Business Taxes, Family Taxes, General Information, General Tax Topics, Self Employed, Small Business, Tax Debt, Tax Deductions, Tax Planning, Tax Reduction

HIDING INCOME FROM THE IRS? HOW WILL THEY FIND OUT?

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In our South Loop Chicago tax preparation office, and in our Homewood, Il tax preparation office, we often receive calls from people that have not filed taxes in years, and they want to know how the IRS knows how much income they have receive. So how does the IRS know when a small business owner is POTENTIALLY hiding income? The IRS has many methods to detect the underreporting of income such as: taxpayer interviews, income probes, Indirect methods, accounting records; QuickBooks files, cash expenditures, bank deposits, net worth, and more; however, this article will be covering a method called the vertical analysis.

The vertical analysis method identifies the differences between gross income, and net profit reported by the business owner, and the industry standards gross income and net profit. In plain English, the IRS compares what businesses owners say their profit is in relation to expenses, to what other people in the same industry say their profit is in relation to expenses. So what data, or statistics does the IRS use to create the comparison? The IRS uses a website called Bizstats.

Information in Bizstats expresses expense categories as a percentage of revenue. Per the IRS “Potential underreporting of income which equals 10% or more of the reported income should be resolved with the taxpayer’s assistance.”

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To give an example, let’s say that we have a caterer that reports $65,000 in gross sales, and $50,000 in expenses, leaving them with a profit of $15,000. The caterer’s expenses to sales ratio is 77% ($50,000 in cost to make sales (expenses)/revenue brought in.) If the industry standard is 60%, the IRS might believe that the taxpayer is hiding an additional $18,333 in revenue (50,000/60%=$83,333. $83,333-$65,000=$18,333).

So who is Bizstats? Per their website, “BizStats is owned and operated by Bizminer of Camp Hill, PA, a leader in online data analysis since 1998. Bizminer also publishes more than 9 million local and national industry statistical reports at its own web site at www.bizminer.com” Bizstats has business statistics and financial ratios for Sole proprietors, Corporations, S-Corporations, & Partnerships.

Where does Bizstats get it’s information? Per their website, Bizstats get it’s data from “the latest available IRS financial information in a useful, readable format.”

What are some drawbacks to Bizstats data? Bizstats are only available for 1 year, and the information is typically 3 years old. At the time of publication, the current stats were showing data from 2017.

How can I protect myself from a vertical analysis?

#1 Always report the GROSS income generated in your business. An accounting mistake that we often see in our Chicago South Loop tax preparation office, is that people don’t do bookkeeping, so instead of reporting their gross receipts, they report gross income less returns, refunds, etc. in the gross receipts area, which is not correct. Gross receipts are gross receipts, and you account for returns in a separate line item.

#2. Invoice clients, or keep copies of receipts if you’re in a business that doesn’t use invoicing.

#3. NEVER COMMINGLE YOUR FUNDS. Your business income and expenses need to be kept separate

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, need help with tax debtbusiness tax preparationbusiness entity creationbusiness insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth. Never miss another tip again! Join our newsletter, to receive tax reduction/wealth building tips delivered right to your inbox!

P.S. For wealth building and tax reduction tips, please join Howard Tax Prep LLC  newsletter! 

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Two Ways to Fix Tax Return Mistakes Before the IRS Discovers Them

In our South Loop Chicago tax preparation office, and in our Homewood, Il tax preparation office, we often receive calls from people that have made an error (or errors) on their tax return. The tax law is complicated and constantly changing, so it’s easy to make a small, or large error that causes you to:

1.) underpay your tax, leaving you open to IRS penalties, or
2.) overpay your tax, meaning you gave a gift to the government.

However, if you made an error on your tax return, don’t worry; there’s good news: you can undo your mistake! Here’s even better news: there are two special ways to fix your incorrect tax return that will save you from paying more to the IRS than you would otherwise. We’ll tell you all about them in this article. —there are two easy ways to fix it:

  1. A superseding return
  2. A qualified amended return

A superseding return is an amended or corrected return filed on or before the original or extended due date. The IRS considers the changes on a superseding return to be part of your original return.

A qualified amended return is an amended return that you file after the due date of the return (including extensions) and before the earliest of several events, but most likely when the IRS contacts you with respect to an examination of the return. If you file a qualified amended return, you avoid the 20 percent accuracy-related penalty on that mistake.

Superseding Return Example

You file a joint Form 1040 tax return electronically on February 21, 2022, for tax year 2021, but you later decide you want to file a separate return. Since the joint-filing election is irrevocable, on or before April 15, 2022 (which is the unextended due date for your 2021 Form 1040), you must file a superseding return to undo the joint election.

IRS electronic filing rules for amended returns do not permit you to file this superseding return electronically, because you are changing your filing status (from married, filing jointly, to married, filing separately). That being said, your only other option is to use “snail mail.” Using a paper return via snail mail, you’ll submit either:

1.) A second original Form 1040 return using the married-filing-separately filing status, or
2.) An amended Form 1040X showing the change from joint to separate filing status.
Be sure to write “SUPERSEDING RETURN – IRM 21.6.7.4.10” in red at the top of page 1 of either Form 1040 or Form 1040X.

Qualified Amended Return Example

You realize your return preparer left a $30,000 IRA distribution off your 2019 tax return. Ouch!
Let’s assume you are in the 32 percent tax bracket and had no federal income tax withholding on the distribution: you owe an additional $9,600 in federal income tax on your 2019 tax return due to this distribution.

If you file an amended return before the IRS contacts you about the missing income, then it’s a qualified amended return, and you avoid $1,920 (20percent of $9,600) in audit penalties.

