cryptocurrency-bitcoin-reporting-tax-law

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Will Receive Warning Letters From The IRS

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Will Receive Warning Letters From The IRS

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Notices Being Sent To Taxpayers Are The First Step In IRS Enforcement Action

The IRS is using three types of notices to send to more than 10,000 taxpayers by the end of August 2019 – notices 6173, 6174 or 6174-A. Of all the notices, Letter 6173 requires a signature from the recipient under perjury that they are compliant with the U.S. tax code.

If you receive Letter 6173, you should consult with a tax attorney as the submission of a statement signed under penalties of perjury that is false can result in serious consequences including criminal prosecution.

Virtual currency is an ongoing focus area for IRS Criminal Investigation.

Last year the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

Taxation Of Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency transactions are apparently wildly taxable – far more so than investors may think. Although the IRS has not issued much formal guidance, the position of IRS is that any transaction involving virtual currency can trigger a taxable event including air drops and fork transaction as well as conversions or trades from one virtual currency to another virtual currency.

The IRS in 2014 issued Notice 2014-21 stating that it treats crypto currency as property for tax purposes. Therefore, selling, spending and even exchanging crypto for other tokens all likely have capital gain implications. Likewise, receiving it as compensation or by other means will be ordinary income.

Some would think that if bitcoin is property, trades should be tax deferred under the like-kind changes rues of I.R.C. §1031. Under that theory someone who owned Bitcoin could diversify their holdings into Ethereum or Litecoin, and plausibly tell the IRS it created no tax obligations. Unfortunately, the new Tax Cuts & Jobs Act of 2017 does away with that loophole making it clear that “like kind exchanges” which lets people swap an asset for a similar one without triggering a tax obligation are not available for non-real estate assets.

While Bitcoin receives most of the attention these days, it is only one of hundreds of crypto currencies. Everything discussed with regard to bitcoin taxation applies to all crypto currencies.

Here are the basic tax rules followed by IRS on specific crypto currency transactions:

  • Trading crypto currencies produces capital gains or losses, with the latter being able to offset gains and reduce tax.
  • Exchanging one crypto currency for another — for example, using Ethereum to purchase an altcoin — creates a taxable event. The token is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains or losses.
  • Receiving payments in crypto currency in exchange for products or services or as salary is treated as ordinary income at the fair market value of the coin at the time of receipt.
  • Spending crypto currency is a tax event and may generate capital gains or losses, which can be short-term or long-term. For example, say you bought one coin for $500. If that coin was then worth $700 and you bought a $700 gift card, there is a $200 taxable gain. Depending on the holding period, it could be a short- or long-term capital gain subject to different rates.
  • Converting a crypto currency to U.S. dollars or another currency at a gain is a taxable event, as it is treated as being sold, thus generating capital gains.
  • Air drops are considered ordinary income on the day of the air drop. That value will become the basis of the coin. When it’s sold, exchanged, etc., there will be a capital gain.
  • Mining crypto currency is considered ordinary income equal to the fair market value of the coin the day it was successfully mined.
  • Initial coin offerings including certain forks do not fall under the IRS’s tax-free treatment for raising capital. Thus, they produce ordinary income to individuals and businesses alike.

Given the limited guidance by IRS, there are still tax positions that can be advocated or structured so that taxpayers dealing with crypto currency can defer gains and minimize taxes. That is why it is essential you seek qualified tax counsel.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. 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.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

What Should You Do?

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since Bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns. 

And now that likeexchange treatment is prohibited on non-real estate transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even if it is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and offices elsewhere in California get you qualified into a voluntary disclosure program to avoid criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability. Additionally, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

Facts To Know When The IRS Sends A Private Debt Collection Service To Collect On IRS Debt.

Facts To Know When The IRS Sends A Private Debt Collection Service To Collect On IRS Debt.

You would think that with all the fraudulent calls being made by parties presented themselves as working for the IRS to scam taxpayers out of money, the IRS would crackdown on this problem and tighten its reins. But instead the IRS does the opposite and began a new private collection program of certain overdue federal tax debts selecting four contractors to implement it.

