Tag Archives: File a tax return

Six Common Myths Regarding Income Tax

By:  Isaac M O’Bannon, Managing Editor CPA Practice Advisor

While millions of American taxpayers wait for their W-2, 1099 and other important tax documents to arrive in the mail, their thoughts turn to the often-dreaded prospect of filing their 2014 tax returns.

With all the annual changes to the tax rules and its complexity, it’s not surprising that millions of Americans hire a paid preparer. After all, asking questions or searching the Web for answers often leads to more confusion and misconceptions, because when it comes to taxes, one standard answer usually does not fit all.

The National Association of Enrolled Agents, an organization of federally licensed tax professionals, has pointed out six frequently-encountered tax myths.

Myth 1: “I’m filing an extension this year, so I don’t need to pay anything yet.”

Fact: Tax extensions only extend the time you have left to file, and do not change the date on which you have to pay taxes owed. If you owe taxes and file an extension, you still have to pay the taxes owed by April 15, regardless of the extended deadline date. Otherwise, interest and penalties begin to stack up.

Myth 2: “I had a really big loss in the stock market this year, so I won’t owe any income taxes.”

Fact: Deduction of capital losses against ordinary income is limited to $3,000 per year. Also, whether you reinvest or receive dividends, they are income and are taxed as such.

Myth 3: “They paid me in cash, so I don’t have to report it.”

Fact: If it’s income, you must report it. You must always report income, regardless of whether it’s cash, tips, bonuses or dividends.

Myth 4: “I’m too young to have to pay taxes.”

Fact: Even dependents working part-time while in high school must file a tax return if they earned more than $6,200 in 2014, if they want to receive their refund or if their unearned income is more than $1,000.  There are numerous other situations that may lead to a dependent having to file a tax return. To be safe, consider consulting a licensed tax professional.

Myth 5: “Income earned outside the U.S. is not taxable.”

Fact: The operative word is “income,” which means it’s taxable. The IRS requires taxpayers to report all earned income, even if it’s earned abroad.

Myth 6: “Tax preparers only fill out forms that you can do yourself.”

Fact: Licensed preparers know the intricate (and constantly changing) tax laws, regulations and codes, and how they can be applied for your benefit to save you money. Enrolled agents receive IRS-approved annual continuing education, ensuring that they have the most up-to-date strategies to make sure you pay only what you owe and get any refunds you are due. Enrolled agents, CPAs and tax attorneys are also the only tax professionals who can represent taxpayers before the IRS.

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!

You May Now Need to File

With new tax laws beginning in 2014, a number of taxpayers who were not traditionally required to file a tax return may now need to do so.  Here are three new situations in 2014 that may require you to file a tax return.

  • You have no medical insurance.  Beginning in 2014, if you are not in a qualified health insurance plan you will need to file a tax return to pay the tax penalty.  As part of Obama-care, there is now a minimum penalty of $95.00 per individual ($285.00 per family) if you do not have health insurance.  The MAXIMUM penalty is 1% of your income.
  • You qualify for the new Health Insurance Premium Credit.  If you signed up for health insurance through the new health insurance exchange, you may be eligible for a reduction of your insurance premium through a tax credit.  You may have already applied the credit to recue your monthly insurance bill. In either case, if this credit applied to you, you must file a tax return.
  • Alimony or child support.  Given the increased attention in this area by the IRS, if you pay or receive alimony or child support you will want to ensure you tax return is filed to avoid an automatic mismatch with your ex-spouses tax return.

Have questions concerning this information?  Please give us a call.