Tag: IRS

April 15 Countdown & Last Minute Tax Tips

April 14th, 2014 — 2:50pm
last minute tax tips 604cs032713 300x162 April 15 Countdown & Last Minute Tax Tips

Tick Tock, TickTock…April 15th Deadline

With the clock about to strike midnight on the 2013 Tax Year Filing season, the following is a quick list of tax tips for all you last minute filers out there:

April 15th Deadline

Yes, we all know the saying “Death & Taxes…”. And nothing drums up the cold sweats and association with taxes like the April 15th deadline. However, here is something that many taxpayers do not know: This deadline is only if you OWE taxes to the IRS.  If you are due a refund from the IRS, you actually have 3 full years from the April 15th deadline to claim and receive your refund before it becomes the property of the U.S. Government.  So, as long as you file your 2013 tax return by April 15th, 2017 you will get your refund.  There are of course, many reasons to file your 2013 tax return before the deadline.  It’s your money!  So don’t let the government hold on to it especially when they do not have to pay interest on it.  If you owe, and you do not have all of your tax documents ready, you can always file an extension.  Extensions must also be filed before the April 15th deadline.  REMEMBER: An extension is only an extension to file your final tax return, NOT to pay the taxes you owe.  Therefore, expect to send payment for the estimated amount of taxes you owe along with any extension.

Beware of IRS Scams

IRS & Tax related Scams have been steadily increasing over the last few years.  The most common scam going around is IRS impersonators contacting unsuspecting taxpayers and getting them to divulge their confidential personal information which can be used to open up credit cards in the victims name and/or to a file a fraudulent tax return in their name in order to steal refunds.  NOTE: The IRS will NEVER initiate contact with your via email, phone, fax or text.  They will always send you a written notification with instructions.  Even if you receive written communication, double check that the contact information on the letter matches the IRS contact information from the IRS website.  If you think that you are the target of a tax related scam, report it to phishing@irs.gov.

Sign Your Return & Mail To Correct Address

While this may sound trivial, many taxpayers forget to sign their tax returns!  Your tax return is technically not considered filed if it is not signed.  While the majority of tax returns are filed electronically, there are still many reasons why a return would be filed as paper.  Furthermore, if you had your return prepared by a professional, be sure that they signed the return as well.  While the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for what is listed on their return, a common scam that many “professionals” use to avoid any liability is to file a tax return as “self-prepared”.  In other words, the IRS thinks that the taxpayer prepared and filed the tax return themselves when in reality it was filed by a paid income tax preparer.  So be sure to check for all appropriate signatures!  Furthermore, be sure you are mailing your tax return to the right IRS processing center.  The IRS tends to change their mailing addresses annually and some  have separate mailing addresses for refunds and taxes due.  Here is a list of all the IRS tax processing centers.

Keep Your Tax Records

So you just sent in your taxes and now you can throw all of your W2s, 1099s, receipts & other tax related documentation into the fireplace, right?  WRONG! Depending on your situation, the IRS says to keep all of your tax records between 3 & 6 years.  So, just to be on the safe side, keep all of your tax records for at least 6 years.  Sometimes it could take years before the IRS notifies you with an issue and/or adjustment on your tax return.  If you plan on contesting changes in the IRS’ favor, you’ll need your backup documentation.  Recent budget cuts to the IRS will probably delay the notification process even more.

File With A Tax Professional

While millions of taxpayers are electing to forego using a tax professional in favor of filing themselves, the numbers don’t add up.  A couple of years ago R&G Brenner investigated The True Cost Of Preparing Your Own Tax Return and found that taxpayers who filed themselves were losing an average of $594 in refunds as opposed to using a Tax Professional.  Similarly, H&R Block is running ads this year that found 1 in 5 taxpayers who prepares their own taxes are not claiming all the deductions they are entitled to and are losing $490 in refunds.  Now there are many taxpayers who have very simple returns (standard deductions, no house, no kids, etc) and can easily file themselves.  However, the moment your tax return gets even a little bit complicated, you should seek professional help.  If you are going to Itemize Deductions (Schedule A), claim mortgage interest, have children (Earned Income Tax Credit), deduct business expenses (Schedule C), have rental income (Schedule E), or other complex tax positions, it is almost never a good idea to prepare your own tax return.