IRS Using Private Collection Agencies For the Collection Of Outstanding Inactive Tax Receivables

The new program, authorized under a federal law enacted by Congress, enables these designated contractors to collect, on the government’s behalf, outstanding inactive tax receivables. Authorized under a federal law enacted by Congress in December 2015, Section 32102 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”) requires the IRS to use private collection agencies for the collection of outstanding inactive tax receivables. As a condition of receiving a contract, these agencies must respect taxpayer rights including, among other things, abiding by the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

This is not the first time that Congress has authorized the IRS to out-source its collection functions and each time the IRS has tried to out-source collections they have failed miserably. After all the IRS is the most powerful debt collector in that without formal court action can quickly file tax liens and levy your accounts and garnish your sources of income without any consideration of how much you need to pay bills or obligations.

So this time the IRS says that the type of taxpayer accounts that will be turned over to private collection are those where taxpayers owe money but the IRS is no longer actively working their accounts. Several factors contribute to the IRS assigning these accounts to private collection agencies, including older, overdue tax accounts or lack of resources preventing the IRS from working the cases. So if the really difficult accounts are being turned over for private collection, what tactics do you think that private collectors may take to secure payment from taxpayers and how are taxpayers supposed to know they are dealing with an authorized contacted agent versus a scam artist?

The IRS says it will do everything it can to help taxpayers avoid confusion and understand their rights and tax responsibilities, particularly in light of continual phone scams where callers impersonate IRS agents and request immediate payment. So the IRS will give each taxpayer and their representative written notice that their account is being transferred to a private collection agency. The IRS will then send a second, separate letter to the taxpayer and their representative confirming this transfer. Private collection agencies will be able to identify themselves as contractors of the IRS collecting taxes.

Employees of these collection agencies must follow the provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and must be courteous and respect taxpayer rights. Furthermore, private collection agencies will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit card. Taxpayers will also be informed about electronic payment options for taxpayers on IRS.gov/Pay Your Tax Bill. Private collection agencies will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit, iTunes or gift card. Taxpayers will be informed about electronic payment options for taxpayers on IRS.gov/Pay Your Tax Bill. Payment by check should be payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to IRS, not the private collection agency.

Authorized Private Collection Agencies

The IRS has selected the following contractors to carry out this program:

  • CBE
    P.O. Box 2217
    Waterloo, IA 50704
    1-800-910-5837
  • ConServe
    P.O. Box 307
    Fairport, NY 14450-0307
    1-844-853-4875
  • Performant
    P.O. Box 9045
    Pleasanton CA 94566-9045
    1-844-807-9367
  • Pioneer
    PO Box 500
    Horseheads, NY 14845
    1-800-448-3531

Taxpayer Accounts Not Assigned To Private Collection Agencies

The IRS will not assign accounts to private collection agencies involving taxpayers who are:

  • Deceased
  • Under the age of 18
  • In designated combat zones
  • Victims of tax-related identity theft
  • Currently under examination, litigation, criminal investigation or levy
  • Subject to pending or active offers in compromise
  • Subject to an installment agreement
  • Subject to a right of appeal
  • Classified as innocent spouse cases
  • In presidentially declared disaster areas and requesting relief from collection

Private collection agencies will return accounts to the IRS if taxpayers and their accounts fall into any of these 10 situations after assignment to the private collection agencies. 

Opting Out Of Private Collection Agencies

If you do not wish to work with the assigned private collection agency to settle your overdue tax account, you must submit a request in writing to the private collection agency.

What Should You Do?

While I am skeptical that the outcome of this program will be any different than previous collection out-sourcing programs, we see it as an opportunity to provide taxpayers with a chance for a better resolution than what the IRS could offer. The tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California know exactly what to say and how to handle issues with the IRS as well as State Tax Agencies.  Our experience and expertise not only levels the playing field but also puts you in the driver’s seat as we take full control of resolving your tax problems. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

The Four Ways That IRS Selects Tax Returns For Examination

The Four Ways That IRS Selects Tax Returns For Examination

I have yet to meet anyone who looks forward to having their tax return be selected for an audit by IRS so you should know the four main ways that the IRS selects returns for examination.

