It’s undeniable: COVID-19 (commonly referred to as coronavirus) is impacting almost every aspect of our lives right now. And while its effects are overwhelmingly negative, we are continuing to see a sweep of positive relief efforts come through. From COVID-19 student loan relief to tax extensions, steps are being taken every day to help Americans get through this crisis.
On March 25, 2020, the IRS announced its People First Initiative, which encompasses many steps to provide COVID-19 tax debt relief to taxpayers across the country. In addition to the extension of Tax Day to July 15, 2020, the IRS wants to offer taxpayers relief for tax debt. Here is what some of those relief steps look like.
Offer in Compromise (OIC) assistance
An Offer in Compromise (OIC) from the IRS is already a tricky program to qualify and apply for. This settlement agreement with the IRS (that could allow you to settle your debt for less than you owe) is highly desirable by those burdened with tax debt for obvious reasons. Whether you’re waiting for a response to your OIC application or you already have an OIC, the IRS has a few COVID-19 tax debt relief steps in place now.
Already have an Offer in Compromise
If you’ve already had your OIC accepted by the IRS, you now have the option to suspend your payments until July 15, 2020. Interest will continue to accrue on your unpaid balance though. You’ll need to pay that additional interest in order to settle your tax debt.
If you have an OIC and are delinquent in filing your 2018 tax return, the IRS will not automatically default your OIC. Just make sure you file your delinquent 2018 return and your 2019 return by July 15, 2020.
Waiting on a pending OIC application
If you need to provide any additional information to support your OIC at the IRS’s request, you now have until July 15. Any pending OIC requests will not be closed before July 15, unless the IRS has the taxpayer’s consent.
Installment Agreement payment suspension
If you’re on an Installment Agreement with the IRS and are struggling to make payments during this hectic time, there’s good news. Payments for Installment Agreements are suspended between April 1 and July 15, 2020. On a Direct Deposit Installment Agreement? You have the option to suspend your payments during this time period if you prefer. Keep in mind though that interest will continue to accrue on your unpaid tax debt balance.
The IRS has also stated that it will not default any Installment Agreements during this time period.
Postponement on certain collection activities
IRS tax liens and levies, either automated or initiated by a field revenue officer, will be suspended. It’s important to note that field revenue officers may still continue pursuing non-filers with high incomes.
The IRS will also not be forwarding any new delinquent tax accounts to their private debt collection agencies until July 15.
Halt on new passport certifications
Typically, the IRS will send certifications for seriously delinquent taxpayers to the Department of State, which can prevent taxpayers from receiving or renewing passports. During this time period though, the IRS will not be sending new certifications.
Encouragement of filing delinquent returns now
If you’ve missed filing any returns before 2019, now might be the perfect time to file. The IRS claims that “more than 1 million households that haven’t filed tax returns during the last three years are actually owed refunds.” For those households, filing now could mean getting those refunds that you otherwise would have lost.
Additionally, the stimulus package currently in progress will likely base government assistance on previous tax returns. If you haven’t filed your previous returns, you may not be eligible for assistance.
Delinquent returns can be tricky to file. So, it may be in your best interest to use a tax professional who can help you file responsibly.
Responsible adjustments to audits
When it comes to audits (field, office, or correspondence), the IRS has said that it “will generally not start” these examinations during this time period. However, the IRS may start new audits as it deems necessary.
Any in-person meetings for audits are suspended. If an audit is already underway, be sure to continue sending any information that the IRS requests. The IRS examiner on your audit will likely continue to work remotely.
For businesses and corporations, the IRS has stated that it will be considerate with staffing concerns. For instance, say the IRS is currently auditing a business. The business owner would prefer to begin the examination now as they currently have the staff and records available. The IRS may then move forward with its audit. This would happen with the understanding that COVID-19 occurrences may affect future work on the examination.
Appeals to continue
If you currently have an IRS appeal in progress, don’t worry. The IRS has assured taxpayers that their appeals employees are continuing to work their cases. They will not be holding in-person conferences, but they are continuing to communicate over the phone or via videoconference.
Options for those dealing with tax debt
In this uncertain time, the IRS is reminding taxpayers who are delinquent that they have options if they’re struggling with tax debt. If you’re dealing with delinquent tax debt, you should take this time period to explore the tax relief options available to you through the Fresh Start Initiative.
Our experienced tax professionals can walk you through all the options available to you. We can even work with the IRS on your behalf. And with everything going on in the world right now, even the IRS has admitted that its wait times over the phone may be longer. Lately, their phone lines have been impossible to connect to. Why not have our team get your tax debt ducks in a row and deal with those hold times for you?
As more COVID-19 tax debt relief updates come in from the IRS, we’ll keep you informed and updated.
This blog post was last edited on March 25, 2020.
With COVID-19 (also known as coronavirus) making such a big impact on our country and economy right now, it’s difficult to focus on anything else. When people’s health and financial well-being are at stake, things can seem dire. It can be easy to overlook annual tasks like filing and paying your taxes. However, it is more important than ever to know where you stand regarding your taxes.
We’ve compiled some of the most frequently asked questions regarding COVID-19 and taxes and answered them here. As more announcements are made, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.
Have any tax filing deadlines changed because of COVID-19?
On March 20, 2020, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin announced that Tax Day was moving from April 15 to July 15, 2020. This means all taxpayers and businesses will have the ability to file and make payments by July 15 without incurring penalties or interest.
If you need any help preparing your tax return, check out our handy individual tax prep checklist.
For state taxes, you’ll want to keep in touch with your state taxing authority for any deadline changes. Certain states, like California, Maryland, and Washington, have already announced updates regarding state tax deadlines.
Will I be able to defer my tax payments because of COVID-19?
On March 17, 2020, Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, announced that individual taxpayers will be able to defer up to $1 million in federal tax payments to the IRS for 90 days. This deferment is offered due to the impact of COVID-19. The threshold amount of $1 million for individuals was set to help cover many small businesses and pass-through entities. Corporations should be able to defer up to $10 million. During this three-month deferral period, the IRS will not subject taxpayers to interest and penalties.
The IRS released guidance on this tax payment deferment on March 18, 2020. The guidance confirms that individuals and corporations can defer payments that would have been due April 15 until July 15, 2020. The $1 million limit for individuals applies to both single taxpayers and married couples filing jointly. The deferment includes both payments for 2019 taxes due and payments for federal estimated income tax payments due for the 2020 tax year.
This deferment does not apply to state tax payments. You’ll need to check with your state taxing authorities to see if any deferral options are being offered.
Can I get an extension on filing my taxes?
As always, if you do not believe you will be able to file your taxes by the new filing deadline of July 15, your best bet is to request an extension. You can file for a six-month tax extension by using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Once the IRS has reviewed and approved your extension, you should have six months to file your federal tax return. Be sure to file your extension by July 15, 2020.
Why should I file ASAP now more than ever?
If you’ve found your income negatively affected by COVID-19 and you believe you deserve a tax refund, filing your return ASAP could offer you refund money that would help you out. As of Feb. 28, 2020, the average refund this tax season was about $3,064. Extra money in the bank could really make or break your ability to pay rent or your mortgage. It could even help you grab supplies to support a quarantine or any social distancing exercises.
While you can always go the route of filing a paper tax return, keep in mind that electronic tax returns are processed quicker than paper returns. This generally means you’ll get any refund faster. Another plus of electronic tax returns? They eliminate the need for you to go to the post office, which supports the CDC’s recommendation of social distancing.
Will my tax refund be delayed by COVID-19?
While it’s possible that the impact of coronavirus could delay refunds, there hasn’t been official word on whether taxpayers should expect any delay on their tax refunds.
If you’re not sure where your tax refund is, you can always use the IRS’s “Where’s My Refund?” tool.
Is there any tax debt relief being offered in the face of COVID-19?
Yes, the IRS announced its People First Initiative on March 25, 2020. This initiative includes relief efforts to help those with tax debt across the country. Read more about it in our COVID-19 Tax Debt Relief blog post.
What do I do if I need help with my taxes?
Taxes can be confusing even when there isn’t a major virus impacting the country. If you need help, reach out to a trustworthy tax professional. While you may want to avoid physically going to a CPA office, you always have the option of remote tax professionals like ours. The Tax Defense Network team is always available by phone to help you with tax matters from personal tax prep to tax debt relief.
This blog post was last edited on March 25, 2020.
Five years ago, the IRS called for backup from the private sector. What does this backup look like? Four private companies that can come after your tax debt in lieu of the IRS. Here’s what you need to know about private debt collection agencies (PDCs) to stay informed, lawful, and safe.
What’s the deal with private debt collection agencies (PDCs)?
PDCs aren’t rookies to the federal-tax-debt-collection game – they assisted the IRS in both 1996-1997 and 2006-2009. Despite warnings from the IRS and National Tax Advocate on the unsuccessfulness of these previous IRS private debt collection program efforts – wasting money, yielding fewer collections than expected, and contributing to inequities in the U.S. tax collection system – history repeated itself in 2015.
Congress passed Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act) in December 2015. While it’s technically a highway bill, the FAST Act included a debt-collection section requiring the IRS to use PDCs for outstanding tax debt that the IRS is no longer pursuing. The IRS has since hired four private debt collection agencies: ConServe, Performant Recovery, CBE Group, and Pioneer (which is actually a subsidiary of student loan servicer Navient)
Not all tax debt cases are eligible for private collectors to handle. The IRS won’t hand the following accounts over to PDCs:
The Taxpayer First Act, a recent bipartisan law passed by Congress in 2019, also states that the IRS cannot use PDCs for taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level.
While past programs using third-party debt collectors stopped because they lost money, this doesn’t appear to be the case currently. The results from 2019 show that the IRS was able to collect nearly $213 million in debt using PDCs, which was the largest amount of money recovered since the program was started in 2015.
What are the risks associated with PDCs?
PDCs themselves aren’t necessarily risky or problematic. However, the loopholes of the PDC program has many problems. Here are some of the dangers associated with private debt collection:
More scam artists can pretend to be PDCs, especially because PDCs aren’t required to identify themselves as IRS contractors. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reported that 15,780 people have fallen victim to tax scams and have lost upwards of $79.7 million collectively as of September 2019.
Here’s a smart rule of thumb: Do not disclose any personal information to someone randomly demanding payment over the phone or internet. In fact, don’t engage with any callers claiming to be IRS employees. If you think you might owe taxes, hang up and call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040 instead.
Elevated risk for low-income taxpayers
Private collectors have an agenda to push people to make tax payments, even if the taxpayers can’t afford it. This can create economic hardship for people who would otherwise qualify for alternative payment plans by the IRS.
In 2017, National Taxpayer Advocate found that 19 percent of taxpayers outsourced had incomes below the federal poverty line. And 28 percent of people assigned to PDCs earned less than $20,000. This leaves low-income, elderly, and income-restricted individuals buried deeper and deeper in economic woes and unpayable debt.
A lack of consumer awareness
The IRS wants consumers to know what’s up, but public awareness campaigns are minimal at best due to drastic IRS funding cuts. As a result, consumers are left in the dark and even more vulnerable to scams.
Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to your back tax situation. Having as much knowledge as possible about your account (and whether it’s in the hands of a third party or the IRS) is vital.
What do you need to know to protect yourself?
Learn about how the IRS works
The IRS isn’t like your crazy ex. The agency will never call, text, or email you out of the blue to demand payment. And they definitely won’t demand that you give them your credit card number on a phone call or threaten to bring in law-enforcement agencies to have you arrested for not paying. Instead, they prefer contacting taxpayers via notices in the mail (like a Notice CP14) that progressively increase in urgency to act.
If they have assigned your case to a PDC, the IRS will then send you Notice CP40 and Publication 4518, which will let you know that they’ve assigned your account to a PDC. They won’t surprise you by handing you off to a third party without giving you a heads up. And once the private debt collector has your account, they’ll send you an initial letter in the mail too before contacting you via phone.
However, the IRS can only contact you with the information they have on file. So, if the address you’ve used in the past is not where you currently reside, you’ll need to update them on your current address to receive these helpful notices.
Don’t pay the private debt collector directly
Though the IRS hired the PDC to collect your debt, you’re not actually writing out your check to the PDC. All your repaid debt will go straight to the IRS as usual.
A private collection agency should never ask you to pay them directly. Their job is to work with you to resolve your tax debt. They should provide you with information about IRS payment options, whether that’s electronically online or via check payment made payable to the U.S. Treasury sent in the mail directly to the IRS.
Consult with a licensed tax professional
Turning to a licensed tax professional – which may include CPAs, enrolled agents, or tax attorneys – can give you the support and direction you need regarding your tax debt. These experts can negotiate with the IRS on your behalf to relieve tax debt or tie-ups like liens, levies, and wage garnishments.
While the lawfulness of PDC use is under scrutiny, it is today’s reality. The key to avoiding trouble is being smart about tackling your tax debt and not going at it alone.
Remember: It’s crucial that you never disclose information to someone calling or messaging to collect immediate payment. Instead, call the IRS directly to see if you owe taxes.
Preparing your 2019 tax return never seems like an easy feat. It often feels easier to just put off your tax preparation. And sure, procrastination can keep a tax headache at bay for a little while. But you’re still better off taking care of your taxes sooner rather than later. In the face of last year’s government shutdown and the recent tax reform, being prepared with a handy tax prep checklist has never been more important.
Why should I use a tax prep checklist?
Even if you’re having a professional tax preparer complete your tax return, a tax prep checklist can definitely come in handy. Using a checklist will help ensure you have all the information and documents needed to file.
You’ll need to gather forms and documents that fall into the following categories:
- Personal information
- General income
- State & local taxes or sales tax
- Homeowner/Renter information
- Medical expense & health insurance
- Education expenses
- Childcare expenses
- Retirement expenses
- Charitable donations
- Alimony paid
- Federally declared disaster
- Tax preparation
Aside from helping you organize your documents and forms, tax prep checklists will also help get you in the right frame of mind to start filing. Kick procrastination to the curb by using your own tax prep checklist.
How should I use this checklist?
Move down the list slowly, finding documents you need and storing them safely in a folder meant for your 2019 tax documents.
Keep in mind that you may not need every form and document listed on the checklist. In fact, if you’re using the standard deduction, it may not be worth tracking down every single document on the checklist. Even if you itemize your tax deductions, you may not need every item on this list depending on your income and the expense amounts. Feel free to mark off any of these unnecessary items for you so you can focus on the forms you do need.
Once you have all the documents you need from this checklist, you’ll be ready to file. If you don’t have all the documents you need to file before Tax Day 2020 (which is April 15), you can always file a tax extension.
Personal tax prep checklist
Click here or on the image below to view and download our Individual Tax Prep Checklist.
If you need any help with filing your personal or business taxes, our team of tax experts is always available to help.
Tax debt is nothing to brush off, especially when you owe an outrageous amount. If you can’t afford your tax debt, the IRS must decide if – and how – you’ll be able to pay. What does the IRS use to make that decision? You guessed it – tax forms. In this case, the IRS uses forms like Form 433-A or Form 433-F to determine if an agreement is in your future.
How to Start Tackling Your Tax Debt
The first step toward federal tax debt relief is to contact the IRS. This can be as simple as picking up the phone to give them a call, just be prepared for wait times. You can also use a tax debt relief company to contact the IRS on your behalf. Although you can deal with your tax debt on your own, hiring a professional service can help you reach a better resolution quicker, easier, and with less stress.
Whether you go DIY or professional with your tax relief help, the IRS agent who ends up working on your case will determine what the next steps look like for you. While the IRS will need to investigate your payment ability next, how they do that will vary depending on your situation.
What the IRS Considers for Your Payment Ability
To figure out how much you can reasonably pay your owed federal income tax, the IRS must have certain financial information about you. This includes:
- Any assets that you can take a loan against (e.g. house, other property, etc.)
- Any asset such as your car, boat, or house that you can sell to pay the tax debt
- Property that is yours but is held by someone else, including funds in bank accounts, retirement accounts, and trust funds
To gather this information, the IRS will ask you to send them a form, which could be Form 433-A, 433-B, or 433-F.
How Do You Know Which Form to Use?
It’s a headache that the IRS has so many different forms that all seem to serve the same purpose. The good news is that you don’t really need to deduce which form you’ll need. At the end of the day, the IRS will determine the form they require from you.
