Computer problems have caused the IRS to cease accepting electronically filed tax returns until further notice:
The outage could affect refunds, but the agency said it doesn’t anticipate “major disruptions.”…”The IRS is still assessing the scope of the outage,” the agency said. “At this time, the IRS does not anticipate major refund disruptions; we continue to expect that nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refunds within 21 days.”
R&G Brenner is looking for hardworking, outgoing & reliable street promoters to market our company’s current promotions. Job starts immediately & entails distributing flyers, door hangers and other R&G Brenner materials to generate new business.
Compensation is hourly with additional $5 bonus for each new client generated. Students & Interns are welcome. Apply asap by contacting K.R. Uregar, Director of Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.
Economic insecurity is the uncertainty that your family faces in the unpredictable future based on your income, resources, and debt. Many families, even those in the middle class, feel financially unstable and insecure, leading to increased stress and anxiety about regular bills and unexpected expenditures. Are they saving enough for retirement? What if Social Security dries up by the time they reach their own retirement and they’re left to fend for themselves? Should they be saving more for their kids’ college funds?
If you’re struggling to pay off debt and make ends meet, you probably do not feel financially stable. Unfortunately, if you are feeling acute financial insecurity, you aren’t alone. The majority of citizens in the United States are experiencing economic anxiety—even those who aren’t, strictly speaking, financially insecure. Even middle class Americans are experiencing this anxiety. To understand why, we’ll need to dig a little deeper.
Reasons for Anxiety
People who identify as middle class do not necessarily do so based on their income. These days, economists argue, being middle class is more of a sociological status, and is based on people’s perceptions of how they look in relation to their parents, neighbors, or colleagues. Today’s middle class families may have more education and belongings than their parents had at the same age, but they don’t feel like they’re any better off.
According to the New York Times, a typical American family today makes less than the typical family did in 2000, just 15 years ago. The median per capita income has stagnated since 2000, while housing, college, and healthcare expenses have increased faster than the rate of inflation. Many Americans are working harder, but not seeing any improvement in their quality of life. This creates a feeling of anxiety and insecurity.
Luxury As the New Standard
Markers of a lifestyle that indicates your family is well-off have changed. Remember when owning a laptop was a luxury? In today’s economy, it’s almost a necessity. What about cell phones? Just a few years ago, a Blackberry made its owner seem and feel important. Today, practically everyone has a smartphone. Things that were once considered luxury goods have become more affordable, but socially that means that they’ve become less associated with luxury and more with ubiquity and necessity. Once, having a cell phone meant you were wealthy; now, phones are much more sophisticated and widely available, but since everyone else has them, they don’t feel as special, don’t signal the same wealth they once did.
A Lack of Resources Felt by All
More Americans feel like they need a safety net to protect their assets. Economic insecurity means that Americans worry about whether Social Security will be there for them when they retire. They worry about losing their jobs or being unable to afford health insurance, or even losing their homes. Unlike so many issues which divide the populace along party lines, Democrats, Republicans and Independents report very similar levels of economic anxiety.
Muddying the issue and increasing the anxiety is the fact that Americans have less in savings than ever before. Most people are carrying a large amount of credit card debt, which creates pressure when paying bills. In a February, 2015 study, 37 percent of Americans have more credit card debt than they have in savings. This increases the feeling of financial insecurity because of the vicious cycle of debt. Not having enough money in savings means that in an emergency, a family might not be able to scrape together the cash needed, such as for unexpected hospital bills or auto repairs after a break-in. Knowing that you’re one unforeseen event away from financial ruin can only make you feel more insecure.
The aftershocks of the Great Recession are still being felt today. The stock market is at record highs, but global volatility is tamping down what should be an economic boom. With so many Americans working harder, longer, and later in life it is easy to see where this anxiety is coming from.
If you recently lost your job, filing for unemployment benefits is one of the first things you will need to do. Receiving unemployment benefits can help you to get by financially as you search for new employment. However, there are tax consequences related to unemployment benefits. You need to know what you will pay in taxes for the unemployment benefits you receive to make sure you can afford to pay your taxes.
