Yet another year has passed, and with that said we have all experienced political ups & downs, extreme weather, births, deaths, marriages, divorces, sickness, happiness but for the most part, we are all happy to be here in the good, old USA! We plod on and do what we do. I am hoping your pluses far outweighed your minuses.
As you all know I still prepare many tax returns however, I have migrated a large part of my practice to that of audit and tax collection resolution. Call me crazy but I love appearing before the IRS on my client’s behalf and the IRS really supports and appreciates a practitioner’s help in bringing resolution to these types of cases. I was asked to participate in a special “sit down” last May, with two senior revenue agents. I packed my briefcase with four problematic clients and I headed to Miami. I was lucky to get 3 hours of their time and am happy to say that we were able to resolve each case successfully for both the Service as well as they clients. These were cases that I had tried to resolve via Powers of Attorney and the practitioner hot line but had been unsuccessful for one reason or another. I always prefer a good face to face! Be sure to contact me if you have any audit and or collection issues!
Client data security is an issue that is now part of the practitioners compliance to practice. I am happy to advise that the software I use for tax preparation, Drake, has gone out of their way to make our software as compliant as possible. We have passwords which have to be changed every few months. We have a “time out” feature which kicks us out of the software if there is no activity in several minutes. They make sure we have good anti-virus software and firewalls in place. And, I have drive encryption on my computer’s operating system. We are encouraged by the IRS to keep our PTINs and EFINs secure and to login and check the IRS pro site to check on the amount of returns associated with out licenses. If I usually prepare 200 tax returns but I see 2,000 under my EFIN number then I know there is a problem and I would need to report it to the IRS and other authorities.
The hourly rate at which I invoice has remained the same for several years, at $350/hr., and so as I have no one giving me a cost of living raise I find I must give myself one every once in awhile. As of 1/1/2020 the hourly rate is now $375. I am hopeful that you find my services and the quality I provide more than worth that.
Make sure all forms 1099 & W-2s (if you are responsible for them) are filed and provided by 1/31. Individual taxes are due 4/15. Partnerships and Sub-S corporations are due by 3/15 and, C corporations by 4/15. If you need help with any of these I am here to assist in any way I can.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy & successful 2020. And as always, I thank you for your business!
Barbara Jean Militello
I spent the day with eight IRS revenue agents on 12/14/19. It was an interesting day as always as we learn what new tax “things” we have ahead for this filing season.
BIG news for 2019 is that the “shared responsibility payment” or, penalty for not having health insurance is G-O-N-E! Now, I am not suggesting you should not have health insurance. The Marketplace (Obama Care) is still there for you and is great for people who are pretty much uninsurable due to pre-existing conditions, etc.
One item discussed and, a change due to the tax act of 2017 and of which most of us had a hard time accepting, is the suspension of the miscellaneous itemized deductions. You know the ones: tax prep fees, estate planning fees, investment expenses, and the BIG one, unreimbursed employee expenses. This was an important item for sales people in particular and it is G-O-N-E as it was for 2018. A bit hard to get used to. Those employees who work from their homes can no longer deduct any home office expenses due to this, amongt other items unreimbursed by their employers. Most of this pretty much as it was in 2018.
There are changes to depreciation rules, which are helpful if you have business equipment to depreciate. Section 179 has increased from $500,000 to $1,000,000. Section 179 now includes some improvements to non-residential real property. Bonus depreciation increased from 50% to 100%.
BIG changes to business meals & entertainment. Entertainment is generally no longer deductible. Taxpayers can continue to deduct 50% of the cost of business meals if they meet the following: The taxpayer is present. Meals are provided to a current or potential customer or client. The food and beverages are not considered lavish.
The Qualified Business Income (QBI) deduction is back and affects pass-through entities. It provides a 20% deduction of qualified business income plus 20% of combined qualified REIT dividends & qualified PTP income
The 2019 tax forms have changed once again and look more like they used to. I guess I was not the only practitioner who had a problem with a 1/2 page tax return form!
Securing client data was a hot topic as all practitioners are now responsible for maintaining a security plan. I will discuss this more in my “What’s New in My Practice” article. The good news is that identity theft reports have fallen 71%. Confirmed IDT returns stopped by IRS fell by 54%. There was $1.4 billion funds recovered from fraudulently filed returns and there was $24 billion in fraudulent returns protected. If you see any of the following contact your tax preparer immediately: Taxpayers who have not filed get a refund. Taxpayers returns are rejected as already filed. Please be on the alert for a phishing scam. Remember, the IRS will not call you or email you. The IRS only mails requests and any information to the taxpayer.
