Increased Financial Stress Hurts Your Company’s Bottom Line

Kimberly Veal | April 21st, 2016
Financial Stress | Business Problem | Ohio CPA Firm

There is a clear correlation between an employee’s stress rate due to financial hardship and reduced productivity, higher healthcare costs, increased risk of occupational fraud and lower retirement readiness. Read on to find out what you can do to help promote financial wellness in your business.

Earlier this month, in a proclamation that reiterated the importance of equipping everybody with the “knowledge and protections necessary to secure a stable financial future for themselves and their families,” President Obama declared April to be National Financial Capability Month. While the timing of the proclamation makes this a great time to raise general awareness about the importance of financial fitness, businesses have a great opportunity to educate their employees about the importance of financial wellness all year long.

Read Also: Why Do They Turn Down Free Money?!

According to PwC US’s 2016 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 52 percent of respondents said they are stressed about their finances, while 45 percent noted an increase in their stress rate over the last 12 months. After further analysis, researchers determined that the primary cause of the stress is rooted in their inability to deal with unforeseen expenses, such as automobile or home repairs. Combined with the pressure to navigate the growing cost of higher education and the responsibility to saving for retirement, you have the makings for a perfect stress storm.

It’s pretty clear that it’s never been more important to understand the implications positive spending habits have on the wellbeing of our employees. Particularly among millennials, as the PwC study noted that the stress level of this generational group was dramatically worse than the others due to the increased level of student debt felt by this age group.

Furthermore, there is a clear correlation between an employee’s stress rate due to financial hardship and reduced productivity, higher healthcare costs, increased risk of occupational fraud and lower retirement readiness. Even in this recent study, as reported by Accounting Today, 79 percent of millennials in the workforce say “their student loans have a moderate or significant impact on their ability to meet their other financial goals.”

Employers are in a position to make financial wellness a priority before the stress workers are feeling has a chance to boil over and impact the company’s bottom line. Similar to the information and incentives your company provides with regard to wellness programs aimed at improving employee health, financial wellness programs are available to employers who are willing to step in and help their employees achieve greater financial success. Some methods are free and some have costs associated with them, but regardless of what you choose, the most effective programs are those that take a more holistic approach.

Darlene Finzer, CPA, QKA, CSA, a principal and director of benefit plan audit services at Rea & Associates spoke about financial wellness on episode 19 of unsuitable on Rea Radio. The episode, called “It Starts with a Penny,” does a great job explaining the importance of financial wellness, the risks employers should be aware of that could result from high levels of financial stress and solutions to help get your workforce on the right track. You can listen to the episode in the media player below or click here to access the episode, financial calculators and additional resources.

By Kimberly Veal, CPA (Lima office)

Check out these articles for more insight into the issues of financial wellness and retirement readiness.

Americans Falling Short On Retirement Savings

Debt vs. Taxes: Should You Pay Off Your Loan?

Don’t Miss Your Chance To Secure Tax-Free Wealth

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Protect Yourself From Fake Charity Scams

Maribeth Wright | April 20th, 2016

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making A Donation

Charity Scams - Ohio CP A Firm

Would you be able to spot the charity scam? Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to ask yourself a few questions. Read on to find out which ones.

From identity theft and tax fraud to criminals finding ways to hack into your company’s network, we are learning every day that it’s simply not safe to let your guard down – for anyone or anything. Unfortunately, that mindset should apply when you are considering gifting a charitable donation as well.

Some fraudsters, in an attempt to prey on the generosity of strangers, have begun to solicit funds for fake charities particularly during and immediately after tax season. But you can shut down these scams by asking yourself these critical questions.

Read also: Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

Is this the charity I know and love or is it a spin off?

We are a sucker for the brands we know and love, and criminals will invoke similar names, attributes, branding to trip you up and get you to write that check. Even if you are 99 percent certain the check you are about to write will go to a well-respected nonprofit organization, it makes since to conduct a quick search online to remove all doubt. Two resources to consider are:

  • The Exempt Organization Select Check Tool – this search tool is designed to help you determine the legitimacy of the not-for-profit in question by providing users with information about the organization’s federal tax status and filings.
  • Guidestar – this online resource is great for users who want to find out about the validity of tax-exempt organizations as well as other faith-based nonprofits, community foundations and other groups that are typically not required to register with the IRS.

Do nonprofit organizations ask for personal information?

Don’t make it easy for a fraudster to steal your identity by willingly providing them with your Social Security Number. Legitimate nonprofit organizations will never need your SSN to complete a transaction and they should never need to retain any of your personal information for their records – this includes passwords.

