Posts Tagged ‘United States’

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Another One Bites the Dust:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on December 3, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

taxesNo More Walk-In Free Tax Prep at IRS Field Offices

Help is no longer around the corner. The IRS is shutting the door on walk-in tax preparation assistance at its field offices in 2014. With only 60,000 returns prepared last year, and the budget not lookin’ too good, the IRS decided the free help would have to go.

MH900056119Unfortunately that means the elderly, disabled, and low-income taxpayers who the assistance was available to now also have to go spend money on tax preparation. IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson called out the IRS on this change. “I seem to think that preparing taxes for our citizens is a core tax administration duty, and I don’t know of any [developed] country that is not doing it except the Internal Revenue Service of the United States.”


irs-tax-preparersThat’s a good point. But on the other hand, the U.S. has a voluntary compliance system, whereas in some countries, the government prepares the return and it’s nearly impossible to contest. And those affected by the service shut-down do still have a resource for free tax preparation: their local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs run by the IRS. While TIGTA reports that VITA-prepared tax returns are often chock-full of errors, at least this option is available if needed.

TaxBlocksCalculator_43_0Of course the best solution is to have a paid tax preparer complete the return. That’s their job, after all, and they’ll make sure things go off without a hitch. Tax preparation is going to be a little rougher this time around for elderly, disabled, and low-income taxpayers, but it won’t be impossible. If you know somebody in need who also needs help filing their taxes, take a few minutes to give them the rundown on the cut walk-in service and their current tax preparation options.

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

Articles

Representative Please!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Taxes on October 7, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900056119TIGTA Audit Ensures Taxpayers’ Rights are Front and Center

Did you know IRS personnel are required to stop an interview if the taxpayer wants to consult with a representative and they also can’t bypass a representative without supervisory approval?

MH900251655If you didn’t know, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has your back. Each year TIGTA hones in on an IRS office that regularly interacts with taxpayers and their representatives. This time around they scrutinized the folks who work in the Office of Appeals to make sure they’re contacting taxpayer representatives during key actions. The results of that audit, the Fiscal Year 2013 Statutory Review of Restrictions on Directly Contacting Taxpayers, are in and…

 MH900442430..the Office of Appeals did so-so. In 11 of 96 sampled cases (out of 72,239 total cases closed by Appeals), Appeals personnel skipped major steps. They either tried to call the taxpayer directly or didn’t send copies of very important papers to the authorized representative. It’s possible that those who broke the rules just made honest mistakes – maybe they were in a hurry to get home for dinner – but the policies are in place for the taxpayer’s protection.

And, what’s more, the bigwigs in the Appeals office didn’t do their part to ensure that the workers were following procedure. Accordingly, TIGTA offered some stern advice: the Chief of Appeals should “provide additional guidance to first-line managers and Appeals personnel that will reinforce the importance of ensuring that taxpayer representatives are involved in all case activities.” In other words, put in work at the top of the line so all the proper paperwork gets done down the line.

MH900289960Of course the IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendation. The agency’s first move will be to update the Internal Revenue Manual and front-line managers will have homework to do to brush up on their responsibilities. If you want more reading material yourself, check out the full Statutory Review here: http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201330080fr.html

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

Articles

Save Your Skin this Summer:

In Culture,Education,Family on July 22, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900021669Reduce Your Risk for Skin Cancer

Well, summer is upon us and that means the hot sun is also upon us. Before you don that bikini for a long day at the beach, think about the skin you’re in – it’s the only one you have! Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, but here are some ways to lower your risk.

MH900389354You can never get enough sun – is a lie. The top risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to sunlight (UV radiation) and those UV rays can damage your skin in less than 15 minutes. And if you’ve spent years in the sun, and/or had at least one severe sunburn – one where even wearing clothes is painful –  your risk of skin cancer is even higher.

