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Tax Appointment

Tax Practitioner’s often receive questions about what to bring to a tax appointment.  We like when taxpayers bring their tax documents in early in the season.  Attached is an organizer to give you some ideas of what you will need:  Individual Organizer

Tax Pros love to see last years filed tax returns.  There are several elements on that prior return that are important one of which is that income sources tend to be consistent from year to year.  Secondly, the prior year tax figure is used to calculate whether an underpayment penalty applies.  Prior year state and local returns with an amount due and paid might be a tax deduction.  Whereas a state or local refund might be income in the year received.  Lastly, good practitioner’s give that prior year return a good once over to see if there were any missed deductions or credit.  We are required to inform you of a mistake and recommend amending the return both for the taxpayers benefit and the tax authority.

Common items to have ready are:

  • Wage and tax statement, Form W2
  • Retirement or IRA Distribution, Form 1099-R
  • Miscellaneous Income Statement, Form 1099-Misc
  • Social Security Benefit Statement, Form SSA-1099

Other income items to be aware are:

  • Interest Income, Form 1099-INT
    • A taxpayer will receive a 1099-INT for the cash they received for opening a new bank account
    • Or the FMV for goods, for example a free toaster
  • Dividend Distributions, Form 1099-Div
  • Proceeds From Broker, Form 1099-B
    • These statements tend to come out later than other tax documents. Many times brokerage houses will make corrections to their original 1099-B and 1099-DIV statements.  If your brokerage house regularly makes corrections to their original tax documents it might be better to wait longer to file or file an extension to avoid filing amended returns.
  • Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, and Credits, Schedule K-1

Bring ID:

  • Valid State ID
    • Required this year to E-File individual tax returns. Helps protect tax payer identity.
  • Children Birth Certificates
  • Social Security Cards
  • Proof of Credible Health Insurance Coverage for everyone on the tax return
    • IRS Form 1095-A, 1095-B, or 1095-C
    • Medical Cards
    • Cost of employer sponsored health program, DD code box 12 of W2

Finally we want to know about you the taxpayer.  We want to know what your occupation is, where you going, and when you anticipate your next career change or promotion.  We need to know about household changes of marriage, children, additions or subtractions to the family, or divorce.   We want to know where you came from, where you are at, and where you plan to go.

Pertinent Information:

  • Retirement
  • School
  • Veteran
  • Member of the Safety Forces

This written advice is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer for following the advice.  Other factors may need consideration that would change the opinion presented.  

Use of Last Pay Stub Prohibited

Authorized IRS e-file Providers are prohibited from submitting electronic returns to the IRS prior to the receipt of all Forms W-2, W-2G, and 1099-R from the taxpayer.  The IRS has good reasons to prohibit the use of a taxpayers last pay stub in lieu of the actual W2.

Taxpayers are reasonable to expect that their last pay stub will reflect their income reported on their W2.  Problems come about with the differences between the amount the taxpayer made and the amount of wages actually subject to tax.  The difference between the amount made and taxable wages are pre-tax employee benefits.  A few typical pre-tax employee benefits are health insurance, employer sponsored retirement plans like 401(k) and 403(b), HSA contributions, dependent care benefits, and employer paid parking.  Pay stubs may be incomplete or not accurately describe these deductions are pre-tax causing either an overstatement or understatement of income.    Miss reporting income even by a few hundred dollars can have a significant impact on the amount of tax or refund amount on a taxpayers return.

Another reason not to use the last pay stub to file a tax return is because the W2 contains unique identification information on it.  The identification information is only found on the W2 and not on a paystub.  This unique information lets the IRS know the correct taxpayer has a legitimate W2 which allows for the E-Filing of the return.

Taxpayers anxious to file early but do not quite have all their W2’s need not worry because the IRS filing season begins on Monday, January 29, 2018.  We encourage taxpayers to consider filing as soon as possible after they receive all of their tax papers prior to January 29.

Tax returns will be transmitted on the day the tax return is completed.  Taxpayers who complete their returns prior to January 29, 2018 E-Filing opening date will be put in a que as the IRS opens for the season.  Taxpayers claiming refundable credits such as the Earned Income Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit should not expect their refund from the IRS until the middle of February.   The reason for the refund delay is because of the PATH Act of 2015 which helps protect taxpayer identities and curb fraudulent refund claims.

