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Where’s My Refund? July 29, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : 2019 Taxes, tax changes, Tax Rules, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

                     

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, IRS live phone assistance is extremely limited. People are encouraged to first check the Where’s My Refund? tool on the IRS website and the IRS2Go app. Taxpayers can also review the IRS Services Guide (PDF) which links to additional IRS online services.

The IRS issues 9 out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days, and the fastest way to get a refund is to use IRS e-file and direct deposit. Taxpayers should also know they can have their refunds divided into up to three separate accounts.

Please note: Ordering a tax transcript will not speed delivery of tax refunds nor does the posting of a tax transcript to a taxpayer’s account determine the timing of a refund delivery. Calls to request transcripts for this purpose are unnecessary. Transcripts are available online and by mail at Get Transcript.

A few necessary items

To use the “Where’s My Refund” tool, taxpayers will need to enter their Social Security number, tax filing status (single, married, head of household) and exact amount of the tax refund claimed on the return.

Taxpayers who file electronically can check “Where’s My Refund” within 24 hours after they receive their e-file acceptance notification. The tool can tell taxpayers when their tax return has been received, when the refund is approved and the date the refund is to be issued.

Some refunds may take longer

While the IRS continues to process electronic and paper tax returns, issue refunds, and accept payments, there are delays in processing paper tax returns due to limited staffing. If a taxpayer filed a paper tax return, the return will be processed in the order in which it was received. Do not file a second tax return or call the IRS.

Many different factors can affect the timing of a refund. In some cases, a tax return may require additional review. It is also important to consider the time it takes for a financial institution to post the refund to an account or for a refund check to be delivered by mail.

Taxpayers who owe

The IRS encourages taxpayers who owe to do a Paycheck Checkup every year to ensure enough tax is withheld from their pay to avoid an unexpected tax bill.

This week’s article – From IRS.gov – Click Here

– Tammy

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

– until next week.

“Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for 2020 July 22, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : COVID, COVID-19, General, Tax Rules, Tax Tip, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

On July 16, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service announced its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams with a special emphasis on aggressive and evolving schemes related to coronavirus tax relief, including Economic Impact Payments.

On July 16, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service announced its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams with a special emphasis on aggressive and evolving schemes related to coronavirus tax relief, including Economic Impact Payments.

This year, the Dirty Dozen focuses on scams that target taxpayers. The criminals behind these bogus schemes view everyone as potentially easy prey. The IRS urges everyone to be on guard all the time and look out for others in their lives.

“According to a cpa tax scams tend to rise during tax season or during times of crisis, and scam artists are using the pandemic to try stealing money and information from honest taxpayers,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS provides the Dirty Dozen list to help raise awareness about common scams that fraudsters use to target people. We urge people to watch out for these scams. The IRS is doing its part to protect Americans. We will relentlessly pursue criminals trying to steal your money or sensitive personal financial information.”

Taxpayers are encouraged to review the list in the “special section” on IRS.gov and be on the lookout for these scams throughout the year. Taxpayers should also remember that they are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Consumers can help protect themselves by choosing a reputable tax preparer.

The IRS urges taxpayers to refrain from engaging potential scammers online or on the phone. The IRS plans to unveil a similar list of enforcement and compliance priorities this year as well.

An upcoming series of press releases will emphasize the illegal schemes and techniques businesses and individuals use to avoid paying their lawful tax liability. Topics will include such scams as abusive micro captives and fraudulent conservation easements.

Here are this year’s “Dirty Dozen” scams:

Phishing:

Taxpayers should be alert to potential fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email about a tax bill, refund or Economic Impact Payments. Don’t click on links claiming to be from the IRS. Be wary of emails and websites − they may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information.

IRS Criminal Investigation has seen a tremendous increase in phishing schemes utilizing emails, letters, texts and links. These phishing schemes are using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “COVID-19” and “Stimulus” in various ways.

These schemes are blasted to large numbers of people in an effort to get personal identifying information or financial account information, including account numbers and passwords. Most of these new schemes are actively playing on the fear and unknown of the virus and the stimulus payments. 

