scam-alert

Is The IRS Calling, Or Is It A New Scamming Approach?

As the tax season is approaching, so are an increasing number of IRS scams. According to WBIW, the Washington County Sheriff’s Department is reporting a significantly higher number of scams with newer techniques and advanced technology. From threats to fake caller IDs, scammers are quickly misleading everyday people.

Sheriff Roger Newlon states, “One of the more common scams involve callers, who threaten to arrest or prosecute if money is not immediately paid.” In other cases, scammers might attempt to use technology to mask a caller ID to make it seem like the call is coming from the IRS. The majority of these calls come from overseas phone services.

There are a variety of ways to prevent yourself from being scammed. Scammers may use cunning means to deceit you, however, their approach does not reciprocate to actual IRS demands. Therefore, it can be an obvious catch if you observe the following signs:

The IRS will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payments for back taxes.
  • Call about taxes owed without first having MAILED you a tax bill
  • Deny you an opportunity to question or appeal their claim for IRS tax relief.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for paying your taxes such as iTunes cards, Greendot Pre-paid cards or wire services such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
  • Threaten to bring in the local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Ask for your banking information over the telephone.
  • Send you an email.

Once you are aware of these signs and you encounter one of these attempts, it is important to immediately hang up and contact the IRS. You can also report the incident to your local law enforcement agency and also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. This will ensure efficiency to putting a stop to these scammers.

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Owe The IRS? You Could Lose Your Passport.

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Are you finally cashing in your vacation time to take a Euro trip? Well, if your travel plans include a passport and an airplane, then you need to be mindful about a new law that could prevent you from enjoying your time off from work, according to Forbes.

The FAST Act (Fixing America’s Surface Transportation) was implemented as a law on December 4, 2015. The purpose of the FAST Act was to create funding for highways, roads and other means of transportation. In this act, a new clause is implemented that allows the State Department to seize passports of “seriously delinquent” taxpayers. Because the IRS does not have the authority to seize passports, they must advise with the State Department about the taxpayers who have not paid their dues. Previously, the State Department had the authority to seize passports, but they did not have the authority to gain access to taxpayer information because of the breach of privacy laws.

The IRS has found a loophole to stop taxpayers from enjoying leisure time if they owe money to the government. Therefore, now the State Department has the ability to refuse to issue or renew passports for anyone who owes the government over $50,000, which includes any interest and penalties. Along with the State Department, the Secretary of the State is also allowed to invalidate a passport that has been already issued to a delinquent taxpayer. The amount for a “seriously delinquent” tax debt may change each year due to cost of living and inflation, however there are some exceptions to this law.

If you have settled an Installment Agreement or an Offer in Compromise, then this newly implemented law will not affect you. You are also in the safe zone if you are scheduled for a Collection Due Process hearing that has to do with a levy or an innocent spouse claim, where the tax debt has been suspended. Unfortunately, there is no grace period for the State Department to revoke an existing passport if you are a delinquent taxpayer. The IRS does however notify you when they list you as a “delinquent taxpayer” to the State Department. They then give you 90 days after seizing your passport to either make the payment, resolve any errors that were made or enter yourself into a payment plan.

It does not stop there! If you’re a taxpayer who is stuck in this situation and say to themselves, “Okay, I just won’t travel out of the country! Walla! Problem solved!” You are wrong! There is another law implemented called the REAL ID Act that prohibits federal agencies from accepting driver licenses or identification cards from taxpayers who have a debt travelling domestically. Well, this puts you in a sticky situation! Now you can’t even travel in state! This Act was implemented to encourage taxpayers to settle their debt before enjoying a vacation. After all, if you can pay for a vacation, then you should be able to pay your debts!

As of January 22, 2018 taxpayers who have a debt and are traveling with an identification card or drivers license must have another form of identification, usually a passport, which is acceptable for TSA (Transportation Security Administration). The only exception is if the state has extended the right to the traveler, otherwise all other travelers must have alternative proof of identification. In the upcoming years, the rules will be reinforced strictly and proficiently. In October 1, 2020 every traveler will need a REAL-ID compliant license to travel domestically. Alterative forms of identification such as passport will also be acceptable.

Why let the government dictate when or if you can take a trip, or enjoy time off with your loved ones. Filing your taxes accurately and on time is crucial for your credit, your freedom and your sanity. Go on that Euro trip and travel the world because you only have one life and you shouldn’t let the government prevent you from creating unforgettable memories.

