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.

Gluten-Free? You Might Qualify for a Tax Deduction!

Gluten Free Could Get You A Tax Deduction
Gluten Free Could Get You A Tax Deduction

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.

Get Ready for Tax Time

When it comes time to file your taxes, you’ll need to fill out the 1040 Schedule A form. Keep in mind you are only eligible for this refund if your total medical expenses exceed 10 percent of your Adjusted Gross Income, or AGI. If you are getting your taxes done by a tax professional, s/he can advise you further on details of this gluten-free deduction.  If you need a tax professional, please feel free to contact R&G Brenner.

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.

Native American Tribes, with Tax-Free Advantage in Mind, Consider the Recreational Marijuana Industry

Legalized Marijuana Could Be A Boon to Native Americans
Legalized Marijuana Could Be A Boon to Native Americans

With growth from the gaming industry leveling off in most locations, many Native American tribes are now considering a brand new source of income in states where marijuana has been legalized, either medically and recreationally. As more and more states–including New York–legalize marijuana in one form or another, Native Americans will have a huge advantage over other retailers in the business: Tribal earnings are not subject to federal income tax laws, as long as they are earned on the reservation and are not distributed to individuals as earnings.

The Native American Tax Advantage

The advantages that would be enjoyed by Native American tribes for the sale of marijuana would be similar to the tax-exempt status they already enjoy in those states where gaming is conducted on reservations. 422 tribal gambling facilities in 28 different states earned $26.5 billion, $27.9 billion, and $28 billion from 2011 through 2013, none of which was taxable by the federal government.

Even if commercial activities are conducted on tribal lands, they are exempt from taxes, as long as they are not conducted by individuals. Individuals within the tribes are U.S. citizens and they can be taxed, which is why corporations are usually formed before embarking on a gaming enterprise, and why the same would likely be true of the marijuana business. The legal status of the corporation prevents any federal intervention or taxation on the income from gaming currently, and barring legislation that alters this status the same would be true of income generated from growing and selling legal marijuana.

Tribes must be careful, however, not to distribute earnings from gaming or marijuana sales to individuals as compensation for their work in the industry. These earnings can be taxed, but there is another federal law which comes to the individual tribe members’ aid in this situation. Earnings can be distributed to individuals as payments from a general welfare program that is earmarked for the needs of families and individuals, relative to health, food, and other essentials that are not related to compensation for services.

State Tax Laws

At the state level, Native Americans cannot be taxed on income that is generated from reservation resources unless that income is generated within the state but not within the boundaries of the reservation. In effect, this neutralizes attempts by state agencies to levy any kind of tax on the potential earnings of Native Americans from either gaming or marijuana growing. Marijuana grown on the reservation would thus be completely un-taxable in any state where it is grown.

As one might expect, this kind of exemption makes both the federal government and state governments very uneasy, and inclined to eye the legislation which currently grants such sweeping freedom from taxation very closely. As Native American enterprises begin entering the preliminary phases of entering the retail marijuana market and the media notes the enormous taxation advantages they would enjoy, federal agencies and state agencies are both taking hard looks at the situation.

It is hard to estimate exactly how lucrative the marijuana growing industry could be for Native Americans, but assuming it is on par with the gaming industry, a huge windfall would accrue to tribes all across the country. Some experts feel so strongly that they’ve said that growing marijuana could eventually eclipse the gaming industry as a source of income, and for tribes that have precious few sources of income on reservations, the allure of huge profits is likely to be overwhelming.

The Most Important Tax Issues to Focus on This Year, According to the Experts

The Most Important 2015 Tax Issues
The Most Important 2015 Tax Issues

Taxes are never a fun process, and there can be a great deal of confusion about how much to pay or how to get the most money back. With tax season in full swing, many people are finding themselves lost in a flurry of financial advice that’s hitting them from all directions and it’s difficult to sort through all the noise. Here’s some advice from tax experts about what issues they consider the most important tax issues of 2015:

Review New Tax Rules

Every tax-paying family or individual has a unique situation and the only way to know how the code will affect each unique situation is by taking time to look at the new regulations. Among the issues that could affect families is the change to flexible spending accounts (FSAs) and health savings accounts (HSAs). While in 2013 money could be rolled over from the prior year, in 2014 carrying over the money makes one ineligible to participate in the HSA for 2015. There are also several other adjustments to consider regarding capital gains, deductions, and an alternative minimum tax.