Fake Charities:

Criminals frequently exploit natural disasters and other situations such as the current COVID-19 pandemic by setting up fake charities to steal from well-intentioned people trying to help in times of need. Fake charity scams generally rise during times like these.

Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by telephone, text, social media, e-mail or in-person using a variety of tactics. Bogus websites use names similar to legitimate charities to trick people to send money or provide personal financial information. They may even claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.

According to a great accountant, taxpayers should be particularly wary of charities with names like nationally known organizations. Legitimate charities will provide their Employer Identification Number (EIN), if requested, which can be used to verify their legitimacy. Taxpayers can find legitimate and qualified charities with the search tool on IRS.gov.

Threatening Impersonator Phone Calls:

IRS impersonation scams come in many forms. A common form is bogus, threatening phone calls from a criminal claiming to be with the IRS. The scammer attempts to instill fear and urgency in the potential victim. In fact, the IRS will never threaten a taxpayer or surprise him or her with a demand for immediate payment.

Phone scams or “vishing” (voice phishing) pose a major threat. Scam phone calls, including those threatening arrest, deportation or license revocation if the victim doesn’t pay a bogus tax bill, are reported year-round. These calls often take the form of a “robocall” (a text-to-speech recorded message with instructions for returning the call).

The IRS will never demand immediate payment, threaten, ask for financial information over the phone, or call about an unexpected refund or Economic Impact Payment. Taxpayers should contact the real IRS if they worry about having a tax problem.

Social Media Scams:

Taxpayers need to protect themselves against social media scams, which frequently use events like COVID-19 to try tricking people. Social media enables anyone to share information with anyone else on the internet. Scammers use that information as ammunition for a wide variety of scams. These include emails where scammers impersonate someone’s family, friends or co-workers.

Social media scams have also led to tax-related identity theft. The basic element of social media scams is convincing a potential victim that he or she is dealing with a person close to them that they trust via email, text or social media messaging.

Using personal information, a scammer may email a potential victim and include a link to something of interest to the recipient which contains malware intended to commit more crimes. Scammers also infiltrate their victim’s emails and cell phones to go after their friends and family with fake emails that appear to be real and text messages soliciting, for example, small donations to fake charities that are appealing to the victims.

EIP or Refund Theft:

The IRS has made great strides against refund fraud and theft in recent years, but they remain an ongoing threat. Criminals this year also turned their attention to stealing Economic Impact Payments as provided by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Much of this stems from identity theft whereby criminals file false tax returns or supply other bogus information to the IRS to divert refunds to wrong addresses or bank accounts.

The IRS recently warned nursing homes and other care facilities that Economic Impact Payments generally belong to the recipients, not the organizations providing the care. This came following concerns that people and businesses may be taking advantage of vulnerable populations who received the payments. These payments do not count as a resource for determining eligibility for Medicaid and other federal programs They also do not count as income in determining eligibility for these programs. See IR-2020-121, IRS alert: Economic Impact Payments belong to recipient, not nursing homes or care facilities for more.

Taxpayers can consult the Coronavirus Tax Relief page of IRS.gov for assistance in getting their EIPs. Anyone who believes they may be a victim of identity theft should consult the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft on IRS.gov.

Senior Fraud:

Senior citizens and those who care about them need to be on alert for tax scams targeting older Americans. The IRS recognizes the pervasiveness of fraud targeting older Americans along with the Department of Justice and FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), among others.

Seniors are more likely to be targeted and victimized by scammers than other segments of society. Financial abuse of seniors is a problem among personal and professional relationships. Anecdotal evidence across professional services indicates that elder fraud goes down substantially when the service provider knows a trusted friend or family member is taking an interest in the senior’s affairs.

Older Americans are becoming more comfortable with evolving technologies, such as social media. Unfortunately, that gives scammers another means of taking advantage. Phishing scams linked to Covid-19 have been a major threat this filing season. Seniors need to be alert for a continuing surge of fake emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts to steal personal information.

Scams targeting non-English speakers:

IRS impersonators and other scammers also target groups with limited English proficiency. These scams are often threatening in nature. Some scams also target those potentially receiving an Economic Impact Payment and request personal or financial information from the taxpayer.

