Here you'll find items of current interest — new programs, recent guidance or timely reminders.
Fuel Tax Credit Extensions: Frequently Asked Questions
These Q&As tell taxpayers how to claim the credits for qualifying sales or uses during 2012. It also describes changes to the cellulosic biofuel credit for 2013.
In the past few years, there have been several laws passed that have tax implications. For more information, visit our pages on:
- The Affordable Care Act (ACA) Tax Provisions
- The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA)
- Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE)
For Same-Sex Couples and Certain Domestic Partners
The following questions and answers provide information to individuals of the same sex who are lawfully married (same-sex spouses).
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Individuals of the Same Sex Who Are Married Under State Law
Additional information may be found in:
- News release: New IRS Video Helps Same-Sex Couples; Joins Extensive IRS Library Of Online Tax Tips
- IRS YouTube video: Tax Information About Same-Sex Marriage (in English / Spanish / ASL)
The following questions and answers provide information to individuals of the same sex and opposite sex who are in registered domestic partnerships, civil unions, or other similar formal relationships that are not marriages under state law. These individuals are not considered as married or spouses for federal tax purposes.
- Answers to Frequently Asked Questions for Registered Domestic Partners and Individuals in Civil Unions
Additional information on these issues may be found in Notice 2013-61, Revenue Ruling 2013-17 and news release IR-2013-72, Treasury and IRS Announce That All Legal Same-Sex Marriages Will Be Recognized For Federal Tax Purposes; Ruling Provides Certainty, Benefits and Protections Under Federal Tax Law for Same-Sex Married Couples.
Tax Return Preparer Requirements
The IRS has undertaken several initiatives to reach tax return preparers with education and enforcement. All paid preparers must register with the IRS and obtain a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Find out more.
Please note that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels.
- If you get an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS, please report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- If you find a suspicious website that claims to be the IRS, please send the site’s URL by email to email@example.com, using the subject line: suspicious website.
For more information on phishing scams, please see Suspicious e-Mails and Identity Theft.
New Email Phishing Scam
The IRS has been alerted to a new email phishing scam. The emails appear to be from the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service and include a bogus case number and the following message:
“Your reported 2013 income is flagged for review due to a document processing error. Your case has been forwarded to the Taxpayer Advocate Service for resolution assistance. To avoid delays processing your 2013 filing contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service for resolution assistance.”
The recipient is directed to click on links that supposedly provide information about the "advocate" assigned to their case or that let them "review reported income." The links lead to web pages that solicit personal information.
Taxpayers who get these messages should not respond to the email or click on the links. Instead, they should forward the scam emails to the IRS at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information, visit the IRS's Report Phishing web page.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service is a legitimate IRS organization that helps taxpayers resolve federal tax issues that have not been resolved through the normal IRS channels. The IRS, including TAS, does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, texting or any social media.
Typhoon Haiyan Relief Scams
Possible scams are taking place in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan. On Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Haiyan — known as Yolanda in the Philippines — made landfall in the central Philippines, bringing strong winds and heavy rains that have resulted in flooding, landslides, and widespread damage.
Following major disasters, it is common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, email or in-person solicitations.
Telephone Scam Now Making the Rounds
The IRS warns consumers about a sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. Characteristics of this scam include:
- Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
- Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
- Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
- Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
- Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
- After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.
If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1-800-366-4484.
Don't Fall for Phony IRS Websites
The IRS warns consumers about a new tax scam that uses a website that mimics the IRS e-Services online registration page.
The actual IRS e-Services page offers web-based products for tax preparers, not the general public. The phony web page looks almost identical to the real one.
The IRS gets many reports of fake websites like this. Criminals use these sites to lure people into providing personal and financial information that may be used to steal the victim’s money or identity. Typically, identity thieves empty the victim’s financial accounts, run up charges on the victim’s existing credit cards or apply for new loans, credit cards, services or benefits in the victim’s name.
The address of the official IRS website is www.irs.gov. Don’t be misled by sites claiming to be the IRS but ending in .com, .net, .org or other designations instead of .gov.
The IRS website has information that can help you protect yourself from tax scams of all kinds. Search the site using the term: phishing.
Interim Changes to the ITIN Application Process
Effective June 22, 2012, the IRS has made interim changes that affect the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) application process. Some of the information below, including the documentation requirements for individuals seeking an ITIN, has been superseded by these changes. Taxpayers and their representatives should review these changes, which are further explained in these Frequently Asked Questions, before requesting an ITIN.
On Oct. 2, 2012, the IRS implemented clarifying changes to its temporary procedures for issuing ITINs for noncitizens with tax Extensions and many foreign students.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the IRS implemented improvements to the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) application process. These changes were developed based on an extensive review and feedback from a variety of stakeholders. The updated ITIN procedures build on changes announced last summer and fall to better protect the integrity of the ITIN application process and strengthen the refund process. Read about the new program changes and check out the latest frequently asked questions for more information.
Help for Victims of Ponzi Investment Schemes
Principal Reduction Alternative Under the Home Affordable Modification Program
Find the answers to your tax questions on the Principal Reduction Alternative under the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), which was established by the Departments of the Treasury and Housing and Urban Development to help distressed homeowners lower their monthly mortgage payments. The Principal Reduction Alternative does not apply to loans that are owned or guaranteed by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac.
Don't fall victim to tax scams. Remember — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you know of a tax fraud, you can report it to the IRS by sending completed Form 3949-A, Information Referral, to Internal Revenue Service, Fresno, CA 93888. Download the form or call 1-800-829-3676 to order by mail.
For recent scams, see:
- IR-2014-16, IRS Releases the “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for 2014; Identity Theft, Phone Scams Lead List
- IR-2013-33, IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2013
- IR-2012-23, IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2012
- IR-2011-73, IRS Urges Taxpayers to Avoid Becoming Victims of Tax Scam
- IR-2011-39, Don’t Fall Prey to the 2011 Dirty Dozen Tax Scams
Education is the best way to avoid the pitfalls of these “too good to be true” tax scams. For additional information, see:
The IRS does not send taxpayers unsolicited emails about their tax accounts, tax situations or personal tax issues. If you receive such an email, most likely it's a scam.
IRS impersonation schemes flourish during filing season. These schemes may take place via phone, fax, Internet sites, social networking sites and particularly email.
Many impersonations are identity theft scams that try to trick victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to access their financial accounts. Some email scams contain attachments or links that, when clicked, download malicious code (virus) that infects your computer or direct you to a bogus form or site posing as a genuine IRS form or web site.
Some impersonations may be commercial Internet sites that consumers unknowingly visit, thinking they're accessing the genuine IRS website, www.IRS.gov. However, such sites have no connection to the IRS.
For more information on scams and what to do if you're subject to one, see:
- Problem Alerts
- Online Scams that Impersonate the IRS
- Suspicious e-Mails and Identity Theft
- How to Report and Identify Phishing, E-mail Scams and Bogus IRS Web Sites
Tax Avoidance Transactions
Read up on the IRS's campaign against abusive tax avoidance transactions. Taxpayers with unreported income relating to offshore transactions who wish to voluntarily disclose the information to the IRS can find information on the process.
Why Pay Taxes? The Truth about Frivolous Tax Arguments
The Truth About Frivolous Tax Arguments (PDF 405K) addresses some of the more common false "legal" arguments made by individuals and groups who oppose compliance with the federal tax laws. These arguments are grouped under six general categories, with variations within each category. Each contention is briefly explained, followed by a discussion of the legal authority that rejects the contention. The second section deals with frivolous arguments encountered in collection due process cases. The final section illustrates penalties imposed on those pursuing frivolous cases.