Archive for the ‘IRS’ Category

You Filed That Extension, And Only Now Are Realizing the Deadline is Wednesday…

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

Yes, only three days are left until the extension deadline. If you file on October 16th, it’s as if you never filed that extension (you will owe a 22.5% late filing penalty). So what should you do if you’re just starting on your return now?

First, in most cases tax professionals say it’s better to extend than amend. But extending is now out [1], so it’s better to get a reasonable return in. It can’t be a frivolous return: If you file a frivolous return, it’s even worse than not filing–you can get hit with a penalty for filing a frivolous return.

1. Get your documents together. If you have them, wonderful. If not, on Tuesday [2] you can use the IRS’s “Get Transcript” application to hopefully download a Wage & Income Transcript.

2. Include all of your income: Interest, dividends, rental real estate, gambling wins, etc. Just because you don’t receive a 1099 doesn’t mean you get to exclude that income! If you’re using software, carefully enter it where it belongs. Software does a great job putting numbers where you tell it to, but it’s also garbage in, garbage out.

You can download forms off the IRS’s website.

3. After you complete your return, look it over to make sure it’s reasonable.

4. If you live in a state with a state income tax, you have to file that too. And if you have a municipal or school district income tax, that’s also due. Most jurisdictions do have forms online.

5. If you’re filing electronically, keep the proof of filing. If you’re mailing your return, go to the post office or an automated postal center and spend the $5 on certified mail, return receipt requested. If your tax return is postmarked on October 15th, it’s considered timely filed. Certified mail gives you that proof. The automated postal centers can issue certified mail, and the postmark is the local time–even if the mail is picked up the next day (a very useful thing if you’re preparing your return at 11pm on October 15th).

6. If you’re thinking about calling up a tax professional, you need some luck. Most of us are quite busy dealing with our current procrastinating clients; October 13th is just not the time for a new client meeting.

7. Finally, make a vow with yourself that you will get started far sooner next year. While the 2015 Tax Season will likely be very unpleasant [3] and will probably start late [4], you should be able to get your returns started before October 1.


NOTES:

1. A few individuals can file a request for a second extension. If you were outside of the US on April 15th and will be outside of the US on October 15th (and both are for business/employment/residency purposes), you can file a request for a second extension. Phil Hodgen wrote about this last year (the rules haven’t changed).

2. The IRS, in its unending wisdom, has an annual “outage” of all computer systems on Columbus Day Weekend. Yes, all IRS computers are turned off just days prior to the extension tax deadline. If you’re scratching your head about this, well, so am I.

3. Next year features the first year of ObamaCare reporting, extender legislation that will probably pass late (see #4 below), and the IRS’s budget continues to shrink.

4. Congress has done nothing on “Extenders” but almost certainly will following the November election. IRS Commissioner Koskinen warned of issues if legislation passes late. Well, it will pass (in some form) late. Will it pass on January 1, 2015? I hope not, but if the Republicans gain control of the Senate (which wouldn’t occur until 2015; the Democrats will still run the Senate in the “lame duck” session), the Senate might work well or might not work at all. If you’re getting the idea that the 2015 Tax Season won’t be fun, that’s my view.

It’s Not As If Anything Is Happening Right After This…

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

Of course, after reporting good news from the IRS there must be bad news to balance it out. And there is. For reasons that only the bureaucrats at the IRS can fathom, every year over Columbus Day weekend the IRS shuts down their computer systems. This includes processing of returns and IRS e-services.

As noted on various IRS web pages:

IRS will conduct its annual Columbus Day Power Outage beginning Saturday, October 11, 2014 at 3:00 p.m. and ending on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 5:00 a.m. [times Eastern]

Yes, I know the IRS does this every year, but why not break with tradition and choose another weekend — say the weekend of October 18th. It’s not as if there’s a tax deadline right after Columbus Day weekend….

IRS Simplifies Reporting for RRSPs and RRIFs

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014

In a piece of good news, the IRS announced today that US taxpayers will automatically be treated as deferring income from Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs) and Canadian Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs). In other words, the treatment will be exactly like 401(k)s are treated for Americans. Such individuals will no longer have to make annual filings of Form 8891 to note their holdings for RRSPs or RRIfs.

