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The Chances of IRS Audit are Down But You Should Still be Prepared

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The IRS just released its audit statistics for the 2018 fiscal year, and fewer taxpayers had their returns examined as compared with prior years. However, even though a small percentage of tax returns are being chosen for audit these days, that will be little consolation if yours is one of them.

Latest statistics

Overall, just 0.59% of individual tax returns were audited in 2018, as compared with 0.62% in 2017. This was the lowest percentage of audits conducted since 2002.

However, as in the past, those with very high incomes face greater odds. For example, in 2018, 2.21% of taxpayers with adjusted gross incomes (AGIs) of between $1 million and $5 million were audited (down from 3.52% in 2017).

The richest taxpayers, those with AGIs of $10 million and more, experienced a steep decline in audits. In 2018, 6.66% of their returns were audited, compared with 14.52% in 2017.

By |June 3rd, 2019|audit, irs, tax planning, taxpayer|0 Comments

It’s a Good Time to Check Your Withholding and Make Changes, if Necessary

Due to the massive changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), the 2019 filing season resulted in surprises. Some filers who have gotten a refund in past years wound up owing money. The IRS reports that the number of refunds paid this year is down from last year — and the average refund is lower. As of May 10, 2019, the IRS paid out 101,590,000 refunds averaging $2,868. This compares with 102,582,000 refunds paid out in 2018 with an average amount of $2,940.

Of course, receiving a tax refund shouldn’t necessarily be your goal. It essentially means you’re giving the government an interest-free loan.

Law changes and withholding

Last year, the IRS updated the withholding tables that indicate how much employers should hold back from their employees’ paychecks. In general, the amount withheld was reduced. This was done to reflect changes under the TCJA — including the increase in the standard deduction, suspension of personal exemptions and changes in tax rates.

The new tables may have provided the correct amount of tax withholding for some individuals, but they might have caused other taxpayers to not have enough money withheld to pay their ultimate […]

By |May 29th, 2019|irs, New Tax Laws, withhold|0 Comments

Check on Your Refund — and Find Out Why the IRS Might Not Send It

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It’s that time of year when many people who filed their tax returns in April are checking their mail or bank accounts to see if their refunds have landed. According to the IRS, most refunds are issued in less than 21 calendar days. However, it may take longer — and in rare cases, refunds might not come at all.

Your refund status

If you’re curious about when your refund will arrive, you can use the IRS “Where’s My Refund?” tool. Go to https://bit.ly/2cl5MZo and click “Check My Refund Status.” You’ll need your Social Security number, your filing status (single, married joint filer, etc.) and your exact refund amount.

In some cases, taxpayers who are expecting a refund may be notified that all or part of their refunds aren’t going to be paid. A number of situations can cause this to happen.

Refunds settle debts

The Treasury Offset Program can use all, or part, of a refund to settle certain debts, including:

  • Past-due federal tax debts,
  • State income tax obligations,
  • Past-due child and spousal support,
  • Federal agency debts such as a delinquent student loan, and
  • Certain unemployment compensation owed to a state.

If the federal government is going to “offset” a refund […]

By |May 9th, 2019|irs, refunds, taxes|0 Comments

Employee vs. Independent Contractor: How Should You Handle Worker Classification?

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Many employers prefer to classify workers as independent contractors to lower costs, even if it means having less control over a worker’s day-to-day activities. But the government is on the lookout for businesses that classify workers as independent contractors simply to reduce taxes or avoid their employee benefit obligations.

Why it matters

When your business classifies a worker as an employee, you generally must withhold federal income tax and the employee’s share of Social Security and Medicare taxes from his or her wages. Your business must then pay the employer’s share of these taxes, pay federal unemployment tax, file federal payroll tax returns and follow other burdensome IRS and U.S. Department of Labor rules.

You may also have to pay state and local unemployment and workers’ compensation taxes and comply with more rules. Dealing with all this can cost a bundle each year.

On the other hand, with independent contractor status, you don’t […]

By |May 2nd, 2019|employer, irs, tax|0 Comments

Deducting Business Meal Expenses Under Today’s Tax Rules

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In the course of operating your business, you probably spend time and money “wining and dining” current or potential customers, vendors and employees. What can you deduct on your tax return for these expenses? The rules changed under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), but you can still claim some valuable write-offs.

No more entertainment deductions

One of the biggest changes is that you can no longer deduct most business-related entertainment expenses. Beginning in 2018, the TCJA disallows deductions for entertainment expenses, including those for sports events, theater productions, golf outings and fishing trips.

