Is My Refund Delayed? What Can I Do?

If you rely on your refund, plan for delays
If you 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 Date Delayed

This tax year, E-filing will begin January 23rd, 2017.  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, so this is becoming common practice by the IRS.  Returns may be filed before this date, however the IRS will not process them until 1/23/17.

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)
  • 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.  If you are unable to save funds, don’t worry, you can apply for R&G Brenner’s refund advances & referral rewards for CASH! (below).

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:

R&G Brenner Referral Rewards

Taxes may never be fun, but they are rewarding with R&G Brenner on your team.  Last year we paid out over $100,000 in CASH for client referrals.  Get $50 CASH for every new client you refer to R&G Brenner; NO LIMIT!  Click here to start earning today!

While we can’t control IRS delays, we can offer our clients a little relief from these delays.  Become an R&G Brenner client and receive the benefits.  Schedule an appointment today for a FREE estimate or call us toll free at (888) APRIL-15.


Employers Must Provide W2s & 1099s By January 31st

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?

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.

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.

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

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.

5 Quick Tips for First-Time Tax Filers

Tips For First Time Filers
Tips For First Time Filers

Taxes may be one of the only certain things in life, but that doesn’t mean that filing them is easy. This is especially true if you are a young adult filing your first tax return. If you are single and earned an income greater than $10,000 in 2014, you are required to file a federal return. If it’s your first time filing taxes, you might be a little overwhelmed, but never fear. Here are 5 quick tips to help you file your taxes for the first time.

Create a Folder to Collect Your Tax Documentation

Every employer you worked for in 2014 should have sent you a W-2 wage statement, postmarked no later than January 31, 2015. This includes part-time, full-time, and temporary jobs, no matter how few hours you worked for the company. If you didn’t receive a W-2 by early February, contact your employer to make sure it wasn’t sent to the wrong address. For any work you completed as an independent contractor, you should have received a 1099 miscellaneous income statement. Make a habit of collecting all your pay stubs, earnings statements and other financial paperwork in one folder so that you’ll have everything you need come tax time.

Special Rules for Dependent College Students

Things can get slightly complicated when you earn enough money to file a return while still receiving more than half of your financial support from your parents. If they plan to claim you as a dependent, IRS rules don’t allow you to claim a personal exemption on your own tax return. In most cases, it makes financial sense for your parents to take the tax exemption, since they likely owe more in taxes than you do. However, you or they can speak to a tax accountant if you’re uncertain.

Make it Easier on Yourself; File Electronically With Direct Deposit

The IRS & most states currently require that you file your tax return electronically.  However, many tax filers still elect to receive their refunds by being sent a check as opposed to depositing it directly into their bank account.  Choosing a direct deposit shaves weeks off the time it takes to receive your refund.  In order to file electronically, you will need to use tax software or hire a tax professional.  The benefit of using software/tax professionals is that they find math errors and deductions you may have missed. Common deductions that new taxpayers overlook include charitable donations, job search expenses, and state and local sales tax paid. If you have children yourself or you’re filing as head of household, you qualify for even more tax credits.

Choose the Simplest Form Possible

If you are single, don’t own a home, have no dependents, and earn less than $100,000 a year, filing your return on the 1040EZ form makes your life a whole lot easier. If you choose to use tax software, the program should suggest this after completing its initial interview with you. You’re more likely to find free tax preparation programs when you file using the 1040EZ form.

Get Your Taxes Done on Time

Your federal and state tax forms for 2014 must be postmarked by Wednesday, April 15, 2015 to avoid paying a late penalty. If you have legitimate reasons for not getting your returns in by that date, you may be able to request an extension. It’s also important not to be in such a hurry to get this chore done that you speed through it and make costly mistakes. This is a common mistake for first-time filers, especially those who are expecting a refund.

If it’s your first time filing taxes, take your time, plan ahead, and consider using tax software to make your life easier. Remember: it’s always a good idea to ask a tax professional if you’re not sure about something. Good luck!

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!

What Happens If You Don’t File Your Taxes?

Overdue Taxes Will Come Back To Haunt You
Overdue Taxes Will Come Back To Haunt You

The only certainties in life are death and taxes, as the saying goes. Taxes are an annual event that, however unpleasant, we all have to deal with. It may interest you to know that according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), an estimated 239.3 million tax returns were filed in 2012 by individuals and businesses in the United States. That amount exceeded by a little more than 1% the number of returns that were filed in 2011, and by 2018 that number is projected to grow by almost 6% to 253.5 million tax filings.

What about those individuals who do not file a regular tax return? More importantly, what would be your fate if you did not pay your taxes in a timely manner? Below are some of the potential consequences that you may face for failing to file or pay your taxes in a timely manner.

