The Consequences Of Violating The Five-year Probationary Term After Getting An Offer In Compromise

The IRS offers a program called an Offer In Compromise (“OIC”). An OIC allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. It may be a legitimate option if you can’t pay your full tax liability, or doing so creates a financial hardship.

With a properly completed application for an Offer In Compromise and required financial disclosures, the IRS will consider your ability to pay, income, expenses and asset equity. Only when it can be shown that the amount offered represents the most the IRS can expect to collect within a reasonable period of time will the IRS approve an OIC.

What people do not realize is that if your OIC is accepted, you are subject to certain terms over the next five years that if any term is violated the IRS reserves the right to revoke your OIC and thus put you back to where you originally started subtracting the payments made under the OIC and adding the accrual of more penalties and interest to the current date.

So it is important that anyone with an accepted OIC be aware of these terms and follow compliance:

1. You must comply with all provisions of the internal revenue laws, including requirements to timely file tax returns and timely pay taxes for the five year period beginning with the date of acceptance of the OIC and ending through the fifth year, including any extensions to file and pay. This is what I refer to as the “Five-year Probationary Period”.

2. Youmust promptly pay any liabilities assessed after acceptance of the OIC for tax years ending prior to acceptance of the OIC that were not otherwise identified in your application for an OIC.

So if your OIC included the Form 1040 liability for 2015 and later after your OIC was accepted you got audited for 2015 and that audit resulted in a liability, you would need to promptly pay that liability or else face a revocation of your OIC.

Likewise, if your OIC covered only individual income taxes and you were later assessed with unpaid employment taxes of a business, the failure to pay those new liabilities could result in a revocation of the OIC.

If the OIC was being submitted for joint tax debt, and one of the taxpayer-applicants does not comply with future obligations, only the non-compliant taxpayer will be in default of the OIC. This situation could occur where husband and wife who filed joint income tax returns and jointly secured an OIC later gets divorced and one party defaults on the OIC terms listed above.

An accepted OIC will not be defaulted solely due to the assessment of an individual shared responsibility payment made against another liable taxpayer. This situation could occur where two business owners have personal liability for unpaid employment taxes of the business and one of the owners defaults on the OIC terms listed above.

Now if you find that you cannot keep up with any of these terms, early intervention by your tax counsel with the IRS may still prevent your OIC from getting revoked. Once you receive a final determination by IRS that your OIC is revoked, any new OIC that may now be submitted will be based on your then current financial situation which if it has since improved would lead to an even higher Offer amount with no credit for what was paid under the prior OIC.

Jeffrey B. Kahn, Esq. and Gary Sussman Discusses the Lifetime Estate Gift Annuity, the Building Blocks to Financial Security and the “Victory Tax” On ESPN Radio – Podcast

Business Consulting, 401(k) Plans and IRS Audits -What Need To Know, On ESPN Radio

Jeffrey B. Kahn, Esq. and Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord Discusses Business Consulting, 401(k) Plans and IRS Audits -What Need To Know, On ESPN Radio – August 12, 2016 Show

Jeffrey B. Kahn, Esq. and Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord Discusses Business Consulting, 401(k) Plans and IRS Audits -What Need To Know, On ESPN Radio – August 12, 2016 Show

 

Topics Covered:

  1. Special Guest Chuck Hunter, CEO at Multivariable Solutions
  1. 401(k) Plans
  1. IRS Tax Audits – What You Need To Know
  1. Questions:

 

  1. What exactly are the pros and cons of leaving my 401(k) with my previous employer?
  2. How accurate are the do-it-yourself type software that allow you to calculate and file your taxes after answering a few questions? Why is it more beneficial to have a tax professional prepare your taxes as oppose to said software?

 

Jeff states: Good afternoon! Yes sometimes we just have to take the money and run!

Welcome to Inside Advantage – Your Financial And Tax Radio Show.

This is Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, the principal attorney of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. and head of the KahnTaxLaw team.

Windus states:

And this is Licensed Financial Planner, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord, Senior Vice President Of Investments at Trilogy Financial Services.

You are listening to our weekly radio show where we talk everything about finances and taxes from the ESPN 1700 AM Studio in San Diego, California.

Jeff states:

When it comes to knowing tax laws and paying taxes, let’s face it — everyone in the U.S. is either in tax trouble, on their way to tax trouble, or trying to avoid tax trouble!

Windus states:

And whether you are on the rebound or flying high, we have the information you need to make sound financial decisions and map out your strategy for success.

Jeff states:

Our show is broadcasted each Friday at 2:00PM Pacific Time and replays are available on demand by logging into the KahnTaxLaw website at www.kahntaxlaw.com.

Jeff states:

For today’s show we have coming up:

Segment 2 material: 401(k) Plans

Windus states:

Also coming up is:

Segment 3 material: IRS Tax Audits and What You Should Be Aware Of

And of course towards the end of our show, we will be answering some of your questions.

Jeff starts chit chat with Windus.

Jeff states: So for today’s special guest:

We would like to introduce Chuck Hunter! Chuck is the Founder and CEO of Multivariable Solutions, a domestic and international Business Consulting Firm located here in the Greater San Diego area.

 

  1. So Chuck, tell us a little bit about what you do?
  2. What is your goal or mission at Multivariable Solutions?
  3. What prompted you to found your own company?
  4. What would you say your niche market is? What types of companies tend to come to you the most, whether it’s based on size, growth goals, or various sectors…
  5. How long have you been with Multivariable Solutions? What had you done in your career before that prepared you to take on the role of CEO?
  6. Most companies and consultants focus on one or two variables whereas Multivariable Solutions looks across a wide spectrum. What exactly do you look for?

Jeff states: Well it’s time for a break but stay tuned because we are going to tell you all about 401(k) Plans.

You are listening to Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, and Licensed Financial Planner, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord on Inside Advantage on ESPN.

BREAK

Welcome back.  This is Inside Advantage – Your Financial And Tax Radio Show on ESPN and you are listening to Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, and Licensed Financial Planner, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord.

And be aware of the special offer that Windus has for you: Windus PLUG: Trilogy Financial Services will provide you with a retirement cash flow analysis which is a $600.00 value for free as long as you mention the Inside Advantage Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call my office to make an appointment to meet with me, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord.  The number to call is 858.314.5169. That is 858.314.5169. Or visit www.guideyourstory.com. NPC DOES NOT PROVIDE TAX NOR LEGAL ADVICE.

 

401(k) Plans

Some states, including California, are implementing regulation requiring companies of 5 or more people to offer retirement plans.  In California, this is called the Retirement Savings Trust Act.  The reason this is being required is:

The California State Treasurer states that based on their research fewer than 45% of California’s private workforce has access to a work sponsored retirement plan in the age group of 25-64.  This is worse than the nationwide average of 53%.  This is specifically only in the public sector.

To go a step further, in the public and private sectors, nearly ½ of all Californian’s are currently on track to retire with income below 200% of the federal poverty level of $22,000 per year for one person.  *This information is coming from Trinet, an HR retirement planning company’s site.  Trinet is one of many companies that help work on this here in San Diego.

The Secure Choice Retirement Savings is where companies that do not set up a plan of their own, will have to direct employees.  The scary part of this is that for the first three years contributions could be kept in Treasury bills, regardless of your age, until more extensive models can be built!  Better to have a large company like Fidelity or T. Rowe Price manage this then to have the treasurer put together a board that is going to take 3 years to put proper investment models in place.

