Taxpayers can now instantly get tax info on Instagram

Taxpayers can now get tax tips and helpful news from the IRS on Instagram. The agency just debuted it’s official Instagram account, IRSNews, which users can access at www.instagram.com/irsnews or on their smartphone using the Instagram app.

Last year’s tax reform law brought many tax law changes that will affect virtually every taxpayer. The IRS Instagram account will share taxpayer-friendly information to help people better understand these changes.

The IRS will use its new Instagram account it to:

  • Provide the latest tax scam information to help taxpayers keep their personal data secure.
  • Better serve young adults, the majority of whom use Instagram.
  • Share information in Spanish and other languages.
  • Reinforce messages the IRS promotes on its other social accounts.

The IRS will use Instagram along with several other social media tools to communicate with taxpayers:

The IRS also has their own app, IRS2Go. Taxpayers can use this free mobile app to check their refund status, pay taxes, find free tax help, watch IRS YouTube videos and get IRS Tax Tips by email. Like Instagram, the IRS2Go app is available from the Google Play Store for Android devices, or from the Apple App Store for Apple devices. IRS2Go is available in both English and Spanish.

*This message was distributed from IRS Tax Tips. For more information on federal taxes please visit IRS.gov.

Here’s how tax preparers can protect themselves and their clients

Cybercriminals are stepping up their attacks on tax professionals. Because of this, the IRS urges tax preparers to take steps to protect client data and their computer networks from these threats.

Thieves search for client data so they can create a fraudulent tax return that looks legit and might bypass IRS filters. They also impersonate tax professionals, using stolen Electronic Filing Identification Numbers, Preparer Tax Identification Numbers, and Centralized Authorization File numbers.

Here are some basic security steps that tax preparers can take to protect themselves and their clients. Tax preparers should:

  • Learn to recognize phishing emails. They can be on the lookout for emails from thieves pretending to be from the IRS, e-Services, a tax software provider, or cloud storage provider.
  • Never open a link or any attachment from a suspicious email. Remember: The IRS never initiates initial contact with a tax pro via email.
  • Create a data security plan using IRS Publication 4557, Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, and Small Business Information Security – The Fundamentals by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
  • Install anti-malware/anti-virus security software on all devices. This includes laptops, desktops, routers, tablets and phones. They should also consider keeping their software set to automatically update.
  • Create passwords of at least eight characters.
  • Use different passwords for each account.
  • Password protect wireless devices and consider a password manager program.
  • Encrypt all sensitive files and emails.
  • Back up sensitive data to a safe and secure external source not connected fulltime to a network.
  • Wipe clean or destroy old computer hard drives and printers that contain sensitive data.
  • Limit access to taxpayer data to individuals who need to know.
  • Check IRS e-Services account weekly for number of returns filed with EFIN.
  • Report any data theft or data loss to the appropriate IRS Stakeholder Liaison.
  • Stay connected to the IRS through subscriptions to e-News for Tax Professionals, Quick Alert, and Social Media.

More information:
Identity Theft Protection: Prevention, Detection and Victim Assistance – See tax pro section.
Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself – Awareness campaigns, tips and scam alerts.
Security Summit – Follow IRS, states and tax industry efforts to combat identity theft.

 

*This message was distributed from IRS Tax Tips. For more information on federal taxes please visit IRS.gov.

Tips for tax preparers on how to create a data security plan

IRS Tax Tip 2018-151, September 27, 2018

The IRS reminds tax preparers that protecting taxpayer information isn’t just good for their clients and good for business – it’s also the law. The Federal Trade Commission’s Safeguards Rule requires that tax preparers create and enact security plans.

Although the IRS and its partners in the Security Summit are making progress against tax-related identity theft, cybercriminals continue to evolve. In fact, data thefts at tax professionals’ offices are on the rise. Thieves use stolen data from tax preparers to create fraudulent returns that are harder to detect.

