One thing 2020 has not been is boring—aside from the months spent in quarantine, that is. 2020 is coming to an end, which is something that pretty much everyone can be grateful for. There are loose ends to wrap up before January 1, 2021 dawns, and, when it comes to your family, these loose ends might include taxes: income, estate, and gift.
While we all know what income tax is, you might have a couple after-the-fact questions about the process itself, such as:
When do I get my refund?
Your tax refund usually comes within 21 days after you electronically file your tax return. If you file paper tax returns, your refund is issued within 42 days. The IRS has introduced a “Where’s my refund?” tool on its website that will help you track your refund status. Though you can call the IRS if your refund is late, note that the chances of getting to talk to a customer service representative are slim to none, as the IRS is very busy during this time.
The IRS suggests that you wait at least 21 or 42 days after electronic or paper filing to contact the 1-800-829-1954 hotline. Additionally, if you’re trying to find out where your refund is, there is an IRS2Go mobile app.
If your refund is delayed, there might be a few reasons. It’s possible that the check, if you received a paper one, was lost in the mail or even stolen. The IRS must confirm the check was lost or stolen before issuing a new one. If your refund was direct-deposited, there might be a problem with the bank information you put in. The IRS can contact your bank to try to help.
Before panicking, give it some time. Though mistakes with refunds happen, that’s not the case for the majority of delays. Usually, it comes down to the government moving slowly. It’s been a hectic year, and, as we all know, everything takes a little longer because of the pandemic. Also, it is an election year. The USPS is giving first priority to mail-in ballots. Other mail comes second.
What if I did my taxes wrong?
Visions of jail time might dance in your head, but that’s actually a very, very, very unlikely possibility, especially if the mistake was just that—an unintentional accident. The IRS catches and fixes most errors itself, alerting you about the mistake after they fix it and telling you what they did to rectify it.
If you catch it before they do, you can solve the error through the electronic filer, or you can use form 1040X to amend your tax return. Missing forms (two of the most common mistakes) is an example of an error that is not automatically solvable. The IRS will alert you of the problem, and you will have to send in the missing form.
You aren’t the first person to make a mistake on your taxes, nor will you be the last. A mistake is not that big of a deal. You won’t have to redo your entire return unless the whole thing is wrong.
Next up, and slightly more complicated—if you can believe it—is estate tax. This is a tax on the right to transfer your property after you die, which means that your relatives or lawyer will be the one worrying about it if it’s your estate.
How does the IRS calculate estate tax?
The IRS calculates estate tax by taking an accounting of everything you own or in which you have interests at the date of your death, including trusts, insurance, annuities, real estate, cash, and more. The fair market value of the tallied items is used to compute the total, which is the “Gross Estate.” From the “Gross,” there are certain deductions you can take, depending on the estate. After that’s settled, the “Taxable Estate” is what’s left, and that is the total from which the IRS takes the tax.
Who must file?
The requirements for filing have increased. In 2021, if your estate is worth over $11.7 million, you must file an estate tax return. That number has been increased from $11.58 million in 2020, and the previous years have also been increased. For more information, you can look at the IRS’ Form 706 Instructions.
Finally, there is a gift tax. Gift tax is a tax on the property or money that someone gives to someone else. You are legally required to report gifts over $15,000. Don’t bother trying to hide a gift, because if you get audited, you will end up paying not only the correct tax, but also likely a fine. The gift tax exclusion lets you give away $15,000 in assets or cash to as many people as you want. Gifts can include stocks, land, cash, cars, and more. Once you hit the limit, you must report and pay taxes on it.
This article is not the be-all, end-all of the many ways the government can tax you. As with everything in law, there are a million and one details and exceptions to these laws. However, this is a basic primer that might help you tie up any loose taxation ends that you might be facing. As always, it never hurts to hire a lawyer to help you with tax matters. It’s cheaper to do it right the first time than to fix costly mistakes. Visit our website to learn more.