and the amount of Social Security benefits they will receive, so accuracy is vital.”

Commissioner Saul also made the decision to discontinue mailing employers educational correspondence (EDCOR) notices to focus agency efforts on making it a better, easier, and more convenient experience for employers to report and correct wages electronically. EDCOR notices inform employers that name/SSN combinations on a submitted W-2 cannot be matched to Social Security’s records and provides instructions on how to correct the mismatches using tools on BSO. The agency also will continue to seek out new opportunities to educate employers and provide modernized software for electronic wage reporting that informs wage reporters of certain errors in real time as they upload their wage reports.

In addition to Social Security’s work with employers, the agency encourages workers to view their personal earnings records, and submit corrections, online by creating a my Social Security account at www.ssa.gov/myaccount.

Through their my Social Security account, people can check personal information and conduct business with Social Security. If they already receive Social Security benefits, they can start or change direct deposit online, request a replacement SSA-1099, and if they need proof of their benefits, they can print or download a current Benefit Verification Letter from their account.

People not yet receiving benefits can use their online account to get a personalized Social Security Statement, which provides earnings information as well as estimates of future benefits. Residents of most states may request a replacement Social Security card online if they meet certain requirements.

The portal also includes links to information about other online services, such as applications for retirement, disability and Medicare benefits.

IRS Gearing Up to Implement Taxpayer First Act

The Internal Revenue Service today announced several key leadership appointments as work continues implementing major provisions of the Taxpayer First Act. These leadership changes are part of a larger effort underway at the IRS to continue work on the Taxpayer First Act, which includes work to re-imagine the agency’s tax administration and work to improve taxpayer service and enforcement.

These appointments include:

  • Douglas O’Donnell will serve as the new IRS Deputy Commissioner, Services and Enforcement. O’Donnell has been the Commissioner of the Large Business and International Division of the IRS (LB&I) since 2015, where he also served as the U.S. Competent Authority.
  • Among other leadership changes, Sunita Lough will be returning to serve as the IRS Commissioner of the Tax Exempt and Government Entities Division (TEGE). Sunita Lough has served as the IRS Deputy Commissioner, Services and Enforcement, since September 2019. She is returning to her prior position as Commissioner of TEGE, a role she previously held from 2014 to 2019.
  • Nikole Flax will take over as Commissioner of LB&I after serving as Deputy Commissioner of the division since 2017. She has held many key roles at the IRS including IRS Chief of Staff and Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, among others.
  • Holly Paz replaces Flax as Deputy Commissioner of LB&I. She is leaving her current role at LB&I as the Director of the Pass-Through Entities Practice Area, which supports all of LB&I with S Corporation and Partnership Specialty teams and the Ogden TEFRA Unit. She has held other key roles at the IRS including serving as the Director of Corporate Issues and Credits in LB&I’s Enterprise Activities Practice Area, among others.
  • Edward Killen has been serving as Acting Commissioner of TE/GE and will return to the role of Deputy Commissioner of TE/GE. Prior to joining TEGE, Killen has held several leadership positions including the IRS Chief Privacy Officer and Senior Advisor to the IRS Deputy Commissioner of Operations Support, among others.

 

IRS Offer Guidance on ERC for 2021

The IRS has released Notice 2021-23 which provides guidance on the employee retention credit provided under Section 2301 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, as amended by section 207 of the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020, for qualified wages paid after December 31, 2020, and before July 1, 2021.  Notice 2021-23 amplifies Notice 2021-20 and provides employers with guidance on how to determine their eligibility for and the amount of the employee retention credit they may claim for the first and second calendar quarters of 2021.