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
President

Tax Breaks for Going Green

How To Save Money "Going Green"
How To Save Money “Going Green”

Going green isn’t just the next big thing—it’s the wave of the future. There is abundant information available about ways in which you can reduce your carbon footprint, save money and feel better about your role in the stewardship of this planet. Both federal and many state governments recognize the importance of energy savings and conservation and have provided tax breaks and incentives to businesses and individuals to encourage energy efficiency and going green.

Knowing what tax benefits may be available to you when you choose to go green may be enough to help you decide to start your own plan for energy conservation. There are certain tax breaks that are available just for businesses and others that individuals may take advantage of. Here is a discussion of green tax benefits and some of the tax breaks you may qualify for, either as an individual or as a business owner.

Tax Benefits Associated with Going Green

Tax benefits that are associated with going green can be classified as a tax credit, a rebate or savings in the cost of purchase. Tax credits are a dollar-for-dollar reduction of your overall tax bill—if you qualify for a $1000 tax credit, it means you owe $1000 less in taxes. There are also loan and grant programs that states offer to certain businesses that serve as an incentive to encourage the use of alternative energy and green certified building materials in new building construction and renovations.

If you choose to install an energy efficient solar hot water heater, solar equipment that generates electricity or even a wind turbine before December 31, 2016, you may be eligible for tax credits associated with these installations.

Green Tax Breaks for Individuals

Green tax breaks that are available for individuals come in the form of tax credits, rebates or upfront savings. Depending on your tax situation, you may choose a program that offers a tax credit in order to reduce your tax liability. If you have a need for income upfront, a rebate or savings incentive may be in order. The types of programs that are available vary from state to state, so it is a good idea to find information in your local area about incentives that may be available to you as a resident.

For example, residents (including commercial and industrial sector businesses) of the State of California may qualify for a property tax exclusion of up to 100% of the value of the installation of a solar energy system in a new building construction. Illinois residents may receive a special assessment to reduce their property taxes by registering qualified solar energy equipment on their property.

Green Tax Breaks for Businesses

Just as individuals are provided with breaks for going green, businesses may want to get into the act as well. The Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2010 helped to extend certain Federal energy tax benefits for businesses. These include tax credits for home builders, manufacturers and commercial buildings. There are also credits available to businesses that use vehicles that are hybrids, electric powered or use alternative fuels. Access to these green energy tax credits for business can be obtained through filing the appropriate form (such as Form 8908 and 8909).

Going green, either as an individual or as a business owner, isn’t just great for the environment, it’s great for your budget. There are numerous tax breaks and incentives available for using more energy-efficient vehicles, sustainable energy, and recycled building materials. Check with an R&G Brenner tax professional to see which tax breaks you might be entitled to. 

States Are Crossing Borders to Collect Taxes

The States are getting desperate.   New York & Connecticut (among others) are gearing up to enforce a tax law usually reserved for the rich and famous.  Athletes, for example, make millions upon millions of dollars and their travel schedules are well known. Therefore, when they travel to another state to play, that particular state taxes a prorated share of their annual income.  Due to the financial crisis and state budgets crises, now the Joe-the-Plumbers of the world can expect to be taxed just like the Joe Mauers of the world (who just signed the richest contract for a catcher in MLB history).

Anyone who crosses a state border for work — to make a sales call, say, or meet with a client or do a road show on Wall Street — probably owes income taxes in that state.

If you live in Boston but spend one out of 250 workdays this year in New York, you owe New York income taxes on 1/250th of your salary. And vice versa if you are a New Yorker visiting Boston — or Anywheresville, for that matter — for business.

Such laws have been on the books for decades, and they vary by state. But it is only recently, accountants and tax lawyers say, that many states appear to have picked up enforcement, expanding it beyond the wealthiest celebrities and athletes.

“The states are all hungry for revenue,” said Alan Clavette, an accountant in Newtown, Conn. “We are certainly seeing states like New York and Connecticut looking more and more for executives and everyday taxpayers who may be spending time across the border.”

Former NY State tax commissioner James W. Wetzler said aside from imposing this tax on the rich, it was largely a “don’t ask don’t tell” type of deal.  The amount of time and recourses required to go after the lawyers or traveling salesmen simply did not warrant the expense.  However, governing bodies now have access to tax data they never had before and this all appears to be changing:

But now states have greater access to data warehouses that help them better track taxes owed. Real estate transactions, federal data from the Internal Revenue Service, commercial license plates, traffic tickets, bids for government construction projects — all this information, newly digitized and dumped into a computer system, can help states find tax scofflaws.

“We’re sort of getting into ‘1984’ land here,” said Kenneth T. Zemsky, an accountant and partner at Ernst & Young. “A lot of the reason they went after athletes and entertainers is that they couldn’t find the other people. Now they’re able to get those people, too.”

Failure to file in accordance with this tax law can have serious consequences.  Most states take multiple years to investigate and come to final determinations on returns that they audit. Depending on the amount they claim you owe, it could lead to garnishment of wages and/or future refunds.  Also,  penalties and interest continue to accrue for the entire period of non-payment. Depending on the state, the penalties and interest could be greater than the amount of taxes.

It appears that the states best enforcement tactic may be requiring employers to withhold additional state taxes from employee’s paychecks:

State auditors may not be able to monitor every border-crossing, but with corporate payroll managers as their enforcers, they don’t need to…In some cases auditors check to see if, say, an employee who was reimbursed for airfare to California also had California income taxes withheld from his paycheck. If not, the company can be fined.

The bigger burden associated with distributing your taxes to more state governments is the administrative effort it requires, for both employee and employer. Many states require filing a return for a single day’s work. For peripatetic workers like salesmen or consultants, filing a pile of additional state tax returns can become prohibitively expensive, not to mention frustrating.

In other words, this all boils down to enforcement.  Even with all the new technology at the state’s fingertips, they may not have enough to gain with a full court press on this issue.  The future will surely reveal which states are the most aggressive.  The most aggressive states stand the most to gain, and reciprocally, they are the states that are more desperate to close their budget gaps.  The state of New York appears to be desperate, and thus we would not recommend that NY taxpayers take a “wait-and-see” approach.  If recent history is any guide, NY State will tax first and ask questions later.  If you think you will be affected by the enforcement of this tax law, please contact us.  An experienced R&G Brenner tax consultant is ready to guide and advise you through this process.

Source: NY Times

Taxpayer Advocate Scolds IRS

In the wake of the newly imposed regulations governing paid tax preparers, Nina E. Olson of the office of The National Taxpayer Advocate–an IRS watchdog–issued a report faulting the IRS on collecting delinquent taxes.  She called it “…an astonishing lack of transparency as to what is included in these revenue figures and how they are computed,”.  After the IRS reported $118 Billion in collected delinquent taxes, the figure turned out to be more like $86 Billion.  This 27% difference was essentially buried in the footnote of the report with no explanation for the miscalculation.

Furthermore, the reports specifically addresses other IRS shortcomings including a lack of customer service, excessive use of liens, and criticisms of the new regulations governing paid tax preparers.

Regarding I.R.S. customer service:

The single biggest problem at the agency was getting an I.R.S. representative to pick up the phone when a taxpayer called with questions.

Only six out of 10 callers now get through, after an average waiting time of 12 minutes, compared with eight out of 10 three years ago. The report called the I.R.S.’s customer service — a focus of the agency — “unacceptable.”

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