Creating a security plan can help businesses – such as tax preparers – protect their offices against tax-related identity theft. Preparers should also remember that failing to create a plan may result in an FTC investigation. Here are some things tax preparers should know about putting together such a plan:

  • The FTC-required information security plan must be appropriate to the company’s size and complexity. A business should also consider the sensitivity of the customer information it handles.
  • A business should designate one or more employees to coordinate its information security program.
  • A preparer should identify and assess the risks to customer information.
  • They should also review and evaluate the effectiveness of the current safeguards for controlling any risks to data.
  • After designing and implementing a safeguards program, the business should regularly monitor and test it.
  • A business should select service providers that can maintain appropriate safeguards.
  • When signing a contract with a service provider, the business should make sure the contract requires the provider to maintain safeguards and oversee their handling of customer information.
  • A business should regularly evaluate and adjust the program as time goes on. This includes things like changes in the firm’s business or operations, and the results of security testing.
  • The FTC says the requirements are designed to be flexible so that companies can implement safeguards appropriate to their own circumstances.
  • Publication 4557,  Safeguarding Taxpayer Data, has information about critical security measures that all tax professionals should put in place.
  • Publication 4557 also includes a checklist of items to include in a data security plan.
  • The IRS may treat a violation of the FTC Safeguards Rule as a violation of IRS Revenue Procedure 2007-40. node/48886 This sets the rules for tax professionals participating as an Authorized IRS e-file Provider.

The IRS and its partners in the Security Summit are reminding preparers about creating a security plan as part of the Tax Security 101 awareness initiative. The goal is to provide tax professionals with the basic information they need to better protect taxpayer data and to help prevent the filing of fraudulent tax returns.

More Information:

*This message was distributed from IRS Tax Tips. For more information on federal taxes please visit IRS.gov.

Strong passwords help protect accounts against cybercriminals

 

The IRS urges everyone with any type of online account to review new, stronger standards to protect their passwords. Doing so will help protect against savvy cybercriminals who wants to access people’s accounts and steal their identities.

Here are three steps people can follow to build a better password:

  • Step 1: Leverage powers of associationeople can identify associated items that have personal meaning and use them in their passwords.
  • Step 2: Make unique associations. Passphrases should be words that can go together in your head, but no one else would ever suspect.
    • Good example: Items in a living room such as BlueCouchFlowerBamboo.
    • Bad example: Names of children or pets.
  • Step 3: Create a passphrase that you can picture in your head. The key is to create a passphrase that is hard for a cybercriminal to guess, but easy for the user to remember.

In addition to creating strong passwords, people can:

  • Use a different password or passphrase for each account. People can consider using a password manager if necessary for multiple accounts.
  • Use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. They should not rely on the passphrase alone to protect sensitive data. Multi-factor authentication means returning account holders need more than just their username and password to access an account. They also need, for example, a security code sent as text to a mobile phone.
  • Change all factory-set passwords. They should do this for wireless devices such as printers and routers.

More information:
Taxes. Security. Together
Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers
Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself
Tax Security 101

*This message was distributed from IRS Tax Tips. For more information on federal taxes please visit IRS.gov.

IRS.gov has many resources for tax preparers

IRS.gov has many resources for tax preparers

As 2018 comes to a close, tax professionals around the country are getting ready for the 2019 tax filing season. Many of them will have questions, and many of these questions can be answered on IRS.gov. Here is a rundown of the tools and resources available on IRS.gov that will help tax preparers be prepared for 2019:

Frequently asked questions
Do I need a PTIN?
Requirements for tax return preparers
Enrolled agents

Basic Tools
Disaster relief resource center for tax professionals
PTIN Requirements for tax return preparers
Contact the Return Preparer Program

Publications
Publication 5307, Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families
Circular 230, Regulations Governing Practice before the Internal Revenue Service
Publication 4557, Safeguarding taxpayer data
Publication 5293, Data Security Resource Guide for Tax Professionals

Electronic filing resources
E-File for tax professionals
E-Help desk for tax professionals
Modernized e-File program

Enrolled agent program
Enrolled agent news
Become an enrolled agent
Enrolled agent information

Training and Communication
E-News Subscriptions
Nationwide Tax Forums
Nationwide Tax Forums Online
Webinars for tax professionals
IRS Video Portal

Identity theft
Protect your clients; Protect yourself
Don’t take the bait
National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Small Business Information Security – The Fundamentals

Share this tip on social media — #IRSTaxTip: IRS Tax Tip 2018-184:IRS.gov has many resources for tax preparers. https://go.usa.gov/xP67n

 

*This message was distributed from IRS Tax Tips, an IRS e-mail service. For more information on federal taxes please visit IRS.gov.

