The IRS has announced, in its first news release of the year (January 7, 2019, IR-2019-1), that it will begin accepting 2018 individual income tax returns on January 28, 2019. I had heard that the due date for individual returns would be delayed this year because April 15 is a legal holiday in some places, but it turns out that only applies to filers who live in Maine and Massachusetts. For everyone else returns are due April 15, as usual.
If you are e-filing your income tax return, you should be able to submit your return to your e-filer as soon as it’s ready, even if the period for filing hasn’t begun yet. The e-filer should be able to simply hold your return and submit it to the IRS when e-filing begins.
I was reminded recently that tax season this year will bring some significant changes. For starters, Form 1040 for 2018 has changed dramatically. The layout and content of Form 1040 are very different from past years. The form hadn’t changed much in appearance or content, other than getting longer every year, for as long as I have been filing (and preparing my own) tax returns.
What’s more, there are fewer options for individual filers, because Form 1040A and Form 1040EZ will no longer be used. All individual filers have to file Form 1040. The good news is that Form 1040 is much shorter than in the past. The bad news is that if you couldn’t use Form 1040A or 1040EZ in the past, the shorter Form 1040 isn’t going to be much help, because all the stuff they removed from Form 1040 is now on one of the six (!) schedules that go with it.
The new schedules are numbered 1 through 6, replacing the old lettered schedules which had been in use for as long as I can remember. That’s another major change.
If you want to find out more, there’s a page on the IRS website with a condensed explanation of the new Form 1040 and schedules, along with links to Form 1040, the instructions for Form 1040, and each of the schedules. You will find that page at this url:
That page also has links to other information, such as “Questions and Answers About the 2018 Form 1040.” It also has a link where you can give feedback to the IRS on the content of the new Form 1040. I’m sure they will be responsive to taxpayer feedback.
It is still possible to file a paper return, but the IRS has tried hard to discourage it. One IRS news release several months ago proclaimed that “[c]hoosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.” That may be true, but the advent of e-filing and direct deposit for refunds, coupled with the expansion of refundable tax credits (credits that qualify the filer for a refund even if the filer doesn’t owe any tax) has created a veritable cottage industry of filing tax returns using stolen identities to obtain fraudulent refunds.
In an effort to combat this enormous and ongoing problem, which the IRS has dubbed “identity theft tax refund fraud,” the IRS says it is continuing to work with state tax officials, tax preparation software vendors, and tax preparation firms to find ways to stop this particular brand of identity theft. This initiative, which the IRS calls the Security Summit, is credited with making “significant inroads” against fraudulent returns in the last two years. That’s good, but the problem is so huge, they still have a long way to go.
There’s much more information about the Security Summit initiative at irs.gov, if you’re interested. To find it, just type “Security Summit” in the search box.
So now that the IRS has announced when it will begin accepting 2018 individual tax returns for filing, and when those returns are due, you can start getting ready to file. That way you’ll be prepared for the inevitable question in early April — “have you filed your tax return yet?”
HOW LONG SHOULD I KEEP COPIES OF MY TAX RETURNS, AND WHAT DO I DO IF I DIDN’T KEEP A COPY AND NOW I NEED ONE?
On the subject of tax returns, the IRS recently released a “Tax Tip” (IRS Tax Tip 2018-90, June 12, 2018) that says the IRS “recommends that taxpayers keep a copy of tax returns for at least three years.” It also provides useful information on how to get a transcript of a tax return if you need one (for some purposes you can actually be required to provide a transcript rather than a copy of the return), and how to get a copy of your return if you don’t have one.
You will find Tax Tip 2018-90 at this url:
Beware, however: the IRS says keep those old returns for at least three years. There are situations where you may need copies of your returns, and other records, going back as long as seven years or more.
Nathan B. Hannah is a Shareholder in the Tucson office, and practices in the areas of estate planning and administration, real estate, and commercial transactions. He is also a noted blogger, and you can find more of his articles on his private blog,
Contact Attorney Hannah: firstname.lastname@example.org or 520/ 322-5000
This communication is designed to bring legal developments of interest to the attention of our clients and others. It should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific legal advice in a particular matter. For further information on any of the subjects discussed, or for legal advice in connection with any particular matter, please contact us.