However, it’s always good to be knowledgeable about the form you’re filling out and why. Let’s look at these three forms and note the differences between them.
IRS Form 433-A is used for both those who are self-employed and those who earn wages. If your IRS case is assigned to a Revenue Officer, they’ll likely require you complete Form 433-A.
You may deal with a Revenue Officer if you have more $250,000 in tax debt owed, you’ve mixed business and personal expenses, or you have payroll tax debt. However, Revenue Officers can still be assigned to cases without any of those characteristics.
Form 433-A is six pages long and requires a good amount of information. The information you’ll need to provide includes:
- Your name, social security number, driver’s license number, and date of birth
- Your employment information
- Any impending lawsuits, trust funds, or life insurance policies
- Any personal assets (e.g., vehicles, bank accounts, real estate)
- Business assets and gross monthly business income or expenses for those who are self-employed
- Paycheck stubs, bank statements, and credit card statements
- Monthly living expenses
Though the IRS has to leave you enough money to live (per the allowable living expenses), the agency will review your specific financial needs for monthly living expenses. There is a place on Form 433-A for you to include necessary total living expenses, including:
- Food, clothing and miscellaneous
- Housing and utilities
- Vehicle ownership and operation
- Public transportation
- Health insurance
- Out-of-pocket health care costs
- Court-ordered payments
- Current year taxes
- Secured debts
- Other expenses, such as student loans, unsecured debts, and tuition fees
Variation with a Purpose: Form 433-A (OIC)
If you’re interested in applying for an Offer in Compromise (OIC), you’ll need to complete Form 433-A (OIC). This form is included in the IRS Form 656 Booklet, which is used to submit a personal Offer in Compromise to the IRS. It requires much of the same detailed information as Form 433-A, but is geared specifically to get information for the IRS to consider an OIC.
If your business owes taxes to the IRS, then you’ll need Form 433-B. Form 433-B is also generally required if your case has been assigned to a Revenue Officer.
Much like Form 433-A, Form 433-B is six pages long and requires detailed accounts of your finances. The business information you’ll need to provide on Form 433-B includes:
- Your business’s name, date of establishment, type, number of employees, internet sales, and contact information
- Key individuals in the business (partners, board members, or major shareholders) and their phone numbers and social security numbers
- Any impending lawsuits, debts owed, or bankruptcy proceedings
- Business bank accounts, available credit, vehicles, total cash in banks, and other assets and liabilities
- Business’s total monthly income and expenses
If you don’t own a business that has federal tax debt, you won’t need to worry about Form 433-B.
Form 433-F is the most commonly seen collection information statement. The IRS usually uses 433-F to determine eligibility for payment plans or Currently Non-Collectible status. If your case is assigned to the IRS Automated Collection Service, you’ll likely be required to fill out Form 433-F.
Form 433-F is a simplified version of Form 433-A, with only two pages. There are fewer questions to answer. The information you’ll need to provide on Form 433-F includes:
- Contact information and social security number
- Bank accounts, lines of credit, and mutual funds
- Real estate and other assets (e.g., cars, boats)
- Credit cards owned and amount owed
- Business information if you own a business
- Employment information and non-wage household total income
- Monthly living expenses
Quick Reference Guide
No matter which form the IRS needs from you, one thing’s for sure: they’ll need some serious documentation to support the financial information you provide. Although there is certain information they can verify internally using your previous tax returns, it’s still in your best interest to have proof of all the financial information you provided. Even if the IRS doesn’t request those documents, you’ll be ahead of the game if you have everything ready to go.
Fresh Start Initiative
Based on your financial statement given through any of the forms above, the IRS determines your ability to pay and decides whether to approve your application for a payment plan or not. Under the Fresh Start Program, the IRS may not ask for a financial statement if you owe $50,000 or less in tax debt and apply for an Installment Agreement. For tax debts that are greater than $50,000, and to request a tax debt reduction, you will need to provide the IRS with one of the financial statements detailed above.
If you’re unsure if you qualify for any IRS debt repayment programs or forgiveness programs, our licensed tax professionals can review your specific situation to see if you qualify. We work with the IRS on your behalf, so you don’t have to navigate the complex tax laws alone.
Don’t go at it alone.
It’s 2019, but the IRS won’t accept your Bitcoins, 3-D printed money, or Venmo. When you owe after filing tax returns or have back taxes to deal with, you to have to make IRS payments with actual money, but how?
The IRS ensures there are multiple ways to pay them back. While you can go through the hassle of making an appointment at your local Tax Assistance Center to pay in cold hard cash, there are easier ways to pay up without having to leave the house.
Electronic payments are the most popular and preferred payment method, used for 89 percent of returns in 2018. But if you’re a taxpayer who prefers to pay offline, you’ve got choices, too.
Review these payment options to figure out how to make IRS payments that work for your financial situation.
The 4 Easiest Ways to Make IRS Payments
1. IRS Direct Pay
For making payments to the IRS as an average taxpayer, one simple method is IRS Direct Pay.
IRS Direct Pay can be used for filing individual tax bills or making estimated tax payments directly from your checking or savings account to the IRS. This feature has the added advantage of being free of charge.
To use Direct Pay, you need to have a Social Security Number (SSN) or an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
While you can use IRS Direct Pay to make an online payment on your regular web browser, you can also use Direct Pay on the IRS2Go app on your mobile device. You can find the free IRS2Go mobile app on Google Play, the App Store, or Amazon.
If you request it, you will get a confirmation notification via email as soon as you make a payment using Direct Pay. The bank account information you provide is not stored in the IRS systems.
Direct Pay does have some limitations. It is only available Monday through Saturday from midnight to 11:45 p.m. ET and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. ET.
The system for Direct Pay does not save your information, so you’ll have to re-enter everything if you return to make another payment. You also cannot make more than two payments within a 24-hour period.
2. Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS)
Another secure payment method offered by the government is the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Both businesses and individual taxpayers can use EFTPS to pay their taxes.
You must have a secure Internet browser with 128-bit encryption to access the EFTPS website. To log on and enroll, you must have the following three items:
- EIN or SSN
- EFTPS Personal Identification Number
- Internet Password
Once you enroll, the EFTPS system will save your information so it’s easier to make payments in the future.
For payroll taxes, businesses must use EFTPS for deposits. Otherwise, you could be penalized.
EFTPS is highly suggested for large payments. Using EFTPS, you can make income tax payments, employment tax payments, and estimated and excise tax payments.
This payment method is free to use, and you’ll receive confirmation emails with every transaction you make. Another similarity to Direct Pay is that you can cancel or edit payments up to two business days before the scheduled payment date.
The site is available 24/7 and can be accessed via computer or smartphone. Additionally, you can schedule payments for up to 365 days in advance.
3. Payment by Check or Money Order
Not a fan of paying online? You can pay via mail with a check, money order, or cashier’s check made payable to the U.S. Treasury.
Make sure to include the following information on your check, money order, or cashier’s check:
- Your name
- Social Security number
- Daytime phone number
- Tax year
- Tax form or tax notice number
You’ll want to send this form of payment along with a completed Form 1040-V. Don’t staple or paperclip the check or money order to this form.
Be sure to mail both the form and payment method to the address that corresponds to your state listed on Form 1040-V.
4. Payment by Credit or Debit Card
To process payments made by debit or credit cards, the IRS uses standard service providers and business/commercial card networks. The three payment processors they use are PayUSATax, Pay1040.com, and Official Payments.
The provider will charge a fee, which varies based on the service provider used. This processing fee may also be tax-deductible depending on your situation. No part of the service fee goes to the IRS.
Keep in mind that you usually can’t cancel payments made by debit or credit card.
Not all tax forms are payable this way and some higher tax debts may require some extra coordination with your provider. However, it’s an easy way to settle your tax debt and gain some quick peace of mind.
What to Do If You Can’t Make Your IRS Payment
If you aren’t able pay the IRS for any reason, you’re not out of options.
You may be able to qualify for an IRS installment agreement. This payment plan would allow you to make regular payments that are more affordable for you than your entire balance at once.
Depending on your circumstances, you also could be eligible for an Offer in Compromise, which could let you settle your tax debt with the IRS for less than you owe.
To figure out what options you qualify for, contact us. One of our tax professionals can help you find the best tax debt relief solution for your situation.
Even the IRS understands life happens. That’s why the government offers IRS debt forgiveness when you can’t afford to pay your tax debt.
Under certain circumstances, taxpayers can have their tax debt partially forgiven. When the IRS considers forgiving your tax liability, they look at your present financial condition first. This means the IRS can’t collect more than you can reasonably pay. If any collection action would force you into a financial crisis where you lose all sense of financial security, the IRS can’t collect the back taxes.
Know What You Owe
Before applying for IRS programs, find out how much in taxes you owe to the IRS. Knowing where you currently stand with your tax debt is vital when it comes to asking for IRS forgiveness.
There are many different ways to find out how much you owe, including checking online through the IRS’s new portal, calling the IRS, mailing the IRS a form, and having a tax professional do the research for you. No matter how you figure out how much you owe in back taxes, you’ll need to know before seeking forgiveness.
Be on the Lookout for IRS Collection Actions
If you can’t pay but you haven’t reached out to the IRS for forgiveness or assistance, you should still expect them to begin taking collection actions against you. These actions can range from seemingly benign, like loads of notices in the mail, to very aggressive, like private debt collection agencies getting involved and tracking you down. You could also find that your passport is at risk due to tax debt.
Some of the IRS’s often-used collection actions include:
A tax lien is the government’s claim against your property, which will secure their interest in your assets if you fail to pay your tax debt. Unlike a levy, a lien doesn’t mean your property will be taken immediately. However, you’ll still need to address the lien. Not only can a lien keep you from selling your property, but it can also snowball into a more aggressive action in the future.
A tax levy is the government’s legal seizure of your property to satisfy your outstanding unpaid tax debt. You should receive a notice of levy from the IRS, which will let you know that they are planning to pursue levying actions against you.
Levies can be placed on personal property like your home, car, or boat. They can also be placed on your assets, like your bank funds, tax refunds, and wages.
Wage garnishment is a type of tax levy in which the IRS will take part of your income in order to settle your existing tax debt. They will do this through your employer and will continue garnishing your wages until your tax debt is paid or other arrangements are made to pay your tax debt.
For more information about wage garnishment, check out this infographic:
If you find yourself facing these collection actions and they seriously threaten your financial security, tax debt forgiveness could be what you need.
Pay Less Than You Owe with Offer in Compromise
If you have the resources to pay a partial amount of your IRS tax debt, there’s still hope. You can apply for the IRS government payment plan called an Offer in Compromise (OIC) to resolve the remaining amount. Depending on your financial capacity and upon acceptance, the IRS significantly reduces the total debt that you can pay. This reduced amount can be paid in a lump sum or in fixed monthly payments.
There is a catch with the Offer in Compromise program though. It isn’t always easy to qualify for an OIC. The IRS considers your ability to pay, income, expenses, and asset equity when determining your eligibility for an OIC. While it can be a life-changing tax resolution for many people, the IRS doesn’t give an Offer in Compromise easily.
Here are some common reasons for ineligibility:
- You haven’t filed all required tax returns
- You haven’t made any required estimated tax payments
- You’re currently in an open bankruptcy proceeding
- You own a business with employees and haven’t submitted all required tax deposits
- You could pay your tax debt in a lump sum or through an installment agreement and/or equity in assets
But don’t let any catches deter you from seeking back taxes help. If you’re concerned you may not qualify for an OIC, consult a tax professional to see what IRS forgiveness options might be available to you.
See If You Qualify for the IRS Fresh Start Initiative
To make it easier for taxpayers to qualify for an OIC, the IRS has expanded their Fresh Start initiative.
These changes to the Fresh Start initiative make it easier to afford your IRS tax payments. Now, you won’t have to disclose extensive financial details to the IRS to judge your paying ability.
- Instead of looking at five years of future income to determine reasonable collection potential, the IRS now looks at only one to two year of future income for offers, depending on the payment period.
- Taxpayers are now allowed to make their student loan’s minimum payments for post-high school education loans guaranteed by the federal government.
- Taxpayers may, under certain conditions including financial hardship, pay delinquent federal and state or local taxes in monthly installments if they cannot pay it in full.
- The IRS has expanded the Allowable Living Expense standards. This allowance now includes credit card payments, bank fees and charges, and other various allowances.
- The IRS has doubled the dollar threshold for taxpayers eligible for Installment Agreements, which will help more people qualify.
What’s Next If You Owe Tax Debt?
Understanding your tax debt and dealing with the IRS isn’t easy to do alone, even with available programs like Fresh Start. Fortunately, there are professionals who can help you navigate your options. In fact, professional help may be necessary for you to get the best outcome for your tax problems.
Tax Defense Network’s team of trained tax professionals has been helping people with IRS issues since 2007. It all starts with a free consultation to get you on your way to a better tax solution.
No one wants to owe the Internal Revenue Service. Ideally, you’d pay the exact right amount of income taxes and be on your way without a second thought. Or maybe you’d just end up with a surprising but welcome tax refund once you file. But that’s not always what happens.
Sometimes, an unexpected amount of back taxes can pile up. You may know you have a federal tax balance but still wonder, “How much do I owe the IRS?” Don’t wait for those scary IRS notices to find out. We can help you figure it out, using one of four easy methods.
1. Use the IRS’s handy online system
Back in Dec. 2016, the IRS released an online tool for taxpayers. This tool acts as a portal for you to view your account with the IRS. You’ll be able to see your payoff amount, the balance for each tax year that you owe, and up to 24 months of payment history. Your account balance will update no more than once every 24 hours and usually overnight. It’s completely free; all you need to do is register to access your account.
However, there are two catches to using this tool.
The first is that you can only access it during certain times.
- Monday 6:00 a.m. to Saturday 9:00 p.m. ET
- Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to midnight ET
The tool occasionally goes offline during additional hours to allow for maintenance.
The second catch is that you must provide specific information to gain access to the tool, including:
- Social security number or Individual Tax Identification Number
- Date of birth
- Filing status
- Mailing address from your last tax return
- An email address
- A mobile phone
- An account number from a financial account, which could be:
- Credit Card
- Student Loan
- Mortgage or Home Equity Loan
- Home Equity Line of Credit
- Auto Loan
This information is meant to verify your identity, but it can be a pain to rustle it all together.
The IRS will also pull a credit report with this information to ensure you are who you say you are. But this is a soft inquiry, so it won’t impact your credit score and lenders won’t be able to see it.
If you decide to register and use the online portal, you can even use it to pay your taxes online. It’ll take one to three weeks for your payments to show up in the Payment History page.
2. Pick up the phone and call the IRS
Not a big fan of using online tools to deal with your federal taxes? Don’t have all the info you need to access the online service? Don’t worry, you’ve got other options.
Your first option is to give the IRS a call. You may have to deal with a wait time, which averages about 27 minutes during post-filing season. But once you’re connected, a representative from the IRS should be able to tell you how much you owe.
Our suggestion: Call as early in the day as possible to prevent longer hold times.
If you’re an individual taxpayer looking into your balance, you can call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 between 7:00 a.m. and 7 p.m. local time.
Representing a business? Call the IRS at 1-800-829-4933 instead between 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. local time.
3. Fill out a form and drop it in the mail
Another option outside of the online portal is to contact the IRS by sending a form through snail mail.
While this is a viable option for any taxpayer, keep in mind that it will take much longer due to the nature of mail. And if you do owe, penalties and interest will continue to accrue while you wait for a response.
You’ll also want to make sure the IRS has your current address. If they don’t, they’ll send their response (and any other notices) to the most recent address they have on file, which may not be your current one.
Individual taxpayers who filed a Form 1040, 1040A, or 1040EZ can request an Account Transcript. This transcript will only cover a single tax year and might not include any tax penalties, interest, or additional charges.
If you filed another type of form or are representing a business, you’ll need to submit Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return. Once the IRS receives and processes your 4506-T form, they will send you a free transcript.
4. Consult tax debt relief professionals who can figure it out for you
The last option may be the easiest and most hands-free answer to the question, “How much do I owe the IRS?” No need for an online portal, a phone call, or a form in the mail. Instead, you can have someone do that leg work for you.