Should my donation be in the form of a check or is it OK to give cash?

Yes! For your own security, and tax purposes, be sure to establish a paper trail. The best way to do this is to avoid making any type of cash donations. Instead, every time you give money to a charity, consider using a check or credit card to establish proof of the transaction. Not only is it important to establish a paper trail as a safety measure, it will help you when to go to claim the contribution on next year’s tax return.

I’m still not sure if it’s a valid nonprofit organization?

If the questions above don’t provide you with the reassurance you need, reach out to a trusted advisor who can help you identify whether a particular charitable organization is reputable or not while giving you pointers to help you protect your hard-earned dollars as well as your identity.

 By Maribeth Wright, CPA (Cambridge office)

Check out these articles to learn to learn about other fraud scenarios taxpayers should know about.

Stop Criminals From Hijacking Your Identity With These Top 5 ID Theft Prevention Posts

Then & Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

Malware Threat Spreads To Smart Phones

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Environmentally Friendly Tax Savings

Brian Kempf | April 14th, 2016

For the last 46 years the global population has come together to channel “human energy toward environmental issues.” On April 22, 2016, the world will once again celebrate Earth Day. You can find a wealth of information on the official Earth Day website, including information about this year’s theme, Trees for the Earth. You can also find some great tips to help you become more energy efficient or help you spread the word about climate change and other topics.

Businesses Can Go Green And Save Green

For business owners, going green can result in significant tax savings as well, which can make environmental responsibility that much more desirable. Take a look at this slide show and find out how green certain eco-friendly initiatives can help strengthen your company’s bottom line.

Do you want to start saving on your 2016 tax bill? Email Rea & Associates to find out how you can use environmentally friendly tax planning initiatives to ease the tax burden on your business.

By Brian Kempf, CPA (Millersburg office)

Are you looking for more tax tips? Check out these articles:

Go Green For The Planet And Pocket The Savings

Can Making Your Building Green Save On Taxes?

5 Tax Deductions To Ease Your Business’s Tax Burden

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There’s Nothing Wrong With 3-Year-Old Money

Lesley Mast | April 8th, 2016

Time’s Running Out To Claim 2012 Refund Checks

Unclaimed Tax Refunds  - Ohio CPA Firm

Grab your unclaimed cash before it’s too late! The IRS owes taxpayers about $950 million of unclaimed tax refunds from 2012. But the deadline to file your late return is April 18, 2016. Read on to learn more.

If you are one of the nearly one million taxpayers who didn’t file a tax return in 2012, you may be eligible to receive an additional refund check from Uncle Sam. But if you don’t act fast you will miss your chance to claim your portion of the $950 million.

Funds that are not claimed by April 18, 2016 will become the property of the U.S. Treasury.

Were you a student in 2012 or was your income such that you weren’t legally required to file a 2012 tax return? It’s possible that, at that time, you had too much withheld from your wages (or paid higher quarterly estimated payments) than was actually necessary. And now the government owes you a refund. Additionally, depending on your particular circumstances, you could have also been eligible to claim certain tax credits, which are also just sitting there … waiting for somebody to claim them.

Read Also: From Toddler To Teen And Beyond: Tax Breaks For Families

According to IRS estimates, half the potential refunds are for more than $715. Unfortunately, if you don’t claim this money now, you never will. Taxpayers have three years to file a claim for a tax refund. Funds not claimed in time will become government property.

Here are a few other points to remember if you plan on claiming your share of unclaimed funds.

  • You must file a 2012 federal income tax return to claim your refund. The IRS needs to make sure you don’t owe any federal or state taxes for 2013 or 2014 as well, so if you haven’t filed those returns yet, the IRS may hold your refund to satisfy any tax debts that are owed as well as any past due child support or federal debts, such as student loans.
  • To claim your refund, you must properly address, mail and postmark your tax return no later than this year’s tax deadline (April 18, 2016).
  • Be sure to collect any and all necessary forms and include them with your return, including Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498. If you are missing a form or two, you can request copies from your employer (current and/or previous), your bank or another payer.

If you didn’t file a 2012 tax return and think the government owes you money, you have no time to waste. The IRS provides taxpayers with current and prior year tax forms and instructions on its website or by calling 1-800-TAX-FORM (1-800-829-3676). You can find additional help, such as tax calculators, refund tracker, record retention schedule and more in the financial resources section of the Rea & Associates website. Check it out!

