Wednesday, February 22, 2017

IRS Recaps “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams for 2017


Each year, the Internal Revenue Service issues a list of the top 12 tax-related scams it sees throughout the year.

The IRS “Dirty Dozen” highlights various schemes that taxpayers may encounter anytime, many of which peak during tax-filing season.


Taxpayers need to guard against ploys that steal their personal information, scam them out of money or talk them into engaging in questionable behavior with their taxes.

Here is a recap of this year's "Dirty Dozen" scams:

Phishing: Taxpayers need to be on guard against fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers via email about a tax bill or refund. Don’t click on emails or fake websites claiming to be from the IRS. They may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information. (IR-2017-15)

Phone Scams: Phone calls from criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat to taxpayers. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as con artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation and license revocation, among other things. (IR-2017-19)

Identity Theft: Taxpayers need to watch out for identity theft, especially around tax time. The IRS aggressively pursues criminals that file fraudulent returns using someone else’s Social Security number. Though the agency is making progress on this front, taxpayers still need to be extremely cautious and do everything they can to avoid becoming victimized. (IR-2017-22)

Return Preparer Fraud: Be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers. The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest high-quality service. There are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers. (IR-2017-23)

Fake Charities: Be on guard against groups masquerading as charitable organizations to attract donations from unsuspecting contributors. Look out for charities with names similar to familiar or nationally-known organizations. Contributors should take a few extra minutes to ensure their hard-earned money goes to legitimate and currently eligible charities. IRS.gov has the tools taxpayers need to check out the status of charitable organizations. (IR-2017-25)

Inflated Refund Claims: Taxpayers should be cautious of anyone promising inflated refunds. Avoid preparers who ask taxpayers to sign a blank return, promise a big refund before looking at any records or charge fees based on a percentage of the refund. Fraudsters use flyers, advertisements, phony storefronts and word of mouth via community groups where trust is high to find their victims. (IR-2017-26)

Excessive Claims for Business Credits: Avoid improperly claiming the fuel tax credit. This tax benefit is generally not available to most taxpayers. The credit is usually limited to off-highway business use, including use in farming. Taxpayers should also avoid misuse of the research credit. Improper claims often involve failures to participate in or substantiate qualified research activities and satisfy the requirements related to qualified research expenses. (IR-2017-27)

Falsely Padding Deductions on Returns: Taxpayers should avoid the temptation to falsify deductions or expenses on their tax returns in order to pay less than they owe or  receive larger refunds. Think twice before overstating deductions such as charitable contributions and business expenses or improperly claiming credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit or Child Tax Credit. (IR-2017-28)

Falsifying Income to Claim Credits: Don’t invent income to erroneously qualify for tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. Taxpayers should file the most accurate return possible because they are legally responsible for what is on their return. Claiming false income can lead to taxpayers facing large bills to pay back taxes, interest and penalties. In some cases, they may even face criminal prosecution. (IR-2017-29)

Abusive Tax Shelters: Don’t use abusive tax structures to avoid paying taxes. The IRS is committed to stopping complex tax avoidance schemes and the people who create and sell them. The vast majority of taxpayers pay their fair share, and everyone should be on the lookout for people peddling tax shelters that sound too good to be true. When in doubt, seek an independent opinion if offered complex products. (IR-2017-31)

Frivolous Tax Arguments: Don’t use frivolous tax arguments to avoid paying tax. Promoters of such schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims, even though they have been repeatedly thrown out of court. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law or disregard their responsibility to pay taxes. The penalty for filing a frivolous tax return is $5,000. (IR-2017-33)

Offshore Tax Avoidance: The recent string of successful enforcement actions against offshore tax cheats -- and the financial organizations that help them -- show that it’s a bad bet to hide money and income offshore. Taxpayers are best served by coming in voluntarily and taking care of their tax-filing responsibilities. The IRS offers the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program to enable people to catch up on their filing and tax obligations. (IR-2017-35)

IRS YouTube Videos:

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Capital Gains and Losses – 10 Helpful Facts to Know


When a person sells a capital asset, if the sales price exceeds the taxpayer's tax "basis" in the property sold then a capital gain is recognized, and if the sales price is less than the taxpayer's tax "basis" in the property sold then a capital loss is recognized.