Failure to File Penalty

Whether you owe taxes or expect a refund for a given tax year, it is important to provide the IRS with an informational tax return on or before April 15th of every year. When you miss the April 15th deadline you are subject to a penalty of 5% of the amount that you owe for each month you do not file. The penalty for failure to file can grow to 25% of the total unpaid amount.  If you file a return 60 days after the due date of April 15th, you will be subject to a penalty of $135 or 100% of the unpaid tax liability, whichever is greater. This applies to both those expecting a refund and those who have taxes due.

Failure to Pay Penalty

In addition to the failure to file penalty that you face for missing the filing deadline, you are subject to a failure to pay penalty of half of 1% of the unpaid balance. This amount is assessed each month that your taxes go unpaid and is capped at 25% of the unpaid amount. Generally the failure to file penalty is higher than the failure to pay penalty. Filing a tax extension (Form 4868) on or before April 15th and paying some or up to 90% of the amount owed, as well as paying the balance in full by the extension deadline (typically 6 months or by October 15th), will help you avoid the failure to file and failure to pay penalties.

Loss of a Tax Refund

If you are owed a refund from the Federal government, filing a tax return by the deadline is the only way for you to ensure that the money will be returned to you in a timely manner. The IRS can hold a taxpayer’s refund for up to 3 years. After this time your refund is treated as a “gift” to the government and will remain in the treasury. This means that your failure to file could result in a generous donation of your tax refund to the federal government to do with as they please.  Don’t let that happen…

Loss of Wages, Assets or Arrest

If you do not pay your taxes, the IRS will eventually come after you directly. There initial contact will be a letter informing you of your outstanding liability (or failure to file) with an opportunity to file an amended return. Ignoring this opportunity will result in a possible wage garnishment and even seizure of your assets, such as your home or car. If the amount of your tax liability is deemed by the IRS to be excessive you may be arrested and charged with tax evasion, subject to a fine of up to $100,000 and up to 5 years in prison. 

Suspension Of Drivers License

Some states like New York are suspending the drivers licenses and/0r disallowing the renewal of licenses for those that have not paid their taxes.  This recently went into effect in 2013.  Expect more and more states (especially those with budget issues) to follow suit.

Not filing your taxes, or failing to pay them, is a serious concern and should not be taken lightly. If you need help filing your taxes, or you’ve missed a deadline and need to know what your next steps should be, don’t hesitate to contact an R&G Brenner professional tax preparer.

What Do I Do If I Haven’t Received My Tax Refund?

Follow These Steps To Track Your Refund
Follow These Steps To Track Your Refund

Filing your tax return was stressful, but now that it’s done you know the amount you’ve got coming and you can’t wait to get your hands on it. This is understandable; we all usually have that refund earmarked for something. That’s why it can be so frustrating when your tax refund doesn’t arrive on time. Read on to learn what to do if you’ve been waiting an exceptionally long time for your tax refund.

Gather Some Information

The first thing you should do when you have yet to receive your federal tax refund is to gather your social security number, filing status and the exact amount that you expect to get so you can check your return status online or over the phone. Having this information close at hand is necessary to start the process.

Check the Status of Your Return

It’s important to first check your return status before you check your refund status. You can do so over the phone or by logging in securely to your account on the IRS website. If you used an e-filing service to process your return, inquire about your status with that company. Many such services offer online log-ins where you can easily check your account. If you didn’t use an e-file service, you can call the IRS toll-free at 1-800-829-1040. If you are lucky to speak to an agent during your first call, hopefully they will be able to tell you if there was a delay, and what the cause was. Often, the return simply hasn’t been processed yet.

Once you’ve confirmed that your tax return has been processed, you can check your federal tax refund status. If you opted for a direct deposit into your bank account, call the bank and see if the check has been deposited. If it hasn’t, a quick way to check on your status is to use the Where’s My Refund? tool provided by the IRS and you can track where your refund is at any time. The site is updated every 24 hours in the evening, so you can start checking it the day after you e-file your return (or a month after you’ve mailed it in).  You can also call the IRS at 1-800-829-1954 to determine where your check is and why it’s taking so long.

Reasons for Delay

Tax season is a notoriously busy time for the IRS: people are filing taxes, refunds are being processed and issues are being sorted. If you wait to file close to the deadline of April 15th, you could wait longer than if you filed a month or two earlier. In some cases, refunds and identities can be stolen. If you suspect suspicious activity as the reason for your refund delay, contact the IRS immediately at 1-800-829-1040.

Often times, there are good reasons why your refund has been delayed. If you opted for a paper check from the IRS, expect to wait at least twice as long as if you did direct deposit. In order to minimize wait time in the future, plan on e-filing with a direct deposit option next year.