Meal deductions still allowed

You can still deduct 50% of the cost of food and beverages for meals conducted with business associates. However, you need to follow three basic rules in order to prove that your expenses are business related:

  1. The expenses must be “ordinary and necessary” in carrying on your business. This means your food and beverage costs are customary and appropriate. They shouldn’t be lavish or extravagant.
  2. The expenses must be directly related or associated with your business. This means that you expect to receive a concrete business benefit from them. The principal purpose for the meal must be business. […]
By |April 19th, 2019|business, deduction, deductions, expensing, irs, New Tax Laws|0 Comments

Three Questions You May Have After You File Your Return

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Once your 2018 tax return has been successfully filed with the IRS, you may still have some questions. Here are brief answers to three questions that we’re frequently asked at this time of year.

Question #1: What tax records can I throw away now?

At a minimum, keep tax records related to your return for as long as the IRS can audit your return or assess additional taxes. In general, the statute of limitations is three years after you file your return. So you can generally get rid of most records related to tax returns for 2015 and earlier years. (If you filed an extension for your 2015 return, hold on to your records until at least three years from when you filed the extended return.)

However, the statute of limitations extends to six years for taxpayers who understate their gross income by more than 25%.

You’ll need to hang on to […]

By |April 18th, 2019|irs, New Tax Laws, tax planning, tax time|0 Comments

When are LLC Members Subject to Self-Employment Tax?

Limited liability company (LLC) members commonly claim that their distributive shares of LLC income — after deducting compensation for services in the form of guaranteed payments — aren’t subject to self-employment (SE) tax. But the IRS has been cracking down on LLC members it claims have underreported SE income, with some success in court.

SE tax background

Self-employment income is subject to a 12.4% Social Security tax (up to the wage base) and a 2.9% Medicare tax. Generally, if you’re a member of a partnership — including an LLC taxed as a partnership — that conducts a trade or business, you’re considered self-employed.

General partners pay SE tax on all their business income from the partnership, whether it’s distributed or not. Limited partners, however, are subject to SE tax only on any guaranteed payments for services they provide to the partnership. The rationale is that limited partners, who have no management authority, are more akin to passive investors.

By |February 12th, 2019|business, irs, liability|0 Comments

IRS Reminds Employers, Other Businesses of Jan. 31 Filing Deadline

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The Internal Revenue Service today reminds employers and other businesses of the Jan. 31 filing deadline that applies to filing wage statements and independent contractor forms with the government.

The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act requires employers to file their copies of Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, and Form W-3, Transmittal of Wage and Tax Statements, with the Social Security Administration by Jan. 31. The Jan. 31 deadline also applies to certain Forms 1099-MISC, Miscellaneous Income, filed with the IRS to report non-employee compensation to independent contractors. Such payments are reported in box 7 of this form.

This deadline makes it easier for the IRS to verify income that individuals report on their tax returns and helps prevent fraud. Failure to file these forms correctly and timely may result in penalties. As always, the IRS urges employers and other businesses to take advantage of the accuracy, speed and convenience of filing these forms electronically.

An extension of time to file Forms W-2 is no longer automatic. The IRS will only […]

By |January 29th, 2019|irs, w2|0 Comments

There’s Still Time to Get Substantiation for 2018 Donations

If you’re like many Americans, letters from your favorite charities have been appearing in your mailbox in recent weeks acknowledging your 2018 year-end donations. But what happens if you haven’t received such a letter — can you still claim an itemized deduction for the gift on your 2018 income tax return? It depends.

Basic requirements

To support a charitable deduction, you need to comply with IRS substantiation requirements. This generally includes obtaining a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the charity stating the amount of the donation, whether you received any goods or services in consideration for the donation, and the value of any such goods or services.

“Contemporaneous” means the earlier of 1) the date you file your tax return, or 2) the extended due date of your return. So if you made a donation in 2018 but haven’t yet received substantiation from the charity, it’s not too late — as long as you haven’t filed your 2018 return. Contact […]

By |January 25th, 2019|charity, deduction, deductions, irs|0 Comments

IRS Releases 2019 Form W-4

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The IRS has released the 2019 version of Form W-4 (Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate) and instructions. Initial plans called for substantial revisions to the form to take into account provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. However, after considering feedback from the payroll and tax communities, the IRS decided to postpone the form’s makeover until the 2020 tax year. Therefore, the 2019 form is similar to the 2018 version. However, the Form W-4 Deductions, Adjustments, and Additional Income Worksheet has been updated to reflect the increase in the annual withholding allowance from $4,150 to $4,200 in 2019. Also, the worksheet has been updated for the increase in the standard deduction for 2019 from (1) $24,000 to $24,400 for joint filers and surviving spouses; (2) $18,000 to $18,350 for heads of household; and (3) $12,000 to $12,200 for single filers and married individuals filing separately. The 2019 Form W-4 can be accessed at www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw4.pdf .

By |December 26th, 2018|irs|0 Comments