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IRS Archives - R&G Brenner

Employers Must Provide W2s & 1099s By January 31st

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The IRS has a new due date requirement of 1/31/17 for employers to provide W2s & 1099s to employees & contractors.  Traditionally, 1099s were allotted more time to be delivered.  Not so for 2017 (tax year 2016).  Here are some more popular forms that must be released by 1/31:

By January 31 (Note new due dates for Tax Year 2016 Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, and Form 1099, Miscellaneous Income with Box 7 entries)

This is welcome news as the start of tax season has been delayed until 1/23 and popular tax credits cannot be filed until 2/15.

Will My Refund Be Delayed This Year?

By | Tax & Financial News, Tax Tips | One Comment
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

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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

By | Tax & Financial News, Tax Tips | 4 Comments
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.

Source: ABC27.com

2015 Taxes Due Today! Last Minute Filers Guide

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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
President

IRS Computer Problems Shut Down Electronic Filing Of Tax Returns

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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.”

Source: USA Today

Tax Season Begins; R&G Brenner Promotions Extended

By | Announcements, Tax Tips | 4 Comments
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.

How Do Taxes Affect My Credit?

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How Paying Tax Can Affect Your Credit Score

How Paying Tax Can Affect Your Credit Score

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.

Personal Loans

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.

After Documentary, Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Earnings Attracting Attention

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Scientology's Tax Exempt Earnings Under Scrutiny

Scientology’s Tax Exempt Earnings Under Scrutiny

The Church of Scientology is getting a lot of attention these days thanks to “Going Clear”, HBO’s recent documentary on Scientology and a number of its practices. One aspect of Scientology which is receiving even more attention than before is the church’s tax-exempt status. Part of the controversy extends to how the Church of Scientology actually received its tax-exempt status—and to just what ends it uses it. After being hit with over 2,400 lawsuits at once from Scientologists, the IRS, after years of rejecting Scientology’s requests for a change in their tax status, gave it tax exemptions typically applied towards churches in 1993.

Tax Exemptions All Around

While the Church of Scientology hasn’t issued a clear response to questions raised by the documentary, one thing that’s definitely not in question is whether Scientology is making use of its tax-exempt status. Fortune’s Chris Matthews, citing the Scientology news website The Scientology Money Project, estimates that the Church of Scientology is worth somewhere in the area of $1.75 billion, with most of that money wrapped up in real estate. About 70% of that real estate is tax-exempt, meaning that a change in tax could possibly land the church a tax bill of $20 million or so a year.

Matthews cites a number of different sources which make a compelling case that Scientology uses its tax-exemption in ways that are clearly commercial, with examples such as a Tampa Bay Times investigation from 2010 which discovered that Scientology had not been paying a 5% occupancy tax for years. It turns out that Scientologists visiting the head offices in Clearwater were staying at hotels owned by Scientology without paying the tax. It is cases such these, now becoming increasingly visible as more similar stories emerge, that are keeping the debate surrounding Scientology’s tax-exempt status alive in the public.

Against the Public Interest?

In a recent interview with The Wrap, Alex Gibney, the director of Going Clear, noted that the main argument against Scientology losing its tax-exempt status was not predicated on whether or not it’s a “real” church, but rather that Scientology wields its tax-exempt status in order to pursue policies which are not in the public interest. In his documentary alleging that people working for the Church of Scientology often earn as little as 40 cents an hour and accusing the Church of illegal imprisonment and torture at the highest levels, Gibney’s central argument departs from the usual tack: that Scientology isn’t a real religion. Gibney argues instead that the religion is a public threat.

While tax exemption is hard to get, it’s also extremely hard to lose, and the IRS will require a great deal of proof of the claims like those made in the documentary and those from former church members who see themselves as victims of a cult. The Church of Scientology reportedly keeps files on all its members to use against them in case they leave the church, making getting that proof even more difficult than it otherwise would be. The evidence presented in Going Clear is damning, but it hasn’t cost Scientology its tax-exempt status—yet.

Wondering What to Do with Your Tax Refund? Invest It!

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Invest Your Tax Refund & Get The Most Bang For Your Buck

Invest Your Tax Refund & Get The Most Bang For Your Buck

As the tax filing deadline of April 15th has come and gone, many of us are giving big sighs of relief that it’s all over—at least for now. If you were lucky enough to get some money back this tax season, you’re probably wondering what to do with it. Shopping spree? Vacation? While those ideas certainly sound like fun, the truth is that you’ll be best off investing it. After all, it’s not found money—it was your money to begin with. Look at your tax refund as the contents of a kind of rigidly enforced savings account and do something worthwhile with it that will pay off down the road. Check out these savvy investment ideas to make your tax refund work for you.

Plan to Save

Many Americans seem to heed the call of the savings account, with three out of 10 people planning to save or invest their tax refund this year. Before you dump your refund into your savings, though, decide what you are saving for: set a goal. This will help you determine which investments are best for you. Do you want to invest money for a rainy day slush fund? Perhaps that dream vacation you’ve always wanted? Are you looking to make a large purchase, such as a house, car or motorcycle? Is retirement on the horizon? Take stock of your current financial situation and then decide where your money would be best spent down the road. Once you do, you’ll know exactly what to save for.

Pay Down Some Debt

Let’s assume you got back between $3,000 and $4,000 from the government after tax day. Lucky you! The very first thing you should do is pay down some of your credit card debt or sock some away into your emergency fund. If you’re looking to grow investments but you are losing just as much in credit card or student loan interest, a strategy to invest all of your return doesn’t really make sense, says US News and World Report. Putting money in an emergency fund is a safe bet. For example, the $1,000 you put in now will still be worth the same later when you need to take it out—or more, if your emergency fund is held in such a way that it accrues interest. Your best bet for these accounts are high-yield savings and money markets.

Add to Your 401(k)

Looking into the future and thinking long-term, you can really make the most of your return by contributing some of it to your 401(k) so you can take advantage of your employer’s maximum match. Those who are building a retirement account would be wise to open a Roth IRA using their refund money to ensure a tax-sheltered source of income. Educational plans, such as 529 accounts, are also a great idea. If you open up these types of accounts with your refund money, it can make the process that much easier. Plus, contributions to Roth IRAs can be deducted from next year’s taxes, making next year’s return all the sweeter.

Don’t Put All Your Eggs Into One Basket

Placing one big chunk of change into one stock isn’t your best bet. You’re better off diversifying instead and adding funds to your current investments. If you want to add to your portfolio, you may want to try a specialty bond or stock fund, which will satisfy your urge to take a fun risk yet won’t present you with the looming threat of losing it all if the stock market tanks.

Whether you decide to add to your current portfolio or invest in your 401(k), making an investment with your tax return now instead of blowing it all on a vacation will pay off in the long run.