Archive for the ‘Personal Finance’ Category

IRS Says You Owe More? Don’t Write That Check Yet!

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2014

Tax season can be rough for any business. Just about the time you allow yourself to move on to something else and breathe a sigh of relief … it happens. You sift through your mail and find yourself staring face-to-face with a letter from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In a matter of seconds your adrenaline levels are through the roof. You know that what’s inside the envelope isn’t a simple thank-you note for filing your taxes on time. You carefully tear it open.

Nobody likes to hear that they have to pay more to the IRS than they originally thought. But, before you jump to conclusions and quickly write out a check for the amount the letter says you owe:

  • Stop
  • Take a deep breath
  • Call your financial advisor

4 Tips For Resolving Your Tax Dispute

Believe it or not, the IRS does make mistakes. Agents can accidentally input incorrect information, computers can misread data and tax codes can be inadvertently overlooked or misinterpreted. It happens. If you believe that the IRS was wrong in a decision it made about your business’s tax returns, follow these four steps to reach a resolution.

  1. Follow Instructions. Sometimes the easiest way to resolve the issue is to follow the instructions. Sounds easy enough, but not everybody gets this part right. If the IRS sent you a notice, look for the section that explains what to do if you disagree with their decision and follow directions. Additionally, be sure to attach any supporting documentation and mail it back to the address given by the deadline requested. After the IRS has made its decision, you will be notified via U.S. Mail. When in doubt, opt to send inquiries to the IRS via certified mail and request a receipt.
  2. Make The Call. If your initial challenge was rejected, your next step is to follow up with a phone call. The rejection notice you received should have included another important piece of information: the contact name and number of the IRS employee who rejected your challenge. When you call, in a polite and professional manner, ask to speak to the employee’s manager. Even though you are passing over the employee on the chain of command, take care not to say anything about why you are asking to speak with their supervisor. The last thing you need is to create animosity. When you finally have the opportunity to speak with a supervisor, your case should be laid out in much the same way as your original challenge. You should be clear and concise in your explanation while taking care to address any concerns that were noted by the original employee in their rejection letter. If your letter didn’t include an employee’s name and phone number, send another certified letter to a general supervisor with the agency and request that they reconsider your case.
  3. Appealing To A Higher Office. If you still haven’t convinced the IRS to change its mind, don’t give up – even if you have already mailed several letters and racked up a lot of call time with the agency. Further up the chain of command is the Office of Appeals, an independent office within the IRS. This is just one more step you have to take on your journey to find an IRS employee who agrees with your. To get your case to the Office of Appeals, follow the instructions that were found in the earlier notices. If you are unable to locate these instructions, you can find them on the IRS website.
  4. Welcome to U.S. Tax Court. Sometimes a resolution can’t be achieved in the first three steps of the appeal process. If you find yourself in this situation your final option is to take the case to the U.S. Tax Court. At this point you may be discouraged and may even question whether you should continue on with the fight, but if you still believe that the IRS is wrong it is probably in your best interest to see it out to the end.

If your dispute is less than $50,000 you will have the option to represent yourself. Similar to how a small-claims court operates, there is no jury and the judge will not hold your inexperience against you. Once court is in session you will state your case again, provide evidence and answer any questions a judge may ask about the claim. Be advised, however, that once a decision is made at this phase it is final and cannot be appealed.

Sometimes, even though you have decided that you want to move forward, an IRS attorney may offer to settle out of court for a figure less than what the IRS says you owe. If this happens, you need to decide whether you will accept the settlement or if you will move forward with presenting your case to the judge. The choice is yours.

If you find yourself at odds with the IRS over a tax issue and are not sure how to proceed, email Rea & Associates for more information.

Author: Clayton W. Rose, III, CPA

 

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College Costs Keeping You Up All Night? Tax Credits Could Offer Relief

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014

As a parent you have spent countless hours preparing your child for adulthood. You have thumbed through your share of board books, mastered the art of singing The ABC Song and Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on a whim, and have racked up enough mileage driving back and forth from piano lessons, soccer games and summer camps to make a space shuttle cringe. But now it’s here. After nearly 18 years, your son or daughter has become a college student.

