Ten Things For Taxpayers For Taxpayers To Think About When Choosing A Tax Preparer

It’s the time of the year when many taxpayers choose a tax preparer to help file a tax return. These taxpayers should choose their tax return preparer wisely.  This is because taxpayers are responsible for all the information on their income tax return. That’s true no matter who prepares the return.

Here are ten tips for taxpayers to remember when selecting a preparer:

  • Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. People can use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool helps taxpayers find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications. The directory is a searchable and sortable listing of preparers.
  • Check the Preparer’s History. Taxpayers can ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, people can check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, they can check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, taxpayers can go to the verify enrolled agent status page on IRS.gov or check the directory.
  • Ask about Service Fees. People should avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition. When asking about a preparer’s services and fees, don’t give them tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information.
  • Ask to e-file. Taxpayers should make sure their preparer offers IRS e-file. The quickest way for taxpayers to get their refund is to electronically file their federal tax return and use direct deposit.
  • Make Sure the Preparer is Available. Taxpayers may want to contact their preparer after this year’s April 15 due date. People should avoid fly-by-night preparers.
  • Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure things like the total income, tax deductions and credits.
  • Never Sign a Blank Return. Taxpayers should not use a tax preparer who asks them to sign a blank tax form.
  • Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, the taxpayer should review it. They should ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should feel comfortable with the accuracy of their return before they sign it. They should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them – not to the preparer’s bank account. The taxpayer should review the routing and bank account number on the completed return. The preparer should give you a copy of the completed tax return.
  • Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.
  • Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients. However, some preparers are dishonest. People can report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a taxpayer suspects a tax preparer filed or changed their return without the taxpayer’s consent, they should file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit.

IRS Continues Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) Program in Florida

The IRS is again offering the Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) to all taxpayers who filed their federal tax returns last year as residents of Florida, Georgia or the District of Columbia. These residents don’t need to be identity theft victims to participate. This ongoing pilot program helps the IRS evaluate taxpayer demand for the IP PIN and assess their ability to issue the PIN to a larger number of taxpayers. The three locations covered by the pilot have the highest per-capita percentage of tax-related identity theft.

The IP PIN is a 6-digit number the IRS uses to confirm your identity when they receive a return with your name and Social Security number on it. This helps prevent identity thieves from obtaining a fraudulent refund using your SSN and avoid delays issuing any refund you may be due.

If you’re eligible and choose to get an IP PIN, visit Get An IP PIN. After you get an IP PIN,

  • you must use it on all future federal income tax forms 1040, 1040A, 1040EZ and 1040 PR/SS
  • the IRS will mail you a new IP PIN each year in late December or early January.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes nationwide, and preventing tax refund fraud caused by identity theft is one of the IRS’s biggest challenges. The IRS is focused on preventing, detecting and resolving tax-related identity theft cases as soon as possible.

If you have any questions on this or other tax related matters, call us at 813-514-2920.

We Have Two Extra Days To File Your 2017 Income Tax Return

The filing deadline to submit 2017 tax returns is Tuesday, April 17, 2018, rather than the traditional April 15 date. In 2018, April 15 falls on a Sunday, and this would usually move the filing deadline to the following Monday – April 16. However, Emancipation Day – a legal holiday in the District of Columbia – will be observed on that Monday, which pushes the nation’s filing deadline to Tuesday, April 17, 2017. Under the tax law, legal holidays in the District of Columbia affect the filing deadline across the nation.

The IRS also has been working with the tax industry and state revenue departments as part of the Security Summit initiative to continue strengthening processing systems to protect taxpayers from identity theft and refund fraud. The IRS and Summit partners continued to improve these safeguards to further protect taxpayers filing in 2018.

If you have questions on this or any other tax matter, call us at 813-514-2920.

IRS Will Begin Accepting Tax Returns on January 29th

The Internal Revenue Service announced Thursday that the nation’s tax season will begin Monday, Jan. 29, 2018 and reminded taxpayers claiming certain tax credits that refunds won’t be available before late February.

The IRS will begin accepting tax returns on Jan. 29, with nearly 155 million individual tax returns expected to be filed in 2018. The nation’s tax deadline will be April 17 this year – so taxpayers will have two additional days to file beyond April 15.

Although the IRS will begin accepting both electronic and paper tax returns Jan. 29, paper returns will begin processing later in mid-February as system updates continue. The IRS strongly encourages people to file their tax returns electronically for faster refunds.

