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Dec

29

2017 Tax Reform Act

By Bill

2017 Tax Reform Act

Congress passed and President Trump signed into law the 2017 Tax Reform Act. One of the huge items that has been reported on is the doubling of the standard deduction and child tax credit… What they aren’t telling us is that along with that they are doing away with the personal exception. (See item 3 below) So it turns out that for the individual the bill is a lot of smoke and mirrors because for a couple filing together they may make out better… for a couple with one child there may not be any difference and for a couple with two or more children, well it may be a screw job for you.

Here is the summary of the changes for individual filers as posted by the IRS. There may be smaller changes that we find out about later as this thing gets digested by the tax pros. One thing is for sure, the small number of people I deal with who itemize their deductions may find they don’t have to bother with that anymore.

FOR INDIVIDUAL FILERS

1. Lowers (many) individual rates: The bill preserves seven tax brackets, but changes the rates that apply to: 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.

Today’s rates are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35% and 39.6%.

Here’s how much income would apply to the new rates:
— 10% (income up to $9,525 for individuals; up to $19,050 for married couples filing jointly)
— 12% (over $9,525 to $38,700; over $19,050 to $77,400 for couples)
— 22% (over $38,700 to $82,500; over $77,400 to $165,000 for couples)
— 24% (over $82,500 to $157,500; over $165,000 to $315,000 for couples)
— 32% (over $157,500 to $200,000; over $315,000 to $400,000 for couples)
— 35% (over $200,000 to $500,000; over $400,000 to $600,000 for couples)
— 37% (over $500,000; over $600,000 for couples)

2. Nearly doubles the standard deduction: For single filers, the bill increases it to $12,000 from $6,350 currently; for married couples filing jointly it increases to $24,000 from $12,700.

The net effect: The percentage of filers who choose to itemize would drop sharply, since the only reason to do so is if your deductions exceed your standard deduction.

3. Eliminates personal exemptions: Today you’re allowed to claim a $4,050 personal exemption for yourself, your spouse and each of your dependents. Doing so lowers your taxable income and thus your tax burden. The GOP tax plan eliminates that option.

For families with three or more kids, that could mute if not negate any tax relief they might get as a result of other provisions in the bill.

Related: Read the Republican tax plan

4. Caps state and local tax deduction: The final bill will preserve the state and local tax deduction for anyone who itemizes, but it will cap the amount that may be deducted at $10,000. Today the deduction is unlimited for your state and local property taxes plus income or sales taxes.

The SALT break has been on the book for more than a century. The original House and Senate GOP bills sought to repeal it entirely to help pay for the tax cuts, but that met with stiff resistance from lawmakers in high-tax states.

Residents in the vast majority of counties across the country claim an average SALT deduction below $10,000, according to the Tax Foundation. So for low- and middle-income families who currently itemize because of their SALT deduction, they’re likely to take the much higher standard deduction under the bill if it becomes law, unless their total itemized deductions, including SALT, top $12,000 if single or $24,000 if married filing jointly.

Preserving the break — albeit with a cap — is likely to provide more help to higher income households in high-tax states.

5. Expands child tax credit: The credit would be doubled to $2,000 for children under 17. It also would be made available to high earners because the bill would raise the income threshold under which filers may claim the full credit to $200,000 for single parents, up from $75,000 today; and to $400,000 for married couples, up from $110,000 today.

Related: House passes GOP tax bill, goes to vote in Senate later Tuesday

Like the first $1,000 of the child tax credit, $400 of the additional $1,000 also will be refundable, meaning a low- or middle-income family will be able get the money refunded to them if their federal income tax liability nets out at zero.

Even with the additional $400 in refundability, however, 10 million children from working low-income families would receive only an additional $75 in benefit under the bill, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates.

6. Creates temporary credit for non-child dependents: The bill would allow parents to take a $500 credit for each non-child dependent whom they’re supporting, such as a child 17 or older, an ailing elderly parent or an adult child with a disability.