Tax debt professionals (like CPAs, tax attorneys, and EAs) can work with the IRS on your behalf to find out exactly how much your tax liability is. All you’ll need to do is give them the information they need and kick back while they deal with the IRS for you. And once they find out how much you owe, they can offer you customized solutions.
What to do if you owe the IRS but can’t pay
Once you figure out how much you owe the IRS, your next step is to figure out what to do about it.
If you have money in your bank account to cover your balance, it’s as easy as just paying that payoff amount to the IRS.
But what do you do if you don’t have the money to pay your taxes owed?
The IRS isn’t blind to this problem. They offer solutions for cases like this, which include an installment agreement and Offer in Compromise. Not everyone qualifies for each solution though, so it’s important to find an available option that can offer you some relief.
If you went with the tax debt relief expert route, they’ll be able to walk you through the options available to you and what they would suggest for your unique situation. Our tax pros will even do the heavy lifting to set up a tax resolution that works for you, whether it be a payment plan or an appeal.
If you need back taxes help, reach out for assistance before the tax debt storm comes your way. Liens and garnishment loom on the horizon until you take action to deal with your tax liability. Remember, our tax professionals are only a phone call away.
Running a small business is hard enough without taxes complicating everything. Even if you do your best to file accurately and on time, there’s still a chance you could face an audit. And IRS audits for small business owners are no joke. You can’t stop an audit once it has started and the audit penalties can be brutal. So, what can you do? If you learn about the following small business tax audit triggers, your chances of avoiding them in the future should be much higher.
Here are some common small business tax audit triggers:
Believe it or not, the IRS notices when you file late, especially if you continue to file late annually. And with those late tax returns, they’re more likely to turn a more inquisitive eye to what you’re reporting and why.
The fix here is simple: file on time. We know it’s not always that easy. But timely filing can help keep you out of the IRS’s crosshairs, assuming nothing else catches their eye on your return.
Overdoing it with deductions
We know how important deductions are to a small business owner. And there’s nothing wrong with claiming certain deductions, like the new 20% pass-through deduction. The problem instead lies with trying to claim every deduction that might work for you. Higher than normal meal expenses and claiming your car as 100% business use are big indicators to the IRS that something’s amiss.
And don’t get too comfortable with the simplified method that was announced in 2013 when it comes to the home office deduction. The filing method may be easier, but the requirements are still very complex.
The part of your house that can be claimed must be solely dedicated to your business. This means that if you use some square footage of your home office for personal reasons, the whole room won’t qualify, just the part used for business. When the requirements for a deduction are this complex, trust that the IRS is keeping a serious eye on anyone who claims it.
There are two things to keep in mind when claiming deductions:
- You’ll want to be consistent year-over-year with your deductions.
Keep in mind the IRS’s “ordinary and necessary” rule when it comes to deductions. If the expense can be considered both ordinary and necessary to your business and to others in your line of business, you should be able to defend claiming it as a deduction. Those expenses shouldn’t change drastically from year to year.
- You don’t want to claim deductions that are out of proportion with your taxable income.
The IRS has their ways of determining how many deductions are too many for individuals in varying income brackets. If you’re claiming deductions that are way too high for your business’s income range, the IRS may come sniffing around. Stay prepared by keeping detailed records of any deductions that look uneven.
Reporting consistent business losses
Have you reported net losses over the past few years? According to the IRS (and most small business owners), the purpose of a business is to earn money. When the IRS notices a business not earning money year after year, they’ll perk up.
If your business is a startup and it takes a loss in its first year, your chance of being audited is lower. And if you earn a profit from your business for three of every five years, you’re likely in the clear.
However, if you only earn a profit from two of five years in business, the IRS may audit you. They’ll want to find out if your business is actually a business or just a hobby.
This trigger is a particularly vital one if you have a sole proprietorship, as it can make your audit risk skyrocket. Sole proprietorships are particularly susceptible to mixing personal and business expenses.
Having large cash transactions
Let’s face the fact: Cash is harder to track than credit card transactions and checks. Businesses that deal in large cash transactions are often at risk in the IRS’s eyes of underreporting and therefore not paying enough taxes.
Maintain good records of your cash transactions to ensure you can show your own detailed tracking of cash coming through your business. You’ll also want to file Form 8300 if your business accepts any cash payments over $10,000. At the end of the day, documentation makes a huge difference when you find yourself amid a tax audit.
Rounding numbers and messy math
We know you learned in school to round up when calculating final numbers. But that’s not the best route to take when filling out your tax forms.
You don’t want to report your income as $85,000 if you made $85,025.63 that year. Perfect numbers can stand out to an auditor. Of course, if you made $85,000 perfectly, report that exact number. Be sure you have the records to prove it down to the cent.
Also, if what you report on your return doesn’t align with your business records, don’t assume the IRS won’t notice. The IRS is as serious about math as your eighth-grade algebra teacher, so they will double check the calculations on your returns. And if something doesn’t line up, they’ll be sure to track down the cause.
The best way to avoid a small business tax audit:
Knowing these major audit red flags will help you avoid them in the future. Keeping detailed and extensive records of your expenses and transactions can also be a lifesaver.
However, sometimes it’s the least common audit trigger that can catch you in an audit trap. If you want to avoid a small business tax audit, seek out a trusted tax professional.
Tax pros like ours are well-versed in tax law and know what serious small business tax audit triggers to avoid. They have experience in filing small business taxes to maximize your deductions and minimize your chances of a tax audit.
If something does happen and you find yourself with an audit notice, we’ve got your back. Our tax experts have experience in tax audit help and dealing with small business tax issues. We make sure you’re never alone in dealing with the IRS.
Haven’t filed taxes in a year or two (or four or ten)? You’re not alone. While the majority of people pay their taxes on time, about 7 million taxpayers fail to file their taxes every year. If you’re in that 5% of taxpayers, you might be asking yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen if I haven’t filed my taxes for this past year or previous years?” Well, the consequences for unfiled tax returns aren’t pretty.
We’re not saying that the IRS operates like a scary movie villain, but they do know how to haunt people who don’t follow their rules and file on time. Their tactics range from disappearing tax refunds and credits to a not-so-pleasant surprise filed tax return on your behalf. The kind of haunting that the IRS will do isn’t so easily solved with burning sage or sprinkling some salt. Instead, this IRS haunting might be best solved by tax preparation help.
1. You Could Face Suspenseful Silence from the IRS About Your Unfiled Tax Returns.
Believe it or not, if you don’t file your taxes, it’s possible the IRS may not reach out to you immediately.
You’ve probably heard horror stories about notices piling up in your mailbox and IRS tax collectors knocking down your door. But you rarely hear about the even spookier outcome: that you don’t file, and the IRS seemingly doesn’t do anything in response.
In case the IRS hasn’t contacted you, don’t be quick to assume that this suspenseful silence means they haven’t noticed. It’s possible, especially if you’re self-employed and don’t have any W-2s or Form 1099s that get sent to the IRS.
However, it’s equally possible that the IRS doesn’t have your correct address. They could be mailing you notices left and right. But if they don’t have an updated address for you, you won’t get those notices. And unfortunately, that’s on you. It’s your responsibility to update the IRS on your current address.
2. Tax Refunds and Credits Can Disappear Before Your Eyes.
Say you didn’t file your tax return four years ago. If you had any tax refund due to you from that return, it’s long gone by now. See, if you’re due a refund for withholding or estimated taxes, there’s a statute of limitations that kicks in. If you don’t file your return within 3 years of the due date, you’ll lose that money that was rightfully yours.
The same goes for tax credits like the Earned Income Credit. In fact, the IRS can be even more stingy with tax credits. If tax credits can cause a refund on a previously unfiled tax return, the IRS is unlikely to give them to you in retrospect.
Why let the IRS keep money that is rightfully yours? By leaving your tax returns unfiled, you’re giving them the go-ahead to hold onto your hard-earned money.
3. You Can Struggle to Make Big, Life-Changing Purchases.
Think about those monumental purchases you may make in your life:
- A brand-new car
- A mortgage on the perfect house for your family
- A loan to start your own business
- Tuition to attend the college of you or your child’s dreams
One of the unexpected ways an unfiled tax return can haunt you is your sudden inability to make these big buys.
When you make purchases this big, you’re typically borrowing money. When you borrow money, financial institutions tend to require income verification to ensure you’ll be able to repay them. If you aren’t a W-2 employee, how will banks verify your income? You guessed it: using your tax returns.
Not having tax returns could indicate to lenders that they cannot trust you’ll be able to repay the loan. This isn’t to say you’ll be unable to buy a home or a car; just keep in mind that these processes will be much more difficult without tax returns.
Also, you’ll need your federal income tax returns to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Without this info to prove your financial need, you’ll be unable to apply for federal financial aid. Whether it’s for you or your child, this means you’ll miss out on helpful federal grants and subsidized student loans. And for similar reasons to those posed above with loans for cars and houses, you may find it difficult to take out private student loans as well.
4. The IRS Can Surprise You with a Twist Ending by Filing for You.
If you don’t submit a complete tax return, the IRS may do themselves a favor by filing a substitute.
Notice that we don’t say they do you a favor by filing your unfiled return. That’s because the substitute return they file on your behalf will not give you any of the credits, deductions, or exemptions you may have qualified for.
When the IRS files for you, it’s because they believe you owe them a tax debt. With a tax bill in play, the IRS has more to gain by filing for you.
What This Twist Ending Looks Like
You’ll receive a Notice of Deficiency CP3219N, which will walk you through their substitute return. You’ll have 90 days to file the return in question or file a petition in Tax Court. If you don’t do anything in those 90 days, the IRS will go ahead with their return.
Once the IRS has hit you with that twist ending bill (plus any failure-to-file and failure-to-pay penalties they see fit to charge), you’ll then have to figure out how to pay your balances owed. Otherwise, you risk facing further IRS collection actions like levies and liens. Of course, you always have tax relief help options you can explore like an installment agreement or an IRS debt forgiveness program.
However, it’s still best for you to focus on filing your own tax return to try and take advantage of those deductions and exemptions the IRS may have glossed over in their substitute return. Once they have your filed return, the IRS usually will adjust your account accordingly.
Instead of ignoring unfiled taxes, take control of your life. When unfiled tax returns are haunting you, seek tax preparation experts to help to clear the air. With years of experience under their belt, tax professionals like ours can make sure your unfiled tax returns are filed correctly while maximizing deductions to minimize any potential tax bills.
By now, your taxes have hopefully been filed. You may have come out of 2018 without owing the IRS (or even getting a refund). However, there’s a big chance you instead found yourself with a tax bill you aren’t able to pay. If that’s the case, don’t be too hard on yourself. Many people found themselves in this position due to a withholding mistake (thanks, recent tax reform!) Getting bogged down in frustration and fear of an unmanageable tax bill won’t help now. Instead, read on to determine if tax relief help is your best bet to focus on a brighter tax future.
You don’t have the money to settle your bill and can’t see how you ever will.
You’re feeling hopeless. Maybe your current balance with the IRS is more money than you’ve ever seen in your bank account at any given time. Or perhaps you just mortgaged a house or leased a car, and you’re concerned about what this tax bill could mean for you. Whatever financial pickle you find yourself in, the fact remains: there’s no way you can just make one easy payment to clear up this tax debt.
Tax relief help experts like ours have been around the IRS block and have seen all sorts of financial situations. They’ll take the time to learn everything important about your unique circumstance. Then, they will be able to walk you through your options to find a route out of tax debt that works for you.
You don’t know how to deal with the IRS.
Imagine the headache you’d have if you went to make that dreaded IRS call. You immediately face droning hold music. With every staticky chord, your anticipation gets worse and worse. Even if you get a pleasant IRS rep, you’re still ultimately getting ready to have a conversation with someone whose main goal is to get what you owe the government.
Okay, we’re sorry we asked you to imagine that. Instead, just imagine the headache you wouldn’t have if you had a professional working with the IRS on your behalf.
Experience is key when it comes to IRS dealings and we’ve got plenty of it. Our team has a collective 250 years of experience in tax relief help. We know what questions the IRS will ask before they ask them. And we can help minimize long delays caused by submitting unnecessary information or payment requests that we know they won’t accept. Working with the IRS is our specialty, so it doesn’t have to be yours!
You want to keep the tax relief damage to a minimum.
The worst part about tax debt isn’t the notices that the IRS will send you nonstop or even the anger you might feel for being in this situation. There are far more serious consequences ahead. From levies against your property or wages to penalties and interest that bury you in even more debt, the IRS can be unrelenting when it comes to trying to recoup what they’re due. And trust us, they can take things up a notch if they feel like you’re not paying attention.
The good news is that the sooner you tackle your tax debt, the better. By seeking tax relief help, you’ll ensure that there is a tax pro with experience and passion dedicated to working with the IRS to get you the best possible outcome.
If any of the above applies to you, tax relief help may be right for you – but be wary.
Tax relief help can really change your life. However, you’ll want to be careful. There are tax relief companies out there that will scam you out of your money and leave you in a worse situation.
Make sure any tax debt relief company you decide to work with is transparent. They should be open about their pricing and what you can expect from them. Most honest tax debt relief companies will offer a free consultation to gain a better understanding of your current situation before discussing what relief options are available to you. They won’t promise you solutions like tax debt forgiveness without knowing the full picture. Feel free to ask about their experience and expertise to ensure you’re getting seasoned professionals on your side.
We’ve helped resolve over $18 billion in tax debt in the decade we’ve been in business. Our tax experts have a wide range of professional accreditations and are always ready to provide you with top-rated tax relief help. Contact us for your free initial consultation to take that first step towards freedom from tax debt.
Are the back tax notifications piling up in your mailbox? Or did you end up with an unexpectedly heavy tax bill after filing this year? When faced with loads of tax debt, it can feel like you’ll be enslaved to the government until the day you die. Thankfully, the IRS offers a way to pay them back over time. An IRS installment agreement spreads your debt over a set number of months while protecting you from serious collection tactics like liens, garnishments, and property seizures.
Here are five types of IRS installment agreements to make dealing with back taxes a little less terrible:
1. Guaranteed Installment Agreement
- Qualification level: Easy.
- Tax debt amount: $10,000 or less.
- You must meet the following criteria:
- Your past tax returns have been filed.
- The previous five years’ returns have not been filed late or paid late.
- You haven’t used an Installment Agreement plan in the previous five years.
- The entire tax debt amount will be paid in three years or less.
- You don’t need to provide a full financial statement to the IRS.
- Why apply: It’s called “guaranteed” because the IRS will most likely let you into this agreement if you meet the following criteria, and it’s simple to apply for yourself.
2. Streamlined Installment Agreement
- Qualification level: Easy.
- Tax debt amount: up to $50,000.
- Thanks to the IRS Fresh Start Initiative, this is similar to the Guaranteed Installment Agreement but for those with a greater debt (up to $50,000). The payments can span for up to 72 months.
- You don’t need to provide a full financial statement to the IRS.
- Why we love it: Streamlined has the simplicity of Guaranteed but with a higher debt cap and longer time to pay off (and no federal liens).
3. Installment Agreement for Tax Debt of Over $50,000
- Qualification level: Difficult.
- Tax debt amount: Over $50,000.
- The IRS will conduct a thorough review of your financial situation to ensure the earliest payment of tax debt. You must provide a detailed financial statement.
- Why apply: You can pay your large debt amount over an extended period of time.
- TIP: Enlist the help of a tax professional to make sure you provide the IRS with all necessary financial information on a Collection Information Statement (Form 433-F or Form 433-A)
4. Partial Payment Installment Agreement
- Qualification level: Difficult.
- Tax debt amount: Varies; unaffordable to you.
- Why apply: If you can’t afford the minimum payment for guaranteed or streamlined installment agreements, a partial payment allows for a longer repayment term. The IRS will reevaluate your financial position (including equity in assets) every two years to see if your fortunes have changed.
- The IRS will file a federal tax lien to protect its interests in collecting the debt. You may be required to sell property and assets to pay off your tax debt.
- TIP: Enlist the help of a tax professional to make sure you provide the IRS with all necessary financial information.
5. Settlement Agreement (Offer in Compromise)
- Qualification level: Extremely difficult.