If you would like information about R&G Brenner, our services or if you need any tax assistance before or after the April 15th deadline, please feel free to contact us here, or call us toll free at (888) APRIL-15.

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IRS: $760 Million In Unclaimed Refunds

March 20th, 2014 — 10:28am
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Don’t Lose Your Money To The IRS!

The IRS currently has over $760 Million in unclaimed refunds from tax year 2010, and the clock is running out for taxpayers to claim them.   Any rightful refunds from 2010 not claimed by April 15, 2014 will become the property of the US Government.  The majority of these refunds are in excess of $571 each. 

“The window is quickly closing for people who are owed refunds from 2010 who haven’t filed a tax return,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in a statement. “We encourage students, part-time workers and others who haven’t filed for 2010 to look into this before time runs out on April 15.”

Most of these unclaimed refunds are from students, part-time workers and the like who did not earn the minimum amount of income required to file a 2010 tax return.  However, taxes were indeed taken from their paychecks even though they were not required to file a tax return, and these taxpayers are entitled to a refund.

If you did not file a 2010 tax return, but were employed that year, contact an R&G Brenner Tax Professional to see if you are entitled to refund.  Why give the IRS your hard earned money?!  Below is breakdown for IRS refunds due to taxpayers by State.

State or District


Number of








































District of Columbia




















































































New Hampshire




New Jersey




New Mexico




New York




North Carolina




North Dakota




















Rhode Island




South Carolina




South Dakota




























West Virginia
















Source: Accountingtoday.com

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Inheritance & Estate Tax 101

March 6th, 2014 — 2:53pm
estate tax 267x300 Inheritance & Estate Tax 101

Inheritance Vs. Estate Taxes

If you have recently inherited a large sum of money, you may have some questions about the inheritance tax, and whether or not it will affect you this tax season. Before you worry about having to pay an inheritance tax, read on to find out what exactly an inheritance tax is, whether your state requires you to pay an inheritance tax, and whether you qualify for an exemption.

The Inheritance Tax: What is it?

An inheritance tax refers to a tax where a person who has received money, assets, or property from a deceased person must pay a tax on those received items. Unlike an estate tax, the person who receives the money or property (i.e., the beneficiary) is the one who is responsible for paying the tax. Only eight states have implemented an inheritance tax, and the rules for how much you pay vary by state. These states are Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. To better understand your state’s regulations, it is best to consult an accountant or professional tax preparer to help you with your state’s laws.

Exemptions and Reductions

Remember, the inheritance tax laws differ depending upon which of the eight states with the inheritance tax you live in. As such, exemptions regarding the tax also differ. In most cases, children who are beneficiaries will receive exemptions. Additionally, sometimes an exemption or reduction will be granted depending upon the relationship of the beneficiary with the deceased. Usually, family members or direct relatives have a higher chance of being granted an exemption than a friend or associate does.

Federal Estate Tax: The Death Tax? 

The federal government does not have any form of an inheritance tax. Rather, there is a federal estate tax. According to the IRS, the estate tax is “a tax on your right to transfer property at your death.” The federal estate tax differs from the inheritance tax in who is paying the tax—in an inheritance tax, the beneficiary is responsible for the tax; in the federal estate tax, the tax is taken from the property and/or assets of the deceased individual. This payout to the federal government for tax purposes occurs before the remaining assets are distributed to beneficiaries. An estate tax is only applied to assets/properties where the value of the assets is greater than one million dollars. Due to this, very few people are affected by the estate tax each year—only about 2 percent.  As of 2013, the filing of an estate tax is only required for estates that claim assets amounting to $5,340,000 dollars or more.

If you think you will be affected by the inheritance or the estate tax, contact an R&G Brenner professional for assistance.