Phone scams pose a major threat to people with limited access to information, including individuals not entirely comfortable with the English language. These calls frequently take the form of a “robocall” (a text-to-speech recorded message with instructions for returning the call), but in some cases may be made by a real person. These con artists may have some of the taxpayer’s information, including their address, the last four digits of their Social Security number or other personal details – making the phone calls seem more legitimate.

A common phone scan is the IRS impersonation scam. This is where a taxpayer receives a telephone call threatening jail time, deportation or revocation of a driver’s license from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Taxpayers who are recent immigrants often are the most vulnerable and should ignore these threats and not engage the scammers.

Unscrupulous Return Preparers:

Selecting the right return preparer is important. They are entrusted with a taxpayer’s sensitive personal data. Most tax professionals provide honest, high-quality service, but dishonest preparers pop up every filing season committing fraud, harming innocent taxpayers or talking taxpayers into doing illegal things they regret later.

Taxpayers should avoid so-called “ghost” preparers who expose their clients to potentially serious filing mistakes as well as possible tax fraud and risk of losing their refunds. With many tax professionals impacted by COVID-19 and their offices potentially closed, taxpayers should take particular care in selecting a credible tax preparer.

Ghost preparers don’t sign the tax returns they prepare. They may print the tax return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. For e-filed returns, the ghost preparer will prepare but not digitally sign as the paid preparer. By law, anyone who is paid to prepare or assists in preparing federal tax returns must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid preparers must sign and include their PTIN on returns.

Unscrupulous preparers may also target those without a filing requirement and may or may not be due a refund. They promise inflated refunds by claiming fake tax credits, including education credits, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and others. Taxpayers should avoid preparers who ask them to sign a blank return, promise a big refund before looking at the taxpayer’s records or charge fees based on a percentage of the refund.

Offer in Compromise Mills:

Taxpayers need to be wary of misleading tax debt resolution companies that can exaggerate chances to settle tax debts for “pennies on the dollar” through an Offer in Compromise (OIC). These offers are available for taxpayers who meet very specific criteria under law to qualify for reducing their tax bill. But unscrupulous companies oversell the program to unqualified candidates so they can collect a hefty fee from taxpayers already struggling with debt.

These scams are commonly called OIC “mills,” which cast a wide net for taxpayers, charge them pricey fees and churn out applications for a program they’re unlikely to qualify for. Although the OIC program helps thousands of taxpayers each year reduce their tax debt, not everyone qualifies for an OIC. In Fiscal Year 2019, there were 54,000 OICs submitted to the IRS. The agency accepted 18,000 of them.

Individual taxpayers can use the free online Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool to see if they qualify. The simple tool allows taxpayers to confirm eligibility and provides an estimated offer amount. Taxpayers can apply for an OIC without third-party representation; but the IRS reminds taxpayers that if they need help, they should be cautious about whom they hire.

Fake Payments with Repayment Demands:

Criminals are always finding new ways to trick taxpayers into believing their scam including putting a bogus refund into the taxpayer’s actual bank account. Here’s how the scam works:

A con artist steals or obtains a taxpayer’s personal data including Social Security number or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and bank account information. The scammer files a bogus tax return and has the refund deposited into the taxpayer’s checking or savings account. Once the direct deposit hits the taxpayer’s bank account, the fraudster places a call to them, posing as an IRS employee. The taxpayer is told that there’s been an error and that the IRS needs the money returned immediately or penalties and interest will result. The taxpayer is told to buy specific gift cards for the amount of the refund.

The IRS will never demand payment by a specific method. There are many payment options available to taxpayers and there’s also a process through which taxpayers have the right to question the amount of tax the IRS says they owe. Anytime a taxpayer receives an unexpected refund, and a call from the IRS out of the blue demanding a refund repayment, they should reach out to their banking institution and to the IRS.

Payroll and HR Scams:

Tax professionals, employers and taxpayers need to be on guard against phishing designed to steal Form W-2s and other tax information. These are Business Email Compromise (BEC) or Business Email Spoofing (BES). This is particularly true with many businesses closed and their employees working from home due to COVID-19. Currently, two of the most common types of these scams are the gift card scam and the direct deposit scam.