- Tax debt amount: Varies; unaffordable to you.
- Why apply: This agreement allows you to pay less than what you owe to the IRS. It is best if you’re in a destitute situation.
- TIP: Enlist the help of a tax professional to see if you qualify for Offer in Compromise and to help you start the vigorous application process.
Let’s Make a Deal (with the IRS)
No one said paying back taxes would be easy. Dealing with the IRS isn’t any better.
Taxpayer history is the primary factor in determining what kind of IRS installment agreements you qualify for. If you’ve made a payment plan in the past with the IRS that didn’t work out too well, the IRS may be less likely to give you another chance. Additionally, the installment agreements above are all for personal tax debt. Agreements for business tax debt are a whole new ballgame in comparison.
No matter what your situation is, the best way to find a positive outcome when seeking an IRS installment agreement is to contact a tax professional. Tax experts like ours exist to help taxpayers like you who fall into common, yet unfortunate tax situations get out of the pit. Our tax professionals have consulted on over $18 billion in tax debt since 2007 and help hundreds of taxpayers score IRS installment agreements every day. For a free consultation on IRS agreements, give us a call today.
Tax Day 2019 has come and gone. The deadline for filing your taxes was this past Monday, April 15 (unless you are a resident of Maine or Massachusetts, in which case your deadline was this past Wednesday, April 17). If you forgot to file or request an extension in time, you’re now officially late in filing your 2018 taxes. But what does that even mean? What happens if you forgot to file taxes on time? We’ll walk you through the consequences of not filing on time and what you can do about it.
If you forgot to file, you could face the pesky failure-to-file penalty.
The IRS may assess the failure-to-file penalty to any taxpayer who does not file by the deadline and who has an outstanding tax balance. The failure-to-file penalty is 5 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month your tax return is late (up to 25 percent). You’ll also get plenty of reminders from the IRS to file your taxes.
Think you can avoid this penalty by filing today? Unfortunately, it starts accruing the day after the deadline.
If you owe taxes, the IRS could hit you with extra penalties, interest, and worse.
Forgot to file taxes and have an outstanding tax bill? If you didn’t pay the IRS the full amount of taxes owed, you could be facing a failure-to-pay penalty. If you’ve got the failure-to-file and the failure-to-pay penalties running at the same time, they’ll cap at 5 percent of your unpaid taxes per month.
As far as penalties go though, this year you could be in luck. More people than ever are expected to have underpaid the IRS, thanks to the reform affecting 2018 taxes. To help combat this issue, the IRS has expanded their relief from their underpayment penalties.
If this isn’t your first year forgetting to file your taxes, your consequences could be a lot more severe. In addition to even more penalties, you could face wage garnishment and other levies. The IRS could even take you to court. Now luckily, the IRS won’t take those drastic actions without warning, but it’s still important to remember how serious the IRS can be.
Owe more than you can pay? There are always options like a payment plan or an offer in compromise that you could qualify for.
Say goodbye to your refund until you file.
Got money waiting for you in the form of a tax refund? The good news is that you won’t face the failure-to-file penalty.
The bad news: Unless you file your taxes within three years of the corresponding tax filing deadline, you can kiss that cash good-bye. In 2013, taxpayers who didn’t file left $1 billion in unclaimed federal income tax refunds on the table. And that’s generally cash that people worked hard for but ended up overpaying the government with.
If your choice is filing ASAP or losing money, you’ll want to choose filing every time.
The IRS will consider reasonable causes for not filing by the deadline.
If you’ve got a good reason for not filing your taxes on time, the IRS might hear you out. They must determine whether your reason for not filing on time is sound and established (with proper documentation) before waiving or reducing any penalties. These reasons include:
- Death, serious illness, incapacitation or other absence of the taxpayer or an immediate family member.
- Fire, natural disasters, casualty, or other similar disturbances.
- Inability to get important tax records.
- Other reason that shows you genuinely attempted to meet your tax obligations but could not.
Note that not having enough money to pay isn’t a listed reason for not filing or paying on time. The only exception here is if the reason you don’t have the money to pay is similar to the ones above.
Even if you have a good reason, the IRS typically doesn’t waive any accrued interest on your balance. If the IRS charged interest on a penalty that they are reducing or removing due to reasonable cause, they can reduce or remove that specific interest.
So, what should you do if you forgot to file taxes?
Easy – you should file those taxes ASAP. The sooner you file, the sooner you get your refund. And if you owe the IRS money, the sooner you file, the lower your tax bill.
When paying right away isn’t an option, tax pros can help negotiate with the IRS on your behalf. Our tax professionals are always available to ensure your unfiled taxes are handled quickly and accurately. Tax Defense Network by MoneySolver has been helping individuals and businesses deal with tax issues with the IRS for over a decade, and there’s little we haven’t been able to help with. If your situation is fixable without our services, we’ll let you know that up front, too. Start with a free consultation today.
It’s not just you; it really does feel like the first few months of 2019 have flown by. We’re finding it hard to believe the federal tax deadline is next week! If you’re in the same boat and don’t know how you’re going to get your taxes filed in time, there’s no need to stress. A simple tax extension can give you the time you need. And rest assured, lots of people will need one this year. In fact, a record 14.6 million requests for filing extensions are expected this tax season. So, if you’re not sure how to file a tax extension, here’s our guide to getting that extension submitted on time.
When Is the Tax Deadline Again?
Unless you live in Maine or Massachusetts, you have until April 15, 2019, to file your federal tax returns. If you are a resident of Maine or Massachusetts, you’ve got until April 17 to file thanks to two legal holidays.
What Happens If I Don’t File a Tax Extension?
If you don’t file your tax return by the due date (or by the extended due date if you had an approved extension), you face the wrath of the IRS in the form of the failure-to-file penalty. This is a five percent per month penalty on any unpaid tax balance you have. This penalty is charged each month (or even part of a month) that the return is late, for up to five months. Even if you file your return less than 30 days late, the failure-to-file penalty will apply for the whole month.
Didn’t file your extension on time and owe taxes? You can also receive a failure-to-pay penalty along with your failure-to-file penalty. If you have both these penalties running simultaneously, the IRS limits their combination to 5 percent overall. But let’s be honest: no one wants two IRS penalties at the same time.
Some people are afraid to file an extension because they think it could trigger an audit. However, the IRS encourages taxpayers to file for an extension if needed to help reduce tax-filing errors.
OK, but How Do I File a Tax Extension?
You can file for a six-month tax extension using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. The IRS will review and hopefully approve your extension. Once you’ve gotten that approval, you’ll have until Oct. 15, 2019, to file your federal tax return.
You can either fill this form out and mail it to the IRS or you can submit it using a Free File software company. Some of these companies will also help you estimate what you’ll owe the IRS, so you can pay on time.
Whichever way you choose to submit Form 4868, make sure you do so by the due date of your return.
Remember: An extension to file is not an extension to pay.
Just because you have an extension on filing your taxes doesn’t mean you’ll have an extension on paying any taxes you owe this year.
What does this mean for you? If you don’t pay the taxes you owe by the April deadline, you stand to face the interest charged on any unpaid tax balance. The IRS might also hit you with an underpayment penalty or a failure-to-pay penalty on any overdue taxes. However, some taxpayers may have a break from these penalties because of the recent tax reform. The Treasury Department has stated that they will allow taxpayers who paid at least 80 percent of their tax bill during the year to avoid paying penalties.
Also, if you’ve gotten an extension and you pay at least 80 percent of your actual tax liability by the actual April tax deadline, you can avoid a failure-to-pay penalty. How? You’ll need to make sure you pay the remaining balance by your extended due date of Oct. 15.
Even if you do owe, filing your extension will at least help you dodge a failure-to-file penalty. And since the failure-to-file penalty is usually higher than the failure-to-pay penalty, you’ll be dodging a much more financially-burdening bullet.
Will I Still Get My Tax Refund?
Unfortunately, no tax return = no refund. You won’t get your refund until you file your return. The IRS must process your return before determining if you’re due a refund.
Don’t let the confusing tax law changes cause you to incur a failure-to-file penalty. Especially if you’re a business owner, you’ll want to make sure you’re taking the time to make the most of your taxes. The best way to get some extra time is by filing an extension today.
Need help filing your return and maximizing your deductions? Our tax professionals are ready to help.
Back taxes are a slippery slope. They can come about when you don’t pay enough on your taxes, when you fail to report all your income, or when you don’t file a tax return at all. No matter how unintentional, that first step down that back taxes path can seriously cost you. And it can be frightening to try and figure out how deep you’ve gotten once you’ve fallen. So how do you know when you need to reach out for back taxes help? What red flags indicate that you’ve hit the point where expert help in filing your back taxes is your best option?
If any of the following signs ring true for you, you may need professional back taxes help.
1. IRS notices have piled up in your mailbox.
If you have a stack of notices from the IRS about your back taxes, chances are it is time to do something about it. Instead of throwing the next CP14 notice on top of the rest (or worse, tossing it in the trash), reach out for help to put a stop to the endless stream of IRS letters.
2. The IRS has sent debt collectors after you.
While the IRS will stick to sending you notices in the mail, they can assign your case to a private debt collection agency. They will let you know if they do this. However, once it’s done, collectors will bombard you with phone calls and messages about your outstanding debt with the IRS. And as we all know, collections agents can be relentless.
3. Your passport is in jeopardy.
Believe it or not, delinquent tax debt can cause the IRS to deny, limit, or even revoke your passport. Say sayonara to all your travel plans until you’ve worked out a solution to your back tax issue. Once you’ve paid back your debt or made plans to pay back your debt, the IRS can reinstate your passport but it may not be overnight.
4. You lose your refund, your property, or part of your paycheck.
Refusing to pay your back taxes can result in a tax levy, which means that the government could take your property to satisfy your outstanding debt. They can also take your tax refund and even levy your wages in an attempt to regain what is due to them. While the IRS will send you notices in the mail beforehand, a levy can still shake you to your core. That’s why it might be best to consult a professional to help you fix your back tax issue. Keep your property where it belongs – in your hands.
5. The sum of what you owe (plus any penalties) is much higher than you can afford.
If you’ve got back taxes but you can afford your total balance, your best bet is to bite the bullet and make that tax payment. However, this isn’t often the case. Sometimes your overall balance due to the IRS (including any pesky penalties) is much more than you have available in your bank account. In that case, it’s in your best interest to seek out a tax pro who can help you resolve your back tax issue with a solution like debt forgiveness or a payment plan.
If you recognize any of these signs in your life, it may be time to reach out for back tax help. The longer you wait, the worse it can get. Give our tax experts a call today to take the first step towards freedom from back taxes.
Garnishment. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear that word might be a decorative sprig of parsley next to a fancy plate of porkchop. Or you may imagine a crisp stick of celery in a tasty Bloody Mary. Those types of garnishes are delightful and enhance your meal or drink. So, what is wage garnishment? Is it like adding some cilantro to your paycheck? Unfortunately, the truth is far less pleasant.
What wage garnishment is
Wage garnishment is when your earnings are legally withheld by your employer to pay an outstanding debt. A typical example of wage garnishment would be the IRS levying your wages in an attempt to repay your outstanding tax debt balance with them.
There are different reasons for wage garnishment outside tax debt. These include garnishment for student loan debt, child support, and consumer debt.
Wage garnishment isn’t a rare occurrence. In ADP RI’s 2016 study, one in 14 workers was found to be carrying a wage garnishment.
How wage garnishment starts
Wage garnishment starts when a creditor requires your employer to withhold a certain amount of money from your paycheck. Your employer then pays those withheld wages to the person or entity with whom you have a debt.
Some garnishments begin with a court order. But with federal student loans, back taxes, or child support, no court order is needed to begin garnishing your wages.
You should receive notice before the garnishment begins. For instance, the IRS will send you letters notifying you of their impending actions. These notices will often give you time to resolve the issue before the garnishment begins.
While garnishment is usually started once you’ve had an outstanding debt and received notice, there was a recent proposal in the Senate to legalize mandatory wage garnishment for anyone with student loan debt. If that proposal passes, employers would automatically deduct payments from the paychecks of employees who have federal student loans.
The rights you have in the face of wage garnishment
While wage garnishment can leave you feeling helpless, you still have some important rights:
- You must receive legal notification about the garnishment.
- There is a limit to how much of your wages can be garnished in a week. This can vary depending on who is garnishing your wages, where you live, how many children you have, and whether you’re head of household. If your wages are being garnished by the IRS, they offer a helpful table for figuring out the amount exempt from their wage levies.
- You cannot be fired from employment because your wages are being garnished for any one debt. However, there is not necessarily protection from employment termination if your wages are being garnished for more than one debt.
- You can dispute your garnishment if you believe you don’t owe the debt. This may require a lengthy appeals process, especially if your wages are being garnished for tax debt.
How to stop garnishment – and get your life back on track
Now that you know what wage garnishment is and how it starts, you’re one step closer to putting a stop to it.
Wage garnishment typically does not stop until you pay the entire debt balance in full. For IRS back tax issues, this balance can include any interest, penalties, and collection fees accrued over the course of your debt.
If you do not have enough money to pay the debt in full, you can always talk to a professional about the other resolution options that exist for you. With IRS wage garnishment, a tax expert can help you figure out a solution like a payment plan that works for both you and the IRS. This sort of resolution will result in the IRS releasing your paycheck garnishment. No wage garnishment means you getting back to living your life more comfortably.
It’s happened. You open your mailbox and there it is – the dreaded letter from the IRS stating that they’ve selected your tax return for “examination.” The IRS letter contains detailed instructions, but it doesn’t come with a translator. Before you get too worried about your tax audit fate, take a few deep breaths. We’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know about audits and how tax audit help could help you through this distressing experience.
What does an audit include?
When the IRS audits you, they’re saying that they want to examine your return more closely. They’re looking to ensure all the information you provided is correct. There are three different audit types to look out for:
- Correspondence audits: Audits conducted mainly by mail.
- Office/desk audits: In-person audits at an IRS office.
- Field audits: In-person audits that are either at your home or business.
The majority of IRS audits for fiscal year 2017 were correspondence audits at 70.8 percent of all audits.
What triggers an audit?
Audits are typically triggered when something on your return is abnormal or “off” to the IRS. This can be as simple as making a typo or error, earning more money than you have in previous years, or forgetting to report cryptocurrency. But the cause can also be more complicated, like a self-employment tax issue.
Other audit causes include:
- Failing to report taxable income
- Having three consecutive years of business losses if you’re self-employed
- This isn’t likely for corporations, but it’s still possible.
- Using round numbers on your return
- Deducting 100 percent of a business car
The most interesting audit cause? The IRS selects a very small amount of returns for audit at random as part of the National Research Program they conduct. That’s why most tax preparers cannot offer you an entirely “audit-free” return. Even with a completely clean return, there’s always a possibility that you could face an audit.
What can come from an audit?
There are three ways to conclude an audit:
- Accepted – the IRS proposes changes that you understand and accept.
- Disagreed – the IRS proposes changes that you understand but don’t agree with completely.
- No change – no changes come from your audit.
Sometimes the changes that the IRS proposes will include an increase in your tax bill. However, it’s not always the case that you’ll owe money after an audit brings about changes. In almost 34,000 instances out of the total 1.1 million tax returns audited in 2016, taxpayers received additional refunds totaling more than $60 billion.
No matter what conclusion comes from your audit, the biggest key is to watch out for deadlines. The IRS gives you a specific amount of time to respond and if you don’t respond, they will still post the changes.
Why turn to professional tax audit help?
There’s nothing that says you can’t take on an audit on your own, especially if it’s a correspondence audit. With these types of audits, you can usually complete them by sending the IRS whatever they’ve asked for. But if they aren’t satisfied with what you’ve sent or if you don’t have what they want, it could benefit you to seek out professional tax audit help.
You have certain taxpayer rights, which extend to the right to retain representation. This means that you have the right to have an authorized representative of your choosing to represent you with the IRS. Dealing with the IRS is far from your favorite activity. Luckily, tax audit reps like ours have experience in dealing with the IRS. Experienced pros know the right questions to ask. They can even translate confusing IRS terminology into phrases normal people can understand. With tax audit help and representation, you will rarely have to talk to the IRS. We’ll handle all the legwork for you and spare you the droning IRS on-hold music.
