Getting Ready For The 2020 Tax Filing Season

Getting Ready For The 2020 Tax Filing Season

On January 6, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will process 2019 tax returns beginning January 27, 2020.

April 15th Filing Deadline.

The filing deadline to submit 2019 tax returns is Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Since the IRS will begin processing tax returns on January 27th there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for the IRS to begin accepting e-filed returns.  Nevertheless, it makes sense to start organizing your information early and so when the IRS filing systems open on January 27th, you are ready to submit your tax return right away.

Refunds in 2020.

Choosing e-file and direct deposit for refunds remains the fastest way to file an accurate income tax return and receive a refundThe IRS still anticipates issuing at least 90%of tax refunds in less than 21 days, but there are some important factors to keep in mind for taxpayers that could cause delay.  Under the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, the IRS is required to hold refunds for tax returns which include a claim of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until mid-February 2020. Also consider that it would still take several days for these refunds to be released and processed through financial institutions, and factoring in weekends, and the President’s Day holiday, taxpayers claiming these credits may not have actual access to their refunds until the later part of February.

The status of your tax refund can be checked directly with IRS by using the Where’s My Refund? ‎on IRS.gov and the IRS2Go phone app.

Time Limits For Keeping Your Tax Records

Even though your 2019 income tax return is processed by the IRS and a refund is issued, that does not mean the IRS can later question or audit the tax return,  In fact the Statute Of Limitations allows the IRS three years to go back and audit your tax return.  That is why it’s a good idea to keep copies of your prior-year tax returns and supporting backup documentation for at least three years.

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), the San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) 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 a cannabis tax attorney can do for you and if you are involved in crypto-currency, check out what a Bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2019 Annual Report

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2019 Annual Report

On December 5, 2019 the IRS released the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CI) annual report, highlighting significant successes and criminal enforcement actions taken in fiscal year ending September 30, 2019.

In issuing this report IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig states: “CI is critical to the overall enforcement efforts of the IRS in pursuing its Mission in a fair, impartial, diligent and, where appropriate, tenacious manner. The Fiscal Year 2019 Annual Report summarizes various CI activities throughout the year but vastly understates the importance of CI to the overall IRS mission. CI supports the efforts of compliant taxpayers by visibly demonstrating the risks of noncompliance thereby helping otherwise honest taxpayers stay honest and compliant.”

According to the report, CI initiated 2,485 cases in fiscal year 2019, applying approximately 75% of its time to tax related investigations. CI is the only federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over federal tax crimes achieving a conviction rate of 91.2% in fiscal year 2019.

The Special Agent’s Role In The IRS Criminal Investigation Division

An IRS Special Agent works for the CI. Special Agents are duly sworn law enforcement officers who are trained to “follow the money”. They investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code, and related financial crimes. Unless they are working undercover they will identify themselves with credentials which include a gold badge. The same gold badge appears on their business cards. Generally, IRS Special Agents travel in pairs if they are going to interview someone. One to conduct the interview, and the other to take notes, and act as a witness if necessary.

If you are contacted by an IRS Special Agent it is because he or she is conducting a CRIMINAL investigation. It is possible that the Special Agent is only interested in you as a witness against the target of the IRS investigation. However, it is a bad idea to speak to Special Agent without a criminal tax attorney present. IRS Special Agents are highly trained financial investigators. If you are the target or subject of an IRS criminal investigation you are not going to talk your way out of it, by “cooperating”; instead you may be giving the IRS more evidence to use against you.

Even if the IRS Special Agent tells you that you are only a witness you should still consult with an experienced criminal tax attorney BEFORE speaking with an IRS agent. If you make misstatements that you think put you in a better light you could change your role from a witness into a target. The best tactic is to simply tell the Special Agent that you are uncomfortable talking to him until you have had a chance to speak with your attorney. Then ask him for his business card. In this way your tax attorney can contact the Special Agent directly, and determine the best course of action.

There are a number of statutes in the Internal Revenue Code that authorize the federal government to prosecute individuals, including those dealing with tax evasion, fraud and false statements, failure to file returns, failure to pay tax, etc. Some, like the tax evasion statute, are worded in particularly broad terms and may ensnare the unwary or careless taxpayers.

If CI recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud.

