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Protect Yourself from the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams

2013-03-29 by

The IRS’s annual ‘Dirty Dozen’ list includes common tax scams that often peak during the tax filing season. The IRS recommends that taxpayers be aware so they can protect themselves against claims that sound too good to be true. Taxpayers who buy into illegal tax scams can end up facing significant penalties and interest and even criminal prosecution.

The tax scams that made the Dirty Dozen list this filing season are:

Identity Theft. Tax fraud through the use of identity theft tops this year’s Dirty Dozen list. Combating identity theft and refund fraud is a top priority for the IRS. The IRS’s ID theft strategy focuses on prevention, detection and victim assistance. During 2012, the IRS protected $20 billion of fraudulent refunds, including those related to identity theft. This compares to $14 billion in 2011. Taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should immediately contact the IRS so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. If you have received a notice from the IRS, call the phone number on the notice. You may also call the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. Find more information on the identity protection page on IRS.gov.

Phishing. Phishing typically involves an unsolicited email or a fake website that seems legitimate but lures victims into providing personal and financial information. Once scammers obtain that information, they can commit identity theft or financial theft. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS, send it to phishing@irs.gov.

Return Preparer Fraud. Although most return preparers are reputable and provide good service, you should choose carefully when hiring someone to prepare your tax return. Only use a preparer who signs the return they prepare for you and enters their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). For tips about choosing a preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

Hiding Income Offshore. One form of tax evasion is hiding income in offshore accounts. This includes using debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access those funds. While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements taxpayers need to fulfill. Failing to comply can lead to penalties or criminal prosecution. Visit IRS.gov for more information on the Voluntary Disclosure Program.
“Free Money” from the IRS & Tax Scams Involving Social Security. Beware of scammers who prey on people with low income, the elderly and church members around the country. Scammers use flyers and ads with bogus promises of refunds that don’t exist. The schemes target people who have little or no income and normally don’t have to file a tax return. In some cases, a victim may be due a legitimate tax credit or refund but scammers fraudulently inflate income or use other false information to file a return to obtain a larger refund. By the time people find out the IRS has rejected their claim, the promoters are long gone.

Impersonation of Charitable Organizations. Following major disasters, it’s common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or personal information from well-intentioned people. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds. Taxpayers need to be sure they donate to recognized charities.

False/Inflated Income and Expenses. Falsely claiming income you did not earn or expenses you did not pay in order to get larger refundable tax credits is tax fraud. This includes false claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit. In many cases the taxpayer ends up repaying the refund, including penalties and interest. In some cases the taxpayer faces criminal prosecution. In one particular scam, taxpayers file excessive claims for the fuel tax credit. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is a frivolous claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000.

False Form 1099 Refund Claims. In this scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099-OID, to justify a false refund claim.

Frivolous Arguments. Promoters of frivolous schemes advise taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. These are false arguments that the courts have consistently thrown out. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law.

Falsely Claiming Zero Wages. Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, scammers use a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. Filing this type of return can result in a $5,000 penalty.

Disguised Corporate Ownership. Scammers improperly use third parties form corporations that hide the true ownership of the business. They help dishonest individuals underreport income, claim fake deductions and avoid filing tax returns. They also facilitate money laundering and other financial crimes.

Misuse of Trusts. There are legitimate uses of trusts in tax and estate planning. But some questionable transactions promise to reduce the amount of income that is subject to tax, offer deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the promised tax benefits. They primarily help avoid taxes and hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.

For more on the Dirty Dozen, see IRS news release IR-2013-33.

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Don’t Miss the Health Insurance Deduction if You’re Self-Employed

2013-03-29 by

Courtesy of the IRS

If you are self-employed, the IRS wants you to know about a tax deduction generally available to people who are self-employed.

The deduction is for medical, dental or long-term care insurance premiums that self-employed people often pay for themselves, their spouse and their dependents. The insurance can also cover your child who was under age 27 at the end of 2012, even if the child was not your dependent.

You may be able to take this deduction if one of the following applies to you:


  • You had a net profit from self-employment. You would report this on a Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit From Business, or Schedule F, Profit or Loss From Farming.

  • You had self-employment earnings as a partner reported to you on Schedule K-1 (Form 1065), Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc.

  • You used an optional method to figure your net earnings from self-employment on Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax.

  • You were paid wages reported on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, as a shareholder who owns more than two percent of the outstanding stock of an S corporation.