  1. Potential participants in abusive tax avoidance transactions — Some returns are selected based on information obtained by the IRS through efforts to identify promoters and participants of abusive tax avoidance transactions. Examples include information received from “John Doe” summonses issued to foreign and domestic banks, credit card companies, businesses and participant lists from promoters ordered by the courts to be turned over to the IRS.
  2. Computer Scoring — Some returns are selected for examination on the basis of computer scoring.  Computer programs give each return numeric “scores”. The Discriminant Function System (“DIF”) score rates the potential for change, based on past IRS experience with similar returns. The Unreported Income DIF (“UIDIF”) score rates the return for the potential of unreported income. IRS personnel screen the highest-scoring returns, selecting some for audit and identifying the items on these returns that are most likely to need review.
  3. Related Examinations — Returns may be selected for audit when they involve issues or transactions with other taxpayers, such as business partners or investors, whose returns were selected for examination. In examinations that include undisclosed foreign bank accounts, the IRS will look for family relatives who may have the same involvement in foreign accounts and also failed to make the proper disclosures.
  4. Information Matching — Some returns are examined because payer reports, such as Forms W-2 from employers or Form 1099 interest statements from banks, do not match the income reported on the tax return. Starting this year the IRS is getting this same level of information from foreign banks who have U.S. account holders.

Information Matching Most Common Reason Why A Return Is Selected For Audit

When a tax return’s information does not match data reported to the Internal Revenue Service by employers, banks and other third parties, the IRS will send a letter to the taxpayer. The letter is called an IRS Notice CP2000, and it gives detailed information about issues the IRS identified and provides steps taxpayers should take to resolve those issues.

This is not a formal audit notification, but a notice to see if the taxpayer agrees or disagrees with the proposed tax changes. Because this verification process and notice generation is done by IRS computers without the need for an agent to actually work the case, these IRS notices are quite common.

Taxpayers should respond to the CP2000, usually within 30 days from the date printed on the notice.

Consequences Of Failing To Respond To IRS Or If Your Response Is Inadequate

If a timely response to the CP2000 is not made or if the IRS cannot accept the additional information provided, a second IRS notice is generated. That follow-up notice is called an IRS Notice CP3219A or “Statutory Notice of Deficiency”. This notice gives detailed information about why the IRS proposes a tax change and how the agency determined the change. The notice tells taxpayers about their right to challenge the decision in Tax Court by filing a Petition with the Tax Court no later than 90 days from the date of the Statutory Notice of Deficiency.

If a taxpayer timely files a Petition, the additional liability remains “proposed” and cannot be sent to collection enforcement by IRS. Instead the taxpayer will have the opportunity to show that the proposed changes are wrong and if agreement is not reached, it will be the Tax Court judge that will have the ultimate say in this matter.

If a taxpayer does not file a Petition, then the proposed changes become final, a tax bill will be generated by the IRS and the IRS can proceed with collection enforcement.

How Does One Find Out If The IRS Does Select Your Tax Return For Examination?

This is where one must be careful because there are scammers out there who are calling people saying they are the IRS and threatening them with arrest and deportation unless they pay right away. If you are selected for an audit by the IRS, the initial contact will always be in the form of a letter sent by the assigned agent under official IRS letterhead.

An official letter from the IRS will give you the contact information of the agent and what IRS office the agent reports to. The letter will also tell you how the examination is to be conducted – this can be by mail, or through an in-person interview and review of the taxpayer’s records at the agent’s office or outside the agent’s office such as the taxpayer’s business. Finally, the letter will tell you which years are being audited and what records will be needed. Taxpayers may act on their own behalf or have a tax professional represent or accompany them. 

What Should You Do?

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 Orange County (Irvine), the Los Angeles Area (including Long Beach and Ontario) 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. If you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

IRS investigation crypto trading

Fail To Pay In Enough Tax Withholding And Estimated Tax Payments For 2018? Relief May Be Available To You.

Fail To Pay In Enough Tax Withholding And Estimated Tax Payments For 2018? Relief May Be Available To You.

The IRS announced additional expanded penalty relief to taxpayers whose 2018 federal income tax withholding and estimated tax payments fell short of their total tax liability for the year.

At first on January 16, 2019 the IRS announced that the threshold for this relief was pre-paying and amount equal to 85% of your prior year’s tax to avoid a penalty (the law provides that you must have paid in an amount equal to 90% of your prior year’s tax). But not the IRS has lowered that threshold even further to an amount equal to 80% of your prior year’s tax to avoid a penalty.

This means that the IRS is now waiving the estimated tax penalty for any taxpayer who paid at least 80% of their total tax liability during the year through federal income tax withholding, quarterly estimated tax payments or a combination of the two.