This written advice is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer for following the advice.  Other factors may need consideration that would change the opinion presented.  

Top 3 Things To Do Now Before 2018

 

With the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, there are a few things individual taxpayers should consider doing now before the end of 2017.  The tax reform which goes into effect on January 1, 2018, will make the following individual tax deductions more difficult to realize on a 2018 tax return.

1.  Fewer taxpayers will itemize their tax returns for the tax year 2018 because the standard deduction will be higher.  The higher standard deduction will cause many taxpayers not to realize a deduction for their charity donations. Make charity donations both in cash (check or charge card) and well documented non-cash contributions to qualified charitable organizations.

Documentation needed to take a non-cash qualified charitable contribution are a receipt from the receiving organization, an itemized categorical detail of what and quantity of items donated, and the stated fair market value for each of the items.  See attached handout for fair market values.Charitable_Noncash_FMV_Guide_2017

2.   Taxpayers who have received a property tax bill for the first or second quarter of 2018 should pay that amount before January 1 in order to take the deduction on the 2017 tax return. There is no limit on how much taxes can be claimed on a 2017 return whereas for 2018 the amount is capped.  Beginning in 2018 taxpayers can claim a deduction for a combination of state and local income tax, sales tax, or real property tax in the aggregate amount up to $10,000.

3.  Taxpayers should consider making their last fourth quarter estimated tax payments to Ohio and City before December 31 rather than waiting until the due date of January 15.  For the tax year 2017, there is no limit to the amount of taxes claimed as a deduction.  In addition, the standard deduction is lower in the tax year 2017, making it easier for taxpayers to itemize their deductions.

This written advice is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer for following the advice.  Other factors may need consideration that would change the opinion presented.  

 

 

IRS Phone Call Scam

Throughout the year, we receive several client questions regarding the legitimacy of phone calls claiming to be Internal Revenue Agents.  People are right to be skeptical of any phone call claiming to be from one of the tax authorities.  The tax authorities do not call or use email to initiate contact with taxpayers.  Any phone call or email claiming to be from the IRS should be first considered a scam.

These fraudulent calls are a form of social engineering that by design tricks a taxpayer into releasing private information.  The fraudsters are very convincing, provide fictitious agent ID numbers, want payment over the phone, and often threaten arrest.  The IRS does not conduct business in this manner and never would the IRS demand payment over the phone.

The best thing for a taxpayer to do when they receive a phone call that is claiming to be from the IRS is to hang-up immediately, then follow-up with their tax preparer.  The tax authorities always write to initiate contact with a taxpayer.  The letter is delivered by the US Postal Service.

I encourage people to report their incident to TIGTA (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) at 1-800-366-4484 or at www.tigta.gov.  The taxpayer will not have the benefit of knowing if the information they provide helped stop or catch a fraudster but their effort may prevent someone else that might not be as savvy from getting the same fraudulent call. Tax_Scams_-_Protect_Yourself_2017

This communication may not be relied upon as written advice.  This written advice is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer for following the advice.  Other factors may need consideration that would change the opinion presented. 

Charitable Contributions

With the spirit of the holiday season in full swing, we often receive questions about charitable donations.  A qualified charitable donation might allow a taxpayer to realize a tax deduction for their good deed.  Regardless of a possible tax benefit, an individual should give simply for the principle or spiritual gain of giving.

A taxpayer must itemize their tax return through the use of IRS Schedule A, also known as going long form to realize the deduction of qualified charitable donations.  A taxpayer has the choice either to take the tax years’ standard deduction or to itemize their deductions.  The taxpayer chooses between the standard deduction and itemizing their return by whichever one gives them the greatest tax benefit.

The standard deduction for married filing jointly rises to $12,700 for tax year 2017, up $100 from the prior year.  For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $6,350 in 2017, up from $6,300 in 2016, and for heads of households, the standard deduction will be $9,350 for tax year 2017, up from $9,300 for tax year 2016 (Retrieved from https://www.irs.gov on November 30, 2017).

As depicted in the standard deduction amounts above, qualified charitable donations by themselves may not be enough for a taxpayer to itemize their return.  We recommend that clients bring their charitable donations records in for consideration as well as other possible deductions.