Don’t Miss Out on Free Money

Believe it or not, there’s a good deal of free money going around, and it’s yours for the taking. Private wealth-manager George Papadopoulos has several suggestions for where people can get this free money, including participating in their employer’s retirement plan, using company insurance policies and employee stock-purchase plans, and taking advantage of credit card promotions.

For company retirement plans, make sure you are contributing enough to get all of the matching funds, which will also allow participants to enjoy the growing tax-deferred funds in future years. The health insurance plans offered by companies have a number of advantages, frequently offering flexible spending accounts for health and child care as well as health savings accounts. Stock-purchase plans can help employees purchase stocks at 10-15% below the market value, putting capital gain directly into the employees’ paychecks. Credit card promotions are a great way to collect free cash for every dollar spent, but make sure to choose carefully.

Consider Moving Certain Assets to Non-taxable Accounts

Where one is keeping their assets can also play a large role in how much they are paying or not paying in taxes. For instance, the government taxes bonds and stocks at different rates. Dividends and long-term capital gains are taxed at the relatively reasonable rate of 15%, while nearly all interest income is taxed at regular income tax rates, which can reach up to 35%. That’s why doing some shifting around and moving fixed-income assets to nontaxable accounts can minimize the amount of tax expenditures to which you’re exposed. Money in nontaxable accounts is also harder to access, but it’s important to consider moving assets to nontaxable accounts, as it could lead to significant savings.

Maximizing Roth IRA Savings

If you don’t have one already, a Roth IRA allows you to save for retirement in a nontaxable account as long as you meet certain guidelines. One of the ways to take advantage is to contribute the maximum you can every year. Use these contributions to focus on stock options, opting first for high-quality dividend growth stocks. Converting funds from a traditional IRA or 401(k) often allows people to pay less in taxes, though it’s important to plan out as the year of conversion will include the amount converted as part of taxable income. Finding out the specific details for how to save using Roth IRA is the best place to start.

For more information about the above topics and more, please contact an R&G Brenner tax professional today!

5 Best Apps for Tax Time

Best Tax Time Apps
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.

Volunteer IRS Sites Prepare 50% of Tax Returns Incorrectly

VITA Sites Still Preparing Tax Returns Incorrectly
VITA Sites Still Preparing Tax Returns Incorrectly

In a follow up to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), free income tax preparation sites have made no significant gains in increasing the accuracy of the tax returns they prepare. The new report states that Volunteer Income Tax Assistance sites (VITA) who prepare income tax returns for low/moderate-income, elderly, disabled and limited-English-proficient taxpayers are still filing approximately 50% of tax returns incorrectly!

Of the 39 tax returns prepared for auditors during the 2013 filing season, 20 of them (or 51 percent) were prepared correctly, while 19 (or 49 percent) were prepared incorrectly. That represents a two-percentage-point increase over the 49 percent accuracy rate for the same number of returns in the 2012 filing season. The 19 incorrect tax returns resulted from incorrect application of the tax law, insufficient requests for information during the intake and interview process, or lack of adherence to quality review requirements.

While this is a small sample of the 3.3 Million tax returns prepared by over 90,000 volunteers across the country, it is still nonetheless troubling that TIGTA continues to find these types of accuracy related problems 2 years later due to “incorrect application of the tax law, insufficient requests for information during the intake and interview process, or lack of adherence to quality review requirements”.  TIGTA recommends–and the IRS agrees–that all volunteer instructors, return preparers, quality reviewers and site coordinators complete intake/interview and quality review training annually.  I am not sure what is more head scratching: that so many returns are being prepared incorrectly, or that these volunteers have receiving little to no training over the past two years since this problem came to light.

The VITA system is supposed to be helping those that are the neediest as a) they cannot afford professional income tax preparation and b) they need their refunds essentially to live.  In theory this is a vital service that needs to continue.  In practice, how do you motivate volunteers to devote more of their time (and possibly money) for training & licensing to put out a better product, yet receive no compensation? Furthermore, it sort of defeats the purpose of “helping” these taxpayers if their return is prepared incorrectly which potentially opens them up to delayed refunds, audits and penalties/interest. The old adage “you get what you pay for’ apparently applies here.

If you have had your return prepared at a VITA site, please let us know about your experience in the comments section below.  Plus, if you’ve had your return prepared in the past 3 years at a VITA site or any other tax establishment, and would like it checked for accuracy, contact an R&G Brenner professional today for a no obligation consultation, and we will review them for FREE!

Source: Accounting Today