Taxpayers who have already filed for tax year 2018 but qualify for this expanded relief may claim a refund by filing Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement and include the statement “80% Waiver of estimated tax penalty” on Line 7.  This form cannot be filed electronically.

The IRS figures that this expanded relief will help many taxpayers who owe tax when they file, including taxpayers who did not properly adjust their withholding and estimated tax payments to reflect an array of changes under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). 

How Does The Penalty For Not Paying In Enough Apply?

Because the U.S. tax system is a “pay-as-you-go” system, taxpayers are required, by law, to pay most of their tax obligation during the year, rather than at the end of the year. This can be done by either having tax withheld from paychecks or pension payments, or by making estimated tax payments.

Usually, a penalty applies at tax filing if too little is paid during the year. This penalty is an interest-based amount approximately equivalent to the federal interest on the amount not paid in a timely manner.

Normally, the penalty would not apply for 2018 if tax payments during the year met one of the following tests: 

  • The person’s tax payments were at least 90% of the tax liability for 2018 or
  • The person’s tax payments were at least 100% of the prior year’s tax liability, in this case from 2017. However, the 100% threshold is increased to 110% if a taxpayer’s adjusted gross income is more than $150,000, or $75,000 if married and filing a separate return. 

For waiver purposes only, today’s relief lowers the 90% threshold to 80%. This means that a taxpayer will not owe a penalty if they paid at least 80% of their total 2018 tax liability. If the taxpayer paid less than 80%, then they are not eligible for the waiver and the penalty will be calculated as it normally would be, using the 90% threshold.

Importance To Preserve Records

Keep in mind that the IRS has up to three years to select a tax return for audit. The California Franchise Tax Board has up to four years to select a California State Income Tax Return for audit. In some cases this period is extended to six years. When a taxpayer is selected for audit, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that expenses claimed are properly deductible. Having the evidence handy and organized makes meeting this burden of proof much easier.

Essential Records to Have for a Tax Audit

If you are getting ready for a tax audit, one of the most important things to do is gather and organize your tax records and receipts. There’s a good chance that you have a large amount of documents and receipts in your possession. No matter how organized you are, it can be a daunting task to collect the right pieces and make sure that you have them organized and handy for the audit conference.

We have seen many tax audits that hinge on whether or not the taxpayer can provide proper documentation for their previous tax filings. A tax lawyer in Orange County or elsewhere can make sure that the documentation is complete and proper.  By submitting this to your tax attorney in advance of the audit, your tax attorney can review your documentation and determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed before starting the dialogue with the IRS agent.

So what are the most essential tax records to have ahead of your audit? Here are a few must-have items:

  • Any W-2 forms from the previous year. This can include documents from full-time and part-time work, large casino and lottery winnings and more.
  • Form 1098 records from your bank or lender on mortgage interest paid from the previous year.
  • Records of any miscellaneous money you earned and reported to the IRS including work done as an independent contractor or freelancer, interest from savings accounts and stock dividends.
  • Written letters from charities confirming your monetary donations from the previous year.
  • Receipts for business expenses you claimed.
  • Mileage Logs for business use of vehicle.
  • Entertainment and Travel Logs for business activities.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. 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 Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) 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. If you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

affected by tornado damage tax relief

Are You Effected By The Alabama Tornadoes And Severe Storms? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

Are You Effected By The Alabama Tornadoes And Severe Storms? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

The IRS announced on March 7, 2019 that victims of the tornadoes and severe storms that took place March 3, 2019 in Alabama may qualify for tax relief. Individuals who reside or have a business in Lee County have until July 31, 2019, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments.

IRS Tax Relief Details

The IRS is offering this relief to any area designated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), as qualifying for individual assistance. The current list of eligible localities is always available on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. As a result, affected individuals and businesses will have until July 31, 2019, to file returns and pay any taxes that were originally due during this period. This includes individual income tax returns and payments normally due April 15, 2019. Eligible taxpayers will also have until July 31, 2019 to make 2018 IRA contributions. 

The July 31, 2019, deadline also applies to quarterly estimated income tax payments due on April 15, 2019 and June 17, 2019 and the quarterly payroll and excise tax returns normally due on April 30, 2019. It also applies to tax-exempt organizations, operating on a calendar-year basis, that have a Form 990 information return due on May 15, 2019. Businesses, including corporations, S corporations and partnerships, that have a 2018 return due during this period also have the extra time.    

