Archive for the ‘IRS’ Category

Bozo Tax Tip #1: Declare More Income than You Earned!

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Why in the world would anyone of sound mind and body declare more income than they actually earned? He or she would owe more tax, so there’s no reason to do this, right?

No, there are actually two reasons people do this. They’re both part of the Bozo contingent, and I strongly advise you not to follow their lead, but here goes:

The first (less common) reason is to qualify for a loan (typically a mortgage). Let’s say you found your dream home, but you need to show income of $100,000 a year…but you only earned $90,000. Simple solution: Declare an additional $10,000 of income! Now you qualify, and next year you plan on cheating on your taxes by that $10,000. Of course, the fact that you committed a felony by lying on your loan application doesn’t concern you. And the IRS is unlikely to come after you for the extra income; after all, if you do get audited in some future year you will simply admit the error. Some who practice this simply file an amended return a year or so later. You own the home, you’re making mortgage payments, so no one’s the wiser, right? (We’ll continue to ignore that felony you committed.)

The more common reason is the Earned Income Credit. This welfare program is part of the Tax Code. Let’s say you earn nothing; you’re not eligible for it. But if you have some income (but not huge income), you’re eligible for “free money.” (And we’ll throw in a phony child or two or nineteen so you can get the Child Tax Credit and, voila, you have even more “free money.”) Of course it’s not free—it comes out of our tax dollars. And you’re committing a crime (lying on your tax return). However, given how the Tax Code works and the monetary reasons for individuals to seek the Earned Income Credit, the Bozo contingent looks at it as “free money.”

(That’s the reason Congress requires tax professionals to conduct a mandatory interview for people who are claiming this credit. There are penalties on tax professionals who evade this requirement. Of course, if you’re running an Earned Income Credit fraud program, you’re probably more than willing to lie on the tax professional’s mandatory questionnaire.)

A tax return is supposed to show the exact amount of income you made: no more, no less. If you get caught adding income that didn’t exist to your return for one of the two reasons I’ve highlighted you’ve committed at least one crime. I’d like Congress to end Tax Code welfare (end the Earned Income Credit) but that’s not going to happen. But if you get caught adding phony income (especially if you’re a tax professional running an EIC fraud mill) you can be sent to a very real prison.


That’s the last of our Bozo Tax Tips for the 2017 Tax Season. I’ll be back in about one week with normal blog content.

Bozo Tax Tip #2: Cash Isn’t Taxable

Wednesday, April 12th, 2017

I haven’t run this Bozo Tax Tip in a few years, but it reared its head again just a couple of weeks ago (as you read this). A new client came into my office for the preparation of his tax return. Everything went smoothly, and an hour or so later his returns were complete and electronically filed, he had his copies of the returns, and the Bozo festivities (unknowingly to me) were about to begin.

He asked me if I’d take cash. “Sure,” I replied.

The client then handed me an amount exactly 10% less than the amount of the invoice. “This way you don’t have to report it—after all, it’s cash so there won’t be any record.”

“Cash income is just as taxable as any other source,” I replied. “I’m ethical, and I report all my income.”

“Oh, come on,” he replied. “When I was self-employed everyone did that.” Thankfully, my client is currently not self-employed.

“Well, that’s a good way to get in trouble. That’s called tax evasion. I don’t need to get myself involved in that, and neither does anyone else today.” I pointed out to my client the number of business owners who have done what he thought was ‘normal’ who are now residing in ClubFed. It’s amazing how many owners of Gentlemen’s Clubs (which are definitely cash businesses) get in trouble, thinking that they only have to report some of the income.

My client, after some prodding, came up with the other ten percent of the fees, and he ended up (hopefully) a little wiser. You needn’t worry about this: Just report all of your income on your tax return. But if you want to live on the Bozo side of life, skip reporting the cash…until one day you find out that really was a Bozo move.

Bozo Tax Tip #3: Let Your IRS Notice Age Like Fine Wine!

Tuesday, April 11th, 2017

Here’s another repeat from last year, but it’s something that bears repeating.

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.

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 #4: Procrastinate!

Monday, April 10th, 2017

Today is April 11th. The tax deadline is just seven days away.

What happens if you wake up and it’s April 18, 2017, and you can’t file your tax? File an extension. Download Form 4868, make an estimate of what you owe, pay that, and mail the voucher and check to the address noted for your state. Use certified mail, return receipt, of course. And don’t forget your state income tax. Some states have automatic extensions (California does), some don’t (Pennsylvania is one of those), while others have deadlines that don’t match the federal tax deadline (Hawaii state taxes are due on April 20th, for example). Automatic extensions are of time to file, not pay, so download and mail off a payment to your state, too. If you mail your extension, make sure you mail it certified mail, return receipt requested. (You can do that from most Automated Postal Centers, too.)

By the way, I strongly suggest you electronically file the extension. The IRS will happily take your extension electronically; many (but not all) states will, too.

But what do you do if you wait until April 19th? Well, get your paperwork together so you can file as quickly as possible and avoid even more penalties. Penalties escalate, so unless you want 25% penalties, get everything ready and see your tax professional next week. He’ll have time for you, and you can leisurely complete your return and only pay one week of interest, one month of the Failure to Pay penalty (0.5% of the tax due), and one month of the Failure to File Penalty (5% of the tax due).

There is a silver lining in all of this. If you are owed a refund and haven’t filed, you will likely receive interest from the IRS. Yes, interest works both ways: The IRS must pay interest on late-filed returns owed refunds. Just one note about that: the interest is taxable.

