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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Business Tax, Federal Taxes, Tax Topic) On: August 17th, 2012

IRS Amnesty Program: Dodge the Bullet?

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IRS Amnesty Program Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

This guest post is by Dagny Kight, author of “Lower Your IRS Debt”.

The Internal Revenue Service has announced another seemingly uncharacteristic new program befitting an ostensibly “kindler, gentler” tax collector. Last year it was the overhauled Offer in Compromise program which relaxed the requirements to lessen the liability for those deep in tax debt. (Read about the big changes in ebook, Lower Your IRS Debt) This year the IRS would like to kiss and make up with businesses that may be in violation of regulations governing the compensation of independent contractors. Dropping penalties to as low as 1% with an “amnesty” program, the IRS says all will be forgiven if employers step forward and come clean. Sounds like a good way to avoid a potentially complex problem. This is the IRS we’re talking about. Could amnesty be a deal with the devil?

Since 2008, businesses have struggled to find creative ways to cut labor costs and remain afloat. Replacing employees with independent contractors or converting full-timers into part-time contractors eliminates paying benefits and withholding taxes along with reducing payroll and tax reporting paperwork. There are benefits to both sides of the arrangement and for employees who find themselves converted into contractors, many are simply grateful to still have an income in the current economy.

Some employers might like to believe that as long as work is getting done, people are getting paid, and everybody’s happy with the arrangements, there’s nothing to worry about. Not in the IRS’s view! An employer can’t pay a worker like an independent contractor while treating them like an employee, even if the worker agrees to it. There are a lot of ways the IRS might get wise to what’s going on. A company risks audits and penalties if any worker’s tax forms raise a red flag. A disgruntled former employee could blow the whistle or a contractor’s legitimate inquiries for tax advice or unemployment benefits could have a business owner facing Federal tax scrutiny.

For employers who may have run afoul of tax regulations with independent contractors, wouldn’t taking the amnesty program be like dodging a bullet? If a business is found to have been in violation of tax laws, they’ll have to pay any back taxes that are owed. Amnesty will reduce penalties but from that day on, an employer’s business practices could remain under the IRS’s watchful eye for years to come. But this may be a bigger risk—A company might get a slap on the wrist from the Feds but state tax authorities will extend no special treatment. Audits and penalties at the state level could be severe.

A company’s best plan of action may be to bite that bullet instead. Invest the time and effort in getting compliant, as tough as that may be. The general rule is whether the worker is “under the direction and control” of the employer. An employee is; an independent contractor is not. The quickest route to legal status is to use workers provided by a placement agency. For existing workers, make sure no employee and contractor are doing the same job. Contractors may be given assignments but they choose how, when, even where they’ll get the work done. They just have to deliver it on time. No setting work hours, no training in company procedures, no instructions how to do the work, no requiring attendance at meetings. Payment is made on a commission or per project basis and a business should have an invoice from the contractor.

The IRS amnesty program looks tempting but be aware there are potential risks that can’t be mitigated once it’s determined that a company has violated Federal tax regulations. Confession may be good for the soul but a mea culpa to the Internal Revenue Service might not do much for the bottom line.

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Tax Return, Tax Tips, Tax Topic) On: April 15th, 2012

10 Steps to Making Tax Payments

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If you are one of the millions of individuals who need to make a payment with your tax return this year, these tips will help the process go more smoothly.

1. Do not send cash to the IRS.

2. Whether you file a paper return or electronically, you can pay by phone or online using a credit or debit card.

2. If you file electronically, you can file and pay in one step by authorizing an electronic funds withdrawal via tax preparation software or a tax professional.

4. Electronic payment options provide an alternative to checks or money orders. You can pay taxes or user fees 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov and search e-pay, or refer to Publication 3611, Electronic Payments for more details.

5. If you itemize, you may be able to deduct the convenience fee charged for paying individual income taxes with a credit or debit card as a miscellaneous itemized deduction on Form 1040, Schedule A, Itemized Deductions. The deduction is subject to the 2 percent limit.

6. If you file on paper, don’t staple your payment to your form.

7. If you pay by check or money order, make sure it is payable to the “United States Treasury.”

8. Always provide on the front of your check or money order your correct name, address, Social Security number listed first on the tax form, daytime telephone number, tax year and form number.