The employment benefits you receive are taxable once you’ve received more than a set amount. These benefits are not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes. Depending upon which state you reside in, your taxes will be exempt from state taxes. The best option is to have at least 10 percent of your unemployment check withheld for federal taxes. If you do not have the money withheld, you could end up paying an even higher amount of money due to assessed penalties and/or interest.
If you receive severance pay, you will need to pay federal and state taxes. For individuals that receive a lump-sum severance payment, the tax is withheld at a flat rate. It is important to find out what the tax rates are in your state to understand if you will owe less or more when you file taxes. Certain tax breaks can cut into the taxes you need to pay or will receive back as you may be unable to itemize deductions.
Some people choose to withdraw money from their 401k or IRA plans during unemployment. If you take money out of a former employer’s 401k and you did not roll the proceeds into an IRA within a set amount of time, the money is added to your income for taxation purposes. This will require you to pay federal and state income taxes on it. The money you withdraw from the retirement account could cost you 10 percent in tax penalties, so use caution when exercising this option.
You will receive a form 1099G for tax reasons. You will need to fill out a form 940 when filing taxes. It is important to work with a tax professional if you are not sure how to correctly fill out the forms you are given.
One of the most important things you can do to help save money on taxes during a period of unemployment is to deduct your job search expenses. Resume preparation costs, travel expenses related to job searching, and cost for employment agencies are all tax deductible. Only taking the standard deduction will prevent you from claiming these costs on your taxes. Meet with an experienced R&G Brenner tax professional to help you determine what you can deduct. Understanding which tax breaks you are eligible for will allow you to have the money you need to help with your job search instead of having to worry about paying taxes.
Unemployment affects your taxes in a whole variety of ways. If you are currently or recently unemployed, make sure you know what changes you’ll need to make to your taxes this year.
When you are focused on improving your credit, paying on time and avoiding high amounts of debt will help you build a great credit rating. If you are not paying your taxes, or you use personal loans or credit cards to pay your taxes, your tax bill is something that could have a devastating impact on your credit rating. Missing a deadline for tax payments to the IRS could even result in a tax lien. Here are some ways taxes can affect your credit:
What is a Tax Lien?
If you fail to pay your taxes, the IRS can file a federal tax lien with the credit bureaus. This will dramatically impact your credit rating. The IRS usually files a lien if you owe more than $10,000 and you have not paid for at least 30 days. If you end up with a lien from the IRS, you can end up with 100-point hit to your credit rating; enough to take your score from good to poor and significantly affect an individual’s financial history.
IRS Payment Plans
The best way to avoid a tax lien is to pay your taxes on time. If you do fall behind, one option the IRS provides is a payment plan for individuals to pay their taxes. The IRS will automatically debit your account each month until you have paid off the entire balance owed. If you enroll in the payment plan, you can have the lien removed by asking the IRS to take it off your credit report. Payment plans with the IRS will not reflect on your credit rating, but if you are late with payments to the IRS, they can reinstate the lien which will then negatively affect your credit.
Some people choose to take out a personal loan to pay their back taxes. If you decide to go this route to pay your taxes, keep in mind that you will need to pay interest on the loan which could compound and result in a much higher total owed depending on the interest charged. To be approved for the loan, you must meet the credit requirements of the lender. When they pull your credit report, a failure to pay your taxes will appear on your credit report, which will affect the interest rate at which a loan is extended to you or even prevent you from getting a loan at all. If you are late to make payments, your credit rating will be impacted. Defaulting on the loan, like failing to pay your taxes, will drastically hurt your credit score. That said, the interest from an IRS installment plan may accrue more quickly than the interest on a loan. Carefully consider if using a personal loan to pay your taxes is the best decision, and consult with an R&G Brenner tax professional if you need help deciding what would be right for you.
Credit Card Payments
Another way your tax bill can impact your credit rating is if you use a credit card to pay your taxes. Credit cards come with certain interest rates, which can increase your debt burden. The interest of a credit card can end up causing you to pay more money than you initially owed in taxes. Like a personal loan, missing payments on your credit card can hurt your credit score. Credit cards add to your debt burden, which can hurt your credit rating if you end up borrowing too much. Having a high balance on your credit cards can even prevent you from raising your credit score. If your credit rating is severely impacted, you can have a hard time getting approved for other loans, and it can even hurt your ability to find a job.
