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April 2017

No maybe about it. Taxpayers will be calling the Internal Revenue Service this weekend as the April 18 tax return filing deadline looms. Taxpayers will be taking Carly Rae Jepsen's advice and calling the IRS in a filing season last-minute rush to complete their returns. Click image to watch her song's video. Or you can check out IRS videos for tax help. The first two weeks of April usually are the busiest times of the year for IRS employees who staff the agency's toll-free telephone help lines. And since this is an unusually slow filing season — the IRS reports... Read more →


As if you and your tax adviser weren't already crunched enough in April, this filing season there's a new deadline for folks who have money or other assets in foreign accounts. FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR), is now due on the regular federal individual tax return's April deadline — that's the 18th this year because the 15th is on Saturday and Emancipation Day falls on Monday, April 17 — instead of June 30 as it has been in previous years. The good news is that your FBAR filing can be extended until October. And... Read more →


Time is rapidly running out this filing season to make tax-saving moves, but adding to an IRA could be a win-win-win. Win 1: Added feathering of your nest egg Most moves to reduce a tax year's final bill must be taken by the end of that tax year. Once Dec. 31 is past, so are your options to reduce what you owe the Internal Revenue Service. IRA contributions, however, are different. You have until the April fling deadline, which is next Tuesday, the 18th this year, to put money into your traditional or Roth IRA and have the contribution count... Read more →


You have a mortgage. That home's property taxes are waaaay too big. (Note to self: Protest the appraisal.) And you were really generous. All those expenses probably mean that you itemize instead of taking the standard deduction when you file your taxes. Yes, it's more work, but if you take full advantage of all Schedule A has to offer, it can really pay off. Schedule A (Form 1040) Here's a closer look at what you can claim where when you itemize. Medical and Dental Expenses Being sick sucks. Having to pay a lot of out-of-pocket medical expenses is a pain,... Read more →


Indian police on Saturday, April 8, arrested the man they believe is the mastermind behind what has been called the most pervasive U.S. tax scam ever. But although he's in custody, his alleged criminal legacy continues. On Monday, April 10, the Internal Revenue Service issued yet another warning about phone scams and email phishing schemes. International arrest: Sagar "Shaggy" Thakkar was arrested at the Mumbai airport as he re-entered India this past weekend, according to various international reports. Indian law enforcement say Thakkar, who allegedly started scam call facilities in Mumbai and Ahmedabad, had fled the country and traveled to... Read more →


Most of us — Internal Revenue Service data shows around 70 percent of taxpayers — don't mess with itemized deductions. Instead this large group of filers claims the standard deduction. It's easy. The amount to claim is based on your filing status and found directly on the 1040 and 1040A forms; it's included with the personal exemption amount(s) on 1040EZ. It's also adjusted annually for inflation, so generally if you make more the next tax year, your standard deduction is larger. But sometimes standard deduction claimants feel a bit left out at tax time, since so much is written (guilty!)... Read more →


Judge Neil Gorsuch, nominated by Donald J. Trump to fill the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy created by the unexpected death last year of Justice Antonin Scalia, was sworn in April 10, 2017, becoming the 113th person to serve on the nation's highest court. Image courtesy White House Facebook video Gorsuch's wife, Marie Louise Gorsuch, held the family bible as Justice Anthony Kennedy administered the oath of office to his former law clerk during a White House Rose Garden ceremony with the president watching. The 49-year-old Gorsuch no doubt will have a say on many tax matters during his lifetime tenure... Read more →


You know there's Free File, but you'd really feel more comfortable getting some face-to-face help filling out your taxes. The problem is you don't have a lot of money to pay for accredited tax assistance. Good news. You might qualify for free, in-person tax help. Free tax-preparation and filing help, like that shown here at a Rutherford Country, Tennessee, VITA office, is available at thousands of sites across the country. No-cost tax return preparation and e-filing is available at nearly 12,000 Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites across the United States. These filing-season... Read more →


