Kelly Erb is a tax attorney and tax writer.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is expanding its social media presence. And while that’s to be expected in a fast-moving, tech-based world, it’s the platform that’s turning heads: TikTok.

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service. Dominated mainly by teens and young adults, the fast-growing platform is primarily known for its short (about 15 seconds) dance and lip-sync videos. It’s not exactly what you’d expect from a federal tax agency, but maybe that’s the point.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig acknowledged that it was surprising but was quick to point out that times are changing. “I mean, if Secretary Mnuchin can extend federal filing tax deadlines on Twitter, why can’t we issue Regs on TikTok?” He ended his statement with a little robot dance.

So how difficult will it be? The IRS doesn’t keep musical or FX staff on payroll. But that’s part of the appeal of TikTok: the app allows you to choose sounds, song snippets, special effects, and filters. And you don’t need a full video studio to make it happen since you can use your phone. And, it doesn’t take much time or effort to make videos. That’s a massive plus for the resource-challenged agency.

In preparation for the tax agency’s TikTok debut, many IRS employees have been watching TikTok trending videos in their spare time. 

 “I think we got this,” one employee remarked. “It’s just a matter of setting tax guidance to music and throwing in a couple of dance moves like The Worm.”

Another employee enthusiastically recited the opening to section 162 while flossing. “See? Not too hard. And folks will remember it!”

Rettig agreed and demonstrated his plan to remind taxpayers about the new IRS People First Initiative with a little Fortnite hype move at the end.

One common thread on TikTok seems to be celebrity promotions. There’s no IRS budget for that – yet. But Rettig envisions a future where Matthew McConaughey and Beyoncé tout tax compliance. 

“We’ve already come up with some good ideas, like having McConaughey in a Cadillac saying, “Sometimes you got to go back… to actually move forward, and I don’t mean going back to reminisce, or chase ghosts, I mean going back to see where you came from, where you’ve been, how you got here and see where you’re going. You know, clear like in the Tax Code.” 

Or Beyonce turning up with a version of “Lemonade” turned into “Tax Due Date,” where she looks at the camera and whispers, “What are you hiding?” That one was IRS-Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort’s idea, according to Rettig. 

For now, the IRS is just trying to get the word out, initially experimenting with hashtag #TikTax (some in the agency are still pushing for #TaxTok, but that might be confusing for folks in Boston). A few lip sync videos are up, including a riff on Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” which has been changed to “Don’t Call Now” and one the IRS is particularly proud of, a version of Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey” that has been repackaged as “Tax Monkey.” The video was remarkably easy to duplicate (the original is here):

And yes, to clarify. That was the original, not the IRS version. The IRS version, packed with some of the most experienced employees, is scheduled to launch on April 1, 2020, April Fool’s Day.

In case it wasn’t quite obvious, this is my April Fool’s Day post: There is no current plan for IRS to launch on TikTok… but the year is still young!

I have fun with my April Fool’s Day posts every year. You can read some of the prior posts by clicking below:

There’s so much happening now. Here’s where you can find information on how COVID-19 is affecting tax returns and, of course, those stimulus checks.

Got questions about stimulus checks? I’ve got answers. There are separate pieces for high school seniors and college students, as well as seniors (seniors piece is updated here).

IRS has pushed filing deadlines to July 15. Not all state and local tax authorities are following the feds. If you’re looking for updates on local and state tax authority closings and extensions, you’ll find those here.

If you’re looking for a summary of the CARES Act, you can find it here.

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. According to the Social Security Administration, “This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” You can find out more here.

IRS is closing down some operations. The upside is that they’re offering some relief, too. You can find those details here.

Finally, if you’d like to help out, there are many organizations offering services during the crisis.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENTS! I may not see them. Best to ask here.

Taxpayer asks:

Just read your article on Forbes “Working From Home? Your Home Offices Expenses Are Probably Not Tax-Deductible.

Now, it is as my understanding that an employee could still deduct home office if they are REQUIRED by their employer to work from home. My employer shut the doors early in March and required all of us (small business, less than 50 employees) to work from home only, no choice (many of us had to buy a laptop or monitors as well in order to maintain our normal productivity). This may last for as long as four months, maybe more according to my employer. Shouldn’t everyone at my company qualify for the home office and equipment deduction (assuming we meet the other exclusive space requirements)?

