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IRS customer phone service improved in 2016

Early indications suggested the IRS was on track to meet or surpass its goal of answering 65% of taxpayers' toll-free assistance calls during the 2016 tax filing season. As of March 5, the Service answered nearly 73% of calls that made it into the IRS assistor queue, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reported (Interim Results of the 2016 Filing Season, Rep't No. 2016-40-034). A 38.5% level of service for the 2015 filing season figured in prompting an extra $290 million for the IRS in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, P.L. 114-113, earmarked in part for improving phone service. For calls that were answered, the average time on hold improved as well, from 2015's nearly 25 minutes down to 9.6 minutes in 2016—again, as of March 5.
 

Tuition statements still might not report amount paid

Tax preparers will endure another year of receiving clients' Forms 1098-T, Tuition Statement, that may not report the figure needed to compute credits or the deduction for qualified higher education expenses. The Protecting Americans From Tax Hikes Act of 2015 (part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, P.L. 114-113) amended Sec. 6050S(b)(2)(i) to require educational institutions to report aggregate amounts received for qualified tuition and related expenses (for expenses paid after Dec. 31, 2015), removing an alternative to report instead aggregate amounts billed. However, in Announcement 2016-17, the IRS stated that "numerous" educational institutions told the Service they were unable to reprogram computers in time to meet the requirement for 2016. In response, the IRS will not impose penalties under Sec. 6721 or 6722 solely if the educational institutions report amounts billed instead of paid on Forms 1098-T for the 2016 calendar year.
 

New and revised vehicle depreciation limits issued

In Rev. Proc. 2016-23, the IRS published limits on depreciation for vehicles first placed in service, and income inclusion amounts for vehicles first leased, in 2016. The guidance also revised depreciation limitations and lessee inclusion amounts for passenger automobiles first placed in service or first leased in 2015 and to which additional 50% (bonus) depreciation applied. The first-year depreciation limitation to which bonus depreciation applies in 2015 and 2016 is $11,160 for passenger automobiles. For trucks and vans, the limitation is $11,460 in 2015 and $11,560 in 2016. The corresponding figures for 2016 where bonus depreciation does not apply are $3,160 and $3,560.

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VIDEO

Will the Affordable Care Act be repealed?

The results of the 2016 presidential election are likely to have a big impact on federal tax policy in the coming years. Eddie Adkins, CPA, a partner in the Washington National Tax Office at Grant Thornton, discusses what parts of the ACA might survive the repeal of most of the law.

QUIZ

News quiz: Scam email plagues tax professionals—again

Even as the IRS reported on success in reducing tax return identity theft in the 2016 season, the Service also warned tax professionals about yet another email phishing scam. See how much you know about recent news with this short quiz.