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ask the taxgirl

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Taxpayer asks:

How can I update my direct deposit information with the IRS? I filed my 2019 individual return through a tax preparer & my direct deposit went to a joint account with my now ex-wife that was closed recently. All of the scenarios online do not apply to my situation, so hoping you can help point me in the right direction.

Taxgirl says:

So, typically, the best way to change your direct deposit information with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is to put your new information directly on your tax return. Be sure to double check your account and routing numbers before signing and submitting.

If you make a mistake and incorrectly enter an account or routing number and the bank accepts the deposit, you have to work directly with the bank to resolve the situation. Ditto if you requested a Refund Anticipation Loan (RAL) or Refund Anticipation Check (RAC) through your preparer or preparation software, and your tax refund was deposited into the preparer’s bank account. If funds aren’t available or the bank refuses to return the funds, the IRS can’t make the bank do anything: in that event, it becomes a civil matter between you and the bank and/or the owner of the account that has the money (that’s a long way of saying you may have to sue).

If you’ve filed but the return hasn’t posted to the IRS, you can ask the IRS to stop the direct deposit. Call the IRS toll-free at 1.800.829.1040, M – F, 7 a.m. – 7 p.m.

But in a case like this – where you’ve already filed and you think your refund has already bounced from the closed account – that’s not possible. Typically, if the account is already closed, the bank will return the funds to the IRS. When that happens, the IRS will send a paper refund check to your last known address on file. Hopefully that’s what happens here. Good luck!

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:

Are tax rates locked in at start of year ??

I’d like to do a Roth conversion in early Jan 2021.  Can I count on Trumps current tax rates ?  If Biden would wins, could he change the rates before year end ??

Taxgirl says:

Even though we like to call tax policy names associated with the President in office at the time of the change or rate (ie “Bush tax cuts”), it’s not actually the President who is responsible for tax policy: that’s Congress’ role.

The rules that changed as a result of a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) are slated to stay in effect largely through 2025. That won’t change if we get a new president. It will only change if Congress changes the law.

And while it’s true that the President has influence over tax policy, that doesn’t mean that there’s automatic change. Consider the TCJA. President Trump took office on January 20, 2017. The House didn’t pass the TCJA until December 19, 2017 (and did it again the next day because of a procedural issue). The Senate passed the bill on December 20, 2017. The TCJA was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017, almost a full year after the President took office. Even then, most of the provisions of the TCJA didn’t go into effect until 2018.

So that’s a long way of saying that I don’t expect any significant tax changes in 2020, even if there’s a new president. That’s especially true if the composition of the House and Senate doesn’t change much (remember, Congress has to be on board with any presidential tax policy).

And even if a tax bill gets pushed through in 2021, it’s unlikely to apply to the 2021 tax year. Most tax bills aren’t retroactive especially when it comes to tax rates for exactly the reason you mentioned (reliance on current law when making financial and tax decisions). I could be wrong – because Congress has been unpredictable of late – but such a change would be unusual at best.

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:

I heard that people that has never been employed or work could still get the stimulus check is that true? 

Taxgirl says:

Yes. There is no requirement that you currently be employed or earning money to qualify for a stimulus check.

Some non-filers might have overlooked registration because of confusion related to an early version of the CARES Act. In the March version initially proposed in the Senate, taxpayers needed to be working or receiving Social Security or pension income to qualify for a check. However, the final version of the CARES Act – the one that is now law – does not require earned income, nor the filing of a tax return to qualify for a check.

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2019 or 2018 will receive payments automatically. Automatic payments will also be sent to those receiving Social Security retirement, survivor or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits, as well as Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and Veterans Affairs beneficiaries who didn’t file a tax return in the last two years.

But what about folks with little to no income who aren’t usually required to file a tax return? The IRS encourages those folks to register soon to get a payment. The Non-Filers tool will remain available through the summer and fall. However, to receive your payment by the end of the year, you must register by October 15, 

Keep in mind that the Non-Filer tool is only for those who do not have a tax filing obligation. If you’re simply looking for information, use Get My Payment to check on your payment status.

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:

So, my fiancé filed her taxes in February as Single. We then got married in May, and I am just now filing my taxes. My question is, do I file Single too or married Separate? 

She has yet to legally change her name on Drivers License/SSC/IRS btw.  

Taxgirl says:

First, congratulations on your new marriage! 

For federal income tax status, marital status is determined by state law as of the last day of the calendar year. 

That means if you are married on December 31, you are considered married for the year (married filing jointly or married filing separately). If you’re not married on December 31 because you were never legally married or you were legally separated or divorced according to the laws of your state, you are not married (single, head of household, or qualifying widow(er) with dependent child). It typically doesn’t matter what happens in between.

