Archive for the ‘IRS’ Category

Bozo Tax Tip #5: Who Needs to Pay Employment Taxes?!?

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

This Bozo Tax Tip—and do remember, these are things you really, really, really shouldn’t try—is aimed at the business owner who is having troubles. Business owners, unlike the federal government, can’t just print money. So let’s assume our hypothetical business owner has payroll tomorrow but doesn’t have the money for everything. What should he do?

Well, one strategy is to not remit the payroll taxes. Sure, they’re “trust fund” taxes but the government can print money and I can’t, so they’ll just let it slip by. And my state government won’t care either, right?


The above strategy is likely one of two quick and easy ways to get on the road to ClubFed. The IRS doesn’t like it when trust fund taxes don’t make it to the government. The penalties are substantial. The liability goes to the owners (and check signers) of the business. IRS Criminal Investigation will investigate this. Don’t do this!

One of my clients recently was interviewed about such a case. He was paid, but apparently the IRS wasn’t. It’s not hard for the IRS to find out about this: After all, every employee is going to file a tax return claiming withholding but the IRS won’t find it. That’s exactly what happened in this case. I suspect that very soon two nice looking individuals (accountants with badges and guns; now that’s a scary thought) will be knocking on a door and saying, “You have the right to remain silent….”

Business troubles aren’t fun. However, if you don’t pay the IRS your employment taxes you will find your troubles multiplying.

Bozo Tax Tip #6: The $0.55 Solution

Tuesday, July 7th, 2020

With Tax Day fast approaching it’s time to examine yet another Bozo method of courting disaster. And it doesn’t, on the surface, seem to be a Bozo method. After all, this organization has the motto, Neither rain nor snow nor gloom of night can stay these messengers about their duty.

Well, that’s not really the Postal Service’s motto. It’s just the inscription on the General Post Office in New York (at 8th Avenue and 33rd Street).

So assume you have a lengthy, difficult return. You’ve paid a professional good money to get it done. You go to the Post Office, put proper postage on it, dump it in the slot (on or before July 15th), and you’ve just committed a Bozo act.

If you use the Postal Service to mail your tax returns, spend the extra money for certified mail. For $3.35 you can purchase certified mail. Yes, you will have to stand in a line (or you can use the automated machines in many post offices), but you now have a receipt that verifies that you have mailed your return.

About thirteen years ago one of my clients saved $2.42 (I think that was the cost of a certified mail piece then) and sent his return in with a $0.37 stamp. It never made it. He ended up paying nearly $1,000 in penalties and interest…but he did save $2.42.

Don’t be a Bozo. E-File (and you don’t have to worry at all about the Post Office), or spend the $3.35! And you can go all out and get a return receipt, too (though you can now track certified mail online). (NOTE: Because many IRS offices are closed, this year we’re recommending against using return receipt–there may be no one at the IRS office you’re mailing the return to sign the receipt.) For another $1.45, you can get the postal service to e-mail the confirmation that the IRS got the return (for the OCD in the crowd). There’s a reason every client letter notes in the instructions of mailing a return, “using certified mail.”

Bozo Tax Tip #9: Let Your IRS Notice Age Like Fine Wine

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

My brother is a wine connoisseur. As all my friends know, I’m anything but a wine aficionado. But I have learned one difference between fine wine and a notice from the IRS: Wine can age very well but IRS notices don’t.

Almost all IRS notices come with deadlines. You need to act to stop the IRS. If you ignore the notice, you usually will get a second notice. After that, you may receive a Notice of Deficiency. If that ages the tax is assessed.

Yet most IRS notices are wrong in whole or in part! The last study I saw showed that two-thirds of IRS notices are wrong. That’s a shockingly high percentage. An obvious question is why doesn’t the IRS change its procedures so that the bad notices aren’t issued? The answer is simple: People pay those notices. The IRS’s Automated Underreporting Unit is a huge profit center for the agency.

What does this mean for you? Put simply, if you get an IRS notice read it carefully. Let your tax professional know about it when you receive it, not on the day a response is due. It’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to act earlier in the process than later.

And be very careful this year: Many IRS notices have new deadlines. The IRS printed approximately 20 million notices before the shutdown and are now sending those out. The deadlines on these notices are wrong and the IRS included an insert with the correct deadlines. If in doubt, send all pages of the notice to your tax professional and ask him or her what the deadline is.

My brother tells me that some of the best wine he’s tasted have been old varietals. I can tell you that I’ve never seen a tax notice get better with age.

Bozo Tax Tip #10: Email Your Social Security Number

Wednesday, July 1st, 2020

Earlier this year I stated I wouldn’t run my Bozo Tax Tips for the 2020 Tax Season. A friend persuaded me that I should, that the world needs some humor. So we’re going to run them now that the tax deadline appears set as July 15th. Without further ado:

It’s time for our annual rundown of Bozo Tax Tips, strategies that you really, really, really shouldn’t try. But somewhere, somehow, someone will try these. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

This is a repeat for the seventh year in a row, but it’s one that bears repeating. Unfortunately, the problem of identity theft has burgeoned, and the IRS’s response has gone from awful to mediocre.