Taxgirl says:

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately, that was the old rule.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TJCA) eliminated the home office deduction altogether for employees from 2018 to 2025. You can confirm this with IRS Publication 587 which states:

Employee expenses for business use of the home no longer allowed. You can no longer claim any miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A, including expenses for using your home as an employee. Miscellaneous itemized deductions are those deductions that would have been subject to the 2% of adjusted gross income limitation.

Now, home office expenses can only be deducted on Schedule C for independent contractors, freelancers, and small business owners (or Schedule F if you farm).

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.

Taxpayer asks:

Any idea whether the filing extension applies to gift tax returns?

Taxgirl says:

AUTHOR’S NOTE: There is (finally) official word from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on this issue: Normal filing and payment due dates continue to apply to estate and gift taxes.

That said, my original reply remains below:

Honestly, I don’t know. My gut is no, and here’s why.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced that the tax filing season been pushed to July 15, 2020. The IRS also issued guidance making clear that the due date for filing tax returns and making tax payments has been extended from April 15 to July 15. You can read the guidance here (downloads as a PDF).

The relief applies to federal income tax payments and federal income tax returns. According to the guidance, the relief doesn’t apply to any other taxes. In other words, there’s no automatic extension for any other type of federal tax or for the filing of any federal information return. I would interpret that to mean that gift tax returns are not covered by the relief but there is no specific guidance on this out yet.

Someone pointed out extensions language in the instructions (downloads as a PDF). It’s not terribly clear. the instructions say about the due date, “Generally, you must file Form 709 no earlier than January 1, but not later than April 15, of the year after the gift was made.” That’s not tied to the income tax return.

However, the instructions say that if you’re granted an extension of time for filing your calendar year 2019 federal income tax return, that will also automatically extend the time to file your 2019 federal gift tax return. It also says, “income tax extensions are made by using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of
Time To File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, or Form 2350, Application for Extension of Time To File U.S. Income Tax Return. You may only use these forms to extend the time for filing your gift tax return if you are also requesting an extension of time to file your income tax return.”

I don’t love the ambiguity. If this were me, I’d likely err on the side of caution by filing a Form 8892 (downloads as a PDF).

What is clear from the instructions (and Regs) is that any extension of time to pay the gift or GST taxes, you must be separately requested.

If I find out differently, I’ll let you know.

Taxpayer asks:

What if I already filed my 1040 and scheduled an EFTPS automatic payment on April 15? Is there a way to cancel that automatic payment and take advantage of the deferral to July 15?

Taxgirl says:

To be honest, I didn’t know the answer to this one, so I had to do a little bit of legwork.

First, the backstory. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pushed the filing deadline to July 15, 2020. The IRS also issued guidance about payment relief – waiving penalty and interest on payments previously due on April 15, 2020. That means that tax payments aren’t due until July 15, 2020.

Some taxpayers schedule payments in advance through Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). EFTPS is a free service from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. All federal taxes can be paid using EFTPS. You can make payments via the web, a voice response system, or special channels designed for tax professionals, payroll services, and financial institutions. You can schedule business and individual payments up to 365 days in advance.

(For more payment options, click here.)

So what happens if you’ve already scheduled payments through EFTPS? I called up EFTPS to find out. Those numbers are:

  • To reach an EFTPS® customer service agent: 1.800.555.4477 (en español, 1.800.244.4829)
  • TDD (hearing impaired): 1.800.733.4829 (8 a.m.-8 p.m. ET M-F)
  • If you’re outside the United States, call EFTPS® at 1.303.967.5916 (toll call).

They are available by phone or online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (You can find more numbers here.)

According to an EFTPS rep, to cancel a previously scheduled payment, you need to call them and have the following information:

  • Your name and Tax ID number;
  • The exact amount of the payment; and
  • The date of the payment.

EFTPS can cancel – and reschedule – the payment with that information.

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.

Taxpayer asks:

Is the 1st 2020 quarterly still due on April 15? This means selling securities in a down market to cover that. What’s official? What’s your take? 

Taxgirl says:

No, estimated payments are no longer due on April 15, 2020.

As COVID-19 continues to impact the United States, the federal government is taking action to ease the burden on taxpayers. Most recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued guidance about payment relief – waiving penalty and interest on payments previously due on April 15, 2020. The guidance made clear that relief includes estimated tax payments for the tax year 2020 that are due on April 15, 2020. You can read more FAQs about payment relief in this piece.

It’s worth noting that the current Senate proposal would push all estimated tax payments to October 15, 2020. That is not yet law but it is being considered. You can find out more about the Senate bill here.

Finally, in case you didn’t see it, the filing deadline has (finally!) been pushed to July 15, 2020.