7. Lowers cap on mortgage interest deduction: If you take out a new mortgage on a first or second home you would only be allowed to deduct the interest on debt up to $750,000, down from $1 million today. Homeowners who already have a mortgage would be unaffected by the change.

The bill would no longer allow a deduction for the interest on home equity loans. Currently that’s allowed on loans up to $100,000.

8. Curbs who’s hit by AMT: Earlier bills called for the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax. The final version keeps it, but reduces the number of filers who would be hit by it by raising the income exemption levels to $70,300 for singles, up from $54,300 today; and to $109,400, up from $84,500, for married couples.

9. Preserves smaller but popular tax breaks: Earlier versions of the bill had proposed repealing the deductions for medical expenses, student loan interest and classroom supplies bought with a teacher’s own money. They also would have repealed the tax-free status of tuition waivers for graduate students.

The final bill, however, preserves all of these as they are under the current code. And it actually expands the medical expense deduction for 2018 and 2019.

10. Exempts almost everybody from the estate tax: Unlike the House GOP bill, the final bill does not call for a repeal of the estate tax.

But it essentially eliminates it for all but the smallest number of people by doubling the amount of money exempt from the estate tax — currently set at $5.49 million for individuals, and $10.98 million for married couples. Even at today’s levels, only 0.2% of all estates ever end up being subject to the estate tax.

11. Slows inflation adjustments in tax code: The bill would use “chained CPI” to measure inflation, which is a slower measure than is used today. The net effect is your deductions, credits and exemptions will be worth less — since the inflation adjusted dollars defining eligibility and maximum value would grow more slowly. It also would subject more of your income to higher rates in future years than would be the case under the current code.

12. Eliminates mandate to buy health insurance: There would no longer be a penalty for not buying insurance. While long a goal of Republicans to get rid of it, the measure also would help offset the cost of the tax bill. It is estimated to save money because it would reduce how much the federal government spends on insurance subsidies and Medicaid.

The Congressional Budget Office expects fewer consumers who qualify for subsidies will enroll on the Obamacare exchanges, and fewer people who are eligible for Medicaid will seek coverage and learn they can sign up for the program.

But policy experts also note that the mandate repeal could raise premiums because more healthy people might decide to skip buying insurance.

Aug

17

Summer Scams To Watch For

By Bill


Summer Scams to Watch For

IR-2017-112, June 26, 2017                                                                                       Español

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service today issued a warning that tax-related scams continue across the nation even though the tax filing season has ended for most taxpayers. People should remain on alert to new and emerging schemes involving the tax system that continue to claim victims.

“We continue to urge people to watch out for new and evolving schemes this summer,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Many of these are variations of a theme, involving fictitious tax bills and demands to pay by purchasing and transferring information involving a gift card or iTunes card. Taxpayers can avoid these and other tricky financial scams by taking a few minutes to review the tell-tale signs of these schemes.”

EFTPS Scam

A new scam which is linked to the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) has been reported nationwide. In this ruse, con artists call to demand immediate tax payment. The caller claims to be from the IRS and says that two certified letters mailed to the taxpayer were returned as undeliverable. The scammer then threatens arrest if a payment is not made immediately by a specific prepaid debit card. Victims are told that the debit card is linked to the EFTPS when, in reality, it is controlled entirely by the scammer. Victims are warned not to talk to their tax preparer, attorney or the local IRS office until after the payment is made.

“Robo-call” Messages

The IRS does not call and leave prerecorded, urgent messages asking for a call back. In this tactic, scammers tell victims that if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Those who do respond are told they must make immediate payment either by a specific prepaid debit card or by wire transfer.

Private Debt Collection Scams

The IRS recently began sending letters to a relatively small group of taxpayers whose overdue federal tax accounts are being assigned to one of four private-sector collection agencies. Taxpayers should be on the lookout for scammers posing as private collection firms. The IRS-authorized firms will only be calling about a tax debt the person has had – and has been aware of – for years. The IRS would have previously contacted taxpayers about their tax debt.

