Last Minute Tax Tips

April 15th Tax Deadline Approaches; Are You Prepared?

April is here and the final rush is upon us.  The following are some last minute tax tips to keep in mind for the end of this tax season and to prepare you for next tax season (tax year 2019).  If you are still in need of professional tax help, please do not hesitate to call us toll free at (888) APRIL-15 or click the green bar to schedule an appointment.  But hurry; the April 15th deadline is quickly approaching:

Know Your Withholding:  One of the features of the new tax laws was a change in withholding tables resulting in reduced tax withholding for many W2 employees. While reduced withholding increases your weekly paycheck, it also reduces–or in some cases entirely eliminates–your expected refund.  Please check with your employer’s accounts department to verify your withholding and make any preferred adjustments.

Extension Filings Are Up:  We’ve seen a number of our clients taking a “wait-and-see” approach to these new tax law changes.  As such, we’ve seen a large increase in the amount of extensions filed this year. If you haven’t filed yet & owe money to the government, you might want to consider filing an extension. Remember: An extension is only an extension to file your final tax return; it is not an extension to pay the taxes you owe.  An estimate of taxes due is sent along with your extension by the deadline.

IRS Filings Are Down:  The number of returns submitted to the IRS is down about 2% compared to last year.  2018 was the busiest April R&G Brenner has ever had. We expect an even busier final 2 weeks this year.

Tax Filing Deadline:  To make matters worse, the past couple of years we’ve had a couple of extra days to file. Not this year: the final day to file is April 15th.  Tax returns must be electronically filed or postmarked by 11:59 pm on 4/15 or you will be subjected to penalties and interest.  Remember: This deadline is only if you owe.  If you are due a refund you have 3 more years to claim your 2018 refund.

What Are The Effects of the New Trump Tax Cuts?

How Will the New Tax Cuts Effect Me?

Whatever one chooses to call them–tax cuts or tax reform–there may be some big changes to your tax return in the future.  Below are some key takeaways to consider when developing a tax plan to minimize what could be steep tax increases in the future:

Popular Deductions are Being Eliminated or Reduced

If you itemize your deductions (file your tax return with a Schedule A) you may bear the brunt of the tax increases. State & Local Tax (SALT) deductions are now capped at $10,000. Likewise, if you recently purchased a new home or property, the mortgage interest is being capped at the first $750,000 of the principle. Deductions for interest on home equity, job expenses and certain miscellaneous deductions have being eliminated entirely; this includes union dues, uniforms, work supplies, investment advisor fees & tax preparation fees to name a few.

What this all means is that taxpayers need to take a real close look at whether it is still beneficial to itemize deductions. In some cases, it may be better to take the standard deduction. In others, it may be possible to take 2018 expenses this tax year. Every taxpayer’s situation is unique. If you feel these changes will have a negative effect, we suggest you seek out a tax professional to develop a comprehensive tax savings plan.

Double Check Your Withholding Status & Your Refund

The IRS has recently released new withholding table guidelines. In a nutshell, the IRS is guiding employers to REDUCE the amount of withholding for their employees. This essentially will INCREASE the amount of employee’s take home pay. However, if you normally get a tax refund each year, it’s important to remember that the size of your refund is basically determined by the amount you direct your employer to withhold. While it’s nice to see a larger weekly paycheck, it might not be as nice to “kick the can down the road” and see a significantly smaller refund or worse–to owe money to the IRS.

The IRS is putting the onus on you–the taxpayer–to make sure your withholding–and thus your refund–is correct. R&G Brenner suggests you consult with your employer’s Human Resources or Payroll department to determine what your withholding was last year, and what it will be this year. It should be possible to increase your withholding to ensure that your refund amount remains in an area you are comfortable with.