9. Complete and include Form 1040-V, Payment Voucher, when mailing your payment to the IRS. Double-check the IRS mailing address. This will help the IRS process your payment accurately and efficiently.

10.  For more information, call 800-829-4477 and select TeleTax Topic 158, Ensuring Proper Credit of Payments. You can also find out more in Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax and Form 1040-V, both available at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Federal Income Tax, Federal Tax Return, Income Tax Return, Income Taxes, Tax Debt, Tax Return, Tax Tips) On: April 6th, 2012

Tax Topic: What if I can’t pay all my taxes right now?

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Tax Topic What if I can't pay all my taxes right now daniel stoica accounting professionalYou may be one of the many taxpayers who realize that they owe more in taxes than they have available right now.  If that’s the case, here are some tips that will help you keep your penalties and interest to a minimum.

1. Even if you can’t pay everything you owe right now, go ahead and file your return on time and pay as much as you can with the return. These steps will eliminate the late filing penalty, reduce the late payment penalty and cut down on interest charges. You may mail a check payable to the United States Treasury or check out the electronic and credit card options for paying. IRS.gov.

2. You may want to consider obtaining a loan or even paying by credit card. The interest and penalties that are imposed by the IRS may actually be lower than the interest rate and fees charged by a bank or credit card company.

3. Ask for an installment payment agreement. You do not need to wait for the IRS to send you a bill before requesting a payment agreement. Options for requesting an agreement include:
• Using the Online Payment Agreement application and
• Completing and submitting IRS Form 9465-FS, Installment Agreement Request, with your return. The IRS does charge a user fee to set up your payment agreement. See www.irs.gov or the installment agreement request form for fee amounts.

4. As part of the IRS Fresh Start Initiative for tax year 2011, qualifying individuals may request an extension of time to pay and have the late payment penalty waived. To see if you qualify visit www.irs.gov and get form 1127-A, Application for Extension of Time for Payment. But hurry, your application must be filed by April 17, 2012.

5. If you receive a bill from the IRS, please contact them right away to discuss payment options. The worst thing you can do is simply ignore the bill.

If you can’t pay in full and on time, the key to minimizing your penalty and interest charges is to pay as much as possible by the tax deadline and the balance as soon as you can.

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Federal Taxes, Income Taxes, Tax Debt, Tax Filing, Tax Help, Tax Preparation) On: April 2nd, 2012

Can Tax Resolution Firms Really Talk the IRS Down?

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Can Tax Resolution Firms Really Talk the IRS Down Daniel Stoica Accounting ProfessionalMy guest blogger today is Dagny Kight.  She just completed a step-by-step guide to help people through the process of determining on their own if they can settle their tax debt for a lower amount.

Will the IRS lower your tax debt through “negotiation”? Tax resolution firms would like you to believe they can talk the IRS down on your behalf.

But the IRS likes to talk about just two things: Dollars and cents.

Under new IRS guidelines introduced in 2011, the IRS has a program that is designed to calculate your ability to pay your back tax debt. There is no “negotiation.” The forms for this program will take you through a detailed Financial Disclosure, documenting your income, expenses, assets, and debts. No matter how you ultimately settle your IRS tax debt, you will have to provide a full financial disclosure. This will involve gathering up all your bank and account statements, documentation for all your sources of income, monthly bills, loans, mortgage or lease paperwork, and even documentation for the market value of your assets including vehicles and valuables.

When I settled my own IRS debt for $1, I worked directly with the IRS examiners themselves. They weren’t intimidating; they were actually a pleasure to deal with! They told me what information they wanted and how they wanted it sent in with the IRS forms. I put everything I learned into my ebook, Lower Your IRS Debt with step by step, easy to follow instructions based on my own successful experience with this IRS program.

I owed $42, 564.25 but I settled for $1! Start gathering up your financial paperwork and grab a calculator. Follow along with my ebook to fill out the forms for yourself and find out if YOU could Lower Your IRS Debt!

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Federal Income Tax, Federal Tax Forms, Income Tax Forms, Income Taxes, Tax Filing, Tax Forms, Tax Preparation) On: April 2nd, 2012

Your Tax Refund May Be Used to Offset Debts

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Your Tax Refund May Be Used to Offset Debts Daniel Stoica Accounting ProfessionalDid you know that past due financial obligations can affect your current federal tax refund? The Department of Treasury’s Financial Management Service (FMS), which issues IRS tax refunds, can use part or all of your federal tax refund to satisfy certain unpaid debts.