Two Special Programs Run By CI

With the avalanche of billions of data flowing to IRS, CI has been running two special programs: the International Tax Enforcement Group (ITEG), and the Nationally Coordinated Investigations Unit (NCIU). Both focus on increasing the rate of taxpayer compliance with income reporting requirements contained in the Internal Revenue Code – particularly those pertaining to the disclosure of foreign financial accounts, reporting of virtual currency transactions, and reporting transactions involving cannabis.

What Should You Do?

Very quickly a criminal investigation can turn to the worst for a targeted taxpayer so you should promptly seek tax counsel who can act proactively before the IRS does. 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) protect you from excessive fines and possible jail time. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how a cannabis tax attorney can help you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Top Four Tax Errors That Can Be Costly For Small Businesses When Dealing With The IRS

Top Four Tax Errors That Can Be Costly For Small Businesses When Dealing With The IRS

A small business owner often wears many different hats. They might have to wear their boss hat one day, and the employee hat the next. When tax season comes around, it might be their tax hat but even innocently failing to comply with tax laws, violating tax codes, or filling out forms incorrectly can leave business owners open to possible penalties and headaches from the IRS.

Being aware of common mistakes can also help tame the stress of tax time.

When it comes to the IRS, here are the top four mistakes business owners should avoid:

  1. Underpaying estimated taxes

Business owners should generally make estimated tax payments if they expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when their return is filed. If they don’t pay enough tax through withholding and estimated tax payments, the IRS can charge a penalty.

  1. Under-depositing (or failing to deposit) employment taxes

Business owners with employees are expected to deposit taxes they withhold, plus the employer’s share of those taxes, through electronic fund transfers.  If those taxes are not deposited correctly and on time, the IRS can charge penalties to the business owner.

  1. Filing late

Just like individual returns, business tax returns must be filed in a timely manner. To avoid late filing penalties, taxpayers should be aware of all IRS tax requirements for their type of business the filing deadlines.

  1. Not separating business and personal expenses

It can be tempting to use one credit card for all expenses especially if the business is a sole proprietorship. Doing so can make it very hard to tell legitimate business expenses from personal ones. This could cause errors when claiming deductions and become a problem if the taxpayer or their business is ever audited as the IRS will be looking deny deductions which are suspected to be personal.      

What Should You Do?

Consider dropping the tax hat and instead engage qualified tax representation.

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 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. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you. Additionally, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

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

Updated 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. Additionally, the IRS has since authorized these contractors to set up payment plans with the payments being debited by these contractors from your bank account.

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.

On October 8, 2019 the IRS announced that a new payment option has been added to the private debt collection program where taxpayers now can choose the option of a preauthorized direct debit to make one payment or a series of payments toward their federal tax debt. With direct debit, the taxpayer will give their written permission to the private collection agency to authorize a payment on the taxpayer’s behalf to the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Under this system it is the private collection agency that debits your bank account and then is entrusted to subsequently transfer the funds to the IRS for proper credit against your outstanding balance.

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 a cannabis tax attorney can do for you. If you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Trick Or Treat – Fake IRS Agents Stealing Your Identity And Scamming You For Money.

Trick Or Treat – Fake IRS Agents Stealing Your Identity And Scamming You For Money.

With Halloween coming up, it is just not the neighbor kids looking forward to trick or treat but also people pretending that they are the Internal Revenue Service looking to steal your identity and scam you for your money.

Arrests Announced.

On September 20, 2019 the police in the city of Fontana, California announced they arrested two suspects, Ailing Lu age 25 of Los Angeles charged with Theft by False Pretenses (PC 532(a)) and Conspiracy to commit crime (PC 182(a)(1)), and Ji Hyun Lee age 25 of Gardena charged with Conspiracy to commit crime (PC 182(a)(1)).

The two California women allegedly posed as Internal Revenue Service employees in a nation-wide phone scam that may have bilked several victims out of nearly a million dollars, police said. One of the victims received a “cold call” September 4th from someone posing as an IRS agent who threatened to arrest him if he didn’t pay $2,200 in Target gift cards. The victim complied with the caller’s instructions and later alerted the cops.

Investigators traced the gift cards to a Target in the Los Angeles area and used surveillance footage to identify these two suspects. The police found about $900,000 worth of new electronics, gift cards and other items at two locations and in vehicles linked to the two suspects. It is still unclear how many of the goods were procured via the scam but the police believe there may be more victims.