R&G Brenner usually suggests taxpayers try to take advantage of payment programs offered by the IRS, before other options as they usually are the most beneficial to the taxpayer. However, it is important to consider all different options available when paying your taxes so taxpayers do not end up unnecessarily struggling with higher amounts of debt.
As a person living with Celiac Disease, it probably took you a long time—maybe even years—to get a diagnosis of this condition, which prevents the body from processing and digesting the protein gluten. In recent years, the push to recognize the importance of a gluten-free diet has vindicated many people suffering from Celiac Disease. With so many restaurants and grocery stores selling foods marketed specifically toward the gluten-free set, it has become easier for people to live with this disease and feel healthier as a result. Now there’s another benefit: taxpayers with Celiac Disease could qualify for a tax deduction as a result. Keep reading to find out if you qualify for this deduction and how to take advantage of it if you do.
How to Benefit: Get Proof
These potential tax deductions are designed to help allay the expenses that come with needing to buy gluten-free foods and products, which can cost significantly more than their glutinous counterparts. A lot goes into obtaining this tax deduction, though, which requires dedication and effort for documentation purposes. Providing evidence of your claim is perhaps the most important: get a doctor’s note with a diagnosis of Celiac Disease, advises Celiac Central. Once you have that, you can proceed to the other steps.
Save All Documents and Receipts
In addition to obtaining a doctor’s note, you’ll need to save your receipts for all gluten-free products you purchase throughout the year. You will need proof of purchase regardless of whether you bought the food at a regular grocery store or a specialty bakery shop. As per the tax regulations, the deduction applies only to the price difference between the gluten-free products and the traditional option. So, for instance, if you were to buy rice flour for $3, and regular wheat flour costs $1, you could deduct the $2 difference in price for this item.
You can also get reimbursed for shipping costs and travel costs to and from the store. Every time you use your car to go to the market for gluten-free foods, write down the mileage and save it. This year’s mileage deduction for transportation is 23 cents on the mile. Parking costs and toll fees are also accepted. Documenting all these expenses can get pretty time consuming, but it’s the best way to ensure you’ll be reimbursed.
If you decide to take advantage of this tax deduction, it’s wise to start documenting your expenditure and collecting receipts throughout the rest of this year to take advantage of the deduction on next year’s taxes. While you can certainly benefit from this deduction, you and/or your tax pro will have to determine if the potential reward of the reimbursement is worth your time and dedication to record all the necessary documents.
While many states rely heavily on taxes levied on the oil and gas industry, the falling price of oil in recent months is contributing to the drying-up of much-needed tax revenues. How do states such as Alaska, Texas and other mineral-rich states get creative when they need to supplement their budgets? Here’s a quick look at why low oil prices are bad news for state budgets.
Rainy Day Funds
Sure, you love the low price of gas at the pump when filling up, but not everyone thinks this is great. States like Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, New Mexico, Texas, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming depend on severance taxes levied on oil and gas producers, and with oil prices plunging from $96 a barrel in July 2014 to about $50 a barrel today, these states have no choice but to tap into their rainy day funds, slash spending or raise taxes, according to The Huffington Post.
Each state on this list is affected differently. For example, Texas produces more than 100 million barrels per month of oil—more than anywhere else in the nation—yet only nine percent of its revenues are sourced from severance taxes. This stands in stark contrast to Alaska, which only produces 16 million barrels a month yet derives nearly 80 percent of its revenue from severance taxes.
The hardest-hit states, such as Alaska, Texas and Montana, have to consider some hard realities in order to offset the reduction in tax revenues. What they could once count on as a given is no longer an option. With Alaska currently experiencing a $3.6 billion gap in its $6.1 billion budget, law makers in the state are proposing a spending cut of between five and eight percent.
There are other options for Alaska, though: it could tap into its Permanent Fund, which contains money from surplus revenues resulting from the development of the state’s invested oil and gas reserves. This fund currently shells out a yearly dividend to eligible Alaska residents. Currently, that fund holds about $50 billion. Stripping the state spending budget only to essential services could help offset the reduced severance taxes coming in, but over the long haul, many decision-makers feel it’s wise to create a more balanced tax structure to handle dips in the availability of severance funds.