Delays &…More Delays

If the above changes aren’t enough to pull your hair out, why not throw in some delays to boot: The IRS is not accepting any returns for filing until 1/29/18. This is the longest delay to the start of tax season in recent history. Furthermore, if you normally file your return with tax credits like the Child Tax Credit or the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), the IRS hasn’t even released a date when they will accept those returns; all we know is that it certainly won’t be before 2/15/18. If you can’t afford or simply don’t want to wait this long for your refunds, R&G Brenner has introduced two new SAME DAY refund advance products:

Walk into any R&G Brenner location today, and qualified candidates can walk out with as much as $2,800.  Note: these are limited time offers

RGB Shield: Identity & Audit Protection

Identity theft–especially concerning taxes & the IRS–is an ever increasing problem affecting millions of taxpayers each year. $16 BILLION was stolen from 15.4 MILLION U.S. consumers last year!  In order to combat this epidemic, R&G Brenner has introduced “RGB Shield”: For only $65, get 1 year of identity and also receive 3 FREE years of audit protection. This includes protection for any penalties, interest & unpaid tax liability up to $2,500 at nearly a 50% discount ($120 retail for Identity protection alone; not including audit protection).  This is a special offer for R&G Brenner clients only.

Government Shutdown

The shutdown of the U.S. Government has added a new wrinkle to all the above issues.  According to the FY2018 Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan (During the Filing Season) the start of the tax filing season–1/29/18–will proceed as planed.  However, if the shutdown lasts more than 5 days, these plans may be reassessed.  In other words, as of this writing–1/22/18–the IRS has 3 more days before changes can be made.

Need More Info or Assistance?

Watch this 3 minute video which does a pretty good job of explaining the upcoming tax changes.

Visit our website for more information regarding any tax related matter, or simply click “Book Appointment” to schedule a meeting with an experienced R&G Brenner tax professional and we’ll help you navigate this new tax environment.

2018 Tax Outlook for R&G Brenner Clients

Dear R&G Brenner Clients,

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “the only thing certain in life is death & taxes”.  Well this year it would be more appropriate to say “the only thing certain in life, is uncertainty about your taxes”. Congress just passed a $1.5 TRILLION tax bill that is causing confusion & anxiety; especially for residents of New York, California, New Jersey, Connecticut & other residents of states with high state & local income tax. The Health Care law is in limbo, but the IRS is still enforcing the penalty for not having health care. And identity theft is spreading at an alarming rate; $16 BILLION was stolen from 15.4 MILLION U.S. consumers last year! We’re approaching this tax season as we approached the last few years.  In other words, R&G Brenner has anticipated these types of tax related S.N.A.F.U.s and we are prepared to combat any refund delays as well as the extreme rise of identity theft with the following new products & promotions*:

Get Up to a $2,500 Refund Advance…TODAY!
$2,500 is twice the refund advance amount that we offered last year.  The IRS just announced that taxpayers claiming EITC & Child Tax Credit will have to wait until March to get their refund through regular filing!  Don’t worry, come in today and qualified applicants can walk out with up to a $2,500 advance on your refund.   We’ve already issued almost $100,000 in refund advances; get yours today!

Get up to $300 Cash “Early Bird Special”
With R&G Brenner’s client loyalty program, get up to an additional $300 SAME DAY cash advance when you file with R&G Brenner before 2/15/18.  No interest & No Fees! Approved applicants are required to file their tax return as a Refund Transfer*.

RGB Shield
Identity theft–especially concerning taxes & the IRS--is an ever increasing problem affecting millions of taxpayers each year. For only $65, get 1 year of identity theft protection at a 50% discount ($120 retail) and also receive FREE Audit protection. This includes protection for any penalties, interest & unpaid tax liability up to $2,500 for 3 years!  This is a special offer only for our clients. Protect yourself and your family with RGB Shield.

$50 CASH per Referral: Last year we paid out over $100,000 to clients just like you.  For every new client you refer, you get $50 CASH! Remember: There is no limit to how many clients you can refer. Taxes may never be fun, but they are rewarding with R&G Brenner. Click here to start referring and earning cash.

All R&G Brenner offices are open and ready to assist you.  If you’d like to discuss any tax related matter—or would like to set up an early meeting to discuss your taxes—just click the “book appointment” button below or feel free to call us toll free at (888) APRIL-15.  I wish you and your family a very happy new year and we hope to see you soon.