Big Problem For IRS.

The scam artists exploiting innocent law-abiding taxpayers has been a big problem for the IRS and despite issuing multiple consumer alerts, the bogus emails, the bogus IRS letters and the bogus telephone calls continue and unfortunately taxpayers are still falling for this. The government estimates that taxpayers have lost roughly $5 million to scammers.

Every week our office receives about a half-dozen inquiries from taxpayers asking whether the communication they just received is really from the IRS. I do not want you to become the next victim of any such scam so read on to what we have to say.

The communication methods used by the scammers are email, letters and telephone calls. The scammers are still going strong doing this to people who are unsuspecting and don’t know how systems work and could very easily frighten them to turn over money. So I am going to break down each type of fraudulent communication for you and give you the warning signs and tips that you should be aware of.

Emails.

When identity theft takes place over the Internet, it is called phishing. Phishing (as in “fishing for information” and “hooking” victims) is a scam where Internet fraudsters send e-mail messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity. Current scams include phony e-mails which claim to come from the IRS and which lure the victims into the scam by telling them that they are due a tax refund.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use unsolicited email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue so if this is the form of communication used – avoid it like you would avoid the plague.

Letters.

If you receive a notice regarding your taxes which does not bear the official seal of the Internal Revenue Service and an official verifiable address of an IRS office or Service Center, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS sending you a notice.

The most recent scam that the public has told our office involves a sophisticated fraudulent tax collection notice scam targeting taxpayers for which the IRS has filed a Federal Tax Lien.

Here is how it works: The scammers will search public records for the filing of a Federal Tax Lien by IRS and with the information gathered from that filing will generate a form letter and mail it to the targeted taxpayer. The letter is designed to mimic an IRS notice but it is really coming from a third party having nothing to do with the IRS. If the recipient of the notice contacts the number listed, the person answering your call will purport to be working for the IRS. The intended victim is told he or she owes money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, he or she is then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the person who answered your call becomes hostile and insulting.

Telephone.

These callers may demand money or may say you have a refund due and try to trick you into sharing private information. These con artists can sound convincing when they call. Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves. They may know a lot about you and may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number and your place of business. They usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling – many times they will use a Washington, D.C. area code. The area codes for the Washington D.C. area are 202, 301 and 703. They will also background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request and if they have your email address, will send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls. After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

How Do You Recognize That This Call Is Fake?

Here are five things the scammers often do but the IRS will not do. Any one of these five things is a tell-tale sign of a scam. The IRS will never:

  1. Call you about taxes you owe without first mailing you an official notice.
  2. Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  3. Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  4. Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
  5. Threaten to bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

What Should You Do?

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to believe that you do, report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

And if you do owe taxes and you have not already resolved this with the IRS, then that is where we come in. 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. Also, check out how we can help you if you are involved in cannabis or bitcoin.

IRS Announces Program For U.S. Expats To Come Into Compliance With Their U.S. Tax And Filing Obligations

IRS Announces Program For U.S. Expats To Come Into Compliance With Their U.S. Tax And Filing Obligations

On September 6, 2019 the IRS announced procedures for certain persons who have relinquished, or intend to relinquish, their United States citizenship and who wish to come into compliance with their U.S. income tax and reporting obligations and avoid being taxed as a “covered expatriate” under Code Sec. 877A.

The Relief Procedures for Certain Former Citizens apply only to individuals who have not filed U.S. tax returns as U.S. citizens or residents, owe a limited amount of back taxes to the United States and have net assets of less than $2 million. Only taxpayers whose past compliance failures were non-willful can take advantage of these new procedures. For those expat-individuals who missed the opportunity to come forward in the IRS’ Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”), this is a huge opportunity. Many in this group may have lived outside the United States most of their lives and may have not been aware that they had U.S. tax obligations.

U.S. Taxation Of Worldwide Income

The 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States” are citizens of the United States.  With very limited exceptions for individuals born in the United States with diplomatic agent level immunity, all persons born in the United States acquire U.S. citizenship at birth. A person born abroad to a U.S. citizen parent or parents acquires U.S. citizenship at birth if the parent or parents meet conditions specified in the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (Section 301 and following sections).

