IRS Commissioner Fired Amid Scandal; Where’s My Refund!

IRS Commissioner Fired
IRS Commissioner Fired

By Benjamin K. Brenner, President

President Obama–through Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew–forced acting IRS commissioner Steven Miller to tender his resignation today following the recent disclosure that the IRS actively and unfairly targeted conservative and Tea Party groups applying for tax exempt status; a gross violation of a government body that is supposed to be above the political fray. 

The outrage has now reached a fevered pitch, with the FBI now getting involved with the investigation. While the President and his administration appears to be insulated from the fall out thus far, criminal charges may be forthcoming, with a key person of interest being Lois Lerner who is in charge of the Tax Exempt division of the IRS:

“Lois Lerner lied to me,” said Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio, who helped initiate the Congressional investigation of the I.R.S.

Ms. Lerner knew of the increased scrutiny given to Tea Party groups since 2010, but told reporters last Friday that she was not aware of any additional scrutiny given to any group and only heard about this through media reports.  She along with many other IRS employees are expected to be called in front of congress shortly:

The House Oversight Committee requested five senior I.R.S. officials be made available for interviews by May 20, including the director of rulings and agreements, Holly Paz; a former screening group manager in the exempt-organizations determinations division, John Shafer; and a former advocacy group manager, Joseph Herr.

“Potentially dozens of I.R.S. employees are involved with the original targeting, the failure to correct the problem and the failure to promptly report the truth to Congress and the American people,” said Meghan Snyder, a spokeswoman for Mr. Jordan.

While Mr. Miller–and what is sure to be others–has taken the fall for this scandal, one can’t help but think what involvement if any the previous IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman had.  Mr. Shulman had been commissioner since May 2008, and just recently stepped down last November.  He oversaw an aggressive agenda that made some of biggest changes the IRS has seen in decades.  While initially lauded, many of these changes have been riddled with delays, errors and met with contempt.

Mr. Shulman was integral in developing and integrating a universal licensing and annual continuing education requirements for professional paid tax preparers.  But these requirements were halted by a federal judge right before the 2013 tax season began citing that the IRS did not have the authority to implement these requirements.  The IRS appealed part of the decision, but again were overruled.  With millions of dollars already spent and industries spawned to provide these paid preparer requirements, it seems like a foregone conclusion that eventually they will go into effect; either by appealing the decision or by going through a body that does have the authority to regulate the industry.  Nevertheless, this new scandal will only serve to divert more time & energy away from this project, ultimately leaving the consumer to suffer the most.

Furthermore, Mr. Shulman led the charge in “modernizing” the IRS; particularly the Modernized E-File Program (MeP).  With the new MeP, taxpayers would get their refunds in a matter of days, not weeks; all while being kept abreast of their entire filing process with faster updates.  The only problem was that it didn’t work.  The MeP was put into effect for the 2012 tax season.  When it became clear that the MeP was not functioning, it was scrapped, and the IRS was forced to go back to their old E-File program for the remainder of the 2012 tax season.  This year (2013) the IRS fully replaced the old program with the MeP, but the tax season was already riddled by delays, due to the last minute fiscal cliff negotiations. At first, the MeP was working as advertised: refunds were being released quicker, and the IRS even claimed you could get updates on refund statuses every 24 hours. But since then its been glitch after glitch, culminating in what has been dubbed the “Education Credit Debacle“, where the IRS allowed hundreds of thousands of tax returns with IRS form 8863 to be filed early causing serious delays.  Some of the affected taxpayers could not even get verification that their returns were filed!  And the problems haven’t stopped yet.  As of the writing of this post, many taxpayers who filed in February & March still have not received their refunds and the IRS is offering no explanation.  Last but not least, the new MeP has done next to nothing to combat the explosion of Identity Theft and Fraud that plagued the IRS is recent years.  

Once again, it is the hardworking taxpayer that is getting the short end of the stick.  If we don’t file our taxes on time, penalties, interest, garnishments, liens, levies, etc. can be and are assessed.  But what happens when the IRS does not live up to it’s end of the bargain?  As of now, it appears nothing. Supposedly the IRS must pay interest after a certain date if they do not release refunds, but that date is not static.  All the IRS has to do (and has done) is send a “document request” like requesting a copy of your W-2s…EVEN THOUGH THE IRS ALREADY HAS ACCESS TO THAT INFORMATION.  I have yet to see a taxpayer actually receive interest from the IRS.  And the interest rate they supposedly give is far less than what IRS charges us if we are late.

While there is sure to be more to come out from this story, the politicization of it is not good news for anyone.  Some politicians have been searching for a scandal ever since Obama took office.  So now that they have one, how will it play out to a public so tired of other “scandals”?  It’s the “Boy Who Cried Wolf” syndrome.  And that is the crux of the problem.  While our elected officials have their hearings, while IRS employees start losing their jobs, and the midterm campaign season heats up, average American taxpayers of all stripes, creeds and political affiliations are ultimately the ones that are being ignored. 

Do you have an IRS horror story?  Share it with us in the comments section.

