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NOTICE TO RESIDENTS OF MARYLAND

We are NOT affiliated with the State of Maryland. If you are looking for information about Maryland income taxes, please go to www.marylandtaxes.com.


Useful Links:

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Exchange Authority - New England's first authority for IRC 1031 Exchanges

Cost Segregation Studies - Accelerate tax depreciation deductions on new and existing buildings through cost segregation studies

Social Security - find out the latest rules or your projected retirement benefit.

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MONTHLY TAX NEWSLETTER

May 2014

IRS WARNS THAT IDENTITY THEFT LEADING TO FRAUDULENTLY FILED TAX RETURNS IS ON THE RISE

by Andrew D. Schwartz, CPA

Having a fraudulent tax return filed under your social security number with a tax refund directly deposited into the fraudster's bank account tops the IRS' 2014 list of tax scams affecting U.S. taxpayers.  According to the IRS in their press release on the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2014:

Identity Theft

Tax fraud through the use of identity theft tops this year’s Dirty Dozen list. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number (SSN) or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. In many cases, an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.

The agency’s work on identity theft and refund fraud continues to grow, touching nearly every part of the organization. For the 2014 filing season, the IRS has expanded these efforts to better protect taxpayers and help victims.

The IRS has a special section on IRS.gov dedicated to identity theft issues, including YouTube videos, tips for taxpayers and an assistance guide. For victims, the information includes how to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit. For other taxpayers, there are tips on how taxpayers can protect themselves against identity theft.

Taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should contact the IRS immediately so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. Taxpayers can call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. More information can be found on the special identity protection page.

This Fraud is a Real and Growing Problem

Unfortunately, this scam is a real and growing problem for U.S. taxpayers.  At my office, we experienced this fraud firsthand as a handful of the 2,000+ individual tax returns that we e-filed this past winter were rejected because the IRS had already received a fraudulent tax return that included the scammed client's social security number. 

To make matters worse, the scammers appear to be targeting healthcare professionals.  Check out this article by Donna Goodison that appeared in the Boston Herald on April 23, 2014 titled Doctors Targeted in Tax Return Scheme

What Should You Do?

If you were a victim of this fraud, please try to be as proactive as possible to minimize collateral damage to your personal finances.  Hopefully, the extent of the damage is limited to the fraudulently filed tax return using your name and social security number. 

Your first step should be to read through the IRS' Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.  I also strongly recommend that you take advantage of the free fraud prevention services offered by the three credit reporting agencies.  You can start this process at www.annualcreditreport.com, an informative, objective, and free website maintained by the three credit reporting agencies.

The IRS acknowledges that this is a large and growing problem, and is taking steps to protect U.S. taxpayers. Per their January 2014 press releases, "The IRS understands that identity theft is a frustrating, complex process for victims. While identity thieves steal information from sources outside the tax system, the IRS is often the first to inform a victim that identity theft has occurred. The IRS is working hard to resolve identity theft cases as quickly as possible.  We are also developing programs and information to protect the taxpayer from future misuse of their personal information impacting their tax administration and minimize the impact outside of IRS."

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SPRING CLEAN UP

Tis the season for spring cleaning.  In addition to cleaning up your lawn, garage, attic, and your basement, why not take some time cleaning up your personal finances? For four great suggestions, please re-read the Spring Clean Up article posted in our May 2013 Newsletter.  Or, you can listen to recorded presentations of these four Financial Cleanup tips available only on QuantiaMD:

Spring Cleanup

Before getting caught up with the craziness of summer, take some time this spring to complete these four spring cleaning projects for your personal finances.  Maybe tackle one of these projects every few weeks, and your Spring Clean Up should be completed by the end of June, just in time for you to enjoy a great summer of 2014.

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IRS RELEASES THE DIRTY DOZEN TAX SCAMS FOR 2014; IDENTITY THEFT AND PHONE SCAMS LEAD LIST

Each year, the IRS releases a list of the "Dirty Dozen Tax Scams".  The top two scams on the list have affected clients of my firm, so beware.

Here is a list of what the IRS considers this year's twelve most prevalent areas of concern:

IR-2014-16, Feb. 19, 2014

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams, reminding taxpayers to use caution during tax season to protect themselves against a wide range of schemes ranging from identity theft to return preparer fraud.

The Dirty Dozen listing, compiled by the IRS each year, lists a variety of common scams taxpayers can encounter at any point during the year. But many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their tax returns.

"Taxpayers should be on the lookout for tax scams using the IRS name,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “These schemes jump every year at tax time. Scams can be sophisticated and take many different forms. We urge people to protect themselves and use caution when viewing e-mails, receiving telephone calls or getting advice on tax issues.”