MH900362048That being said, you’re obviously going to have to go outside sometimes. The worst time for UV exposure is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so if you’re running errands around midday, stick to the shade. You can also create your own shade: carry an umbrella or wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your head and neck. Although it might be sweltering hot, you should wear proper clothes to keep your bare skin from getting burnt. Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric work best, even if they sound incredibly uncomfortable. For a finishing touch of sun-safe style, wear wrap-around sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB.

MH900440540Don’t think it’s safe to go skinny dipping just because there’s cloud cover. UV rays can still reach you on hazy days and they reflect off surfaces like water and sand. You’re not even safe in your own car: the sun’s rays can penetrate windshields and windows. Also, a wet T-shirt offers less UV protection than a dry one, but a dry T-shirt still only has less than a 15 SPF rating – which won’t save your skin. That means if you think you’re going to be in the sun, you should take two whole minutes to put on a thick layer of minimum 15 SPF sunscreen. Reapply the sunscreen every two hours or if you get wet.

Finally, everyone should know by now that indoor tanning is NOT any safer than being out in the sun. Sunlamps and tanning booths expose you to UV radiation, which causes skin damage and skin cancer, and getting fake tans is more dangerous before age 30. Don’t believe it? The NCI reports that women who use tanning beds more than once a month are 55 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Why do you want to look orange anyways?


MH900360724Perhaps most importantly, you should get to know yourself. A regular self-exam of your whole body will let you see what’s normal on your skin, so you know when something abnormal shows up. That could be anything from a new mole to an old mole changing size to a sore that doesn’t heal. If you do notice anything, visit your doctor. Take a little extra time to pamper your skin this summer so you can enjoy the sun for years to come!

A Word on your Summer Safety! 

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy,

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

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (562) 806-5805

Articles

Summer Lightning….

In Culture,Education,Family on July 8, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900371018Avoid Dark Clouds on the Horizon: Lightning Safety Tips

Believe it or not, Summer is the peak season for lightning-related deaths and injuries. Actually, make sure you believe that: if you think you know more than Mother Nature, the results aren’t going to be good for you. There is enough energy in a typical flash of lightning to light a 100-watt  fluorescent bulb for about a year. Except humans aren’t light bulbs, so the National Weather Service wants you to know that when thunder roars, go indoors!

MH900252665That’s because no outdoor area is safe when you hear that boom nearby in the sky. Your first instinct might be to run towards that one tree over there. Don’t!!! Being underneath a tree is the second leading cause of lightning casualties. And stopping, dropping, and rolling isn’t too smart either. You could get hit with a deadly ground current when lying flat. Your best bet is to keep moving towards a safe, indoor shelter. If your only option is your car, make sure all the windows are up, or you could get struck down. If you can’t get indoors at all, at least try to avoid elevated areas, immediately get out and away from all bodies of water, and stay away from objects that conduct electricity, such as wire fences.

MH900417386Once you’re safe inside during a thunderstorm, you’re safe inside, right? Nope. Lightning can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring or pretty much anything that conducts electricity. So stay off corded phones, computers, and other electrical equipment. Yes, you read that right: lightning can electrocute you while you’re ordering pizza in your living room. Water also conducts electricity, so avoid baths and faucets. Finally, it might be tempting to stand at the window to watch the storm, but lightning can come through cracks in the sides of windows and doors. That wouldn’t be a very pleasant surprise. Oh, and please don’t forget the dog. Dog houses are not safe shelters and dogs that are chained to trees or on metal runners are particularly vulnerable to lightning strikes.

MH900278850Remember, if you’re outside in a thunderstorm, the only completely safe action is to get inside a safe building or vehicle. An even better idea is to not get caught outside in a thunderstorm at all. Pay attention to the weather. If the weatherman says there’s a chance of thunderstorms, don’t take the chance of getting struck by lightning – stay inside until the coast is clear. 

A word on your Summer Safety!