Back before I was totally focused on taxes — yes, I know that's hard to imagine — I worked for a corporate conglomerate that had an aerospace subsidiary. That company also was a government contractor. To underscore our connection to federal government, my employer offered the option to buy U.S. saving bonds through a payroll purchase program. I still have a bundle of those Series EE bonds. Yes, real paper bonds. That's some of them pictured above. It seemed a little silly back then, even though the purchases cost me only half of each bond's face value. Compared to other... Read more →


One of the biggest taxpayer fears is being audited. Realistically, unless you're aggressively pushing the tax envelope, it's not something that should keep you up at night. That's not just my assessment. It's borne out by Internal Revenue Service data, which shows that the individual tax return audit rate in 2016 was just 0.06 percent. That's the fifth straight year audits (or examinations, as the IRS calls them) have dropped and the number of returns examined last year was the fewest since 2004. A key reason that audits have fallen is because the IRS is understaffed in this area. (More... Read more →


It was supposed to be the annual Capitol Hill review of how the current tax filing season is going. It was supposed to be a time for the Internal Revenue Service to shine since, as the IRS commissioner said during a public speech yesterday, it's been the smoothest filing season since he took the top job in December 2013. It wasn't. During a Senate Finance hearing today, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen revealed more details of security breach connected to federal student aid applications that require inclusion of tax data. Student loan tax data security concerns: While 2017 filing season specifics... Read more →


Click image to watch Stephen Colbert's character Otto Sanchez "advise" H&R Block customers. Stephen Colbert has assumed a variety of personas during his comic career. On his April 5 CBS late night show a new, sort of tax-focused character appeared. Hello Otto Sanchez, hoax H&R Block tax professional. As the company itself asked on its Facebook page, what could go wrong? Plenty. From singed and mistakenly shredded tax documents to an impromptu serenade to beer during the consultation, three customers of the country's largest franchised tax preparation service were amazingly good-natured victims of Colbert's skewed tax humor. I hope the... Read more →


Tax filing must keep evolving. That's the word from Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen, who today made his fourth and final appearance as head of the U.S. tax agency before the National Press Club. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen holds a paper Form 1040 during his speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Each event attendee got a souvenir form, complete with a personal "thanks for filing" note penned by the commish. That means, Koskinen told the assembled group of media in Washington, D.C., more digital solutions to taxes. And if tax reform can help achieve that, then... Read more →


And so it starts. Again. As mandated by Congress, the Internal Revenue Service has turned over some delinquent tax accounts to private debt collectors. These collection agencies will begin calling affected individuals this week. Yes, private debt collectors are again calling about unpaid federal taxes. Worried much? I am. New tax scam potential: I spelled out my primary concern in a post last month about the private collection letter the IRS had finalized. "If you think this opens the door -- and windows and attic vents -- wide for tax scammers, you are probably correct. And you are not alone.... Read more →


Wait. It's April, right? And isn't it March that has the proverbial lion-like entrance? Well, April apparently is trying to steal some monthly arrival literal thunder. Over the first weekend of this new month, violent storms raked much of Texas and are still marching east. Little April showers on spider web GIF by SomethingTraLaLa via Giphy Yes, I know spring heralds thunderstorm season, which is often dangerous and deadly like this weekend. But I also know I speak for a lot of us who were hoping simply for some more soothing April showers. So instead of just worrying about filing... Read more →


Californians who just can't kick their nicotine habit are now paying substantially more for their addiction. Effective April 1, the Golden State's tobacco tax went up by $2 per a pack of cigarettes. The state's tax on smoking now is $2.87 per pack. And while that is indeed a massive jump, it's just catching up on years of a low tax rate. It's been 20 years since California increased its cigarette tax. The tax increase, the final tax amount and the years it's taken for California to get here each were in the running for this week's By the Numbers... Read more →


Have you made it through April Fools' Day without getting pranked? Good for you. Now be sure you don’t fall for a costly tax scam as the 2017 filing season winds down. Tax criminals are looking to steal identities and then use them to file for fraudulent tax refunds from not just taxpayers, but also the tax preparers who help us file. On Friday, March 31, the Internal Revenue Service, state tax departments and the tax industry — collectively known as the Security Summit, which was formed back in March 2015 to fight growing tax crimes — warned tax professionals... Read more →