A qualified charitable contribution is a tax deduction and does not reduce total tax dollar for dollar.  Tax deductions lower a taxpayer’s taxable income.  Assuming a taxpayer with a marginal tax rate of 15% already has enough deductions to itemize their tax return and they make a $1000 qualified charitable donation the value of the deduction is the reduction of their taxes by $150.

Qualified charitable organizations include nonprofit groups that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific, or literary in purpose or that work to prevent cruelty to children or animals.  Common qualified charitable organizations are churches, Red Cross, Goodwill, Salvation Army, United Way, Veterans’ groups, non-profit schools, and non-profit hospitals.

If a taxpayer is unsure whether an organization is a qualified charitable organization, they can verify the organization at www.irs.gov.  A donation to an organization that is non-profit does not necessarily mean that the donation is automatically qualified.  Confirmation of an organization’s status is also available by calling the IRS (toll-free) at 1-877-829-5500.

A taxpayer does not receive any deduction for their charitable contribution of sweat equity or time.  However, a taxpayer may be able to take mileage, tolls, and parking with an appropriately filed out mileage log book and paid receipts.  In addition, out of pocket expenses while volunteering is considered a cash contribution.  I recommend writing the purpose and to whom the expense benefited on the paid receipt.  Ideally, the taxpayer uses their credit or debit card as proof the individual paid the expense.

A qualified charitable donation does not include handouts given directly to the homeless or collections at the office for those experiencing difficult times.  In addition, donations made to political candidates and their campaigns are non-deductible.  However, the State of Ohio Department Taxation offers a credit for particular situations of contributions made to certain Ohio offices.

Finally, when making church or charity donations make sure to pay with a check or an electronic card.  The reason is that there is no paper trail with cash whereas checks and electronic cards prove who, what, when, where, and how.  The charitable organization in return should provide the taxpayer with a receipt for the donation.  The receipt must contain a statement that no goods or services were provided by the organization, if that is the case, in exchange for the donation.

When goods or services were provided in exchange for the donation, the donation amount is netted.  For example, a taxpayer donates $1000 to a qualified charitable organization; in return, the organization gives individuals that donate $1000, or more a flat screen TV that has a fair market value of $300 the taxpayers netted qualified charitable donation is $700.  The charitable organization’s receipt and statement should reflect these amounts.

Generally, taxpayers must make their charity donation by December 31 to be eligible to receive a deduction for the present tax year.  Taxpayers must meet the several recordkeeping requirements to take the charitable donation deduction.  The record keeping burden should not deter an individual from the spirit of giving. Charitable_Contributions_Guide_2017

This communication may not be relied upon as written advice.  This written advice is not intended or written to be used, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer for following the advice.  Other factors may need consideration that would change the opinion presented. 

 

New Client Portal

Our new website offers some fantastic client features and benefits.  One of the features is a client portal.  The client portal helps clients with time and distance constraints complete their tax returns without having to come to the office.

The client portal is faster and more secure than email.  Clients upload their tax return documents into a secure portal quickly and easily.  The tax return documents are immediately available for their tax preparer to view.  When the tax preparer finishes with the returns, a copy is available for the client to download and review.  When the client is satisfied with their tax returns, they return signed signature pages by downloading them back into the secure portal.  When the tax preparer has the signature pages we e-file your tax returns.

We are happy to make available the innovative client portal technology.  When a face to face appointment is not practical, the client portal is a great option to utilize to have your tax returns professionally prepared at your convenience.

Clients interested in using the client portal should contact their tax preparer.  The tax preparer will email some simple instructions on how to proceed.

We are Moving!

I am happy to share we are moving our office to a new location effective December 1.  The building and site are beautiful, a super convenient location, with ample parking, and private offices for everyone.

The new address is 5258 Transportation Blvd.  Suite 102, Garfield Heights, OH.  44125.  We will be sending out announcement notices in the next few weeks.

We will be transitioning to the new location during the last week of November and take possession December 1.  We expect little to no interruption of services.  Our phone number will remain the same at 216-332-7283.

We welcome and are anxious for visitors to see our new place.  We look forward to seeing you!