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Rule changes to remember in filing return

Michael McDonald

Each year, the IRS makes a host of procedural changes that complicate the filing of tax returns. The IRS revises many of its tax forms so they comply with new regulations, new IRS mandates, or even just the changing dollar values of things like deductions and personal exemptions.

The changes on deductions and personal exemptions might be trivial, but some of the revisions on other forms are more significant. Some of the biggest changes in tax forms are related to the evolution of Obamacare requirements, and the IRS has also changed things to try to prevent fraud and identity theft.

The changes related to health care reporting are where an uninformed tax filer is most likely to make a mistake that could result in a procedural audit. When filing Form 1040, filers now need to pay attention to line 61 attesting that they have health care coverage. Form 1040EZ and Form 1040A have similar requirements on line 11 and line 38 respectively.

Filers who bought coverage through a federal Obamacare exchange should soon receive Form 1095-A in the mail from that exchange. Form 1095-A records total insurance premiums paid as well as tax credits received for each month of the year.

This form is important and should be kept with W-2s and similar tax documents. The information will help you fill out Form 8962, which lets you claim any credit to which you are entitled.

There are a total of five new tax forms released by the IRS related to Obamacare. “These five new forms could potentially add one to three additional hours of preparation time to your return and potentially increase some people’s tax preparation bill this year, courtesy of the Affordable Care Act,” said accountant William Rivero of accounting firm Correia Rivero & Lefebvre in Danbury, Conn.

In addition, Rivero said that unless a taxpayer has substantial medical bills, he is unlikely to have many deductions available for medical costs. Rules have changed, and in general, a taxpayer now must accumulate medical expenses totaling more than 10 percent of the person’s income before the individual can deduct anything. This is a major change from previous years.

The IRS has issued a series of recommendations related to records taxpayers need to gather for this year. One of the biggest procedural changes is that taxpayers should place more emphasis on creating electronic backups of documents. This step will be important when filing documents as well.

In 2016, the IRS is tightening security on filing and processing of refunds in hopes of cracking down on identity theft. This means new policies and procedures for tax filers.

The IRS plans to use 20 new pieces of data on tax returns this year and is working with tax-preparation companies to help cut down on false filings. To deter identity theft, filers will be required to use more stringent passwords to access tax software.

Similarly, software providers will incorporate new features that lock users out of filing after a certain number of missed passwords. These companies also will ask additional security questions. Such features make it more important for filers to keep backup documents in case they get locked out of the software and need to restart the process.