IRS Clamps Down on Tax Credits
- Affected Credits
- Retroactive Claims
- Disallowance Periods for Improper Credit Claims
- Preparer Due-Diligence Requirements
- 1098-T Requirement to Claim Education Credits
- Refunds from AOTC and CTC Returns Will Be Purposely Delayed
In an effort to rein in tax fraud, which is costing the government billions of tax dollars, some new laws that take effect in 2016 will clamp down on individuals who have fraudulently claimed the American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC), the Child Tax Credit (CTC), or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).
All three are partially or totally refundable credits, which means that, in addition to reducing an individual’s tax liability to zero, they can cause excess credit to be refunded to the taxpayer, making them favorite targets of fraudsters.
- The AOTC is the college tuition credit for low-income families that provides a credit for each eligible student equal to 100% of the first $2,000 and 25% of the next $2,000 spent on college tuition and related expenses; the maximum credit is $2,500, of which 40% is refundable. The credit is phased out depending on income.
- The CTC is a tax credit of $1,000 for each of the taxpayer’s qualifying dependent children. A portion of the credit that is not used to offset the taxpayer’s tax liability can be refundable; the refund is based in part on the number children in the family and in part on the taxpayer’s earned income. This credit may also be phased out for higher-income taxpayers.
- The EITC is a refundable credit awarded to low-income taxpayers who work. The credit is based on the amount of the taxpayer’s income that comes from working as well as on total income and on number of children. In 2016, this credit can be worth as much as $6,269.
Here is a rundown of some of the new provisions that the government has put in place to defend against fraud.
Retroactive Claims – Individuals are now prevented from retroactively claiming the AOTC, CTC or EITC if the individual, dependent child or student for whom the credit is claimed does not have a taxpayer identification number (TIN). In other words, the TIN must be issued prior to the due date for filing the original return in the tax year for which the credit is claimed; the IRS will deny the credit if the TIN is not issued on time. In most cases, the TIN is a Social Security number.
Disallowance Periods – When a taxpayer improperly claims the AOTC, CTC or EITC (either fraudulently or recklessly), he or she will be barred from claiming that credit for a period of time. The disallowance periods are 10 years for fraud and 2 years for reckless or intentional disregard of rules and regulations.
Preparer Due Diligence Requirements – In the past, paid tax preparers have always abided by a set of due-diligence guidelines for EITC qualification before including that credit on any return that they prepared. These due-diligence requirements have been expanded to include the CTC and the AOTC. This adds additional work for paid preparers and increases their liability for errors, as each disallowed credit could be subject to a $510 preparer penalty.
1098-T Required to Claim Education Credits – Education credits can no longer be claimed unless the taxpayer includes the employer identification number of the educational institution to which the tuition was paid. This number, as well as the other information needed to determine the credit, can be found on the Form 1098-T (Tuition Statement) issued by the educational institution. The new rules require that the taxpayer (or the dependent who is a student) receive a 1098-T form to claim the credit, although some exceptions are provided.
Refunds that Include the EITC or CTC Will Be Purposely Delayed – Refunds from returns that include an EITC or a refundable CTC will not be issued prior to February 15th, which gives the IRS additional time to verify the validity of the credit claims and to match them against the taxpayers’ income amounts and the informational returns that are filed with the IRS to verify tuition.
If you have questions related to any of the foregoing safeguards, the delayed refunds or the credits themselves, please give the office a call.