Common Sense Advice Regarding Offer In Compromise Scams

By now, everybody with a tax bill has heard the “pennies on the dollar” promises on radio and TV. Before handing over thousands of dollars to some Slick Rick salesman over the phone, here are some things you need to know about the Offer in Compromise program.

First and foremost: You probably don’t qualify. What’s that? How can I say that without even knowing you or your situation? Because the IRS statistics show that most people that apply don’t qualify, that’s why. In 2018, the most recent year for which data is available, the IRS outright rejected 59% of all Offer in Compromise applications that were submitted.

Secondly, the Attorneys General of several states, the Federal Trade Commission, and multiple class action lawsuits have been won over the common sales practice of promising tax relief, and not being able to deliver. More often than not, clients in those situations are sold an Offer in Compromise program for many thousands of dollars, and are then converted to an Installment Agreement (monthly payment plan to the IRS) with no refund of the price difference. This has been going on for years, and and many tax debt resolution companies have been sued for this and other egregious sales practices that are designed to do nothing but part you from your money.

There are probably tens of thousands of other OIC settlements sold by these companies every year that are never actually filed, … Read the rest

Can’t pay your 2019 tax bill by July 15, 2020?

If you have a tax bill for 2019 that you can’t quite pay, you do have options.

Even if you can’t pay in full, I’d highly encourage you to file your return on time, which has been extended from April 15 to July 15 this year due to the pandemic and resulting recession. This way, you avoid the late filing penalties that can be added on to your tax liability, which can add up to 25% of your balance due. Also, try to pay as much as you possibly can with your return. If you are going to be filing an extension, pay as much as you can with your extension.

The IRS is currently charging a 5% annual interest rate, compounded daily, on all tax debts. On top of that, you will be subject to a failure to pay penalty, which will further increase your tax debt.

It may be worthwhile to consider using credits cards or a loan to pay your tax bill. When you consider the extensive penalties the IRS charges, your credit card interest rate may actually be quite a bit lower.

If you absolutely cannot pay your tax bill this year, then use either the online payment agreement request system at irs.gov, or complete Form 9465 to request a payment plan. You are not required to wait until the IRS bills you before requesting a payment plan.

The most important thing to remember is that, … Read the rest

Challenging Property Tax Assessments

Your annual property tax bill is based on your county government’s valuation of your property. Assessed values are often very different from the actual fair market value of your home. If your county assessment is too high, resulting in a property tax bill that is more than it should be, you can contest the property valuation in an attempt to reduce your tax bill.

The fair market value of your property is represented by the price that a typical home buyer would be willing to pay for your house. Arriving at the fair market value of your home without actually selling the house is accomplished by comparing your home to other houses that have sold. A proper comparison requires that the other houses be as similar to your house as possible. The best comparable properties will have nearly the same square footage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms as your house. In addition, they will be in the same neighborhood and will have sold within the last few months. This process is very similar to how appraisers determine the vale of your home.

There are two types of assessed value that local governments use to determine your property tax bill: Market assessed value and tax assessed value. Market assessed value is the government’s estimate of the fair market value of your home. This valuation is often based on the last sale price of the property, adjusted occasionally for appreciation. Since … Read the rest

How to Choose a Tax Firm for Complex Needs

Choosing a tax professional isn’t an easy task anyway, but mix in the coronavirus tax extension deadline and current economic recession, and this process just got a whole lot more complicated. Keep reading for all you need to know about how to choose a tax firm for your complex accounting, tax planning, and taxpayer representation needs.

Do I even need an accountant or tax firm?

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), every taxpayer is entitled to representation. The taxpayer may either represent themselves, or with proper written authorization, have someone else represent them. However, this representative can’t be just anyone. They must be a licensed attorney, Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or Enrolled Agent. Each individual may verify a representative’s eligibility.

Why would I want a representative?

You may want a representative (such an accountant or tax firm) to represent you for a number of reasons. These include a specific tax problem, a notice from the IRS or a tax audit. For most taxpayers, the chances of being audited are less than 1 percent. Those most likely to get audited are among those in the highest income brackets and those in the lowest. If this happens to you, your representative can help to interact with the IRS on your behalf as well as provide information and explanations. They can also enter into agreements with the IRS once you reach them. However, it is important to select your representative carefully because, … Read the rest

Quick Guide to Late Filing, Amended Returns, and Late Payment Penalties

In most years, April 15 is the deadline for the majority of Americans to both file their tax return and pay any taxes that are due on that return. If you don’t file on time, you potentially face one set of penalties. If you don’t pay by this date, there’s another set of penalties that applies.

Here’s the good news for individuals that are unable to pay by the normal due date: The late payment penalty isn’t nearly as stiff as the late filing penalty.

