Posts Tagged ‘Internal Revenue Service’

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Casual Merchants: Expect Underreporting Notices in the Mail

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on April 2, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900104746The IRS Didn’t Forget about Casual Merchants: Expect Underreporting Notices in the Mail

Casual merchants might have some official ‘splainin’ to do. The IRS is taking a good, hard look at the gross receipts of food cart operators, mom-and-pop shops, swap meet participants, and sellers on online auction sites such as Ebay. If there appear to be any discrepancies, the agency will likely send out “soft letters” requesting additional information from those small business taxpayers.

$10 billsSpecifically, the IRS will be checking whether gross receipts – as reported by credit card companies and third-party networks – match up with income stated on tax returns. Since 2011, certain taxpayers have had credit, debit, and certain electronic transactions reported on Form(s) 1099-K, Merchant Card and Third Party Network Payments. A high amount of receipts that appears on this form, but not in income levels on the tax return, is obviously going to raise eyebrows.

MH900401126Thus, a soft letter means the taxpayer isn’t in trouble (yet), but the IRS wants answers. After all, the IRS knows there are legitimate reasons why a merchant’s numbers might not add up with the third parties’. For example, there could be a difference between parties’ calendar year versus fiscal year accounting systems. Or it could arise from the fact that Form 1099-K does not take into account on sales returns and refunds processed by the merchant, or a merchant’s cost of goods, or other legitimate deductions from gross income.

These valid excuses are exactly why the IRS plans to begin with soft letters of inquiry. If the taxpayer agrees with the assessment of underreporting, the IRS will request that they amend their returns. The goal is not punish taxpayers, but to increase voluntary compliance.

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

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Taxable or Nontaxable?

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Family,Taxes on March 11, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900442285Question Needs to be Answered: Income Tax Basics

You know (hopefully) that federal income tax returns are due April 15. But do you really know what income is – let alone if it’s taxable or non-taxable? Here’s income by the numbers to help you do the math correctly on your returns.

Income can include money, property, or services that you receive. All income is taxable unless the law specifically excludes it – and those “tips” you pocketed are not excluded. You should notice that income doesn’t just mean money: non-cash income received through bartering is as taxable as wages, and both parties must report the fair market value of goods/services received as income on their tax returns. 

MH900361224Although most income is taxable, there are exceptions to this rule. Gifts, bequests, and inheritances are usually nontaxable, so don’t worry about that luxury car given to you for your birthday. If you buy something and get a cash rebate from the dealer/manufacturer, that rebate is also not taxable. Welfare benefits, child support payments, and reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses are all not taxable. Finally, if you collected damage awards for a physical injury or sickness, those are yours to keep, tax-free – nobody wants to kick you while you’re down.

TMH900234599hings get a little tricky with income that’s not taxable except under certain conditions. For example, life insurance proceeds paid to you because of an insured person’s death are usually not taxable. However, if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount more than the cost of the policy is taxable. Similarly, any scholarship income used for certain costs like tuition and required course books is not taxable, but amounts used for room and board are taxable. And classifying your frat house as  “textbook” college living won’t work.

Don’t forget to report any taxable refund, credit, or offset of state or local income taxes you received, even if you weren’t mailed Form 1099-G. You’ll have to contact the government agency that issued the payment to obtain that form. And don’t miss out on IRS Publication 525, Taxable and Nontaxable Income – it explains everything you ever wanted to know about income.

Wang Solutions, Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy, (562) 856-0793

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Tested or Not?! Calling all Registered Tax Return Preparers!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Family,Taxes on February 21, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

ExamRTRP Program Up in the Air: Testing and Continuing Education are Voluntary


Calling all Registered Tax Return Preparers! You know how the IRS now requires every paid tax return preparer to pass a competency test and meet continuing education requirements in order to be called an RTRP? Not anymore. On January 18, a federal judge ruled that the mandatory RTRP regulatory system is invalid because the IRS had to stretch a law to make it apply to preparers in the first place. Prepare to be very, very confused.