In the gift card scam, a compromised email account is often used to send a request to purchase gift cards in various denominations. In the direct deposit scheme, the fraudster may have access to the victim’s email account (also known as an email account compromise or “EAC”). They may also impersonate the potential victim to have the organization change the employee’s direct deposit information to reroute their deposit to an account the fraudster controls.

BEC/BES scams have used a variety of ploys to include requests for wire transfers, payment of fake invoices as well as others. In recent years, the IRS has observed variations of these scams where fake IRS documents are used in to lend legitimacy to the bogus request. For example, a fraudster may attempt a fake invoice scheme and use what appears to be a legitimate IRS document to help convince the victim.

The Direct Deposit and other BEC/BES variations should be forwarded to the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) where a complaint can be filed. The IRS requests that Form W-2 scams be reported to: phishing@irs.gov  (Subject: W-2 Scam).

Ransomware:

This is a growing cybercrime. Ransomware is malware targeting human and technical weaknesses to infect a potential victim’s computer, network or server. Malware is a form of invasive software that is often frequently inadvertently downloaded by the user. Once downloaded, it tracks keystrokes and other computer activity. Once infected, ransomware looks for and locks critical or sensitive data with its own encryption. In some cases, entire computer networks can be adversely impacted.

Victims generally aren’t aware of the attack until they try to access their data, or they receive a ransom request in the form of a pop-up window. These criminals don’t want to be traced so they frequently use anonymous messaging platforms and demand payment in virtual currency such as Bitcoin.

Cybercriminals might use a phishing email to trick a potential victim into opening a link or attachment containing the ransomware. These may include email solicitations to support a fake COVID-19 charity. Cybercriminals also look for system vulnerabilities where human error is not needed to deliver their malware.

The IRS and its Security Summit partners have advised tax professionals and taxpayers to use the free, multi-factor authentication feature being offered on tax preparation software products. Use of the multi-factor authentication feature is a free and easy way to protect clients and practitioners’ offices from data thefts. Tax software providers also offer free multi-factor authentication protections on their Do-It-Yourself products for taxpayers.

This week’s article – From IRS.gov – Click Here

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.

– Tammy

– until next week.

Two New Employer Tax Credits July 15, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : Business consulting, Business Consulting, COVID, COVID-19, General, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Preparation, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

July 15, 2020                         

Many businesses that have been severely impacted by Coronavirus (COVID-19) will qualify for two new employer tax credits – the Credit for Sick and Family Leave and the Employee Retention Credit.

Sick and Family Leave – Credit for Sick and Family Leave

An employee who is unable to work (including telework) because of Coronavirus quarantine or self-quarantine or has Coronavirus symptoms and is seeking a medical diagnosis, is entitled to paid sick leave for up to ten days (up to 80 hours) at the employee’s regular rate of pay, or, if higher, the Federal minimum wage or any applicable State or local minimum wage, up to $511 per day, but no more than $5,110 in total.

Caring for someone with Coronavirus

An employee who is unable to work due to caring for someone with Coronavirus, or caring for a child because the child’s school or place of care is closed, or the paid child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, is entitled to paid sick leave for up to two weeks (up to 80 hours) at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate of pay or, if higher, the Federal minimum wage or any applicable State or local minimum wage, up to $200 per day, but no more than $2,000 in total.

Care for children due to daycare or school closure

An employee who is unable to work because of a need to care for a child whose school or place of care is closed or whose child care provider is unavailable due to the Coronavirus, is also entitled to paid family and medical leave equal to two-thirds of the employee’s regular pay, up to $200 per day and $10,000 in total. Up to ten weeks of qualifying leave can be counted towards the family leave credit.

Credit for eligible employers

Eligible employers are entitled to receive a credit in the full amount of the required sick leave and family leave, plus related health plan expenses and the employer’s share of Medicare tax on the leave, for the period of April 1, 2020, through December 31, 2020.  The refundable credit is applied against certain employment taxes on wages paid to all employees. Eligible employers can reduce federal employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit.  They can also request an advance of the paid sick and family leave credits for any amounts not covered by the reduction in deposits. The advanced payments will be issued by paper check to employers.