Collection Update: The IRS is taking passports! This began in January of 2018. This is called “certifying”. A taxpayer who owes greater than $52,000 and has had a Federal Tax Lien filed, of which the lien hearing has elasped, and there is a levy made under IRC 6331 delinquency….busted. If you apply for a passport or try to renew you will be “certified” and it will not happen. The IRS will not certify a taxpayer who is in bankruptcy, has experienced identity theft, is currently in non-collectible status due to hardship, located in a Federally declared disaster zone, or is pending an installment agreement, is pending an OIC, There have been 365,453 certifications since 3/19/19. Remember, the IRS hired four outside collection agencies and they are on the prowl!
Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020
- H.R. 1865
Signed into law on December 20, 2019, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020 averts a government shutdown that would have begun on December 21, 2019. The appropriations act funds the federal government through September 30, 2020.
Included in the appropriations bill are a number of tax law changes, including extenders, retirement plan funding and distribution reform, and disaster relief.
Extension of Expiring Provisions
Tax provisions that had previously expired are now extended as follows:
- Cancellation of qualified principal residence indebtedness exclusion from gross in-come has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §108(a)]
- Mortgage insurance premiums deduction has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §163(h)]
- Medical expense AGI limitation threshold reduced from 10% to 7.5% of AGI for all taxpayers for regular tax and for AMT purposes has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §213(f)]
- Tuition and fees deduction has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §222(e)]
- Indian employment credit is extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §45A]
- Race horse two years old or younger treated as 3-year property instead of 7-year property has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §168(e)(3)]
- Indian reservation property accelerated depreciation recovery periods has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §168(j)]
- Empowerment zone tax incentives has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §1391(d)]
- Biodiesel and renewable diesel fuels credit has been extended through the end of 2022. [IRC §40A]
- Second generation biofuel producer credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §40(b)]
- Nonbusiness energy property credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §25C]
- Alternative motor vehicle credit for qualified fuel cell motor vehicles has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §30B(k)]
- Alternative fuel vehicle refueling property credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §30C]
- Electric vehicle credit for highway-capable 2-wheeled vehicles has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §30D]
- Energy efficient home credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §45L]
- Energy efficient commercial building property deduction has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §179D]
- Alternative Fuel Excise Tax credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §6426(d)]
- New markets tax credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §45D]
- Employer credit for paid family and medical leave has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §45S]
- Work opportunity credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §51(c)]
- Health coverage tax credit has been extended through the end of 2020. [IRC §35(b)]
Other tax provision that were extended in the new law include the following:
- Black Lung Disability Trust Fund excise tax,
- Railroad Track Maintenance Credit,
- Mine Rescue Team Training Credit,
- 7-Year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes,
- Expensing rules for certain qualified film and television and live theatrical productions,
- American Samoa Economic Development Credit,
- Credit for Electricity Produced from Certain Renewable Resources,
- Production Credit for Indian Coal Facilities,
- Special allowance for second generation biofuel plant property,
- Special rule for sales or dispositions to implement FERC or state electric restructuring policy for qualified electric utilities,
- Oil spill liability trust fund rate,
- Certain provisions related to beer, wine, and distilled spirits,
- Look-thru rule for related controlled foreign corporations.
The law mentions some special rules for payments that qualify for some of the energy credits, such as the Alternative Fuel Excise Tax Credit and the Biodiesel and Renewable Diesel Fuels Credit, where the payments made after the credit had expired under prior law are subject to the special rules. The IRS is directed to issue guidance on how to make claims for the credit. The law does not mention a procedure for any of the other credits that had expired for tax years after 2017 under prior law, or how a taxpayer can take advantage of the extended provisions. It is presumed, for example, that if a taxpayer wants to claim the tuition and fees deduction for 2018, the taxpayer would have to file an amended return to take advantage of the extended provision.
Retirement Plan Provisions
The new law also includes a number of changes to retirement plans. The following list is a summary of some of these provisions:
- The starting date for making required minimum distributions from an IRA is the year the owner turns age 72.
- The age 70½ limit for making IRA contributions no longer applies.
- Non-spouse inherited IRAs are now subject to a 10-year maximum distribution period.
- Long-term part-time employees qualify to participate in a 401(k).
- 401(k) plans are permitted to adopt qualified birth or adoption distributions.
- A new tax credit is allowed for small employers using auto enrollment into their 401(k) plans.
- Qualified birth or adoption distributions up to $5,000 are exempt from the early withdrawal penalty.
- Taxable non-tuition fellowships and stipends and nontaxable difficulty of care payments earned by home healthcare workers are treated as compensation for purposes of retirement plan contributions.
- Provisions that allow employers to encourage employees towards lifetime annuities.