*Chuck, with the work that you do, do you recommend companies start plans for their employees?  When you do, what type of plans do you typically recommend?

 

There is also a new emerging “robo” 401k platform employers can implement.  I have to say, when reading about this, a 401k plan is not the place for “robo” implementation.  I can tell you that the IRS could have a field day auditing plans that are incorrectly established and 401k plans need to be very specific to the company.

Here are some main points for plans to remember:
*Employees with plan balances of under $5,000 can be forced out of the plan
*The fund line up should be reviewed on a schedule and there should be defined parameters for which funds are brought into the plan and removed from the plan.
*401k plans are required to have a diverse line up for employees to select from.
*Target date funds are becoming more popular and are often now the QDIA
*QDIA is the Qualified Default Investment for when an employee is auto enrolled in the plan but does not go in after to elect an allocation.
*Why might an employer elect to do auto enrollment?…because they want to contribute themselves without actually matching!  J

Why a 401k plan over a SIMPLE plan.
*401k plans allow for employers to be selective about who is in the plan and match in a more creative fashion.  Sometimes in a benefit to the employee and sometimes not.  SIMPLE plans are “simpler” to maintain annually BUT they aren’t always on the best platforms for the employee and some have fees that just aren’t that transparent or favorable.  The 401k plan can be a very powerful tool and if put in place correctly, can be very inexpensive to the employee for long term retirement savings.  And in case anyone out there receives a 403 b 2 notice, THIS IS a key notice regarding the fees you pay in the 401k plan.

Top Company 401k plan issues:

  1. Not removing or encouraging x-employees to rollover their funds
    2. Too much company stock or TOO much risk options without enough conservative options for employees.
    3.  Not remitting money in a timely fashion
    4.  Being “top heavy” having to force money out of the plan for your top employees.  Being Top heavy means earning more than $120,000 in income or being more than a 5% owner in the company.

 

Windus PLUG: Trilogy Financial Services will provide you with a retirement cash flow analysis which is a $600.00 value for free as long as you mention the Inside Advantage Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call my office to make an appointment to meet with me, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord.  The number to call is 858.314.5169. That is 858.314.5169. Or visit www.guideyourstory.com. NPC DOES NOT PROVIDE TAX NOR LEGAL ADVICE.

 

Stay tuned because after the break we are going to tell you IRS Tax Auditing and What You Should Be Aware Of.

You are listening to Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, and Licensed Financial Planner, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord on Inside Advantage on ESPN.

BREAK

Jeff states: Welcome back.  This is Inside Advantage – Your Financial And Tax Radio Show on ESPN and you are listening to Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, and Licensed Financial Planner, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord.

Calling into the studio from my Walnut Creek Office is my associate attorney, Amy Spivey.

Chit chat with Amy

And be aware of the special Offer that I have for you: PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the Inside Advantage Radio Show when you call to make an appointment.  Call my office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

 

Jeff states: So I don’t know of anyone who enjoys being audited by the IRS.  The IRS randomly selects tax returns for audit each year.

Jeff asks: Amy can you go over the deadlines that the IRS has if looking to audit a tax return?

Amy replies: Now the IRS does have a deadline by which they must complete an audit of your tax return.  Normally that deadline is three years after the due date of the tax return.  So a 2013 income tax return that was filed by the April 15, 2014 filing deadline, the IRS would have until April 15, 2017 to audit that tax return.

Jeff states: Well here we are August 12, 2016 but do not relax so quickly.  If you filed an extension for your 2013 tax income return, then you just extended the IRS’ time to audit to October 15, 2017.

Windus asks: Could the government have an even longer time to audit a tax return?

Amy replies: The government has an even longer time of six years where you omitted more than 20% of your income on your tax return and if you never filed a tax return or you filed a fraudulent tax return, there is no deadline for the government and you can be audited any time!

Windus asks: Amy, what are the different types of audits that the IRS conducts?

[Amy responds allowing Jeff to comment before proceeding to the next.]

Correspondence Audit: This is the least severe type of audit.  It involves the IRS sending a letter in the mail requesting more information about part of a tax return. For instance, the agency may have questions regarding charitable deductions and request you send in receipts to substantiate your deduction. “It’s the lowest level of the audits.”  “If you have the receipts or information it’s generally not an issue.”  If your tax return is legitimate and you have the data to back up any claims on your return, you may want to handle the situation on your own. BUT If you don’t have the receipts or information, then you should have a tax representation professional deal with the IRS because you could face fines, penalties and interest if you end up owing money.

Office Audit: If the IRS has more questions about your return, then you’ll get a letter in the mail inviting you into an IRS office for the audit. The office audit is more serious, so you should always have a tax representation professional to come with you or turn over the audit representation to him.  A tax representation professional can gather information in advance of the meeting and make sure it is complete so that the office audit can be wrapped up with the IRS as quickly as possible.  “If the IRS still needs additional records, you’ll have time to supply the missing information.”

Field AuditThis is the most serious type of audit and involves the IRS visiting you at your home or office. “The reason the field audit is more serious is the IRS auditor will ask to see other things.”  “They don’t want to limit it to particular items.” While there are much fewer field audits than office or correspondence audits, I wouldn’t let any client go into a field audit without representation. “It’s the most serious level of audit. If they are coming out to you, they are looking for something.”

Jeff states: So everyone wants to know, what sets off alarms at the IRS? Well for one thing it pays to keep in mind these 10 “red flags” that could increase the chance you’ll be targeted for an audit.

[Windus to read off each flag followed by Amy explanation and Jeff comment.]

  1. High income. The audit rate for 2011 tax returns, which was about 1.11% overall, shot to 3.93% for taxpayers with income of $200,000 or more. That’s almost one out of every 25 returns. The IRS tends to chase the “big money,” and while that’s no reason to earn less, you should realize that higher income exposes you to a greater audit risk.
  1. Unreported income. The IRS computers match up the income listed on W-2 and 1099 forms with the income reported on individual returns. You’re likely to draw IRS scrutiny if you don’t report all of your taxable income or if you underreport the total, even if an omission is inadvertent. Check your tax forms to ensure the information is correct.
  1. Large charitable gifts. Besides providing personal satisfaction, deductions for charitable gifts can offset highly taxed income on your return. But the IRS may become suspicious if the amount you deduct is disproportionate to your income. In particular, make sure that deductions for gifts of property are legitimate and include an independent appraisal when required.
  1. Home office deductions. If you qualify, you can write off your direct costs of using part of your home as an office, plus a percentage of everyday living expenses such as property taxes, mortgage interest, utilities, phone bills, insurance, etc. But the basic rule is that you must use the office “regularly and exclusively” as your principal place of business. Simply doing work at home when your main office is elsewhere won’t cut it.
  1. Rental real estate losses. Generally, “passive activity” rules prevent investors from deducting losses on rental real estate. But a special exception allows a loss deduction of up to $25,000 for “active participants,” subject to a phase-out between $100,000 and $150,000 of adjusted gross income (AGI). Another exception applies to qualified real estate professionals. The IRS may zero in on taxpayers claiming losses under either exception. This aspect of the tax law can get very technical so you should inquire with a tax professional to see if you qualify.
  1. Travel and entertainment expenses. This is often a key audit target. IRS agents particularly look for self-employed individuals and other business owners who claim unusually large write-offs for travel and entertainment expenses and meals. Note that the tax law includes strict substantiation rules that must be followed in order to deduct any of these expenses.
  1. Business use of cars. Another area ripe for abuse by taxpayers is the use of a vehicle for business purposes. The annual amount you can claim via depreciation deductions for the vehicle, based on percentage of business use, is limited by so-called “luxury car” rules. IRS agents have been trained to ferret out taxpayer records that don’t measure up. Another red flag is a claim for 100% business use of a vehicle, especially if another vehicle isn’t available for personal use.
  1. Hobby losses. As a general rule, you can deduct expenses for a hobby only up to the amount of the income it produces. You normally can’t claim a loss for the activity, unless your involvement rises to a level of a bona fide business. Usually, an activity is presumed not to be a hobby if you show a profit in any three out of the past five years, but the IRS can refute this presumption.
  1. Foreign bank accounts. The IRS has started clamping down on taxpayers with offshore accounts in “tax havens” in which banks do not disclose account information. Failure to report foreign income can trigger steep penalties and interest. If you have foreign bank accounts, make sure you properly report the income when you file your return.
  1. Cash businesses. If you operate a small business in which you’re largely paid in cash—for example, if you own a car wash, restaurant or bar, or a hair or nail salon—the IRS is more likely to examine your return. Past history indicates that cash-heavy taxpayers may underreport their income or, in some cases, not report any income at all. Accordingly, the IRS remains on high alert.