Is tax audit help expensive?
You may think you’re saving money by skimping on tax audit representation. But it can be even more financially damaging to receive a hefty IRS bill for tax deficiencies and penalties you may not fully understand. A representative who is well versed in tax code should be able to keep you from paying more than is necessary.
So give us a call today. You’ll have a free consultation with one of our experienced tax audit pros to get to the root of your audit issue. We’re always transparent about what to expect when it comes to our process and pricing.
Receiving your W-2 in the mail can be a heads-up for many people that tax season is in full swing. Because you need your W-2 in order to file your taxes every year, it’s a great nudge to get you started on your tax prep checklist. At the end of each tax year, your employer is required to issue your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, which details how much you made and how much income, social security, and Medicare tax were withheld from your pay. By now, your employer should have issued you your W-2, as the deadline for issuing forms to employees was Jan. 31. But what if you didn’t get your W-2?
If you didn’t get your W-2, take the following steps to ensure you receive it in time to file your taxes.
1. Contact your employer.
If you haven’t already, reach out to your employer or former employer and ask them to send your W-2. This should be the fastest way to get your W-2 form. Verify your contact information with them as well to make sure they sent your W-2 to the correct address.
Did your former employer go out of business or move since your employment with them? Still make an effort to reach out. Google is definitely your friend in this situation. Search for your employer online to see if you can find any breadcrumbs to follow and track them down. You can also attempt to send them a note via mail to their previous address, as there may be a forwarding notice with the post office.
2. Call the IRS hotline.
Still no W-2? Then, call the IRS hotline at 800-829-1040. Make sure you are ready to give the following information:
- Your name, SSN, address and phone number.
- Employer’s name, address and phone number.
- Employment dates.
- An estimation of your wages and federal income tax withheld. You can base this off of your last pay stub.
The IRS will contact your employer for you after this call. They’ll send them a Form 4598, Form W-2, 1098 or 1099 Not Received, Incorrect, or Lost. You should receive a copy of the Form 4598 as well, along with a Form 4852, Substitute for Form W–2.
3. Use Form 4852 in place of your W-2.
If your employer still has not issued a W-2 by April 15, file your taxes using Form 4852 in place of your W-2. It is important not to file Form 4852 too early because you could be charged penalties for “improper use.”
Always be sure to file your taxes on time, even if you use Form 4852. If you do not think you will be able to make the April 15 deadline, file for an extension using Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File on or before April 18. Filing late can cause you to incur some serious tax penalties.
4. If you get your W-2 after you’ve filed, amend ASAP.
Picture this: you didn’t get your W-2 in time so you went ahead and filed your taxes with Form 4852. The next day, you open your mailbox to find your missing W-2. Cue the eye rolling.
If you get your W-2 form after you’ve filed your return and the information is different from what you reported, you’ll need to amend your return. Luckily, amending isn’t too difficult. You’ll just need to file Form 1040X, Amended Individual Income Tax Return.
If you find yourself confused at any stage of filing this tax season, check out what our seasoned team of tax experts can do for you!
It’s a mistake that 21 percent of taxpayers could have made this year. Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that was signed into law in Dec. 2017, some people may owe more to the IRS this year than ever before depending on their tax bracket and filing situation. Why? They may have made a major tax withholding mistake.
While the Treasury Department and the IRS updated their withholding tables to offer a guideline to how much income taxes need to be deducted from your paycheck, some people did not change their tax withholding amounts accordingly. And if you’re one of these people, you’ll have an unfortunate surprise ahead of you come filing time.
Here’s what you need to know about withholding tax:
What is it?
Withholding tax is when your employer takes taxes directly out of your paychecks to send to the IRS and any state tax authorities for you. Employers do this in an attempt to leave you even with any tax collectors by the end of the year. If more tax is withheld than necessary, you’ll end up with a tax refund when you file your taxes.
When it comes to refunds, giving the government what is essentially an interest-free loan isn’t ideal. Still, it’s better than what happens if not enough tax is withheld.
What happens if I didn’t withhold enough taxes?
If you’re part of the 30 million people who didn’t withhold enough taxes in 2018, you may be in for a not-so-pleasant surprise when you go to file. If you didn’t withhold enough taxes, you’ll end up owing a big tax debt when you file your taxes (and potentially getting slammed with an underpayment penalty).
Tax bill too big for you to pay immediately? Don’t worry – there’s always options available to you. You can work with a tax professional to figure out a way to pay that will work for your unique situation.
Is there anything I can do to fix it now?
Unfortunately, you can’t change your withholdings for 2018 now that the year is over and done.
However, this is the perfect opportunity for you to update your withholdings for 2019. Since the withholding table has no foreseeable updates in the near future, you should make time with your tax preparer to review your withholdings. You can also use the IRS’s handy withholding calculator to check your tax withholding. If you need to make changes, update your W-4 form and give this updated version to your employer.
Performing a paycheck checkup now will help you ensure you’re paying the right amount in taxes throughout the year. Take some time to check your tax withholdings now to ensure you’re not left with a hefty tax bill (or an unnecessarily hefty tax refund) come filing time in 2020. If you need help figuring it out, give us a call. Our tax prep experts are always here to help you file timely tax returns to optimize tax breaks and avoid mistakes the first time.
If you’re a business owner, you’ve probably heard the buzz about the 20% pass-through deduction, also known as the qualified business income (QBI) deduction. Everyone discussing this deduction has proclaimed it to be a great perk for business owners. Still, it’s been hard to figure out how to claim it.
The IRS released some guidance on the QBI deduction on Jan. 19, 2019 in the form of 274 pages of final regulations. Sounds like it should have cleared things up, right? Actually, it only clarified that this is one of the most complicated changes that came with the recent tax reform. Let’s shed light on the basics of this intricate deduction by responding to some questions we’ve heard a lot since it was signed into law.
Answers to those burning questions about the 20% pass-through deduction:
What is the QBI deduction?
The QBI or 20% pass-through deduction refers to an individual provision (officially named Section 199A) in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The provision is only effective for tax years after Dec. 31, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2026.
Section 199A allows owners of pass-through entities to deduct 20 percent of the business income that is passed onto their individual return.
Why was it included in the tax reform?
The pass-through deduction was included to offer a tax benefit to businesses that help grow the U.S. economy. This tax break, however, is meant for a specific subset of business owners.
Who is eligible for the 20% pass-through deduction?
Pass-through organizations are eligible for the deduction. These organizations tend to “pass” the business’s profits “through” to owners or shareholders. The owners of pass-through organizations pay tax through individual rather than corporate returns. It’s estimated that about 95% of businesses fall into this category.
These are all pass-through organizations that could be eligible for the deduction:
- Sole proprietorships
- Limited liability companies
- S corporations
But there is a catch. Even if your business is a pass-through organization, it doesn’t mean you’ll qualify for the 20% pass-through deduction. There are some key limitations to this deduction that we’ll discuss in a moment.
What is a specified service trade or business (SSTB) and how does it apply to the deduction?
A specified service trade or business (SSTB) is defined in the legislative text of IRC Section 199A as:
“Any trade or business involving the performance of services in the fields of health, law, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, financial services, brokerage services, or any trade or business where the principal asset of such trade or business is the reputation or skill of 1 or more of its employees [or] any trade or business which involves the performance of service that consist of investing and investment management, trading, or dealing in securities.”
Any business that fits that definition only qualifies for the deduction if the owner’s taxable income is less than certain threshold amounts. Here’s a handy visual breakdown of the trades and business fields that fall into the category of SSTBs:
How do I calculate how much I could save with the 20% pass-through deduction?
Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just multiplying your pass-through income by 20 percent. Even most tax professionals have to run complicated calculations through advanced tax programs. The best way to really find out how much you can save is to find a tax professional who is experienced in running these calculations.
Can I split my company into different entities to lower my tax bill?
No. Originally, some tax professionals believed that they could split firms into different entities to avoid limits on the new tax break (also known as “crack and pack”). However, the IRS swiftly blocked this tactical move.
What is the best business structure for me and will it qualify me for the 20% pass-through deduction?
This is a near-impossible question to answer without knowing the specifics of your business and income. The pass-through deduction will inevitably help some business owners. Meanwhile, others may benefit more by maintaining a C-corporation structure.
Your best bet is to find a qualified tax professional who can evaluate your business and then give you personalized guidance on business structure and the best tax breaks available to you.
If I do qualify for the QBI deduction, what are the limitations?
Here are the main limitations of the 20% pass-through deduction:
- The deduction cannot exceed 20 percent of your taxable income in excess of capital gains.
- You cannot deduct more than the lesser of QBI or the greater of:
- 50 percent of your allocable share of the wages paid by the business with respect to QBI, or
- 25 percent of your allocable share of wages plus 2.5 percent of the unadjusted basis of qualified property owned by the business.
- This limitation begins getting phased in at taxable incomes of $157,500 for single taxpayers and $315,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly.
- As mentioned before, the deduction is temporary and may not exist past 2026.
- The complicated nature of the 20% pass-through deduction makes it difficult to navigate for the average taxpayer.
If I don’t qualify for the deduction, are there other ways I can save on my taxes?
Don’t worry. The QBI deduction is not the only way to save on your business taxes. The tax reform also brought along a lower tax rate for C-corporations and repealed the corporate alternative minimum tax.
In sum, the 20% pass-through deduction could bring you a great tax break. But it’s also a complex and headache-inducing change. The good news is that there are tax experts like ours ready to help you decipher what Section 199A means for you and your business taxes.
“But if the government is shut down, can’t I just wait to file my taxes or pay back my tax debt?” This is one of the most dangerous thoughts you can have during the shutdown. The IRS shutdown mode should not keep you from dealing with your taxes or tax debt. The government may be able to shut down, but you can’t shut down taxes or tax debt. With tax season beginning next week, we’ve put together a simple guide to help you prepare to deal with your taxes and tax debt during and after the IRS shutdown.
Here are some tips to help you make your way through this IRS shutdown and the aftermath:
1. Gather all your tax forms.
Make sure all your tax forms arrive on time. If they don’t, make sure you check your records to ensure you didn’t receive any missing forms earlier than expected.
If you still cannot find some of your necessary forms, be sure to reach out ASAP to the responsible party. The IRS may not be available by phone due to the shutdown. So, you will want to put extra effort into contacting the issuer of the form you need. If you’re missing a W2 form, be sure to contact the responsible employer before considering reaching out to the IRS. You’ll want to make sure you have all the tax forms needed before you file, otherwise you could be at risk for an audit.
2. File as soon as you can.
Once you have all your tax forms, don’t hesitate to start filing. The deadline to submit personal tax returns for most of the nation is April 15, 2019. The only exceptions to this deadline are for Maine and Massachusetts residents, who have until April 16 to file, and District of Columbia residents, who have until April 17.
If you do think you’ll need an extension past these deadlines, you can seek one from the IRS or state taxing authority. Just keep in mind that an extension is an extension to file, not to pay. So if you owe, you must pay on time. You’ll want to keep a copy of your extension too as proof that you filed one.
Also, you should consider e-filing this year. The IRS has strongly encouraged taxpayers to file their returns electronically in order to minimize errors and receive faster refunds.
3. Check online before you call.
The average wait time for the IRS between April 2016 and April 2017 was about 70 minutes. Even with the IRS bringing back 36,000 furloughed workers to work without pay, there’s no telling how long wait times will be now during and after the government shutdown. If you do call, you’ll need to maintain plenty of patience.
And if you were thinking of going to a walk-in taxpayer assistance center (TAC) or sending the IRS something via mail, you’ll be out of luck. The TACs are closed during the IRS shutdown and the IRS has said they will be responding to mail “to only a very limited degree during this lapse period.” Your best bet will be to use the IRS’s online resources to address any questions you have.
4. Get ready for the rigor of audits and collections once the shutdown ends.
During the IRS shutdown, they won’t be conducting audits or actively engaging in collection activity. You’ll still get automated initial contact letters about audits and any automated collection activity will continue. Just because they won’t be auditing or partaking in collection activities doesn’t mean you should put your feet up and relax.
In fact, this is the perfect time for you to prepare yourself and your paperwork for the inevitable. The government can’t stay shut down forever. And once the IRS is up and running again, they’ll be starting up those audit and collection processes in full force. You don’t want to be caught unprepared for something like that. Make sure you find tax audit help as needed and start looking into ways to stop those collection activities.
5. Don’t wait to take action on outstanding tax debt.
A government shutdown may seem like the perfect time to avoid your tax debt. It gives you so many excuses not to resolve your IRS bill: it’s hard to reach the IRS, they won’t be pursuing you actively, you may not be getting paid if you’re a furloughed government worker or third-party government contractor, etc.
Don’t let any of these excuses stop you from taking that first step towards freedom from tax debt. Instead, take this moment to confront your tax debt and explore ways to find relief. Our tax professionals can walk you through ways to get tax relief help during a free consultation. And if you’re struggling with tax debt, why not enter our #PayMyTaxes Contest for your chance to win up to $50,000 towards your IRS bill? Click here to apply to the #PayMyTaxes Contest.
At the end of the day, this IRS shutdown has come at an unfortunate time, coinciding with the first tax season that includes all the tax reform changes that came with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. If you need any help figuring out your taxes or finding back taxes help, our team is always here to help.
We couldn’t be more excited to finally announce our first-ever #PayMyTaxes Contest. MoneySolver’s #PayMyTaxes Contest gives entrants a life-changing opportunity to have up to $50,000 in tax debt paid off. Yep, you read that right. $50,000! We’ve even been interviewed by News4Jax about this awesome opportunity.
Here are four ways that the MoneySolver #PayMyTaxes Contest could help you change your life:
1. Winning the #PayMyTaxes Contest = reduced stress and space to finally breathe.
Studies have shown that people who struggle to pay off their debts are more than twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety. But what if that struggle was lifted off your back?
If you were to win up to $50,000 in tax debt off your back, you’d be able to take much more than just a huge sigh of relief. The winner of the #PayMyTaxes Contest will be able to brush that tax debt stress off and bask in some serious relaxation.
2. Higher likelihood of avoiding unpaid tax debt risks, like wage garnishment and liens.
No one wants to face collection activities. But if the amount you owe decreases (or disappears), it’ll be easier for you to avoid the consequences of unpaid tax debt.
Of course, if you still have some tax debt left over after that $50,000 is paid off, you’ll still have to pay the IRS the remaining amount to avoid collections. However, you’ll be a little closer to freedom from tax debt!
3. Lowered tax burden, which lessens your financial load.
Paying off your tax debt in full can be nearly impossible for some people. But the winner of the #PayMyTaxes Contest will suddenly find themselves free from up to $50,000 in tax debt.
That’s a lot of money that you’ll no longer have to pay, which means a much lighter financial load for you in the long run.
4. Lessened financial load = more freedom.
No more worrying about how your tax debt might affect your spouse or what happens with your tax debt when you die. With less of a financial burden on your shoulders, you’ll be able to explore the things you love and stop worrying about your tax debt.
Instead of having to pay $50,000 towards your IRS tax debt, you’ll be able to use that money to live your life. The cash that you would’ve used to pay the IRS could go towards something much more meaningful to you. And honestly, if given the choice, wouldn’t you rather spend $50,000 on yourself than on your tax debt?
So, what are you waiting for? With the chance to win $50,000 towards your tax debt and change your life, send in your application for the #PayMyTaxes Contest before the deadline of May 31, 2019. We’ll be notifying the lucky winner on or around July 4, 2019.
Click here or click through the image below to learn more and apply.
It’s been all over the news. We are currently in the midst of a government shutdown. Now that sounds bad, what does it really mean? And more importantly, what does it mean for taxpaying Americans and student loan borrowers? Let’s dig into it.
What is a government shutdown?
A government shutdown is pretty much what it sounds like; during a shutdown, nonessential offices of the government are closed. Government shutdowns occur when there is no approval on the upcoming year’s federal budget. If no agreement is reached on the budget, many operations that are federally run will close down (like national parks and museums).
Any nonessential federal employees will be put on unpaid leave (or “furloughed”). Essential federal employees may have to work without pay. Certain organizations may stay open by running on their cash reserves but only as long as those reserves last. Until a compromise is reached, the shutdown will persist.
