Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone:
Archive for the ‘Taxable Talk’ Category
Fellow Enrolled Agent Jason Dinesen calls EAs the Liechtenstein of the tax world. Personally, I think he may be overstating our case; when I tell people I’m an Enrolled Agent the most common reaction is, “You don’t look like you’re in law enforcement.” Sigh….
But kudos to the National Association of Enrolled Agents: The NAEA is doing some positive public relations. If you fly American Airlines in the coming months you will hear NAEA President Lonnie Gary explaining what an EA really is–America’s tax experts. Here’s a link to the video that will be running.
It’s time for my annual vacation. If something earth-shattering in the tax world happens while I’m relaxing, I’ll take time out to post on it. Otherwise, enjoy the fine bloggers listed in the blogroll on the right.
I’ll be back on Tuesday, August 5th.
We’re in the process of updating our website and the look of the blog. For now, we’re using the “default” WordPress format. This may change in the next few weeks as we make other (more important) changes.
The goal of must businesses is to make money. There aren’t many businesses that can lose on each sale and make it up in volume. In fact, I don’t know of any. But I digress….
So let’s take Sam and Edna, two successful individuals who love horses. They decide to start raising horses. They remember their accountant telling them that if they had a business that loses money they can take the loss and offset some of their income. That’s true. They don’t remember their accountant telling them that the business does need to be structured to make money eventually.
Hobby losses are not allowed. The IRS has a webpage that notes the major factors used in determining whether or not your business is a business or a hobby:
The following factors, although not all inclusive, may help you to determine whether your activity is an activity engaged in for profit or a hobby:
– Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit?
– Do you depend on income from the activity?
– If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business?
– Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability?
– Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business?
– Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past?
– Does the activity make a profit in some years?
– Do you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity?
If your business loses money year-after-year, and you’re not making any efforts to change it, and you get a lot of personal enjoyment out of the business, beware! Your “business” might be a hobby. Yes, circumstances can cause any business to fail (and the IRS knows this). But when your business is losing money every year and you make no effort to change your business, at least on the surface you’re looking like a hobby. The eternal hobby loss is a good way to head to an IRS audit.
That’s it for our Bozo Tax Tips for the 2014 Tax Filing Season. I hope you’ve enjoyed them. We’ll be back with actual tax posts at the end of the week.
Congress has decided to legislate through the Tax Code. There are hundreds of tax credits that now exist. These range from the Earned Income Credit, education credits, electric vehicle credits, and adoption credits. Some of these credits, such as the Earned Income Credit, are refundable credits: You can get a refund based on the credit even if you don’t have income.
Now, the Bozo mind works differently than yours and mine. They see a tax credit and think, “How can I get some free money? I’ll find a tax credit and the government will just send me money!” So our Bozo looks and finds there’s a tax credit available for recovering methane (CH4) from landfills. Our enterprising Bozo sets up the Hot Air Gas Company, and starts claiming the credit. Our Bozo skips the somewhat important step of actually obtaining some methane from a landfill.
The IRS does investigate such tax credits, and when you claim that you are recovering natural gas when you’re not, that’s tax fraud, a criminal offense. And that leads straight to ClubFed.
The Tax Code is far too complex. Our Congresscritters have decided to legislate through the Tax Code, leading to a myriad of deductions and credits. The best solution to this issue would be for Congress to simplify the Tax Code but that’s not going to happen any time soon. Until then, if you legitimately qualify for a tax credit you should take it. But if the only hot air you possess is exhaling from your mouth, don’t claim a tax credit for it unless you want to visit ClubFed.
Another repeat, but one that is a continual issue with cash business. It may be “cash and carry,” but cash is taxable in all ways. And cash reporting (or lack thereof) can be a problem. Anyway, let’s be suspicious:
Given my practice area, I deal with individuals who occasionally make large cash deposits. I tell them that they shouldn’t mind the completion of a Currency Transaction Report. The IRS gets so many of them that as long as you’re paying your taxes it’s not a big deal.
On the other hand, if you break up your $11,000 transaction into two $5,500 deposits, you can get in trouble. Big trouble. A suspicious activity report (SAR) might be issued. The IRS doesn’t get as many of these, and almost all of them are investigated. And that’s what leads into this tale of woe.
We’re focusing today on a public figure. He was a prosecutor, and he used the Bank Secrecy Act (among other laws) to help send many individuals—primarily in organized crime—to prison. He then became Attorney General of his state, serving two terms in that office. He was then elected Governor.
But our public figure had a problem. He enjoyed the world’s oldest profession. While traveling to Washington, D.C. he used a service called the Emperor’s Club. He funded his nighttime activities by making multiple wire transfers of just under $10,000.
Come on, could a politician who used to use the Bank Secrecy Act actually get blindsided by the Act? Yes. Eliot Spitzer’s wire transactions were duly reported by North Fork Bank. That led to an IRS investigation which led to an FBI investigation which led to a governor becoming an ex-governor.
So if you want to send money, go big-time. Send more than $10,000. But whatever you do, don’t break up your cash transactions into smaller pieces to evade the reporting requirements. One day you might find two armed federal agents at your door, reminding you, “You have the right to remain silent….”
Ah, Spring is in the air. And with that come the inevitable wedding invitations. I had an invitation to a wedding on April 5th. No, I didn’t attend.
With weddings comes changes in tax status. Your marital status on December 31st determines your marital status for the year. If you are married, you file as Married Filing Jointly or Married Filing Separately. (In some rare cases, if you’re married you can file as Head of Household.) But you can’t file as single. Likewise, if you’re single you can’t file as married.
Perhaps it’s something in the water, but this year Aaron and I have seen multiple cases of individuals who have ignored that marriage license and filed as single if married. There’s a good reason for that, of course: They save on taxes. A big issue is rental real estate: If you’re actively involved in rental real estate you get to take losses of up to $25,000. But there’s an income cap (the deduction begins to phase out at an income of $100,000 and completely phases out at $150,000). This particular deduction is neither indexed for inflation nor does it vary if you are single or married.
There’s a problem taking deductions you’re not entitled to: tax evasion. It’s a Bozo act to claim things you’re not entitled to.
Marriage has its ups and downs. Claiming you’re single on your tax return will in the long-run cause you nothing but downs.
Today is April 8th. The tax deadline is just seven days away.
What happens if you wake up and it’s April 15, 2013, 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.
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 16th? 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.
We’re running some repeats, but there is some new Bozo material coming. It’s just that people keep trying the same things over and over again.
It’s tough to avoid the tax system. There are currency transaction reports (cash transactions of $10,000 or more) and suspicious activity reports (theoretically can be done on any transaction, but usually starts at $3,000 or more) done with cash. Businesses must send out 1099s on payments of $600 or more to individuals. Barter organizations must send out 1099s.
But that doesn’t stop the Bozo contingent. “They’ll never catch me,” they believe. Until the IRS or the Franchise Tax Board (substitute your state tax agency if you’re not in California) knocks on their door. There’s no statute of limitations if you don’t file.
Paying taxes isn’t fun. Avoiding the system and living on the edge may give you a thrill, but if you get caught you’ll be given a bill…and possibly a trip to ClubFed.