Tool on IRS.gov helps taxpayers research charities before making donations

Tool on IRS.gov helps taxpayers research charities before making donations

When people are done giving thanks at the dinner table, many start another kind of giving. The annual Giving Tuesday happens the week after Thanksgiving to kick off the season of charitable giving. This year, Giving Tuesday falls on Tuesday, November 27.

Taxpayers may be able to deduct donations to tax-exempt organizations on their tax return. As people are deciding where to make their donations, the IRS has a tool that may help. Tax Exempt Organization Search on IRS.gov is a tool that allows users to search for charities. It provides information about an organization’s federal tax status and filings.

Here are four facts about the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool:

  • Donors can use it to confirm an organization is tax exempt and eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.
  • Users can find out if an organization had its tax-exempt status revoked. A common reason for revocation is when an organization does not file its Form 990-series return for three consecutive years.
  • EO Select Check does not list certain organizations that may be eligible to receive tax-deductible donations, including churches, organizations in a group ruling, and governmental entities.
  • Organizations are listed under the legal name or a “doing business as” name on file with the IRS. No separate listing of common or popular names is searchable.

Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant, Can I Deduct my Charitable Contributions? to help determine if a charitable contribution is deductible.

Taxpayers may also want to decide now if they’ll itemize their deductions when they file next year. Last year’s tax reform legislation made changes to the standard deductions and itemized deductions. Many individuals who formerly itemized may now find it more beneficial to take the standard deduction. So, taxpayers should check their 2017 itemized deductions to make sure they understand what these changes mean to their tax situation for 2018. More information about these changes is on IRS.gov/taxreform.

More Information:
Tips for Tax Exempt Organization Search
Tax Exempt Organization Search: Frequently Asked Questions
Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families

IRS YouTube Videos:
Tax Exempt Organization Search English | ASL

Tax pros should remember to renew their PTIN

Tax pros should remember to renew their PTIN

Federal tax return preparers must renew their preparer tax identification numbers for 2019 as all current PTINs will expire Dec. 31, 2018. Here are several facts about PTINs and the PTIN renewal process:

  • Preparers can get started at www.irs.gov/ptin.
  • Anyone who gets paid to prepare or help prepare any federal tax return or claim for refund must have a valid PTIN from the IRS.
  • The PTIN must be used as the identifying number on returns prepared.
  • Failure to have and use a valid PTIN may result in penalties.
  • For those who have a 2018 PTIN, the renewal process takes only a few moments online.
  • Those who cannot remember their user ID and password can find online tools to assist them.
  • If registering for the first time, the PTIN application may also be completed online.
  • There is no fee for getting or renewing a PTIN.
  • Paper Form W-12, IRS Paid Preparer Tax Identification Number Application and Renewal, is available for paper applications and renewals. The paper form takes four to six weeks to process.
  • All enrolled agents, regardless of whether they prepare returns, must renew their PTIN annually in order to maintain their active status.

More information:
Frequently asked questions: Do I need a PTIN?
Requirements for tax return preparers: Frequently asked questions

New IRS publication helps taxpayers Get Ready for tax reform

The IRS issued a new publication to help taxpayers learn about tax reform and how it affects their taxes. Taxpayers can access Publication 5307, Tax Reform Basics for Individuals and Families, on IRS.gov/getready.

While last year’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act includes tax changes for both individuals and businesses, this publication is specifically geared to individual taxpayers. It breaks down the law in easy-to-understand language. The publication highlights the changes that taxpayers will see on their 2018 federal tax returns they file in 2019.

Read more

Here’s how tax reform changed accounting methods for small businesses

 

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – better known simply as tax reform – allows more small business taxpayers to use the cash method of accounting. Tax reform now defines a small business taxpayer as a taxpayer that has average annual gross receipts of $25 million or less for the three prior tax years and is not a tax shelter.

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Business Owners Can Claim a Qualified Business Income Deduction

Eligible taxpayers may now deduct up to 20 percent of certain business income from domestic businesses operated as sole proprietorships or through partnerships, S corporations, trusts, and estates.  The deduction may also be claimed on certain dividends.  Eligible taxpayers can claim the deduction for the first time on the 2018 federal income tax return they file in 2019. This provision is the result of tax reform legislation passed in December 2017.

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