Friday, July 9, 2010

IRS Opens Dedicated Phone Line for Gulf Oil Spill Victims

Today the IRS announced the opening of a special telephone line for taxpayers affected by the Gulf oil spill. Individuals who have questions about the BP payments or who are experiencing filing or payment hardships because of the oil spill should contact the IRS at 866-562-5277. This special phone line will operate weekdays from 7 am to 10 pm local time.

In certain cases, the IRS can assist oil spill victims by suspending collection and examination actions; however, the taxpayer must request it.

In addition to the new phone line, the IRS will conduct a special assistance day on July 17 for oil spill victims in seven coastal cities:

Taxpayers and tax preparers will be able to work directly with IRS employees to resolve tax issues, including specific topics related to the oil spill. The seven cities are:
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Panama City, Florida
  • Pensacola, Florida
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Houma, Louisiana
  • Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • Gulfport, Mississippi

If you need additional information or help with representation before the IRS, please contact my office at 850-470-8403.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Avoiding the Hobby Loss Trap is Difficult Enough...

Even when you have good books and records. In Georgia C. Farber (T. C. Memo. 2010-37) the taxpayer reported on her Schedule C $2,351 of gross receipts from her candle-selling activity and $33,475 in deductions for advertising, insurance, taxes, licenses, etc. The Court noted the taxpayer did not maintain a general ledger, financial statements, records of insurance, records of appraisal, records of advertising, or a separate bank account relating to her retail activity. Further, petitioner did not create income and expense worksheets, business or marketing plans, operating budgets, cost-benefit analyses, or financial projections relating to the activity, nor did she obtain a business license or fictitious business name relating to her retail activity. Expenses relating to petitioner's retail activity were billed to her and paid out of her personal account. The Court found she did not have the requisite intent to make a profit, and disallowed all deductions in excess of her gross income from the activity.

The moral of the story.....keep those books and records in shape, make budgets and financial projections to show you are in business to MAKE A PROFIT!!! If you need any accounting or tax assistance, please call my office 850-470-8403.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Jobs Bill Highlights Payroll Tax Incentives

Today, I'm writing to give you an overview of two key tax changes affecting businesses in the recently enacted Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment (HIRE) Act (PL 111-147; IR 2010-33).

To help stimulate the hiring of workers by the private sector, the new law exempts any private-sector employer that hires a worker who had been unemployed for at least 60 days from having to pay the employer's 6.2% share of the Social Security payroll tax on that employee for the remainder of 2010. A company could save a maximum of $6,621 if it hired an unemployed worker and paid that worker at least $106,800 -- the maximum amount of wages subject to Social Security taxes -- by the end of the year. As an additional incentive, for any qualifying worker hired under this initiative that the employer keeps on the payroll for a continuous 52 weeks, the employer is eligible for an additional non-refundable tax credit of up to $1,000 after the 52-week threshold is reached, to be taken on the employer's 2011 income tax return. In order to be eligible for the credit, the employee's pay in the second 26-week period must be at least 80% of the pay in the first 26-week period.