Source: NY Times

H&R Block Files Client’s Tax Returns Early Delaying Refunds

Certain H&R Block Client's Refunds Are Delayed
Certain H&R Block Client’s Refunds Are Delayed

H&R Block (HRB)–the largest public retail tax preparation company in the United States–has confirmed that they have filed many tax returns containing certain delayed credits too early, causing their clients refunds to be delayed.  The primary issue is the Education Tax Credit which was not accepted for electronic filing until recently (February 22nd).  This has prompted the IRS to send letters to HRB clients instead of their expected refunds.  HRB has released the following statement:

“H&R Block has confirmed with the IRS that there was an issue with certain tax returns filed before February 22, 2013 that included certain education tax credits claimed on Form 8863.  We have worked with the IRS to expedite a solution to this issue for all of our affected clients.”

If you are a current HRB client, and have received notification from the IRS concerning the early filing of your tax return–or you think you may be affected–it is advised that you contact your local HRB office, or contact their executive headquarters by calling 1-800-HRBLOCK.

Source: ABC

IRS To Process Depreciation & Education Credits This Week

IRS To Accept Returns With Form 8863 Feb. 14th

The IRS has announced that as of February 10th, they will begin accepting tax returns with form 4562 (Depreciation & Amortization) attached. Furthermore, as of February 14th, tax returns with form 8863 (Education Credits) will be accepted for processing by the IRS as well.  The tax filing season this year was delayed until January 30th this year, however many taxpayer’s returns were delayed even further due to the IRS’ refusal to process forms 4562 & 8863.  This is welcome news to those that rely heavily on their tax refunds.

If you’d like any more information about which forms are now open for submission to the IRS, and which forms are still delayed, contact an R&G Brenner professional today.

IRS Begins Accepting Tax Returns Today

IRS Accepting Returns Today
IRS Accepting Returns Today

After the longest delay in history, the IRS is now accepting electronic and paper tax returns for tax year 2012 as of January 30th, 2013.  The caveat is that many forms for both individual and business returns are further delayed including form 8863 Education credits.  The IRS has offered no specific date–only a general time frame of mid to late February–as to when these forms will be accepted.  If you are in real need of your refund and you are claiming one of the delayed forms, you could file your return without the forms in question and later amend your tax return to include these forms once the IRS approves them.  The following are a list of forms that are still not approved by the IRS as of today:

Forms affecting mainly individual returns

  • Form 4136 Credit for Federal Tax Paid on Fuels
  • Form 4562 Depreciation and Amortization (Including Information on Listed Property)
  • Form 5695 Residential Energy Credits
  • Form 8396 Mortgage Interest Credit
  • Form 8582 Passive Activity Loss Limitations
  • Form 8839 Qualified Adoption Expenses
  • Form 8834 Qualified Plug-in Electric and Electric Vehicle Credit
  • Form 8910 Alternative Motor Vehicle Credit
  • Form 8936 Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit

Forms affecting mainly business returns

  • Form 3800 General Business Credit
  • Form 5074 Allocation of Individual Income Tax to Guam or the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands
  • Form 5471 Information Return of U.S. Persons With Respect to Certain Foreign Corporations
  • Form 5735 American Samoa Economic Development Credit 
  • Form 5884 Work Opportunity Credit
  • Form 6478 Credit for Alcohol Used as Fuel
  • Form 6765 Credit for Increasing Research Activities
  • Form 8820 Orphan Drug Credit
  • Form 8844 Empowerment Zone and Renewal Community Employment Credit
  • Form 8845 Indian Employment Credit
  • Form 8859 District of Columbia First-Time Homebuyer Credit
  • Form 8864 Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit
  • Form 8874 New Markets Credits
  • Form 8900 Qualified Railroad Track Maintenance Credit
  • Form 8903 Domestic Production Activities Deduction
  • Form 8908 Energy Efficient Home Credit
  • Form 8909 Energy Efficient Appliance Credit
  • Form 8911 Alternative Fuel Vehicle Refueling Property Credit
  • Form 8912 Credit to Holders of Tax Credit Bonds
  • Form 8923 Mine Rescue Team Training Credit
  • Form 8932 Credit for Employer Differential Wage Payments

IRS: Can’t Claim Education Credits Until Mid-February

Please read the following brief from the IRS.  Form 8863 (education credits) will not be accepted by the IRS until Mid-February.  An exact date has not yet been offered.  Any return that is Electronically filed with Form 8863 before the acceptance date will be rejected.  Any return that is mailed to the IRS will not be processed until education credits have been approved.  If you would like more information, please contact an R&G Brenner professional toll free (888) APRIL-15, or by clicking here.

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October 15 Extension Deadline Approaching

October 15th Extension Deadline

According to the IRS, over 11 million taxpayers who filed for an extension are due to submit their final tax return by October 15th.  Failure to do so can result in penalties and interest.  If you filed an extension, and have yet to file your final return, time is running out.  If you require assistance, R&G Brenner can help.  Please contact us here to schedule an appointment and/or to speak to a qualified R&G Brenner tax professional.

Below are a list supplied by the IRS of credits that are often over looked by tax filers:

  • Benefits for low-and moderate-income workers and families, especially the Earned Income Tax Credit. The special EITC Assistant can help taxpayers see if they’re eligible.
  • Savers credit, claimed on Form 8880 for low-and moderate-income workers who contributed to a retirement plan, such as an IRA or 401(k).

Call R&G Brenner toll-free (888) APRIL-15