Tag Archives: Essential Solutions

Medicare B Premiums for 2022

The base Medicare Part B monthly premium for 2022 increases to $170.10/month (from $148.50/month for 2021).

The higher premiums some taxpayers have to pay for 2022 vary depending on the taxpayers’ modified AGI (MAGI) as shown on their 2020 income tax returns. The various MAGI levels increased a small amount with the exception of the maximum MAGI levels which stayed the same (except for MFS where the maximum MAGI level actually went down). The exact costs and modified AGI levels can be found at medicare.gov by clicking on the “Your Medicare Costs” tab and then on “Part B Costs”. The top of the page shows the premiums for 2021 and the bottom of the page shows the premiums for 2022.

The highest Medicare Part B premium for 2022 is $578.30/month (up from $504.90/month for 2021) and applies to:

– Individuals with modified AGI of $500,000 or more.

– Married Filing Jointly taxpayers with modified AGI of $750,000 or more.

– Married Filing Separately taxpayers with modified AGI of $409,000 or more ($412,000 for 2021).

Year End Individual Tax Update

With the year-end approaching, it is time to start thinking about strategies that may help lower your tax bill for not only 2021 but 2022 as well.

Planning is more challenging than usual this year due to the uncertainty surrounding pending legislation that could, among other things, increase top rates on both ordinary income and capital gain starting in 2022.

Whether or not tax increases become effective next year, the standard year-end approach of deferring income and accelerating deductions to minimize taxes will continue to produce the best results for all but the highest income taxpayers, as will the bunching of deductible expenses into this year or next to avoid restrictions and maximize deductions.

If proposed tax increases do pass, however, the highest income taxpayers may find that the opposite strategies produce better results. Pulling income into 2021 to be taxed at currently lower rates, and deferring deductible expenses until 2022, when they can be taken to offset what would be higher-taxed income. This will require careful evaluation of all relevant factors.

Our firm has compiled a list of actions based on current tax rules that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all of them will apply to you, but you, or a family member, may benefit from many of them. We can narrow down specific actions when we meet to review your particular tax situation.

Please review the following list and contact us at your earliest convenience so that we can advise you on which tax-saving moves might be beneficial:

