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Under the newly enacted legislation, the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act,  a provision was included that allows the IRS to outsource the collection of tax debts under some circumstances to private debt collection firms. Anyone who has dealt with a private debt collection firm can understand why I think this is a bad idea, manly because such firms sole goal is to collect money, and other circumstances (loss of job, age, sickness, etc.) could be at play and discretion is required. Even the IRS’s own taxpayer advocate was against the idea of using private collection companies. You can read her letter here.

The use of private collection companies will follow a procedure of where they will typically contact the taxpayer by mail and try to establish a payment plan. From my experience, most people being pressured with a collection company will agree to a much higher monthly payment than what they can afford. These plans will then default due to missed payments and then its back to the collection firm to handle once again. Hopefully, the IRS limits the use of this collection tactic so as to not harm the public from over zealous tax collectors, and collects a fair amount through thoughtful collection means.

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Starting January 1, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service will be given the power under new legislation to deny, rescind, or limit a passport of anyone who owes the IRS more than $50,000. This threshold amount includes both taxes, interest and penalties. From a practical perspective, this threshold dollar amount is not  difficult to amass for the average self-employed taxpayer who can have tax rates close to 50% once social security taxes are factored in, or individuals with significant income. From my perspective, if the law was limited to criminal matters, it would make more sense.

The good news, is that the IRS will not rescind or hinder the ability of an individual to have a passport where 1) that individual has entered into an installment agreement with the IRS to pay the back taxes, 2) for humanitarian reasons, or 3) if the taxpayer is contesting the tax liability in Court or an administrative proceeding.  This new legislation will be under section 7345 of the tax code, called “Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Tax Delinquencies.”

While different from New York States revocation of a taxpayers drivers license if they owe NYS taxes, it is very troubling nonetheless in that it restricts the ability to travel (or in NY’s case simply drive) which can directly impact a persons ability to generate income to pay for their tax obligation. I doubt this legislation will cause delinquent tax collections to rise dramatically, and may have the unfortunate impact of hurting taxpayers who are already hurting economically.

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As residents throughout New York State prepare to gather with family and friends next week for the Thanksgiving holiday, Jan. 1 and 2016 are just around the corner. Also not far off, or far enough for most people’s liking, is the dreaded April 15 tax filing deadline. For small business owners, there are important steps that should be taken today regarding end-of-the-year tax planning that can make the upcoming tax season much less stressful.

For any business owner, having an organized and partially automated process for keeping track of financial records is a must. Today’s marketplace is flooded with accounting and tax-preparation online software programs that make it much easier to organize and keep track of a business-related expenses, income and deductions. For a small business owner, not only is it important to use one of these programs, but it’s also wise to input related financial data on a regular and consistent basis.

In addition to ensuring that one’s financial records are organized and up-to-date, business owners are also advised to, based on a business’ financial situation, plan and save for expected tax liabilities. Doing so will ensure that a business is able to meet its tax obligations and can prevent a business from incurring fines and penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Service.

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We are all human and therefore prone to making the occasional mistake or two. This includes financial errors concerning one’s personal or business expenditures as well as tax-related faux pas. This is something that even the Internal Revenue Service acknowledges and seems to understand. However, depending on the type of mistake, the agency’s response may not seem very forgiving.

The IRS lists the following tax-related mistakes as being among the most commonly made by taxpayers.

  • Failing to provide or making errors when entering Social Security numbers

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When it comes to taxes, most Americans are looking for any and every way possible to avoid handing over their hard-earned dollars to Uncle Sam. While failing to file or pay one’s taxes is not an advisable means of accomplishing this goal; there are legitimate ways that one can deduct both personal and, if applicable, business expenses to reduce tax liabilities.

When it comes to personal tax deductions, there are certain deductions that anyone who qualifies can take advantage of. These include school supply expenses for teachers, alimony payments and interest on student loans. Additionally, self-employed individuals who contribute to their own retirement plan and pay their own health insurance can deduct these expenses.

In some cases, it makes financial sense for an individual to use a Schedule A tax form and itemize deductions. Such deductions may relate to medical expenses, gifts and donations as well as taxes paid on real estate, personal property and mortgage interest. When it comes to both standard and itemized personal deductions, it’s important to understand and abide by the Internal Revenue Service’s restrictions and rules.