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

The following are the Dirty Dozen tax scams for 2014:

Identity Theft

Tax fraud through the use of identity theft tops this year’s Dirty Dozen list. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information, such as your name, Social Security number (SSN) or other identifying information, without your permission, to commit fraud or other crimes. In many cases, an identity thief uses a legitimate taxpayer’s identity to fraudulently file a tax return and claim a refund.

The agency’s work on identity theft and refund fraud continues to grow, touching nearly every part of the organization. For the 2014 filing season, the IRS has expanded these efforts to better protect taxpayers and help victims.

The IRS has a special section on IRS.gov dedicated to identity theft issues, including YouTube videos, tips for taxpayers and an assistance guide. For victims, the information includes how to contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit. For other taxpayers, there are tips on how taxpayers can protect themselves against identity theft.

Taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should contact the IRS immediately so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. Taxpayers can call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. More information can be found on the special identity protection page.

Pervasive Telephone Scams

The IRS has seen a recent increase in local phone scams across the country, with callers pretending to be from the IRS in hopes of stealing money or identities from victims.

These phone scams include many variations, ranging from instances from where callers say the victims owe money or are entitled to a huge refund. Some calls can threaten arrest and threaten a driver’s license revocation. Sometimes these calls are paired with follow-up calls from people saying they are from the local police department or the state motor vehicle department.

Characteristics of these scams can include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Scammers “spoof” or imitate the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

After threatening victims with jail time or a driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

In another variation, one sophisticated phone scam has targeted taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country. Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do: If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

If you’ve been targeted by these scams, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.  Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Phishing

Phishing is a scam typically carried out with the help of unsolicited email or a fake website that poses as a legitimate site to lure in potential victims and prompt them to provide valuable personal and financial information. Armed with this information, a criminal can commit identity theft or financial theft.

If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), report it by sending it to phishing@irs.gov.

It is important to keep in mind the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS has information online that can help you protect yourself from email scams.

False Promises of “Free Money” from Inflated Refunds

More info available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-“Dirty-Dozen”-Tax-Scams-for-2014;-Identity-Theft,-Phone-Scams-Lead-List

Return Preparer Fraud

About 60 percent of taxpayers will use tax professionals this year to prepare their tax returns. Most return preparers provide honest service to their clients. But, some unscrupulous preparers prey on unsuspecting taxpayers, and the result can be refund fraud or identity theft.

More info available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-“Dirty-Dozen”-Tax-Scams-for-2014;-Identity-Theft,-Phone-Scams-Lead-List

Hiding Income Offshore

Over the years, numerous individuals have been identified as evading U.S. taxes by hiding income in offshore banks, brokerage accounts or nominee entities and then using debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access the funds. Others have employed foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or insurance plans for the same purpose.

The IRS uses information gained from its investigations to pursue taxpayers with undeclared accounts, as well as the banks and bankers suspected of helping clients hide their assets overseas. The IRS works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to prosecute tax evasion cases.

While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements that need to be fulfilled. U.S. taxpayers who maintain such accounts and who do not comply with reporting requirements are breaking the law and risk significant penalties and fines, as well as the possibility of criminal prosecution.

Since 2009, tens of thousands of individuals have come forward voluntarily to disclose their foreign financial accounts, taking advantage of special opportunities to comply with the U.S. tax system and resolve their tax obligations. And, with new foreign account reporting requirements being phased in over the next few years, hiding income offshore is increasingly more difficult.

At the beginning of 2012, the IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) following continued strong interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs. The IRS works on a wide range of international tax issues with DOJ to pursue criminal prosecution of international tax evasion. This program will be open for an indefinite period until otherwise announced.

The IRS has collected billions of dollars in back taxes, interest and penalties so far from people who participated in offshore voluntary disclosure programs since 2009. It is in the best long-term interest of taxpayers to come forward, catch up on their filing requirements and pay their fair share.

Impersonation of Charitable Organizations

Another long-standing type of abuse or fraud is scams that occur in the wake of significant natural disasters.

More info available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-“Dirty-Dozen”-Tax-Scams-for-2014;-Identity-Theft,-Phone-Scams-Lead-List

False Income, Expenses or Exemptions

Another scam involves inflating or including income on a tax return that was never earned, either as wages or as self-employment income in order to maximize refundable credits. Claiming income you did not earn or expenses you did not pay in order to secure larger refundable credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit could have serious repercussions. This could result in repaying the erroneous refunds, including interest and penalties, and in some cases, even prosecution.

Additionally, some taxpayers are filing excessive claims for the fuel tax credit. Farmers and other taxpayers who use fuel for off-highway business purposes may be eligible for the fuel tax credit. But other individuals have claimed the tax credit although they were not eligible. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is considered a frivolous tax claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000.