Some U.S. citizens, born in the United States to foreign parents or born outside the United States to U.S. citizen parents, may be unaware of their status as U.S. citizens or the consequences of such status.  By law, U.S. citizens, regardless of whether they live in the United States or abroad, are required to report and pay to the IRS all applicable taxes on their worldwide income, including on their income from foreign financial assets.

With the passage of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (“FATCA”) on March 18, 2010, foreign financial institutions are generally required to determine whether their customers are U.S. citizens and, if so, report certain information about the customer’s account. Depending on when the account is opened, the customer may be identified by the financial institution as a U.S. citizen based on certain indicia, such as a place of birth in the United States. A customer who is identified as a U.S. citizen based on U.S. indicia must provide to the financial institution either his or her Social Security Number (“SSN”), or if the customer is no longer a U.S. citizen, documentation to rebut the determination, such as proof of loss of U.S. citizenship. A customer opening a new account with a foreign financial institution is generally required to provide a self-certification upon account opening, which includes the customer’s name, address, and SSN.

New Relief Procedures For Expats

Eligible individuals wishing to use these relief procedures are required to file outstanding U.S. tax returns, including all required schedules and information returns, for the five years preceding and their year of expatriation. Provided that the taxpayer’s tax liability does not exceed a total of $25,000 for the six years in question, the taxpayer is relieved from paying U.S. taxes and they will not be assessed penalties and interest.  

The IRS is offering these procedures without a specific termination date. The IRS will announce a closing date prior to ending the procedures. Individuals who relinquished their U.S. citizenship any time after March 18, 2010, are eligible so long as they satisfy the other criteria of the procedures.

These procedures are only available to individuals. Estates, trusts, corporations, partnerships and other entities may not use these procedures.

These procedures may only be used by taxpayers whose failure to file required tax returns (including income tax returns, applicable gift tax returns, information returns (including Form 8938, Statement of Foreign Financial Assets), and Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FinCEN Form 114, formerly Form TD F 90-22.1)) and pay taxes and penalties for the years at issue was due to non-willful conduct. Non-willful conduct is conduct that is due to negligence, inadvertence, or mistake or conduct that is the result of a good faith misunderstanding of the requirements of the law.

U.S. Penalties for Non-Compliance.

Federal tax law requires U.S. taxpayers to pay taxes on all income earned worldwide. U.S. taxpayers must also report foreign financial accounts if the total value of the accounts exceeds $10,000 at any time during the calendar year. Willful failure to report a foreign account can result in a fine of up to 50% of the amount in the account at the time of the violation and may even result in the IRS filing criminal charges.

Civil Fraud – If your failure to file is due to fraud, the penalty is 15% for each month or part of a month that your return is late, up to a maximum of 75%.

Criminal Fraud – 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)).

Additionally, the penalties for FBAR noncompliance are stiffer than the civil tax penalties ordinarily imposed for delinquent taxes. For non-willful violations, it is $10,000 per account per year going back as far as six years. For willful violations, the penalties for noncompliance which the government may impose include a fine of not more than $500,000 and imprisonment of not more than five years, for failure to file a report, supply information, and for filing a false or fraudulent report.

Lastly, failing to file Form 8938 when required could result in a $10,000 penalty, with an additional penalty up to $50,000 for continued failure to file after IRS notification. A 40% penalty on any understatement of tax attributable to non-disclosed assets can also be imposed.

What Should You Do?

For those expat-individuals who missed the opportunity to come forward in the IRS’ Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”), this is a huge opportunity. Relinquishing U.S. citizenship and the tax consequences that follow are serious matters that involve irrevocable decisions. Taxpayers who relinquish citizenship without complying with their U.S. tax obligations are subject to the significant tax consequences of the U.S. expatriation tax regime. Let 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 help ensure that you are in compliance with federal tax laws. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how our cannabis tax attorneys can help you. By the way – if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

IRS Agrees To Hold Off Denying Passport Privileges For Certain Taxpayers

IRS Agrees To Hold Off Denying Passport Privileges For Certain Taxpayers

Taxpayers who are seriously behind on their taxes to the IRS are putting their passports in jeopardy!

Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act

Under section 32101 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (“FAST Act”), signed into law in December 2015, the IRS is required to notify the State Department of taxpayers the IRS has certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt (currently more than $52,000 and meeting certain other requirements under Internal Revenue Code § 7345(b)). Also see Notice 2018-1. The FAST Act also requires the State Department to deny their passport application or deny renewal of their passport. In some cases, the State Department may revoke their passport.