In short, the ruling means the IRS does not have the authority to license tax preparers. Which means that as of right now, according to the IRS, “tax return preparers covered by this program are not currently required to register with the IRS, to complete competency testing or secure continuing education.” The regulatory practice requirements for CPA’s, attorneys, enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents, or enrolled actuaries are unaffected by the ruling.


MH900054685Required is the key word in all of this. The IRS filed a motion to suspend the injunction, which was denied on Feb.1 by the same judge. However, he did clarify that the IRS can allow preparers to “voluntarily obtain credentials that might distinguish them from other preparers.” Thus, the IRS’ testing and continuing-education centers will remain open. Indeed, it might be a good idea to complete the RTRP requirements anyways: the IRS can appeal the judge’s full ruling and his decision could eventually be reversed.

The judge also clarified that the injunction does not affect PTINs, which means that those requirements and fees are still active. The IRS has reopened the online PTIN system, but it’s being updated to reflect current requirements. All of this confusion comes at a bad time with tax filing season just ahead. Tax return preparers need answers from the IRS and they need them fast.

Man pointing chartAnd what does all this mean for us, the tax payers?  Always check your tax preparer‘s background, credentials and ask for references!  “Google” the tax preparer’s name and check out his/her background as much as you are able before you make the hiring.  Just because it is NOT required to be licensed, does not mean that anyone off the street can and should prepare your tax returns!  Hire a reputable tax preparer will paid off in the long run!


On the Money, Sufen Wang, Wang Solutions

M.S.Accountancy, Long Beach, CA 562-856-0793

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Whistleblowers Wanted:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Taxes on January 27, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900084382Report Suspected Tax Fraud

To catch a thief, the IRS needs your help. If you suspect someone might be bending certain tax laws, don’t just stand there – do something! There’s a variety of tax frauds, so the IRS has conveniently created a chart to explain which form you’ll need to fill out in order to make the tax world a better place.

Direct your pen to Form 3949-A, Information Referral, if you suspect an individual/business of false exemptions or deductions, kickbacks, false/altered documents, failure to pay taxes, unreported income, failure to withhold, or organized crime. Then congratulate yourself on doing the right thing.

MH900422392Identity theft is also a type of tax fraud. If you believe that someone is posing as you and has used your SSN for employment purposes or to file a tax return, pick up Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. The sooner you submit the form, the sooner the impostor will be caught.

Maybe your friendly neighborhood tax preparer has been getting rich a little too quickly. If you suspect fraudulent activity or an abusive tax scheme by a tax return preparer/company, report it on Form 14157. You’ll need both this form and Form 14157-A if you also think a tax return preparer filed or altered your return without your consent.

If you have information about a suspicious tax promotion or promoter, whip out Form 14242 and show that fake promotion who’s boss. And finally, if you notice misconduct or wrongdoing by an exempt organizationor employee plan, complain about it on Form 13909, Tax-Exempt Organization Complaint (Referral) Form.

MH900383616Reporting tax fraud is a good deed and should be reward enough by itself. However, for anyone who needs extra motivation, check out Form 211, Application for Award for Original Information. Sometimes it pays to be a whistleblower.  Do the right thing, it is hard, but it is very, very rewarding!!!

 

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

 

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Year End Charity Giving Tips from the IRS

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Family,Taxes on January 16, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900432375Happy New Year!  But Wait! 

Do not close the book just yet on year 2012…

Year 2012 is past us and hopefully you rang in the new year with a bang. Although the party is over, you can ensure you get more bang for every buck or item you donated in 2012 by reviewing these tips about year-end charity donations
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Contributions are tax deductible in the year made. As long as the donation was submitted before the end of 2012, it can be deducted for 2012 – even the check hasn’t been cashed or the credit card bill paid yet. However, take my word for it, the IRS won’t just take your word for charitable acts. To deduct monetary donations, you must have a bank record or written document from the charity with the name of the charity, the contribution amount, and the date.
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Also be aware that deductible donations must be made to “qualified” organizations. Only churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, government agencies, and anything on the Exempt Organizations Select Check have the IRS’ seal of approval. So although you might have splurged on gifts for yourself, you still don’t count as a qualified organization – no matter how often you call yourself a charity case.
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MH900044904Maybe you couldn’t spare some change and instead donated clothing or household items to a charity. In general, those items must have been in good used condition or better in order to be deductible. That means the bag of ratty old pajamas you left at the Salvation Army drop site probably can’t be deducted. And if you can’t get a receipt, at least keep a detailed written record of every donation.