The noncompliance with this provision was legion, so the new Revenue Procedure 2014-55 is good news. Individuals who were not in compliance had to file a request for a Private Letter Ruling in order to “get out of jail free” (so to speak). The Revenue Procedure includes retroactive relief.

However, such individuals will still need to note these accounts on their FBARs (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, Form 114). Note also that at least one state (California) does not recognize deferral or RRSP income, so holders of RRSPs who are required to file California tax returns must report their income on their state tax returns.

One Good Erasure Deserves Another

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

I wonder if this sounds familiar to anyone: An organization is looking for key information stored on IRS computers. A lawsuit ensues, and the hard drives were allegedly wiped clean.

No, I’m not talking about the IRS Scandal, Lois Lerner, and the Freedom of Information Act lawsuits. Rather, I’m talking about a tax fight between NetJets and the IRS. NetJets sued the IRS for $643 million alleging, according to the Columbus Dispatch, that a ticket tax was misapplied. The IRS countersued for $366 million, alleging that NetJets hasn’t paid all their taxes. Both sides have petitioned for summary judgement.

I’ll let the first two paragraphs of the Dispatch story state what’s going on:

In the midst of a lawsuit with the federal government over tax payments, NetJets claims that the Internal Revenue Service destroyed documents important to the case.

The Columbus-based private-jet company, in a motion filed with U.S. District Judge Edmund A. Sargus Jr., said the IRS “wiped clean a number of computer hard drives containing emails and other electronic documents that the Government was required to produce.”

Most of the time, I wouldn’t believe that the IRS would do this. As of 18 months ago, I wouldn’t believe that the IRS would lie to Congress, would target conservative applicants for nonprofit status, and that the hard drive of any computer (or other electronic device) touched by Lois Lerner would be magically erased.

On a serious note, the fact that the IRS has done these things (even if it’s just a coincidence that the hard drive of any computer Ms. Lerner touched died) will make judges highly skeptical of the IRS. I have no idea who is right on the NetJets vs. IRS fight. I do know that the IRS’s position sure sounds fishy to me.

“I’ve tried to tell you the truth every time I’ve been here”

Sunday, September 21st, 2014

That quote is from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during his testimony from earlier this week on Capitol Hill. I have a simple question for Commissioner Koskinen: Why doesn’t that quote read, “I’ve told you the truth every time I’ve been here”?

The obfuscation coming from the IRS hurts the entire US population. The IRS’s budget has been (rightfully) cut: Republicans are not willing to fund what appears to be a partisan office being used against the GOP.

Let’s Give Lois Lerner Credit Where Credit Is Due

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

We don’t know with certainty what Lois Lerner’s role is in the IRS scandal. However, let’s give credit to Ms. Lerner in exposing something that definitely is wrong with the IRS.

It turns out that Ms. Lerner was upset with an unnamed IRS employee who was paid $138,136 a year and was doing “nothing.” The Washington Examiner reported on this in an article on a letter written by House Ways & Means Subcommittee on Oversight Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA) to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. Here’s an excerpt of the Examiner’s article:

In a 2011 email recently uncovered by the committee, Lerner wrote to colleagues that she “learned than [an] employee who is assigned to a special project has spent most of the last year doing nothing and reporting to her manager on on timesheets that she has been working on the project full time.” The worker was paid $106,263-$138,136.

Lerner said that “We can’t do anything” about the worker, though some argued for termination, explained Boustany’s letter. Instead, the unnamed worker was given a lower performance rating.

While this will do nothing to help the IRS’s reputation, kudos to Ms. Lerner for trying to stop such activities. As for Congressman Boustany’s letter to Commissioner Koskinen, I’m not holding my breath for any results.

Another Friday: More IRS Revelations

Sunday, September 7th, 2014

Shock of shocks, another Friday and we get more revelations on the IRS Scandal. Of course, if one believes the IRS and the Obama Administration, Lt. Frank Drebin had it right:

Let’s get to the updates:

First, the IRS announced that five of the 82 individuals being questions on the scandal had emails that disappeared. This included Judy Kindell, a former senior adviser to Lois Lerner.

Next, we discover that Lois Lerner’s Blackberry was wiped clean after the IRS was told that the emails were wanted.

