IRS Updates Phone Scams Warning

The IRS is again warning the public about phone scams that continue to claim victims all across the country.  In these scams, thieves make unsolicited phone calls to their intended victims.  Callers fraudulently claim to be from the IRS and demand immediate payment of taxes by a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.  The callers are often hostile and abusive.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration has received 90,000 complaints about these scams.  TIGTA estimates that thieves have stolen an estimated $5 million from about 1,100 victims. To avoid becoming a victim of these scams, you should know:

  • The IRS will first contact you by mail if you owe taxes, not by phone.
  • The IRS never asks for credit, debit or prepaid card information over the phone.
  • The IRS never insists that you use a specific payment method to pay your tax.
  • The IRS never requests immediate payment over the telephone.
  • The IRS will always treat you professionally and courteously.

Scammers may tell would-be victims that they owe money and that they must pay what they owe immediately.  They may also tell them that they are entitled to a large refund.  Other characteristics of these scams include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may know the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • Scammers spoof caller ID to make the phone number appear as if the IRS is calling.
  • Scammers may send bogus IRS emails to victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up.  Others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and caller ID again supports their claim.

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.  IRS employees can help you with a payment issue if you owe taxes.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or don’t think that you owe any taxes, then call and report the incident to TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
  • If scammers have tried this scam on you, 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 in your complaint.

The IRS encourages you to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure.  Visit the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov, to learn how to report tax fraud and for more information on what you can do to avoid becoming a victim.

Raise Your Rent to Save Taxes

If you own a business and lease property to your company, you should consider raising your rent.  Depreciation deductions and other personal write-offs that were incentives for owners to charge low rents have been limited by tax reform.  And because rental activities are subject to passive activity rules your company’s deductions may mean greater tax savings than your personal deductions.  You can use two strategies to offset the higher taxes you might incur from increased rental income.  You can lower your salary so that there is no net increase in your taxable income, or you can make investments that result in passive losses that will offset your higher rental income.  Keep in mind that any unusually high rent that you charge your business can be challenged by the IRS.  It’s best to base the rent on the fair market value of the property.

FBAR: Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts

If you have a financial interest in or signature authority over a foreign financial account, including a bank account, brokerage account, mutual fund, trust, or other type of foreign financial account, exceeding certain thresholds, the Bank Secrecy Act may require you to report the account yearly to the Internal Revenue Service by filing electronically a Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). See the ‘Who Must File an FBAR’ section below for additional criteria.

FBAR must be filed on or before June 30th.  Need to file?? We can help!  Call our office at 734-464-3660 to make your appointment today!

Who Must File an FBAR

United States persons are required to file an FBAR if:

  1. The United States person had a financial interest in or signature authority over at least one financial account located outside of the United States; and
  2. The aggregate value of all foreign financial accounts exceeded $10,000 at any time during the calendar year to be reported.

United States person includes U.S. citizens; U.S. residents; entities, including but not limited to, corporations, partnerships, or limited liability companies, created or organized in the United States or under the laws of the United States; and trusts or estates formed under the laws of the United States.

Exceptions to the Reporting Requirement

Exceptions to the FBAR reporting requirements can be found in the FBAR instructions. There are filing exceptions for the following United States persons or foreign financial accounts:

  • Certain foreign financial accounts jointly owned by spouses;
  • United States persons included in a consolidated FBAR;
  • Correspondent/nostro accounts;
  • Foreign financial accounts owned by a governmental entity;
  • Foreign financial accounts owned by an international financial institution;
  • IRA owners and beneficiaries;
  • Participants in and beneficiaries of tax-qualified retirement plans;
  • Certain individuals with signature authority over, but no financial interest in, a foreign financial account;
  • Trust beneficiaries (but only if a U.S. person reports the account on an FBAR filed on behalf of the trust); and
  • Foreign financial accounts maintained on a United States military banking facility.

Review the FBAR instructions for more information on the reporting requirement and on the exceptions to the reporting requirement.

Reporting and Filing Information

A person who holds a foreign financial account may have a reporting obligation even though the account produces no taxable income. The reporting obligation is met by answering questions on a tax return about foreign accounts (for example, the questions about foreign accounts on Form 1040 Schedule B) and by filing an FBAR.