  • Higher-income individuals must be wary of the 3.8% surtax on certain unearned income. The surtax is 3.8% of the lesser of: (1) net investment income (NII), or (2) the excess of MAGI over a threshold amount, $250,000 for joint filers or surviving spouses, $125,000 for a married individual filing a separate return, and $200,000 in any other case. • As year-end nears, the approach taken to minimize or eliminate the 3.8% surtax will depend on the taxpayer’s estimated MAGI and NII for the year. Some taxpayers should consider ways to minimize additional NII for the balance of the year, others should try to reduce MAGI other than NII, and some individuals will need to consider ways to minimize both NII and other types of MAGI. An important exception is that NII does not include distributions from IRAs or most other retirement plans.
  • Pending legislative changes to the 3.8% net investment income tax NIIT proposed to be effective after this tax year would subject high income, phased-in starting at $500,000 on a joint return; $400,000 for most others, S shareholders, limited partners, and LLC members to NIIT on their pass-through income and gain that is not subject to payroll tax. Accelerating some of this type of income into 2021 could help avoid NIIT on it under the potential 2022 rules, but would also increase 2021 MAGI, potentially exposing other 2021 investment income to the tax.
  • The 0.9% additional Medicare tax also may require higher-income earners to take year-end action. It applies to individuals whose employment wages and self-employment income total more than an amount equal to the NIIT thresholds, above. Employers must withhold the additional Medicare tax from wages in excess of $200,000 regardless of filing status or other income. Self-employed persons must take it into account in figuring estimated tax. There could be situations where an employee may need to have more withheld toward the end of the year to cover the tax. This would be the case, for example, if an employee earns less than $200,000 from multiple employers but more than that amount in total. Such an employee would owe the additional Medicare tax, but nothing would have been withheld by any employer.
  • Long-term capital gain from sales of assets held for over one year is taxed at 0%, 15% or 20%, depending on the taxpayer’s taxable income. If you hold long-term appreciated-in-value assets, consider selling enough of them to generate long-term capital gains that can be sheltered by the 0% rate. The 0% rate generally applies to net long-term capital gain to the extent that, when added to regular taxable income, it is not more than the maximum zero rate amount, $80,800 for a married couple; estimated to be $83,350 in 2022. An example: If $5,000 of long-term capital gains you took earlier this year qualifies for the zero rate then try not to sell assets yielding a capital loss before year-end, because the first $5,000 of those losses will offset $5,000 of capital gain that is already tax-free.
  • Postpone income until 2022 and accelerate deductions into 2021 if doing so will enable you to claim larger deductions, credits, and other tax breaks for 2021 that are phased out over varying levels of AGI. These include deductible IRA contributions, child tax credits, higher education tax credits, and deductions for student loan interest. Postponing income also is desirable for taxpayers who anticipate being in a lower tax bracket next year due to changed financial circumstances. In some cases, it may benefit some taxpayers to actually accelerate income into 2021. An example: A person who will have a more favorable filing status this year than next such as head of household versus individual filing status, or who expects to be in a higher tax bracket next year.
  • If you believe a Roth IRA is better for you than a traditional IRA, consider converting traditional-IRA money invested in stocks and mutual funds that have devalued into a Roth IRA in 2021 if eligible to do so. Keep in mind that the conversion will increase your income for 2021, possibly reducing tax breaks subject to phaseout at higher AGI levels. This may be desirable, however, for those potentially subject to higher tax rates under pending legislation.
  • It may be advantageous to try to arrange with your employer to defer, until early 2022, a bonus that may be coming your way. This might cut as well as defer your tax. Again, considerations may be different for the highest income individuals.
  • Many taxpayers will not want to itemize because of the high basic standard deduction amounts that apply for 2021,$25,100 for joint filers, $12,550 for singles and for marrieds filing separately, $18,800 for heads of household, and because many itemized deductions have been reduced or eliminated, including the $10,000 limit on state and local taxes; miscellaneous itemized deductions; and non-disaster related personal casualty losses. You can still itemize medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your AGI, state and local taxes up to $10,000, your charitable contributions, plus mortgage interest deductions on a restricted amount of debt, but these deductions will not save taxes unless they total more than your standard deduction. In addition to the standard deduction, you can claim a $300 deduction , $600 on a joint return, for cash charitable contributions.

Some taxpayers may be able to work around these deduction restrictions by applying a bunching strategy to pull or push discretionary medical expenses and charitable contributions into the year where they will do some tax good. An example: a taxpayer who will be able to itemize deductions this year but not next will benefit by making two years’ worth of charitable contributions this year. The COVID-related increase for 2021 in the income-based charitable deduction limit for cash contributions from 60% to 100% of MAGI assists in this bunching strategy.