Very Truly Yours,

Benjamin K. Brenner
R&G Brenner Income Tax

IRS Now Accepting All Tax Returns

IRS Now Accepting All Returns

After delays to the start of the tax filing season, and additional delays for tax returns with certain forms like the earned income tax credit & the additional child tax credit, the IRS is now accepting ALL tax returns for processing!

Because of these delays, the IRS has received about 6 million less returns compared to last year (down over 17%).  This means tax professionals and the IRS will be very busy for the next 3-5 weeks.  We encourage all new & repeat clients of R&G Brenner to schedule their appointments as soon as possible in order to get their preferred date & time slot; we expect heavy traffic in our offices right up until April 18th.

Some additional tax related information:

  1. What Should I Bring To My Tax Appointment?
  2. Current Promotions & Advances
  3. List of R&G Brenner Locations
  4. R&G Brenner Client Rewards; Join & Earn Cash For your Referrals!

Important Tax Information For R&G Brenner Clients

Dear R&G Brenner Client,

I hope you and your family had a pleasant 2016 and we are looking forward to seeing you again soon. Like last year, we are letting our clients know about what surprises this tax year has in store for us. With the election over and a new incoming administration there is a lot of uncertainty swirling about. Here are some of the important tax changes & information we are aware of that may affect you:

EITC & Child Tax Credits Are Delayed

Yes, unfortunately you read this correctly. The IRS is not processing any refunds with the following tax forms until February 15th, 2017: The Earned Income Tax Credit, Additional Child Tax Credit & The American Opportunity Credit. If you normally file on or around 2/15, this should have little effect on you. However, if you file earlier, I urge you to plan accordingly for this delay & save additional funds if you depend on your tax refund for expenses. We are also expanding our Refund Advance Options to help R&G Brenner clients who may be affected by this (below).

Expanded R&G Brenner Refund Advances

If you rely on your refund, and these delays will seriously affect you, don’t worry; R&G Brenner has multiple refund advances for qualified R&G Brenner clients.  But hurry!  These are limited time offers:

Insurance Premiums Are Increasing Big Time

If you or members of your family did not have health insurance for 2016 be prepared to get hit with the largest penalty yet: $695 per Adult, $347 per Child or 2.5% of your income (whichever is greater). The maximum penalty per family is $2,085. Ouch, this is more than double the penalty for 2015. Even if you have health insurance already, it is worth checking what’s on the exchanges before you renew as premiums are expected to jump over 25% on average in 2017. And with the Affordable Care Act on the chopping block, expect even more confusion. If you’d like any assistance with health insurance, click here to speak with an RGB Health Rep.

$50 CASH per Referral is Back!

Last year we paid out almost $500,000 in CASH to clients just like you, and we are doing it again this year. For every new client you refer, you will get $50 CASH! Unfortunately, many clients did not know about this great promotion, so we are making it even easier: You can now conveniently refer your friends and family online; click here to start referring and earning cash. Remember: There is no limit to how many clients you can refer and as soon as your referral commits to filing with R&G Brenner, you will be notified via email to come pick up your cash. Taxes may never be fun, but they are rewarding with R&G Brenner.

If you’d like to discuss any tax related matter please contact us when you are ready.  You can also schedule an appointment on the right side of this page.  I wish you and your family a very happy new year and we hope to see you and your family in 2017.

Very Truly Yours,

Benjamin K. Brenner

Will My Refund Be Delayed This Year?

If your rely on your refund, plan for delays
If your rely on your refund, plan for delays

“Will my refund be delayed this year” is becoming an all too common refrain these days. Delayed e-filing dates, IRS not accepting tax forms & documents not being mailed out on time have all occurred over the last few years and have caused refund delays. However for the 2017 tax filing season (2016 tax year), it looks like we will get hit with all three of these scenarios at once:

Electronic Filing Start Date

Electronic filing has historically began around January 15th.  However, over the past few years, these dates have been pushed back from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.  This year is notable because as of time of this writing, the IRS has not even formally announced a beginning date to electronic filing!  A commencement date is usually announced weeks if not months earlier.  Therefore, it is a good bet to expect electronic filing to begin after 1/15 this year.  We will post the official start date once the IRS releases it.