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Making Sense of Tricky Tax Terms: AGI vs. Taxable Income, Dividends, Exemptions & Deductions

March 3rd, 2014 — 3:57pm
free tax help title 6241 300x124 Making Sense of Tricky Tax Terms: AGI vs. Taxable Income, Dividends, Exemptions & Deductions

tax (tăks) n. : One of the only things certain in life. See also Death.

Tax season can be intimidating to those who aren’t certified accountants or tax professionals. With all the tax terminology out there, simply understanding the terms on the form you’re filling out can be daunting. No fear—a tax-terminology-debunker is here:

Understanding: Adjustable Gross Income

First things first, you need to understand the total income. Total income refers to all income that was made in the fiscal year, either earned or unearned, before any exemptions or deductions. So, total income will refer to all the money you made in the year, including money from social security benefits, unemployment, alimony, wages/tips, pensions, etc.

Your adjustable gross income (AGI) refers to your total income minus adjustments that were made for moving expenses, IRA contributions, student loan interest, and alimony. Any adjustments can be found on your 1040, on lines 23-35. Don’t panic; If you need help filing your taxes, you can always consult an R&G Brenner tax professional.

Understanding: Taxable Income

Taxable income is pretty simple, and refers to the amount of money that you can be taxed for. This number is found by taking your AGI less your deductions and personal exemptions. This number will be used to find what tax bracket you fall into, and to then calculate your tax rate.

Understanding: Exemptions

A tax exemption can be taken by an individual, a business, or a charity, and refers to money or property that taxes do not have to be paid on, or may be reduced for. For example, charitable organizations do not have to pay property taxes. Another exemption sometimes granted is the case of those who inherit larges amount of money not having to pay an inheritance tax. In some cases, a tax exemption entirely precludes an individual from paying taxes, or significantly reduces the amount of money one has to pay.

Understanding: Deductions

A tax deduction, or a “tax write-off,” refers to an amount of money you get to subtract from your AGI due to various expenses that you paid or incurred throughout the year. For example, a deduction may be educational expenses, health insurance, mortgage interest, royalties, a home office, or auto expenses. Depending on whether you’re filing taxes as an individual or as a business, the types of deductions you quality for will differ as will the total percentage one is allowed to deduct.

Understanding: Dividends

A dividend is a percentage of profit that is paid out, in the form of income, to shareholders of stock and the like. A dividend tax is a tax that is levied on the amount of money that is allocated to each shareholder. If you are a shareholder and received money from those shares this year, you can expect to pay a dividend tax.

Understanding: Tax Due

Perhaps the most simple of tax terms (and the most detested), tax due means exactly what it says. The last line of your 1040, the tax due box, will tell you the total amount of money you owe to the IRS for any given tax year after all your deductions and exemptions have been calculated and applied.

Making sense of tax terms can initially feel frustrating—but it shouldn’t be. With a little bit of research, and a FREE consultation with an R&G Brenner tax professional, you can make this tax season your easiest yet!

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IRS Code 1121 Delaying Refunds

February 19th, 2014 — 11:19am

The below video is the first hint of refund delays taxpayers are experiencing this year


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IRS Commish: Extensive Wait Times Calling IRS

February 12th, 2014 — 11:50am

New IRS commissioner John Koskinen warned taxpayers in the following video below that if you plan to speak to an IRS representative, expect to wait…a lot.  Koskinen said:

 “Given our very limited resources, our phone lines are going to be extremely busy this year – and there will frequently be extensive wait times…

While he tempers that statement by saying many tax resources can be found on the IRS.gov website, sometimes speaking with a person is ultimately necessary.  Given the recent report that found the IRS only answered 61% of the calls last year, don’t expect this number to climb anytime soon.  In fact, the IRS’ budget was cut by over $500 Million this year.  In other words, pray that you don’t have a problem (like identity theft) with your tax return that requires a phone call to the IRS.


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Is Your Small Business Taking Advantage of Tax Deductions?

February 7th, 2014 — 12:57pm
small business taxes 300x199 Is Your Small Business Taking Advantage of Tax Deductions?

Is Your Business Taking Advantage of Credits & Deductions?