  • There are also some rules that apply to how the insurance plan is established. Follow these guidelines to make sure the plan qualifies:

  • If you’re self-employed and file Schedule C, C-EZ, or F, the policy can be in your name or in your business’ name.

  • If you’re a partner, the policy can be in your name or the partnership’s name and either of you can pay the premiums. If the policy is in your name and you pay the premiums, the partnership must reimburse you and include the premiums as income on your Schedule K-1.

  • If you’re an S corporation shareholder, the policy can be in your name or the S corporation’s name and either of you can pay the premiums. If the policy is in your name and you pay the premiums, the S corporation must reimburse you and include the premiums as wage income on your Form W-2.


For more information, see Publication 535, Business Expenses. It’s available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Relief Available To Many Extension Requesters Claiming Tax Benefits

2013-03-22 by

WASHINGTON —The Internal Revenue Service today provided late-payment penalty relief to individuals and businesses requesting a tax-filing extension because they are attaching to their returns any of the forms that couldn’t be filed until after January.

The relief applies to the late-payment penalty, normally 0.5 percent per month, charged on tax payments made after the regular filing deadline. This relief applies to any of the forms delayed until February or March, primarily due to the January enactment of the American Taxpayer Relief Act.

Taxpayers using forms claiming such tax benefits as depreciation deductions and a variety of business credits qualify for this relief. A complete list of eligible forms can be found in Notice 2013-24, posted today on IRS.gov.

Individuals and businesses qualify for this relief if they properly request an extension to file their 2012 returns. Eligible taxpayers need not make any special notation on their extension request, but as usual, they must properly estimate their expected tax liability and pay the estimated amount by the original due date of the return.

The return must be filed and payment for any additional amount due must be made by the extended due date. Interest still applies to any tax payment made after the original deadline.

Further details on this relief, including instructions for responding to penalty notices, is available in Notice 2013-24.

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Tax Rules for Children Who Have Investment Income

2013-03-22 by

Courtesy of the IRS

Some children receive investment income and are required to file a federal tax return. If a child cannot file his or her own tax return for any reason, such as age, the child’s parent or guardian is responsible for filing a return on the child’s behalf.

There are special tax rules that affect how parents report a child’s investment income. Some parents can include their child’s investment income on their tax return. Other children may have to file their own tax return.

Here are four facts from the IRS about the taxability of your child’s investment income.

1. Investment income normally includes interest, dividends, capital gains and other unearned income, such as from a trust.

2. Special rules apply if your child’s total investment income is more than $1,900. The parent’s tax rate may apply to part of that income instead of the child’s tax rate.

3. If your child’s total interest and dividend income is less than $9,500, you may be able to include the income on your tax return. See Form 8814, Parents’ Election to Report Child’s Interest and Dividends. If you make this choice, the child does not file a return.

4. Your child must file their own tax return if they received investment income of $9,500 or more. File Form 8615, Tax for Certain Children Who Have Investment Income of More Than $1,900, with the child’s federal tax return.

For more information on this topic, see Publication 929, Tax Rules for Children and Dependents. This booklet and Forms 8615 and 8814 are available at IRS.gov. You may also have them mailed to you by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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IRS Has $917 Million for People Who Have Not Filed a 2009 Income Tax Return

2013-03-19 by

[TaxMama Note: If you have not yet filed for 2009 and have a refund coming – FILE IMMEDIATELY! If you are still waiting for data, documentation or anything else that prevents you from filing, then file a PROTECTIVE CLAIM. i.e. File a tax return. Write PROTECTIVE CLAIM on the top of the first page. Include a note or cover letter about what’s missing and why. This will give you an extra three years to collect your refund. Otherwise, you lose it on April 15th.]

 

WASHINGTON — Refunds totaling just over $917 million may be waiting for an estimated 984,400 taxpayers who did not file a federal income tax return for 2009, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. However, to collect the money, a return for 2009 must be filed with the IRS no later than Monday, April 15, 2013.

The IRS estimates that half the potential refunds for 2009 are more than $500.

Some people may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim a refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2009 returns, the window closes on April 15, 2013. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by that date. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2009 refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2010 and 2011. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or their state tax agency, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2009. In addition, many low-and-moderate income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2009, the credit is worth as much as $5,657. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2009 were:

$43,279 ($48,279 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children,

$40,295 ($45,295 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children,

$35,463 ($40,463 if married filing jointly) for those with one qualifying child, and

$13,440 ($18,440 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.

For more information, visit the EITC Home Page.

Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2009, 2010 or 2011 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer.

If these efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by filing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, with the IRS or by calling 800-829-1040.

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