Web/Tech Feed

We depend on our smartphones more than ever. They've made texting, especially among younger device owners, the preferred way to communicate. Crooks know this, too. Including tax identity thieves. The Internal Revenue Service says it's seen a recent rash of tax-related texting scams. These latest schemes, known as smishing because they use SMS (short message service) or MMS (multimedia messaging service), look like they are coming from the IRS. Don't fall for these fake IRS texts, which the tax agency says have increased exponentially this year. Exponential fake tax texts: So far in 2022, the IRS has identified and reported... Read more →


Huell (right) and Patrick, henchmen for AMC's "criminal" criminal lawyer Saul Goodman, take a short break in a Breaking Bad episode to enjoy the comfort of a huge pile of ill-gotten cash. (Photo courtesy AMC TV) Remember earlier this summer when a South American worker got a paycheck of more than $165 million Chilean pesos, or nearly $184,000 in U.S. dollars? It was a mistake. And while the man reported the overpayment to his supervisors, he also decided to take the money and run. As far as I can tell by surfing the Google machine, the guy's still out there... Read more →


Photo by Jill Burrow We freaked out a bit earlier this summer when we learned a neighbor whose backyard abuts ours was putting in a pool. The good news for us is that it's not a full-sized lap pool. It's one of the area's popular plunge pools, close to their house, with lots of space between it and our property line (and house). And the smaller size meant we didn't have to suffer through a prolonged construction. Despite our property proximity, we're mainly "hi, there" neighbors. Age and family differences — they're younger and have pre-school children — mean we... Read more →


Photo by Chris Montgomery on Unsplash A lot of people are, as the catch phrase says, done with COVID. They've returned to the office, sent their youngsters to classrooms, and are spending free time at events filled with other people. But there's still something to be said for remote connections. Or at least that's the thinking of the Internal Revenue Service's Independent Office of Appeals. COVID prompted, but liked: During the height of the coronavirus in 2020-21, IRS Appeals expanded access to video conferences. Taxpayers were able to make their cases remotely, visually sharing documents without going in person to... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service relies on taxpayers and tax professionals to help ensure that our national tax system is secure. These efforts are particularly critical as the federal tax agency goes more electronic. It's also a legal requirement for tax professionals. The Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, also known as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act after the names of its primary Congressional sponsors, mandates that financial institution companies ensure the security and confidentiality of any and all consumer information they collect. The Federal Trade Commission administers the law. Tax professional tax preparers are included in the law's definition of financial institutions.... Read more →


Photo by Karolina Grabowska Cryptocurrencies are going through a rough patch, at least as far as the investment world is concerned. But devotees of the virtual assets insist they are here to stay, and that general acceptance of digital currency as payments for retail purchases is on the way. A recent survey seems to support that position. Widespread retail crypto payments expected soon: A majority of U.S. retailers expect digital currency payments to be the norm in the next five years, according to a study released last month by Deloitte in collaboration with PayPal. The study's poll in December 2021... Read more →


U.S. Department of the Treasury building, Washington, D.C. On March 9, President Joe Biden signed an executive order calling for a study of digital currencies. Advocates of regulating digital assets immediately pounced on the order. They viewed it as a bureaucratic move that would delay what they see as necessary government oversight of the expanding digital financial world. They were partially right. Even though the order, titled "Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets," directed agencies across the federal government to produce reports on digital currencies and consider new regulations, not much has happened, at least publicly. Until now. The Treasury... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service says that it is "opening mail within normal timeframes and all paper and electronic individual refund returns received prior to April 2021 have been processed if the return had no errors or did not require further review." That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that as of May 14, the IRS also reports on its mission-critical web page that "we had 9.8 million unprocessed individual returns which include returns received before 2022." But the agency also has a bit more good news if you're still waiting on a refund based on your tax year 2021... Read more →


House Oversight Committee members also investigating ID.me contracts, verification methods Photo by cottonbro In early February, the Internal Revenue Service announced plans to transition from ID.me's facial scanning identity verification system. The third-party service's scanning technology raised privacy concerns. A few weeks later, the IRS elaborated on its taxpayer identity process. It said the facial recognition would remain, but as an option, not a requirement. Taxpayers instead could participate in a live, virtual interview to prove they are legitimately opening their own online taxpayer account. The IRS also indicated that it eventually would join other federal agencies in using Login.Gov,... Read more →


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels If you're not comfortable with facial identification being part of the Internal Revenue Service personal taxpayer account creation process, you've now got other options. The tax agency, which earlier this month said it would end the controversial validation system used by contractor ID.me, says you can prove you are you via a live, virtual interview. "No biometric data — including facial recognition — will be required if taxpayers choose to authenticate their identity through a virtual interview," the IRS said in its brief statement announcing the move. Other ID OK options: Or you can wait... Read more →


