Thursday, April 30, 2009

What You Need to Know About Choosing a Tax Preparer?

If you haven't filed you taxes or have prior year returns you still have not filed, you may want a professional to help you prepare your returns. Before you choose, you need to consider the following:
  • Beware of anyone promising a refund before they have even reviewed your financial information.
  • Be sure you carefully review the return once it is prepared. Your preparer must sign it too.
  • Never sign a blank return and never sign it in pencil.
  • Find out how long they have been doing tax returns.
  • Are they an Enrolled Agent or CPA?
If the person that you hire is an Enrolled Agent or CPA, they were required to pass an exam to demonstrate their knowledge of taxes. Most tax preparers have no requirements unless they are employed by a reputable company. Be sure yours is qualified.

Be aware the IRS hold you accountable for the accuracy of your return, even if you have someone else prepare it. Be sure you at least look over your return to be sure the Social Security Numbers are all correct and all income number were accurately reported. Also be sure you were not given any deductions you were not entitled too.

Unscrupulous prepares will give clients deductions they are not entitled to to get them bigger refunds and get a larger fee. It is not legal or ethical to do this. You are the one who will be penalized if you took deductions you should not have. You will pay not only additional tax, but accuracy penalties and failure to pay penalties.

Choose your preparer carefully, like you would any other professional. Check their credentials and ask others who they would recommend. A good tax preparer may save you money, a poor one will likely cost you money.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

How Can I Pay the IRS Less Than I Owe?

That questions would be number 1 on my top ten list of frequently asked questions. The short answer is that is possible in some cases. You may hear a lot about people being able to pay "pennies on the dollar". I am here to tell you that very rarely happens.

If you are elderly, living on a modest fixed income and have basically no assets. Then you may qualify. If you are young make a decent amount of money and have any real estate or other valuable assets, you probably don't qualify.

Here are several ways you may be able to pay the IRS less that the total you owe:
  • Offer In Compromise
  • Partial Pay Installment Agreement
  • Currently Not Collectible
  • Penalty Abatement
Each of the options only applies in very specific cases. As indicated above, the Offer is very hard to qualify for. A better and more likely option is one of the other choices. A Partial Pay Installment Agreement means after looking thoroughly into your financial situation the IRS determine the amount you are able to pay each month will not full pay your liability before the Statute to collect the taxes expires.

Currently Not-Collectible is possible if you current expenses(as allowed by the IRS) exceed your income. Even if you own your home, if your credit or you income is such that you cannot borrow against the equity to repay your your taxes, you may qualify for this option. The IRS will monitor you income every year or two looking for increases in income. If your ability to pay does not change, or even if it changes to allow some payment, the statute to collect may expire before you have paid all you owe.

The last option is for those who have a legitimate reason for not filing and or paying their taxes. They will not abate the tax itself nor the interest, but may abate the penalties if you can show that your lack of filing and or paying is not due to willful neglect, but is due to reasonable cause.

If you need assistance in implementing any of these options, you may need an Enrolled Agent to assist you.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What If I Forgot To File My Tax Return?

If you did not file you tax return by the April 15th deadline you need to file it as soon as possible. Although you will pay a Failure to File Penalty, if you file less than 60 days after the due date, you will pay 5% of the unpaid taxes per month or part of a month the return is not filed. If you file it more than 60 days after it was due, you will pay a minimum of $135 or 100% of the unpaid tax, whichever is smaller.

The Failure to File Penalty is more than the Failure to Pay Penalty. The Failure to Pay Penalty is 1/2 of 1% of the unpaid balance for each month the taxes are unpaid. So even if you cannot pay, you should file as soon as possible.

If both penalties apply, the Failure to File Penalty is reduced by the amount of the Failure to Pay Penalty.

If you have reasonable cause that you can substantiate is not due to willful neglect, then you may be able to get the Failure to File Penalty abated. You need to write a letter to the IRS explaining why you could not file by the deadline. I forgot or I didn't know they were due, are not acceptable reasons. A death in the family or a serious illness or other major life altering event, may be accepted.

For more information on Penalties see the IRS website. If you need assistance in filing your returns or have prior year returns that have not been filed, you may need to contact an Enrolled Agent or other tax professional.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

If You Are Working, You Are Getting Your 2009 Stimulus Payment

There have been a lot of questions about the 2009 stimulus payment. The good news is, if you are working, you are already getting it! Beginning April 1, all employer had to adjust the withholding tables down to the number based on the stimulus bill passed by Congress.

You should be seeing around $8 per pay check for singles and around $15 for couples. The great part is, unlike the 2008 Stimulus plan, your teenager(over 17) or college student if working, will get the benefit of this plan. For 08, if you were over 17, your parents did not get the extra $300 and if you were claimed on their return, you did not get it either.