Jeff states: These red flags don’t mean you should shy away from claiming the tax breaks you rightly deserve. But when the IRS knocks on your door you need to be prepared. Which is why …

PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the Inside Advantage Radio Show when you call to make an appointment.  Call my office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

Thanks Amy for calling into the show.  Amy says Thanks for having me.

Stay tuned as we will be taking some of your questions. You are listening to Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, and Licensed Financial Planner, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord on Inside Advantage on ESPN.

BREAK

Jeff states: Welcome back.  This is Inside Advantage – Your Financial And Tax Radio Show on ESPN and you are listening to Board Certified Tax Attorney, Jeffrey B. Kahn, and Licensed Financial Planner, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord.

And Windus and I always pleased to make our offers to our listeners where… PLUG: The Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. will provide you with a Tax Resolution Plan which is a $500.00 value for free as long as you mention the Inside Advantage Radio Show when you call to make an appointment.  Call my office to make an appointment to meet with me, Jeffrey Kahn, right here in San Diego or at one of my other offices close to you. The number to call is 866.494.6829. That is 866.494.6829.

Windus states:  Windus PLUG: Trilogy Financial Services will provide you with a retirement cash flow analysis which is a $600.00 value for free as long as you mention the Inside Advantage Radio Show when you call to make an appointment. Call my office to make an appointment to meet with me, Windus A. Fernandez Brinkkord.  The number to call is 858.314.5169. That is 858.314.5169.  Or visit www.guideyourstory.com. NPC DOES NOT PROVIDE TAX NOR LEGAL ADVICE.

You should also know that the securities and advisory services are offered through National Planning Corporation (NPC) Member FINRA, SIPC, and a Registered Investment Advisor.  Trilogy Financial Services and NPC are separate and unrelated Entities.

Jeff states: And again I would like to thank our special guest, Chuck Hunter, CEO at Multivariable Solutions for being on the show today.  Chuck as our special guest you have the honors of drawing the questions from our listeners for us to answer.  OK Chuck, what questions have you pulled for us to answer?

Question: What exactly are the pros and cons of leaving my 401(k) with my previous employer?

Windus answers.

Question: How accurate are the do-it-yourself type software that allow you to calculate and file your taxes after answering a few questions? Why is it more beneficial to have a tax professional prepare your taxes as oppose to said software?

Jeff answers.

Jeff states: Well we are reaching the end of our show.

Windus states: Have a great day everyone!

Tax Evasion delinquent tax returns IRS tax attorney help with IRS issues

Income Tax Evaders May Still Face Big Fines And Up To Five Years In Jail After Coming Forward

Tax cheats cost the government real money from the lost revenue and the costs associated with enforcement and collection of unpaid tax liabilities. On the Federal and State levels, enforcement of the tax laws is a priority task to ensure that everyone is paying their fair share. Recently, the South Carolina Department Of Revenue (“SCDOR”) charged 30 employees of the Boeing Company with tax evasion over several years going back to 2011. The employees voluntarily turned themselves in to SCDOR investigators but are still faced with the prospect of hefty penalties and a five-year jail sentence for each charge.

The SCDOR Investigation
According to the news release from the SCDOR, the Boeing employees filed W-4 forms claiming exemption from South Carolina’s state income taxes. Apparently, during tax years 2011 to 2014, the workers claimed state tax exemptions although they did not qualify under South Carolina’s individual income tax guidelines. During the years in question, these Boeing workers also failed to file their state tax returns.

It is important to note that the workers received notices from SCDOR encouraging them to comply with the tax laws prior to issuance of arrest warrants. These Boeing employees were given several opportunities to rectify their tax problems but failed to do so. The tax liabilities ranged from $4,000 to about $20,000 based on collective incomes exceeding $4 million. Boeing issued a statement saying that the company was aware of the employees’ tax issues and were proceeding with their own investigation. Aside from their tax troubles, these employees may face disciplinary action from their employer.

Understanding State Income Tax Regulations
The State of South Carolina collects income taxes from residents earning an income in the state. Residents who earn incomes outside South Carolina would pay state taxes to the second state. If that state does not collect income taxes, the taxpayer must pay state taxes to South Carolina as their residential state. Nonresidents who earn income from South Carolina employers must pay taxes to this state. The state does not use a separate withholding exemption certificate from the Federal Form W-4. Exemptions and deductions that are allowed on the federal form are accepted for the state tax returns. In general, employees who received a full refund of taxes withheld in the previous year and who anticipate no tax liabilities in the current year may claim exemption from state taxes.

Enforcement of state taxes varies depending on the prevailing tax code although the state Department of Revenue is charged with enforcement. The process and penalties may vary, so it is important to consult a tax professional when you are faced with any State as well as Federal tax liabilities.

What Constitutes Tax Fraud?
Tax fraud is the deliberate intent to avoid paying taxes through whatever means despite the taxpayer being fully aware that taxes are lawfully due.Tax fraud may trigger penalties under the definitions of Title 26 in the Internal Revenue Code.
Specifically, Title 26 U.S.C. Section 7201 states that tax evasion is a felony that carries a penalty of imprisonment for at most five years or a $250,000 fine for each charge for every individual or a combination of fine and imprisonment along with reimbursement of court costs.

Tax evasion is an example of tax fraud. Tax evasion refers to all deliberate acts where taxpayers misrepresent their taxable income on their tax returns. This would include actions such as inflating expenses for larger deductions, strategically under-reporting taxable income or failing to file tax returns in a mistaken attempt to avoid paying taxes.

The Truth about Dealing with the IRS and State Tax Agencies
There could be any number of reasons why individuals choose to forego filing their tax returns. In the case of the Boeing employees, it is difficult to say what, if anything, made them believe that they could get away with non-filing and non-payment of state taxes for an extended period. It is safe to say that their end-game was not prison, but it appears to be heading in that direction. Looking at the amount of tax liabilities that each individual owed the SCDOR, it would have been much more sensible to comply with state tax laws. The tax dues were miniscule compared to the criminal penalties should they be prosecuted for tax evasion.