The above incentives apply to workers hired after the date of introduction of the legislation (Feb. 3, 2010), but only wages paid after March 18 are eligible for the Social Security tax exemption. Some additional features of the new hiring incentives include:
  • The tax benefit of the new incentive is immediate. It puts money into a business' cash flow immediately, since the tax is simply not collected in the first place.
  • The tax benefit generally applies only to private-sector employment, including nonprofit organizations and railroad employers -- public sector jobs are generally not eligible for either benefit. However, employment by a public higher education institution qualifies.
  • There is no minimum weekly number of hours that the new employee must work for the employer to be eligible, and there is no limit on the dollar amount of Social Security taxes that qualify for the employer exemption.
  • For workers that would otherwise be eligible for the Work Opportunity Tax Credit (i.e., another type of employment tax credit), the employer must select one benefit or the other for 2010. There is no double dipping.
  • An employer can't claim the new tax breaks for hiring family members.
  • A worker who replaces another employee who performed the same job for the employer isn't eligible for the benefit, unless the prior employee left the job voluntarily or for cause.
  • For the hiring to qualify for the above incentives, the new hire must sign an affidavit, under penalties of perjury, stating that he or she hasn't been employed for more than 40 hours during the 60-day period ending on the date the employment begins.
  • The incentive isn't biased towards either low-wage or high-wage workers. Under the measure, a business will save 6.2% on both a $40,000 worker and a $90,000 worker.
  • The Social Security tax exemption earned for the period from March 19, 2010 to March 31, 2010 may not be claimed on the first quarter employment tax return. The tax benefit that employers would have received in the first quarter of 2010 will be claimed on the second quarter employment tax return instead.
  • The credit for retaining qualifying new hires is the lesser of $1,000 or 6.2% of the wages paid by the taxpayer to the retained worker during the 52-consecutive-week period. Thus, the credit for a retained worker will be $1,000 if, disregarding rounding, the retained worker's wages during the 52-consecutive-week period exceed $16,129.03. However, the credit isn't available for pay not treated as wages under the Internal Revenue Code (e.g., remuneration paid to domestic workers).

I hope that your business can benefit from the above incentives. Please call our office at (850) 470-8403 if you have any questions on the new legislation.

Reproduced with permission from CCH Client Letters. Copyrighted and all rights reserved.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Do You Owe Tax on Relief of Credit Card Debt???

COD Income, that's what this is called. It means Cancellation of Debt income. If you have a lender discharge part or all of a debt that you were liable for, you may owe income tax on the amount that was discharged. This is because certain debts that are cancelled or forgiven by a lender result in taxable income to you, even though you have not technically received any money in hand from the debt forgiveness.

Generally, debt that is discharged or canceled by a lender must be included in your taxable income. Debt forgiveness income is the amount of debt that a lender discharges or cancels. Unless a specific exception applies, a lender's cancellation of debt will generally result in income to the borrower. If you have had a lender discharge all or part of a debt that you owe, and you would like to know what your tax obligations are regarding the cancelled amount, please contact our office.

In general, if the amount of forgiven or canceled debt is $600 or more, the lender must issue to you and to the IRS a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, showing the amount of debt canceled. Even though the creditor has issued Form 1099-C, you may be able to claim an exclusion from the income for the canceled debt.

If you had debt discharged in 2009 that does, or does not, qualify for an exception you must include the amount of cancelled debt in your gross income on your tax return. If you have questions about COD income, the exclusions from income, or your reporting responsibilities, please contact our office.

Thanks for checking in today. Hope to hear from you soon,


Reproduced with permission from CCH's Client Letter, published and copyrighted by CCH Incorporated, 2700 Lake Cook Road, Riverwoods, IL 60015.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Filing Season Tax Tips for Individuals

While the tax filing deadline is still over a month away, it always seems to be here before you know it! Here are a few tax tips to make the tax filing process run smoother than ever this year.

  1. Start gathering your records. Round up any documents or forms you'll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support an item of income or a deduction you're taking on your return.
  2. Be sure you have all W-2s and 1099s for work you've done throughout the 2009 tax year.
  3. Consider Direct Deposit. If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you'll receive it faster than waiting for a paper check. Be prepared to provide your preparer with your bank's routing number and account number.
  4. Review! Review! Review! Don't rush through getting your documents organized. We all make mistakes when we rush. Having your information organized will help report all of your income and claim all the tax deductions you are entitled to.
  5. Don't Panic! We are here to answer your questions and guide you through the process.

Here's some additional information for those of you with special circumstances.

If you were married or divorced recently, there are a couple of things you'll want to do to avoid problems with your tax return.

