Get Ready for Taxes: What to do before the tax year ends Dec. 31
For most taxpayers, Dec. 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.
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 IRA contributions 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Connect with the IRS
The IRS uses traditional and social media tools — available in English and other languages — to share the latest information on tax changes, scam alerts, initiatives, products and services.
The IRS uses several social media tools including:
Instagram: The IRS Instagram account will share taxpayer-friendly information on a variety of topics to help people get ready for tax season.
YouTube: The IRS offers video tax tips in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
Twitter: Taxpayers can follow @IRSnews for tax-related announcements and tips. @IRStaxpros tweets news and guidance for tax professionals. Tweets from @IRSenEspanol have and the latest tax information in Spanish. @IRSTaxSecurity tweets tax scam alerts.
Facebook: News and information for taxpayers and tax return preparers.
LinkedIn: The IRS shares agency updates and job opportunities.
The IRS also has its 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.
The IRS has a special page on IRS.gov with steps to take now for the 2020 tax filing season.