Which Taxpayers Are Impacted By The FAST Act?

Taxpayers affected by this law are those with a “seriously delinquent tax debt”.  A taxpayer with a “seriously delinquent tax debt” is generally someone who owes the IRS more than $52,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and the period to challenge it has expired or the IRS has issued a levy.

The IRS already began certifying certain taxpayers in phases and will continue certifying all seriously delinquent individual taxpayer accounts. The IRS will send a Notice CP 508C to your last known address at the time it certifies your seriously delinquent tax debt to the State Department.

How Can Taxpayers Avoid Notification To The State Department?

There are several ways taxpayers can avoid having the IRS notify the State Department of their seriously delinquent tax debt. They include the following:

  • Paying the tax debt in full
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an approved installment agreement,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under an accepted offer in compromise,
  • Paying the tax debt timely under the terms of a settlement agreement with the Department of Justice,
  • Having requested or have a pending collection due process appeal with a levy, or
  • Having collection suspended because a taxpayer has made an innocent spouse election or requested innocent spouse relief.

Taxpayers Not At Risk For Loosing Passport Privileges.

A passport will not be at risk under this program for any taxpayer: 

  • Who is in bankruptcy,
  • Who is identified by the IRS as a victim of tax-related identity theft,
  • Whose account the IRS has determined is currently not collectible due to hardship,
  • Who is located within a federally declared disaster area,
  • Who has a request pending with the IRS for an installment agreement,
  • Who has a pending offer in compromise with the IRS, or
  • Who has an IRS accepted adjustment that will satisfy the debt in full.

Also for taxpayers serving in a combat zone who owe a seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS postpones notifying the State Department and the individual’s passport is not subject to denial during this time.

Additionally, as reported on September 3, 2019 in a blog put out by the National Office Of The Taxpayer Advocate (“TA”), the IRS recently agreed to temporarily exclude taxpayers with cases with the TA from passport certification and to reverse certifications for TA taxpayers who were certified before coming to the TA.

Timeframe And Process To Get IRS Clearance For Passport Renewal Or Application

When a taxpayer applies for a passport (either original issuance or renewal), the State Department, in general, will provide the applicant with 90 days to resolve their tax delinquency with the IRS before denying the application. If a taxpayer needs their passport to travel within those 90 days, the taxpayer must contact the IRS and resolve the matter within 45 days from the date of application so that the IRS has adequate time to notify the State Department.

The remedy for a taxpayer who believes that a certification to the State Department of a tax delinquency is erroneous or that the IRS incorrectly failed to reverse a certification because the tax debt is either fully satisfied or ceases to be a “seriously delinquent tax debt”, is to file an action in Federal District Court. However, taxpayers in this situation may be able to reach resolution within the IRS with the assistance of qualified tax counsel and thus avoid the delay and expense of bringing an action in Federal District Court.

What Should You Do?

If you have outstanding liabilities with the IRS or any State Tax Agency, protect yourself and preserve your right to travel 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), the San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent you 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 cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you. By the way – if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

What You Need To Know If You Received IRS Notice LT16 To Prevent An IRS Levy.

What You Need To Know If You Received IRS Notice LT16 To Prevent An IRS Levy.

Getting a notice in the mail from IRS usually causes much anxiety. After all the IRS has the power on its own to implement enforcement action which can include seizing your assets or wages. Enforcement action could also include the filing of a notice of federal tax lien, which could affect your credit score and ability to borrow.

What Is So Special About IRS Notice LT16?

Look for the code or letter type in the upper right corner on the first page of your IRS Notice. If it shows that this a Notice LT16, keep in mind that there is not an IRS agent likely assigned to your case. It actually is a notice generated automatically by the IRS computers. Any immediate levy action is determined by the success of the IRS computer in trying to find information about your income from any W2 and 1099 information that has been reported by third parties.  Alternatively, your case could be assigned to a Revenue Officer who could promptly commence with enforcement action. Revenue Officers are the highest level IRS collection agents, work in your locale, and often start a collection case investigation by making a visit to your home or office.