The FBAR is a calendar year report and must be filed on or before June 30 of the year following the calendar year being reported. Effective July 1, 2013, the FBAR must be filed electronically through FinCEN’s BSA E-Filing System. The FBAR is not filed with a federal tax return. A filing extension, granted by the IRS to file an income tax return, does not extend the time to file an FBAR. There is no provision to request an extension of time to file an FBAR.

A person required to file an FBAR who fails to properly file a complete and correct FBAR may be subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $10,000 per violation for nonwillful violations that are not due to reasonable cause. For willful violations, the penalty may be the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the balance in the account at the time of the violation, for each violation.  For guidance when circumstances such as natural disasters prevent the timely filing of an FBAR, see FinCEN guidance, FIN-2013-G002 (June 24, 2013).

U.S. Taxpayers Holding Foreign Financial Assets May Also Need to File Form 8938

Taxpayers with specified foreign financial assets that exceed certain thresholds must report those assets to the IRS on Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets, which is filed with an income tax return. The new Form 8938 filing requirement is in addition to the FBAR filing requirement. A chart providing a comparison of Form 8938 and FBAR requirements may be accessed on the IRS Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act web page.

Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program

On Jan 9, 2012, the IRS reopened the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program following continued interest from taxpayers and tax practitioners after the closure of the 2011 and 2009 programs. This program offers people with unreported taxable income from offshore financial accounts or other foreign assets another opportunity to resolve their tax and information reporting obligations, including the FBAR. Although the program does not have a closing date, the IRS may end the program at a later time.

For non-resident U.S. taxpayers presenting a low compliance risk, the IRS implemented new streamlined filing compliance procedures effective September 1, 2012. The procedures are designed for non-resident U.S. citizens, including but not limited to dual citizens, residing outside the U.S. since January 1, 2009, and who have not filed U.S. income tax and information returns. The procedures require the filing of delinquent income tax and information returns for the past three years and the filing of delinquent FBARs for the past six years. For qualifying filers, reviews of submissions are expedited and the IRS will not assert penalties or pursue follow-up actions. When filing delinquent FBARs on the BSA E-File System, participants can annotate that the filing is in relation to either the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures or the OVDP. For more information go to Instructions for New Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures for Non-Resident, Non-Filer U.S. Taxpayers.

Educational Resources

The following educational products have been developed for your use in learning more about why, when and where to file the FBAR:

Disabled Veterans

Happy Memorial Day from the staff at AFS Taxsavers!
We Thank our Veterans, those currently serving, and their families!

The following article was sent out in December via email, but in honor of our Veteran’s we would like to remind them that if this isn’t something they are taking advantage of, they should.

Legislation in Michigan Exempts 100% Disabled Honorably  Discharged Veterans from Property Taxes


Real property used and owned as a homestead by a disabled veteran who was discharged from the armed forces of the United States under honorable conditions or by an individual described in subsection (2) is exempt from the collection of taxes under this act. To obtain the exemption, an affidavit showing the facts required by this section and a description of the real property shall be filed by the property owner or his or her legal designee with the supervisor or other assessing officer during the period beginning with the tax day for each year and ending at the time of the final adjournment of the local board of review. The affidavit when filed shall be open to inspection. The county treasurer shall cancel taxes subject to collection under this act for any year in which a disabled veteran eligible for the exemption under this section has acquired title to real property exempt under this section. Upon granting the exemption under this section, each local taxing unit shall bear the loss of its portion of the taxes upon which the exemption has been granted.

For purposes of this law “disabled veteran” means a person who is a resident of this state and who meets 1 of the following criteria:

  • Has been determined by the United States department of veterans affairs to be permanently and totally disabled as a result of military service and entitled to veterans’ benefits at the 100% rate.
  • Has a certificate from the United States veterans’ administration, or its successors, certifying that he or she is receiving or has received pecuniary assistance due to disability for specially adapted housing.
  • Has been rated by the United States department of veterans affairs as individually unemployable.

 If a disabled veteran who is otherwise eligible for the exemption under this section dies, either before or after the exemption under this section is granted, the exemption shall remain available to or shall continue for his or her unremarried surviving spouse. The surviving spouse shall comply with the requirements of subsection (1) and shall indicate on the affidavit that he or she is the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran entitled to the exemption under this section. The exemption shall continue as long as the surviving spouse remains unremarried.Please let any family and friends know about this law that might be able to take advantage of it.