The existing tax code is based on the premise that taxpayers are willing and able to honor their tax obligations as upstanding citizens. As such, the IRS and the State revenue offices have programs in place to encourage taxpayers to voluntarily come forward to resolve their non-compliant status instead of waiting for tax agency notices or letters. Voluntary disclosure by taxpayers may count in their favor when the revenue investigator decides if the case merits criminal prosecution. The IRS also allows payment plans and in some cases, reduction of tax liabilities for low-income taxpayers.

Redemption for Non-filers
Tax laws may be rigid, but the IRS and State Tax Agencies do not exist to go after taxpayers who make simple and unintentional mistakes on their tax returns. However, blatant fraud that includes non-compliance with tax filing regulations over several years and ignoring tax agency notices will trigger an investigation and prosecution if for fraud charges. The tax agencies do not need to prove how much you actually owe in taxes to charge you with tax fraud and possibly secure a felony conviction.

If for any reason you failed to file tax returns or you need to amend any of your returns from the last six years, it is best to consult a tax professional to make sure that you are making the right steps. When you work with a tax attorney or a tax expert, you may not have to deal directly with the IRS or State Tax Agency. Your tax representative takes charge of requesting tax transcripts from previous years if you don’t have them anymore. If you owe taxes and are unable to make full payment at the time your returns are filed, your tax representative can negotiate a viable payment plan.

Don’t wait for the IRS or State Tax Agency to contact you if you have not been filing your tax returns or need to amend information submitted in previous returns. For your peace of mind, consult a tax professional who can guide you through the process to ensure a positive outcome and avoid prosecution.

Five common myths about the dreaded tax audit

Filing taxes is punishment enough without the vague threat of an IRS audit looming over our heads. For understandable reasons, the IRS insists on keeping the ins and outs of its auditing process on the murky side. How will you catch the bad guys if you give them the rule book first? But because of the sense of mystery around the process, it’s an area of regulation often misunderstood by taxpayers.

Here are a few common myths about the dreaded tax audit:

Myth #1: Only the wealthy get audited.

While it’s true that big businesses and the uber-rich are often targets of IRS tax probes, that doesn’t necessarily mean low- and middle-income workers are free and clear. The agency is increasingly relying on data mining and robo-audit systems to detect errors in tax returns, which has actually made it easier to go after small-fish taxpayers.

In 2013, the IRS audited more than 6.5 million taxpayers with an adjusted gross income of less than $1 million. And it audited fewer than 40,000 of those reporting $1 million or more.

One of the biggest reasons behind that discrepancy is the IRS’s move to pursue people who fraudulently claim the Earned Income Tax Credit, a juicy tax break worth an average $5,891 for a family of five earning less than $50,270 a year.  In 2012 alone, EITC fraud cost the government between $11.6 billion and $13.6 billion.

If you really look at the scrutiny of low- and middle-income wage earners, there is much more detailed scrutiny now than for those with investments and other sources of income. It just takes fewer resources to audit lower-income earners. And in all fairness to the IRS, Congress hasn’t been exactly generous with budgets.

And while the overall number of audits has been declining since 2010, the IRS has decreased the rate of millionaire probes more than other income brackets.  Auditing rates for the under-$200,000 income club fell by only 0.14% between 2011 and 2013, compared with a 1.63% decrease in the rate of audits of those making $1 million or more, according to the IRS.

Myth #2:  An audit means you’ll have an IRS agent knocking down my door

If the IRS’s computer system flags your tax return, you’d be hard-pressed to get an agent to pick up the phone, let alone make a house call. The traditional IRS audit and someone showing up on your doorstep is a thing of the past.

For starters, the IRS does not have the manpower. Thanks to rounds of budget cuts, the IRS has had to reduce staff by more than 8,000 employees since 2010 with no sign of relief yet.  Congress recently ordered the agency to slash another $526 million from its budget in 2014.

And while the agency’s funding and employee count decrease, more and more Americans are filing taxes each year, nearly 146 million in 2013 alone, up from 138 million five years ago.

Of the 6.5 million audits conducted last year, only 362,500, or 5.5%, resulted in an actual field visit. If your return is flagged, you’ll most likely get a letter in the mail seeking additional information. From there, you can either answer by return mail or call them directly.

Myth #3: If I owe tax money, the IRS will be after me in a hurry

Rest assured, if IRS flags your return for suspicious activity, you will hear from them at some point — but probably not for a year or two…or more. The IRS actually has three to six years to go after questionable tax returns, and with personnel shortages, even taxpayers who willingly call them to sort out issues have a hard time getting them resolved.

Last year, more than 20 million phone calls to the IRS went unanswered, leaving just 61% of callers able to get through to a human being.

The IRS is under-funded and under-staffed. If a consumer calls the IRS, when they get through to a human being, they will likely just be told where to find the answer on the IRS website.

Myth #4: If I file for too many deductions and tax credits, I’m setting myself up for an audit

Tax credits and deductions are there for a reason: to ease the tax burden for workers who need it most. Don’t let the threat of an audit dissuade you from applying for tax credits and deductions you’re justifiably due.

Despite the IRS’s efforts to crack down on Earned Income Tax Credit fraud, it is actually one of the most commonly overlooked deductions. Twenty percent of eligible workers have missed out on the EITC, which is worth an average $5,891 for a family of five and $475 for single-filers without children.

Home-office deductions are another oft-cited target for the IRS. But it’s an overblown fear that hardly applies today, when there are more than 42 million Americans working as freelancers and independent contractors.

This was once the case, back when working from home was less common but with millions of home offices running today, the system is far more accommodating for home office users. The important thing to remember: Make sure you keep your receipts and documents and only deduct legitimate business expenses… which mean that the expense must be typical and necessary for your business.

The bottom line: If you’ve earned a tax credit or can justifiably claim a deduction, do it. Just make sure you’ve done the research and know what you need to back up your claim first.

Myth #5: I’ve got my tax refund so I don’t have to worry about an audit.

Even if your tax return was accepted and you cashed your refund check, you’re still fair game for auditors.

The IRS uses a special matching system that tracks each taxpayer’s W-2s, 1099s and 1040 forms. If it turns out that you’ve under-reported your income, the system will eventually catch up to you.

You could get your refund, and about one or almost two years later, if there’s a problem with your taxes, you’ll likely get a letter in the mail from the IRS.

As noted above, the IRS has three years to track you down, but in extreme cases of underreporting or tax evasion, they can basically come after you whenever they want.

And that’s not even the worst part. Any interest and penalties owed on your unpaid taxes will start accruing the day your taxes were due — not two years later when the IRS letter finally shows up in your mailbox. Two years of compounding interest and penalty charges will only add salt to the wound.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

Top Ten Tax Sins That Could Land You In Jail Or Charged With Fraud Penalty

Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

It’s one thing to make an innocent mistake on your taxes, or to overlook a tax break that could lower what you owe the IRS. While such innocent mistakes will still cost you, they usually won’t invoke the ire of the IRS to pursue criminal prosecution or assess a Civil Fraud Penalty.

When you intentionally disregard tax law, however, such willful neglect will get you in real trouble. The IRS defines “willfulness” as a voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty, specifically your tax filing and payment responsibilities.

Such intentional tax violations could lead to tough penalties on top of the unpaid tax and interest added to it. In some cases, the IRS pursues intentional violations as criminal acts that could carry jail time.