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You May Qualify For Earned Income Tax Credit

Earning 53k or less? If you are, you may be eligible to qualify for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). EITC is an income tax credit for rural taxpayers, who are living paycheck to paycheck. Since it’s a refundable credit, there are certain criteria you must meet before you can apply. If you do qualify and claim it, you are capable of paying less on federal tax, paying no tax or receiving a large tax refund. EITC refunds can be as large as about $6,000 or as small as $500 depending on your qualifications, family size, and children’s qualifications. The following is some basic information about how you know if you are qualified for EITC.

How do I know if I am qualified for EITC?

  • You have earned income and adjusted gross income within certain limits; AND
  • You meet certain basic rules; AND
  • You either: meet the rules for those without a qualifying child; OR
  • Have a child that meets ALL the qualifying child rules for you, or your spouse if you file a joint return.

Some of the Basic Rules

  • You or your child must have a social security number
  • Must file either one of these: married filing jointly, head of household, qualifying widow or widower, or single.
  • Your tax year investment income needs to be $3,400 or less for the year.
  • Must not file Form 2555 (see IRS website for more information about the form)
  • You must earn an income that is greater than $1
  • Both your earned income and adjusted income needs to be under a certain amount (see IRS website for more details)

Contact Tax Defense Partners today for additional details.

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2017 Tax Filing Season Has Officially Opened

The IRS is successfully beginning to accept 2016 income tax returns with over 153 million returns estimated to be filed. You have until April 18,2017 to file your taxes before you have the IRS knocking on your door, unless you have already filed for an extension. The deadline to file your taxes for those who have been granted an extension is October 16, 2017. The IRS has extended its due date to file your taxes because the usual April 15 deadline is on a Saturday, which would be beneficial because it would give taxpayers until the following Monday, but April 17th, is a holiday. Last year, about 111 million dollars in refunds was issued to taxpayers, but the IRS expects more than about 70% of taxpayers to receive their refund in 2017.

If you experience a refund delay

Refunds are normally issued in less than 21 days, however a new law passed that now requires the IRS to withhold tax refunds for taxpayers who claimed Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15,2017. Even if some of the portion of the refund is not a part of EITC or ACTC, the IRS must hold the entire refund. This gives the IRS time to process the paperwork and detect and prevent fraud.

Let Tax Defense Partners file your tax returns

The IRS and State Taxing Agencies will not allow any Taxpayer to establish a formal agreement until all their returns are filed.  Unless you file your 2016 Tax Return on time, you may be jeopardizing your current or future agreement.  Don’t let the IRS get the upper hand.

If you secure Tax Defense Partners as your tax preparer right away you will get first pick on your tax preparation appointment day and time. Our expert tax preparation team will make sure you get every credit and deduction you deserve. Call us today to get started.

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Obama’s New Executive Order Will Turn New U.S. Presidents Into Taxpayers

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Obama’s recently signed Executive Order now requires that the President of the United States be a federal taxpayer. According to Andy Borowitz from NewYorker.com, President Obama exclaimed that “Since the President has such a large say in how federal taxes are spent, it only makes sense that he or she contribute to those taxes too.”

Moreover, President Obama reiterated that people should not look too much into the timing of this Executive Order being signed, saying that “it just seemed like the right thing to do”. Andy Borowitz declares that the signing of this executive order was met with opposition by Republicans on Capitol Hill. Paul Ryan, one of the more prominent opponents to the Executive order, claimed that “This is nothing less than an attack on the American Dream of paying no taxes”.

Accordingly, this didn’t phase the President, as he is getting another Executive Order ready that would require all cabinet members to have held at least a summer job relevant to their posts, Borowitz states.

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2017 Tax Season Begins January 23rd

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The Internal Revenue Service had already dropped a bombshell in recent news when they announced that some taxpayers will face a delay in receiving their tax refund with the deadline to file taxes being on April 18th. Recently, the IRS just announced that the next tax season will officially begin on January 23, 2017.

The IRS predicts that 153 million individual tax returns will be filed next year, with 75% of those being submitted electronically using tax software. With that being said, taxpayers can begin submitting electronic tax returns on January 23rd. You can also submit returns to tax preparers before the official start date. That way, when January 23rd comes around the corner, they will be able to submit it to the IRS’ system.