What’s up with the current government shutdown?
The current government shutdown began on Dec. 22 and was caused over the inclusion of $5 billion in funding for a border wall. This shutdown is technically a partial shutdown because some departments of the federal government are still funded (e.g., The Department of Defense, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). However, the shutdown has affected 800,000 federal workers and even more third-party government contractors who may be left without work or pay. This could have serious implications if it isn’t ended soon. As of Jan. 12, this government shutdown is the longest one since 1973.
How will taxpayers be affected?
Currently, only 12% of the IRS’s approximately 80,000 employees are still working.
For those concerned about tax refunds, we’ve had some reassurance from the IRS. The IRS has stated that they expect to open the filing season on Jan. 28 and that they intend to provide refunds as scheduled. To do so, they plan to bring back a good amount of their currently furloughed workers to process refunds with no pay. As of Tuesday, Jan. 15, the IRS announced that they expect to have 46,052 employees for tax-filing season, or about 57 percent of its total workforce.
Still, certain IRS services like answering taxpayer questions will be severely impacted. Most of the workers on unpaid leave are representatives who respond to taxpayer’s calls, so you may have a hard time getting in touch with someone to answer your questions. The IRS receives more than 95 million calls on its toll-free lines every year. And with the recent tax complications from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there will likely be even more taxpayers calling for help.
With services stinted by the shutdown, it’s unclear how the IRS will be able to provide proper assistance to taxpayers.
What can taxpayers do?
File on time. Don’t let the government shutdown keep you from filing as early as you can when you’re ready. The filing deadline to submit your 2018 tax return is Monday, April 15, 2019, for most taxpayers. However, taxpayers in Maine or Massachusetts have until April 17, 2019, to file their returns due to the Patriot’s Day holiday and the Emancipation Day holiday.
If you have questions about the tax reform changes or your taxes in general, do not expect that the IRS will be readily available by phone to answer any questions. You’ll be better off asking any questions to your tax preparer instead. Here are some helpful tips to get you through the government and IRS shutdown.
How will student loan borrowers be affected?
For most borrowers, the shutdown still means business as usual. The Department of Education is fully funded. So, it can still disperse grants and federal student loans and collect student loan payments.
But there are some other ways the government shutdown could impact student loan borrowers:
- Qualifying for or staying on Income-Driven Repayment Plans: Borrowers may have difficulty qualifying for or staying on Income-Driven Repayment Plans (IDR) plans since the IRS has significantly reduced its activities during the shutdown. These plans require borrowers to provide their student loan servicer with proof of income, which comes from the IRS.
- Applying for aid through the FAFSA: Some students who fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) must prove their income, which again, typically comes from the IRS. With the IRS operating at those minimal levels, it may be difficult to retrieve a tax transcript to verify income.
- Paying student loans as a government worker: Any furloughed government workers who have student loan debt may struggle with repayment. They may have to change their repayment plan or even enter forbearance or deferment if they cannot afford their payments.
What can student loan borrowers do?
Keep making your payments on time! Just because the government is shutdown doesn’t mean you can stop paying your loans.
Are you applying for aid through the FAFSA and having trouble providing verification of income? If so, the Department of Education has announced that institutions may accept a signed copy of your 2016 or 2017 income tax return (as applicable) to verify your income. This should keep you from having to wait for a response the IRS.
The IRS has also announced that they will resume processing request for tax transcripts. Since they’ll have to get through the backlog of requests sent since the shutdown began, the IRS will need more time than usual to process requests. So if you’ve sent in a tax transcript request for proof of income, you may have a wait ahead of you.
Struggling to make your student loan payments because you’re an affected government worker? Your best bet is to call your student loan servicer to discuss your options. Don’t let this difficult time lead to default.
The government shutdown can be overwhelming. Even though some resources are unavailable currently, there are constantly new developments coming to light.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints and information expressed are that of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and official policies of any financial institution and/or government agency. All situations are unique and additional information can be obtained by contacting your loan servicer or a student loan professional.
Bitcoins: they’re so hot right now. You’ve heard all about this type of cryptocurrency (or virtual money) investment. People are raving about how much Bitcoin value has grown since its start. They can’t stop talking about how this interesting cryptocurrency phenomenon could be changing our economic landscape. Amidst all the sensationalized information about Bitcoin, there’s one thing that has gone unspoken for too long: Bitcoin taxes. Here’s what you need to know about these wild digital coins and what implications they could have for your taxes.
What is a bitcoin?
Bitcoins are a virtual currency, which means there are no physical bitcoins. You can use bitcoins to pay for goods or services or to hold as an investment. Bitcoins operate on a peer-to-peer exchange system. This involves using computers to track and log details of every transaction. Like any cryptocurrency, bitcoins are not issued or backed by any banks or governments, so transactions allow users to remain anonymous. Even though it’s not legal tender per se, Bitcoin has seen huge surges of popularity and sparked the creation of other forms of cryptocurrency.
How much is a bitcoin worth?
When bitcoins first came out in 2009, they were worth next to nothing. The first price increase happened in 2010 when bitcoins jumped from $0.0008 to $0.08 for a single bitcoin. Since then, its price and trading history have been very volatile. Most recently, it has seen a high of $17,900 per bitcoin in Dec. 2017, which was followed by a quick, dramatic decrease to $5,900 in Feb. 2018. Upon publishing this blog post, bitcoins are at about $6,500. The current price can be found here.
So why does the IRS care about bitcoins?
Bitcoin’s burst in popularity has lead to an explosion of billions of dollars in wealth. And the federal government is concerned that they’re not getting their cut. So in 2014 after a huge Bitcoin value hike, the IRS announced that they view bitcoins as property, which means that any tax rules that apply to property transactions also apply to transactions involving Bitcoins.
Interestingly enough, only 802 tax returns of the 132 million filed electronically in 2016 reported cryptocurrency income. So there are many people dabbling in bitcoin who are not reporting these transactions to the IRS. The federal government is not pleased and is determined to regain any Bitcoin taxes.
Why should I care about Bitcoin taxes?
In 2017, the IRS went after Coinbase, Inc., a large “digital wallet” company that allows users to buy, sell, and transfer Bitcoin. The court ruled that the IRS could gather data on all 14,355 Coinbase, Inc. customers. Since only 802 electronically filed tax returns in 2016 reported cryptocurrency, the majority of those 14,355 customers didn’t report their bitcoins. With this data in hand, the IRS will be following up with any Coinbase customers.
What could happen if I haven’t paid taxes on my bitcoins?
If you were a Coinbase customer and you haven’t paid taxes on your bitcoins, you should expect a letter in the mail from the IRS (if you haven’t gotten one already). This letter could be a notice of deficiency, to inform you that you haven’t paid enough on your taxes because of your bitcoins.
The IRS wants what they’re due. Besides looking to regain any Bitcoin taxes, they are also trying to find intent to prove tax evasion in people who didn’t report their bitcoins. And if they find you guilty of tax evasion, you could end up in jail. And while Bitcoin may be trendy right now, prison stripes are never cool. So make sure you pay back the IRS what they’re owed and continue to correctly report your bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies.
The moral of the Bitcoin taxes story
Just because your money is virtual doesn’t mean it’s free from taxes – or from the eyes of the IRS. The federal government wants more compliance but may run into issues taxing all bitcoin gains since lots of trading is done on overseas exchanges. Still, reporting on your cryptocurrency isn’t optional. There may not be the same regulation around reporting on bitcoins as there is around reporting stock sales, but it’s still the same concept. It’s still income and as such, the IRS needs to know about it.
If Bitcoin taxes have you scratching your head, you can always consult a tax professional who has experience with cryptocurrency to help you figure out the next steps.
With the biggest tax changes in over 30 years, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) brings a terrifying prospect for millions of Americas. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently issued a report warning that this new tax bill will make millions of taxpayers owe on their 2018 tax returns. Many of these taxpayers have never owed before, so it’s bound to be an unpleasant surprise.
Under the TCJA, many taxpayers will either under-withhold on their paychecks or underpay on their estimated tax payments. Across the country, CPAs are working hard to make sure that their clients will not owe on their tax returns next year. But the truth is, most employees currently lack correct withholding or have assumed that the W-4 they filed 5 years ago is still correct.
So, if you haven’t updated your W4 or reviewed your withholding, you may have an unwanted tax surprise coming in the new year.
What has the new tax bill changed?
The new tax bill has changed quite a bit since going into effect on Jan. 1, 2018. It has:
- Increased the standard deduction
- Removed personal exemptions
- Increased the child tax credit
- Limited or discontinued certain deductions
- Changed the tax rates and brackets
- Introduced a new 20 percent deduction for qualified business income
- Reduced the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent
- Increased the interest rate on underpayment of taxes from 3 to 5 percent
And with all these changes, you need to know where you stand before it’s too late to make changes.
Who will be most affected by these changes?
If you fall into one or more of the following categories, you’ll want to make sure you get a paycheck checkup:
- Are a two-income family
- Work two or more jobs at the same time
- Only work for part of the year
- Have children and claim credits such as child tax credit
- Have older dependents, including children who are 17 or older
- Have changed personal circumstances (e.g., got married, moved, etc.)
- Itemized deductions on your 2017 return
- Received large tax refunds or had large tax bills for 2017
- Earn high incomes and have a complex tax return
If any of these categories above apply to you, you’ll want to take immediate action to ensure you’re not negatively affected by the new tax bill.
And if you own a business, you’ll want to have an expert review your business structure to ensure you are enjoying the new positive, business-specific changes from the tax reform.
What can I do to make sure I don’t owe?
Don’t wait! You’ll want to make sure you get a paycheck checkup, especially if you fall into any of the categories above. You still have time to adjust your withholdings or increase your estimated tax payments to make sure you’re covered in 2019.
The longer you wait to make these adjustments, the more likely it is that you’ll owe next year. If you owe this year, you may owe even more than you ever have before, especially with the increased interest rate on underpayment of taxes. So, contact a tax professional today to avoid any unpleasant surprises from the new tax bill come filing time.
Lucky you! Maybe you won rolling dice, playing cards or betting on ponies. No matter how you won, you definitely had some cash flow coming in from gambling this year. There’s just one catch: Gambling income (including winnings in a jackpot, race, raffle, or contest) is considered taxable income and must be reported on your tax return. Did you win a car or another noncash prize? Then the fair market value will be taken into account for purposes of reporting and withholding. Gambling taxes can be a little confusing, so let’s clear some things up.
What is Form W-2G and how do I get it?
If a large amount is won in gambling, the organization that is paying the winnings sends Form W-2G, Certain Gambling Winnings, to the winner. This form reports the amount of your winnings to you and the IRS. The payer must send Form W-2G only if the winner receives:
- $1,200 or more in gambling winnings from bingo or slot machines
- $1,500 or more in proceeds (the amount of winnings minus the amount of the wager) from keno
- More than $5,000 in winnings (reduced by the wager or buy-in) from a poker tournament
- $600 or more in gambling winnings (except winnings from bingo, keno, slot machines, and poker tournaments) and the payout is at least 300 times the amount of the wager, or
- Any other gambling winnings subject to federal income tax withholding
You’ll also receive a Form W-2G if the payer withholds federal income tax from your winnings.
When the winnings are shared by more than one person, or when the person receiving gambling winnings is not the actual winner, Form 5754, Statement by Person(s) Receiving Gambling Winnings, is used instead of Form W-2G. Typically, the person receiving the winnings must furnish all the information that Form 5754 requires. You won’t send Form 5754 to the IRS. You’ll keep a copy for your records and return the form to the payer for preparation of Form W-2G for each person listed as winners.
Deducting gambling losses
Gambling losses can be deducted by itemizing your losses on line 28 of Schedule A, Form 1040. Just remember, you cannot deduct more than your winnings.
To find out how to claim your gambling winnings or deduct your gambling losses, you may use this 10 minute IRS interview. When using this resource, you will need:
- The amount of your gambling winnings and losses
- Your filing status
- Any information provided to you on Form W-2G
Recordkeeping for gambling taxes
If you receive Form W-2G, pay gambling taxes on your winnings, or deduct your losses, it is important to keep an accurate record of the precise amounts involved. In order to verify the amounts, you will need to keep the receipts, tickets, statements, etc. of each win and loss. It is also helpful to keep a journal or record of your activity. Overall, you want to be able to show your winnings separately from your losses.
Still baffled by gambling taxes? A tax professional can help you figure out the best way to optimize your tax savings when reporting your winnings and filing your taxes.
The internet is thriving now more than ever, which is good news for online sellers. If you’re a seller on eBay, Amazon or another online retail platform, you’re reaping the benefits of society’s online fixation. Just remember while you’re raking in that online cash: taxes for online sellers can be mandatory.
You need to pay income tax on profits from sales if they surpass a certain threshold. Beginning in 2011, online businesses such as Amazon are required to file 1099-K forms for those who earn beyond $20,000 in gross sales or have 200 transactions in a calendar year using their platform.
Have you only sold a few lower-priced items on a whim this year? Maybe you posted a Beanie Baby (and not even a rare one!) on eBay and got some cash for your troubles? You don’t need to worry about taxes for online sellers if you only sell occasionally and don’t make a substantial profit from your sales. And did you sell items for less than their purchase price? Then you need not report the sales on your return.
Who Needs to Pay?
Do you have consistent or recurring sales? And do you run the activity like a business with an intention to make a profit? Then you need to pay income tax on your sales!
The income you earn is considered ‘income from self-employment’. Therefore, you must file Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business of Form 1040. You use Schedule C to report profit or loss from a sole proprietorship. If you don’t run a registered corporation, then you must use Schedule C to report your profits or losses.
Sales Taxes for Online Sellers
Along with income tax, you also need to pay sales tax. Especially when you sell in multiple states, you are responsible for collecting and remitting sales tax in each state. And the complex rules of each state can be wildly confusing.
Want to ensure you’re not making unnecessary payments or unknowingly neglecting your sales tax responsibilities? Our SalesNexusSolverTM is designed to analyze your sales tax responsibility and validate awareness of where in the U.S. you have nexus and the corresponding requirements.
Paying Estimated Taxes Quarterly
If you haven’t been paying taxes on your online income, you may pay estimated taxes quarterly to avoid IRS penalties and collection actions for non-payment of taxes. If you think that you’ll owe more than $1,000 in taxes in a year, the IRS prefers that you pay your taxes every quarter. The deadline for making quarterly payments for this quarter will fall on September 15. The remaining three deadlines will fall on January 15 (2019), April 15 (2019), and June 15 (2019).
To pay your estimated taxes quarterly, you may electronically file and pay your taxes through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), or fill Form 1040-ES and mail it to the IRS. You may also pay taxes over the phone.
If you have any questions about taxes for online sellers, contact one of our tax professionals who can help you optimize and save on taxes throughout the year.
You’re only one person and, as such, you can only do so much for your business. Once your business hits a certain point in its growth, you’ll have to add more employees to your payroll. More hands on deck means more work can be done, which ultimately will lead to your longstanding goal of continuous business growth. Having employees can complicate your business taxes further though, especially when it comes to payroll taxes.
What are payroll taxes?
Payroll taxes or employment taxes are taxes that an employer withholds from employees’ paychecks to pay to the IRS. As an employer, you will have to withhold the correct amount of taxes from your employees’ paychecks.
You will also have to add taxes that you must pay as an employer. For instance, the employee does not pay Social Security tax entirely; the employer pays for half of it.
The responsibility of depositing the withheld amount resides with the employer.
When are these taxes deposited?
Until the withheld taxes are actually paid to the IRS, they remain with you, the employer, as trust fund taxes. Trust fund taxes include income tax, social security taxes, Medicare taxes, railroad retirement tax or collected excise taxes, and other employment taxes.
When it comes to depositing the trust fund taxes, an employer can choose either a monthly schedule or a semi-weekly schedule. It’s important to note that you can’t switch schedules during a year. So, you’ll need to choose one before the start of each calendar year.
You can use Forms 940, 941, and 944 to do your tax reporting. When depositing any funds, you may use the electronic funds transfer (EFTPS).
Why is paying payroll taxes important?