So it’s not a good idea to think even think about neglecting your tax filing duties or fudging the entries a little or a lot.

And in case you have any doubt as to what might be problematic, here are the top tax sins that could land you in very hot tax water.

1. Not reporting all your earned income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. When it comes to earned income — that’s your pay for work performed — not reporting payment generally isn’t an issue if all your money comes from wage or salary income. That amount is detailed on W-2 forms that must be attached to your Form 1040.

But if you’re an independent contractor, either as your full-time job or from side work in addition to your salaried position, it’s your responsibility to keep track of your earnings and let the IRS know the amount at tax time. When you’re paid more than $600 you should get a 1099-MISC from the client. And when your business accepts credit cards for payment, remember that each year your credit card merchant service provider will issue a 1099-K reflecting all the charge sales your business made. Don’t think of ignoring one of these forms. The IRS gets copies, too.

And even when you don’t get an earnings statement, it’s still your legal duty to report the income. Even without third-party tracking, the IRS will take a long look at your return if the numbers seem off.

2. Not reporting all your unearned income

Unearned income generally is investment income. In these cases, your banker, broker or the mutual funds that you bought directly will send you 1099-DIV or 1099-INT statements with your annual earnings. Again, don’t think you can “forget” to count one or more of these amounts. The IRS is copied on these statements, too.

3. Forgetting about foreign funds

Foreign financial accounts add another layer of complexity and potential costs if you fail to report them. The IRS has been on a mission for the last few years to halt hidden offshore accounts, significantly increasing its detection efforts and prosecuting owners of unreported accounts. And now starting with 2014 foreign banks are reporting interest and investment income to the IRS just like their domestic bank counterparts

The risk is even greater if you own a foreign financial account that must be disclosed under the Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR) rules or the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). A whole separate set of penalties applies here with a minimum amount of $10,000.00 per year per each account not disclosed.

4. Exaggerating deductions

Tax deductions are a great way to reduce your tax bill. They lower your income, which generally means your tax liability will be lower, too. Many taxpayers, however, are tempted to inflate the amounts that they claim on Schedule A.

The IRS, thanks to its automatic computer screening tool known as the discriminant information function (DIF), knows what the average deduction amount is for various income levels. If your claims are larger, you can bet your 1040 will be pulled for further review.

If you did indeed have an unusually large but legitimate charitable deductions, great. Claim those that you have receipts for and then show the IRS examiner your substantiating documentation. But if you’re just pumping up the amount on your own, you could face serious consequences.

5. Inflating self-employment expenses

This is the business counterpart to inflated individual itemized deductions. Here self-employed individuals bump up the business expenses they list on their Schedule C filings. This form filed by sole proprietors offers a way to claim a variety of business expenses that can reduce self-employment income and therefore the 15.3 self-employment tax. Among the expense categories are advertising costs, office supplies and other expenses, depreciation and Section 179 expenses, auto expenses and travel, meals and entertainment costs.

As you can see, there are lots of tempting opportunities to hike amounts to reduce taxable self-employment income. Were those stamps really for office mailings, or did you use them to send out personal holiday cards? What about that book? Was it really something that helps your run your company better or was it a volume you wanted for your personal bookshelf?

6. Mixing business and pleasure

A specific section of Schedule C that’s prone to, shall we say, shady claims is the meals and entertainment line item. When properly claimed, a business owner can deduct some of the costs of taking a client out to eat and/or an entertainment venue. But sometimes business folk go out with friends and then write it off as a business expense.

That’s not to say that you can’t be friends with other business owners or even your clients. But when you’re picking up the check, you need to make sure that the dining etc. experience is really work related. You can’t just go out with a friend, ask “how’s your business going?” and then claim the evening as a business expense. Well, you can, but if the IRS catches on to your expense ruse, you’re in trouble.

This also could be a tax problem if you combine business and personal travel. While that’s totally acceptable to the IRS, you can’t claim the travel costs as a business expense if you actually spent more time lounging on the beach instead of meeting with new clients for your new line of bathing suits.

Instead, make sure you know how to make the most of legitimate business entertainment expenses and travel expenses by hooking up with a tax professional.

7. Sharing your home office

A home office isn’t an automatic red flag but that doesn’t mean you should be cavalier in claiming your work space. If the room or specific area in a room isn’t used regularly and exclusively for your business dealings, it does not qualify as a home office.

Yes, it’s easy to ignore those personal files in your desk drawer. Afterall, when you worked at a cubical for your employer you had personal stuff there. But technically, you are illegally claiming this deduction if you conduct personal tasks in your so-called office.

8. Using whole, rounded numbers

Yes, round numbers are easier to add and subtract. Yes, your tax software rounds entries. And yes, even the IRS says you can round your entries on your 1040 to whole dollars.

But when it comes to deductions and expenses, it tends to make the IRS think that you are making up amounts. Now some people add tip amounts so that meal checks come out to even numbers. But those people should still keep those receipts. Other financial transactions, however, rarely end in .00. And since when to all your business expense you are claiming on your tax return end in round hundreds or thousands? At best, all those rounded numbers make it look like you didn’t keep good records showing precise amounts. And that could encourage the IRS to take a closer look at all your entries.

9.  Improperly claiming a dependent

Sometimes determining just who is your tax dependent can be messy. There are lots of rules about relationships and support earned or provided and who lives for how long in your house. You also must have the Social Security number of the person regardless of relationship that gets put on the 1040.

Sometimes the confusion leads to an innocent mistake as to who is eligible to be listed as your tax dependent. Other times, though, folks knowing claim a person as dependent to get the added exemption amount or to claim the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit.

Faking dependents is not a good idea. The IRS knows this happens. It looks at who has and hasn’t been named before on your return. Plus, family situations often are messy enough without adding tax cheating to the mix.

10.  Not making a profit

Legitimate business owners want to make money, even if it means paying taxes. Other folks, though, set up operations that they fully intend to run at a loss for tax purposes. That is the textbook definition of a tax evasion scheme.

The IRS is wise to this and tries to limit such losses by requiring that a business eventually make a profit. According to the IRS time table, eventually means you must be in the black in three out of five years.

Your inability to do so will cost you. And if the IRS can show your bleeding bottom line wasn’t just due to a lack of business aptitude, but a willful intent to operate at a loss, you will be deemed to have committed a tax sin.

Remember, carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

How The IRS Is Connected To The Growing Sharing Economy.

If you are earning income through entities like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and others, beware the IRS will be verifying your reported income.

The Sharing Economy

On the internet, everything is for hire. Last night 40,000 people rented accommodation from a service that offers 250,000 rooms in 30,000 cities in 192 countries. They chose their rooms and paid for everything online. But their beds were provided by private individuals, rather than a hotel chain. Hosts and guests were matched up by Airbnb, a firm based in San Francisco. Since its launch in 2008 more than 4,000,000 people have used it—2,500,000 of them in 2012 alone. It is the most prominent example of a huge new “sharing economy”, in which people rent beds, cars, boats and other assets directly from each other, coordinated via the internet.