I have some clients who are incredibly smart. They make me look stupid (and I’m not). Yet a few of these otherwise intelligent individuals persist in Bozo behavior: They consistently send me their tax documents by email.

Seriously, use common sense! Would you post your social security number on a billboard? That’s what you’re doing when you email your social security number.

We use a web portal for secure loading and unloading of documents and secure communications to our clients. As I tell my clients, email is fast but it’s not secure. It’s fine to email your tax professional things that are not confidential. That said, social security numbers and most income information is quite confidential. Don’t send those through email unless you want to be an identity theft victim or want others to know how much money you make!

If I send an email to my mother, it might go in a straight line to her. It also might go via Anaheim, Azusa, and Cucamonga. At any one of these stops it could be intercepted and looked at by someone else. Would you post your social security number on a billboard in your community? If you wouldn’t, and I assume none of you would, why would you ever email anything with your social security number?

A friend told me, “Well, I’m not emailing my social, I’m just attaching my W-2 to the email.” An attachment is just as likely to be read as an email. Just say no to emailing your social security number.

If you’re not Internet savvy, hand the documents to your tax professional or use the postal service, FedEx, or UPS to deliver the documents, or fax the documents. (If you fax, make sure your tax professional has a secure fax machine.) If you like using the Internet to submit your tax documents, make sure your tax professional offers you a secure means to do so. It might be called a web portal, a file transfer service, or perhaps something else. The name isn’t as important as the concept.

Unfortunately, the IRS’s ability to handle identity theft is, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate, poor. So don’t add to the problem—communicate in a secure fashion to your tax professional.

No, Please No

Wednesday, June 24th, 2020

A brief story in today’s Wall Street Journal (Pay$ Link) states that Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin may consider extending the July 15th tax deadline (which was, of course, originally April 15th) again. Quoting the Journal,

Asked in an interview at a virtual Bloomberg event if he was considering another delay to Sept. 15, Mr. Mnuchin said it is possible.

“As of now we’re not intending on doing that, but it is something we may consider,” he said.

My reaction is what I titled this article: No, please No. I and every other tax professional would like this Tax Season to end.

The article also notes that another stimulus program is now being considered, but Republicans would want it to be very targeted. Given that Democrats want everything under the sun, it will be quite interesting to see what (if anything) comes out of Congress this Summer.

Not Only Incoming Mail is Backlogged at the IRS

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

This morning, our IRS Stakeholder Liaison held a conference call on the current IRS situation. One unfortunate piece of information that was noted is that not only does the IRS have a backlog of incoming mail (estimated at well over 10 million pieces), there is a very large backlog of outgoing mail. As of early this week, the IRS has a backlog of 23.5 million notices.

With the IRS gradually reopening, this is a backlog that’s going to take months to resolve. The IRS has the capability of mailing 1.5 million notices per week. That means there’s nearly a four month backlog. This week, I received an IRS notice for a client for the first time in months, so the IRS is starting on this. Per today’s call, the IRS is concentrating on notices that are time sensitive (such as Notices of Deficiency).

There are also going to be issues with the notices. These notices are computer generated, so the deadlines in the notices will be wrong. The IRS is including a flyer explaining this along with the new deadlines, but how many taxpayers actually read an insert?

The 23.5 million notices does not include notices that will be generated based on returns as they are processed, and the backlog of correspondence that must be processed. I’m telling clients that have responded to IRS notices to think that it will likely be several months before they hear anything.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing the IRS can do at this point but to start on the process and let practitioners know of the issues. This is a year to be patient with the IRS.

IRS Reopening More Offices in June

Friday, June 5th, 2020

On June 1st the IRS opened offices in Kentucky, Texas, and Utah. That’s important for those of us in the tax professional community as two of the major IRS Service Centers for processing returns are in those states (Austin and Ogden). Austin also includes the unit that processes ITIN applications (a news report said there’s a backlog 250,000 applications). Ogden has one of the three CAF units (the unit that processes power of attorney and tax information authorization forms); that was backlogged even before the shutdown.

The IRS is opening more offices later this month:

  • Georgia and Tennessee: June 15th
  • Missouri and Michigan: June 15th
  • Indiana and Ohio: June 29th
  • California, Oregon, and Puerto Rico: June 29th

This includes the Atlanta and Memphis Service Centers on June 15th and the Fresno Service Center on June 29th. Atlanta and Memphis are not used for processing returns but are used for numerous other IRS operations including correspondence audits, offers in compromise, and automated underreporting unit notices. Fresno is a major processing center for returns.