In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after March 3, 2019, and before March 18, 2019, will be abated as long as the deposits are made by March 18, 2019.

Importance To Preserve Records

Keep in mind that the IRS has up to three years to select a tax return for audit. The FTB has up to four years to select a tax return for audit. In some cases this period is extended to six years. When a taxpayer is selected for audit, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that expenses claimed are properly deductible. Having the evidence handy and organized makes meeting this burden of proof much easier.

Essential Records to Have for a Tax Audit

If you are getting ready for a tax audit, one of the most important things to do is gather and organize your tax records and receipts. There’s a good chance that you have a large amount of documents and receipts in your possession. No matter how organized you are, it can be a daunting task to collect the right pieces and make sure that you have them organized and handy for the audit conference.

We have seen many tax audits that hinge on whether or not the taxpayer can provide proper documentation for their previous tax filings. A tax lawyer in Orange County or elsewhere can make sure that the documentation is complete and proper.  By submitting this to your tax attorney in advance of the audit, your tax attorney can review your documentation and determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed before starting the dialogue with the IRS agent.

So what are the most essential tax records to have ahead of your audit? Here are a few must-have items:

  • Any W-2 forms from the previous year. This can include documents from full-time and part-time work, large casino and lottery winnings and more.
  • Form 1098 records from your bank or lender on mortgage interest paid from the previous year.
  • Records of any miscellaneous money you earned and reported to the IRS including work done as an independent contractor or freelancer, interest from savings accounts and stock dividends.
  • Written letters from charities confirming your monetary donations from the previous year.
  • Receipts for business expenses you claimed.
  • Mileage Logs for business use of vehicle.
  • Entertainment and Travel Logs for business activities.

Develop And Implement Your Backup Plan

Do not wait for the next disaster to come for then it may be too late to retrieve your important records for a tax audit or for that matter any legal or business matter. And if you do get selected for audit and do not have all the records to support what was claimed on your tax returns, you should contact an experienced tax attorney who can argue the application of your facts and circumstances to pursue the least possible changes in an audit.

The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) 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. And if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.

IRS investigation crypto trading

Don’t Let A Simpler Form 1040 Fool You – Be Prepared For An IRS Audit.

The Tax Cuts And Jobs Act Of 2017 (“TCJA”) was signed into law by President Trump on December 22, 2017. It has been a good 30 years since the last time the Internal Revenue Code received such a major update but for taxpayers.

Major Changes From The TCJA Include:

A Simpler Form 1040

There are major changes to the 2018 Form 1040 compared to previous years.

While it has not come down to being a postcard, the new Form 1040 does streamline the reporting process as follows:

  • The 2018 Form 1040 replaces Forms 1040, 1040A and 1040EZ with one 2018 Form 1040 that all taxpayers will file. 
  • Forms 1040A and 1040EZ are no longer available. Taxpayers who used one of these forms in the past will now file Form 1040.
  • The 2018 Form 1040 uses a “building block” approach and allows taxpayers to add only the schedules they need to their 2018 tax return.
  • The most commonly used lines on the prior year form are still on the form. Other lines are moved to new schedules and are organized by category. These categories include income, adjustments to income, nonrefundable credits, taxes, payments, and refundable credits.

Many taxpayers will only need to file Form 1040 and no schedules. Those with more complicated tax returns will need to complete one or more of the 2018 Form 1040 Schedules along with their Form 1040. These taxpayers include people claiming certain deductions or credits, or owing additional taxes.

Importance To Preserve Records

Keep in mind that the IRS has up to three years to select a tax return for audit. For California taxpayers, the Franchise Tax Board has up to four years to select a California State Income Tax Return for audit. In some cases these 3nad 4 year periods are extended to six years. When a taxpayer is selected for audit, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that expenses claimed are properly deductible. Having the evidence handy and organized makes meeting this burden of proof much easier.

Essential Records to Have for a Tax Audit

If you are getting ready for a tax audit, one of the most important things to do is gather and organize your tax records and receipts. There’s a good chance that you have a large amount of documents and receipts in your possession. No matter how organized you are, it can be a daunting task to collect the right pieces and make sure that you have them organized and handy for the audit conference.