  • Consider using a credit card to pay deductible expenses before the end of the year. Doing so will increase your 2021 deductions even if you do not pay your credit card bill until after the end of the year.
  • If you expect to owe state and local income taxes when you file your return next year and you will be itemizing in 2021, consider asking your employer to increase withholding of state and local taxes or make estimated tax payments of state and local taxes before year-end to pull the deduction of those taxes into 2021. But this strategy is not good to the extent it causes your 2021 state and local tax payments to exceed $10,000.
  • Required minimum distributions RMDs from an IRA or 401(k) plan or other employer-sponsored retirement plan have not been waived for 2021, as they were for 2020. If you were 72 or older in 2020 you must take an RMD during 2021. Those who turn 72 this year have until April 1 of 2022 to take their first RMD but may want to take it by the end of 2021 to avoid having to double up on RMDs next year.
  • If you are age 70½ or older by the end of 2021, and especially if you are unable to itemize your deductions, consider making 2021 charitable donations via qualified charitable distributions from your traditional IRAs. These distributions are made directly to charities from your IRAs, and the amount of the contribution is neither included in your gross income nor deductible on Schedule A, Form 1040. However, if you are still entitled to claim the entire standard deduction. The qualified charitable distribution amount is reduced by any deductible contributions to an IRA made for any year in which you were age 70½ or older, unless it reduced a previous qualified charitable distribution exclusion.
  • Take an eligible rollover distribution from a qualified retirement plan before the end of 2021 if you are facing a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax and increasing your wage withholding won’t sufficiently address the problem. Income tax will be withheld from the distribution and will be applied toward the taxes owed for 2021. You can then timely roll over the gross amount of the distribution, the net amount you received plus the amount of withheld tax, to a traditional IRA. No part of the distribution will be includible in income for 2021, but the withheld tax will be applied pro rata over the full 2021 tax year to reduce previous underpayments of estimated tax.
  • Consider increasing the amount you set aside for next year in your employer’s FSA if you set aside too little for this year and anticipate similar medical costs next year.
  • If you become eligible in December of 2021 to make HSA contributions, you can make a full year’s worth of deductible HSA contributions for 2021.
  • Make gifts sheltered by the annual gift tax exclusion before the end of the year if doing so may save gift and estate taxes. The exclusion applies to gifts of up to $15,000 made in 2021 to each of an unlimited number of individuals. You cannot carry over unused exclusions to another year. These transfers may save family income taxes where income-earning property is given to family members in lower income tax brackets who are not subject to the kiddie tax.
  • If you were in federally declared disaster area, and you suffered uninsured or unreimbursed disaster-related losses, keep in mind you can choose to claim them either on the return for the year the loss occurred or on the return for the prior year, generating a quicker refund. If you were in a federally declared disaster area, you may want to settle an insurance or damage claim in 2021 to maximize your casualty loss deduction this year.

These are just some of the year-end steps that can be taken to save taxes.

If you received an Economic Impact Payment in 2021 or received  Advanced Child Tax Credit Payments, these amounts will be required to be reconciled on your 2021 Federal Income Tax Return.

With holidays rapidly approaching, we wish each of you safe travels and wonderful times with friends and family.

We are here to serve you and look forward to your call.

Year End Business Update

With year-end approaching, it is time to think about moves that may help lower your business’s taxes for 2021 and 2022.

2021 is more challenging than usual due to the uncertainty surrounding pending legislation that could increase corporate tax rates plus the top rates on both business owners’ ordinary income and capital gain starting in 2022.

Whether or not tax increases become effective next year, the standard year-end approach of deferring income and accelerating deductions to minimize taxes will continue to produce the best results for most small businesses, as will the bunching of deductible expenses into this year or next to maximize their tax value. If proposed tax increases do pass, however, the highest income businesses and owners may find that the opposite strategies produce better results: Pulling income into 2021 to be taxed at currently lower rates, and deferring deductible expenses until 2022, when they can be taken to offset what would be higher-taxed income. This will require careful evaluation of all relevant factors.

We have compiled a list of actions based on current tax rules that may help you save tax dollars if you act before year-end. Not all of them will apply to you or your business, but you may benefit from many of them. We can determine specific actions when we meet to tailor a particular plan for your business, In the meantime, please review the following list and contact us at your earliest convenience so that we can advise you on which tax-saving moves might be beneficial:

  • Taxpayers other than corporations may be entitled to a deduction of up to 20% of their qualified business income. For 2021, if taxable income exceeds $329,800 for a married couple filing jointly, about half that for others, the deduction may be limited based on whether the taxpayer is engaged in a service-type trade or business, such as law, accounting, health, or consulting, the amount of W-2 wages paid by the business, and/or the unadjusted basis of qualified property, such as machinery and equipment held by the business. The limitations are phased in; for example, the phase-in applies to joint filers with taxable income up to $100,000 above the threshold, and to other filers with taxable income up to $50,000 above their threshold.
  • Taxpayers may be able to salvage some or all of this deduction, by deferring income or accelerating deductions to keep income under the dollar thresholds, or be subject to a smaller deduction phaseout, for 2021. Depending on their business model, taxpayers also may be able increase the deduction by increasing W-2 wages before year-end. The rules are quite complex.
  • More small businesses are able to use the cash method of accounting rather than the accrual method than were allowed to do so in earlier years. To qualify as a small business a taxpayer must, among other things, satisfy a gross receipts test, which is satisfied for 2021 if, during a three-year testing period, average annual gross receipts don’t exceed $26 million. Next year this dollar amount is estimated to increase to $27 million. Not that many years ago it was $1 million. Cash method taxpayers may find it   easier to shift income, for example, by holding off billings till next year or by accelerating expenses, for example, paying bills early or by making certain prepayments. • Businesses should consider making expenditures that qualify for the liberalized business property expensing option. For tax years beginning in 2021, the expensing limit is $1,050,000, and the investment ceiling limit is $2,620,000. Expensing is generally available for most depreciable property. other than buildings, and off-the-shelf computer software. It is also available for interior improvements to a building. but not for its enlargement, elevators or escalators, or the internal structural framework, for roofs, and for HVAC, fire protection, alarm, and security systems.

The generous dollar ceilings mean that many small and medium sized businesses that make timely purchases will be able to currently deduct most if not all their outlays for machinery and equipment. What’s more, the expensing deduction is not prorated for the time that the asset is in service during the year.  Expensing eligible items acquired and placed in service in the last days of 2021, rather than at the beginning of 2022, can result in a full expensing deduction for 2021.

  • Businesses also can claim a 100% bonus first year depreciation deduction for machinery and equipment bought used, with some exceptions, or new if purchased and placed in service this year, and for qualified improvement property, described above as related to the expensing deduction. The 100% write-off is permitted without any proration based on the length of time that an asset is in service during the tax year. As a result, the 100% bonus first-year write-off is available even if qualifying assets are in service for only a few days in 2021.
  • Businesses may be able to take advantage of the de minimis safe harbor election, also known as the book-tax conformity election, to expense the costs of lower-cost assets and materials and supplies, assuming the costs aren’t required to be capitalized under the UNICAP rules. To qualify for the election, the cost of a unit of property cannot exceed $5,000 if the taxpayer has an applicable financial statement. If there’s no AFS, the cost of a unit of property cannot exceed $2,500. Where the UNICAP rules are not an issue, and where potentially increasing tax rates for 2022 are not a concern, consider purchasing qualifying items before the end of 2021.
  • A corporation, other than a large corporation, that anticipates a small net operating loss (NOL) for 2021 and substantial net income in 2022 may find it worthwhile to accelerate just enough of its 2022 income or to defer just enough of its 2021 deductions to create a small amount of net income for 2021. This allows the corporation to base its 2022 estimated tax installments on the relatively small amount of income shown on its 2021 return, rather than having to pay estimated taxes based on 100% of its much larger 2022 taxable income.
  • Year-end bonuses can be timed for maximum tax effect by both cash- and accrual-basis employers. Cash-basis employers deduct bonuses in the year paid, so they can time the payment for maximum tax effect. Accrual-basis employers deduct bonuses in the accrual year, when all events related to them are established with reasonable certainty. However, the bonus must be paid within 2½ months after the end of the employer’s tax year for the deduction to be allowed in the earlier accrual year. Accrual employers looking to defer deductions to a higher-taxed future year should consider changing their bonus plans before yearend to set the payment date later than the 2.5-month window or change the bonus plan’s terms to make the bonus amount not determinable at year end.
  • To reduce 2021 taxable income, consider deferring a debt-cancellation event until 2022. • Sometimes the disposition of a passive activity can be timed to make best use of its freed-up suspended losses. Where reduction of 2021 income is desired, consider disposing of a passive activity before year-end to take the suspended losses against 2021 income. If possible 2022 top rate increases are a concern, holding off on disposing of the activity until 2022 might save more in future taxes.

