There are two deadlines today. First, individuals outside the United States must make file their tax returns (or an extension) today. Second, today is the due date for second quarter estimated payments (both for individuals and corporations). These are both postmark deadlines, so as long as your estimated payment is posted today (and I strongly recommend certified mail, return receipt requested so you have proof), it’s considered timely.
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I have been trying to get into two different IRS websites since midday yesterday but can’t. It appears that the IRS may be a victim of a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack or there website simply has gone down.
When the IRS is telling people to use the Internet and they see this:
Well, I guess this should happen on the day that we find that Lois Lerner won’t be prosecuted….
UPDATE: Whatever was wrong with the IRS websites was cured mid-morning.
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 from last year, but it’s one that bears repeating. Unfortunately, the problem of identity theft has burgeoned, and the IRS’s response is pitiful. 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 partner in Maryland, it might go in a straight line to him. 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.
Las Vegas is full of service workers, of course. With many of the world’s largest hotels and casinos in Sin City, there’s an army of workers to man the facilities. Last week, the Tax Court looked at a bartender that the IRS thought had unreported tip income. The bartender contended the IRS was drinking something. Who was right?
The petitioner did a lot of things right. He reported his tips to his employer, and they were included on his W-2. (The petitioner opted out of an automatic tip compliance program.) He kept meticulous records.
Petitioner testified about how his bar was set up and what a shift was like during the years at issue. He stated that his bar had only six stools and that customers would often sit at the stools playing poker for several hours and receive several comped drinks as a result. He testified that the only time his bar would be busy was when there was a big convention and then most of the drink sales tips would be on company credit cards rather than cash. He described the difficult economic times that Las Vegas faced during the years at issue and how his business had decreased as a result.
Petitioner also testified about the typical tipping behavior of his patrons. Most of his drinks served were comps, and he testified that customers rarely tipped on comp drinks and that if they did they might “throw [him] a buck or two” after several hours of sitting at his bar receiving the comped drinks. Petitioner additionally testified that college kids and foreigners rarely tipped.
As I tell my clients, document, document, and document some more and you usually will do well if you’re audited. The bartender wasn’t drinking but the IRS was.
One of the more popular tax fraud schemes is the OID scheme. The idea is that there’s a “secret account” held by the US government and you can obtain a refund from that account. All you have to do is send in 1099-OIDs and magically you get a refund. A helpful hint to anyone so inclined: Don’t do it. There are no such secret accounts.
A tax preparer in California tried a variation of this scheme.
On Schedule B, Interest and Ordinary Dividends, of her 2008 return petitioner reported banks as the source of her interest income in the following amounts: Union Bank for $55,150, Washington Mutual for $9,071, Bank of America for $1,366 and $94, and Wells Fargo for $597…
Petitioner did not receive any interest from Union Bank, Washington Mutual, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo during 2008.
Well why would anyone lie and put extra income on their tax return? Because she claimed extra withholding–that most of the interest income never reached her because it was withheld by the banks. She claimed that $60,225 was withheld rather than the actual $573. Unfortunately, she received her refund based on the phony withholding.
But she wasn’t done; she filed an amended return asking for another $14,800 based on a “1099 OID erroneously included in income.” While her return was modified by the IRS, the refund wasn’t issued.
Before the amended return was filed, the petitioner had another “brilliant” idea. Why not transmit phony 1099-OIDs through the FIRE system? That way she could get big refunds for others! (The FIRE system is what tax professionals use to electronically file information returns, such as 1099-OIDs, with the IRS.)
When the IRS discovered the original issue–that there was no withholding–the petitioner attached five phony 1099-OID forms and five phony 1099-A forms to a letter where she alleged that these were filed through the FIRE system.
The petitioner continued with the same strategy on her 2009 and 2010 returns. Unfortunately, the IRS didn’t catch the phony withholding on her 2009 return until after they sent her an $83,976 refund.
When the IRS sent a notice of deficiency, the petitioner challenged it in Tax Court. She never filed a response to the IRS allegations, so they were deemed accepted. So she owes the tax and the fraud penalties.
What is amazing to me is that the petitioner has not, as far as I can tell, been criminally indicted. She should count her lucky stars on that.
Judge Kevin Gross ruled on Wednesday that the bankruptcy case of Caesars Entertainment Operating Company will be tried in Chicago, not Wilmington, Delaware. Caesars’ second-tier creditors wanted the case tried in Delaware; Caesars preferred the Windy City. As Bloomberg reported,
“Ultimately, the overriding consideration is that the debtors chose the Illinois court,” Gross said. Letting the creditors win would be “bad precedent,” he added.
Judge A. Benjamin Goldgar will now have to decide the official start date of the bankruptcy. Is it January 15th (when Caesars filed) or January 12th (when the second-tier creditors filed)? Will the prior-year reorganization of Caesars be undone (which could cause more of Caesars to fall into bankruptcy)? Stay tuned for the next installment of “Fail, Caesar.” Until then, here’s some music for my old home town:
…2400 Ringy Dingies. Yes, I was on hold for two hours today on the IRS Practitioner Priority Service before my call was picked up. It’s November–not a high time for calling the IRS–but add the combination of the IRS Centralized Authorization File Unit taking well over the promised five days to input a faxed Power of Attorney or Tax Information Authorization, lots of notices being issued by the IRS that require a response, and ridiculous hold times are the norm.
Oh, yes, I was told the expected wait time was 30 to 60 minutes. Sigh….
Via the Washington Examiner comes a letter from 47 Inspector Generals writing about obstructionism done by the Obama Administration on their work.
Each of us strongly supports the principle that an inspector general must have complete, unfiltered, and timely access to all information and materials available to the agency that relate to that IG’s oversight activities, without unreasonable administrative burdens. The importance of this principle, which was codified by Congress in Section 6(a)(1) of the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended (the IG Act), cannot be overstated. Refusing, restricting, or delaying an IG’s access to documents leads to incomplete, inaccurate, or significantly delayed findings or recommendations, which in turn may prevent the agency from promptly correcting serious problems and deprive Congress of timely information regarding the agency’s performance.
If one considers that without TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George’s report on the IRS scandal we’d still be thinking that the idea of targeting conservative organizations was laughable, the handcuffs on IG’s that are described in the letter (you can find the letter within the linked story) are unconscionable. It’s not as if there isn’t any government waste or improper targeting, right?
We’ll let Lt. Frank Drebin tell it like it isn’t:
…You know there’s a problem. Welcome to the brave new world of signature documents.
Jason Dinesen has a post where he believes that I am wrong about the conclusions I’ve drawn on signature documents. Jason might be right or I may be correct.
What’s a fax? Is it a handwritten signature document or an electronic signature document? What’s a scan of a handwritten signature document? Consider that many tax professionals now scan every document they receive; we don’t keep paper. IRS policies allow for the keeping of scanned documents (as long as there’s a system to track them and as long as you can print them). Let’s assume that the IRS audits us and wants copies of all the “handwritten” signature documents. We print them all out. How can the IRS tell which ones were scanned and which ones were handwritten in my office? Mind you, if the IRS tells me that scanned signature documents are electronic signature documents, I’ll note that.
Jason and I reached the opposite conclusion on what this new policy means. The only way to know for sure which of is right is for the IRS to issue guidance on the questions I asked in my original post. As Jason said, “But the fact that two smart tax pros like us can have different takes on this just drives home the fact that the IRS needs to clarify this.” On that I agree completely.