Don’t fall for these federal tax refund myths

Once people complete and file their tax return, many of them eagerly await any refund they may be owed. No matter how a taxpayer plans to use their tax refund, knowing fact from fiction can help manage expectations as they wait for their money. This tip dispels some federal tax refund myths that many people believe are fact, but they are pure fiction.

Myth: Calling the IRS, a tax software provider or a tax professional will provide a more accurate refund date
Many people think talking to the IRS or to their tax software provider or tax professional is the best way to find out when they will get their refund. The best way to check the status of a refund is through the “Where’s My Refund?” tool or the IRS2Go app.
Taxpayers can also call the automated refund hotline at 800-829-1954 to get their refund status. This hotline has the same information as “Where’s My Refund?”. There is no need to call the IRS unless “Where’s My Refund?” says to do so.

Myth: “Where’s My Refund?” must be wrong because there’s no deposit date yet
Updates to “Where’s My Refund?” ‎and to the IRS2Go mobile app are made once a day, usually overnight. Even though the IRS issues most refunds within 21 days, it’s possible a refund may take longer. If the IRS needs more information to process a tax return, the agency will contact the taxpayer by mail. Taxpayers should also consider the time it takes for the banks to post the refund to the taxpayer’s account. People waiting for a refund in the mail should plan for extra time.

Myth: “Where’s My Refund?” must be wrong because the refund amount is less than expected
There are several factors that could cause a tax refund to be less than expected. The IRS will mail the taxpayer a letter of explanation if it makes adjustments. Some taxpayers may also receive a letter from the Department of Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service if their refund was reduced to offset certain financial obligations. Before calling, taxpayers should check the “Where’s My Refund” tool or wait for the letter to understand why the change occurred. This can help taxpayers know how to respond.

Myth: Getting a refund this year means there’s no need to adjust withholding for tax year 2023
To avoid a surprise next year, taxpayers should make changes now. One way to do this is to adjust their tax withholding with their employer. The “Tax Withholding Estimator” tool can help taxpayers determine if their employer is withholding the right amount.

Taxpayers who experience a life event such as marriage, divorce, or the birth or adoption of a child, or are no longer able to claim a person as a dependent, are encouraged to check their withholding. Taxpayers can use the results from the “Tax Withholding Estimator” to complete a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Certificate, and submit it to their employer as soon as possible. Withholding takes place throughout the year, so it’s better to take this step as soon as possible.

(Reprint) IRS Tax Tip 2023-38

Reporting foreign income and filing a tax return when living abroad

U.S. citizen and resident aliens living abroad should know their tax obligations. Their worldwide income — including wages, unearned income and tips — is subject to U.S. income tax, regardless of where they live or where they earn their income. They also have the same income tax filing requirements as U.S. citizens or resident aliens living in the United States.

An income tax filing requirement applies even if a taxpayer qualifies for tax benefits such as the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion or the Foreign Tax Credit, which reduce or eliminate U.S. tax liability. These tax benefits are available only if an eligible taxpayer files a U.S. income tax return.

Taxpayers living outside of the U.S. and Puerto Rico have an automatic extension to file – but not to pay
A taxpayer has an automatic two-month extension to June 15, 2023, if both their tax home and abode are outside the United States and Puerto Rico. Even with an extension, a taxpayer will have to pay interest on any tax not paid by the regular due date of April 18, 2023.

Those serving in the military outside the U.S. and Puerto Rico on the regular due date of their tax return also qualify for the extension to June 15, 2023. Taxpayers should attach a statement to their tax return if one of these two situations applies. More information is in the instructions for Form 1040 and Form 1040-SR, Publication 54, Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens and Resident Aliens Abroad and Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens.

Reporting requirement for foreign accounts and assets
Federal law requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report their worldwide income, including income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and other financial accounts.

  • Schedule B (Form 1040), Interest and Ordinary Dividends – In most cases, affected taxpayers attach Schedule B to their federal return to report foreign assets. Part III of Schedule B asks about the existence of foreign accounts such as bank and securities accounts and usually requires U.S. citizens and resident aliens to report the country in which each account is located.
  • Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets – Some taxpayers may also need to attach Form 8938 to their return to report specified foreign financial assets if the total value of those assets exceeds certain thresholds. The instructions for this form have the details.

People must also report foreign assets of $10,000 or more to the Treasury Department
U.S. persons with an interest in or signature or other authority over foreign financial accounts where the total value exceeded $10,000 at any time during 2022 must also file a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) with the Treasury Department.

The form is available only through the BSA E-filing System website.

The deadline for filing the annual Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) is April 18, 2023. U.S. persons who miss the April deadline have an automatic extension until Oct. 16, 2023 (as October 15 is a Sunday), to file the FBAR. FinCEN’s website has the details.

IRS Tax Tip 2023-36 (Reprint)

Common mistakes international filers make using Free File Fillable Forms

Free File Fillable Forms are electronic federal tax forms taxpayers can fill out and file online for free, enabling them to:

  • Choose the income tax form they need.
  • Enter their tax information online.
  • Electronically sign and file their return.
  • Print their return for recordkeeping.

