IRS Using Private Debt Collection Agencies

In 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, known as the FAST Act. It provides long-term funding for transportation projects. Buried in the bill is a requirement that the IRS must use private debt collection companies.

Starting in 2016, the IRS is required to use private debt collection companies to collect “inactive tax receivables” (i.e., any outstanding assessment that the IRS includes in potentially collectible inventory). Traditionally, this debt has been hard to collect tax.

IRS Collections Program: When the IRS first began using private tax collectors, it assured taxpayers that they would know they are in the program before being contacted by a private collection agency. This way, taxpayers could be wary of any bill collectors who claim to be working on behalf of the IRS.

Contact By Letter: Private tax collectors will usually contact a taxpayer by letter. If the taxpayer’s last known address is incorrect, the private collector searches for the correct address. Next, the private collector will telephone the taxpayer to request full payment.

Payment Directly to the IRS: If the taxpayer cannot pay in full right away, the private collector offers an installment deal for up to five years. Please note, private collectors cannot accept payments. Do not pay them directly! All checks will still be made payable to the U.S. Treasury—not to an individual or firm. The collection agency will provide the appropriate IRS mailing address for payments. The collection agencies will never request that cash or checks be sent to individuals.

There is some speculation that this requirement may result in additional attempts by fraudsters to collect payments. If you receive a letter or phone call, please do not hesitate to contact Green FS immediately so that we can help you determine if this is a legitimate debt collection.

6 Facts to Know Before Deducting a Charitable Donation

If you gave money or goods to a charity in 2015, you may be able to claim a deduction on your federal tax return. Here are six important facts you should know about charitable donations.

1. Qualified Charities. You must donate to a qualified charity. Gifts to individuals, political organizations or candidates are not deductible. An exception to this rule is contributions under the Slain Officer Family Support Act of 2015. To check the status of a charity, use the IRS Select Check tool.

2. Itemize Deductions. To deduct your contributions, you must file Form 1040 and itemize deductions. File Schedule A, Itemized Deductions, with your federal tax return.

3. Benefit in Return. If you get something in return for your donation, you may have to reduce your deduction. You can only deduct the amount of your gift that is more than the value of what you got in return. Examples of benefits include merchandise, meals, tickets to an event or other goods and services.

4. Type of Donation. If you give property instead of cash, your deduction amount is normally limited to the item’s fair market value. Fair market value is generally the price you would get if you sold the property on the open market. If you donate used clothing and household items, they generally must be in good condition, or better, to be deductible. Special rules apply to cars, boats and other types of property donations.

5. Form to File and Records to Keep. You must file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, for all noncash gifts totaling more than $500 for the year The type of records you must keep depends on the amount and type of your donation

6. Donations of $250 or More. If you donated cash or goods of $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the charity. It must show the amount of the donation and a description of any property given. It must also say whether you received any goods or services in exchange for the gifts.

Being charitable can very rewarding, but it’s important to report your contributions correctly. Contact GFS if you have questions.

Important Tips for Reporting Foreign Income

Did you receive income from a foreign source in 2015? Are you a U.S. citizen or resident who worked abroad last year? If you answered ‘yes’ to either of those questions,  the IRS provides tips to keep in mind about foreign income:

1. Report Worldwide Income. By law, U.S. citizens and residents must report their worldwide income. This includes income from foreign trusts and foreign bank and securities accounts.

2. File Required Tax Forms. You may need to file Schedule B, Interest and Ordinary Dividends, with your U.S. tax return. You may also need to file Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets. In some cases, you may need to file FinCEN Form 114, Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts.

3. Review the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.  If you live and work abroad, you may be able to claim the foreign earned income exclusion. If you qualify, you won’t pay tax on up to $100,800 of your wages and other foreign earned income in 2015.

4. Don’t Overlook Credits and Deductions.  You may be able to take a tax credit or a deduction for income taxes paid to a foreign country. These benefits can reduce your taxes if both countries tax the same income.

5. Additional Child Tax Credit. You cannot claim the additional child tax credit if you file Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income, or 2555-EZ, Foreign Earned Income Exclusion.

6. Tax Filing Extension.  If you live outside the U.S. and can’t file your tax return by the April 18 due date, you may qualify for an automatic two-month extension until June 15. This extension also applies to those serving in the U.S. military abroad. You will need to attach a statement to your tax return explaining why you qualify for the extension.

 

6 Tax Tips for the Self Employed

Sole proprietors and independent contractors are two types of self-employment. If this applies to you, there are a few basic things you should know about how your income affects your federal tax return. Here are six important tips from the IRS:

  1. SE Income. Self-employment can include income you received for part-time work. This is in addition to income from your regular job.
  2. Schedule C or C-EZ. You must file a Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business, or Schedule C-EZ, Net Profit from Business, with your Form 1040. You may use Schedule C-EZ if you had expenses less than $5,000 and meet certain other conditions. See the form instructions to find out if you can use the form.
  3. SE Tax. You may have to pay self-employment tax as well as income tax if you made a profit. Self-employment tax includes Social Security and Medicare taxes. Use Schedule SE, Self-Employment Tax, to figure the tax. If you owe this tax, attach the schedule to your federal tax return.
  4. Estimated Tax. You may need to make estimated tax payments. People typically make these payments on income that is not subject to withholding. You usually pay estimated taxes in four annual installments. If you do not pay enough tax throughout the year, you may owe a penalty.
  5. Allowable Deductions. You can deduct expenses you paid to run your business that are both ordinary and necessary. An ordinary expense is one that is common and accepted in your industry. A necessary expense is one that is helpful and proper for your trade or business.
  6. When to Deduct. In most cases, you can deduct expenses in the same year you paid, or incurred them. However, you must ‘capitalize’ some costs. This means you can deduct part of the cost over a number of years.