Payroll tax debt is no joke. In an effort to encourage employers to pay withheld taxes promptly, Congress passed a law that allows the IRS to charge the Employment Taxes and the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (TFRP). The IRS enforces this penalty if they cannot collect the required payroll taxes from a business. Negligent employers must pay a failure-to-deposit fee of up to 15 percent for not making deposits on time.
You can also face collections actions from the IRS for failing to deposit, file, or pay your payroll taxes. Therefore, both timely withholding of income and paying all payroll taxes are essential for all qualifying businesses.
If you need help figuring out your payroll taxes and want to avoid the risk of falling into payroll tax debt, contact us for solutions like our PayrollSolver™.
Mixing business and personal sounds like fun, but it can be pretty messy. When you’re mixing business and personal expenses, you’re putting yourself at major risk for an IRS audit, which is the opposite of fun. To ensure you don’t end up with a stressful audit, you should know how to define and separate business and personal expenses.
Business expense vs. personal expense
According to Publication 535 from the IRS, a business expense must be “both ordinary and necessary”. An “ordinary” expense is one that is common and accepted in your trade or business. A “necessary” expense is one that is helpful and appropriate for your trade or business.
For example, say you’re self-employed and running a cooking website as a small business. You can write-off the fancy cutlery you bought (if you’re using it for your business). But you couldn’t write-off a new television. You can deduct business expenses even if they are not indispensable to your business.
If you deduct personal expenses as business expenses, the IRS may conduct an audit. They may then ask you to remove the incorrect deductions and pay the balance.
Generally, you cannot deduct personal, living, or family expenses on your tax return. But what if you have an expense that is partly business and partly personal? You can divide the cost in half, and deduct one half as a business expense.
Avoid triggering an IRS audit
When you’re mixing business with personal expenses, your personal expenses can get confused with your business expenses. Sometimes it seems innocent, like extending a business trip for a week to include a vacation. But danger lurks when you are unsure of what you can deduct as a business expense, or you find yourself in a gray area.
In order to be certain you don’t trigger an IRS audit, consider the following:
- Never use your business credit or debit card for personal expenses.
- Keep business and pleasure trips separate. If combined, keep particular days for business and other days for family/friends.
- Don’t be tempted to write-off personal purchases (e.g., games, printer, computers, etc.) as a business expense unless you are using them to make a profit.
Other dangers of mixing business and personal expenses
Deducting business expenses as personal has another big danger: back taxes. If the IRS discovers that you deducted personal expenses as business expenses, they may charge a penalty for claiming false deductions and demand payment of the balance with penalties and interest if the filing deadline has passed. The unpaid balance after removing the false deductions will be treated as back taxes if you do not pay them before the filing deadline.
Instead of sorting out expense receipts later, it is advisable to separate your business and personal expenses for better organization and less stress at the time of tax return preparation.
What’s the only thing more uncomfortable than thinking about tax debt? Thinking about your own death – and then, what happens to your tax debt when you die. Planning the logistics of your departure from this world may not be the most comfortable activity. However, a little time and energy on your part can save those you leave behind from an arduous task. You want to be certain that your money, property, and assets are divided and distributed according to your wishes. As you navigate this essential realm of tax debt after death, it’s critical to determine how your taxes – and any existing problems – can upset your postmortem financial blueprint.
The Life of a Tax Debt
Any delinquent federal tax balance has a lifespan of ten years. This liability clock begins on the date of assessment and ends ten years later. For example, the IRS will not excuse a tax debt assessed on June 1, 2017, until June 1, 2027. There are factors that can extend this time frame, but if you did nothing to resolve your debt, you can expect that it will be collectible for a full decade.
During Your Debt’s Life Cycle
Any unresolved IRS balance is subject to collection activity. This means that you are vulnerable to efforts such as a levy against your bank accounts, a wage garnishment or even a property seizure. The longer you wait to make resolution efforts, the more likely you are to experience aggressive collection measures.
Tax Debt When You Die
Unfortunately, even your death does not necessarily excuse your tax debt. If your delinquent balance has five years left before it reaches expiration, then the IRS may continue collection activity for this time. And while you obviously won’t be liable for payment, your family may be.
In the event that you filed a joint tax return with your spouse and that ultimately yielded a tax debt, both you and your spouse are initially responsible for the balance. Should you pass away before this sum is paid, your spouse will still be subject to IRS collection efforts. Your partner can make an innocent spouse request if he or she had no knowledge of (and no reason to know about) filing errors which led to the tax debt; if approved, the IRS will not pursue collection activity against your surviving spouse.
Your family and friends won’t be vulnerable to IRS collections for your tax debt when you die. But the money and/or property you intend to leave them can be. Following your demise, any outstanding tax liability must be paid before your assets are allocated to your heirs. Failing to plan properly can make a mess of your affairs; one that those you leave behind will be forced to clean up before receiving what’s left of your estate.
How to Be Ready
You can never be completely prepared to shed this mortal coil. However, with some careful planning, you can be reasonably sure that a tax debt won’t complicate matters for your spouse and family. You may wish to consult with a fiduciary when arranging your affairs. And, if a tax debt exists, consider speaking with a licensed tax professional. As long as a resolution is in place for any IRS issue, you can rest easier knowing that you’re working towards outliving your tax debt – a proposition that both you and your family can appreciate.
Marriage is a lot of work. Once you say your “I Dos,” you start to realize just how much more you have to learn about your spouse. Sometimes getting to know your spouse better can be great. Maybe you discover they are an amazing pastry chef or can handle stressful situations with astonishing grace! But other times, getting to know your spouse better can be a little bit more alarming. For instance, what if you discover they have extensive tax debt with the IRS? Even if you are the picture of taxpayer perfection, your spouse’s tax debt and previous history with the IRS can affect you. No matter how much you love your spouse, it’s important to know how their tax debt can impact you.
Can my spouse’s tax debt affect me?
Did you file your return jointly with your spouse? If so, and if your spouse owes back taxes or other federal debts, it can affect your refund. The interested agency can try to recover the debt using your tax refund if they are unable to do so using your spouse’s.
How do I protect my refund?
Why should you lose out on your refund because of your spouse’s mistakes? If you do not want your refund to be taken away to satisfy your spouse’s tax debt, you can file for Injured or Innocent Spouse Tax Relief. This is an IRS relief program that releases spouses from the responsibility to pay a debt entirely owed by their spouse. You can file for Injured Spouse Allocation by completing Form 8379.
How do I retrieve my refund?
Even if your refund has been taken due to your spouse’s tax debt, you may be able to retrieve it by filing for Injured or Innocent Spouse Relief. The following must be accurate to recover your refund:
- You filed a joint tax return with your spouse.
- The return had a refund due, all or a part of which was applied to satisfy your spouse’s debt.
- You reported income (from any source) on the tax return.
- Your spouse owes the entire debt.
- You made estimated tax payments or had your income withheld for paying taxes, and/or you claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or other refundable tax credits on the joint return you filed with your spouse.
You can file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation with your tax return. If you are filing for Injured Spouse relief with your return, it may delay your refund as a result; the IRS will need time to review your return and process your request for relief. It might take up to 14 weeks for your refund to reach you.
If you have already filed your return, you may then file the form separately. The IRS takes around eight weeks to process Form 8379.
If you don’t qualify for Innocent Spouse Relief and are held liable for the due balance, contact one of our experienced tax consultants. We are well-equipped to find an alternative solution for you to resolve your tax issues.
Self-employment seems like the perfect set-up. What could be better than reaching your dreams your way? However, there is one downfall. Wage earners who work for employers have their taxes withheld from their wages and deposited with the IRS. Meanwhile, the self-employed have to calculate and pay their taxes themselves. Self-employment tax rules are different from those for businesses, individual taxpayers and those working for employers. Generally, the IRS requires self-employed individuals to file a tax return if they earn $600 or more from self-employment.
Many times, you can underreport income and incur a tax debt due to not understanding IRS requirements or a lack of information. If you are self-employed, consider the tax rules below when calculating and paying your taxes.
Self-employed individuals must pay the self-employment tax in addition to federal income tax. Self-employment tax includes the individual’s Social Security and Medicare taxes. You also must pay an additional Medicare Tax of 0.9 percent. This additional Medicare Tax applies to wages, compensation, and self-employment income that is above a certain threshold.
Self-employed individuals may also be required to pay Estimated Quarterly Taxes. Estimated taxes include self-employment income and any other tax an individual must pay. As the name implies, these taxes are paid at specific intervals throughout the year. Generally, if you expect to owe more than $1,000 in taxes by the end of the year, you should be filing estimated taxes.
Many times, self-employed individuals do not pay estimated taxes quarterly and wait for the traditional filing deadline. This leads to tax debt, as correctly paying estimated taxes every quarter is necessary to remain compliant with the tax laws. The IRS even charges a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax.
Tax Credit and Deductions
There are many deductions that you can claim. You can deduct certain qualifying business expenses from income to reduce taxes. Many self-employed individuals who work from home use the Home Office Deduction.
Self-employed individuals can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit if they file Form 1040 Schedule C. This tax credit reduces the tax liability of those employed by an employer or work independently.
Want to avoid mistakes in calculating taxes and running the risk of a debt? Either seek the help of a tax professional or keep yourself up-to-date about the tax laws that impact you.
All businesses are required to deduct payroll taxes from their employees’ paycheck and deposit them to the IRS. Mistakes made with tax duties can lead to an audit, tax debt, and severe IRS penalties. In order to avoid the risks that come with non-compliance, you should review past payroll taxes. Understanding how to resolve a potential payroll tax debt can also help ensure your business grows as it should.
Payroll Tax Penalty
A payroll tax penalty or the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (TFRP) is charged when employers do not collect and transfer payroll taxes to the IRS on time. Regardless of the type of business you operate, the IRS can penalize you on delinquent payroll tax deposits or filings. Examples of penalties for non-payment of payroll taxes are failure to file, failure to deposit, and failure to pay.
In order to calculate the TFRP, the IRS includes the unpaid income taxes plus the employee’s portion of the withheld Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes. If the IRS finds you to be non-compliant, you will receive an IRS letter regarding the penalty. You can make an appeal within 60 days from the date on the letter. If you don’t respond to the letter, the IRS will send you a Notice and Demand for Payment, after which they may initiate collection actions.
Payroll Tax Debt Resolution
Do you owe payroll taxes? Then, you need to make immediate efforts to resolve it, as owing payroll taxes can put your business at risk. In order to resolve your payroll tax debt, you may use a payment plan such as an Installment Agreement.
You may qualify for a reduction or forgiveness of penalties, depending upon the reason for the non-compliance. It may be helpful to enlist a licensed tax professional to determine if you qualify for penalty abatement and which payment plan you should apply for. Choosing the right resolution plan is an important primary step for successful resolution of tax debt.
Avoid Payroll Tax Debt
You must deduct payroll taxes from each employee’s paycheck and pay them within three days of the pay date. Employers cannot borrow from payroll taxes or reduce the payroll taxes amount. You may use Publication 15, Employer’s Tax Guide, and Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return to completely understand your tax duties as an employer.
Traveling around the world is already hard enough – and now for those with tax debt, it’s even harder. The IRS is now enforcing procedures that will put your passport at risk if you have “seriously delinquent tax debts.”
How Is My Passport at Risk?
Though the law behind this plan has been in place for over two years, the IRS is now implementing and enforcing the policy. The 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act states that the IRS can send notice to states to deny, limit, or revoke your passport if you owe delinquent taxes.
Under the FAST Act, an individual has “seriously delinquent” liability if:
- The IRS has assessed the debt,
- The debt is over $50,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest, and
- The IRS has filed a lien to secure the liability or the IRS has issued a levy to recover the liability due.
This amount of debt may seem hard to accumulate. However, one mistake or ill-advised taxable event can land you there quickly. In the same way, failing to plan for your self-employment income or defaulting on a secured loan can cause the debt to pile up. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent having your passport revoked, even if you meet the criteria above.
How to Avoid and Resolve Losing Your Passport
Passport revoked? It’s not the end of your travels. The IRS and State Departments can reinstate your passport if it has been suspended. However, they will only do this if you’ve paid back your debt or made plans to do so.
Your passport will not be revoked under the following exceptions:
If you received a notice of passport revocation before you established a formal resolution with the IRS, you can resolve it – but it won’t be overnight. Paying your debt back in full is the quickest way to release your liens and get your passport back, but that might not be an option for you.
Resolve the Issue with Professional Help
You can enter into an installment agreement with the IRS, which can take 30 days or longer to process. A successful Offer in Compromise will also reinstate your passport; however, this can be a very lengthy and in-depth procedure with strict guidelines. Unfortunately, Currently Not Collectible status (proof of hardship and inability to pay your debt), will not grant you the passport back.
MoneySolver knows how to deal with the IRS red tape. We can quickly show proof that you’re getting help with your tax debt situation. Avoid having your passport at risk due to aggressive IRS actions and get your life (and travels) back on track.
What is an IRS Notice of Deficiency (CP3219A)?
Your taxes are filed, and you’ve finally kicked back in hopes for a compliant tax year. But what happens when things don’t line up with your taxes? An IRS Notice of Deficiency, or Notice CP3219A, means there is a discrepancy in your tax information. This IRS notice lets you know that the information you reported on your tax return is different than what third parties, such as your employer or financial institutions, have reported to the IRS. The IRS will make the change to the amount of tax you owe based on the third-party reports automatically.
Agree with the changes? Great!
If you agree with the changes made by the IRS and you have no additional income, credits or expenses that you need to report, you’re all set. You don’t need to amend your return. All you have to do is sign the notice using Form 5564, Notice of Deficiency – Waiver and send it to the IRS. If you have additional income, credits, or expenses, amend your tax return and file Form 1040-X.
What to do if you don’t agree with the Notice of Deficiency
If you disagree with the notice, contact the IRS over the phone or send a written explanation supporting your position. You can also contact the third party that reported the information in question (e.g. employer) and ask them to correct it. The IRS will let you know how long you have to contest the notice. Don’t have your return handy to compare? Request a copy of your tax return from the IRS by sending Form 4506.
Be aware that the IRS will charge penalty and interest on the taxes that remain to be paid if the liability has increased. Immediately address the changes, and if they’re correct, pay the balance to resolve your back taxes ASAP.
Can’t pay the tax liability?
You can apply for an IRS tax debt payment plan. After receiving the Notice of Deficiency, try to resolve the issue immediately. Penalties and interest are charged on unpaid taxes every month until the entire amount of tax debt is paid in full. In other words, you could be paying a lot of extra dollars for your tax liability.
You don’t have to go through foggy tax issues alone. Reach out to a tax professional if you’re unsure how to approach an IRS notice, or if you can’t pay your tax liability. Without addressing it early on, you’ll receive additional notices that will eventually end in IRS collective actions.
Taxes are a sure thing if you live in the U.S. And when you owe Uncle Sam money, it can make a ding on your finances – and everyday life. That’s why if you owe, you must pay IRS tax debt ASAP.
Thankfully, the IRS offers several programs and services that help taxpayers that owe them money. The method you choose will depend on your specific situation with the IRS. Knowing what to do isn’t always easy. First, analyze your situation and organize all of your financial documents. From there, you can determine if one of these payment methods applies to your situation.
The top 5 methods to find a way to pay IRS tax debt:
1. Repay the full tax debt amount
The fastest and most efficient way to repay the debt you owe to the IRS is to pay the complete amount you owe. This is not an option for many who owe the IRS, which is why the IRS provides other programs and services to make paying your debt possible. Speak with a tax professional to see which IRS payment agreements you may qualify for.
2. Sell your assets (before the IRS takes them)
You may have to say goodbye to your yacht or untouchable sports car if you owe the IRS. By selling assets, you can apply the funds to pay IRS tax debt. Do this as soon as possible before the IRS issues a lien. A lien will make it more difficult to sell your property if you wait too long.
3. Withdrawal from your investment accounts
Do you have any investment accounts like a pension or 401k? If so, you could make an early withdrawal to pay off your debt. If you opt for this route, make sure you pay taxes on the withdrawn money or you could owe the IRS all over again.
4. Dip into property equity
Depending on the housing market, it may be difficult to take out a home equity loan or to refinance. If it makes sense for your situation and the market climate, applying home equity funds can be a viable method for paying your tax debt.