By Lesley Mast, CPA, MAcc-Taxation (Wooster office)

Check out these articles for more last-minute tax help?

How To Trigger An IRS Audit

How To Make Dealing With The IRS Less Stressful

Join The Fight Against Identity Theft & Income Tax Fraud

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What Are You Waiting For?!

Lesley Mast | April 7th, 2016

3 Tips For Taxpayers Who Haven’t Filed Yet

Did you know that according to the IRS 20-25 percent of Americans wait till the last two weeks to file their taxes?! The thought alone is enough to make even the most experienced accountant nervous.

If you’re a last-minute filer, here are some tips to help you (and your accountant) get through the 2016 tax deadline unscathed.

  1. The Truth About Tax Extensions Unfortunately, there are some pretty nasty rumors going around about tax extensions. Hopefully, I will be able to debunk some common tax extension myths while helping those who opted to extend their deadline sleep a little better tonight. Check out the slideshow and get the facts about tax extensions!
  1. How To Pay Your Tax Bill In 6 Easy Steps Available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Direct Pay has proven to be a popular choice among Americans who are looking for a quick and easy option for settling their tax balances. Want to learn more about the benefits of Direct Pay, just click here.
  1. Breaking The Tax Bracket Myth Myths and misconceptions about the tax code are rampant and clients frequently express their concerns about a variety of tax-related issues. One topic that comes up frequently is our federal government’s graduated tax bracket system. Oftentimes, people worry that if they make “too much” money, their entire income will be taxed at a higher rate – a worry that has kept countless hard-working taxpayers up at night. But are these concerns valid? Find out.

Don’t wait much longer to file your taxes or request an extension, April 18 will be here before you know it.

Treat Yourself

Don’t want to go through the mad rush again next year? We like to encourage our clients to think about taxes all year long – not just the first four months of the year. Sign up for our bi-weekly digital newsletter to for tax tips and business advice guaranteed to keep you motivated and tax-time ready all year long. And, of course, you can always email Rea & Associates for help along the way.

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Can A Cybercriminal Crack Your Company’s Network?

Joe Welker | April 5th, 2016
Ransomware Attack | Cybercriminals Target Businesses | Ohio CPA Firm

Ransomware has become a formidable threat to businesses of all sizes, yet I have worked with quite a few business owners who are unfamiliar with the term. This is particularly unnerving as a Ransomware attack can be catastrophic to the financial stability of your business. Read on for tips to help you prevent a Ransomware attack from taking down your business.

Small and midsize businesses are not immune to becoming the target of a crippling cyberattack and without the proper procedures in place business owners risk the very real threat of a large-scale assault on their company’s data. Would you be able to recover if your organization was attacked?

Instances of cybercrime have reached an all-time high and ensuring that your company has the procedures in place to guard against an army of determined fraudsters is more important than ever. But before you can implement effective controls, you must have a clear understanding of what it is that threatens your business.

Know Your Enemy

Ransomware has become a formidable threat to businesses of all sizes, yet I have worked with quite a few business owners who are unfamiliar with the term. This is particularly unnerving as a Ransomware attack can be catastrophic to the financial stability of your business.

Read Also: Could Your Company Be Ransomware’s Next Victim?

Ransomware is the infection of a computer which immediately encrypts all recognizable file types. Once your network is infected, a screen appears on your monitor demanding that the company pay a ransom in exchange for the data to be “decrypted” and released. A timeframe is established by the hackers and it is made clear that if the ransom is not paid before the deadline, the organization’s data will be destroyed.

4 Tips To Help Prevent A Ransomware Attack

To protect your business against Ransomware and other similar threats:

  1.  Train your employees to identify phishing emails.
    Numerous vendors can provide your company phishing tests and video training to help educate your employees about phishing emails and ways to identify possible scams. Specifically, work to change the mindset of those within your organization when it comes to opening attachments and clicking on hyperlinks.
  2. Set employee Microsoft Active Directory rights.
    It’s unlikely that all your employees will need full-access to your company’s entire database to do their jobs. One way to protect your data is to only grant access to the data needed for employees to complete their job responsibilities. This way, if an attack does occur, the damage can be isolated.
  3. Consider implementing programs such as Microsoft “AppLocker.”
    When you implement programs like AppLocker, you require users to be assigned access to the programs they need to utilize. Again, this helps to isolate the threat which can help minimize the impact of an attack.
  4. Implement a Disaster Recovery (DR) Plan.
    Some research indicates that only about 35 percent of small- to medium-sized businesses have a working and comprehensive disaster recovery plan. We are learning time and time again just how important it is to have a plan in place to protect your business when crisis strikes. A DR plan, complete with regular plan testing and offsite backup data, will help prepare you for unforeseen events which, under current circumstances, could prove to be catastrophic. Click here to learn more about the benefits of a DR plan and how they can keep your organization and its data safe.