Many parents describe this milestone moment as bittersweet; others say they are caught off guard by feelings of anxiety and sadness. And while all parents are proud of their child’s accomplishment, it’s hard not to feel a little buyer’s remorse when you see the statement for the first semester in the mail – especially if you offered to pick up the tab.

College is not cheap, and according to the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES), it’s only getting more costly. The NCES reported that the prices for an undergraduate to attend college at a public institution rose 40 percent between the 2001-02 and 2011-12 academic years; a student who chose to attend a private nonprofit institution saw a 28 percent increase over the same period. The report found that an average undergraduate student paid $14,300 annually for their tuition, room and board at a public institution while a student attending a private for-profit school paid $23,300 per year. And those numbers don’t include the price of books, meals, transportation, insurance, and extracurricular activities … to name a few.

Consider A Tax Credit

Don’t abandon ship just yet. Here are three tips to help give your bank account a break.

  • Utilize the American Opportunity Tax Credit or the Lifetime Learning Credit. These two tax credits could help take the edge off of your initial statement shock. If you qualify for the American Opportunity Tax Credit, you could save up to $2,500 annually for an eligible student during their first four years of school. Because 40 percent of this credit is refundable, you may be able to get up to $1,000 of the credit as a refund. The Lifetime Learning Credit, on the other hand, gives you the opportunity to claim up to $2,000 on your federal tax return and has no limit on the number of years it can be claimed. If you decide to take a credit, keep in mind that the IRS will only let you claim only one type of education tax credit per student.
  • Claim your qualified education expenses. Be sure to keep track of the expenses you paid toward tuition and student activity fees that were paid to complete enrollment. According to the IRS, you can make a claim if you paid for any of these expenses with cash, check, a credit or debit card or with money secured from a loan. If you will be taking the American Opportunity Tax Credit, expenses for books, supplies and course equipment are also considered a qualified education expense.
  • Don’t forget your 1098-T. This form, in addition to your receipts, is critical to claim a tax credit. Most schools will send this to you in the mail. Don’t be surprised if the amount on your form doesn’t match your numbers. The 1098-T doesn’t include items such as textbooks.

College doesn’t have to break the bank. To learn more about your college saving options, email Rea & Associates. Our team of tax professionals can guide you through the tax credit process and other college savings options.

Author: Brian Kempf, CPA (Millersburg)

 

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Outright Shale Sales Are Another Option For Landowners

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

The work to unearth valuable minerals from the Utica and Marcellus shale deposits in Eastern Ohio continues to move forward at full speed. While many of the area’s landowners entered into mineral land leases years ago, some chose to put off the leasing process for later – it is now 2014. Several years have passed and the landowners who chose to wait are now facing a different set of choices and options concerning their land and the minerals found within.

What Has Changed?

If you’re looking to cash in on the shale boom, the traditional land/mineral lease alternative is no longer your only option. Today, some landowners are considering the outright sale of their mineral interests to an acquiring entity. While both options have their merits, this discussion is not intended to weigh the economic consequences when comparing land/mineral leasing versus the outright sale of your mineral interest. You should be aware of a few points surrounding the sale of mineral interests that may help govern your decision.

  • Outright sale agreements typically state that the landowner will agree to sell their mineral interests, specific to formation or generic, to an acquiring entity.
  • Per the agreement, the seller typically relinquishes all incidents of mineral ownership – and usually all rights to any future income streams based on the future production from the minerals in question.
  • If you choose to sell your mineral interest outright, your decision to do so may trigger tax planning opportunities, such as the “like-kind exchange” tax treatment for real estate transactions also known as the IRC1031 exchange. In other words, this particular transaction could qualify your gain from the sale of mineral interests to be deferred into the acquired “like-kind” real property. The acquired real estate must be held for trade, business or for other investment purposes.

Proceed With Caution

Before jumping the gun and making a decision based on the possibility of triggering the like-kind exchange, understand that the rules governing IRC1031 are very complex. The sale of mineral interest just adds to the complexity. It’s important that you speak with an advisor concerning a “like-kind exchange” before closing on the mineral interest sale, or the replacement property.

The like-kind exchange opportunity is not for everyone. For those who qualify, however, a mineral sale scenario with the right fact pattern coupled with a properly executed 1031 exchange could result in a significant tax planning opportunity for landowners who are seeking ways to minimize the current tax consequences.