In our year- end planning, these are some of the steps that can be taken to save taxes.

Our firm looks forward to your call.

Advance Child Tax Credit

Here’s how a taxpayer’s custody situation may affect their advance child tax credit payments  

COVID Tax Tip 2021-147, October 5, 2021

Parents who share custody of their children should be aware of how the advance child tax credit payments are distributed. It is important to remember that these are advance payments of a tax credit that taxpayers expect to claim on their 2021 tax return. Understanding how the payments work will parents to unenroll, if they choose, and possibly avoid a possible tax bill when they file next year.

Here are some of the most common questions about shared custody and the advance child tax credit payments.

If two parents share custody, how will the IRS decide which one receives the advance child tax credit payments?

Who receives 2021 advance child tax credit payments is based on the information on the taxpayer’s 2020 tax return, or their 2019 return if their 2020 tax return has not been processed. The parent who claimed the child tax credit on their 2020 return will receive the 2021 advance child tax credit payments.

If a parent is receiving 2021 advance child tax credit payments and they shouldn’t be, what should they do?

Parents who will not be eligible to claim the child tax credit when they file their 2021 tax return should go to IRS.gov and unenroll to stop receiving monthly payments. They can do this by using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal. Receiving monthly payments now could mean they have to return those payments when they file their tax return next year. If their custody situation changes and they are entitled to the child tax credit for 2021, they can claim the full amount when they file their tax return next year.

If parents alternate years claiming their child on their tax return, will the IRS send the 2021 advance child tax credit payments to the parent who claimed the child on their 2020 tax return even though they will not claim them on their 2021 tax return?

Yes. Because the taxpayer claimed their child on their 2020 tax return, the IRS will automatically issue the advance payments to them. When they file their 2021 tax return, they may have to pay back the payments over the amount of the credit they’re entitled to claim. Some taxpayers may be excused from repaying some or all of the excess amount if they qualify for repayment protection. If a taxpayer won’t be claiming the child tax credit on their 2021 return, they should unenroll from receiving monthly payments using the Child Tax Credit Update Portal.

If one parent is receiving the advance child tax credit payments even though the other parent will be claiming the child tax credit on their 2021 tax return, will the parent claiming the qualifying child still be able to claim the full credit amount?

Yes. Taxpayers will be able to claim the full amount of the child tax credit on their 2021 tax return even if the other parent is receiving the advance child tax credit payments. The parent receiving the payments should unenroll, but their decision will not affect the other parent’s ability to claim the child tax credit.

Summer Activity that May Affect Your Tax Return!

Things people do during the summer that might affect their tax return next year

IRS Tax Tip 2021-102, July 15, 2021

It’s summertime and for many people, summertime means change. Whether it’s a life change or a typical summer event, it could affect incomes taxes. Here are a few summertime activities and tips on how taxpayers should consider them during filing season.

Getting married

Newlyweds should report any name change to the Social Security Administration. They should also report an address change to the United States Postal Service, their employers, and the IRS. This will help make sure they receive documents and other items they will need to file their taxes.

Sending kids to summer day camp

Unlike overnight camps, the cost of summer day camp may count towards the child and dependent care credit.

Working part-time

While summertime and part-time workers may not earn enough to owe federal income tax, they should remember to file a return. They’ll need to file early next year to get a refund for taxes withheld from their checks this year.

Gig economy work

Taxpayers may earn summer income by providing on-demand work, services or goods, often through a digital platform like an app or website. Examples include ride sharing, delivery services and other activities. Those who do are encouraged to visit the Gig Economy Tax Center at IRS.gov to learn more about how participating in the sharing economy can affect their taxes.

Normally, employees receive a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, from their employer to account for the summer’s work. They’ll use this to prepare their tax return. They should receive the W-2 by January 31 next year. Employees will get a W-2 even if they no longer work for the summertime employer.