During this upcoming tax season, as mentioned before, taxpayers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, or the Additional Child Tax Credit, should expect a slight delay of just a few days to receive their tax return. If you fall into this category, your return will be held until at least February 15th. Unfortunately, if you count the holidays during the month of February, and the weekends, you may not be swimming in cash until late February.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen urges all taxpayers to plan ahead when planning a date and time to file their taxes. He encourages all taxpayers to hold onto their prior-year tax returns for 3 years at a minimum. This is due to the fact that many taxpayers will be switching things up by using different tax software programs this tax season, and that may require their gross adjusted income from 2015 to file electronically. Anyone looking forward to using the electronic filing pin for this filing season is out of luck, since it is no longer an option.

The filing deadline this year doesn’t fall on April 15th as it usually does, it falls on Tuesday April 18th, 2017. This is due to the fact that  April 15th is on a Saturday this year, and the Monday after is Emancipation Day in the District of Columbia. In the meantime, Koskinen, and the rest of the IRS are preparing for more than 150 million returns this year. “Our systems require extensive programming and testing beforehand”, he states.

Identity theft and tax refund fraud is a big issue for the IRS that they are working tirelessly to prevent. They are constantly adding new procedures to reduce this issue and continue the progress they have made in previous years regarding identity theft and tax refund fraud.

Although this filing season is seeing a few changes being made, it is still best for all taxpayers to file their taxes the way they regularly file them. Just remember that January 23rd is when it all begins, and April 18th is when it all ends.

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

IRS To Lower Standard Mileage Rates

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

(Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

The IRS has issued an option of using standard mileage rates to calculate costs associated with operating vehicles for business, charitable, medical, or moving purposes in order to calculate deductible costs, according to Jeff Stimpson from AccountingToday.com. Beginning January 1st, standard mileage rates for the use of cars, vanes, pickups, or panel trucks, will be 53.5 cents per mile (down from 54 cents per mile in 2016), 17 cents per mile for medical or moving purposes (down from 19 cents per mile in 2016), and 14 cents per mile driven in service of a charitable organization.

Accordingly, Donna Koppensteiner, senior vice president of business development for Runzheimer, claims that the drop in cents per mile was due to the declining fuel prices. Ironically enough however, such a drop was largely offset by rising vehicle insurance and vehicle maintenance costs.

Stimpson claims that the IRS reiterated the fact that using standard mileage rates is only an option and taxpayers can choose the actual costs of using their vehicles rather than using the standard mileage rates. Stimpson states that “A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost recovery System (MACRS), or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.”

Thus, Stimpson states that these and other requirements that fall under Rev. Proc. 2010-51 Notice 2016-79 “contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate” along with the cost to taxpayers for computing the allowance under both a fixed and variable rate plan.

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Taxpayers Beware: New Impersonation Scam Reported By TIGTA

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a new poster to further warn taxpayers of a recent trend of unsolicited and illicit calls by people who are claiming to be the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Treasury employees attempting to reclaim unpaid federal taxes.

According to J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, “As the tax filing season approaches, it is critical that all taxpayers remember to be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees.” Furthermore, J. Russell George claims that although there has been tremendous progress in investigating these fraudulent calls, the callers remain undeterred.

Karen Kraushaar, the Director of Communications for TIGTA, informed in TIGTA’s press release that the J. Russell George “announced the indictment of 56 alleged scammers and five call centers in India associated with the scam, the largest tax impersonation scam ever seen in the United States.” Moreover, she states that 21 alleged scammers were arrested in the United States.

Accordingly, Karen claims that TIGTA has been investigating this scam since the fall of 2013, and as of now, there have been more than 1.8 million reports to TIGTA by individuals who have received such illicit calls. Of those 1.8 Million, 9,600 have reported that they paid the scammers over $50 million.

As stated in TIGTA’s press release, it is imperative for taxpayers to know that the IRS typically contacts taxpayers regarding unpaid taxes by mail first, not by phone. Additionally, Karen states that unlike these scammers, the IRS will not “insist on payment using an iTunes card, gift card, prepaid debit card, money order, or wire transfer.” Moreover, she claims that “the IRS will never request personal or financial information by e-mail, text, or any social media”, and especially “will not ask for a credit card number over the phone”.