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While there’s no way for an individual to completely avoid paying taxes, there are ways to cut and reduce the amount of taxes an individual owes. By being proactive and engaging in tax planning, an individual can often reduce his or her tax liabilities substantially. It’s important to note, however, that there are creative strategies that can be employed to reduce the amount of taxes one pays and then there are those that are questionable or outright illegal.

Simply failing to file and/or pay one’s taxes is never a good idea. Not only is an individual likely to accrue costly fees and penalties, but he or she may also face criminal charges related to tax evasion. Additionally, it’s never a good idea to file or submit tax-related documents that contain false or doctored figures. Again, an individual who under- reports the amount of income or overestimates deductions will incur costly fines and penalties and may face charges of tax fraud.

In cases where an individual learns that he or she is being investigated or audited by the Internal Revenue Service, it’s wise to contact an attorney. It’s especially important to retain a strong legal advocate and representative if an individual is concerned that an IRS audit or investigation may result in the discovery of questionable or illegal tax-avoidance activities.

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Each year, countless Americans are duped by so-called tax preparers who commit identity theft or fraud, or at the very least, file incomplete or inaccurate returns. Possibly contributing to this problem is the fact that the IRS lost the ability to regulate the licensing of tax preparers who are not attorneys or CPAs last year following a Supreme Court ruling.

However, a new bipartisan bill that has been proposed in Congress would give the Department of the Treasury and the IRS the authority to regulate tax preparers once more. As a recent Forbes article reported, the bill would allow the two agencies to oversee “all aspects of Federal tax practice, including paid tax return preparers.”

Ultimately, this would mean people who prepare taxes for profit will once again have to pass exams, fulfill continuing legal education requirements and maintain a valid preparer tax identification number in order to be licensed to prepare taxes.

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In two recent blog posts, we discussed issues that may affect and lengthen the statute of limitations for IRS Audits as well as options for taxpayers who fail to comply with FATCA reporting requirements. Recent actions by members of the U.S. Congress resulted in some important changes with regard to both of these IRS matters.

Oddly enough, these important tax changes were rolled into a completely non-tax related bill, the Surface Transportation and Veterans Health Care Choice Improvement Act of 2015, making it likely that many taxpayers will miss them. Below are some of the important deadline and other changes that affect individual taxpayers, business owners and foreign-account holders.

Previously, an individual who was audited could expect to produce related financial records for the last three years and, under certain circumstances six or more years. However, with these most-recent tax changes, the standard IRS audit period increased from three to six years.

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For many who reside in the state of New York, one of their biggest fears is to be audited by the Internal Revenue Service. People who are concerned about this occurring probably believe that three years after a return is filed, they are in the clear. While it is true the statute of limitations for tax returns is generally three years, under certain circumstances it is possible that period could extend to six years. In some cases it could go even longer.

The audit period could extend from three to six years in situations where in completing the tax return, the tax player substantially understated his or her income. But just what does that mean? This situation arises when the taxpayer fails to account for more than a quarter of his or her income. The statute of limitations will start to run on either the date the filing is due or the date in which it is filed—whichever is later.

The IRS could also extend the audit period to six years in situations where the taxpayer has omitted more than $5,000 in foreign income. This might arise in situations where the taxpayer has accrued this income as a result of interest on an account that is overseas.

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Denial, avoidance and procrastination are all activities in which an individual may engage when faced with something that he or she would rather not deal with or do. However, such coping tactics are almost always sure to backfire and make an unpleasant or difficult situation even worse. This is especially true in cases where an individual receives communication from the Internal Revenue Service.

Anyone who opens their mailbox and sees a letter from the IRS is likely to panic. Whether an individual chooses to throw the sealed envelope away or simply disregard its message, ignoring the IRS can end up costing an individual hundreds to thousands of dollars in fines and, in some cases, a whole lot more.

Annually, the IRS claims to send “millions of notices and letters to taxpayers for a variety of reasons,” some of which may be minor or even positive in nature. Even in cases where an individual knows that he or she failed to file or pay taxes or expects bad news, it’s important toopen an IRS letter or notice as soon as possible and to contact the agency with any questions. This is especially true in cases where an individual believes that the IRS erred and an individual plans to dispute the issue in question.

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