You might think this is no different from running a bed-and-breakfast, owning a timeshare or participating in a car pool. But technology has reduced transaction costs, making sharing assets cheaper and easier than ever—and therefore possible on a much larger scale. The big change is the availability of more data about people and things, which allows physical assets to be disaggregated and consumed as services. Before the internet, renting a surfboard, a power tool or a parking space from someone else was feasible, but was usually more trouble than it was worth. Now websites such as Airbnb, RelayRides and SnapGoods match up owners and renters; smartphones with GPS let people see where the nearest rentable car is parked; social networks provide a way to check up on people and build trust; and online payment systems handle the billing. I call these websites “sharing economy facilitators”.
As the sharing economy continues to grow, so do the associated tax problems. The IRS obviously is interested in folks who earn money using their autos as on-call car services or rent their homes to out-of-towners.

Duty To Report Income

Except as otherwise in the Internal Revenue Code, gross income means all income from whatever source derived (IRC Sec. 61). So whether your work in the sharing economy is you only job or a secondary job, you need to report your income from that work on your income tax return.
Remember you are not an “employee” of the sharing economy facilitators; you are an “independent contractor”.  As such, there is no withholding of any taxes from your checks; you are responsible for all taxes – Self Employment taxes and income taxes – on your net earnings.  Uber spells this out, sort of, on their site:

“You pay taxes as an individual—there’s no need to register as a business. File taxes as you normally would, and we’ll send you a 1099 form that you will use to report the income you made driving with Uber.”

You will report your net income from your Uber activitiy, (i.e., what you are paid minus any associated expenses),  on Schedule C and the Schedule C “bottom line” will show up on line 12 of your Form 1040.  (“Business income or (loss). Attach Schedule C or C-EZ”.)

The net income from your activity with the sharing economy facilitator is subject to Self Employment taxes, (Social Security and Medicare), at a 15.3% rate.  Now you will get to deduct one-half of these Self Employment taxes on your Form 1040 but if you consider that you still have income taxes to pay as well, the effective tax rate can easily exceed 30% and you will also have your state’s income tax on top of that.

So whether you are using your personal car for business or part of your residence as a “B&B”, you will need to have good personal records of your expenses. In a situation where you are using your personal car for business you typically can deduct either “actual” costs for the percentage of business use, (though cell phone and food probably are not pertinent) or you can deduct mileage at a standard rate for business use. If you go the “simple” route and deduct mileage instead of “actual” expenses your Schedule C would consist of exactly 2 lines so it’s not very hard – but you will loose out on a lot of deductions.

Why The IRS Likes The Sharing Economy

Unlike traditional transactions where two parties directly deal with each other and nothing is reported to the IRS, sharing economy facilitators who connect the two parties, collect the money from the paying party and transmit the revenue to the service provider will report the sale to IRS using Form 1099. The IRS now has a tool by which they can match up the amount of income you report on your tax return and if the Form 1099 amount is greater, you can be sure that the IRS will catch this and send you a tax bill.

How About Money Collected For Special Projects?

Money collected for special projects via crowd-sourcing sites also is generally viewed by Uncle Sam as taxable income, regardless of whether it’s for a movie or a recipe. There is no tax benefit even to contributions to help out folks in need.

No tax break for donors – Setting up online money-collection sites like GoFundMe to help out folks who’ve encountered a catastrophe is today’s equivalent to the donation jar at the neighborhood grocery. Just that those dollars, since the crowd funding money is given directly to the individuals, not to IRS-approved 501(c)(3) organizations that pass it along, tax laws regarding charitable gifts say that the donors can’t deduct the gifts as itemized tax deductions.

Income to recipients – Now you would think that the money the recipient of the crowd-sourcing account do not have any tax worried as the Internal Revenue Code says that gifts are not taxable income to the recipients. But IRS is treating these funds received as taxable income and after matching the recipient’s tax return to the Form 1099 reported by the company running the crowd-sourcing account the IRS will generate a tax bill where the reported income is understated. It does not matter that the money received was used for the purpose intended when setting up the account. So until the IRS issues any definitive guidance or a Court weighs in on this issue, beware.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

What Are The Pros And Cons Of Going On Extension?

It’s that time of year again…tax season. For many small business owners, taxes top the list of business-related concerns. In fact, the National Federation Of Independent Business (“NFIB”) Small Business Economic Trends survey, released earlier this year, revealed that 20% of businesses cite taxes as their biggest problem.

With April 15th fast approaching, more and more small business owners are tossing around the idea of filing for a much-needed tax extension. While filing for an extension might seem like the way to go during the hustle and bustle of tax season, there are a few things small business owners should consider before deciding to file for a six-month extension: 

Extra time to file doesn’t mean extra time to pay. 

An extension will change the tax filing deadline from April 15 to October 15, but you still have to pay the tax you owe by the April 15th deadline.

If you don’t, you’ll have to pay interest on the unpaid amount plus an extra 0.5% in penalties for every month you’re late. However, the penalties for not filing on time are much higher than the penalties for not paying on time; 5% for each month or part of a month you’re late, up to 25%.

That being the case, if you need extra time to finish up your tax return, don’t hesitate to file for an extension. In an effort to avoid needing to file an extension, implement a payroll system you can rely on to automate tax filings and maintain compliance in accordance with ever-changing state and federal regulations. 

You can’t be sure exactly how much you owe without first completing your tax return. 

And, while filing for an extension gives you an additional six months to finish your tax return, you still have to pay the amount owed by April 15th; meaning you’ll have to do some heavy estimating.

If you miscalculate the amount of tax owed, you’ll have to pay the necessary penalties and fees. If you paid less than 90% of the tax you owed, you’ll end up owing a penalty of 0.5% of the unpaid amount every month until you pay the balance.

To avoid unnecessary penalties, the IRS has a Form 1040-ES that includes a worksheet you can use to calculate your estimated tax payments but given the complexities of the tax law and ever-changing rules, it is best to seek a professional tax advisor to ensure the accurate calculation of taxes owed. 

It will make acquiring a new loan difficult. 

If you think you might need a loan sometime in the near future, you might want to think twice before filing for an extension. For starters, a recently filed tax return is usually a required financial document when seeking a loan or other forms of credit from a bank.

Banks use recent tax returns to gauge compliance. While filing for a tax extension doesn’t necessarily raise any red flags, not having your tax return in hand does little for your cause. 

Your potential refund will take longer. 

As a small business or startup, you might be due a tax refund from the IRS; that is once you file your taxes. Filing for a tax extension also means having to wait awhile longer to claim your tax refund. If you wait to file your taxes until October, you won’t see that money until the fall.

Extending the filing of your tax return extends the period of time that the IRS can select your tax return for audit.

Generally the IRS has up to three years after the filing deadline of your tax return to select it for examination or audit.  So if you timely file your 2014 tax return by April 15, 2015, the IRS will have until April 15, 2018 to audit your 2014 tax return.  However, if you file an extension of your 2014 tax return, the IRS will now have until October 15, 2018 to audit your 2014 tax return.

Filing an extension where your prior years’ tax returns are currently under examination.

Since the IRS has a three-year window to audit tax returns, if your 2012 or 2013 tax returns are currently under examination, it is probably a good idea to file an extension for 2014.  This way, the scope of the audit is not expanded to the 2014 tax year as you now would have until October 15, 2015 to file your 2014 tax return.  The IRS cannot force you to file a tax return before its filing deadline so if your audit is completed before October 15th, you may delay or even avoid 2014 being examined by IRS.

Filing an extension where you are currently on a payment plan with the IRS.