Scams Targeting People with Limited English Proficiency

Taxpayers with limited English proficiency have been recent targets of phone scams and email phishing schemes that continue to occur across the country. Con artists often approach victims in their native language, threaten them with deportation, police arrest and license revocation among other things. They tell their victims they owe the IRS money and must pay it promptly through a preloaded debit card, gift card or wire transfer. They may also leave “urgent” callback requests through phone “robo-calls” or via a phishing email.

Tell Tale Signs of a Scam:

The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. The IRS will usually first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page. Alternatively, call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:

How to Know It’s Really the IRS Calling or Knocking

The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances in which the IRS will call or come to a home or business, such as:

  • when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill,
  • to secure a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or,
  • to tour a business as part of an audit or during criminal investigations.

Even then, taxpayers will generally first receive several letters (called “notices”) from the IRS in the mail. For more information, visit “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door” on IRS.gov.

Jul

28

Good Time To Review Your Withholding

By Bill


Taxpayers Should Review Their Withholding; Avoid Having Too Much or Too Little Federal Income Tax Withheld

IR-2017-121, July 20, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today encouraged taxpayers to consider checking their tax withholding, keeping in mind several factors that could affect potential refunds or taxes they may owe in 2018.

Reviewing the amount of taxes withheld can help taxpayers avoid having too much or too little federal income tax taken from their paychecks. Having the correct amount taken out helps to move taxpayers closer to a zero balance at the end of the year when they file their tax return, which means no taxes owed or refund due.

During the year, changes sometimes occur in a taxpayer’s life, such as in their marital status, that impacts exemptions, adjustments or credits that they will claim on their tax return. When this happens, they need to give their employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, to change their withholding status or number of allowances.

Employers use the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from pay. Making these changes in the late summer or early fall can give taxpayers enough time to adjust their withholdings before the tax year ends in December.

The withholding review takes on even more importance now that federal law requires the IRS to hold refunds a few weeks for some early filers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit. In addition, the steps the IRS and state tax administrators are now taking to strengthen protections against identity theft and refund fraud mean some tax returns could face additional review time next year.

So far in 2017, the IRS has issued more than 106 million tax refunds out of the 142 million total individual tax returns processed, with the average refund well over $2,700. Historically, refund dollar amounts have increased over time.

 Making a Withholding Adjustment

In many cases, a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, is all that is needed to make an adjustment. Taxpayers submit it to their employer, and the employer uses the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to be withheld from their employee’s pay.

The IRS offers several online resources to help taxpayers bring taxes paid closer to what they owe. They are available anytime on IRS.gov. They include:

Self-employed taxpayers, including those involved in the sharing economy, can use the Form 1040-ES worksheet to correctly figure their estimated tax payments. If they also work for an employer, they can often forgo making these quarterly payments by instead having more tax taken out of their pay.

Apr

21

Is It Really the IRS At Your Door?

By Bill

IRS Provides Tips on Determining If It’s Really The IRS At Your Door

IR-2017-86, April 19, 2017

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service has created a special new page on IRS.gov to help taxpayers determine if a person visiting their home or place of business claiming to be from the IRS is legitimate or an imposter.

With continuing phone scams and in-person scams taking place across the country, the IRS reminds taxpayers that IRS employees do make official, sometimes unannounced, visits to taxpayers as part of their routine casework. Taxpayers should keep in mind the reasons these visits occur and understand how to verify if it is the IRS knocking at their door.

Visits typically fall into three categories:

IRS revenue officers will sometimes make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed or tax returns due. Revenue officers are IRS civil enforcement employees whose role involves education, investigation, and when necessary, appropriate enforcement.

IRS revenue agents will sometimes visit a taxpayer who is being audited. That taxpayer would have first been notified by mail about the audit and set an agreed-upon appointment time with the revenue agent. Also, after mailing an initial appointment letter to a taxpayer, an auditor may call to confirm and discuss items pertaining to the scheduled audit appointment.