Guard Your Data With These Best Practices

Monitor for irregularities

If your network is infected, you can eliminate or decrease the threat of Personally Identifiable Information (such as financial records, medical information or intellectual property) from being infiltrated by utilizing an Intrusion Detection System or Security Information & Event Management application or service. These applications are designed to monitor for invalid access attempts, outgoing traffic identification and other significant alerts.

Require two-factor authentication

Many breaches are the result of access that has been granted to a third-party vendor. Oftentimes the vendor’s network will become infected and can lead to the breach of your own organization. While the data breach may not have originated within your organization, you are responsible for the inroads that were ultimately exploited by hackers to gain access into your network. A best practice is to require all vendors to utilize two-factor authentication or direct contact with your IT staff in order to gain access to your company’s network. Your networks should never be directly accessible to any outside vendor.

These tips can help you protect your organization from cybercriminals, but they only provide an initial layer of security. New threats are being developed every day and existing threats are evolving rapidly. The best thing you can do is arm yourself with knowledge and regularly test for weaknesses in your company’s armor. One day, your business will be the focus of a cyberattack. Will you be ready?

Email Rea & Associates for more information about protecting your business from cybercrime.

By Joe Welker, CISA (New Philadelphia office)

Check out these articles to learn more about Ransomware and other cyberattacks on businesses:

How Much Is Your Data Worth To Criminals?

Businesses Beware: Sloppy Data Security Could Cost You

Then & Now: Data Security In America Since The Target Breach

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Business Leaders Turned To Drebit For Fool-Proof Tax Tips

Dear Drebit | April 1st, 2016

When it comes to providing readers with top-notch tips and expert financial advice, we take our job very seriously. That’s why our top blog posts in March were related to tax, compliance and general financial wellness topics. Take a look this month’s top five blog posts for business owners.

1. Does The IRS Care About Your Fantasy Football Team?

Fantasy Football | Tax Guidance | Ohio CPA Firm

When you sit down with your CPA to go over last year’s taxable income and they ask you how your fantasy football team did this year, they aren’t just looking to engage you in casual conversation. In fact, how well (or how poorly) you did over the last year might make a difference in the size of your tax bill. Read on to learn more.

 

 

2. Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

paper dollsOver the last few years, the threat of refund fraud and identity theft has become a very real concern, and criminals have proven that they will go to great lengths to get the information they need to complete their scams. This recent phishing scam is no exception.

 

 

 

 

3. The ACA: Small Businesses Are Also At Risk

Small Business Penalties | ACA | Ohio CPA Firm

Thinking the provisions outlined in the Affordable Care Act doesn’t apply to your business because you are “under the threshold of 50 employees” is a very dangerous assumption to make. Keep reading to find out why.

 

 

 

4. Don’t Miss Out! Claim The Work Opportunity Tax Credit

2016 individual mandate penaltiesThe IRS has finally issued guidance on how to deal with the retroactive extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (WOTC) for 2015. In short, it’s an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Can You Afford To Lose Them?

Recruitment & Staffing Strategy | Ohio CPA Firm

When you lose a member of your team, regardless of their position, you can expect their departure to impact your organization’s bottom line. That’s why it’s so important to take a proactive stance with regard to staffing and minimizing your financial burden.

 

 

 

 

 

April brings an end to the 2016 tax season. Don’t forget that the tax deadline is April 18 this year. Looking ahead, you can expect to see some great tips from our business experts as well as some fantastic spring cleaning advice that can be used to prepare for tax season 2017. And, as always, if you have a question for one of our financial experts or business consultants fill out the Ask Drebit a Question form. We are always happy to provide you with responses to your specific questions.

Happy Spring!

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Don’t Let These Common Retirement Plan Mistakes Hurt Your Business

Steve Renner | March 28th, 2016
Administrative Mistakes | Retirement Plan Sponsors | Ohio CPA Firm

Even data entry gurus aren’t immune to making mistakes and, as many of us are already aware, it only takes a minor slip up to cause major havoc – especially where your plan contribution records are concerned. Read on to discover some common administrative mistakes retirement plan sponsors should know about and how to avoid them moving forward.