Make Plans Now for Next Year’s Tax Return

Make Plans Now for Next Year’s Tax Return

Most people stop thinking about taxes after they file their tax return. But there’s no better time to start tax planning than right now. And it’s never too early to set up a smart recordkeeping system. Here are six IRS tips to help you start to plan for this year’s taxes:

1. Take action when life changes occur.  Some life events, like a change in marital status, the birth of a child or buying a home, can change the amount of taxes you owe. When such events occur during the year, you may need to change the amount of tax taken out of your pay. To do that, you must file a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate, with your employer. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov to help you fill out the form. If you receive advance payments of the premium tax credit it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace.

2. Keep records safe.  Put your 2013 tax return and supporting records in a safe place. That way if you ever need to refer to your return, you’ll know where to find it. For example, you may need a copy of your return if you apply for a home loan or financial aid. You can also use it as a guide when you do next year’s tax return.

3. Stay organized.  Make sure your family puts tax records in the same place during the year. This will avoid a search for misplaced records come tax time next year.

4. Shop for a tax preparer.  If you want to hire a tax preparer to help you with tax planning, start your search now. Choose a tax preparer wisely. You are responsible for the accuracy of your tax return no matter who prepares it. Find tips for choosing a preparer at IRS.gov.

5. Think about itemizing.  If you usually claim a standard deduction on your tax return, you may be able to lower your taxes if you itemize deductions instead. A donation to charity could mean some tax savings. See the instructions for Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, for a list of deductions.

6. Keep up with changes.  Subscribe to IRS Tax Tips to get emails about tax law changes, how to save money and much more. You can also get Tips on IRS.gov or IRS2Go, the IRS’s mobile app. The IRS issues tips each weekday in the tax filing season and three days a week in summer.

Ten Things to Know about IRS Notices and Letters

Ten Things to Know about IRS Notices and Letters

Each year, the IRS sends millions of notices and letters to taxpayers for a variety of reasons. Here are ten things to know in case one shows up in your mailbox.

1. Don’t panic. You often only need to respond to take care of a notice.

2. There are many reasons why the IRS may send a letter or notice. It typically is about a specific issue on your federal tax return or tax account. A notice may tell you about changes to your account or ask you for more information. It could also tell you that you must make a payment.

3. Each notice has specific instructions about what you need to do.

4. You may get a notice that states the IRS has made a change or correction to your tax return. If you do, review the information and compare it with your original return.

5. If you agree with the notice, you usually don’t need to reply unless it gives you other instructions or you need to make a payment.

6. If you do not agree with the notice, it’s important for you to respond. You should write a letter to explain why you disagree. Include any information and documents you want the IRS to consider. Mail your reply with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Send it to the address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.

7. You shouldn’t have to call or visit an IRS office for most notices. If you do have questions, call the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call. This will help the IRS answer your questions.

8. Keep copies of any notices you receive with your other tax records.

9. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail. We do not contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information.

10. For more on this topic visit IRS.gov. Click on the link ‘Responding to a Notice’ at the bottom left of the home page. Also, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. You can get it on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

Unpaid Debt Can Affect Your Refund

Unpaid Debt Can Affect Your Refund

If you owe a debt that’s past-due, it can reduce your federal tax refund. The Treasury Department’s Offset Program can use all or part of your refund to pay outstanding federal or state debt.

Here are five facts to know about tax refunds and ‘offsets.’

1. The Bureau of Fiscal Service runs the Treasury Offset Program.

2. Debts such as past due child support, student loan, state income tax or unemployment compensation may reduce your refund. BFS may use part or all of your tax refund to pay the debt.

3. You’ll receive a notice if BFS offsets your refund to pay your debt. The notice will list the original refund and offset amounts. It will also include the agency that received the offset payment and their contact information.

4. If you believe you don’t owe the debt or you want to dispute it, contact the agency that received the offset. You should not contact the IRS or BFS.

5. If you filed a joint tax return, you may be entitled to part or all of the refund offset. This rule applies if your spouse is solely responsible for the debt. To request your part of the refund, file Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation.

Tips for Taxpayers Who Missed the Tax Deadline

Tips for Taxpayers Who Missed the Tax Deadline

If you missed the April 15 tax filing deadline, don’t panic. Here’s some advice from the IRS.

