1. Good Recordkeeping Benefits your Business
Avoid headaches at tax time by keeping track of your receipts and other records throughout the year. Whether you use an excel spreadsheet, an app, an online system or keep your receipts organized in a folding file organized by month, good record-keeping will help you remember the various transactions you made during the year.
Records help you document the deductions you’ve claimed on your return. You’ll need this documentation should the IRS select your return for audit. Normally, tax records should be kept for three years, but some documents – such as records relating to a home purchase or sale, stock transactions, IRA, and business or rental property – should be kept longer.
In most cases, the IRS does not require you to keep records in any special manner. Generally speaking, however, you should keep any and all documents that may have an impact on your federal tax return including but not limited to:
- Credit card and other receipts
- Mileage logs
- Canceled, imaged, or substitute checks or any other proof of payment
- Any other records to support deductions or credits you claim on your return
Good record-keeping throughout the year saves you time and effort at tax time. For more information on what kinds of records you should keep or assistance in setting up a recordkeeping system that works for you, please call the office.
2. Some Veterans Eligible for Refunds from Overpayment
Certain veterans who received disability severance payments after January 17, 1991, and included that payment as income should file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to claim a credit or refund of the overpayment attributable to the disability severance payment. The refund is the result of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act passed in 2016.
Most veterans who received a one-time lump-sum disability severance payment when they separated from their military service will receive a letter from the Department of Defense with information explaining how to claim tax refunds they are entitled to; the letters include an explanation of a simplified method for making the claim.
The amount of time for claiming these tax refunds is limited; however, the law grants veterans an alternative timeframe of one year from the date of the letter from DoD. Veterans making these claims have the normal limitations period for claiming a refund or one year from the date of their letter from the DoD, whichever expires later. As taxpayers can usually only claim tax refunds within 3 years from the due date of the return, this alternative time frame is especially important since some of the claims may be for refunds of taxes paid as far back as 1991.
Veterans can submit a claim based on the actual amount of their disability severance payment by completing Form 1040X and carefully following the instructions. There is also a simplified method where veterans can instead choose to claim a standard refund amount based on the calendar year (i.e., an individual’s tax year) in which they received the severance payment. Claiming the standard refund amount is the easiest way for veterans to claim a refund because they do not need to access the original tax return from the year of their lump-sum disability severance payment.
Veterans eligible for a refund who did not receive a letter from DoD may still file Form 1040X to claim a refund but must include additional documentation to verify the disability severance payment. Veterans who did not receive the DoD letter and who do not have the required documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for their disability severance payment will need to obtain the necessary proof by contacting the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS).
Please contact the office if you need additional information or assistance filing Form 1040X.
3. The Facts about Penalty Relief for Taxpayers
Taxpayers who make an effort to comply with the law but are unable to meet their tax obligations due to circumstances beyond their control may qualify for relief from penalties.
If you’ve received a notice stating that the IRS assessed a penalty, the first step taxpayers should take is to check that the information in the notice is correct. Those who can resolve an issue in their notice may get relief from certain penalties, which include failing to:
- File a tax return
- Pay on time
- Deposit certain taxes as required
There are several types of penalty relief:
1. Reasonable cause
This relief is based on all the facts and circumstances in a taxpayer’s situation. The IRS will consider this relief when the taxpayer can show they tried to meet their obligations but were unable to do so. Situations, when this could happen, include a house fire, natural disaster and a death in the immediate family.
2. Administrative Waiver and First Time Penalty Abatement
A taxpayer may qualify for relief from certain penalties if he or she:
- Didn’t previously have to file a return or had no penalties for the three tax years prior to the tax year in which the IRS assessed a penalty.
- Filed all currently required returns or filed an extension of time to file.
- Paid, or arranged to pay, any tax due.
3. Statutory Exception
In certain situations, legislation may provide an exception to a penalty. Taxpayers who received incorrect written advice from the IRS may qualify for a statutory exception.
Taxpayers who received a notice or letter saying the IRS didn’t grant the request for penalty relief may appeal. If you have any questions about IRS penalties, please call.
4. Watch out for Scams during Hurricane Season
Hurricane season runs June 1 to November 30. With hurricane season well underway, taxpayers should watch out for disaster-related scams carried out by criminals and scammers who often try to take advantage of the generosity of taxpayers wanting to help victims of major disasters.
Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by telephone, social media, e-mail or in-person using a variety of tactics such as the following:
- Impersonating charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers.
- Setting up bogus websites use names similar to legitimate charities to trick people to send money or provide personal financial information.
- Claiming to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.
- Operating bogus charities and solicit money or financial information by telephone or email.
To find out whether a charity is legitimate use the search feature, “Tax Exempt Organization Search,” on the IRS website. Donations to these charities may be tax-deductible. Also, be sure to:
- Contribute by check or credit card, never give or send cash, to have a record of the tax-deductible donation.
- Not give out personal financial information such as Social Security numbers or credit card and bank account numbers and passwords to anyone who solicits a contribution.
Taxpayers suspecting fraud by email should visit IRS.gov and search for the keywords “Report Phishing.” Disaster victims can call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number (866-562-5227) and speak to someone who will answer questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues.
More information about tax scams and schemes may be found at IRS.gov using the keywords “scams and schemes.” If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to call the office as well.