Summertime workers can avoid higher tax bills and lost benefits if they know their correct status. Employers will determine whether the people who work for them are employees or independent contractors PDF. Independent contractors aren’t subject to withholding, making them responsible for paying their own income taxes plus Social Security and Medicare taxes.

 

Changes to the Child Tax Credit

With the recently enacted American Rescue Plan, there were changes made to the child tax credit that may benefit many taxpayers, most notably:

  • The amount has increased for certain taxpayers
  • The credit is fully refundable
  • The credit may be partially received in monthly payments
  • The qualifying age for children has been raised from 16 to 17

The IRS will pay half the credit in the form of advance monthly payments beginning July 15 and ending Dec. 15. Taxpayers will then claim the other half when they file their 2021 income tax return.

How much will you receive?

The credit for children ages five and younger is up to $3,600 with up to $300 received in monthly payments. The credit for children ages 6 to 17 is up to $3,000 with up to $250 received in monthly payments.

How do you qualify?

The following criteria must be met to quality:

  • A 2019 or 2020 tax return was filed and claimed the child tax credit, or your information was provided to the IRS using the non-filer tool
  • Have a main home in the U.S. for more than half the year or file a joint return with a spouse who has a main home in the U.S. for more than half the year
  • Care for a qualifying child who is under age 18 at the end of 2021, and who has a valid Social Security number
  • Have a modified adjusted gross income less than certain limits:
    • $75,000 for single filers
    • $150,000 for married filing jointly filers
    • $112,500 for head of household filers

The credit begins to phase out above those thresholds. Higher-income families (e.g., married filing jointly couples with $400,000 or less in income or other filers with $200,000 or less in income) will generally get the same credit as prior law (generally $2,000 per qualifying child) but may also choose to receive monthly payments.

You won’t need to do anything to receive payments as the IRS will use information on file to start issuing payments.

IRS’s child tax credit update portal

The IRS has a child tax credit and update portal where you can update your information to reflect any recent changes to things like filing status or number of children. You can also opt out of the advance payments and check on payment status in the portal. If you file a joint return, both you and your spouse will need to opt out, otherwise a portion of the payment will still be issued. If you prefer not to opt out online, you can also call the IRS at 1-800-908-4184.

We’re here to help

If you have any questions or need help making decisions based on your specific situation, please contact our office today at 205-663-8686 or cris@essential-solutions.biz.

Thank you for trusting us with your tax preparation and planning needs.

Last-Minute Savings for Tax Year 2016

Attention last minute savers! There’s still time to reduce your tax burden for 2016.

Have you funded a traditional IRA, Roth IRA, or SEP this year? The deadline for contributions to IRAs is April 18, 2017 — this year’s filing deadline. For self-employed taxpayers, contributions to a SEP may be postponed until October 16, 2017 if a tax return extension has been filed.

Increasing your 401(k) contribution so that you are putting in the maximum amount of money allowed is a smart way to lower taxes. If you can’t afford the maximum contribution, $18,000 for 2016, $24,000 if you are age 50 or over, you should still contribute the full amount that will be matched by employer contributions – no reason to leave money on the table!

If you are currently enrolled in an employer sponsored retirement plan, your contribution to a traditional IRA will not be tax deductible, but you will be able to take advantage of tax-deferred interest compounding. The cap for contributions to a traditional or Roth IRA in 2016 is $5,500 for taxpayers under 50 and $6,500 for those over 50.

If you have reason to believe you’ll be in the same or a lower tax bracket next year, it may make sense to defer income by taking capital gains in 2017 instead of in 2016. If you are self-employed or freelancing and can push revenue into a lower earning year, it may be wise to do so. Winding up in a higher tax bracket can result in a big surprise in your tax bill. Your forecast for personal income this year vs. next year is an important issue to discuss with your tax professional.

Charitable deductions are another great way to lower your taxes before year’s end. Just make sure that the charity to which you are donating is recognized by the IRS as being tax-exempt, and that you document and photograph all items donated.