Do you know Andrew Strelka–the Andrew Strelka who used to work for the Department of Justice? If you do, Jim Jordan, Congressman from Ohio, would like to hear from you. The DOJ refuses to assist Congressman Jordan and the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in finding Mr. Strelka. Congressman Jordan gave the DOJ until Friday to send a forwarding address for Mr. Strelka.

Finally, Judicial Watch reports that the IRS had a ‘Secret Research Project’ for conservative donor lists. An excerpt:

Sure enough, these latest emails are treasure trove for truth-seekers about this Nixonian scandal. Contained in the newly released IRS documents is an email from Deputy Associate Chief Counsel Margo L. Stevens that was sent in response to a question from Lerner concerning attempts to return donor lists the IRS had inappropriately obtained. In Stevens’ May 21, 2012, email to Lerner, she wrote:

Lois, I wanted to get back with you with respect to your question whether TEGE [Tax Exempt & Government Entities] could return to those organizations from whom donor names were solicited in questionnaires following their submission of applications for recognition of their tax exempt status (under 501(c)(4)), now that TEGE has reviewed those files and determined that such information was not needed across-the-board and not used in making the agency’s determination on exempt status.

For those who want to say there’s nothing to see here, Lt. Drebin and the Obama Administration thank you. The rest of us owe a debt of gratitude to Judicial Watch; their lawsuit against the IRS has done more to get to the truth then the current Congressional investigations.

IRS Won’t Say Why It Erased Lois Lerner’s Blackberry

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Let’s assume you’re under a court order to find some emails. Your hard drive crashed, but you think that some of them are saved on your Blackberry. Would you:
(a) Try to find them on the Blackberry,
(b) Do nothing, or
(c) Erase the Blackberry.

If you’re the IRS, the answer is (c). After the IRS was on notice about the missing Lois Lerner emails the IRS then wiped clean Ms. Lerner’s Blackberry. The Washington Post notes,

In response to the judge’s order, a top IRS official said in a signed declaration that the agency has no record of attempting to recover data from the mobile device.

IRS attorney Thomas J. Kane said in a separate declaration that the agency “removed or wiped clean” information from the Blackberry in June 2012, shortly after congressional staffers questioned Lerner about the targeting allegations and in the same month that the IRS inspector general began examining the issue.

Kane offered no explanation for why the IRS “removed or wiped clean” the data, and the IRS did not respond to the same question when asked by The Washington Post on Wednesday.

As Reason.com stated,

There may be a reasonable explanation for all this. But if there is, the IRS has yet to provide it, and in fact has refused when asked to do so. Combined with all the other suspicious and convenient omissions, lapses, and losses related to this case, it does make one wonder if perhaps there isn’t a reasonable explanation to be offered.

There’s nothing to add to Reason’s conclusion.

This Won’t Help Confidence in the IRS

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014

From South Florida comes a story of one IRS employee who allegedly liked to help taxpayers…just in the wrong way. Charles Corbitt worked for the IRS in West Palm Beach, Florida. He was charged with wire fraud today and is looking at 20 years at ClubFed if found guilty. He’s accused of “helping” taxpayers prepare returns for 2009 through 2012 and making sure they included residential energy credits. There’s just one issue supposedly with those returns (I’m sure you’re ahead of me): Those taxpayers didn’t qualify for residential energy credits. Oops.

Mr. Corbitt allegedly took part of the refund as his fee for preparing the returns. His fee was based on the size of the refund (according to the indictment); that’s a violation of ethics rules. He also allegedly inflated other itemized deductions.

As I said in the headline, the IRS desperately needs some good news…but there hasn’t been much this year.

Do Call Us, We Won’t Call You

Thursday, August 28th, 2014

The IRS does not initiate collection activities by phone calls. If you owe money to the IRS, the first notice will always be a letter delivered by the Postal Service. Unfortunately, scammers are continuing to pray on people. The IRS issued this press release today:

Scam Phone Calls Continue; IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot Suspicious Calls

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert today providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a fake. Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam.

The IRS will never:
1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:
• If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
• If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
• If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

For all the grief that the IRS has (rightly) gotten over the IRS Scandal, they deserve no grief from these scam artists. The tips the IRS gives are completely accurate. If you get a phone call from the IRS demanding money, call TIGTA and report all the details.