We have seen many tax audits that hinge on whether or not the taxpayer can provide proper documentation for their previous tax filings. A tax lawyer in Orange County or elsewhere can make sure that the documentation is complete and proper.  By submitting this to your tax attorney in advance of the audit, your tax attorney can review your documentation and determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed before starting the dialogue with the IRS agent.

So what are the most essential tax records to have ahead of your audit? Here are a few must-have items:

  • Any W-2 forms from the previous year. This can include documents from full-time and part-time work, large casino and lottery winnings and more.
  • Form 1098 records from your bank or lender on mortgage interest paid from the previous year.
  • Records of any miscellaneous money you earned and reported to the IRS including work done as an independent contractor or freelancer, interest from savings accounts and stock dividends.
  • Written letters from charities confirming your monetary donations from the previous year.
  • Receipts for business expenses you claimed.
  • Mileage Logs for business use of vehicle.
  • Entertainment and Travel Logs for business activities.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. 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 Orange County (Irvine), San Diego County (Carlsbad) 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. Additionally, if you are involved in the cannabis industry, check out Cannabis Tax Attorney.

overpay tax

Do You Have A Business That Involves Transactions In Cash? Beware Of IRS Required Filings That If Not Followed Could Lead To Penalties And Jail-time.

While there is no law making it illegal to transact business with cash, the IRS has an interest in requiring parties to report cash transactions to deter those who evade taxes, profit from the drug trade and engage in terrorist financing and other criminal activities. The government can often trace money from these illegal activities through the payments reported on this and other cash reporting forms.  This is particularly true as more and more states are allowing the sale of cannabis at the medical and/or recreational level.

Bank Secrecy Act – Reporting Of Cash Payments.

Since 1970, the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the BSA requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

The minimum penalty for failing to file EACH Form 8300 is $25,000 if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements. Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.

Electronic Filing Of Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000.

Although businesses have the option of filing Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000, on paper, there is the option to e-filing this form especially since the deadline to file the form is 15 days after a reportable cash transaction occurs.Businesses that file Form 8300 electronically get free, automatic acknowledgment of receipt when they file and since the reporting involves no IRS personnel interaction, it could arguably lower scrutiny by the IRS. To file Form 8300 electronically, a business must first set up an account with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s BSA E-Filing System.

For more information about the reporting requirement, you can check out the fact sheet put out by IRS atFS-2019-1 which among other things includes reporting scenarios for specific businesses, such as automobile dealerships, taxi companies, landlords, colleges and universities, homebuilders and bail-bonding agents.

Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”).

FinCEN is a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The Director of FinCEN is appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury and reports to the Treasury Under-Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. FinCEN’s mission is to safeguard the financial system from illicit use and combat money laundering and promote national security through the collection, analysis, and dissemination of financial intelligence and strategic use of financial authorities.

FinCEN carries out its mission by receiving and maintaining financial transactions data; analyzing and disseminating that data for law enforcement purposes; and building global cooperation with counterpart organizations in other countries and with international bodies.

FinCEN exercises regulatory functions primarily under the Currency and Financial Transactions Reporting Act of 1970, as amended by Title III of the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001. Under this authority the Secretary of the Treasury is to issue regulations requiring banks and other financial institutions to take a number of precautions against financial crime, including the establishment of AML programs and the filing of reports that have been determined to have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax, and regulatory investigations and proceedings, and certain intelligence and counter-terrorism matters. This authority has been delegated to FinCEN.

The basic concept underlying FinCEN’s core activities is “follow the money.” As FinCEN believes that the primary motive of criminals is financial gain, and they leave financial trails as they try to launder the proceeds of crimes or attempt to spend their ill-gotten profits. FinCEN shares the information it receives and analyzes with other law enforcement agencies to investigate and hold accountable a broad range of criminals, including perpetrators of fraud, tax evaders, and narcotics traffickers. More recently, the techniques used to follow money trails also have been applied to investigating and disrupting terrorist groups, which often depend on financial and other support networks.

What Should You Do?

The IRS scrutinizes in any cash-based business the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash.  However, this should not undermine the importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records which even in an environment of running a business without a traditional bank is possible.

If your business activities involve transactions in cash you need to protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits.