While it’s great to have a range of choices when dealing with matters such as these, the larger selection has a tendency of making it harder to zero in on the information needed to make an informed decision. If you’re considering a land/mineral lease or an outright sale alternative, email Rea & Associates to get more information about these options.

Author: Jim Fracker, CPA (Zanesville office)

 

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When Scammers Demand That You Pay Up, IRS Says You Should Hang Up

Monday, August 18th, 2014

More than 1,000 American taxpayers have collectively lost about $5 million as a result of a recent phone scam that has been reported to be active in virtually every corner of the nation. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reminds everybody to be vigilant, to never give personal financial information to anybody over the phone, and to report instances of phone scams to the IRS and/or to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

According to IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, “Taxpayers should remember their first contact with the IRS will not be a call from out of the blue, but through official correspondence sent through the mail. A big red flag for these scams are angry, threatening calls from people who say they are from the IRS and urging immediate payment. This is not how we operate. People should hang up immediately and contact TIGTA or the IRS.”

To date, more than 90,000 complaints regarding the scam have been made to the IRS and TIGTA.

Signs of An IRS Phone Scam

A media release, sent Aug. 13, reports that scammers will use fake names and IRS badge numbers, are able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s social security number, and spoof the IRS’ toll-free number on caller IDs so that the calls appear legitimate. Victims reported that they were threatened with jail time or driver’s license revocation if they refused to comply with demands. After hanging up, scammers call back claiming to be local law enforcement or a DMV representative. The second phone call is supposed to reinforce their original claim and demands.

Don’t Be An IRS Phone Scam Victim

  • If you think you might owe taxes or that there may be an issue with your taxes, call the IRS directly at (800) 829-1040. An authorized IRS representative can help you determine if you have a payment due.
  • If you get a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and you know that you have no IRS issues, report the incident to TIGTA at (800) 366-4484. You should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use its “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.
  • Don’t let scammers catch you off your guard with questions about your tax history. Call your CPA and be confident about whether you owe money to the IRS or not. When it comes to your financial security, take a proactive approach.

Email Rea & Associates if you’re ever unsure about anything you received from the IRS, whether it is a letter, a phone call or an email. We can help you determine if the inquiry is legitimate.

By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

 

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Were You Overcharged By The Ohio BWC?

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014

Countless small businesses soon may find that they have money coming back to them. The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) has decided to settle a class action lawsuit alleging that the BWC, over the course of many years, had a system of group rating in place that improperly overcharged many Ohio businesses. A lower trial court originally ruled in favor of the plaintiffs with possible damages exceeding $800 million. While the ruling was upheld on appeal, the appeals court sent the decision back to the initial court to better address the issue of damages.

Now the BWC has agreed to pay out $420 million to those affected by the state agency’s practice of overcharging for workers’ compensation premiums between the years of 2001 and 2008.

To fulfill its obligation under the settlement agreement, the BWC said it will create a fund that will be specifically used to pay: claims made by employers found to be participants in the class action lawsuit, attorney fees, court costs, and costs associated with administering the fund. According to the settlement agreement, any unclaimed money will be returned to the bureau.

Can You Make An Ohio BWC Claim?

In order to make a claim, you must have been a private, non-group rated employer at some point during 2001-2008 who:

  • Subscribed to the state workers’ compensation fund
  • Was not group-rated
  • Reported payroll and paid premiums in a manual classification for which the non-group effective base rate was “inflated” due to application of the group experience rating plan

Employers who were non-group rated for at least one policy year between 2001 and 2008 are eligible to claim a portion of the settlement.  Eligible employers should be receiving a notice that indicated their status as class members and how to make a claim.  A website where claim information can be submitting is currently under development.

Class members are required to submit their claims to Judge Robert McGonagle of the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Claims must be postmarked no later than Sept. 22, 2014. More information on this ruling can be found here. More details are coming, so stay tuned!

If you’re entitled to a portion of the BWC settlement, make sure you understand your rights and know how to follow the transaction process. If you’d like more information about how to claim what’s yours, email Rea & Associates and ask for information about this process.

Author: Joseph Popp, JD, LLM (Dublin office)

 

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Be On Guard For IRS Phone Scams

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