When it comes to saving for retirement, your employees trust you to help them get their finances in order. Don’t undermine their trust by making mistakes that could have been easily avoided. Instead, take a proactive approach to the administrative responsibilities you are expected to manage. Keep reading to discover three areas retirement plan auditors are checking for mistakes and what you can do to avoid future issues.

Enrollment

Pay close attention to your plan’s eligibility requirements. The enrollment dates for some employees can get confusing. Consider the following example.

According to your plan document, in order for an employee to enroll in your company’s retirement plan, they must be at least 21-years-old and have had worked for you for at least six consecutive months. Once they have met these requirements, they can enroll during the plan’s entry dates, which fall on the first day of each quarter.

Considering this scenario, on what day will you be able to enroll “John” into your company’s retirement plan if:

  • He was hired March 17, 2016
  • His birthday is Oct. 25, 1995

While it’s true that John will meet the 6-month employment requirement on Sept. 17, he’s unable to meet the age requirement. When he turns 21 on Oct. 25, he will still have to wait until the first day of the next quarter – Jan. 1, 2017.

If an employee misses the opportunity to participate as a result of an error made by the plan sponsor, the employer is required to correct the mistake by making a corrective contribution.

This common mistake can easily be avoided as long as your business has solid processes in place to determine the appropriate for all new employees who are choosing to enter into the plan.

Contributions

Even data entry gurus aren’t immune to making mistakes and, as many of us are already aware, it only takes a minor slipup to cause major havoc – especially where your plan contribution records are concerned.

When you manually enter your employee’s retirement plan contributions, you become vulnerable to data entry errors. It’s not uncommon for a wrong keystroke to lead to deposits being made into the wrong employee’s account, for example.

Fortunately, this mistake is easily avoidable if you take steps toward automation. Ask your payroll company if they can create a file that can be easily uploaded to your retirement plan’s record keeper in an automated format and save yourself any future data entry headaches.

Compensation

It’s very important to be clear about what your plan document considers to be compensation. For example, if your plan document makes a point to reference “W-2 compensation,” you are required to withhold retirement plan funds from all regular wages, bonuses, commission, overtime, etc. This means, that if you pass out performance bonuses and neglect to withhold their 401(k) contribution, your document has failed and your business is opened to unpleasant consequences.

Fortunately, it’s not too late. Your plan document most likely offers the flexibility to make a separate plan election on bonuses. If your employee does decide to elect a portion of their bonus to the plan, ask them to document the election request for your records as well as their own.

Mistakes happen, but you can minimize the chance of making some pretty major mistakes simply by adopting a more proactive management style. The tips above will certainly help you get started. But for even more, email Rea & Associates today.

By Steve Renner, QKA (New Philadelphia office)

Get more retirement plan advice for your business. Check out these articles:

How Your Plan Design Can Help Improve Your Retirement Plan Participation

13 Fees That Can Kill Your Retirement Plans

Retirement Plan Participants Are Content To Watch Their Savings Simmer

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Phishing Scam Is A Threat To Ohio Businesses

Lisa Beamer | March 28th, 2016
IRS Phishing Scam - Ohio CPA Firm

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information.

The Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) is echoing phishing scam alerts made by the IRS earlier this month in an effort to protect businesses and employees state-wide from identity theft and tax fraud.

Read Also: Payroll, HR Departments Targeted By Cyber Criminals

According to ODT, payroll and human resources offices at companies nationwide – including some in Ohio – reportedly received emailed requests that appear to be sent from a high ranking member of the company’s management team requesting confidential payroll data. While the emails appear to be legitimate, they are actually being sent by cybercriminals who are looking to fool employees into sending them detailed payroll and W-2 information. The imposters then use the information to file fraudulent tax returns.

“The scam has worked on more than 30 companies resulting in the theft of W-2 tax information for thousands of current and former employees,” ODT’s news release states. “The W-2 form contains an employee’s Social Security number, salary and other confidential data. This information enables thieves to create a realistic looking, but fraudulent tax return requesting a tax refund that is then filed with Ohio or other states, and the IRS.”

The frequency of tax fraud and identity theft continues to increase at an alarming rate. This tax season alone, the IRS reported an approximate 400 percent increase in phishing and malware incidents – a surge that was addressed back in February.

“If your CEO appears to be emailing you for a list of company employees, check it out before you respond,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Everybody has a responsibility to remain diligent about confirming the identity of people requesting personal information about employees.”