International filers can also share in the benefits of Free File Fillable Forms. However, international filers should use extra caution to avoid common mistakes that occur when taxpayers fill out these forms. These mistakes can lead to transmission failures, rejected tax returns or issues in creating or accessing an account.

Here are some of the common mistakes international filers make while using these forms.

Special characters, hyphens and spaces
When creating an account or entering information on a form, taxpayers shouldn’t use any hyphenates or special characters such as ñ, ü, ó, and they shouldn’t leave spaces in first or last names.

International addresses
Many forms require taxpayers to use a U.S. mailing address. Entering an international address, including military addresses, APO, DPO and FPO, may cause the return to be rejected. Unfortunately, there isn’t a universal solution for this issue.

International phone numbers

  • Taxpayers should use a U.S. phone when creating an account. Filers that use international phone numbers may not be able to create, access or recover their account.
  • Certain forms only accept a 10-digit number, and international filers shouldn’t use these forms if they don’t have access to a U.S. phone number.

Banks outside of the U.S.

  • Direct deposit is available only for bank accounts located only in the United States.
  • IRS Direct Pay requires a U.S. bank routing number.
  • If the international filer has an account with an international bank that has a U.S. affiliate, the bank may be able to provide a U.S. bank routing number.

Unsupported or prohibited forms for e-filing
All taxpayers should familiarize themselves with the forms they need before starting a return. This will help them understand the information about a form and its limitations, which could prevent the taxpayer from filing electronically.

The most common instances of unsupported or prohibited forms for international filers include:

  • Form 1116 – Foreign Tax Credit
  • Form 2350, Application for Extension of Time to File U.S. Income Tax Return
  • Form 2555 – Foreign Earned Income
  • Foreign Employee Compensation form

More information:
Line-by-Line Help Free File Fillable Forms
Foreign Electronic Payments

From: IRS Tax Tip 2023-23

IRS Filing season starts Jan. 23

The Internal Revenue Service today announced Monday, January 23, 2023, as the beginning of the nation’s 2023 tax season when the agency will begin accepting and processing 2022 tax year returns.

More than 168 million individual tax returns are expected to be filed, with the vast majority of those coming before the April 18 tax deadline. People have three extra days to file this year due to the calendar.

With the three previous tax seasons dramatically impacted by the pandemic, the IRS has taken additional steps for 2023 to improve service for taxpayers. As part of the August passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the IRS has hired more than 5,000 new telephone assistors and added more in-person staff to help support taxpayers.

Excerpt: IRS IR-2023-05, January 12, 2023

Taxpayers should be sure to have all their info before going to a tax pro

Taxpayers using a professional tax preparer should make sure they have all their information readily available before their appointment. Collecting their information and getting copies of any missing documents before taxpayers sit down to prepare their return is critical to filing an accurate tax return. Having organized records and information in hand helps prevent filing errors and will likely create a smoother filing experience.

Here’s a list of information taxpayers may need. Not all information applies to all taxpayers.

  • Social Security numbers of everyone listed on the tax return.
  • Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit or information to make a tax payment.
  • Forms W-2 from employer(s).
  • Forms 1099 from banks, issuing agencies and other payers including unemployment compensation, dividends, distributions from a pension, annuity or retirement plan.
  • Form 1099-K, 1099-MISC, W-2 or other income statement for workers in the gig economy.
  • Form 1099-INT for interest received.
  • Other income documents and records of virtual currency transactions.
  • Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement.
  • Letter 6419, 2021 Total Advance Child Tax Credit Payments, to reconcile advance child tax credit payments.
  • Letter 6475, Your 2021 Economic Impact Payment, to determine eligibility to claim the recovery rebate credit.
  • Information to support claiming other credits or deductions, such as receipts for child or dependent care, college expenses or donations.

Taxpayers can get information about their Economic Impact Payments and advance child tax credit payments through their IRS online account.
Taxpayers who don’t have their letters about their Economic Impact Payment to claim missing stimulus payments and advance child tax credit payments to claim their full child tax credit have an online option. They can log in to their IRS online account and get the information from the Tax Records tab.

For taxpayers who are married filing jointly, each spouse will need to have their own Economic Impact Payment and advance child tax credit information.

What taxpayers should do if they’re missing other documents
Taxpayers who didn’t receive a W-2 or Form 1099 should contact the employer, payer or issuing agency and request the missing documents. This also applies for those who received an incorrect W-2 or Form 1099.

If they still can’t get the forms, they can use Form 4852, Substitute for Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement or Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc. If a taxpayer doesn’t receive the missing or corrected form in time to file their tax return, they can estimate the wages or payments made to them, as well as any taxes withheld. They can use Form 4852 to report this information on their federal tax return.

Find an authorized e-file provider
Taxpayers who are looking for a tax pro should use the Authorized IRS e-file Provider locator service. This is a nationwide listing is of all businesses that have been accepted to participate in the IRS e-file program. These businesses are authorized IRS e-file providers. They are qualified to prepare, transmit and process e-filed returns.

From IRS COVID Tax Tip 2022-125