e-News for Tax Professionals Issue 2017-50

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e-News for Tax Professionals December 15, 2017

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Issue Number:  2017-50

Inside This Issue

  1. Payroll Withholding for 2018
  2. Protect Your Clients, Protect Yourself: New Email Scam Targets Hotmail Users
  3. Reminder: e-Services Registration and Secure Access
  4. Continuing Education Credit for Qualified Data Security Courses
  5. Get Ready for Taxes: What to Do Before the Tax Year Ends Dec. 31
  6. Special Instructions for Individuals Claiming Disaster Losses from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria
  7. Additional Relief for Partnerships and Certain Other Entities
  8. Technical Guidance


1.  Payroll Withholding for 2018

The Internal Revenue Service issued the following statement this week:

“The IRS is closely monitoring the pending legislation on 2018 tax withholding in Congress and preparing guidance. ‎We anticipate issuing the initial withholding guidance (Notice 1036) in January to reflect the new legislation, which would allow taxpayers to see changes as early as February 2018. We will work closely with the nation's payroll and tax professional communities during this process.”

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2.  Protect Your Clients, Protect Yourself: New Email Scam Targets Hotmail Users

Tax professionals should be aware of a new email scam targeting Hotmail users. The scam is used to steal personal and financial information.

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3.  Reminder: e-Services Registration and Secure Access

All e-Services users must re-register through Secure Access, a more rigorous identity proofing and two-factor authentication process. If you have not already registered through Secure Access, plan to upgrade your account now. To register, take the following actions:

1. Review Information about Your e-Services Account and Secure Access: How to Register for Certain Online Self-Help Tools. You should also visit FAQs about e-Services and Secure Access. These pages will help you register online.

2. Access your account by going to your normal login page and entering your e-Services username. You will receive a prompt that will direct you through the new registration process.

3. Call the e-Help desk at 1-888-841-4648 (select your language, then prompt 1 and remain on the line until an assistor picks up) 7:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (EST) if you are an existing e-Services user who cannot register online via Secure Access and need exception processing.

  • You must have access to your email account and your tax return information, including related information documents.  
  • On Saturday, Dec. 16, assistors will be available 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. EST.

You must attempt to register online before contacting the help desk. Here are a few other caveats:

  • If you require an activation code by mail, it may take up to 10 business days to receive this code, which will enable you to complete the registration process.
  • If you previously registered through Secure Access (via Get Transcript, IP PIN, etc.) you only need to enter your e-Services username and your Secure Access password. Do not make more than 2 attempts. If you can’t remember your password, use the “forgotten password” feature.
  • If you have obtained a new mobile phone number, the vendor may not be able to validate it. You should request an activation code by mail.
  • After you have requested an activation code by mail either online or through an assistor, do not continue attempts to register online.

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4.  Continuing Education Credit for Qualified Data Security Courses

Enrolled agents and Annual Filing Season Program participants can now earn continuing education (CE) credit for programs on data security and identity theft topics. Courses focused on enhancing tax professional awareness of protecting client data, including a review of Publications 4556 or 4524 safeguards, can qualify for continuing education in the federal tax law category. IRS-recognized CE programs previously only included courses on federal tax preparation, federal tax updates, ethics, and representation topics.

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5.  Get Ready for Taxes: What to Do Before the Tax Year Ends Dec. 31

As tax filing season approaches, taxpayers should prepare now to get ready for filing season.

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6.  Special Instructions for Individuals Claiming Disaster Losses from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma or Maria

The Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017 provides additional relief to many, but not all, victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, or Maria. Under the Act, victims may deduct greater portions of hurricane disaster losses that occurred in Florida, Georgia, Texas, Puerto Rico, or the U.S. Virgin Islands because part of the usual casualty loss limit does not apply. As an alternative to claiming hurricane disaster losses by reporting them on their 2017 federal tax return, many victims can choose to claim hurricane disaster losses sooner by reporting them on their 2016 federal tax return if they have not yet filed or by amending their 2016 tax return if they already filed it in 2017. More information, including links to the revised 2016 Form 4684, Casualties and Thefts, is available on IRS.gov.

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7.  Additional Relief for Partnerships and Certain Other Entities

The IRS issued revised guidance extending relief for certain partnerships, real estate mortgage investment conduits (REMICs), and other entities that did not file the required returns by the new due date for tax years beginning in 2016.

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8.  Technical Guidance

Notice 2018-02 sets forth: 1) the updated mortality improvement rates and static mortality tables used to determine minimum funding requirements under section 430(h)(3) for 2019; and 2) the minimum present value under section 417(e)(3) for distributions with annuity starting dates that occur during stability periods beginning in the 2019 calendar year.  

Notice 2018-3 provides the optional standard mileage rates for 2018 for taxpayers to use in computing the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical, or moving expense purposes.  The notice also provides the amount taxpayers must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

Revenue Ruling 2018-02 has concluded that mixtures of butane and gasoline are not alternative fuel mixtures and thus do not qualify for the alternative fuel mixture credit under section 6426(e).

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