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels A planned conversion of taxpayer accounts to a system that required use of a third-party facial recognition system apparently is no more. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig announced the about face today in a brief statement. "The IRS takes taxpayer privacy and security seriously, and we understand the concerns that have been raised," said Rettig. "Everyone should feel comfortable with how their personal information is secured, and we are quickly pursuing short-term options that do not involve facial recognition." The agency is, in its words, transitioning away from its deal with ID.me, although that wasn't specifically... Read more →


Photo by cottonbro from Pexels The Internal Revenue Service is rethinking its decision to force taxpayers to use a private identity verification company in order to access their online accounts. The 180 came after blowback from Congress and consumer and privacy advocates. The reassessment doesn't mean the IRS is giving up on ways to strengthen its online security. Rather, according to a Treasury statement reported by Bloomberg, the IRS is looking at ways to "balance ease of taxpayer access" with increased protections against criminals who use stolen taxpayer identities to file for fraudulent tax refunds. The increased security raised public... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service will go beyond its current multifactor authentication online access protocol when it comes to signing in to taxpayer accounts. The Internal Revenue Service continues its efforts to get more of us to interact with it electronically. It also wants to make sure those transactions are secure. So later this year, the IRS is implementing a new security protocol for folks who want to set up or manage an online taxpayer account. But it appears, at least based on anecdotal online and social media reactions, that the move might backfire. More steps to get info: Last week,... Read more →


Photo by SHVETS production from Pexels A cell phone provider's television ad that's on heavy rotation here in the Austin area touts that it has no added fees or taxes. What it really means is that those charges, aside from sales tax, are included in the price of whatever company plan you choose, rather than listed as separate line items in your monthly bills. So, despite that Mad Men-style ad sleight of hand, you're going to pay taxes, fees, and state and local government surcharges for your mobile phone services. And you're paying more than ever toward these amounts. Taxes... Read more →


But despite the technical problem, IRS says still use online tool to make changes, including stopping Advance Child Tax Credit payments for the rest of the year. You'd think that by the time the Internal Revenue Service issued the third Advance Child Tax Credit (AdvCTC) payment, things would be automatic. Well, you've got another think coming. The IRS did deliver in mid-September around 35 million AdvCTC payments totaling $15 billion. But unfortunately for some eligible families, their money didn't show up on time. The explanation was the usual one. It was a technical issue. Yeah, I rolled my eyes, too.... Read more →


UPDATE, Aug. 9, 2021: A last-minute push to limit new cryptocurrency tax reporting requirements in the $1 trillion infrastructure package (see Aug. 4 update below) failed today, despite a bipartisan agreement and a frenzied lobbying push, per The Washington Post. UPDATE, Aug. 4, 2021: In response to the concerns elaborated on in the rest of this post, a bipartisan group of lawmakers has offered an alternative cryptocurrency revenue-raising plan. The amendment was crafted by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) and Republican Sens. Pat Toomey (more on his complaints later in this post) of Pennsylvania and Cynthia Lummis of... Read more →


IRS image Last fall, the Internal Revenue Service announced that it was adding QR, or Quick Response, codes to some of the notices it sends taxpayers. Specifically, the codes are going on tax due notices. The goal, says the IRS, is to make it easier for taxpayers to deal with the notices. Recipients of the QR coded correspondence can use their smartphones to scan it and go directly to IRS website. From there, they can access their taxpayer account, set up a payment plan, or contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Basically, the digital option eliminates the tax middleman or woman.... Read more →


TurboTax won't be a Free File option when the 2022 tax filing season arrives. Taxpayers who used TurboTax to complete and e-file their returns at the Internal Revenue Service's Free File website are going to have to find a new program in 2022. The popular tax software is leaving the Free File program next filing season. It will, however, remain on the IRS.gov site for use by taxpayers who got an extension until Oct. 15 to finish their 2020 returns. TurboTax is the second major tax software provider to leave the Free File Alliance, the nonprofit coalition of tax software... Read more →


UPDATE, Sept. 15, 2022: Is tax evasion a gateway crime? Apparently so, at least for Turnip Boy. He's going from tax cheating in the popular Turnip Boy Commits Tax Evasion (albeit under duress) video game, to grand larceny in Turnip Boy Robs a Bank. It must be a major heist that takes a lot of planning, as the gang isn't pulling the bank job until 2023. Until then, I guess Turnip Boy will continue to hone his illicit tax skills. UPDATE, May 1, 2022: Good news, Turnip Boy fans. He's coming to your mobile devices this month. The App Store... Read more →


Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, left, and Committee Chairman Charles Grassley at a hearing in February to question Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin about the president's fiscal year 2021 budget. (SFC hearing video screen capture) The two men who head the Senate Finance Committee want answers about whether the Internal Revenue Service was among the agencies hacked by foreign agents and they want them now. Finance Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) sent a letter today to IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig seeking, in their words, "an immediate briefing on the IRS' efforts to discover whether... Read more →