You can take a proactive stance when it comes to protecting your company from these scams by encouraging your employees to pay close attention to emails that request sensitive information, such as the names of employees, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and/or salary information or copies of employee’s W-2 information. You can also let them know that they should never send sensitive information until a conversation takes place, either in-person or over the phone, with the member of management seeking the information. You can also check out the information provided here for general insight from ODT that could be used to help your employees identify phishing attempts and email scams.

If your Ohio business has been the victim of or experienced this or any other type of email phishing scheme, contact ODT immediately at 800.282.1780 to protect against potential tax fraud and safeguard Ohio taxpayer dollars.

Those who are interested in learning more about the increasing threat of cybercrime should check out The Columbus Cybersecurity Series. Presentations are scheduled to take place throughout the year and will focus on ways to help business owners learn more about cyber threats. The first installment is scheduled for Wednesday, April 6. The event is free but registration is required to attend. Attendees will walk away with new insight into these attacks as well as tips and advice that will help you protect your business.

By Lisa Beamer, CPA (New Philadelphia office)

Want to protect your employees from identity theft and tax fraud or need help recovering? Check out these articles:

How Can You Protect Yourself From Tax Fraud

Identity Theft Prevention: Tips To Reduce Your Risk of Becoming a Victim

How To Recover From Identity Theft & Refund Fraud

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How To Trigger An IRS Audit

Chad Bice | March 25th, 2016
How To Trigger An IRS Audit - Ohio CPA

When was the last time you were happy – jubilant even – after receiving a letter from the IRS ? Exactly … Keep reading to learn how to keep the tax man out of your mailbox.

Only .84 percent of the 146.9 million individual tax returns filed in 2015 were audited by the IRS. The last time the audit rate was that low it was 2004 and most of us were walking around in Uggs. And even though the IRS says it expects to see even fewer audits in 2016, your chance of being audited tends to increase when:

You fail to report all taxable income

You will be notified if the IRS notices any inconsistencies between the taxable income reported on your tax return and the combined amount reported on your 1099s and W2s. Be sure to make the issuer of your 1099 aware of any mistakes, including incorrect income reported or receiving a form that is not yours.

You own a cash-intensive business

If you operate a taxi, car wash, bar, hair salon, restaurant or any other cash-intensive business, the IRS will be watching your tax return closely. Historically, cash-intensive businesses have been less accurate in reporting all taxable income. In response, agents are using special techniques to interview business owners and audit for unreported income.

Read Also: What’s Worse: An IRS Audit Or A Root Canal?

You claim large charitable deductions

IRS agents don’t have a problem with you philanthropic behavior, it’s the people abuse this tax deduction they have a problem with. This is another area the agency has had problems with in the past, which is why agents pay special attention to these types of deductions – especially if the deduction is disproportionately large in relation to your taxable income. So, if you are going to make a gift to a nonprofit organization, make sure to do it the right way. Keep your receipts, document everything and obtain an appraisal if the donation is for property worth more than $500 (and be sure to file Form 8283 with your return). It’s also important to note that donated cars, boats and planes continue to draw special attention.

You claim home office deductions

If you can claim the home office deduction – great! However, many are often unsuccessful because they ultimately realize that they don’t meet the strict requirements. Or, if they do successfully claim it, they overstate the deduction. For this reason, this is another area the IRS tends to scrutinize. Remember, if home office space must be used exclusively and on a regular basis as your primary place of business in order to claim a percentage of the rent, real estate taxes, utilities, phone bills, insurance and other costs.

Your claim for meals, travel and entertainment is disproportionately high

This is another area where taxpayers have made excessive claims in the past, causing the IRS to look closely at meal, travel and entertainment deductions for self-employed taxpayers. When the deduction appears too large for the business, agents look for detailed documentation including the amount, place, persons attending, business purpose and nature of the discussion or meeting.

You claimed 100% business use of a vehicle

It’s very rare that a taxpayer actually uses vehicle exclusively for business, especially if no other vehicle is available for personal use. If an IRS agent sees this type of claim, they won’t just see red flags, they will hear sirens. If you are planning to claim a percentage of your vehicle usage on your tax return, be sure to keep detailed mileage logs and precise calendar entries for the purpose of every road trip.

The best way to guard against an IRS audit is to have your business and personal tax returns prepared correctly every year by a team of tax specialists. Email Rea & Associates to learn what other red flags the IRS is looking for.

By Chad Bice, CPA (Zanesville office)

Check out these articles for even more popular tax tips:

How To Make Dealing With The IRS Less Stressful

How Far Back Can The IRS Go For Tax Auditing?

A Use Tax Audit Could Cost You

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