IRS Delaying Processing of Popular Tax Credits

The IRS has announced that the following tax credit forms will not be accepted for processing until February 15th, 2017:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
  • Child Tax Credit (CTC)
  • Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC)
  • The American Opportunity Credit (AOTC).

This is a nationwide law change required by Congress in the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act; this is not a company or state change. If you normally file your taxes around this time (2/15/17), this delay should have a minimal impact on you.  However, if you tend to file early and/or have plans for your tax refund in advance, R&G Brenner suggests that you prepare yourself accordingly. For example: if you rely on your refund for critical services (rent, utilities, etc), we suggest that you save some funds to carry you through any potential delays.

IRS Delays Form 1095 Distribution Deadline

The original deadline for distributing Form 1095-B and Form 1095-C to individuals was January 31, 2017. The new deadline is March 2, 2017. The extension provides Applicable Large Employers (ALEs), self-insured group health plans, and health insurance carriers more time to populate and distribute the forms.  Since a final tax return cannot be filed without these health care related reporting, this too may delay the filing of your return and receipt of your refund.

These delays will affect taxpayers who claim popular credits & professional tax preparers the most as it may create a backlog and crush of appointments later on in the year.  R&G Brenner suggests that you bring with you all supporting documentation for the above tax credits which will allow for the accurate preparation of your return and help minimize any potential delays.

If you have any additional questions about this or anything else, please feel free to contact an R&G Brenner professional via the web, or by calling us toll free: (888) APRIL-15.

How To Protect My Financial Information

10 Tips To Protect Your Taxpayer & Financial Info
10 Tips To Protect Your Taxpayer & Financial Info

October is Cyber Security Awareness month, and the New York State Department of Taxation & Finance has released a list of 10 tips that all taxpayers should know in order to protect their financial information and keep it from falling into the wrong hands:

1. Be wary of aggressive phone scams – Be sure to only give personal information—including social security numbers—to someone you trust. Remember, the NYS Tax Department and the IRS will contact you by mail first and will never threaten you over the phone or demand payment be made through MoneyGram, Western Union, or other wire transfer services; or using iTunes, Greendot, or other cash or gift cards.

2. Avoid phishing scams – Taxpayers may receive emails with authentic-looking government logos that offer assistance in settling fake tax issues. The NYS Tax Department and IRS will never request personal or financial information by email.

3. Protect your computer – Ensure that your computer is secure when accessing your financial accounts online by looking for “https,” with an “s” after the “http,” in the website address.

4. Use strong passwords – Use a combination of upper- and lower-case letters as well as numbers and symbols when creating a new password. Don’t use your name, birthdate, or common words. Use a different password for each of your accounts.

5. Use secure wireless networks – Always encrypt your wireless network with a strong password. Never access your personal accounts on a public Wi-Fi network.

6. Review bank accounts and statements – Check your credit card and banking statements regularly to spot any suspicious activity.

7. Review credit reports annually – Review each of your credit reports annually to spot any new lines of credit that you didn’t apply for or authorize. This can be a sign that a thief has stolen your identity and opened up a credit card, for example, in your name.

8. Think before you post – The more information and photos you share via social media, including current and past addresses, or names of relatives, can provide scammers possible answers to your security questions or otherwise help them access your accounts.

9. Secure tax documents – Store hard copies of your federal and NYS tax returns in a safe place. Digital copies should also be saved. Shred documents that contain personal information before throwing them away.

10. Review and respond to all NYS Tax Department communications– You should review and respond to all notices sent from the Tax Department. Any unexpected correspondence from the Tax Department can be a potential sign that your identity has been stolen. It’s important that you contact the Tax Department immediately to confirm any liabilities.

If you believe that you’ve been contacted by a cyber criminal attempting a scam, have been the victim of fraud or identity theft, or suspect a tax preparer is engaging in illegal activities, visit the Tax Department’s Report fraud, scams, and identity theft webpage to learn how to report it. The Tax Department takes this type of illegal activity seriously, promptly reviews each compliant, and takes corrective action when appropriate.