IRS criminal investigators may visit a taxpayer’s home or place of business unannounced while conducting an investigation. However, these are federal law enforcement agents, and they will not demand any sort of payment. Criminal investigators also carry law enforcement credentials, including a badge.

For more information, visit “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door” on IRS.gov.

The IRS reminds people who owe taxes – or think they do – to stay alert to scams that use the IRS as a lure. Tax scams can happen any time of year, not just at tax time. For more information, visit “Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts” on IRS.gov.

Taxpayers have a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore these rights and the agency’s obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Mar

2

Debt Cancellation May be Taxable

By Bill

Debt Cancellation May be Taxable

If a lender cancels part or all of a debt, a taxpayer must generally consider this as income. However, the law allows an exclusion that may apply to homeowners who had their mortgage debt canceled in 2016.

Here are 10 tips about debt cancellation:

  1. Main Home. If the canceled debt was a loan on a taxpayer’s main home, they may be  able to exclude the canceled amount from their income. They must have used the loan to buy, build or substantially improve their main home to qualify. Their main home must also secure the mortgage.
  2. Loan Modification. If a taxpayer’s lender canceled or reduced part of their mortgage balance through a loan modification or ‘workout,’ the taxpayer may be able to exclude that amount from their income. They may also be able to exclude debt discharged as part of the Home Affordable Modification Program, or HAMP. The exclusion may also apply to the amount of debt canceled in a foreclosure.
  3. Refinanced Mortgage. The exclusion may apply to amounts canceled on a refinanced mortgage. This applies only if the taxpayer used proceeds from the refinancing to buy, build or substantially improve their main home and only up to the amount of the old mortgage principal just before refinancing. Amounts used for other purposes do not qualify.
  4. Other Canceled Debt. Other types of canceled debt such as second homes, rental and business property, credit card debt or car loans do not qualify for this special exclusion. On the other hand, there are other rules that may allow those types of canceled debts to be nontaxable.
  5. Form 1099-C. If a lender reduced or canceled at least $600 of a taxpayer’s debt, the taxpayer should receive Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, by Feb. 1. This form shows the amount of canceled debt and other information.
  6. Form 982. If a taxpayer qualifies, report the excluded debt on Form 982, Reduction of Tax Attributes Due to Discharge of Indebtedness. They should file the form with their income tax return.
  7. IRS.gov Tool. Taxpayers should use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool – Do I Have Cancellation of Debt Income on My Personal Residence? – on IRS.gov to find out if their canceled mortgage debt is taxable.
  8. Exclusion Extended. The law that authorized the exclusion of cancelled debt from income was extended through Dec. 31, 2016.
  9. More Information. For more on this topic see Publication 4681, Canceled Debts, Foreclosures, Repossessions and Abandonments.
  10. Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Sep

30

Beware of Fake IRS Tax Bill Notices

By Bill

Beware of Fake IRS Tax Bill Notices

The Internal Revenue Service and its Security Summit partners are warning taxpayers and tax professionals of fake IRS tax bills related to the Affordable Care Act.

The IRS has received numerous reports of scammers sending a fraudulent version of a notice- labeled CP2000 – for tax year 2015. The issue has been reported to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for investigation.

This scam may arrive by email, as an attachment, or by mail. It has many signs of being a fake:

  • The CP2000 notices appear to be issued from an Austin, Texas, address;
  • The letter says the issue is related to the Affordable Care Act  and requests information regarding 2014 coverage;
  • The payment voucher lists the letter number as 105C;
  • Requests checks made out to I.R.S. and sent to the “Austin Processing Center” at a post office box.

IRS impersonation scams take many forms: threatening phone calls, phishing emails and demanding letters. Learn more at Reporting Phishing and Online Scams. The IRS does not initiate unsolicited email contact or contact by social media.

An authentic CP2000 notice is used when income reported from third-party sources such as an employer does not match the income reported on the tax return. Unlike the fake, it provides extensive instructions to taxpayers about what to do if they agree or disagree that additional tax is owed. A real notice requests that checks be made out to “United States Treasury.”