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

Articles

Fake Online Pharmacies:

In Culture,Education,Family on October 28, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

A Good Deal Can Be Bad for Your Health

Speaking of flu season, your local pharmacy is probably not a pretty sight right now with long lines of people coughing and clutching their stomachs. With all of those germs out there, switching to an online pharmacy might seem like a good idea.

It’s not – unless you do your research – because 97% of online pharmacies don’t follow U.S. pharmacy laws. In other words (or numbers), only 3% of all online pharmacies are legitimate. For all you know, that cheap pharmacy you found through Google could be run by Fred the drug dealer from down the street.

But how can you be sure you’re getting medicine from a trustworthy pharmacist and not Fred’s trench-coat? First and foremost, any legit pharmacy will require a prescription from your doctor. Yes, that means there are places online where people can get drugs without a prescription – however, if you care at all about your health, don’t try it. You’ll get counterfeit or contaminated drugs that can make you even sicker than before.

Also stay away from online pharmacies which have no contact phone number, are located in some remote part of Canada, and which aren’t licensed in the United States. Safe online pharmacies will always provide a physical US address and phone number, and they must have a license with your state board of pharmacy. Otherwise, you could be getting imported prescription drugs which aren’t FDA approved.  Say all you want about our country’s regulations, without them, the product or the prescription can kill you.

You should also be able to get answers straight from the pharmacist’s (virtual) mouth. Just like you can talk to your local Walgreen’s pharmacist, legitimate online pharmacies will always provide a licensed pharmacist to answer your questions.

And, like most things in life, the cheapest pharmacy isn’t always the best pharmacy. The medication is available at such a low price usually because something is wrong with it: it could have been stored improperly, is expired, is not potent enough, or it could even be too potent. What good is a discount if it kills you?

Finally, look for the VIPPS (Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) seal of approval. These sites have been thoroughly reviewed and credited by the NABP (National Association of Boards of Pharmacy) – and the NABP knows what it’s talking about when it comes to pharmacies.

Follow these tips so you don’t cough up your personal and financial information to fake online pharmacies!  Better be Safe than Sorry!!!

On Your Health,  Sufen Wang,  Wang Solutions

Articles

Get a Summer Job!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Education,Family,Insurance & Liability on July 31, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

At first, working during the summer sounds awful to most young adults. Then they usually stop complaining when their first paycheck arrives. However, they usually start complaining again once they realize that with income, comes taxes.

Meet Form W-4: Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. This form is used by employers to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from your paychecks to cover your income tax liability. You, along with everybody else, must fill out a W-4 when you start a new job – even if you work at that job for just one day.

Maybe you were lucky and found work as a waiter. Dealing with customers is difficult, but it also means you can get extra money from tips, and who’s going to say no to free,extra money? Unfortunately, you can’t just pocket your tips and forget about them– all tips you receive are taxable income which you must report. 

Perhaps you decide you want to be your own boss for the summer. You start doing odd jobs around town: babysitting, mowing your friend’s dad’s lawn, walking your neighbor’spoodle up and down the street. Congratulations on being a young entrepreneur,but the earnings you receive from self-employment are still subject to income tax. And if you end up mowing a lot of lawns and make $400 or more from self-employment, you’ll have to pay a self-employment tax.

If you get a job as paperboy (or girl), at least you’ll be done with work by the time most of America wakes up for work. And teens have special rules when it comes to federal taxes. Because newspaper deliverers are generally treated as self-employed, they have to pay the self-employment tax. However, if you’reunder 18, and you don’t meet all of the carrier self-employment conditions, you are exempt from that tax.

Everyone has to start working at some point. If you have nothing do this summer except wait for school to start, then you might as well start mowing some lawns! 

On the Money,

Sufen Wang

Wang Solutions

Articles

Managing Your Tax Records After Filing…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Human Resources,Taxes on April 23, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

You’re Not Done Yet!

Now that you’ve filed your tax returns, you might be tempted to push your tax documents out of sight, out of mind. That’s not a good idea. Keeping good records after you filed is a good idea, just in case the IRS selects your returns for an audit.
 