Frivolous Arguments

Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. The IRS has a list of frivolous tax arguments that taxpayers should avoid. These arguments are wrong and have been thrown out of court. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law or disregard their responsibility to pay taxes.

More info available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-“Dirty-Dozen”-Tax-Scams-for-2014;-Identity-Theft,-Phone-Scams-Lead-List

Falsely Claiming Zero Wages or Using False Form 1099

Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 is used as a way to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. The taxpayer may also submit a statement rebutting wages and taxes reported by a payer to the IRS.

More info available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-“Dirty-Dozen”-Tax-Scams-for-2014;-Identity-Theft,-Phone-Scams-Lead-List

Abusive Tax Structures

Abusive tax schemes have evolved from simple structuring of abusive domestic and foreign trust arrangements into sophisticated strategies that take advantage of the financial secrecy laws of some foreign jurisdictions and the availability of credit/debit cards issued from offshore financial institutions.

More info available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-“Dirty-Dozen”-Tax-Scams-for-2014;-Identity-Theft,-Phone-Scams-Lead-List

Misuse of Trusts

Trusts also commonly show up in abusive tax structures. They are highlighted here because unscrupulous promoters continue to urge taxpayers to transfer large amounts of assets into trusts. These assets include not only cash and investments, but also successful on-going businesses. There are legitimate uses of trusts in tax and estate planning, but the IRS commonly sees highly questionable transactions. These transactions promise reduced taxable income, inflated deductions for personal expenses, the reduction or elimination of self-employment taxes and reduced estate or gift transfer taxes. These transactions commonly arise when taxpayers are transferring wealth from one generation to another. Questionable trusts rarely deliver the tax benefits promised and are used primarily as a means of avoiding income tax liability and hiding assets from creditors, including the IRS.

More info available at: http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Releases-the-“Dirty-Dozen”-Tax-Scams-for-2014;-Identity-Theft,-Phone-Scams-Lead-List

Beware of Scams:

The IRS reminds taxpayers that tax scams can take many forms beyond the “Dirty Dozen,” and people should be on the lookout for many other schemes. More information on tax scams is available at IRS.gov.

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TAX AND FINANCIAL PLANNING CALENDAR FOR MAY 2014

Month

Income Taxes

Saving and Investing

 

 May

  • Good time to make semi-annual donation of clothing and household items to charitable organizations.
  • Before summer kicks in, take a look at your asset allocation of all your retirement and non-retirement accounts, and consider rebalancing your accounts.

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2013 & 2014 TAX FACTS

  • For 2013, the standard deduction for a single individual is $6,100 and for a married couple is $12,200. A person will benefit by itemizing once allowable deductions exceed the applicable standard deduction. Itemized deductions include state and local income taxes (or sales taxes), real estate taxes, mortgage interest, charitable contributions, and unreimbursed employee business expenses.
  • For 2013, the personal exemption is $3,900. Individuals will claim a personal deduction for themselves, their spouse, and their dependents. 
  • The maximum earnings subject to social security taxes is $117,000 for 2014, up from $113,700 in 2013.
  • The standard mileage rate is $.56 per business mile as of January 1, 2014, down from $.565 for 2013.
  • The maximum annual salary deferral into a 401(k) plan or a 403(b) plan is $17,500 in 2013 and 2014.  And if you'll be 50 or older by December 31st, you can contribute an extra $5,500 into your 401(k) or 403(b) account that year.
  • The maximum annual contribution to your IRA is $5,500 for 2013 and 2014.  And if you turn 50 by December 31st, you can contribute an extra $1,000 that year.  You have until April 15, 2014 to make your 2013 IRA contributions. 

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Need Help With Your Nanny Payroll?
 

This Month's Topics

IRS Warns That Identity Theft Leading to Fraudulently Filed Tax Returns Is On The Rise

Spring Clean Up

IRS Releases the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2014

The FICA Refund for Medical Residents 

2013 & 2014 Tax Facts

Tax and Financial Planning Calendar for May 2014

 

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WHAT'S NEW WITH THE FICA REFUND?

In a shocking development, the IRS recently announced that they will be honoring the FICA tax refunds submitted by residency programs and individual doctors.  The catch is that only FICA taxes paid prior to 4/1/05 qualify.

For more information, go to our April 2010 Newsletter, our January 2009 Newsletter, or our February 2001 Newsletter or read through the IRS' Chief Counsel Advice Memorandum on this issue.

Let's work together to keep current on this hugely valuable tax break.  Please post whatever you read or hear regarding this FICA issue on our new Message Board we set up just for this topic.

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