5. Use a credit card or bank loans
Using credit cards or bank loans may seem like merely trading one debt for another. However, the interest rate on credit cards and bank loans tend to be less than IRS interest and penalties.
Don’t wait until the letters pile up
When the IRS sends you a notice to demand federal payment, it’s time to kick it into gear. The IRS wants you to fully pay the debt within 10 days of the notification. This is doable via any of the five methods above to repay your tax liability. If you’re unable to use these resources or have a tax debt amount that you know you can’t pay, a tax professional can negotiate with the IRS on your behalf to reach an agreement. Don’t wait until your next notice letter hits the mailbox to pay IRS tax debt in full!
Across the country, CPAs are crunching (and crunching, and crunching) numbers to assess how their clients can benefit from the new tax reform law. And for business owners, owning pass-through businesses is even more enticing than ever.
What Are Pass-through Businesses?
Nearly 95 percent of businesses in the U.S. are pass-through organizations and for a good reason. The structure is designed to reduce double taxation, or taxing a business both at a corporate level and at the owners’ level.
Instead of a twofold hit, company profits and losses are sent straight to owners/shareholders without a corporate pit stop. Business owners then file and pay taxes through their individual returns (not corporate returns). Sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations all enjoy this no-double-taxation life. Most pass-through businesses are small, but a limited number of large businesses account for most of the profits and economic activity from pass-through entities.
Tax Reform Wins: How Business Owners Can Save Money
2018 is looking up for business owners all over the board thanks to the new bill. Pass-through entities can now deduct 20 percent of the business income that is passed to their individual return. This makes it a great option for low- to mid-income businesses. The single-filing threshold is $157,500 and the joint-filing threshold is $315,000.
Pass-through structure not in your cards? C Corporations will catch a break with the new tax bill, with a cutting the corporate tax rate cut from 35 percent to 21 percent.
Are you above the 20-percent deduction threshold? Is your business under a different tax classification? A tax professional can help calculate your breaks.
Not every situation has a cookie-cutter solution when it comes to business taxes. If you’re a business owner, a tax professional can also help you decide on the most cost-efficient business entity and what tax reform means for you.
Having assets in a foreign bank account may sound very mysterious and exotic. However, it can lead to lots of confusion practically when it comes to reporting overseas assets to the IRS.
There are many similarities between the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report (FBAR) and IRS Form 8938 (required under the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA), which has caused even more confusion among taxpayers. There is certain information that you must report on both FBAR and Form 8938. But Form 8938 requires information that isn’t included in an FBAR, like details on other foreign financial assets and income.
Do you have a financial account at a foreign branch of a U.S. financial institution? If so, you do not need to file FATCA Form 8938, but you do need to file an FBAR. If an FFI (Foreign Financial Institution) holds the account, then you need to file both Form 8938 and an FBAR.
Who Needs to File When Reporting Overseas Assets
Resident aliens of U.S. territories and U.S. territory entities must file FBAR, but not Form 8938. Filing Form 8938 is mandatory for those U.S citizens, resident aliens, and certain non-resident aliens that have an interest in certain foreign financial assets and meet the reporting threshold set by the IRS.
The filing threshold for FBAR is $10,000. If the value of your assets during a calendar year reaches $10,000 at any time, you will need to file an FBAR when reporting overseas assets.
Form 8938 has a different filing threshold. The amount of foreign assets for a tax year must be $50,000 on the last day of the tax year or reach $75,000 at any time during the tax year. These thresholds are for those filing separately. Married filing jointly and individuals living abroad have a higher filing threshold.
What You Must Report
For FBAR, you need to report if you have sufficient interest in a financial entity and/or have the authority to control the assets. You’ll need to report the maximum value of financial accounts maintained by a financial institution that is located overseas.
For FATCA Form 8938, you must report if you have any income, gains, losses, deductions, credits, gross proceeds, or distributions from holding or disposing of the account or assets that need to be reported on your tax return. You’ll need to report the maximum value of certain specified foreign financial assets. These include financial accounts in FIIs and certain other foreign non-account investment assets.
How to Report
You can file FBAR electronically using the BSA E-Filing System. It’s important to know that you never file an FBAR with a tax return. On the other hand, you always file Form 8938 with your income tax return.
If you have any questions about reporting overseas assets, contact us and one of our tax professionals can help you ensure a correct and compliant filing.
Unfortunately, filing your tax return isn’t always your only contact with the IRS for the year. If the federal tax agency finds errors on your return that lead to an assessment, they will send Notice CP14 for collection. This isn’t a time to freak out as long as you follow the appropriate steps to address the issue.
If applicable, you’ll receive your “balance due” notice within four weeks of your return being processed. This letter is the first contact from the IRS to collect overdue taxes. If you ignore or neglect to pay what’s owed, then the IRS sends additional notices and begin aggressive collection actions, like liens and levies. Here are three steps to take when you get your “balance due” notice:
1. Review the Notice CP14 Details
The first thing to do when receiving Notice CP14 is to know why you received it. The notice includes the following:
- The tax year for which taxes are due
- The notice issue date
- Your Social Security Number
- IRS phone number
- Tax amount owed
- Payments and credits
- Penalties charged on taxes owed
- The final amount due to be paid
- The deadline for paying the amount owed
The Notice CP14 also includes information on payment options, penalties, and interest.
2. Determine If the IRS Is Correct
Before agreeing or disagreeing with the Notice CP14, check to see if your return had errors that led to the assessment of taxes due. If you find errors, you will need to pay the amount owed before the payment deadline in order to avoid further penalties and interest.
If you don’t see any errors or you find a different amount than what the IRS determined, you can call the IRS on the phone number indicated on the Notice CP14. An IRS representative will assist you in resolving the issue.
3. Pay the Amount Due
You can make the payment indicated on the Notice CP14 using IRS Direct Pay, a service that allows you to electronically pay your taxes directly from your savings or checking account. Alternatively, you can pay by credit or debit card.
If you can’t pay the full tax owed, either send a request to the IRS to receive up to an additional 120 days to pay or set up an Installment Agreement payment plan. An Installment Agreement allows you to pay your tax bill in fixed monthly installments. Get help from a tax relief professional before requesting your Installment Agreement to ensure you get the best tax debt resolution for your situation.
Waiting for your refund check can make you feel as excited as a kid the day before your birthday. When you get that envelope from the IRS, you’re ready to tear it open and reveal your hard-earned money. But what does it mean when, instead of your refund check, you get a notice informing you that the IRS applied your refund to unpaid taxes? This happens when the IRS finds that you owe back taxes. They automatically use your refund amount to satisfy the full amount or a part of your tax debt.
What is this notice?
The IRS sends Notice CP49 to inform you about how much tax you overpaid over the last year (i.e., the amount of your refund) and how much of it the IRS used to fulfill your tax debt.
The Notice CP49 means that you have a tax debt or there are other federal taxes that have remained unpaid. If your refund money covered for the entire tax debt, then you don’t need to take further action. If your refund money didn’t satisfy your entire tax debt, then you can either pay the remaining balance in a lump sum or qualify for a payment plan.
Why was my refund applied to back taxes?
Many times, the IRS discovers that a taxpayer is under tax debt after they review their information and make changes to the tax return. In such cases of underpayment of taxes or owing of other tax debts, if the taxpayer has a refund, the IRS will apply the refund to the tax debt.
Simply put, if the IRS discovers that you have any unpaid federal taxes, they will satisfy the maximum amount of debt using your tax refund.
What if my refund didn’t cover the full amount of my tax debt?
Do you still owe federal taxes after the IRS used your refund? And can you not pay the balance in a single payment? Then you can use an Installment Agreement to pay the remaining tax debt in monthly installments. If your financial condition does not allow you to pay the balance, then you can consider applying for tax debt reduction plans such as Offer in Compromise or Partial Payment Installment Agreement.
Already making payments to the IRS under a payment plan? Great! You should continue to do so. The IRS will apply your refunds to your tax debt until your entire tax debt is paid off.
What if I do not have tax debt?
If you don’t have a tax debt, then you should immediately contact the IRS to correct their mistake. Your CP49 notice should have a toll-free number in the top right corner that you should use to call the IRS. Make sure you have your paperwork – including any canceled checks and amended returns – ready when you call.
Did you file jointly with your spouse? It’s also possible that the IRS applied your refund to your spouse’s tax debt. If so, you have options to claim your share of the refund.
Was your refund applied to back taxes? Don’t fret! Give us a call and we can help you figure out the best way to resolve your tax debt problem.
What if someone tries to submit a tax return in your name? Identity thieves often steal personal information from taxpayers in order to file fraudulent tax returns and pocket their refunds. But wait! Does the IRS do anything to keep these identity thieves from making off with your hard-earned refund? You can rest assured that the IRS has processes in place for identity theft. They use their handy Letter 5071C to obtain information from taxpayers to verify their identities. This additional information is meant to help the IRS prevent fraudulent tax returns from sneaking through their system.
What does Letter 5071C say?
Letter 5071C informs you that the IRS has received a tax return with your name and/or social security number. It also lets you know that they need to verify the identity of the recipient of the notice.
How do I respond to Letter 5071C?
You have two options to respond:
- You can verify your identity using the IRS Identity Verification Service
- Alternatively, you can call the IRS on the toll-free Identity Verification number in the upper corner of your letter
When using either of these two contact methods, you should have a copy of your last filed tax return and your current year’s tax return, along with other documents that verify your identity. Until your identity is verified, the IRS will not complete the processing of your return.
If you filed the return and there was no identity theft, the IRS should process the return in approximately six weeks. If you did not file the return, then you must contact the IRS immediately using either of the two methods shared above.
Will the IRS contact me outside of Letter 5071C to verify my identity?
The IRS will not ask you to confirm your identity via email or phone. Fraudsters use a number of tactics to deceive taxpayers, including sending out fake emails, letters or making phone calls. You should only respond to Letter 5017C to verify your identity and only use the two methods given above to provide information to the IRS.
Tools like our TaxSafe™ plan can also help ensure that your identity is protected no matter what.
When you take your taxes to a professional, you’re expecting to gain the peace of mind that comes with correctly prepared taxes. However, while you think you are doing the right thing, you may find out months later there were too many deductions claimed or the numbers didn’t fully add up on your return. This is what we call an unfortunate encounter with rip-off tax preparers.
Rip-off Tax Preparers: Who Are They?
During the peak of tax season, you can’t avoid seeing them. The young kids dressed as Lady Liberty or Uncle Sam are stationed in front of every shopping mall, holding signs coaxing taxpayers to come in and have their taxes prepared. Many of these establishments are legitimate and established, but some have just set up shop with only one goal: to get you the biggest refund possible by any means necessary.
Getting a big return is great, right? Not necessarily. The way these shops rake in money is by charging you a percentage of your refund. So the bigger the refund, the more they can charge you. There are plenty of these rip-off tax preparers around, all promising large refunds while preparing clients’ taxes fraudulently.
A former detective in Fort Pierce, Fla., along with his wife and business partner, prepared taxes for their community at their Premium Financial Services business for years until they were indicted on charges of tax fraud. The trio claimed false tax deductions on their clients’ returns in order to intentionally rip-off the United States government for upwards of $500,000. Furthermore, clients were faced with a tax debt because of the rip-off.
A man from Jacksonville, Fla., is now serving prison time for a First-time Homebuyers credit rip-off he pulled for clients who had not bought a home, and/or had no plans to buy a home. He also claimed fraudulent business and work expenses, resulting in $216,000 in tax credits claimed over the course of two years. Of course, he charged his clients a $1,000 tax preparation fee, but many were glad to pay it because of the large returns they were receiving.
Rip-off Red Flags
Taxpayers are not always aware of the red flags they should look for when getting a professional to prepare their tax returns. We have identified five main things to consider when having your taxes prepared:
1. Check to see how long your tax preparer has been in business.
Fly-by-night shops and those set up seemingly overnight are the usual suspects.
2. Check all credentials of the professional preparing your taxes.
They should be proud to show you their degrees or certificates. If not, run.
3. Check to make sure the professional has signed your return.
If they do not want to attach their name to your taxes, then you shouldn’t either. Remember, once you sign the return, any resulting liabilities are your responsibility.
4. Never sign a blank return.
5. Beware of tax preparers whose fee is a percentage of your refund.
They have more motivation to prepare your taxes with erroneous claims.
If you are a victim of a tax preparer rip-off, we can help. At MoneySolver, our goal is to help taxpayers resolve their IRS debt quickly and affordably.
If you’re a business owner, you know taxes are a part of the gig. And for S Corporations and Partnerships, the spring tax deadline is even earlier than for most (hint: it’s soon). Let’s unpack what these business entities need to know for filing by March 15.
1. Filing the correct forms
S Corporations file taxes using Form 1120S while Partnerships file Form 1065. Spouses who own an unincorporated business that is not treated as a Qualified Joint Venture also file Form 1065. File a Schedule K-1 of your designated return to report on information for each partner/shareholder, including the income, losses, deductions, and credits. This information is also reported on your separate, individual tax returns.
2. When Partnerships don’t have to file
If there was no income or expenses for the Partnership, you don’t need to submit Form 1065.
3. Avoiding the Failure to File penalty
We get it – sometimes, it can be hard to hit those tax deadlines. By filing on time by March 15, you can avoid penalties and interests later down the road. The IRS will issue a “Failure to File” penalty of $200 for each month the return is late.
4. Applying for an extension
Don’t panic if you’re not ready to file. You can submit a completed Form 7004 by March 15 to request a six-month extension of your business taxes (putting the due date at Sept. 17). Note that this will not extend your time to issue Schedule K-1s.
5. Filing electronically
Filing electronically is preferred by the IRS. In fact, Partnerships with more than 100 partners are required to e-file their forms. The same goes for S Corporations with $10 million or more in total assets or that file at least 250 returns a year.
6. Dodging an IRS audit
Just like filing individual taxes, businesses must ensure their returns are accurate to avoid audits and penalties. If you do find yourself or your business in a rut with IRS issues, a tax professional can help solve it.
7. Asking for help
If you need help preparing your return or figuring out your tax-related documentation, it’s easy to get help from a tax preparer. These professionals can help file any type of tax forms for S Corporations and Partnerships and meet quickly approaching deadlines.
File the Old School Way with a Paper Tax Return
Love the feeling of pen on paper? You’re not alone. A large number of taxpayers still prefer to file a paper tax return, even though the IRS prefers e-filing. For those who are not computer savvy, paper filing is preferable to electronic filing. If you are more comfortable filing a paper tax return, reviewing the following IRS online services may simplify the seemingly complex process of preparing and filing your return.
1. “Do I need to file a tax return?”
If you are unsure of whether or not you’re required to file, you may use the ‘Do I Need to File a Tax Return?’ tool on the IRS’s website to determine the criteria. You will need your filing status, federal income tax withheld, and basic information to help you determine your gross income.
2. “What is my filing status?”
Your filing status can affect your standard deduction, eligibility for certain credits, tax liability and filing requirements. If you are eligible to use more than one filing status, you may determine the one that saves you the most in taxes using the IRS service, ‘What Is My Filing Status?’.
When you use this service, you will need your marital status, and the percentage of the costs that your household members paid towards keeping up a home. If your spouse is deceased, you also need your spouse’s year of death.
3. “Where can I download tax forms?”
To obtain tax forms, including Form 1040, Form W-9, Form W-4, Form 9465, Form 8962, Form 941, and Form 1040-EZ, you can use the IRS Forms and Publications page. Tax forms and publications for individuals and businesses are available for download and print. The IRS also provides prior year forms, instructions, and publications for download and print.
If you do not find a tax form that you need in order to file, you may request the form(s) by U.S. mail. You may order up to 100 different products and up to 100 copies of each form you order.
4. “Where can I file a paper tax form?”
Depending upon the tax form you are filing and your state, the mailing address changes. If you are filing Forms 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ, 1040ES, 1040V, amended returns, and extensions (also addresses for taxpayers in foreign countries, U.S. possessions, or with other international filing characteristics), you can use this IRS page to find out the address to which to send the paper return.
You may check the status of your refund on the IRS service ‘Where My Refund?’ four weeks after you mail your paper return.
If you need any help while filing your paper tax return, contact a tax professional who can help you file a timely and compliant tax return.