Before you go: be sure to read my disclaimer. Remember, I’m a lawyer and we love disclaimers.
If you have a question, here’s how to Ask The Taxgirl.

Have a Tax Court matter? If you’ve clicked over to the Tax Court web site lately, you’ve likely seen this:

It reads:

The U.S. Tax Court would like to assure the public that the Court is following recommended guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with respect to the COVID-19 Virus. For more information, click here. 

So how do these measures affect taxpayers and tax professionals? Here’s what the Court says:

  • Effective March 9, 2020, and until further notice, out of an abundance of caution, the Court is encouraging social distancing and will therefore limit the number of people in the courtroom at any one time.
  • If you are required to appear in Court and are experiencing any flu like symptoms, have a fever, or are coughing or sneezing, please contact the Court before appearing. The Court will make reasonable accommodations and reschedule appearances, hearings, and trials as needed.
  • If you have recently traveled from an area with widespread or ongoing community spread of COVID-19 and you have symptoms of the disease (fever, cough, shortness of breath) reach out to your healthcare provider for details on how to proceed with proper medical care.

The Court also advises you to check with the CDC, WHO, and to monitor the Court’s website for updates.

Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss! Theodor Seuss Geisel, or Dr. Seuss as he is known to most of the world, was born on March 2, 1904. And though he passed away in 1991, his books and his poems are still as popular as ever.

I love the idea of combining silliness with reality and over the past few years, on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, I’ve mixed a little tax in with my Seuss.

You can see my previous efforts from 201220132014, 2016, 2017, and 2018.

This year, I’ve re-written the first half of “One Fish, Two Fish” to be “One Tax, Two Tax.” I hope you enjoy it!

One tax, two tax, me tax, you tax,
Sales tax, sin tax, old tax, new tax.
This one has a little rate.
This one has a new due date.
Say! What a lot of tax to hate.

Yes. Some are yours, and some are mine.
Some on beer and some on wine.

Some on food, and some on clothes,
And some on bags now, I suppose.
Why on food and bags and clothes?
I do not know, it’s how it goes.

Some are flat, and some are tiered.
The tiered ones are extra weird.

From there to here,
From here to there,
We tax all things everywhere.

There are some who like to pay.
They pay for fun and pay each day.
Oh me! Oh my! Oh me! Oh my!
How these tax filing deadlines will fly.

Some have two rates and some have four.
Some have six rates and some have more.

Where do they come from? I can't say.
But trust me you will have to pay.

We see them come, we see them go.
Some will ebb. Some will flow.
Some are high. Some are low.

Not all of them are very PC.
Don't ask me why, go ask in DC.

Say! Look at his schedules!
One, two, three...
How many schedules do I see?
One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
He has eleven!
Eleven! This is something new.
Not postcard-sized or overdue!

Earn! Earn! Earn!
Did you get your tax return?
We got ours and have lots to learn.
But we know a man called Mr. Bern.
Mr. Bern does our annual return. So...
If you like to go Earn! Earn!
Just learn to yearn for a turn with Mr. Bern.

Who am I? I’m a tax pro.
I do not like what I don’t know.
This is no good. This is not right.
This tax law is not black and white.
And when I read the rules, Oh, dear!
I see why people so often fear.

We like our cash. It pays the bills.
But IRS give us all the chills.
We like our cash, and this is why:
Cash keeps us fed and that’s no lie.

Hello, tax pro. How do you do?
Tell me, tell me what is new?
How are things, how do they go?
What is new? Please tell, tax pro.
I do not like this form at all.
A lot of folks I have to call.
An IRS rep, PPS.
Oh! What a form! Oh! What a mess!

Oh dear, oh dear! I cannot hear.
Turn up the speaker, dear.
Will you please yell in my ear?
It’s quiet on the phone I fear.
Say look! Static was in your ear.
But it is out. So have no fear.
Again your ear can hear, my dear.

My laptop’s old, my phone is gold.
I have a pen I like to hold.
My light is off, my coffee’s cold.
My light is off, my coffee’s cold.
I have a pen I like to hold.
My laptop’s old, my hands are cold.
And now my story is all told.

Many states across the country typically host a “sales tax holiday,” which exempts certain items from sales tax, usually once a year. In Tennessee, the 3-day summer weekend exempted purchases of clothing ($100 or less per item), computers ($1,500 or less) and school and art supplies ($100 or less per item) in 2019. But a proposal to include feminine hygiene products during Tennessee’s sales tax holiday faces resistance from lawmakers – and I’m not making this up – concerned about the lack of a limit on those purchases.