  • File as soon as you can.  If you owe taxes, you should file and pay as soon as you can. This will help minimize the interest and penalty charges. There is no penalty for filing a late return if you are due a refund.
  • IRS E-file is still available.  IRS e-file is available through Oct. 15. E-file is the easiest, safest and most accurate way to file your taxes. With e-file you receive confirmation that the IRS received your tax return. If you e-file and choose direct deposit of your refund, you’ll normally get it within 21 days.
  • Pay as much as you can.  If you owe tax but can’t pay it all at once, try to pay as much as you can when you file your tax return. Pay the remaining balance as soon as possible to stop further penalties and interest.
  • Make a payment agreement online.  If you need more time to pay your taxes, you can apply for a payment plan with the IRS. The easiest way to apply is to use the IRS Online Payment Agreement tool. You can also mail Form 9465, Installment Agreement Request. The tool and form are both available on IRS.gov.
  • A refund may be waiting.  If you’re due a refund, you should file as soon as possible to get it. Even if you are not required to file, you may still get a refund. This could apply if you had taxes withheld from your wages or you qualify for certain tax credits. If you don’t file your return within three years, you could forfeit your right to the refund.

Eight Facts about Penalties for Filing and Paying Late

Eight Facts about Penalties for Filing and Paying Late

April 15 is the tax day deadline for most people. If you’re due a refund there’s no penalty if you file a late tax return. But if you owe taxes and you fail to file and pay on time, you’ll usually owe interest and penalties on the taxes you pay late. Here are eight facts that you should know about these penalties.

1. If you file late and owe federal taxes, two penalties may apply. The first is a failure-to-file penalty for late filing. The second is a failure-to-pay penalty for paying late.

2. The failure-to-file penalty is usually much more than the failure-to-pay penalty. In most cases, it’s 10 times more, so if you can’t pay what you owe by the due date, you should still file your tax return on time and pay as much as you can. You should try other options to pay, such as getting a loan or paying by credit card. The IRS will work with you to help you resolve your tax debt. Most people can set up a payment plan with the IRS using the Online Payment Agreement tool on IRS.gov.

3. The failure-to-file penalty is normally 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a tax return is late. It will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

4. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty for late filing is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

5. The failure-to-pay penalty is generally 0.5 percent per month of your unpaid taxes. It applies for each month or part of a month your taxes remain unpaid and starts accruing the day after taxes are due. It can build up to as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes.

6. If the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty and the 0.5 percent failure-to-pay penalty both apply in any month, the maximum penalty amount charged for that month is 5 percent.

7. If you requested an extension of time to file your income tax return by the tax due date and paid at least 90 percent of the taxes you owe, you may not face a failure-to-pay penalty. However, you must pay the remaining balance by the extended due date. You will owe interest on any taxes you pay after the April 15 due date.

8. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show reasonable cause for not filing or paying on time.

Ten Facts about Amended Tax Returns

Ten Facts about Amended Tax Returns

Did you discover that you made a mistake after you filed your federal tax return? You can make it right by filing an amended tax return. Here are the top ten things to know about filing an amended tax return.

1. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct errors on your tax return. You must file an amended return on paper. It can’t be e-filed.

2. You usually should file an amended tax return if you made an error claiming your filing status, income, deductions or credits on your original return.

3. You normally don’t need to file an amended return to correct math errors. The IRS will automatically make those changes for you. Also, do not file an amended return because you forgot to attach tax forms, such as a W-2 or schedule. The IRS will usually send you a request for those.

4. You usually have three years from the date you filed your original tax return to file Form 1040X to claim a refund. You can file it within two years from the date you paid the tax, if that date is later. That means the last day for most people to file a 2010 claim for a refund is April 15, 2014. See the 1040X instructions for special rules that apply to certain claims.

5. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each year. You should mail each year in separate envelopes. Note the tax year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. Check the form’s instructions for where to mail your return.

6. If you use other IRS forms or schedules to make changes, make sure to attach them to your Form 1040X.

7. If you are due a refund from your original return, wait to receive that refund before filing Form 1040X to claim an additional refund. Amended returns take up to 12 weeks to process. You may spend your original refund while you wait for any additional refund.

8. If you owe more tax, file your Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as possible. This will reduce any interest and penalties.

9. You can track the status of your amended tax return three weeks after you file with ‘Where’s My Amended Return?’ This tool is available on IRS.gov or by phone at 866-464-2050. It’s available in English and in Spanish. The tool can track the status of an amended return for the current year and up to three years back.

10. To use ‘Where’s My Amended Return?’ enter your taxpayer identification number, which is usually your Social Security number. You will also need your date of birth and zip code. If you have filed amended returns for multiple years, select each year one by one.