North Dakota is another state looking at a cut in severance taxes—from $8 billion in oil revenue to $4 billion. Its reserve fund holds about $1 billion currently, which includes money earmarked for water projects, disaster relief and infrastructure improvements. However, the state can’t dip into this until a 2.5 percent cut has been made to all state agencies. At the federal level, Congress is considering stepping in to raise the gas tax for the first time since 1993, where this tax has remained at 18.4 cents per gallon, according to The Washington Post. However, that is not a certainty and Congress is still debating the issue.
While the states facing this oil and gas revenue shortage are by no means broke, this situation does pose a challenge for them, prompting more creative uses of budgetary resources. However, these States would be wise to start thinking about contingency plans as low oil prices could become the “new normal”; especially since the push for clean & renewable energy has been reinvigorated as prices drop and climate change becomes harder and harder to deny.
Tax season has passed us by, but it’s not too early to start looking for ways to maximize your refund or limit your tax liability next year. There are dozens of interesting and unique tax deductions you might’ve missed. Below you can take a look at some of the more unique deduction opportunities that may be available to you.
A pastime for many, even Bingo can be deducted on your taxes. You can deduct your Bingo losses every year up to the amount that you won. That means if you won $5000 last year, you can deduct up to $5000 in losses in the same year. As you might expect, this deduction requires you to submit a relatively detailed amount of information regarding your winnings and losses for the year. The IRS allows this type of deduction for a variety of wagering, provided that taxpayer keeps a detailed diary of the wagers involved, where they were placed, who the wagers were between, and how much was won or lost.
Minor Business Gifts
The IRS is cool with giving small business gifts, provided that they aren’t excessively lavish. Essentially, this means that you are allowed to deduct as much as $25 on a business gift for each individual. You can also deduct gifts that are distributed to many employees if they’re branded with your name, such as a pen or bag, and the gifts are under four dollars. For those kinds of set gifts, the total sum of the cost can be deducted, even exceeding the $25 limit for individuals.
Although whale hunting remains virtually banned within the United States, it remains a heavy protected trade for a handful of people who are indigenous to Alaska. For the past 11 years, tribal whale hunters have been able to write off as much as $10,000 in whaling equipment each year, including repairs to their crafts, harpoons, food for their crew, and so on. It’s worth mentioning that whale hunting is still a very limited, seasonal tradition, only legally permissible for a small number of indigenous tribes—if you don’t belong to one of those tribes, you shouldn’t try to deduct whaling expenses from your taxes.
Weight Loss Programs
In one of the most overweight countries in the world, it might not be too surprising to learn that the costs for some weight loss programs can be deducted from your taxes. In order to be eligible, you have to be part of a program to treat a specific condition that has been diagnosed by a doctor. Even then, many fees are not eligible, including swim lessons, health club membership dues, and a variety of other alternative programs. If you’re not sure what qualifies, you can consult with a tax professional or check with the IRS.
A variety of work-related clothing is available for deduction, provided that it meets two simple qualifications. First and foremost, it has to be worn as an absolute condition of being employed in that position. For example, a firefighter has no choice whether to show up in a firefighter uniform—its required for the job. The second condition is that your uniform can’t be a substitute for standard everyday clothes. So if you work in an office environment where you are expected to dress business casual, those business casual clothes are not deductible because they could just as easily be everyday clothes.
In South Carolina, any professional butcher, meatpacker, or processing plant can earn $50 in a rebate by donating a processed deer carcass to a charitable organization. The carcass must be entirely new, meaning none of the meat can be used for any commercial purpose, and those making the donation must prepare the meat for distribution before it’s donated. This includes skinning, cutting, and packaging the meat. That’s a pretty narrow niche, but if you qualify, don’t forget to nab that extra chunk of change!
You may not qualify for many of these deductions, but there are a number of surprising tax write-offs you may have missed. Spend some time before next tax season doing a little research to see if you qualify for any deductions you may have missed this year. Remember, if you’ve missed any favorable deductions that will materially alter your tax return to your benefit, the IRS allows you to amend tax returns going back as far as 3 years ago before the April 15th deadline.