For 2009, everyone who works gets the benefit. If you are on Social Security, you will be sent a check for $250.

To read an article on all the aspects of the Obama Stimulus Plan visit the MSN Website.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Things The IRS Will Not Tell You About Tax Penalties

If you owe back taxes, you have most certainly accrued penalties and interest. While the IRS never abates interest, unless they have made an error, they do on occasion abate penalties. When you call, they will not tell you this is even a possibility.

If you just owe for one year and you have filed your prior years on time and the penalties are not too high (they wont give you the ceiling), you can ask to have the penalties abated and they may do so.

Even if you owe for several years, if you can show reasonable cause, they may abate the penalties. Reasonable has to be something major like a death in the family, drug or alcohol addition, other other major life altering disaster.

The key is, you have to be able to show that this event affected your entire life, not just whether or not you filed and/or paid your taxes. If you lost your job, your family or had a tragedy that prevented you from doing every day tasks, you need to write a letter to the IRS with a description of what occurred and submit documents to substantiate this.

If you need assistance, contact an Enrolled Agent or other tax professional to help you write the letter.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Things the IRS May Not Tell You About Installment Agreements

If you have tax debt, how you resolve it with the IRS depends on how much you owe. When you call the IRS yourself, they may, or may not advise you as to your options in setting up an Installment Agreement. They will definitely ask you the following:
  • Can you full 30 or 60 days?
  • Can you borrow from friends or family
  • Can you pay off your balance with a credit card?
  • Can defer payment on other bills to pay your taxes?
What they may not tell you, is if you balance is under $10,000 you are guaranteed an Installment Agreement and do not have to provide financial information. They may require you to tell them you bank name and your employer, so they have levy sources should you not fulfill your agreement.

If you owe $25,000 or less, you will probably qualify for what the IRS calls a Streamline Installment Agreement. Again you are not required to provide you financial information for this payment plan either. You have up to 5 years to pay off your balance. The kicker comes if your balances are old and the statutes are close to expiring. This will cause your payment amount to increase so that all balances are paid before the statutes expire.

If you are unable to make the payment that they say it would take for a Streamline or you owe over 25,000, or are unable to make any payment at all, you will be required to provide a financial statement. You will have to list all your assets, income and expenses. If you have equity in your home they will require you to try to borrow against it. If you have a 401K or IRA they will most likely expect you to liquidate.

You do have the right to have someone represent you before the IRS, if you find the rules to confusing and need some help. An Enrolled Agent can help you and is much less expensive than hiring a tax attorney. An Enrolled Agent can contact the IRS on your behalf and negotiate your Installment Agreement.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

What Everybody Ought To Know About IRS Seizures

If you have tax debt, you may be concerned about which of you assets the IRS could potentially seize. The basic answer is most of them---up to the amount of your tax debt.

Can they seize your Social Security? Up to 15% of it they can. If you have State tax debt as well, they can take a lot more---depending on the state.

Can they seize your bank account and 401k/IRA? You bet they can. No matter what your 401K company may tell you, even if you cannot touch your retirement account, the IRS can.

Can they seize you home? Yes, but that is unlikely unless your liability is very large, you have been totally non-cooperative and do not have a family. If you have a family, the IRS rarely seizes the families home. They can require that you borrow against the equity in you home, but it is bad PR to throw a family out of its house, so it is rarely done.

How do your prevent these seizure from happening? Do not ignore the notices the IRS sends you! If you are unsure of how to negotiate with the IRS then you may need representation. You do not need a tax attorney, unless you are going to tax court. If you simply need representation before the IRS, you need an Enrolled Agent to represent you.

Having someone in your corner who has experience in dealing with the IRS and knows the rules and your taxpayer rights, can save you a lot of worry and find the best possible resolution for you tax situation. Follow the link above to find more details on what an Enrolled Agent does and if you have questions, there is a link on the site for either a live chat or the ability to leave a message and someone will contact you with an answer.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Little Known Options For Paying Your Taxes

Read below important info from the IRS on the different ways you can pay your taxes.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers to file their federal tax returns and pay any taxes they owe by the April 15 deadline.

Aware that the economic downturn has affected many people, the agency urged taxpayers in difficult financial situations to file a tax return, pay what they can and work with the IRS to establish a payment plan that will keep them compliant.

Filing and Paying on Time Saves Money

The IRS cautioned that there is a failure-to-file penalty for taxpayers who don’t file their tax returns by April 15 and who owe taxes. Filing by the deadline allows taxpayers to avoid this penalty, even if they can’t pay all or some of their taxes by the deadline. Taxpayers who can’t meet the filing deadline can request an extension of time to file. However, an extension of time to file is not an extension of time to pay.

Taxpayers who can’t pay the full amount would still benefit from filing their return and paying as much as they can by April 15. Interest and failure-to-pay penalties are due on any unpaid balance and increase the amount that the taxpayer owes.