IRS tax forms - Government Shutdown

How Another Government Shutdown In The Middle Of Tax Season Can Stifle IRS Operations And Increase Tax Problems For Taxpayers.

How Another Government Shutdown In The Middle Of Tax Season Can Stifle IRS Operations And Increase Tax Problems For Taxpayers.

As required by law, once a year the Taxpayer Advocate’s Office (an independent Federal government department that monitors the Internal Revenue Service) must send a report to Congress describing challenges the IRS is facing, problems experienced by taxpayers in dealing with the IRS and recommendations to resolve these problems.

On February 12, 2019, National Taxpayer Advocate Chief Nina E. Olson released her 2018 Annual Report to Congress describing challenges the IRS is facing as a result of the recent government shutdown. The release of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s report was delayed by a month because of the government shutdown.

Ms. Olson also released the second edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s “Purple Book” which presents 58 legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.

Impact of the government shutdown on taxpayer rights

Ms. Olson cited in her report how the IRS during a government shutdown is implementing the Anti-Deficiency Act, 31 U.S.C. §1341, which provides that in the absence of appropriated funds no obligation can be incurred except for the protection of life and property, the orderly suspension of operations, or as otherwise authorized by law. This means that absent an appropriation, many Federal employees are prohibited from working, even on a volunteer basis, “except for emergencies involving the safety of human life or the protection of property”. 31 U.S.C. §1342. Accordingly, each Federal agency must designate those employees whose work is necessary to sustain legal operations essential to the safety of human life and the protection of property.

Although not stated in the law or Justice Department guidance, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel has interpreted the “protection of property” exception to apply only to the protection of government property – not a taxpayer’s property.

This could be a big problem for taxpayers if just before a government shutdown the IRS issues a levy to a bank. When receiving a levy notice, the bank must freeze the taxpayer’s account for 21 days and then if the levy has not been released, the bank must turn the funds over to the IRS.

Ms. Olson in her report noted that the Internal Revenue Code requires the IRS to release a levy if it has determined the levy is creating an economic hardship due to the financial condition of the taxpayer. However, the IRS’s legal interpretation of the Anti-Deficiency Act would not permit personnel to work on any taxpayer’s account to release levies even if the taxpayer needed the levied funds to pay for basic living expenses or a life-saving operation.

Ironically, the IRS’s Lapsed Appropriations Contingency Plan allowed employees to open mail solely to search for checks payable to the government.  The plan did not permit any employees to assist taxpayers experiencing an economic hardship.

Impact of the government shutdown on IRS operations

The report says the shutdown has had a significant impact on IRS operations. The IRS opened the 2019 filing season immediately after the shutdown ended, and a comparison of services between now and 2018 shows greater difficulties in getting assistance.

Assistance Requested From IRS 2018 2019
Accounts Management – Percentage of IRS officials answering incoming calls 86% 48%
Accounts Management – Average wait time for call to be answered 4 minutes 17 minutes
Automated Collection System – Percentage of IRS officials answering incoming calls 65% 38%
Automated Collection System – Average wait time for call to be answered 19 minutes 48 minutes
Installment Agreement/Balance Due – Percentage of IRS officials answering incoming calls 58% 7%
Installment Agreement/Balance Due – Average wait time for call to be answered 30 minutes 81 minutes

During the government shutdown, correspondence inventories ballooned. By January 24, 2019 the IRS had more than five million pieces of mail waiting to be processed; it had 80,000 responses to 2018 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) audits that had not been addressed (likely causing eligible taxpayers to have their legitimate EITC claims frozen during the 2019 filing season); and it had 87,000 amended returns waiting to be manually processed.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS.

Do not think that if you owe the IRS your tax problem will disappear because the IRS is not fully operational in another government shutdown or is still catching up from the last government shutdown. Instead you should be utilizing this valuable time to get yourself prepared so that when IRS is resuming action against you, you are ready to make the best offer or proposal to take control of your outstanding tax debts.

As a prerequisite to any proposal to the IRS, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS. Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now in 2019, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2018 should have their 2018 income tax returns done now so that the 2018 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2019.

Remember that it is the government that was shut down – not the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do by law.

The take away from this – use the Federal government’s downtime to your advantage to prepare for the future.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. 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 Orange County (Irvine), Metropolitan Los Angeles (Long Beach and Ontario) 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. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorneys can do for you.