While April 15, 2019 is nearly six months away, the complexities of the latest tax reform, combined with taxpayers' natural tendency to procrastinate, now is the time to begin preparing for the big day.
Not only will there be a challenge to keep track of federal tax compliance, but the states are all responding differently to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Throw in a bucketful of uncertainty and a dash of misinformation, and Tax Day is shaping up to create a plethora of confusion and surprises for tax preparers and payers alike.
So how can you prepare for April 15th? Every 2017 tax return we prepared included a Tax Projection Worksheet, outlining exactly how your tax return for 2017 would have differed under the new 2018 rules. If you haven't already reviewed that, we encourage you to do that now. Let us know if you would like to review the projection with someone here on staff. We can advise you on how to prepare for any possible significant changes between now and the filing deadline.
We encourage all of our clients to do a withholding check-up; it's not too late to change withholding for the remainder of the year if needed. Simply ask your employer to let you complete a new W-4. Need help with the online check-up? Let us know!
If you're making estimated tax payments, be sure that you're on schedule with those. Think your situation changed during the year? Let one of us review your year-to-date records and help you determine if an adjustment needs to be made for your final payment in January.
It's never too early to begin gathering important documents and creating files for income documents, tax payments, rental property income/expenses, education expenses, medical and dental receipts, charitable contribution receipts, etc. And remember, OUR deadline is April 15th ..... that means YOUR deadline is really April 1st. We welcome early birds!
With the April filing season behind us, criminals are busier than ever trying to take advantage of taxpayers. From stealing an identify to claim a refund to posing as an IRS agent trying to collect taxes, there seems to be an endless array of ways for thieves to take advantage of the complex tax system.
The best way for individuals to protect themselves is to remember these few facts: The IRS does NOT
…initiate contact with a taxpayer by email, text message, or social media channels.
…demand payment without the opportunity to question or appeal the amount you owe.
…demand payment using a specific payment method and will never ask for a credit card number over the phone.
…threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers, or other law enforcement.
The IRS initiates most contact through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. Keeping these points in mind, you can protect yourself from many of the scams circulating today.
The IRS has taken measures to combat tax-related theft by creating The Security Summit - a partnership between the IRS, state tax agencies, and the tax industry. This agency works primarily to fight identity theft through authentication procedures, heightened cybersecurity, encrypted information sharing, and educating the public. You can find some simple ways to protect yourself against identity theft by visiting their site.
Here at Eden Scott & Associates, P.C., we work hard to protect your data. We review our security protocols regularly, upgrade our systems frequently, use professional-grade programs with enhanced security features, and keep every physical record under lock and key.
Our clients are valued partners in protecting information, and information is a powerful tool for taxpayers to protect themselves. Here are some of the many scams you should be aware of in today’s digital climate:
IRS agents calling to “verify” tax return information – criminals use telephone numbers that mimic IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers to trick taxpayers into paying non-existent tax bills.
“Erroneous” refund calls – after stealing client data, criminals use the taxpayers’ bank account to make a deposit and then call to instruct how to return the funds.
IRS “refunds” email - used by cybercriminals to trick people into opening a link or attachment that takes people to a fake page where thieves try to steal personal information.
Natural disaster schemes - criminals and scammers often try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers who want to help victims of major disasters. Bogus websites, social media links, calls and emails are the most common avenues.
“Ghost” tax return preparers – a tax preparer that prints the paper return and has the taxpayer sign it and mail it in, or electronically files the return without a signature. By law, tax preparers are required to have a valid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) and include that number (along with their signature) on every tax return they prepare. Here at Eden Scott & Associates, P.C., everyone who prepares returns has a PTIN and every.single.return is signed prior to filing. How can we help you this next tax season?
The IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry are warning small businesses to be on-guard against a growing wave of identity theft attempts against employers.
Small business identity theft is big business for identity thieves. When businesses and their employees have their identities stolen, their sensitive information can be used to open credit card accounts or file fraudulent tax returns for bogus refunds.
The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the private-sector tax community -- partners in the Security Summit -- are marking “Small Business Week” with a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals. The week concludes with warnings about small business identity theft.
In the past two years, the Internal Revenue Service has noted a sharp increase in the number of fraudulent filings of Forms 1120, 1120S and 1041 as well as Schedule K-1. The fraudulent filings apply to partnerships as well as estate and trust forms.
Identity thieves are displaying a sophisticated knowledge of the tax code and tax industry filing practices as they attempt to obtain valuable data to help file fraudulent returns. To help counter this, Security Summit partners have expanded efforts to better protect business filers and identify suspected identity theft returns.
Identity thieves have long made use of stolen Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) to create fake Forms W-2 that they would file with fraudulent individual tax returns. Fraudsters also used EINs to open new lines of credit or obtain credit cards. Now they are using company names and EINs to file fraudulent returns.
As with fraudulent individual returns, there are certain signs that may indicate identity theft. Business, partnerships and estate and trust filers should be alert to potential identity theft and contact the IRS if they experience any of these issues:
◄Extension to file requests are rejected because a return with the Employer Identification Number or Social Security number is already on file;
◄An e-filed return is rejected because a duplicate EIN/SSN is already on file with the IRS;
◄Received 5263C or 6042C Letters;
◄An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or IRS notice that doesn’t correspond to anything submitted by the filer;
◄Failure to receive expected and routine correspondence from the IRS because the thief has changed the address.
Steps to protect businesses
The IRS, state tax agencies and software providers also share certain data points from tax returns, including business returns, that help identify a suspicious filing. The IRS and states ask that business and tax practitioners provide additional information that will help verify the legitimacy of the tax return.
Respond to the “know your customer” questions when prompted by software:
◄Who signed the return – including name and SSN
◄Tax payment history of the company
◄Parent company information
◄Additional information based on deductions claimed
◄Tax filing history of the company
Sole proprietorships that file Schedule C and partnerships filing Schedule K-1 with Form 1040 also will be asked to provide additional information items, such as a driver’s license number. Providing this information will help the IRS and states identify suspicious business-related tax returns.
For small businesses looking to enhance their security, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) produced Small Business Information Security: The Fundamentals. NIST is the branch of the U.S. Commerce Department that sets information security frameworks followed by federal agencies.
The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) has Resources for Small and Midsize Businesses. Many secretaries of state also provide resources on business-related identity theft as well.
The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry continue to work together to fight against tax-related identity theft and to protect business and individual taxpayers. Everyone can help. Take steps recommended by cyber experts and visit the Identity Protection: Prevention, Detection and Victim Assistance for information about business-related identity theft.
This article was written by Isaac M. O'Bnnon, Managing Editor of CPAAdvisor.com