This is good news for everyone (taxpayers, tax professionals, and IRS employees). Unfortunately, it is going to take many months for the paper backlog to be resolved.

IRS Interest Rates Decrease for the Third Quarter of 2020

Thursday, June 4th, 2020

The IRS announced today that IRS interest rates will decrease for the third quarter of 2020 to 3% for most from 5%:

  • three (3) percent for overpayments [two (2) percent in the case of a corporation];
  • one-half (0.5) percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment exceeding $10,000;
  • three (3) percent for underpayments; and
  • five (5) percent for large corporate underpayments.

The IRS press release is here; the official Revenue Ruling is here.

IRS to Allow E-Filing of Amended Tax Returns But…

Thursday, May 28th, 2020

This morning I received an announcement (below) that the IRS will, sometime this summer, allow electronic filing of amended personal tax returns (Form 1040X). Unfortunately, there’s a major “but” included:

When the electronic filing option becomes available, only tax year 2019 Forms 1040 and 1040-SR returns can be amended electronically. In general, taxpayers will still have the option to submit a paper version of the Form 1040-X and should follow the instructions for preparing and submitting the paper form. Additional enhancements are planned for the future. [Emphasis Added]

This will definitely help for the future; however, most amended returns are not the current-year tax returns. For example, I prepared three 2018 amended returns today.

This isn’t to say this is a bad thing. On the contrary, over time this is a very, very good thing. In the best of times it takes the IRS four months to process an amended return filed by paper. (I suspect the amended returns I prepared today will take at least six months to be processed given the IRS’s current backlog.) Being able to have an amended return quickly sent, without risk of it being lost, is a wonderful improvement over what must be done today and will undoubtedly lead to faster processing of amended returns.

Here is the IRS announcement in full:

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that later this summer taxpayers will for the first time be able to file their Form 1040-X, Amended U.S Individual Income Tax Return, electronically using available tax software products.

Making the 1040-X an electronically filed form has been a goal of the IRS for a number of years. It’s also been an ongoing request from the nation’s tax professional community and has been a continuing recommendation from the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council (IRSAC) and Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC).

Currently, taxpayers must mail a completed Form 1040-X to the IRS for processing. The new electronic option allows the IRS to receive amended returns faster while minimizing errors normally associated with manually completing the form.

“This new process is a major milestone for the IRS, and it follows hard work by people across the agency,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “E-filing has been one of the great success stories of the IRS, and more than 90 percent of taxpayers use it routinely. But the big hurdle that’s been remaining for years is to convert amended returns into this electronic process. Our teams have worked diligently to overcome the unique challenges related to the 1040-X, and we look forward to offering this new service this summer.”

About 3 million Forms 1040-X are filed by taxpayers each year.

The new electronic filing option will provide the IRS with more complete and accurate data in an easily readable format to enable customer service representatives to answer taxpayers’ questions. Taxpayers can still use the “Where’s My Amended Return?” online tool to check the status of their electronically-filed 1040-X.

When the electronic filing option becomes available, only tax year 2019 Forms 1040 and 1040-SR returns can be amended electronically. In general, taxpayers will still have the option to submit a paper version of the Form 1040-X and should follow the instructions for preparing and submitting the paper form. Additional enhancements are planned for the future.

“Adding amended returns to the electronic family also complements our partnership with the tax software industry, which continues to work with us to provide better ways to help taxpayers,” said Ken Corbin, Commissioner of the IRS Wage and Investment division.

Patiently

Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

Two clients asked me about their tax refunds this week. Both had filed several weeks ago, and each had received their state refunds. Neither had received their federal refunds. With the IRS phone lines for practitioners now working (albeit with a reduced staff), I called the IRS for both clients.

The first client’s return was filed at the end of March. The helpful IRS phone agent told me there was a ‘processing error’ with her return, and the problem is normally resolved within one to four days by the “Error Resolution Department.” Unfortunately, that departments isn’t working right now, so her return (and likely hundreds or thousands of others) is waiting for the IRS Service Centers that process returns to reopen.

The second client filed just one week later; their return simply hasn’t been processed. Yes, it was electronically filed, but for some unknown reason it’s sitting in a queue (virtually, I suppose) waiting for some IRS employee to hit “Run.” Again, with no IRS employees working in the Service Centers right now that return could be processed today or a month from today or months from today.

My suspicion is that IRS Service Centers will reopen in June, and that the unprocessed returns and returns waiting for error resolution will be resolved then. On the other hand, if you have to mail a tax return that return will be processed sometime. I have a couple of 2016 returns that had to be mailed, and I told my clients I expect they’ll be processed by year-end.

I’m not optimistic about correspondence sent to the IRS. I have two correspondence audits and several other open issues with the IRS. In good times the IRS can takes many weeks to answer the mail; I’ll be thrilled if I receive responses by October.

Everyone needs to have some patience. This isn’t the choice of the IRS, and they want to resolve all the issues, too.