Here are the facts about how your tax refund may be used to offset certain types of debts:

1. If you owe federal or state income taxes, your refund will be offset to pay those taxes. If you had other debt such as student loan debt or child support debt, the FMS will apply as much of your refund as is needed to pay off the debt and then issue any remaining refund to you. This won’t be a surprise to you, because you will receive a notice if an offset occurs. The notice will include the original refund amount, your offset amount, the agency receiving the payment and its contact information.

2. Contact the agency shown on the notice, not the IRS, if you believe you do not owe the debt or you are disputing the amount taken from your refund.

3. You’ll need to file IRS Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, if you filed a joint return and you’re not responsible for the debt but you are entitled to a portion of the refund. You’ll need to attach Form 8379 to your original Form 1040, Form 1040A, or Form 1040EZ or file it by itself after you are notified of an offset. Form 8379 can be downloaded from the IRS website at www.irs.gov.  You can file Form 8379 electronically. If you file a paper tax return you can include Form 8379 with your return, write “INJURED SPOUSE” at the top left of the Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ. IRS will process your allocation request before an offset occurs.

4. If you are filing Form 8379 by itself, it must show both spouses’ Social Security numbers in the same order as they appeared on your income tax return. You, the “injured” spouse, must sign the form. Do not attach the previously filed Form 1040 to the Form 8379. Send Form 8379 to the IRS Service Center where you filed your original return.

5. The IRS will compute the injured spouse’s share of the joint return. Contact the IRS only if your original refund amount shown on the FMS offset notice differs from the refund amount shown on your tax return.

6. Follow the instructions on Form 8379 carefully and be sure to attach the required forms to avoid delays. If you don’t receive a notice, contact the Financial Management Service at 800-304-3107, Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Central Time).

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Income Tax Return, IRS Tax Debt) On: March 29th, 2012

Tax Resolution Marketing: Be Aware of Scare Tactics

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Dagny Kight My guest blogger today is Dagny Kight. She has an upcoming ebook called Lower Your IRS Debt which will help individuals with a step-by-step process to determine on their own if they can settle their tax debt for a lower amount.

Are you old enough to remember when we bought magazines through the mail in the hopes that the Prize Patrol would show up with a giant check? The marketing strategies of the famous publishing house sweepstakes are perhaps best remembered by the tagline, “You may have already won!” The ambiguous catchphrase led many people to believe they were indeed the lucky winner!

Tax resolution firms make heavy use of direct mail. You may have already started receiving their letters, particularly if the IRS has filed a Federal lien against you. The envelope will be made to look official. You will be urged to “Respond Immediately! Important Information About Your Tax Debt!”

When you open the letter, in many cases it will be from a company with a generic name like “Tax Resolution Specialists” or “Tax Settlement Department.” They will get the amount of your tax debt from public records so it will look like the letter was written just for you. The letter may claim your IRS debt can be lowered to maybe a third or even a quarter of what you owe. When you’re faced with an IRS tax debt, you may want to rush to the phone and call right away for a deal that good!

The ads are very persuasive because tax resolution firms try to charge thousands of dollars. If their fee and the amount of savings they claim they can get for you are many thousands of dollars less than your total IRS debt, wouldn’t you be tempted to sign on the dotted line? That’s what tax resolution firms are counting on!

Remember these two important facts:

  1. NO ONE can “estimate” what your tax savings might be without calculating your complete financial disclosure.
  2. NO ONE can guarantee how the IRS will decide when they review your complete financial disclosure.

I have an upcoming ebook, Lower Your IRS Debt, which will help you calculate your own financial disclosure and submit an application to the IRS for review. No matter how you ultimately complete your tax settlement, a complete financial disclosure will be required. I’ll take you step by step through the process I used successfully to lower my IRS debt from $42,564 to $1!

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Federal Income Tax, Federal Tax Forms, Federal Tax Return, Income Tax Return, Income Taxes, Tax Filing, Tax Forms, Tax Preparation, Tax Return, Tax Tips) On: March 25th, 2012

Tips to Reduce Your Tax-Time Stress

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Tips to Reduce Your Tax-Time Stress Daniel Stoica Accounting ProfessionalAre you stressed about tax time? Does the thought of doing your taxes give you a headache?  Tax preparation doesn’t have to be painful, if you follow some basic tips.