All capital gains even those on non-business personal property are taxable income, unless there is a specific provision in the law exempting the gain from taxation (e.g. often gains on the sale of one's personal residence is not taxed or is tax deferred).  All capital losses are not deductible unless there is a specific provision in the law that makes the loss in question deductible.

A capital asset includes inherited property or property someone owns for personal use or as an investment.


Here are 10 facts that taxpayers should know about capital gains and losses:
  1. Capital Assets. Capital assets include property such as a home or a car. It also includes investment property, like stocks and bonds.
  2. Gains and Losses. A capital gain or loss is the difference between the basis and the amount the seller gets when they sell an asset. The basis is usually what the seller paid for the asset. For details about inherited property, see IRS Publication 544, IRS Publication 550 and IRS Publication 551.
  3. Net Investment Income Tax. Taxpayers must include all capital gains in their income. Capital gains may be subject to the Net Investment Income Tax if the taxpayer’s income is above certain amounts. The rate of this tax is 3.8 percent. For details, visit IRS.gov.
  4. Deductible Losses. Taxpayers can deduct capital losses on the sale of investment property but can’t deduct losses on the sale of property they hold for their personal use.
  5. Limit on Losses. If a taxpayer’s capital losses are more than their capital gains, they can deduct the difference as a loss on their tax return. This loss is limited to $3,000 per year, or $1,500 if married and filing a separate return.
  6. Carryover Losses. If a taxpayer’s total net capital loss is more than the limit they can deduct, they can carry it over to next year’s tax return.
  7. Long and Short Term. Capital gains and losses are either long-term or short-term. It depends on how long the taxpayer holds the property. If the taxpayer holds it for one year or less, the gain or loss is short-term.
  8. Net Capital Gain.  If a taxpayer’s long-term gains are more than their long-term losses, the difference between the two is a net long-term capital gain. If the net long-term capital gain is more than the net short-term capital loss, the taxpayer has a net capital gain.
  9. Tax Rate. The tax rate on a net capital gain usually depends on the taxpayer’s income. The maximum tax rate on a net capital gain is 20 percent. However, for most taxpayers a zero or 15 percent rate will apply. A 25 or 28 percent tax rate can also apply to certain types of net capital gain.
  10. Forms to File. Taxpayers often will need to file Form 8949, Sales and Other Dispositions of Capital Assets. Taxpayers also need to file Schedule D, Capital Gains and Losses, with their tax return.
For more on this topic, see Schedule D instructions. Taxpayers can visit IRS.gov to get tax forms and documents anytime.

All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.

Additional IRS Resources:

For help with your legal needs contact a business, tax, and health care law attorney at the offices of AttorneyBritt.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Six Tax Tips For The Self-Employed Business Owner





Here are six important tips from the IRS for the self-employed:

  •  Estimated Tax. Self-employed taxpayers generally need to make quarterly estimated tax payments. IRS Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, has details on making those payments.
  • Schedule C or C-EZ. Self-employed taxpayers must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with their Form 1040. For expenses less than $5,000, use Schedule C-EZ. Each form’s instructions provide the rules for which form to use.
  • SE Tax. For those making a profit, self-employment and income tax may need to be paid. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. Use Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to figure the tax.
  • Allowable Deductions. Taxpayers can deduct expenses paid to run a business that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in the industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and proper for a trade or business.
  • When to Deduct. In most cases, taxpayers can deduct expenses in the year paid or incurred. Some costs must be ‘capitalized,’ however. This means deducting the cost over a number of years.
All taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers using a software product for the first time may need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount from their prior-year tax return to verify their identity. Taxpayers can learn more about how to verify their identity and electronically sign tax returns at

Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.
Additional IRS Resources:
IRS YouTube Videos:

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