The IRS set the Jan. 29 opening date to ensure the security and readiness of key tax processing systems in advance of the opening and to assess the potential impact of tax legislation on 2017 tax returns.

The IRS reminds taxpayers that, by law, the IRS cannot issue refunds claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. While the IRS will process those returns when received, it cannot issue related refunds before mid-February. The IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting on Feb. 27, 2018, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return. The IRS also reminds taxpayers that they should keep copies of their prior-year tax returns for at least three years.

If you have questions on this or any other tax matter, call us at 813-514-2920.

Beware of Fake Charity Scams Relating to Hurricane Harvey

The Internal Revenue Service today issued a warning about possible fake charity scams emerging due to Hurricane Harvey and encouraged taxpayers to seek out recognized charitable groups for their donations.

While there has been an enormous wave of support across the country for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, people should be aware of criminals who look to take advantage of this generosity by impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-meaning taxpayers. Such fraudulent schemes may involve contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person solicitations.

Criminals often send emails that steer recipients to bogus websites that appear to be affiliated with legitimate charitable causes. These sites frequently mimic the sites of, or use names similar to, legitimate charities, or claim to be affiliated with legitimate charities in order to persuade people to send money or provide personal financial information that can be used to steal identities or financial resources.

IRS.gov has the tools people need to quickly and easily check the status of charitable organizations.

The IRS cautions people wishing to make disaster-related charitable donations to avoid scam artists by following these tips:

• Be sure to donate to recognized charities.
• Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. The IRS website at IRS.gov has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, through which people may find qualified charities; donations to these charities may be tax-deductible.
• Don’t give out personal financial information — such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords — to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal a donor’s identity and money.
• Never give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the donation.
• Consult IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions, available on IRS.gov. This free booklet describes the tax rules that apply to making legitimate tax-deductible donations. Among other things, it also provides complete details on what records to keep.

Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.”

More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.” Details on available relief can be found on the disaster relief page on IRS.gov.

If you have any questions about this contact us at 813-514-2920.

IRS Fresh Start Program Helps Taxpayers Who Owe the IRS

The IRS Fresh Start program makes it easier for taxpayers to pay back taxes and avoid tax liens. Even small business taxpayers may benefit from Fresh Start. Here are three important features of the Fresh Start program:

  • Tax Liens.  The Fresh Start program increased the amount that taxpayers can owe before the IRS generally will file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien. That amount is now $10,000. However, in some cases, the IRS may still file a lien notice on amounts less than $10,000.When a taxpayer meets certain requirements and pays off their tax debt, the IRS may now withdraw a filed Notice of Federal Tax Lien. Taxpayers must request this in writing using Form 12277, Application for Withdrawal.

    Some taxpayers may qualify to have their lien notice withdrawn if they are paying their tax debt through a Direct Debit installment agreement. Taxpayers also need to request this in writing by using Form 12277.

    If a taxpayer defaults on the Direct Debit Installment Agreement, the IRS may file a new Notice of Federal Tax Lien and resume collection actions.

  • Installment Agreements.  The Fresh Start program expanded access to streamlined installment agreements. Now, individual taxpayers who owe up to $50,000 can pay through monthly direct debit payments for up to 72 months (six years). While the IRS generally will not need a financial statement, they may need some financial information from the taxpayer. The easiest way to apply for a payment plan is to use the Online Payment Agreement tool at IRS.gov. If you don’t have Web access you may file Form 9465, Installment Agreement, to apply.Taxpayers in need of installment agreements for tax debts more than $50,000 or longer than six years still need to provide the IRS with a financial statement. In these cases, the IRS may ask for one of two forms: either Collection Information Statement, Form 433-A or Form 433-F.
  • Offers in Compromise.  An Offer in Compromise is an agreement that allows taxpayers to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount. Fresh Start expanded and streamlined the OIC program. The IRS now has more flexibility when analyzing a taxpayer’s ability to pay. This makes the offer program available to a larger group of taxpayers.Generally, the IRS will accept an offer if it represents the most the agency can expect to collect within a reasonable period of time. The IRS will not accept an offer if it believes that the taxpayer can pay the amount owed in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at several factors, including the taxpayer’s income and assets, to make a decision regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay. Use the Offer in Compromise Pre-Qualifier tool on IRS.gov to see if you may be eligible for an OIC.

Call us today at 813-514-2920 for a free consultation.