Members of the military and some others serving in combat zones, or in support, can wait until after April 15 to file and pay. As a general rule, those eligible get the extra time penalty-free and interest-free without having to ask for it. Normally, the filing and payment deadline is postponed until 180 days after the service member leaves the combat zone.

Electronic Options

IRS offers various electronic payment options to taxpayers to make it as easy as possible to make a full or partial payment with their return.

Taxpayers can make payments online, by phone using a credit or debit card, or through the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. Taxpayers who e-file their return may use the electronic funds withdrawal option for submitting an electronic payment. They can e-file before April 15 but schedule their payment for withdrawal on April 15.

Information on these options, including any fees involved, may be found on this Web site, on the Electronic Payment Options Home Page.

Some taxpayers who itemize may now deduct the convenience fee charged for paying individual income taxes with a credit or debit card as a miscellaneous itemized deduction. The deduction is subject to the 2 percent limit on Form 1040, Schedule A.

Taxpayers may also pay any taxes owed by check made out to the “United States Treasury” using Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, which must be included along with the payment and tax return. Taxpayers who have already submitted their tax return, but still need to pay all or some of their taxes, may mail the check to the IRS with Form 1040-V.

Installment Agreements and Online Applications

Taxpayers who find they can’t make a full payment by the April 15 deadline may consider applying for an installment agreement.

An installment agreement allows taxpayers to pay any remaining balance in monthly installments. Taxpayers who owe $25,000 or less may apply for a payment plan electronically, using the Online Payment Agreement application. Or they may attach Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request, to the front of their tax return. Taxpayers must show the amount of their proposed monthly payment and the date they wish to make their payment each month. The IRS charges $105 for setting up the agreement or $52 if the payments are deducted directly from the taxpayer’s bank account ($43 for qualified lower-income taxpayers).

The IRS will automatically give taxpayers the low income installment agreement fee if they qualify. The taxpayer does not have to request it. Taxpayers are required to pay interest plus a late payment penalty on the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the tax is not paid. A taxpayer who does not file the return by the due date — including extensions — may have to pay a failure-to-file penalty.

For more information about filing and paying taxes, visit and choose 1040 Central or refer to the Form 1040 Instructions or IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax. Taxpayers can download forms and publications from or request a free copy by calling toll free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Related Items:

  • IR-2009-37, Credit and Debit Card Fees Related to Tax Payment Are Deductible
  • IR-2009-36, IRS Urges Taxpayers To e-file Extension Requests by April 15 Filing Deadline

Monday, April 6, 2009

Who Else Wants to Avoid Estimated Tax Penalties?

You probably know April 15 is the date your tax return is due, but did you also know it is the date your first 2009 Estimated Tax Payment (ETP) is due. If you are self employed, then you need to pay 4 equal estimated tax payments based on your taxes for 2008. Here are 3 ways to be sure you do not get hit with the ETP penalty.
  • Your total payments are less than $1000
  • If you have paid at least 90% of the taxes due or
  • 100% of your prior year taxes (whichever is smaller)
Although normally you need to make 4 equal payments, but if you make unequal payments because your earnings are unequal. you can annualize your income and file Form 2210 to see if you owe a penalty. This may avoid or reduce the penalties.

Pay your ETP by each of the following dates:
  • April 15
  • June 15
  • September 15
  • January 15 (of the following year)
Some people make the mistake of thinking they are due after the end of the quarter like payroll taxes, but that is not true, they are due as listed above. Be sure your payments are marked as an ETP and what year you are paying for. You can print coupons to mail in with your checks on

You may be able to get the penalties waived if your failure to pay was due to natural disater or other casualty or if you retired (after turning 62) or became disable during the year and your lack of paying was not due to wilful neglect.

If you have additional questions see IRS Publication 505 or contact a tax professional.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

What Everybody Ought to Know About Death and Taxes

If you are executor of the estate of someone who has died, you may wonder what happens to their unpaid tax debt. Many think the tax debt dies with the person. This is not true. If the decedent has assets, then the IRS will require that the estate pay out the surviving equity in the taxpayer’s assets as defined by local property laws.

The executor of the estate must apply to the IRS for a Employer ID Number and set up estate checking account in the decedent's name. Follow this link to apply for an EIN for the estate. Don't be confused by the name Employer Identification Number. This is the correct ID number.

You will have to deposit the proceeds from the sale of all assets the decedent owned into the checking account set up for the estate which is tied to the EIN you received. Should the sale of all assets from the decedent not be sufficient to cover the tax liability, the remainder of the liability is written off.

This is often a complicated matter and you may need the services of an attorney and a tax professional to assist you with handling the estate. If you have additional questions about your responsibilities for the estate you should review IRS Publication 559.