“Loss harvesting” is the practice of selling stocks and mutual funds with the goal of realizing losses. Those losses can offset taxable gains you have realized during the year, dollar for dollar. This is another good conversation to have with your enrolled agent.

To make sure you’re taking advantage of all available tax savings, tax credits and deductions for 2016, be sure to bring the right documents to your tax professional. Along with any Forms W-2 from your employer, bring Forms 1099 declaring misc. income, mortgage interest information, and K-1 forms showing income from a partnership, small business or trust. Bring documentation of any student loans you may be paying off, and money spent on child care.

Some other things to consider: if you collected unemployment benefits at any time during the year, that money is generally taxable and you will need to bring a form 1099-G. For state filing, you’ll want to remember to include any personal property tax paid – for example, on your automobile. Did you collect Social Security, rent a property, receive self-employment income or pay alimony? Cancelled checks and receipts can help to document expenses you wish to claim, such as those related to a home office. Job search expenses, moving expenses and college expenses may all be deductible under certain circumstances. Medical expenses might be deductible, but the bar is high.

As with everywhere else in life, often what the large print giveth the small print taketh away. For instance, IRA contributions — both traditional and Roth — have some tricky limitations (and some workarounds, too). Enrolled agents (“EAs”), America’s tax experts, are well placed to help you navigate. Please feel free to call my office at xxx-xxx-xxxx to schedule an appointment.

 

About Enrolled Agents

To earn the EA license from the US Department of Treasury, candidates must pass a background check and a stringent three-part exam on tax administered by the IRS. To maintain the license, they must complete annual continuing education that is reported to the IRS. Members of the National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) are obligated to complete additional continuing education and adhere to a code of ethics and rules of professional conduct.

Be Smart About Security at Tax Time

Although the IRS reports a 400 percent surge in phishing and malware incidents during the 2016 tax season, there are simple steps you can take to help protect yourself.

Here are nine hints that can help:

  1. Beware of IRS Impersonators. Some crooks call taxpayers to say they must settle their “tax bill.” These are fake calls and often demand payment on prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfers. Also, students should know there’s no “Federal Student Tax.” If you get any unexpected calls, e-mails, letters or texts from someone claiming to be from the IRS, remember, the IRS never calls to demand immediate payment using a specific method nor will it threaten you with local law enforcement.
  2. Understand and Use Security Software. Security software helps protect computers against digital threats online. Generally, the operating system will include security software or you can access free security software from well-known companies or Internet providers. Essential tools include a firewall, virus and malware protection, and file encryption. Don’t buy security software offered as an unexpected pop-up ad on your computer or e-mail. It’s likely from a scammer.
  3. Let Security Software Update Automatically. Malware—malicious software—evolves constantly and your security software suite updates routinely to keep pace.
  4. Look for the “S.” When shopping or banking online, see that the site uses encryption to protect your information. Look for “https” at the beginning of the Web address. The “s” is for secure. Additionally, make sure the https carries through on all pages, not just the sign-on page.
  5. Use Strong Passwords. Use passwords of eight or more characters, mixing letters, numbers and special characters. Don’t use your name, birth date or common words. Don’t use the same password for several accounts. Keep your password list in a secure place or use a password manager. Don’t share passwords with anyone. Calls, texts or e-mails pretending to be from legitimate companies or the IRS asking to update accounts or seeking personal financial information are almost always scams.
  6. Secure Wireless Networks. A wireless network sends a signal through the air that lets it connect to the Internet. If your home or business Wi-Fi is unsecured, it also lets any computer within range access your wireless and potentially steal information from your computer. Criminals can also use your wireless to send spam or commit crimes that would be traced back to you. Always encrypt your wireless. Generally, you must turn on this feature and create a password.
  7. Be Cautious When Using Public Wireless Networks. Public Wi-Fi hot spots are convenient but often not secure. Tax or financial information you send though websites or mobile apps may be accessed by someone else. If a public Wi-Fi hot spot doesn’t require a password, it’s probably not secure.
  8. Avoid E-mail Phishing Attempts. Never reply to e-mails, texts or pop-up messages asking for personal, tax or financial information. One com-mon trick by criminals is to impersonate a business such as your financial institution, tax software provider or the IRS, asking you to update your account and providing a link. They ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information, which could be used to file false tax returns. The sites may also infect your computer. Never click on links even if they seem to be from organizations you trust. Go directly to the organization’s website. Legitimate businesses don’t ask you to send sensitive information through unsecured channels.
  9. Get Professional Advice. To make sure you can take advantage of all allowable tax-deferred savings, tax credits and deductions, consult with a licensed tax professional, your enrolled agent (EA). EAs are the only federally licensed tax professionals with unlimited rights of representation before the IRS. EAs abide by a code of ethics and must complete many hours of continuing education each year to ensure they are up-to-date on the constantly changing tax code.