As a small business owner, this is the time of the year to begin thinking about the tax filing deadline. According to a study commissioned by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), small businesses in the United States pay an effective federal tax rate of 19.8%. Sole proprietors pay the smallest effective rate of 13.3% while partnerships and Subchapter S Corporations classified as small businesses pay an effective rate of 23.6% and 26.9%, respectively.

Because much of the tax burden borne by small business is due to compliance with complex rules and filing requirements, as a small business owner you should look for any and all deductions you are eligible for in order to reduce your tax burden. There are many of deductions available; many of which were enacted through the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010. These include a deduction for the purchase of mobile telephones for the business, a health care tax credit for businesses with 25 or fewer employees, mileage expense deduction for vehicles placed in service for the business, work opportunity tax credits, and a startup deduction. 

Mobile Telephones Deduction for Small Business

If you purchased a mobile telephone for use in your small business, you are eligible to deduct the expense of the device(s) purchased on your small business tax return. This deduction, which was a part of the Small Business Jobs Act, is often ignored by small business owners, meaning that you may be leaving money on the table by ignoring this simple deduction. If you purchased a mobile device (which does not have to be a smartphone) and used it for any percentage of time in your business, you can take a proportionate usage deduction. 

Health Care Tax Credit

This tax credit–as opposed to the deduction that is available to small businesses– is a result of the Jobs Act and the Affordable Care Act. A credit is an amount that is used to lower the amount of taxes owed, while a deduction is an amount that is used to lower your taxable income. Both are valuable for small business owners, and the health care tax credit can provide a valuable benefit.

If you are a small business owner with 25 or fewer employees, you can take a credit of up to 35% of the premiums paid for any health insurance plan in place. Starting in 2014, the maximum credit increases to 50% of health insurance premiums paid by a small business owner. 

Mileage Expense Deduction

The mileage expense deduction is another often overlooked deduction that is easy for small business owners to take. If you use your car or any other vehicle for business purposes, as most small business owners do, you are permitted to deduct a percentage of the expense based on mileage. The mileage rates used to calculate the deduction are provided by the Internal Revenue Service, which in for tax year 2013 is 56.5 cents for vehicles used for business purposes. 

Work Opportunity Tax Credits

If you employ certain at-risk individuals or returning persons (those convicted of a crime), you are eligible for a credit. This program is an incentive of the U.S. Department of Labor to move certain individuals from dependency to self-sufficiency and provides a credit to a small business that ranges from $1,200 to $9,600. 

Startup Cost Tax Deduction

As a small business and particularly as one that commenced operation on or after October 22, 2004, you can take a startup deduction of up to $5,000 for any expense associated with creating the business. This deduction is available to your business provided that the total costs incurred are $50,000 or less. For startup costs that exceed $50,000, the deduction is reduced by the corresponding amount over $50,000, with a phase out of the deduction at $55,000.

For small business owners, saving money is important. Contact an R&G Brenner professional today to see if you can use a few of these tax deductions to cut costs, and use your funds for what matters most: growing your company

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15 Ways To Get Audited By The IRS

February 6th, 2014 — 12:08pm
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15 Ways to Get Audited

While there are reports circulating that the IRS’ budget has been slashed and audits are going down, there are still many sure shot ways you can get yourself audited by the IRS.  Forbes.com list the 15 most common ways to invite an Audit by the IRS:

Be Super Wealthy

This may seem like a “duh” moment. But the IRS finally is increasing the percentage of really rich people it audits, on the reasonable theory there’s a lot more potential to uncover big dollars owed. It even has special “wealth squads” looking at all their holdings.

Hide Offshore Accounts

It’s not illegal for U.S. taxpayers to have accounts in Switzerland or Hong Kong or some Caribbean island. It’s only illegal not to declare them or their income. Ask the ex-clients (some now convicts) of Swiss banking giant UBS.

Be a Tax Protestor

Let’s be blunt. The IRS simply does not like it when you claim you owe no taxes because the income tax is illegal or only applies to weird income categories that don’t apply to you. Such wacky theories landed actor Wesley Snipes in jail.