In general, any documents relating to your federal tax returns should be saved for at least three years. This includes bills, credit card receipts, invoices, and any other records that support deductions or credits you claim on your return.
 
Don’t pull out the shredder for your whole filing cabinet just yet. To be on the safe side, you should keep any and all real estate refinancing loan docs, exchange calculation, escrow closing statements, inheritance or funds gifted to children, trust-related issues, stocks and bond trades, etc. for more than 3 years. Let’s try 5 to 7 years.
 
Finally, any and all payroll related records should be kept for about 10 years. Yes, you read that right: one whole decade. A few years ago I encountered a case where the State of California Employment Office (EDD) could not reconcile data on an employee, dating back to 1999 and decided to seek out my assistance via an audit. Fortunately, I was able to complete the audit, clean as a whistle, because I had all of the original records on the subject employee. 
 
That just goes to show that employers should make room for keeping records. If you want to save space, go digital and scan all of the employees’ records – but always ensure that their signatures are clear and legible in the scanned images. However you do it, save your records now so you can save yourself some trouble in the future.
 
 
On the Record,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions
 

 

Articles

Revisiting IRS Budget Cut…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on March 18, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

IRS Practitioner Phone Line Wait Time: First Sign of Services Decline?
 
Back in November, the IRS predicted that reducing its budget would mean trouble for taxpayers and practitioners down the road. Well, now we’re down the road and it looks like the IRS was right. (Ref: Blog: IRS Budget Cut)
 
From January 1 to March 1, IRS’s practitioner priority telephone line serviced only 69.9 percent of calls and the average wait time was 26 minutes. IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson advised callers to “bring your knitting to the phone.” She explained that “There is simply too much work and not enough employees to do the work.” Many practitioners have already noticed an overall increase in tax return processing time and the issuance of tax refunds
 
If problems like this are occurring with only a 0.2% reduction in funding from 2010 to 2011, then just imagine how long the wait time will be when the 2.5% cut in 2012 comes into full effect. On the bright side, at least a lot of sweaters will get knitted.
 
On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions

Articles

The Return of the Dirty Dozen…

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on March 2, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Another Dirty Dozen: The Top 12 Tax Scams of 2012
 
As long as there are taxes, there are going to be scams. A lot of money gets moved around in April and a lot of people want to get their hands on it – illegally. If you’re one of those people, you’ll probably be in jail sometime soon. Luckily, the IRS’ “Dirty Dozen” – the list ranking scams taxpayers are most likely to get sucked into – is back. Let’s see how things have changed since we brought you the “Dirty Dozen” last year.
 
The new leader of the IRS’ “Dirty Dozen” is Identity Theft. This is a growing problem in which somebody uses a real taxpayer’s personal information to file a return and then receives the refund. If that sounds like a good idea to you, just know that the IRS is cracking down on this particular scam with law-enforcement. There’s even a special web page to help taxpayers spot when somebody is pretending to be them. So how do you know if your name is being used elsewhere? If you get an IRS notice telling you that you filed more than one return, you could be a victim of identity theft.
 
Close behind is Phishing. This does not have to do with going out on a boat and catching things in the water. This is actually when a scammer uses a fake website or email to steal your personal information – which they can then use for the big bad identity theft. Always check that you’re on the real IRS site (the address should contain irs.gov) and since the IRS doesn’t send out any e-mails, don’t open anything that is supposedly from the agency or the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Oh, and don’t post your social security number on the “IRS” Facebook page.
 
Remember that post a few weeks ago about finding the right preparer? It was supposed to help you avoid becoming a victim of scam number three, Return Preparer Fraud. These corrupt preparers will do anything, from stealing part of your return, to charging you outrageous fees. Make sure your preparer includes his/her signature and PTIN on your return, and walk away if they tell you to include false information.
 