If you happen to get such an illicit call, TIGTA recommends the following:

  • If you owe money to the IRS in Federal taxes, or think you might, call 800-829-1040. The employees of the IRS can help you with any related questions.
  • If you do not owe taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form on tigta.gov, or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov
  • If you get an illicit e-mail by these scammers, forward the e-mail phishing@irs.gov. And DO NOT open any attachments or links within the email.
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IRS Restructuring Its Future Workforce

A new year brings new changes, especially in the IRS’ case. This stems from the fact that society is changing fast, and the agency’s Human Resource department is already reinventing how it plans to keep up with these changes. This new plan will stretch to 5 years and beyond.

Daniel Riordan, who is the Chief Human Capital Officer for the IRS, states that they looked at their own vision statement, and they asked themselves “whether or not they captured what they wanted as an HR organization, all that they have to offer.” Based on these thought processes, this urged them to begin to restructure.

The IRS is shifting to a more automated process. This is forcing Riordan to brainstorm how the agency plans to maintain quality, customer service, training, and talent management.

Another worry that is being brought to the forefront with the changes occurring is skill sets. The Future State Program will have new demands that need to be met. Incoming employees must be trained by the agency on the particular expertise that accompanies the new program. But before that is done, the agency will complete a thorough assessment of what skills and weaknesses their current workforce has now.

Riordan is also considering creating new career path models and new positions within the agency. According to him, all newcomers want to know “where they can go in the organization, and how they are going to fit in,” especially in the midst of the new changes. Employee job satisfaction is an important component that they want to improve.

Along with employee job satisfaction, the IRS is pushing to create quality customer service, which is very crucial in their mission and operation. Of course, this becomes hard to do when the Future State Program is digitizing a lot of procedures. To solve this, they have implemented a few pilots and are allowing customer service representatives to work from anywhere across the globe.

This works out well because it eliminates real estate cost, which is a major expense for the agency. So far, the agency is digitizing more of its information to help accelerate the move to a mobile environment, which will enable the IRS to move its workforce to a virtual environment.

The Taxpayer Advocate and other groups are outraged and have criticized the IRS for the Future State Plan, stating that it’s too aggressive. Riordan, on the other hand, explains that they will be keeping the phone contact portion of their service. “We know to the dollar, to the penny, how much that costs for each interaction.” He understands the importance of giving taxpayers “that very personal service over the phone.”

The IRS has Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TAC) located all across the country. One strategy that proved inefficient was using a “first-come, first-serve” approach. All this did was create an unbearable workload for them, which led to poor customer service.

Due to this issue, they tried implanting another 44 pilot locations last year. This allowed taxpayers to book appointments to visit a TAC and receive in person service. The representatives at these locations answered approximately 1 million calls between October 2015, and June 2016. Fortunately, half of these callers got their issue resolved without having to commute to an actual center.

Due to its success, this strategy will be implemented at 376 centers by the end of 2016. This doesn’t come as a surprise considering approximately 90% of taxpayers received help within 30 minutes of arriving at the center if they called the appointment hotline. This is a 40% improvement from the previous year.

As of now, the IRS is working closely with the Treasury Department to develop a good talent management system. IRS employees should look forward to these innovative changes sometime next year.

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Trump Administration Can End IRS Discrimination

Over the last several years, the IRS has been constantly accused of discrimination during the tax-exempt status process. The IRS apparently discriminates against taxpayers who have political views that oppose the Obama Administration. Democrats disapprove of this behavior, due to it being a violation of the 1st amendment.

As a result of these accusations, the IRS has lost many battles against non-profits who were victimized. They were also crushed by the US Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Studies done by TIGTA proved many accusations of discrimination to be true. A federal appeals court also accused the IRS of discriminating against tea party groups.

Now that the real estate mogul, Donald Trump, has been elected, the Justice Department will have Jeff Sessions as the new Attorney General. Justin was assigned by Donald Trump, of course. The new assignee will allow the IRS to change their litigation stance.

The government has a habit of purposely making IRS cases take as long as possible to resolve. When the IRS is asked to produce documentation on what led to their decision about who should or should not receive tax-exempt status, they remain silent, which is where the discrimination comes into play. They are hoping that the new Attorney General will change the unfair rules, such as the long purposeful delay of investigation, and make sure justice is done.

All members of the Justice Department lawyers have no other choice but to report to the new Attorney General. Many plaintiffs aren’t seeking money damages against the IRS, but simply wanted the truth to be told. It is now up to Donald Trump and Jeff Sessions to end IRS discrimination.