You can save money and trouble if you follow professional advice and your own good sense when taking care of taxes.

IRS Urges Taxpayers to Choose a Tax Preparer Wisely

More than half of taxpayers hire a professional when it’s time to file a tax return. Even if you don’t prepare your own Form 1040, you’re still legally responsible for what is on it.

A tax return preparer is trusted with your most personal information. They know about your marriage, your income, your children and your Social Security numbers – all of the sensitive details of your financial life. If you pay someone to prepare your federal income tax return, the IRS urges you to choose that person wisely. To do that, take some time to understand a few essentials.

Most tax return preparers provide outstanding service. However, each year, some taxpayers are hurt financially because they choose the wrong tax return preparer. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to in order to increase their fee. Every year, these types of tax preparers face everything from penalties to even jail time for defrauding their clients.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:

  • Check to be sure the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Anyone with a valid 2015 PTIN is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. Tax return preparers, however, have differing levels of skills, education and expertise. An important difference in the types of practitioners is “representation rights”. You can learn more about the several different types of return preparers on IRS.gov/chooseataxpro.
  • Ask the tax preparer if they have a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant, or attorney), belong to a professional organization or attend continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select.
  • Check on the service fees upfront. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can.
  • Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account.
  • Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file and ask that your return be submitted to the IRS electronically. Any tax professional who gets paid to prepare and file more than 10 returns generally must file the returns electronically. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return, whether you do it alone or pay someone to prepare and file for you.
  • Make sure the preparer will be available. Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
  • Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.
  • Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
  • Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
  • Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on IRS.gov.

IRS FS-2014-11, December 2014

With the complications associated with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) it is very important for you to get assistance with filing your tax return this season.  Please give us a call with any questions concerning your return preparation.  We have PROFESSIONALS on staff that know the answers!

What is the difference between an EA and a CPA. See the IRS chart below

Overview of Tax Return Preparer Requirements

The chart below provides an overview of the various categories of individuals who may prepare federal tax returns for compensation.

 

Category

PTIN

Tax Compliance Check

 Background Check

IRS Test

Continuing Education

Practice Rights

Enrolled Agents*

 Yes

 Yes

Proposals Pending

Yes (Special Enrollment Exam)

72 hours every 3 years

Unlimited

CPAs**

 Yes

 Yes

Proposals Pending

No

Varies

Unlimited

Attorneys**

 Yes

 Yes

Proposals Pending

No

Varies

Unlimited

Supervised Preparers

 Yes

 Yes

Proposals Pending

No

No

Limited

Non-1040 Preparers

 Yes

 Yes

Proposals Pending

No

No

Limited

 

*Enrolled Agents have passed a three-part, comprehensive IRS exam covering individual and business returns. They must adhere to ethical standards and complete 72 hours of continuing education courses every three years. EAs have unlimited practice rights before the IRS, which means they can represent clients for any tax matter.

**CPAs and Attorneys have unlimited practice rights before the IRS.

†To determine if you are a supervised preparer, view the fact sheet

‡ If you only prepare Forms 1040-PR and 1040-SS, you are considered a non-1040 preparer