A condition of any payment plan established with the IRS for your back tax liabilities is that you do not create any new liabilities.  If you expect to owe for 2014 and you file your tax return no later April 15th with an unpaid balance, the IRS computers will automatically default your payment plan putting you back to square one.  But if you file an extension for 2014, you could possible delay this action by IRS for at least another six months which may be enough time for you to put away extra funds so that when you file 2014 you can include full payment of the balance due and avoid default.

If seeking a payment plan or Offer In Compromise for your back taxes, don’t file an extension and file no later than April 15th. 

Where you owe back taxes to the IRS, it’s usually a good idea to include all tax years in your proposal which could be a payment plan or Offer In Compromise.  Only existing liabilities from filed tax returns may be wrapped into any proposal.  A liability from a 2014 tax return that has yet to be filed will not be included in your proposal and when it now comes time to file, you will need to include full payment.  Otherwise, you now defaulted what was previously set up.

And if you have foreign bank accounts ….

Filing for an extension on your income tax return does not extend the June 30th deadline to file your Report Of Foreign Bank Accounts (“FBAR”) using FinCEN Form 114 with the U.S. Department Of Treasury.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For. 

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. 

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

Freelancer? Avoid these ‘7 deadly sins’ at tax time.

In separate reports, Zen99 and the consumer finance web site nerdwallet ranked Los Angeles the best city for freelancers. In 2012, 12% of people in Los Angeles reported themselves as self-employed. Each of these website reports considered housing and health care costs, the percentage of freelancers in an area as factors. Even before the sharing economy began to take off, the entertainment industry and growing tech scene were already strong sources of freelance gigs in L.A.

For freelancers, consultants, actors and other self employed people, life gets complicated come tax time. Digging around for the paperwork to fill out tax forms practically qualify as exercise. Such business people have a nightmare trying to find receipts which is why you should keep track expenses and receipts year round rather than pursuing a paper chase as April 15th nears.  

Remember when you can’t find receipts, you can’t write off your expenses and therefore you are paying more money to the government instead of keeping it for yourself.

Here are seven don’t – or, deadly sins, for freelances at tax time:

  1. Not knowing what they owe.  There are 20 different 1099 forms that get sent out to workers to track freelance gigs.  One of them is the 1099-K, which only has to be sent to you by a company in paper form if you make over $20,000. People think – Great, no paper form, no taxes on that. But that’s a big mistake – you still have to self-report the income.  
  1. Not knowing WHEN they owe.  For freelancers who owe more than $1,000 in taxes for a year, tax time comes more often than just April 15th.  They have to pay taxes quarterly. But then it’s not coming out of paychecks like it does for permanent employees. 
  1. Not tracking and writing off the right types of business expenses. Many freelancers fail to realize they can write off part of their cell phone bill as a business expense. Expenses vary by the type of work.  A rideshare driver’s biggest expense will be related to their car, while a web developer’s biggest expense might be their home office. Figuring out what expenses are important to your type of work is important is maximizing your tax savings.
  1. Writing off personal expenses.  This goes back to that cell phone.  If you use the same phone for personal and business purposes, don’t be tempted to write the whole bill off. Estimate the amount you use it for your work. The same goes for your vehicle. Don’t go trying to write off miles driven to the beach. 
  1. The Double No-No: counting expenses twice.  Speaking of vehicles, most people use the Standard Mileage Rate ($0.56/mile for 2014), which factors in gas, repairs and maintenance and other costs like insurance and depreciation. But if you use this rate, you can’t also expense your gas receipts and repair bills.  
  1. Employee AND employer.  Freelancers they play both roles. For regular employees, Federal, State, and payroll taxes are withheld from a paycheck, and distributed on the employee’s behalf. It’s how Social Security and Medicare are funded. The IRS mandates that the employer must pay half of every employee’s payroll tax, and the employee is responsible for the other half.  Independent contractors have to handle both halves.  The IRS does give you a small benefit by letting you deduct the half that you pay yourself as a business expense but don’t believe that because of this a freelancer pays less taxes than the regular wage-working employee.  
  1. Not keeping adequate records. The IRS requires you to keep proof of all business receipts, mileage, etc.  If you can’t show these, the IRS could refute the expense and force you to pay back taxes. The good news is there are other ways to prove expenses if you’ve lost the receipt. A bank or credit card statement with the date and location might do the trick. The IRS may be accommodating if you are doing your best but if you’re being a headache, they’re going to be a headache as well.

What the tax man looks for.

It is a statistical fact: Self-employed individuals are much more likely to get audited than regular employees.

A tax auditor is looking for certain things when they audit you and your business. The IRS training manuals note that the auditors are examining you and not just your business tax return. Your lifestyle may be checked against your reported income to see if there is a discrepancy which shows skimming, diversion of funds or deception. For example, that mansion with the truck-mount van parked out front may send up the wrong “economic reality” flag.

Travel and entertainment deductions in a business are usually suspect as some people try to deduct personal entertainment and meal “business” expenses. You must be able to clearly explain the business relationship in a credible fashion. Taking your friends out to the ballpark or taking the family on a vacation to that industry conference may not quite pass the litmus test of an audit. Writing off your legitimate business entertainment expenses requires detailed explanation of the reason for the expense, as well as a receipt.

Your calendar will undoubtedly be scrutinized to make sure there are no glaring gaps between possible work, vehicle or equipment usage and the income reported. As an example: If you are claiming 100% business vehicle usage but your calendars do not confirm the times and locations of service stops, you may be open to an analysis of possible personal use of the vehicle. Entries in a business diary or calendar help to justify an expense to an auditor as long as it appears to be reasonable.

Business credit cards are also highly scrutinized as they have a high potential for misuse (such as use for a personal vacation or personal expenses). Keep these only for legitimate business expenditures (places where company checks won’t do). Too many times a small business owner says that they will “reimburse the business later” for that personal expense put on the business card. That routine just opens you up for closer inspection.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

IRS Agent Seduced Me, Then Didn’t Help Me With Audit, Oregon Man Claims

Vincent Burroughs who lives in Oregon was selected by the IRS for an audit of his tax returns. Little did he know that the IRS was going to clean him out in more ways than just his bank account.

Let me explain – maintaining a friendly but professional demeanor can be important to an audit or tax dispute. But having sex with a government agent for a better audit result – well not such a good idea. Yet a lawsuit involving an allegedly alluring—and demanding—female IRS agent suggests that sometimes facts and figures can become overwhelming. If you believe the plaintiff, Mr. Burroughs, passion it seems can overtake a tax audit.

Unlikely? I agree. Preposterous? Perhaps. But Mr. Burroughs filed a lawsuit against the IRS alleging that IRS Agent Dora Abrahamson threatened him with penalties in his tax audit if he did not – let’s say, come across. And in this lawsuit Mr. Burroughs was seeking punitive damages.

What led to “the encounter”…

For a long time Mr. Burroughs said, he was making good money as a contractor. But when the economy hit the skids, his business dried up, quashing his hopes of becoming a full-time motorcycle racer. He got behind on his taxes — by about $20,000, he figured.
Then in August 2011, he was selected for an audit by the IRS. IRS Agent Dora Abrahamson was assigned to the audit. She allegedly told Burroughs that “she knew who he was, and that it was lucky for him that this was the case, and that they should meet”. Ms. Abrahamson allegedly flirted with him over the telephone and via text messages offering him massages and sent him a photo of herself in her underwear – not exactly IRS-approved business attire – and in a suggestive pose.