Claim Huge Charitable Contributions

Rules require complete before-you-file documentation of your gifts to nonprofits. The IRS’ use of correspondence audits, in which it demands you mail in the documents backing various deductions, makes claims of substantial contributions a tempting target.

Omit Some Reported Income

IRS computers are very good at matching all the little pieces of paper you get reporting your income with what you put on your 1040. These papers include employer W-2s and independent contractor, brokerage and bank 1099s.

Take a Big Home-Based Business Loss Every Year

The IRS presumes that a Schedule C business losing money three years out of five is not necessarily all that legitimate. You might have to produce evidence of a profit motive.

Claim a Loss On a Hobby

By definition, a hobby is not pursued for profit. But that doesn’t stop some taxpayers from trying to write off expenses for their dog showing, comic book trading or other “business.”

Use a Sleazy Tax Preparer

The IRS’ efforts to regulate all paid tax preparers were just shot down by a federal judge. But that doesn’t stop its ongoing campaign to ferret out and shut down the sleazy ones. When the feds get onto a tax pro playing fast and loose, his or her clients become easy target

Write Off Big Unreimbursed Employee Business Expenses

They’re only deductible beyond 2% of adjusted gross income. The IRS may use a by-mail audit to ask for back-up paperwork, thinking you are trying to write off ordinary work clothes, commuting costs and other not-allowed items.

Take Deductions In Round Numbers

The world is an uneven place. So if you file a tax return taking deductions ending in lots of zeros, the IRS might think you don’t have the required paper backup. You risk an audit by mail.

Make Math Errors

IRS computers are programmed to check your math. Returns with errors can invite scrutiny that might trigger more IRS requests for back-up information.

Brag A Lot

Laws require the IRS to pay minimum rewards for tips in cases that result in big collections. The neighbor overhearing your expansive claims may become a government informant.

Anger An Ex-Business Partner, Employee or Spouse.

They might blow the whistle on you too. And it’s possible they won’t do it just for the informant’s bounty.

Make Careless Mistakes

These can include not signing a return, leaving off your Social Security number or miswriting it. All are red flags.

Fail to File On Time or at All

The IRS has a special program that will generate a substitute return using W-2 and 1099 paperwork. Don’t expect it to allow your deductions.

Source: Forbes

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5 Best Apps for Tax Time

January 30th, 2014 — 2:19pm
319204 tax app 300x225 5 Best Apps for Tax Time

Best Tax Time Apps

With tax season in full swing, getting your finances in order can be quite the headache. If you’re anything like most people, you’ve spent the entirety of the year putting off organizing your expenses, convincing yourself that you’ll deal with it in due time. While now might be the time, you don’t have to be punished by your procrastination. With a handful of apps for smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices available, the days of collecting receipts and bending over your calculator are over. Rather, in addition to working with an R&G Brenner tax professional, all of your statements can be easily summarized and prepared with the help of the following:


Mint is one of the absolute best resources for managing your money, tracking expenses, and watching your savings accounts. While the website is a fabulous tool, Mint also has an app that can be downloaded to your iOS or Andriod phone or tablet, which gives you updates on the go and allows you to track your financial habits in the blink of an eye. Mint also tracks deposits into your account, providing you with an easy look at exactly where your money is going. However, the greatest perk of Mint is that it’s completely free, giving you one more reason to download it today. 


Another spectacular free app out there is Evernote, one of Apple’s “Hall of Fame” applications. While the app is only accessible from an iPhone, iPad, Mac, iPod Touch, and through the internet, it is considered one of the best tools for organization. While it’s most typically known for note taking, to-do lists, or picture snapping, the app has also been recommended for tax time. Within the app, you can set up a tax file that allows you to easily categorize and access your income, expenditures, charitable contributions, deductions, and everything else. The app also has an image capture tool, allowing you to scan in documents, like receipts, that will then categorize and organize themselves.


