How To Protect My Financial Information

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.

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.

How Long Should I Keep My Tax Records?

How Long Should I Keep Tax Records?

Now that the tax season has come to an end, a common question for many of our clients is “How long do I need to keep my tax return copies and tax related documentation”?  We suggest that all copies of tax returns should be kept indefinitely.  You never know when you might need them.  If you are a current R&G Brenner client, our “Go Green” service stores all tax returns prepared by us since 2009 in a secure “Cloud” online, so they will always be accessible to you when you need them.  Here is what the IRS suggests:

…According to the IRS, taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax returns and all return-related, substantiating documents. The IRS typically requests to review wage and other income statements, plus receipts for qualifying expenses, for those tax returns selected for audit.

“Most taxpayers only need to keep tax records going back three years,” said Jennifer Jenkins, IRS spokesperson in a press release. “You’ll want to hold onto some documents a bit longer. Records relating to real estate, stock transactions, retirement accounts and business or rental property can help establish cost basis and gain or loss, which is needed to determine gross income potentially years down the road.”

Such tax records can include bills, credit card, canceled checks and other receipts, invoices, mileage logs, proofs of payment and any other records that support deductions or credits claimed on a tax return.

Of course if you do have documents that are older that are safe to dispose of, you want to make sure you properly dispose of “personally identifiable information” and any financial information. For this, the IRS recommends that paper documents get cross-cut shredded to effect 5/16 inch-wide or smaller strips, or completely burned. Depending on the type of magnetic media, the IRS generally recommends a combination of overwriting and Degaussing, followed by incinerating, shredding, pulverizing, disintegrating or grinding.

The IRS also wants to remind folks that the “three-year statute” on saving documents does not apply to tax dodgers.

“Those who file a false or fraudulent return, willfully attempt to evade tax, and/or fail to file a return, can be held accountable for back taxes due well beyond the three year limit that applies to the average taxpayer,” Jenkins said. “And, don’t forget the penalties and interest.”

For more information on what kinds of records to keep and recommended document disposal methods, see IRS Publication 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals, and IRS Publication 1075, Tax Information Security Guidelines for Federal, State and Local Agencies and Entities, which are available on the IRS website at or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM.

Source: ABC News