Mr. Burroughs maintains that he initially ignored her advances until September 2011. That’s when Ms. Abrahamson arrived at his home for an arranged audit meeting. Only she wasn’t dressed much like an IRS agent. Mr. Burroughs said she showed up dressed provocatively and proceeded to proposition him threatening a 40% tax audit penalty if she didn’t get what she wanted.

The interview with ABC News.

Mr. Burroughs was interviewed by ABC News. Like many other taxpayers, Mr. Burroughs said that when he found out he was being audited “he started shaking immediately. His heart rate went up. He was looking to cooperate with the IRS as much as he could”. But IRS agent Ms. Abramson assured him that she was most eager to help out.

Mr. Burroughs stated, “She was sending me texts. Some of them made me feel like, I am lucky that she has got my audit, ’cause she is gonna help me. Then, some of them made me feel like, I think this girl wants something else”. A week or so after the audit began, Mr. Burroughs said, he hadn’t gathered the papers he needed. He said Ms. Abrahamson asked about stopping by to give him a hand. He agreed.

So in September 2011, at 9:00 p.m. on a warm night in Eugene, Oregon, Mr. Burroughs said he opened his front door to IRS agent Dora Abrahamson. It was the first time the two ever met. Mr. Burroughs said in the interview with ABC News that “she said she was going to do my paperwork. She came up the stairs, knocked on the door and I opened the door”.

That’s when the encounter allegedly occurred.

Mr. Burroughs described in greater detail what happened –“She just pushed me back, and I kind of went back, and I landed like that, and she immediately came over, got on top of me, started kissing on me. … [T]hen she leaned up and started tearing my shirt off.”

Mr. Burroughs said they then went into his bedroom.

That was Mr. Burroughs’ interview with ABC News. But let’s get back to the story and what happened after that encounter at Mr. Burroughs’ home.

Mr. Burroughs said that he received a call from Ms. Abrahamson informing him that she was stepping down from his audit due to a “conflict of interest”. A new IRS agent was assigned who came up with a report that Mr. Burroughs owed not the $20,000 he figured – but that Mr. Burroughs owed around $69,000!

Mr. Burroughs was not happy. He said, “somebody has to be accountable for what the IRS does, because they are unaccountable. They run with no leash on.”

Fifteen months go by . . .

Now not that the story isn’t already bizarre enough, but also raising eyebrows is the lack of formal protest. In the fifteen months that transpired after the encounter, Mr. Burroughs doesn’t seem to have made any form of complaint to the IRS or law enforcement in spite of his claims to have suffered much over the incident. But all that changed when, seemingly out of nowhere, in January 2013 he filed suit in the U.S. District of Oregon, Eugene Division (Burroughs v. Abrahamson et al (6:13-cv-00141-TC)).

In his lawsuit, he says he suffered “anguish, humiliation, mental distress, depression, lost income, and loss of trust in governmental authority.” At the time of the encounter with Ms. Abrahamson, he was in an “exclusive relationship with another woman,” he said, and because of the demanding IRS agent, that relationship also suffered.

He calls Abrahamson’s behavior “persistent sexual harassment” and says, among other things, that she was negligent in “permitting her carnal desires to overcome her judgment that it was inappropriate to pursue a sexual relationship with a taxpayer she was auditing.” Her advances, the complaint alleged, “were an excessive intrusion on his person.”

In the lawsuit he was seeking unspecified punitive damages. The lawsuit claimed that Ms. Abrahamson’s conduct caused the plaintiff distress and a rift in his relationship with a “significant other”.

The lawsuit also alleges that the government is liable for damages because IRS officials provided inadequate supervision. I guess Mr. Burroughs was expecting a ménage à trois?

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.

Your Worst Nightmare: An IRS Audit

Your business is growing and you are prospering. Business is good. Life is good. Then the unbelievable happens, which turns your world upside down and pushes you into pure panic.

This panic mode is instantly brought on by receipt of an IRS audit letter.

Most of us don’t fear something exploding or catching on fire as much as we fear an IRS audit. Of course, the best way to survive a tax audit and even to come out of it successfully is not to panic, but to prepare.

Take it seriously.

Even though IRS audits are fairly routine events, they should be taken with the utmost of seriousness. In the event you receive an audit letter, you should immediately spring into action to ready yourself for the audit. The IRS usually sets the time and place for the audit. If you try to put it off, any penalties and interest will just become that much bigger. If you choose to represent yourself, you should adjust your schedule to comply with their date. Think of not showing up for an audit the same as not showing up for trial in a courtroom. It is that serious.

The really, really bad news.

If you think there is nothing worse than you getting from the IRS than a standard or routine IRS audit letter – continue reading …

You can be investigated by the IRS through a civil tax audit (which is very serious) or through a criminal investigation (which is even more serious). The criminal investigation arm of the IRS can come bearing badges and guns, as it is an investigation of fraud against the United States government. In any such investigation, the IRS can (and probably will) obtain your bank records and other financial records, both business and personal.

Virtually all small businesses involve close ownership with profits or losses going ultimately to the business owner. This is why the IRS looks closely at your personal accounts. Any instance of depositing unreported income in a bank account will probably show-up in an IRS audit. Small businesses which prepare their own tax returns (as opposed to going through a tax professional such as a CPA) are more likely to be audited.

Why does the IRS exercise extra scrutiny over small businesses?

The IRS especially scrutinizes the self-employed because the agency claims that most tax cheating is done in small businesses. There is some logic to this because, in a self-employed business, there are many more opportunities to blur the difference between business expenses and personal expenses. Also, many self-employed people put the idea of proper record-keeping and the cost of hiring accounting and tax professionals at the bottom of their priority list. It is not uncommon for business owners to concentrate more on the operational side of the business than to properly accounting for the true business expenses and deductions.

It is a statistical fact: Self-employed individuals are much more likely to get audited than regular employees.

What the tax man looks for.

A tax auditor is looking for certain things when they audit you and your business. The IRS training manuals note that the auditors are examining you and not just your business tax return. Your lifestyle may be checked against your reported income to see if there is a discrepancy which shows skimming, diversion of funds or deception. For example, that mansion with the truck-mount van parked out front may send up the wrong “economic reality” flag.

Travel and entertainment deductions in a business are usually suspect as some people try to deduct personal entertainment and meal “business” expenses. You must be able to clearly explain the business relationship in a credible fashion. Taking your friends out to the ballpark or taking the family on a vacation to that industry conference may not quite pass the litmus test of an audit. Writing off your legitimate business entertainment expenses requires detailed explanation of the reason for the expense, as well as a receipt.

Your calendar will undoubtedly be scrutinized to make sure there are no glaring gaps between possible work, vehicle or equipment usage and the income reported. As an example: If you are claiming 100% business vehicle usage but your calendars do not confirm the times and locations of service stops, you may be open to an analysis of possible personal use of the vehicle. Entries in a business diary or calendar help to justify an expense to an auditor as long as it appears to be reasonable.

Business credit cards are also highly scrutinized as they have a high potential for misuse (such as use for a personal vacation or personal expenses). Keep these only for legitimate business expenditures (places where company checks won’t do). Too many times a small business owner says that they will “reimburse the business later” for that personal expense put on the business card. That routine just opens you up for closer inspection.

Don’t Take The Chance And Lose Everything You Have Worked For.

Protect yourself. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Diego San Francisco and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income.

Description: Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. resolve your IRS tax problems to allow you to have a fresh start.