The reason for this is because the IRS is far more interested in knowing how much you owe rather than having you pay it on time. They rely heavily on people filing their tax returns in order to make the proper tax assessment (never let the IRS do your tax return for you). Knowing how much you owe them starts a well defined process, but when the IRS doesn’t know how much you owe, they can get pretty grumpy about it.

Of course, the more you pay with your tax return or extension, the lower your penalty and interest charges are going to be in the long run. This is because all of your penalties and interest are a percentage of the unpaid balance due after April 15th.

The penalty for not filing a tax return is typically 5% per month or part of a month. One day is considered “part of a … Read the rest

5 Reasons to Hire a Professional Tax Firm to Represent You In Front of the IRS Collection Division

Over the years, there have occasionally been bursts of media attention placed on the “tax debt relief”. In past years, the FTC has taken down companies such as American Tax Relief, the California Attorney General came down hard on Roni Deutch, and the Texas Attorney General won a massive civil judgment against Tax Masters. In the wake of such regulatory actions, the American consumer is likely left with the impression that all tax attorneys and tax resolution firms are just as bad as used car salesman.

While it’s true that these companies, and numerous others, have created a bad name for the tax resolution industry as a whole, the fact of the matter is that these companies are the exception, not the rule. There are dozens of companies with horrible BBB records and numerous reports on Ripoff Report and other web sites. However, for every one of those bad apples, there are dozens of reputable, hard working firms that are just as big as the con artists, and for every one of those firms there are literally hundreds of independent practitioners out there, including tax attorneys, IRS licensed Enrolled Agents, and state licensed Certified Public Accountants. Any of these licensed professionals are allowed to represent  taxpayers in front of the IRS.

The FTC recently posted a consumer alert telling people to handle their IRS disputes themselves. As an Enrolled Agent myself, I’m obviously biased in opposition to the FTC’s statement, … Read the rest

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We’re really excited to be here. We have some grand ambitions, and we hope that you’ll join us for the journey.

While we work on building out our curated, professional directory of high quality tax firms, please contact us if you need an immediate referral to a tax firm near you. We realize that during the current economic crisis you may need tax or accounting assistance as rapidly as possible, so we do have a network of tax firms that can help you that are not yet listed in our directory.

Are you a tax firm? We obviously need you to be here! So please contact us, also.

Understanding tax breaks for higher education

If you’ve been effected by the economic downturn and decided to return to school to further your own education, or you support a dependent that is a college student, there are three education tax breaks that you should be aware of.

Each of the three is unique, and only one of them can be claimed for any particular student in a given tax year. But, you can claim one type of education credit for a child, for example, and another type of credit for yourself.

The three most common tax breaks for higher education are:

  1. American Opportunity Credit (AOC)
  2. Lifetime Learning Credit (LLC)
  3. Tuition and fees deduction

All three of these tax benefits can be claimed regardless of whether you itemize or claim the standard deduction. The AOC and LLC are claimed using Form 8863, and while the IRS didn’t start processing tax returns filed with this form until late in the current tax return filing season, they are now doing so. The tuition and fees deduction is claimed using form 8917.

A few legislative notes:

  1. The “fiscal cliff” bill passed Jan 2, 2013 by Congress extended the AOC through tax year 2017.
  2. The same law also retroactively extended the tuition and fees deduction through tax year 2013, since it actually had expired at the end of 2011.
  3. The LLC is a permanent part of the tax code (at least for now – that could change tomorrow, of course).

It … Read the rest

Firefighter and ambulance meal deduction facts

There is a pervasive myth within the emergency services professions regarding a tax deduction for meals during their on-shift days.

This myth is most common with the firefighter ranks, but is also seen within ambulance, police, and other emergency services professions.

Where this myth comes from, I’m not certain. But it definitely maintains it’s urban legend status due to being passed from one person to another. It can only be assumed that tens of thousands of emergency services personnel illegally take this deduction every year.

So let’s set the record straight: There is no on-shift meal deduction permitted for emergency services personnel.

It doesn’t matter if you work a 24-hour shift, and it doesn’t matter what you do for a living (this isn’t limited to emergency personnel, it’s EVERYBODY): If you’re at your job, in your home area, regardless of shift length, there is no meal deduction. Period.

Meal deductions, including per diem (Meals and Incidental Expenses – M&IE), are only permitted when you travel away from home for business or work, and are not reimbursed. If you actually get paid per diem, you can’t also deduct it (no double dipping, in other words).

Here is what firefighters and other workers can do, however. Some fire stations, police stations, and other work places where it is common to work long shifts have what is called a common meal fund. Basically, everybody pitches in a certain amount of money per … Read the rest