(It’s true: Tennessee lawmakers have indeed figured out what women have been plotting for years. We have, in fact, been secretly hoping that the sales tax holiday would be extended to sanitary products solely to go on a shopping spree. It’s part of our plan to take over the world.)

The bill, H.B. 1921, was introduced in January by Rep. London Lamar (D-91), who is (gasp) a woman. The companion bill, S.B. 1724, was introduced by Sen. Sara Kyle (D-30), who is also a woman.

According to the state bill‘s fiscal note, Tennessee women spend about $120 per year on feminine hygiene products (summary downloads as a PDF). At a 7% state sales tax, that works out to $8.40 per year. Some lawmakers believe that kind of incentive might send the 1,820,292 women in Tennessee between the ages of 15 and 55 on a tampon-buying spree.

One of the state senators most concerned about the sales tax holiday? Dr. Joey Hensley (R-28). 

According to the AP, Sen. Hensley said, while debating against the bill, “I would think since it’s a sales tax holiday, there’s really no limit on the number of items anybody can purchase.” He added, “I don’t know how you would limit the number of items someone could purchase.”

Interestingly, this same concern does not seem to apply to most other items on the list of tax-exempt items during the sales tax holiday.

But then, Dr. Hensley knows a little something about women: he’s been divorced four times. During his last divorce, he was accused of having an affair with a part-time nurse in his medical office. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has successfully opened the 2020 tax filing season.

The IRS expects to process more than 150 million individual tax returns, with most coming before the April 15 tax deadline. The IRS expects the overwhelming majority of individuals – about 90% – to file their returns electronically. Filing electronically and choosing direct deposit remains the fastest and safest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refund.

“The IRS workforce has worked for nearly a year to prepare for the opening of tax season,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Our dedicated employees are committed to help taxpayers, process tax returns and serve the nation − not just through the April 15 tax deadline but throughout the year.”

“The IRS reminds taxpayers there are many options to get help,” Rettig said. “Our website has around the clock information available and is the fastest way to get assistance. We’ve made improvements to the Free File program and filing electronically with direct deposit remains the best way to speed refunds and minimize errors. As always, experts in the nation’s tax professional community stand ready to help people navigate their tax issues. And we also remind people our IRS-trained community volunteers are ready to help file tax returns in locations across the country.”

The tax filing season opens on January 27, 2020. If you’re looking for ways to keep on top of things, check out IRS2Go, the official mobile app of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). With IRS2Go, you can check your refund status, make a payment, and find free tax preparation assistance.

Some of the features on IRS2Go include:

  • You can check your tax refund status. You’ll need your Social Security number, filing status, and the amount of your anticipated refund. You can check your tax refund status within 24 hours after the IRS indicates receipt of your e-filed return or about four weeks after you file a paper return. There’s no need to check multiple times in a day: records are only updated by IRS once per day, usually overnight.
  • If you’re looking for free in-person tax preparation services, you can use the app to find an IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and/or the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) site near you. Enter your zip code and select a mileage range. You’ll be given a range of options with distance, hours, dates, languages and appointment details (if required) for each. To find the location that works for you, just click on “directions” and the maps app on your phone will help you get where you need to go.
  • If you need to file your taxes, you can get free tax software on your phone. Access free tax software from your mobile device to prepare and file your taxes – and get your refund.
  • If you owe taxes, you can find mobile-friendly payment options like IRS Direct Pay on the app. You can also make a credit or debit card payment through an approved payment processor.
  • IRS2Go can also generate login security codes for certain online services: you can get the codes through IRS2Go instead of through text messages. For more information about IRS online services, visit the Secure Access page on the IRS website.
  • You can also connect with the IRS on social media with a few clicks in the app. The IRS has social media accounts on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube.

IRS2Go is available for free from the Apple store (iPhone and iPad), the Google store, or from Amazon in both English and Spanish.

It’s a good idea to mull over other strategies before applying for a tax Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL). Just make sure they’re appropriate alternatives. Here are a few to consider:

1. Adjust your withholding. If you’re getting a big tax refund, that can mean that you’re having too much money withheld from your paycheck. You might do better to take a little bit out as you go by adjusting your withholding rather than waiting for a lump sum at the end. If you’re not sure where to start, grab a copy of your last tax return and your most recent pay stub and consider making some changes to your form W-4.

re2. Consider borrowing from another source not tied to your tax refund. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) limits your ability to deduct the interest if you refinance your home, but there may still be a financial (non-tax) benefit to borrowing against your home. You may also qualify for a short-term loan from your bank or another lender that you could pay back with your tax refund without shelling out extra fees. Depending on the numbers, this could work out in your favor.