1. Don’t put off doing your taxes until the last minute. When you rush, you are more likely to make mistakes. You may even make mistakes that could cost you money.  So start them now if you haven’t already.

2. Use the IRS website. There were more than 300 million visits to www.irs.gov last year. Go to the “1040 Central” to check for the latest news and find answers to your questions about tax filing.

3. Use Free File. Free File is available exclusively at www.irs.gov. Everyone can find an option to prepare their tax return and e-file it for free. If you made $57,000 or less, you qualify for free tax software that is offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more than $57,000 and/or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there’s Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile for options.

4. Try IRS e-file. The majority of taxpayers now use IRS e-file, which is the safest, easiest and most common way to file a tax return. If you owe taxes, you can file immediately and pay later (by the April 17 tax deadline). Best of all, when you combine e-file with direct deposit  the IRS can generally issue your refund in as few as 10 days.

5. Don’t put off filing your taxes if you can’t pay. If you can’t pay the full amount of taxes you owe by the mid-April deadline, you should still file your return by the deadline and pay as much as you can to avoid penalties and interest. More than 75 percent of taxpayers eligible for an Installment Agreement can apply using the web-based Online Payment Agreement application available at www.irs.gov. To find out more about this simple and convenient process, type “Online Payment Agreement” in the search box at www.irs.gov.  You can also contact the IRS to discuss your payment options.

6. Request an extension of time to file – but pay on time. If the deadline clock is ticking, you can get an automatic six-month extension through Oct. 15. However, this extension of time to file, which must be filed or postmarked by the April 17 deadline, does not give you more time to pay any taxes due. If you have not paid at least 90 percent of the total tax due by the April deadline you may also be subject to an estimated tax penalty. You can obtain an extension through Free File at www.irs.gov/freefile. Or, file Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, available for downloading at www.irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676) to have a paper form mailed to you. Allow at least 10 days for mailed forms and publications.

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Business Tax, Business Tax Credit, Business Tips, Tax Deductions, Tax Tips) On: March 20th, 2012

Business Expenses You May Be Able to Deduct on Your Taxes

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Business Expenses You May Be Able to Deduct on Your Taxes Daniel Stoica Accounting ProfessionalDo you often make purchases that are directly related to your job? If you do, you may be able to deduct certain work-related expenses that are not reimbursed by your employer. The following information can help you determine which expenses are deductible as an employee business expense. You must itemize your deductions on IRS Schedule A to in order to qualify.

Here are the expenses that generally qualify for an itemized deduction:
• Business travel away from home
• Business use of your car
• Business meals and entertainment
• Use of your home
• Education
• Tools
• Supplies
• Miscellaneous expenses

If you are going to record business expenses as deductions, you must keep records as proof.

For more information on keeping records for your tax filing, see IRS Publication 552, Recordkeeping for Individuals available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov, or call 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

You should report  expenses that are not reimbursed on IRS Form 2106 or IRS Form 2106-EZ and attach it to Form 1040. Deductible expenses are then reported on IRS Schedule A, as a miscellaneous itemized deduction subject to a rule that limits your employee business expenses deduction to the amount that exceeds 2 percent of your adjusted gross income.

For more information see IRS Publication 529, Miscellaneous Deductions, which is available on the IRS website at www.irs.gov, or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Income Tax Return, Tax Help, Tax Preparation, Tax Return, Tax Tips) On: March 14th, 2012

IRS Fresh Start Helps Taxpayers Who Owe

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IRS Fresh Start Helps Taxpayers Who Owe Daniel Stoica Accounting ProfessionalAre you struggling to pay back taxes? Did you know that the Internal Revenue Service has expanded its “Fresh Start” initiative to help struggling taxpayers who owe taxes?

Part of this Fresh Start initiative allows some unemployed taxpayers to have their failure-to-pay penalties waived. Penalties are one of the biggest factors a financially distressed taxpayer faces on a tax bill. The Fresh Start Penalty Relief Initiative gives eligible taxpayers a six-month extension to fully pay 2011 taxes. Interest still applies on the 2011 taxes from April 15, 2012 until the tax is paid, but you won’t have failure-to-pay penalties if you pay your tax, interest and any other penalties in full by Oct. 15, 2012.