Bozo Tax Tip #5: The $0.49 Solution

Sunday, April 9th, 2017

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 April 18th), 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 $3.30 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 eleven 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 $3.30! And you can go all out and get a return receipt, too (though you can now track certified mail online). For another $1.35, 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, “using certified mail, return receipt requested.”

Bozo Tax Tips #6: Publicize Your Tax Crimes on Social Media!

Thursday, April 6th, 2017

Social media is really, really big these days. You can follow me on Twitter. I may even update my Facebook page one of these days. Of course, I’m not a tax criminal, and my posts hopefully add knowledge for others.

Of course, where you and I won’t go the Bozo contingent is quite happy to do so. Take, for instance, Rashia Wilson. Ms. Wilson posted a wonderful picture on her Facebook page:

Rashia Wilson (Image Credit: Tampa Police Department)

In the same post, she bragged:

“I’m Rashia, the queen of IRS tax fraud,” Wilson said May 22 on her Facebook page, according to investigators. “I’m a millionaire for the record. So if you think that indicting me will be easy, it won’t. I promise you. I won’t do no time, dumb b——.”

She’s doing 21 years at ClubFed. Oops…

A helpful hint to the Bozo tax community: Law enforcement does read social media. Indeed, the IRS will do a search of you on the Internet prior to a field examination (audit). So if you decide to go on the dark side of life, don’t brag about it online. A better course would be not to go on that dark side to begin with, but that rarely occurs to the Bozo community.

Bozo Tax Tip #10: Email Your Social Security Number

Sunday, April 2nd, 2017

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 fourth year in a row, but it’s one that bears repeating. Unfortunately, the problem of identity theft has burgeoned, and the IRS’s response is pitiful. Indeed, last year the IRS decided that identity theft victims should get hit a second time! Let’s hear it for the IRS’s wonderful view of “service!”

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.

Do Not Blindly Pay IRS Notices, Reason ∞

Monday, March 20th, 2017

One of my clients angrily sent me a message today. She received an IRS Automated Underreporting Unit (AUR) notice alleging that she did not include $50,000 of W-2Gs on her 2015 tax return. She’s a professional gambler, so I looked at her Schedule C and shockingly (not) there was the $50,000 of W-2Gs included in her gross receipts. Attached to the return was a schedule helpfully breaking this out for the IRS (she also received a 1099-MISC that was included in her gambling gross receipts).

The IRS AUR program is a huge (or should I say “bigly”) money maker for the agency. People blindly pay these notices; after all, if the IRS sends it out it must be right? Well, the last survey I saw showed that two-thirds of IRS notices are wrong in whole or in part. AUR notices are not screened before being sent out. The recipient is literally the first person to have read it.

Do not assume an IRS notice is correct.
Most are not. If you blindly pay it, you have agreed to the tax. Had a human taken two minutes to read the return, they would have seen the income and the breakout schedule and the notice would have never been sent. But that simply doesn’t happen with the AUR program.

Additionally, you have a limited amount of time to respond to the notice (typically 30 days). Make sure you timely respond, and if you mail your response send it certified mail, return receipt requested. You want proof your response got there. Be prepared to wait many weeks for the IRS to send you a reply to what you’ve written; the average IRS time to respond to correspondence is now 14 weeks.

My client now understands this issue, and I provided her a pdf of the Schedule C and supporting documents to show that no tax is owed. If you get an AUR notice, make sure you carefully review it and then respond. While blindly paying an IRS notice did not make my Bozo Tax Tips for this Tax Season, I’m definitely considering it for the future.

The Other March 15th Deadlines

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

Today’s the deadline for filing partnership and S-Corporation returns. An extension is available by filing Form 7004. Most (but not all) states grant an automatic extension. Do realize that if your state charges a tax for your entity (i.e. New York and Illinois), you need to pay that tax even if you file an extension.

There are two other deadlines today. Form 1042-S (report of withholding of foreign individuals) must be filed today, either electronically using the IRS’s FIRE system or by mail. Also, Form 3520-A (Annual Information Report of Foreign Trusts) is due today. An extension is available for Form 3520-A by mailing in Form 7004 (Part III, Code 27). There are ridiculous penalties for late-filing Form 3520-A, so if this applies to you and you’re not ready mail that extension (certified mail, return receipt requested) today.

The Hidden Bitcoin Trap: FBAR

Sunday, February 26th, 2017

A lot of my clients have invested in Bitcoins. For those who aren’t aware Bitcoins are a “cryptocurrency.” For tax purposes, Bitcoins are treated like stocks and bonds; realized gains (and losses) are reported on Schedule D. And that’s everything you need to know, right? Definitely not.

Most holders of Bitcoins use a Bitcoin wallet such as Coinbase or Blockchain. A wallet is used like a brokerage account. That means if you have a foreign Bitcoin wallet, you may have an FBAR reporting requirement.

Coinbase is located in San Francisco; it’s not a foreign financial firm. However, Blockchain is based in Luxembourg. Any American who is using Blockchain who has a tax filing requirement must note they have a foreign financial account on Question 7a. And such an individual may have to file an FBAR (Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts, Form 114) to note this account (if they have $10,000 or more aggregate at any time during 2016). Additionally, it’s also possible such and individual will need to file Form 8938 with their tax return.

I suspect that many holders of Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies are unaware of this issue. Many Bitcoin holders use multiple wallets and never look at the location of the wallet. Also, many individuals deliberately choose a wallet outside of the US to avoid possible scrutiny. Given that FBAR penalties can be ridiculously high this is an issue that tax professionals and taxpayers need to be concerned about.

While I have used Bitcoin wallet Blockchain as an example, there are many such wallets located outside the United States. I will begin to include such wallets in my list of offshore gambling sites (I’ll probably split the lists next year).