The IRS and its Security Summit partners – the state tax agencies and the private-sector tax industry – are conducting a campaign to raise awareness among taxpayer and tax professionals about increasing their security and becoming familiar with various tax-related scams. Learn more at Taxes. Security. Together. or Protect Your Clients; Protect Yourself.

Jul

20

How a Summer Wedding Can Affect Your Taxes

By Bill

How a Summer Wedding Can Affect Your Taxes

With all the planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, taxes may not be high on your summer wedding checklist. However, you should be aware of the tax issues that come along with marriage. Here are some basic tips to help with your planning:

• Name change. The names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration records. If you change your name, report it to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on SSA.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or from your local SSA office.

• Change tax withholding. A change in your marital status means you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. If you and your spouse both work, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket or you may be affected by the Additional Medicare Tax. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.

• Changes in circumstances. If you or your spouse purchased a Health Insurance Marketplace plan and receive advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2016, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace when they happen. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance credit payments are paid directly to your insurance company on your behalf to lower the out-of-pocket cost you pay for your health insurance premiums. Reporting changes now will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance, which may affect your refund or balance due when you file your tax return.

• Address change. Let the IRS know if your address changes. To do that, send the IRS Form 8822, Change of Address. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can ask them online at USPS.com to forward your mail. You may also report the change at your local post office. You should also notify your Health Insurance  Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current  health care plan.

• Tax filing status. If you’re married as of Dec. 31, that’s your marital status for the whole year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately each year. You may want to figure the tax both ways to find out which status results in the lowest tax.

• Select the right tax form. Choosing the right income tax form can help save money. Newly married taxpayers may find that they now have enough deductions to itemize on their tax returns. You must claim itemized deductions on a Form 1040, not a Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ.

Aug

28

Five Easy Ways to Spot IRS Scam Calls

By Bill

IRS Identifies Five Easy Ways to Spot   Suspicious Calls

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service issued a consumer alert today providing taxpayers with additional tips to protect themselves from telephone scam artists calling and pretending to be with the IRS.

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. They may know a lot about you, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. They use fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. If you don’t answer, they often leave an “urgent” callback request.

“These telephone scams are being seen in every part of the country, and we urge people not to be deceived by these threatening phone calls,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “We have formal processes in place for people with tax issues. The IRS respects taxpayer rights, and these angry, shake-down calls are not how we do business.”

The IRS reminds people that they can know pretty easily when a supposed IRS caller is a 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.

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 owe taxes or think you might owe, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS workers can help you with a payment issue.
  • 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 (TIGTA) at 1.800.366.4484 or at www.tigta.gov.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Remember, too, the IRS does not use email, text messages or any social media to discuss your personal tax issue. For more information on reporting tax scams, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

Additional information about tax scams are available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube http://youtu.be/UHlxTX4rTRU?list=PL2A3E7A9BD8A8D41D. and Tumblr http://internalrevenueservice.tumblr.com where people can search “scam” to find all the scam-related posts.

Aug

15

Atlas Shrugged III, The Movie

By Bill

Atlas Shrugged III, the movie is slated for release on Sept 12, 2014.

If you want to see it at your local theatre you need to get involved…

Click on the link to the official movie web site, www.atlasshruggedmovie.com and click the link to ‘Get Involved.’

atlasShruggedIIIBanner

 

May

21

Notable Quotes About Taxation

By Bill

Notable Quotes About Taxation

“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” — Albert Einstein

“Like mothers, taxes are often misunderstood, but seldom forgotten.” — Lord Bramwell, 19th Century English jurist

“Taxation with representation ain’t so hot either.” — Gerald Barzan, humorist

“Income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf.” — Will Rogers, humorist

Taxation should not be a joke. Its time to get on board with the Fair Tax Plan… Please take time to learn and understand what passage of this tax reform plan will do for the American economy and every single individual living in this country.