Here is more information about this initiative:

1. Penalty relief, as mentioned above, is available to two categories of taxpayers:

* Wage earners who have been unemployed at least 30 consecutive days during 2011 or in 2012 up to this year’s April 17 tax deadline.

* Self-employed individuals who experienced a 25 percent or greater reduction in business income in 2011 due to the economy.

To qualify for this penalty relief, your adjusted gross income must not exceed $200,000 if married filing jointly or $100,000 if your filing status is single, married filing separately, head of household, or qualifying widower. Your 2011 balance due can not exceed $50,000.

Taxpayers who qualify need to complete a new Form 1127A to request the 2011 penalty relief. The new form is available on www.irs.gov or by calling 1-800-829-3676 (TAX FORM).

2. An installment agreement is a payment option for those who cannot pay their entire tax bill by the due date. The Fresh Start provisions give more taxpayers the ability to use streamlined installment agreements to catch up on back taxes and also more time to pay.

The new threshold for requesting an installment agreement has been raised from $25,000 to $50,000. This option requires limited financial information, meaning far less burden to the taxpayer. The maximum term for streamlined installment agreements has been raised to six years from the current five-year maximum.

If your debt is more than $50,000, you’ll still need to supply the IRS with a Collection Information Statement (Form 433-A or Form 433-F). You also can pay your balance down to $50,000 or less to qualify for this payment option.

With an installment agreement, you’ll pay less in penalties, but interest continues to accrue on the outstanding balance. In order to qualify for the new expanded streamlined installment agreement, you must agree to monthly direct debit payments.

You can set up an installment agreement with the IRS through the On-line Payment Agreement (OPA) page at www.irs.gov

3. Under the first round of Fresh Start in 2011, the IRS expanded the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program to cover a larger group of struggling taxpayers. An Offer in Compromise is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s tax liabilities for less than the full amount owed.

The IRS recognizes many taxpayers are still struggling to pay their bills so the agency has been working on more common-sense changes to the OIC program to more closely reflect real-world situations.

Generally, an offer will not be accepted if the IRS believes that the liability can be paid in full as a lump sum or through a payment agreement. The IRS looks at the taxpayer’s income and assets to make a determination regarding the taxpayer’s ability to pay.

4. A series of eight short videos are available to familiarize taxpayers and practitioners with the IRS collection process. The series “Owe Taxes? Understanding IRS Collection Efforts,” is available on the IRS website, www.irs.gov.

The IRS website has a variety of other online resources available to help taxpayers meet their payment obligations.

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Posted by : Daniel Stoica in (Blog, Business Tax Credit, Federal Taxes, Income Tax Return, Tax Filing, Tax Forms, Tax Tips, Tax Topic) On: March 13th, 2012

Home Office Tax Deductions for Those Who Work at Home

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Home Office Tax Deductions for Those Who Work at Home Daniel Stoica Accounting ProfessionalDo you work out of your house?  If you do, you may be able to deduct expenses for the business use of your home.

Here are six requirements that will help you determine if you qualify for a home office deduction.

1. First of all, in order for you to claim a business deduction for your home, you must use part of your home regularly and exclusively:
• as your principal place of business, or
• as a place to meet or deal with clients, customers or patients in the normal course of your business, or
• in any connection with your trade or business where the business portion of your home is a separate structure not attached to your home.

2. The amount you can deduct generally depends on the percentage of your home that you use for business. However, your deduction for certain expenses will be limited if your gross income from your business is less than your total business expenses.

3. For certain storage use, rental use or daycare-facility use, you are required to use the property regularly but not exclusively.

4. There are special rules for qualified daycare providers and for persons storing business inventory or product samples.

5. If you are self-employed, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home to figure your home office deduction and report those deductions on Form 1040 Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

6. If you are an employee, additional rules apply for claiming the home office deduction. For example, the regular and exclusive business use must be for the convenience of your employer.

To get more information about the home office deduction, check out IRS Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home, available at www.IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

You may also want to contact a tax professional to find out more about tax deductions for your home office.

Daniel Stoica Accounting Professional

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Daniel Stoica Consulting, Accounting and Tax Professional based in Roscoe, Illinois, U.S.A. Serving Local, National, and International Clients