Employee Retention Credit

Eligible employers can claim the employee retention credit, a refundable tax credit equal to 50 percent of up to $10,000 in qualified wages (including health plan expenses), paid after March 12, 2020 and before January 1, 2021.  Eligible employers are those businesses with operations that have been partially or fully suspended due to governmental orders due to COVID-19, or businesses that have a significant decline in gross receipts compared to 2019.

The refundable credit is capped at $5,000 per employee and applies against certain employment taxes on wages paid to all employees.  Eligible employers can reduce federal employment tax deposits in anticipation of the credit.  They can also request an advance of the employee retention credit for any amounts not covered by the reduction in deposits. The advanced payments will be issued by paper check to employers.

Need more information on how to apply? Click here

This week’s article – From IRS.gov – Click Here

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.

Correction/Update to an earlier Tax Tip of the Week regarding municipal income taxes.  A local Income Tax Administrator was kind enough to send the below information to us as follows:

“H.B. 197 sets aside 718.011 of the Ohio Revised Code, stating:

…during the period of the emergency declared by Executive Order 2020-01D, issued on March 9, 2020, and for thirty days after the conclusion of that period, any day on which an employee performs personal services at a location, including the employee’s home, to which the employee is required to report for employment duties because of the declaration shall be deemed to be a day performing personal services at the employee’s principal place of work.

That said, employees who were sent home to work during the pandemic are still considered to be working at their principal place of work and not their city of residence.  That’s why employees should not have had a change in their municipal withholding from pre-pandemic times.  There are those that question the constitutionality of the executive order, so I’m sure that the State or others will address this at a later time.  Unfortunately, due to ORC Section 718, municipalities cannot pass legislation to override H.B. 197 or any section of 718.”

– until next week.

-Mark

Working Remotely? Watch Out for Unintended Tax Consequences! July 1, 2020

Posted by bradstreetblogger in : COVID, COVID-19, tax changes, Tax Planning Tips, Tax Rules, Tax Tip, Taxes, Taxes, Uncategorized , add a comment

  Typically, you are taxed by the location of your physical presence (this is changing now to some degree to better deal with the complexities of the internet).  For example, Ohio cities tax you first where you work and then next where you live.  That is to say that you won’t owe any city tax for your residence city if your workplace is located in a city whose tax rate is equal to or higher than the city where you live.  This is true only if your resident city allows a full tax credit for the city taxes paid where you work and its tax rate is equal to or less than your work city.  Not too long ago, almost all cities allowed a full credit for the tax paid to the city where you are employed.  But this full tax offset is becoming more of a rarity the last few years as city budgets continue to become more and more strained. These deficit situations for state and local governments won’t become any better with the current pandemic placing even greater demands on city finances.  

    For all intents and purposes, your state income tax model differs little from that of the cities.  It is not unlikely to find yourself double taxed by cities AND states.

    Now having attempted to make a long story short and leaving out the numerous tax exceptions for the general tax rules for cities and states as mentioned above; and, all the while assuming you have a good handle on how your state and local taxes should currently be filed, let’s throw you a curve ball.  Let’s presume you are now working from home.  And, your home is in a different city or even a different state than where you work.  What if you are working half the week at home and the rest of the week at work?  All of a sudden, a tax nightmare has developed.  

    I wish I had the silver bullet to answer my own questions.  Perhaps, the cities and states will pass legislation to overcome these added complexities resulting from the pandemic.  But I doubt it.  In the meantime, we better become accustomed to even more tax correspondence from cities and states.  None of them are going to roll-over in their efforts to collect all the monies that they can.  It is always a mystery to me why they would spend megabucks and create huge amounts of ill will in the community all in an effort to collect a nominal amount of taxes.  But some things never change.

This week’s Author – Mark Bradstreet

Thank you for all of your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics. As always, they are much appreciated. We also welcome and appreciate anyone who wishes to write a Tax Tip of the Week for our consideration. We may be reached in our Dayton office at 937-436-3133 or in our Xenia office at 937-372-3504. Or, visit our website.  

– until next week.