If you believe you are victim of identity theft and or your financial information has been compromised, please contact an R&G Brenner professional after your report your situation to the authorities.  We may be able to help you to minimize any potential damage.  Remember, NEVER send W2s, 1099s, tax returns or other private information via email; always use a secure file transfer when sending sensitive documents over the internet.  All R&G Brenner professionals offer free secure file transfer solutions to our clients.

Indian Police Arrest 70 In IRS Calling Scam

Indian Police Take Down IRS Scam Call Center
Indian Police Take Down IRS Scam Call Center

Police in India have arrested at least 70 people involved with impersonating IRS agents at a fake call center in an attempt to defraud U.S. Taxpayers.  Hundreds more are being held for questioning.

The popularity of this scam has grown exponentially as nearly every taxpayer has experienced a call like this first hand, or know a friend or acquaintance that has received calls like this. Over the last 3 years alone, the IRS has received nearly 1 Million complaints of similar low-tech scams which cost taxpayers over $26 Million.  It has been previously reported that these calls have originating from countries like India, Pakistan & Russia:

According to police in Mumbai, the yearlong scam involved running fake call centers which sent voice mail messages telling U.S. nationals to call back because they owed back taxes.

Those who called back and believed the threats would fork out thousands of dollars to “settle” their case, Mumbai police officer Parag Marere said Thursday.

The scam brought in more than $150,000 a day, Marere said without giving a total sum. If the scam netted that amount daily, it would have made almost $55 million in one year.

Some victims were also told to buy gift vouchers from various companies, and hand over the voucher ID numbers which the impostors then used to make purchases, Marere said.

Police said they are likely to file charges against many of the 600 or more people still being questioned on suspicion of running the fake call centers, housed on several stories of a Mumbai office building…

Indian media reports said 70 percent of the scam’s proceeds were retained by the suspects in India, while the rest was paid to collaborators in the U.S.

Indian news broadcaster NDTV reported that one U.S.-based company allegedly collected the victims’ personal information and passed it to the fake call centers.

Here are some tips to avoid being the victim of a phone scam:

  • The IRS rarely if ever initiates calls to taxpayers.  If you owe tax money they will formally notify taxpayers with a mailed letter to the address listed on the tax return
  • The IRS cannot demand payment on the spot; the IRS also offers payment plans
  • The IRS does not request a specific type of payments like gift cards or prepaid debit cards
  • The IRS will never ask for credit card information over the phone

This particular call center was working with U.S. based criminals who provided the taxpayer contact information to this call center.  Protecting your private personal information is the first step in avoiding these types of scams.  NEVER provide personal information over the phone. NEVER e-mail information that contains social security numbers, bank account number, credit card numbers, user names or passwords.  R&G Brenner offers secure file transfer services free-of-charge to all of it’s clients who want a digital solution for sending tax related documents.  All tax professionals who are serious about protecting their clients private tax information—whether independent, franchise or CPA— should offer a similar service.  If you’d like more information about how R&G Brenner protects client data, feel free to contact us at (888) APRIL-15 or by clicking here.

Lastly, if you feel that you are becoming a target for a scam like this, you can report it to the IRS by calling: (800) 366-4484.


2015 Taxes Due Today! Last Minute Filers Guide

Tick-Tock, The Deadline Approaches
Tick-Tock, The Deadline Approaches

Tax day is here! And all taxpayers who waited to the last minute are having some form of panic attacks.  But don’t worry!  You are not going to jail if you don’t file your taxes on time, so take a deep breath, and here is your definitive guide to last minute tax filing:

The Deadline Is April 18th:  Due to special holidays, 2015 taxes are due April 18th this year.  So if you’ve already  resigned into thinking you missed the deadline you’re in luck!  Get your stuff together and head to an R&G Brenner location near you before it’s too late!