- Plan administrative changes that provide additional flexibility for employees and reduce costs for employer sponsors.
Disaster Tax Relief
The new law includes disaster tax relief for federally declared disaster areas that occurred during 2018 and 2019. The disaster tax relief is essentially the same as is regularly provided in the wake of major disasters like the various hurricane disaster tax relief provisions and California wildfire disaster tax relief provisions that had been made available in prior years. However, unlike prior disaster relief provisions, this disaster tax relief provision applies to all federally declared disasters during the period beginning January 1, 2018 and ending January 19, 2020. Tax relief under this new law includes:
- Forgiveness of the early-withdrawal penalties for qualified disaster distributions.
- The re-contribution of amounts withdrawn for home purchases.
- The increase in the amount of loans from qualified plans.
- An employee retention credit for employers in affected areas.
- Special casualty loss rules for affected individuals.
The new law also includes a number of miscellaneous provisions, including:
- The repeal of the excise taxes on high cost employer-sponsored health coverage (Ca-dillac plans) and medical devices that was first enacted under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
- The repeal of the fee on health insurance providers that was first enacted under ACA.
- The application of the estate and trusts tax rate to unearned income of children (the kiddie tax) has been repealed and replaced with the use of the parents’ tax rate for tax years after 2019.
- The parking tax on certain employee fringe benefits has been repealed.
Not Included in the New Law
A provision that did not make it into the new law is a fix for the so-called retail glitch, where leasehold improvement property outside the 15-year recovery property category for depreciation purposes is subject to a 39-year recovery period.
Although the April filing deadline has passed, scam artists remain hard at work, and the IRS is warning of a spring surge of phishing emails and telephone scams.
The IRS is seeing signs of two new variations of tax-related scams. One involves Social Security numbers related to tax issues and another threatens people with a tax bill from a fictional government agency. Here are some details:
The SSN hustle. The latest twist includes scammers claiming to be able to suspend or cancel the victim’s Social Security number. In this variation, the Social Security cancellation threat scam is similar to and often associated with the IRS impersonation scam. It is yet another attempt by con artists to frighten people into returning ‘robocall’ voicemails. Scammers may mention overdue taxes in addition to threatening to cancel the person’s SSN.
Fake tax agency. This scheme involves the mailing of a letter threatening an IRS lien or levy. The lien or levy is based on bogus delinquent taxes owed to a non-existent agency, “Bureau of Tax Enforcement.” There is no such agency. The lien notification scam also likely references the IRS to confuse potential victims into thinking the letter is from a legitimate organization.
Both display classic signs of being scams. The IRS and its Security Summit partners – the state tax agencies and the tax industry – remind everyone to stay alert to scams that use the IRS or reference taxes, especially in late spring and early summer as tax bills and refunds arrive.
Phone Scams. The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. In many variations of the phone scam, victims are told if they do not call back, a warrant will be issued for their arrest. Other verbal threats include law-enforcement agency intervention, deportation or revocation of licenses.
Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country, including from an IRS office. This prevents taxpayers from being able to verify the true call number. Fraudsters also have spoofed local sheriff’s offices, state departments of motor vehicles, federal agencies and others to convince taxpayers the call is legitimate.
Email phishing scams.The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. However, there are special circumstances when the IRS will call or come to a home or business. These visits include times when a taxpayer has an overdue tax bill, a delinquent tax return or a delinquent employment tax payment, or the IRS needs to tour a business as part of a civil investigation (such as an audit or collection case) or during criminal investigation.
If a taxpayer receives an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or a program closely linked to the IRS that is fraudulent, report it by sending it to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Report Phishing and Online Scams page provides complete details
Telltale signs of a scam
The IRS (and its authorized private collection agencies) will never:
· Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. The IRS does not use these methods for tax payments. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. All tax payments should only be made payable to the U.S. Treasury and checks should never be made payable to third parties.
· Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have the taxpayer arrested for not paying.
· Demand that taxes be paid without giving the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.
· Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
For anyone who doesn’t owe taxes and has no reason to think they do:
· Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
· Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to report the call. Use their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page.
· Report the caller ID and/or callback number to the IRS by sending it to email@example.com (Subject: IRS Phone Scam).
· Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the FTC Complaint Assistant on FTC.gov. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
For anyone who owes tax or thinks they do:
· View tax account information online at IRS.gov to see the actual amount owed. Taxpayers can then also review their payment options.
· Call the number on the billing notice, or
· Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. IRS workers can help.
The IRS does not use text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. For more information, visit the Tax Scams and Consumer Alerts page on IRS.gov. Additional information about tax scams is also available on IRS social media sites, including YouTube videos.
For more information or assistance in dealing with the IRS, contact Bj Millitello at 954-240-2635.