What you need to do to avoid enforcement action:

  • Read your notice carefully: Following the instructions on your notice may stop enforcement action.
  • File missing tax returns (if any): If your notice indicates you have missing tax returns, file the missing returns as soon as possible.
  • If you can pay the unpaid balance in full, make payment: Interest and applicable penalties will stop being added as soon as you pay your balance in full.
  • If you cannot pay the full amount due: Pay as much as you can now and set up an installment agreement for the remaining balance. You must be current on your filings in order to apply for an installment agreement.

If you already have an approved installment agreement, then continue making payments per that agreement. Payments on your balance can take up to 21 days to post on your account so if you paid your balance in full within the last 21 days, you should be able to disregard the LT16 you received.

If You Cannot Pay in Full Now

Paying what you can now will reduce the amount of interest and applicable penalties added to the remaining balance in the future; however, it will not stop the IRS from taking enforcement action unless a formal plan is put in place. It would be in your best interest to first meet with a tax attorney to determine whether there are any further benefits to pay selected IRS liabilities and/or making a down payment that will bring the total balance owed to a level that qualifies for any one of the special programs offered by the IRS.

If You Are Experiencing A Financial Hardship

In some circumstances you may qualify for a status with IRS of marking your account as “currently not collectible” thus temporarily delaying collection action until your financial condition improves. Putting your account in currently not collectible status does not stop penalties and interest from being charged and it does not mean the debt goes away; it means the IRS has determined you cannot afford to pay any of the debt at this time. Because at some point in the future the IRS could resurrect collection action, many taxpayers prefer to seek permanent relief. An Offer In Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount you owe. This may be a legitimate option if you cannot pay your full tax liability, or doing so creates a financial hardship. It would be in your best interest to meet with a tax attorney to determine whether you qualify as the IRS makes it very difficult for taxpayers to successfully get approval of an Offer In Compromise.

Penalties And Interest

The IRS charges penalties on your account when you do not pay your tax in full by the return due date (usually April 15), or if you’ve not made sufficient estimated tax payments (if required). Interest on the total amount you owe generally begins being charged daily from the return due date. If you do not pay in full (even if you have a pending or approved installment agreement) by the payment due date specified in any notice issued to you, additional interest and applicable penalties will continue to be added until you pay your balance in full. You may qualify for relief from penalties if you made an effort to comply with the requirements of the law, but were unable to meet your tax obligations, due to circumstances beyond your control. The IRS refers to this as having “reasonable cause”. It would be in your best interest to meet with a tax attorney to determine whether you qualify as the IRS makes it very difficult for taxpayers to successfully get abatement of penalties.

Your Appeal Rights

If the tax balance is in doubt, you dispute the amount of the tax, or cannot resolve a disagreement with the IRS, generally you are entitled to a hearing with the Office of Appeals. It is important that you take advantage of this option as your situation can then be evaluated by a Settlement Officer who is independent of IRS Collections. Knowing how to best present such cases in appeal, we have much success in reaching resolution with this Office. Since there is a short window to file an appeal (usually 30 days from the date of the Notice LT16), it would be in your best interest to meet with a tax attorney as soon as possible.

What Should You Do?

You should think of the IRS Notice LT16 as a heads-up that the IRS is getting ready to start collection enforcement and that during this period before that action starts you get proactive to come up with plan 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. And if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

affected by hurricane damage IRS Relief

Are You Effected By The June 2019 Texas Severe Storms And Flooding? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

Are You Effected By The June 2019 Texas Severe Storms And Flooding? IRS Is Providing You With Tax Relief And Extending Upcoming Tax Deadlines.

The IRS announced on July 18, 2019 that victims of the severe storms and flooding that took place on June 24 to 25, 2019 in Texas may qualify for tax relief. Individuals who reside or have a business in Cameron, Hidalgo and Willacy Counties have until April 30, 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. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after June 24, 2019 and before October 31, 2019, are granted additional time to file through October 31, 2019. This includes 2018 individual income tax returns that have a valid extension through October 15, 2019, and the employment and excise tax returns due on July 31, 2019. It also includes the quarterly estimated individual income tax payment due on September 16, 2019.

In addition, penalties on payroll and excise tax deposits due on or after June 24, 2019, and before July 9, 2019, will be abated as long as the deposits were made by July 9, 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.

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 Bitcoin 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.