So, in your case, if you are filing for the last tax year (2019), you’d still file as single. When you file next year for the tax year 2020, you’ll file as married (either married filing jointly or married filing separately). 

 And it doesn’t matter if your wife has yet to change her name on her documents. While there may be important reasons to do so, it doesn’t affect your tax filing status.

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:

My stimulus check is wrong. How can I fix it? I tried calling the IRS but couldn’t get anyone on the phone.

Taxgirl says:

The short answer is that you can’t immediately fix it. Even if you could get someone on the phone, the advice will be the same: you’ll have to wait. Specifically, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says on its website, “The IRS is not able to correct or issue additional payments at this time.”


There is some good news. You can fix it eventually. You will be able to claim the additional amount – either the missing $500 for a child or an adjustment because of your income – when you file your 2020 tax return in 2021. You’ll want to hang on to Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment (you should receive it about two weeks after you receive your check) so that you’ll know how much to claim when it comes time to file.

(And yes, there has been some chatter about a fall fix, but so far, that’s not in the cards.)

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:

How can I change my address with the IRS?

Taxgirl says:

The easiest way to change your address if there’s no time consideration is just to use your new address when you file your tax return. But if you filed a joint tax return and you and your ex now have separate addresses, each of you should notify the IRS of your separate address when you file.

If you move after filing your return, use Form 8822, Change of Address to notify the IRS of your new address. The form is easy to use – just download it from the IRS website or use the link above – but if you don’t want to use the form, the IRS allows you to submit a written statement. Mail a signed statement with your full name and Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), together with your old address and your new address to the address where you filed your last return. If you filed a joint return and you both still live together, include both names, SSNs (or ITINs), and signatures on the form or statement.

Keep in mind that the IRS isn’t fully open right now, so paper forms and statements can take a while to process.

The IRS says that you can also advise them of an address change over the phone. I’m a big fan of paper trails, so I don’t love this option – even if you could get through on the phone – but be aware that it is an option.

Finally, you can change your address with the US Postal Service to make sure your mail – including your stimulus check – gets to you. But that’s not a permanent solution – don’t forget to change it with the IRS, too!

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:

What should you do if both parents who are not married but take turns filing the child every other year both got credit ($500) for the child? 

Taxgirl says:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) says to do nothing (FAQ #30). There is no clawback provision in the CARES Act, so math error in your favor.

That said, each parent should receive a letter from the IRS (Notice 1444, Your Economic Impact Payment) within 15 days after the payment is made. The IRS advises you to keep the notices for your 2020 tax records.

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:

My child’s fathers stimulus payment had gotten taken due to child support, how long does it take for me to receive it?

Taxgirl says:

It depends. Here’s how the process works.

  1. Once a stimulus check is seized, it does not automatically get delivered to the person who is owed the child support. The check is intercepted, it is not simply mailed or deposited to the person who is owed child support.
  2. The state that submitted the case to the offset program typically receives money from the offset within two to three weeks.
  3. The money is then disbursed according to normal child support enforcement distribution rules that apply. That means, for example, that if the parent who expects to receive the money (which has been offset from a parent who owes child support) owes money to the state for reimbursement of public assistance, the stimulus payment will be paid to that debt first, and then debt owed to the parent will be paid next.

The timeframe for all of this can vary. Count on at least two to three weeks from the initial disbursement at a minimum. But if the offset is from a jointly filed tax return, the state may hold the funds for up to six months before it’s distributed. 

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:

Last year I converted an IRA to ROTH and thus exceeded the income limit – otherwise I would have qualified. Is there a legal way around this?

Taxgirl says:

Not for last year. But remember that the stimulus checks are based on a temporary, refundable tax credit for 2020. If your income will be less this year and you otherwise qualify for the credit, you will be able to claim the additional amount when you file your 2020 tax return.  

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:

How do I sign up for the second stimulus check?

Taxgirl says:

Grr. There is no second stimulus check.

Here’s the thing. There has been some discussion about a second stimulus check. And it was even included in the HEROES Act which passed in the House but has not even been considered in the Senate. It’s just a bill for now.

Unfortunately, some writers know that folks are desperate for more stimulus payments. And those writers like the clicks that they get for suggesting that there might be another check coming any day now. Only it’s not true. No matter how many headlines that you read that suggest otherwise: there is no official plan to issue a second round of stimulus checks.

(And if you’re angry about the misleading headlines and you want to make them stop, don’t click on them.)

When and if a second round of stimulus checks becomes a reality, you can find details from trusted sources. And, both Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will make announcements.

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.