You really can’t get away from Hiding Income Offshore. The number one scam on last year’s “Dirty Dozen” list, evading taxes by storing your assets out of the United States, continues to be a huge problem. That’s not to say that you can’t keep stuff overseas – you just have to tell the IRS about it. If you’ve had a change of heart and want to stop being a scammer, the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program is still going on.
 
The above are the most prevalent issues, but there’s still a lot of scamming going on at the bottom of the list. Don’t pay attention to people offering advice – for a fee – about how to get Free Money” from the IRS & Tax Scams Involving Social Security. You’ll be paying money for a claim that is eventually going to get rejected by the IRS. And don’t think you can get away with penning in False/Inflated Income and Expenses on your tax return. Although it might seem easy to claim income or expenses you didn’t really pay, so that you can receive refunds like the EITC, you’ll face interest and penalties when you do get caught.
 
The same goes for False Form 1099 Refund Claims. Filing a fake information return to verify a fake refund claim will result in real problems for you. And don’t listen to Frivolous Arguments about why you don’t need to pay taxes. Pay first, and then if you have a problem, bring it up in court later. You also need to pay the correct amount that you owe, so don’t Falsely Claim Zero Wages. 
 
Perhaps the dirtiest scam on the Dirty Dozen is Abuse of Charitable Organizations and Deductions. Yes, people will do things like “improperly shield income or assets from taxation” and “maintain control over donated assets.” Charities are for you to help other people – not yourself. The penultimate scam, Disguised Corporate Ownership, is when the true ownership of a business is obscured. Last but not least is Misuse of Trusts. Promoters will convince taxpayers to transfer their assets into trusts, promising less income subject to taxation or reduced estate taxes. In reality, this is just a fancy way of avoiding tax liability.
 
The IRS is watching you.
 
 
On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions
 

Articles

Not making the Grade in Your Business?

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Taxes on November 21, 2011 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

Get Schooled by the IRS for Free
 
Wall Street isn’t the only place that’s been occupied lately. Proposed tuition increases have caused students on college campuses across the U.S. to stand up and say “NO” to raising the cost of higher education. If attending a university will break your bank, the IRS has a solution: the agency offers a variety of excellent educational training and learning tools for small businesses for FREE……
 

Those of you who consider yourselves tax pros should check out
IRS Live. A real-time webinar, IRS Live is a panel discussion among IRS experts and industry professionals aimed at educating tax professionals on current and complex tax issues affecting them and their clients. You can actually earn Continuing Professional Education credits for participating in the webinar! IRS Live is broadcast bimonthly and the next program airs on Dec. 14.
 
For small business owners who are too busy to hit the books can boost their knowledge by visiting the
Small Business/Self-Employed Virtual Small Business Tax Workshop. The curriculum caters to new owners and features lessons about how to set up and run your business so paying taxes isn’t a hassle, what you need to know about Federal Taxes and your new business, and much more. The best part is that you can go to recess whenever you get tired of listening to the teacher talk about retirement plans and tax obligations.
 
While you’re on the computer, you should print the handy-dandy
2012 tax calendar for small businesses and the self-employed, or set it as your desktop wallpaper. It reminds you about everything from the exact days you should deposit your payroll tax, to what forms you need to file and when. Or, if you’re an avid reader and don’t want to get too lost in that novel, just order a tax information bookmark – or even 100 if you want one for every book! You can go shopping for other business products here, and remember, everything is always free from the IRS.
 
Brochures are nice, but could you spot a
tax scammer walking down the street? The IRS even provides tools to help identify, avoid, and report different types of scams. Still can’t get enough? Whether you’re a teacher looking to freshen up those old lesson plans or just somebody who wants to become more proficient in the business world, Understanding Taxes is a gold mine of educational resources. It provides detailed lesson plans, interactive activities, simulations, and answers for the hows and whys of taxes. The only thing the IRS doesn’t give you is an apple for the teacher.
 
On the Money,
Sufen Wang
Wang Solutions