“If we can find a bunch of billionaires around the world to move here, that would be a godsend,”opined Michael Bloomberg during his tenure as mayor of New York City. “Because that’s where the revenue comes to take care of everybody else.” His dream was that the taxes they paid would provide such an infusion of cash to the municipality that the rising tide would lift all boats and the money could be reinvested into helping those struggling to make ends meet.
It seems that his dream has indeed come true. Higher and higher condo towers are going up each year, with views that are affordable only for the super-wealthy. But there’s a catch in the former mayor’s ideal: tax codes in New York City make it possible for those buying and selling $100 million dollar abodes in the sky to pay next to nothing in property taxes. Here’s how billionaire homeowners in the Big Apple manage to avoid paying property taxes:
It’s All in the Assessment
Part of the reason the billionaires Bloomberg dreamed of attracting aren’t paying the taxes he dreamed would come with them has to do with the way property taxes are assessed in the city. The new, gleaming, glass-covered residential skyscrapers are being assessed at just a fraction of their market value, and buyers are paying only a tiny slice of that fraction in property taxes.
Taxes Based on Location
Property taxes in the city are not based on the sale prices of the units, as happens in most states. Instead, property taxes vary widely depending on a given building’s location within the city. This method of calculating property tax were put into effect over many years in an effort to avoid burdening homeowners with huge property tax bills.
But that plan didn’t take into consideration the effects of gentrification and what happens when property in neighborhoods appreciates in value rapidly. The result is that people who buy property in certain areas of the city pay far less in property taxes than an owner in a different area, where property prices are more stable. Some areas have seen their property values rise so quickly that the only people who can afford to buy are the wealthiest New Yorkers, who will paradoxically pay very little in property taxes.
New York City offers a tax break to new development as an incentive to builders, called the 421-a exemption. The goal was to make new construction more affordable and thus more attractive, creating jobs and bringing in revenue. But the result has been towering residential skyscrapers full of condos going for $90 to $100 million to buyers who will pay just .001 of the average property tax rate.
For example, one penthouse on the 89th and 90th floors in the ultra-sleek One57 building went for more than $100 million. The new owners paid just $17,000 in property taxes, which comes to .017 percent, almost one-hundredth of the tax rate paid nationally by homeowners. This unit isn’t an exception, either, but rather the new norm. According to real estate experts, the owner of the penthouse mentioned is actually being assessed as if the condo cost in the range of $3 to $6 million. But someone is paying those taxes, and in New York, it’s often renters–not-homeowners–who are footing the bill.
This is a odd setup for a city that relies on property taxes for most of its revenue. It’s also a problematic one. The result of the way the current tax code is written is that renters in apartment buildings end up paying, indirectly, most of the property taxes that the wealthy condo owners aren’t paying, shifting the tax burden from those who can most afford to pay to those who often can’t. In effect, low-income renters in the city are subsidizing housing costs for the wealthy.
Property Tax Burden Shifted onto Renters
Someone has to pay the property taxes. Gradually, that “someone” has become the renter. This is because large apartment buildings and the majority of co-ops are considered Class 2 property for tax purposes. All are taxed as apartment buildings that generate income according to a complicated and outmoded formula based on a state law last revised in 1981. The result is the burden of paying property taxes has slowly shifted from people who own property to people who rent; essentially from the rich, to the poor.
Not paying property taxes at the same rate as their lower-income renting counterparts isn’t the only way the wealthy homeowners are benefitting from the new status quo. There is even a proposal in the City Council to create a rebate of $250 on homeowners’ property taxes each year. The idea is to make homeownership affordable for everyone, but the proposal would cost non-homeowners $95 million. Even now, homeowners in the city pay substantially less in property taxes than homeowners in nearby locations like Westchester and Long Island. If this rebate goes into effect, it would shift more of the property tax burden to renters who don’t have the money to buy their own home, exaggerating an already glaring inequity.
The property tax laws in New York City are complicated and outdated. The result is that the rich, who can afford to buy homes in newly prominent neighborhoods, are paying less property tax than people who earn less and don’t own property at all; effectively those that can afford homes are being subsidized by those that cannot. This situation is complicated, but it is pretty clear is that NYC property tax reform is needed. This is not about “shifting the burden” to the rich, but simply everyone paying their fair share. Property taxes should be paid by those who own property, not those who do not.
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