Imagine after sending in your annual tax return, you receive a notice from the Internal Revenue Service saying that another return has already been filed using your name and Social Security number—and claiming a refund. Sound impossible? It can happen if you become one of a growing number of victims of tax return identity theft. According to one estimate, tax-related identity theft cases have soared more than 650% since 2008. At the least, this crime can lead to a delay in your refund, but the consequences may be much more serious. In addition, you may face a larger problem with identify theft if the scammer is also running up credit card debt or taking out loans in your name.
To avoid becoming a victim, we recommend steps such as safeguarding your Social Security number and other financial information, keeping an eye on changes to your credit ratings and taking precautions with electronic transfers of confidential information. Be sure to contact us if you believe you have been a victim of identity theft or would like advice on the best ways to secure your financial information.
Many people make donations to charities whose work they support, but if you are planning to take a tax deduction for your gift, you must have the proper paperwork. Assembling the right documentation can also be tricky because the requirements vary based on whether the donation is cash and on the value of your gift. If you donate less than $250 in cash, for example, a canceled check, credit card statement or similar record may be sufficient, but if you give more, you will need a written acknowledgement from the charity. An additional tax form—and possibly an appraisal—may be needed for non-cash donations, depending on their value. Of course, the organization itself must also qualify as a charity under IRS rules.
Did you know that small businesses that fail to file their annual retirement plan returns can face hefty fines of up to $15,000 per return? Fortunately, the Internal Revenue Service recognizes that some businesses may not even realize that this requirement applies to them. As a result, a tax penalty relief program allows them to pay $500 per return for late filings, up to a maximum of $1,500. The relief is aimed at small businesses whose plans cover a 100% owner or partners in a business partnership, and their spouses. The U.S. Department of Labor also has a relief program for businesses that have employees.
If you’re not sure whether the requirements—or the relief programs—apply to you, be sure to contact us. We can offer advice on how to remain in compliance with critical regulations and minimize your tax outlays.