Not Ready?  File An Extension: If you are still scrambling to amass your documentation, expenses & deductions, don’t sweat and file an extension.  An extension will allow you more time to get your stuff together (or more time to procrastinate).  Either way, you’ll save money in unnecessary penalties and late filing fees.  However, be aware that filing for an extension to file your tax return is not an extension to pay your taxes due; you must send a rough estimate of what you think you will owe to the taxing authorities.  If you are unsure, overestimate; you will get an overpayment refund when you file your final tax return.  If you underestimate, you will be subject to interest charges on the amount you underpaid.  Even if you can’t pay your full amount of taxes due, send something even if it’s just $20.  This will prevent penalties and the taxing authorities will offer to put you on a payment plan.

Deadline & Extensions Are Only For Taxpayers who OWE:  This is the most common mistake that taxpayers make.  If you are due a refund, you have 3 years to file your tax return to claim that refund.   No extensions are necessary.  The deadline & extensions are only if you owe taxes and cannot file your final tax return by the deadline.  So if you are getting a refund, next year don’t scramble to file by the deadline.  You can simply wait one day after the deadline and you should be able to get an appointment of your choice and be able to sit with a tax professional pressure-free.  Just remember: If you do not file for a refund before the statute of limitations runs out (3 years), you refund(s) become the property of the US Government and/0r Taxing State.  That’s your money!  Don’t give it away.

Plan For Next Year: It’s hard to change one’s habits.  But technology is making it easier.  Almost everyone has a smart phone.  If you are in a cab, or taking a client to dinner, it is very easy to simply snap a photo of the receipts with your phone.  Same thing for when you get your income statements of K1’s. Keep all those photos in a folder and when it comes time doing your taxes—either by yourself or with a tax professional—you will have all the heavy lifting done already.  This will save you time and stress.

While most R&G Brenner professionals are fully booked in this late hour, many offices are keeping extended hours in anticipation of a rush of last minute filers.  If you can’t get an appointment with an R&G Brenner Tax Professional, just walk in and if you can’t meet with a tax pro on your schedule, just drop off your papers and we file them as soon as possible.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us toll free at (888) APRIL-15.  Happy Tax day and rememeber: “Saving you time and money is what we are all about”.

Benjamin K. Brenner

Tax Season Begins; R&G Brenner Promotions Extended

Don't File By Hand, Electronically File with R&G Brenner
Don’t File By Hand, Electronically File with R&G Brenner!

The 2016 tax season has officially begun as the IRS is currently accepting tax returns for electronic filing. Many employers are mailing their wage documents earlier and/or are offering ways for employees to download their documents.  As such, we are seeing a noticeable increase in client volume at many of our R&G Brenner offices.  If you’d like to make an appointment for an early appointment, we ask that you do so as soon as you are able so we can accommodate your preferred meeting dates & times.

Furthermore, R&G Brenner is offering a slew of new products and promotions.  They have been so popular, we have already extended the deadlines for some.  Our current promotions are*:

  • $100 Cash Early Bird Special: Come to any participating R&G Brenner office, and all qualifying applicants can walk out with $100 Cash as an advance on their refund.  No Fees or Interest Apply!
  • $750 “Easy Advance” Refund Advance: Qualifying applicants who file their return as a Refund Anticipation Check (RAC) can also get a larger no-fee, no-interest $750 advance on their refund from our bank provider: Republic Bank & Trust.
  • $50 CASH For Referrals: We’ve updated our Client Rewards this year by more than doubling our cash payments for new clients referred to R&G Brenner: We will pay you $50 Cash for every new client your refer!  Plus, your cash will be available as soon as your referral files their taxes with us. There is no limit to the amount of Cash you can earn!  Click here for more info.
  • FREE Secure File Transfer: Due to the explosion of identity theft as it relates to the IRS and filing taxes, all R&G Brenner professionals are now equipped with Dropbox accounts to securely receive confidential tax information.  Click here for more info.

R&G Brenner offices are all currently opened and staffed with highly trained CPAs, EAs, RTRPs & other professionals.  If you have any questions about the above promotions, any R&G Brenner service and/or have tax related questions, please feel free to contact us.  Have a very happy & profitable New Year!

*All promotions have individual rules, qualifications & restrictions.  Click here for a list of all our promotions and click on the individual promotion for all related rules.