3. Open a savings account. Taxpayers often treat refund checks like forced savings accounts. If that’s the case, consider adjusting your withholding (see again #1) and open a savings account. If you’re not certain whether you’d qualify, ask around. Look for banks and credit unions that offer savings account with a low minimum balance. With direct deposit, you can route funds directly from your paycheck to your savings account: if it’s not in your hands, you may not be as tempted to spend it. Figuring the amount to save is easy. Look at your last few refund checks. Take the average – let’s use $1,500 as an example – and divide it by the frequency of your pay (if you’re paid weekly, that would be 52). In our example, that works out to $28.85 per week: that’s the amount to sock away each paycheck to save the same amount as you would have received as a tax refund. Bonus? You’ll earn interest (remember: the IRS isn’t giving you any).

4. Don’t cheat yourself out of deductions and credits. In the rush to get a tax refund, many taxpayers speed through their returns or rely on unskilled or unsavory tax preparers. Don’t underestimate the value of using the services of a competent tax professional who might be able to make recommendations and find deductions and credits that you might be missing. Spending the time to find a qualified tax preparer – especially one without an incentive to sell you extra services – may yield more tax savings in the long run.

Tax season opens Monday, January 27, 2020. The beginning of tax season can be a busy and anxious time for taxpayers – especially those who are waiting for tax refunds. Sometimes, taxpayers who are waiting for refunds turn to refund anticipation loans (RALs). Here’s what you should know about how they work and why you might not qualify for one.

An RAL is a loan that is offered by some tax preparers to taxpayers who are expecting a tax refund. The word loan is important: an RAL must be repaid.

Since an RAL is a loan, it is controlled by contract. You make an agreement with the lender (typically, a bank) to receive an advance based on your anticipated tax refund in exchange for a promise to repay the loan. The appeal of an RAL is that you usually receive cash quickly even if your tax refund won’t be paid out for a few weeks.

Even though tax season opens on Monday, you might not be eligible to receive your tax refund right away. That’s because the law requires the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to wait until mid-February to issue refunds to taxpayers who claim the earned-income tax credit (EITC) or the additional child tax credit (ACTC). In addition to normal processing times for banks, factoring in weekends and the President’s Day holiday, the earliest EITC and ACTC-related refunds are expected to be available this year on February 28, 2020; that’s assuming direct deposit and no other issues. February 28, 2020, is the last weekday of February; it’s worth noting that the recording on the IRS phone line says to expect those EITC and ACTC refunds beginning the first week of March 2020.

(You can see my predictions about when you might expect your tax refund in 2020 here.)

The IRS is not directly involved in the RAL process. The IRS does not provide information to lenders and does not guarantee tax refund amounts to taxpayers. As a result, each year, I get a slew of questions about RALs. Here’s a quick rundown of some of the most common, together with my answers: 

Q. If I was denied an RAL, does that mean I won’t get my tax refund?

A. No. The RAL application should be separate from the preparation of your tax return even if they are coordinated or completed at the same location.

Your eligibility for a tax refund is not be affected by being turned down for the RAL: your tax refund is still payable to you even if you were not advanced any money from the lender. That said, you may still be on the hook for loan application fees, credit check fees, and “junk” fees. This is one of the reasons you need to be cautious when seeking out an RAL: some providers make their money mainly from these fees and have an incentive to encourage you to apply for RALs that they do not have any intention of giving you.

Q. Why would I be turned down for an RAL?

There are a few reasons why you might be turned down for an RAL. The most common reason tends to be that the lender decides that you aren’t a good risk. Remember, an RAL must be repaid even if you receive a smaller tax refund than you anticipated. That means that you have to hope that your tax refund is large enough after you take out interest rates and fees – as well as any tax prep fees – to pay off the loan, or you’ll have to dip into your pocket to pay the overage.

Additionally, tax law changes and offsets (where the government dings your refund for money that you owe, such as child support or student loans) may affect your bottom line. The IRS no longer provides tax preparers, banks, or lenders with a “debt indicator” which tips off the lender in advance whether any part of your refund is earmarked for offset. That makes it more difficult for the lender to know what your bottom line might be and it also makes it more likely that they’re look at other criteria, like your credit history or salary, to determine whether to issue you a loan.

For more information on why you might have been turned down for an RAL, click here.

Q. My refund anticipation loan says your application has been received but has not been accepted at this time. What does that mean?