MH900297557Remember that individuals can only claim deductions for charitable contributions if they itemize their deductions on Form 1040 Schedule A. That form will help you figure out whether itemizing is better than using a short form (Form 1040A and 1040EZ) to claim the standard deduction. Basically, you’ll have a tax savings only if the total itemized deductions (mortgage interest, charitable contributions, state and local taxes, etc.) exceed the standard deduction. Of course, whether or not you end up deducting your donations, giving is something you should do year-round. 

Remember the old saying….”Spend a little, Save a little, and Give a little…”

On the Money,  Sufen Wang,  Wang Solutions

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Looking for Tax Penalty Relief?:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on November 19, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

The IRS Made it Hard to Find…

Failed…

That’s the only word to describe the IRS’ actions concerning penalty forgiveness. How else could you explain forgetting to inform 1.45 million taxpayers that they qualified for and had a right to ask for relief from tax penalties totaling $181 million? If you’re like most people and have never heard of this tax penalty relief, here’s the reason why:

The IRS fines taxpayers when they don’t file a tax return or pay the full tax shown on any tax return. However, any taxpayers who have demonstrated full compliance over the previous three years can have these fines waved in something known as “first-time abate” (FTA). The only catch is that you need to first request the penalty waiver – and that’s hard to do if you don’t even know the waiver exists.

And the IRS has certainly kept its lips zipped and its fine print invisible. The potential penalty relief is not mentioned anywhere on Form 1040, nor is it on the IRS website’s page about penalties, or on any balance due notices – not even within the text on those documents mentioning penalties for failure to file or pay. Even worse, over 90% of the people who actually did qualify for the penalty relief were not granted it.

Of course, the IRS’ failure does not mean that all taxpayers are perfect angels. The TIGTA found that a number of taxpayers who received the FTA waivers failed to fully pay off their taxes six months after the postponement. Accordingly, the TIGTA suggested that the IRS also use the FTA waiver as a compliance tool: make taxpayers aware of their potential to receive an FTA waiver based on their past compliance history and make receipt of the waiver dependent on taxpayers paying their current liability. That way, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

If you to read all of the juicy legal tidbits regarding the TIGTA’s findings, you can check out the full report here.

On the Money,  Sufen Wang,  Wang Solutions

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Take a Vacation from Taxes

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Entertainment,Family,Taxes on August 20, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

Rent Smart and Take a Vacation from Taxes:

Hopefully you were able to sneak away from work this summer and relax with your family at your vacation home: swimming, fishing, trying to keep up with the kids on breath-taking hikes. Unfortunately, it’s time to go home. The kids are tired of wearing sunscreen, and just want to go back to their air-conditioned rooms, and video games. Worse, your boss already sent you a dozen e-mails about what’s due next week. As you’re loading up the car, you wish you could find a renter to put the vacation home to good use for the last few weeks of summer.

Actually, that’s a very good idea. See, if you rent out your vacation home for fewer than 15 days a year, you don’t have to report it to the IRS. And if you don’t report something to the IRS, you don’t have to pay taxes on it. In other words, your rental income for 14 days or less is tax free.

14 is the magic number though (or more specifically, 14 days, 23 hours, 59 minutes, and 59 seconds). Anything over that and you must report the income on Schedule E. So if Joe Schmoe Renter is really enjoying the lake house after two weeks and wants to stay longer, you have to decide if you want to deal with the hassle of kicking him out, or the hassle of filling out Schedule E.

If you choose the latter option, things get a little confusing. You have to start looking at how much you used the vacation home for personal use versus how many days it was occupied by a renter. Then you’ll be able to figure out how much you can deduct, which expenses you can claim, and how you report them. You can check out how to do the math on Publication 527: Residential Rental Property. If only vacation could always be all play and no work…