  1. If you took your spouse's last name or if both spouses hyphenate their last names, you may run into complications if you don't notify the Social Security Administration (SSA). When newlyweds file a tax return using their new last names, IRS computers can't match the new name with the Social Security Number.
  2. If you were recently divorced and changed back to your previous last name, you'll also need to notify the SSA of this name change.
  3. Informing the SSA of a name change is a snap; you'll just need to file a Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card at your local SSA office.
  4. For SS-5 is also available on the SSA's Web site at, by calling 800-772-1213 or at local offices. It usually takes about two weeks to have the change verified so you still have time!
  5. If you adopted your spouse's children after getting married you'll want to make sure the children have a SSN. Taxpayers must provide a SSN for each dependent claimed on a tax return. For adopted children without SSNs, the parents can apply for an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number -- or ATIN -- by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions with the IRS. The ATIN is a temporary number used in place of a SSN on a tax return. We can help you file this form.

If you recently married, divorced, separated or widowed, we can discuss which filing status applies to you. It's important you choose your correct filing status as it determines your standard deduction, the amount of tax you owe and ultimately, any refund owed to you.

Here are 8 facts about the filing status options you should consider to determine the correct filing status for your situation.

  1. Your marital status on the last day of the year determines your marital status for the entire year.
  2. If more than one filing status applies to you, choose the one that gives you the lowest tax obligation.
  3. Single filing status generally applies to anyone who is unmarried, divorced or legally separated according to state law.
  4. A married couple may file a joint return together. The couple's filing status would be Married Filing Jointly.
  5. If your spouse died during the year and you did not remarry during 2009, you may still file a joint return with that spouse for the year of death, provided the joint return election is not revoked by a personal representative for the deceased spouse.
  6. A married couple may elect to file their returns separately. Each person's filing status would generally be Married Filing Separately. However, this generally results in a total higher tax liability unless one spouse has special circumstances, such as high medical expenses for the year. We can evaluate the alternatives.
  7. Head of Household generally applies to taxpayers who are unmarried. You must also have paid more than half the cost of maintaining a home for you and a qualifying person to qualify for this status. We can advise on the definition of a qualifying person.
  8. You may be able to choose Qualifying Widow(er) with Dependent Child as your filing status if your spouse died during 2007 or 2008, you have a dependent child and you meet certain other conditions.

In addition to your filing status, there are two things that factor into your tax situation: dependents and exemptions. Here are five important facts you need to know about dependents and exemptions before you file your 2009 tax return.

  1. If someone else claims you as a dependent, you may still be required to file your own tax return. Whether or not you must file a return depends on several factors, including the amount of your unearned, earned or gross income, your marital status, any special taxes you owe and any advance Earned Income Tax Credit payments you received.
  2. Exemptions reduce your taxable income. There are two types of exemptions: personal exemptions and exemptions for dependents. For each exemption you can deduct $3,650 on your 2009 tax return. Exemption amounts are reduced for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income (AGI) is above certain levels, depending on your filing status.
  3. If you are a dependent, you may not claim an exemption. If someone else -- such as your parent -- claims you as a dependent, you may not claim your personal exemption on your own tax return.
  4. Your spouse is never considered your dependent. On a joint return, you may claim one exemption for yourself and one for your spouse. If you're filing a separate return, you may claim the exemption for your spouse only if your spouse had no gross income, is not filing a joint return, and is not the dependent of another taxpayer.
  5. Some people cannot be claimed as your dependent. Generally, you may not claim a married person as a dependent if they file a joint return with their spouse. Also, to claim someone as a dependent, that person must be a U.S. citizen, U.S. resident alien, U.S. national or resident of Canada or Mexico for some part of the year. There is an exception to this rule for certain adopted children.

Finally, consider filing electronically. Last year, 2 out of 3 tax returns were filed electronically. If your return was not one of them, here are three important reasons to e-file your return.

  1. It's fast! Your tax return will get processed more quickly if you use e-file. If there is an error on your return, it will typically be identified and can be corrected right away. If you file electronically and choose to have your tax refund deposited into your bank account, you will have your money in as few as 10 days.
  2. It's safe! When you file a tax return electronically, the IRS is fully committed to protecting your information on our tax processing systems.
  3. It's time! Don't miss out on the benefits of e-file. Two out of three taxpayers, or 95 million Americans already file their returns electronically.

We can answer all your tax questions and would like to remind you to schedule your appointment as soon as possible.

We sincerely hope this posting has been useful. Stay tuned for more!