Keeping track of every single expenditure you make has never been easier with Toshl, an app that tracks spending by synchronizing your entire spending history. Using Cloud technology (which is installed in most modern mobile devices) Toshl will make sure you haven’t missed a thing when tax season approaches. The app also has options to incorporate other applications, such as Excel, GoogleDocs, or PDF files. You can opt for the free version of the app, or upgrade for $19.99 per year.


If you’re self-employed, contract out individually, or simply can claim deductible expenses for business purposes, then the perfect app for you is Expensify. While it won’t handle all of your tax-filing, budget-setting, or money-managing needs, it’s a one-of-a-kind tool for what it does do: the app takes all of your receipts that can be deducted and converts them into e-receipts that are IRS-approved. 


Alright, you’ve filed your taxes. Now what? Quell any post-filing worries by tracking your refund, getting updates, and requesting information concerning your taxes via the official (and free!) IRS2Go app.

Come tax season, the best way to make sure all of your bases are covered is to speak with an R&G Brenner tax professional; however, you can keep track of important finances and expenses throughout the year by downloading one of these helpful and easy-to-use apps.

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5 Tips for Avoiding an IRS Tax Audit

January 28th, 2014 — 6:14pm
alex 10 appealing an irs tax audit 300x225 5 Tips for Avoiding an IRS Tax Audit

Tips To Avoid An Audit

IRS audits are feared for good reason: at best, they’re disruptive, and at worst they can cost you vast amounts of money. Though the percentage of audited returns is relatively low, every year the IRS still audits a huge number of returns. Following these tips can help you reduce the chances you’ll end up as one of their targets. 

Be Diligent With Business Deductions

This primarily pertains to the self-employed and business owners. While it may be tempting to write off your apartment as a home office or your car as a business investment, the IRS has careful formulas for determining whether or not particular expenses are deductible. For instance, only the part of your home used exclusively counts towards the home-office deduction—meaning writing off too much square footage could get you noticed. Car expenses, likewise, must be carefully calculated. If you’re thinking of writing something off,  you should do some research or contact a tax professional.

Keep Everything

No, not “everything” as in money. “Everything” here means documentation, like receipts, pay stubs, leasing agreements—really, anything that might be slightly relevant during tax time. Tax returns gets much more difficult to complete when you’re missing documents–and complications could lead to you miscalculating a deduction or forgetting to declare an income source. And, in the unfortunate event of an audit, you will need all of your documentation to verify your deductions.

Choose Your Professional Wisely

Many people, especially those with complicated tax situations, hire tax professionals to help take the headache out of tax season. But according to MSN Money, choosing the wrong tax “pro” can be disastrous.  So, when picking a tax preparer, check out their track record, customer reviews, how long they’ve been in business, their Better Business Bureau standing—just do your homework, as you would when hiring any other type of professional.  R&G Brenner currently has an A+ Rating with the BBB

Pay Quarterly Taxes (If Necessary)

If you’re self-employed, the IRS expects you to keep up with your tax obligations throughout the year. This means not only filing an annual return, but also paying quarterly taxes if a certain proportion of your income comes from self-employment. It’s especially vital for the self-employed to keep up with their taxes because they have no employer withholding income taxes or chipping in on Medicare and Social Security taxes. Some tools you can use to keep up with your quarterly taxes are Form 1040-ES, which can help you determine if you need to pay quarterly taxes, and the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, which you can then use to pay quarterly taxes. 

Electronically File

Depending on the system you use, electronic filing (e-filing) can have several advantages: less paperwork cluttering your desk, easy deduction-tracking systems, built-in calculators, and so on. But perhaps the biggest advantage is that, according to the IRS, e-filed returns have an error rate of only 1%, compared to 20% for paper returns. And if there is an error, e-filed returns can report back to the sender much more quickly, hopefully allowing them to correct the problem.  Furthermore, the IRS & states like NY require all tax returns to be e-filed unless you have a legitimate excuse for not filing electronically.  If they don’t like your excuse, they can fine you.

These tips are general, but every taxpayer’s situtation is unique. For more help, the IRS website—while sometimes complex—has resources for just about all tax situations. You can also talk to an R&G Brenner qualified tax professional to help you navigate the nuances of the tax code.

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