A. Since an RAL is a loan, it is subject to whatever due diligence the lender requires. For some lenders, that could be a quick credit check. For others, it may be a more involved process, especially if the amounts involved are significant. If it’s been more than a few days, there may be a question or a problem with your application. I would ask the lender (or tax preparer who offered the loan) for an update.

Q. I was turned down for an RAL, but now my tax preparer won’t give me my tax papers. What can I do? 

A. It’s not clear from the question whether you’re referring to your tax information forms (like your W-2 and 1099) or a copy of your tax return. In either case, your papers should be returned to you; the only difference is the timing. It’s possible that your tax preparer assembles returns and prepares copies of tax returns to send out on a schedule and just hasn’t gotten around to sending yours just yet. If that’s the case, give him or her a little time and follow-up. However, you are entitled to the immediate return of your information forms if the tax preparer didn’t prepare the return; I would politely but firmly request that those be returned. For more on dealing with an uncooperative preparer, click here.

All of that said, I fear that the bit that’s missing in your question has to do with payment. Reading between the lines, I’m guessing that there were fees tied to the RAL that you don’t feel you have to pay since you were turned down for the loan. I’m also guessing that the preparer is refusing to release the forms due because he or she wants to be paid. Neither one of these positions is acceptable. You need to pay any reasonable fees related to the RAL, even if the loan wasn’t granted, and your tax preparer needs to return your paperwork.

Q. So if I’m denied an RAL at H&R Block but accepted by somewhere else, where will my refund go when released?

A. It depends on where you are in the process. If you were denied an RAL a tax preparer but allowed them to prepare your tax return anyway, your tax refund should be delivered according to the regular IRS schedule. If you didn’t allow the tax preparer to prepare your tax return, and you signed a contract with a second tax preparer in conjunction with your RAL, then the refund will be delivered according to the terms of that agreement. 

However, if you filed with one tax preparer like H&R Block and then filed again with another preparer who gave you an RAL based on that tax return, you have a problem. You should receive a tax refund for the first return, but the second return will likely be bounced. You’ll be responsible for paying back the loan at the second preparer, plus any related loan and prep fees. This is why it’s so important to understand the terms of the RAL application and preparation process before you begin. Be sure to ask in advance about fees, timing and what happens if you’re turned down.

Q. I filed my taxes with a tax preparer, but I do not have my tax refund yet. I checked my bank account, and it shows the fee from RAL, but I don’t know when I will get my refund. The tax preparer says he can’t help me. What can I do?

A. I’m assuming that you already have the RAL in hand, and you’re looking to repay the loan, but haven’t yet received your tax refund. If so, your tax preparer is right to say that he can’t help you since he has no more information about the payment of your tax refund than you do. Try checking the “Where’s My Refund?” tool on the IRS website, but remember that the “Where’s My Refund?” tool will only update your actual tax refund status and not the status of your RAL.

Q. I owe child support. Can I still get an RAL?

A. Maybe. Remember that RALs are typically based on credit-worthiness, so that’s going to play a factor. If your child support is the subject of a lien or other public record, it may show up on a credit report which would affect whether you would be eligible for an RAL. The lender typically won’t have notice of any offset (like those from student loans or child support) if you don’t speak up. But here’s the tricky part. Let’s say you get the RAL for your anticipated tax refund without figuring in the child support arrears, but it’s likely that your tax refund could still be offset. You’ll have to repay the entire loan even if your refund check is offset for child support; that could set you up for more significant financial problems down the road.

Q. Instead of taking an RAL, I filed my taxes early and got a refund. Now, I need to file an amended return. Will I get in trouble?

A. I get this question every year. Some taxpayers lie about their tax situation to get a tax refund early with the idea that they will simply file an amended return and fix their “mistake” later. This is not a good idea. Remember that you sign your tax return under penalty of perjury so if you willfully file a false return, you could get into trouble. But even if you don’t get into trouble, you may have to pay an additional fee to file your amended tax return. Most importantly, this scheme could open you up to extra scrutiny from the IRS, especially if you do it every year.

(If you have a tax question, here’s how to ask me.)

If you have your business tax payments set to auto-pilot, check those addresses: The IRS is closing business payment P.O. Boxes in the Cincinnati and Hartford areas beginning July 1.

Payments mailed to a closed payment location will be returned to the sender. To help ensure timely receipt, check Where to File before mailing in a payment.

To keep things simple, you can also use IRS Direct Pay to pay a tax bill or estimated tax payment directly from a checking or savings account.

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