If you don’t file the amended return, and if the IRS contacts you about the missing income, the IRS will propose the $1,920 penalty. You may be able to request penalty relief, but you’ll have to make your case, and the facts may or may not be on your side.

In both circumstances, you’ll also pay interest on the $9,600 back to July 15, 2020 (the COVID-19-postponed 2019 Form 1040 due date). Of course, the earlier you pay the tax, the less interest you’ll accrue. You’ll pay less interest with a qualified amended return because you’re paying the tax sooner.

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, need help with tax debtbusiness tax preparationbusiness entity creationbusiness insurance, or business compliance assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth. Never miss another tip again! Join our newsletter, to receive tax reduction/wealth building tips delivered right to your inbox!

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Congress Reinstates Expired Tax Provisions—Some Back to 2018

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Congress let many tax provisions expire on December 31, 2017, making them dead for your already- filed 2018 tax returns.

In what has become much too common practice, Congress resurrected the dead provisions retroactively to January 1, 2018. That’s good news. The bad news is that we have to amend your tax returns in our Chicago south loop tax preparation office to make this work for you.

And you can relax when filing your 2019 and 2020 tax returns, because lawmakers extended the “extender” tax laws for both years. Thus, no worries until 2021—and even longer for a few extenders that received special treatment.

Back from the Dead

The big five tax breaks that most likely impact your Form 1040 are as follows:

  1. Exclusion from income for cancellation of acquisition debt on your principal residence (up to $2 million)
  2. Deduction for mortgage insurance premiums as residence interest
  3. 7.5 percent floor to deduct medical expenses (instead of 10 percent)
  4. Above-the-line tuition and fees deduction
  5. Nonbusiness energy property credit for energy-efficient improvements to your residence

Congress extended these five tax breaks retroactively to January 1, 2018. They now expire on December 31, 2020, so you’re good for both 2019 and 2020.
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Other Provisions Revived

Congress also extended the following tax breaks retroactively to January 1, 2018, and they now expire on December 31, 2020 (unless otherwise noted):

  • Black lung disability trust fund tax
  • Indian employment credit
  • Railroad track maintenance credit (December 31, 2022)
  • Mine rescue team training credit
  • Certain racehorses as three-year depreciable property
  • Seven-year recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes
  • Accelerated depreciation for business property on Indian reservations
  • Expensing rules for certain film, television, and theater productions
  • Empowerment zone tax incentives
  • American Samoa economic development credit
  • Biodiesel and renewable diesel credit (December 31, 2022)
  • Second-generation biofuel producer credit
  • Qualified fuel-cell motor vehicles
  • Alternative fuel-refueling property credit
  • Two-wheeled plug-in electric vehicle credit (December 31, 2021)
  • Credit for electricity produced from specific renewable resources
  • Production credit for Indian coal facilities
  • Energy-efficient homes credit
  • Special depreciation allowance for second-generation biofuel plant property
  • Energy-efficient commercial buildings deduction

Temporary Provisions Extended

Congress originally scheduled these provisions to end in 2019 and now extended them through 2020:

  • New markets tax credit
  • Paid family and medical leave credit
  • Work opportunity credit
  • Beer, wine, and distilled spirits reductions in certain excise taxes
  • Look-through rule for certain controlled foreign corporations
  • Health insurance coverage credit

If you have questions about the extenders, please call us at 855-743-5765. Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, need help with tax debt, business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance
assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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Unlock Tax Deductions with a Rental Property Home Office

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With the start of a new tax year, you’re probably looking for new tax savings opportunities, like our Chicago South Loop Tax Preparation clients.

As you probably know, establishing a home office for your Schedule C or corporate business creates valuable tax deductions.

But it’s not available only for your proprietorship,partnership, or corporate business. If you have rental properties, you can establish a home office to manage your rental properties and deduct the cost on your Schedule E.
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Rentals as a Business

The first hurdle is that your rental activities have to qualify as a “trade or business” under the tax law.

Luckily for you, that’s relatively simple—you’ll need regular and continuous involvement with your rental activities to meet this requirement.

Whether or not your rental activities are a trade or business depends on the facts and circumstances of your particular situation, and tax court cases give us guidance on that.

Qualifying Area

Your second hurdle is setting aside space in your home that qualifies for the home-office deduction.

For this to work, you need to use that space in your residence regularly and exclusively as the principal place of business for your rental activities.
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This sounds hard, and it was hard—before lawmakers changed the rules to include, as a principal place of business, the space you use for administrative or management activities, provided there is no other fixed location where you conduct substantial administrative or management activities.

Home-Office Deduction

Establishing a rental property home office does two things to your household expenses:

  1. Turns non-deductible household expenses into tax deductions.
  2. Moves household expenses normally deductible on Schedule A to your rental properties on Schedule E.

The latter is especially important after passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

  • put a $10,000 limit on your Schedule A state and local tax deductions, and
  • lowered the amount of your mortgage on which you deduct mortgage interest from $1 million to $750,000.

Eliminate Commuting

Without a qualifying home office, your mileage from home to your first business stop and then from your last business stop back home is non-deductible commuting mileage.

But here is what happens with the rental property’s principal office in your home:

  1. You have no commuting mileage from your home to and from your rentals, if the rentals are in the area of your tax home (say, within 50 miles).
  2. You establish your rental property tax home, and if your rentals are outside the area of your tax home, then the mileage from your home to and from the rentals is deductible business mileage because you are traveling outside the area of your tax home.

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Real Estate Professional

If you qualify as a real estate professional under the tax law, then you can deduct 100 percent of your rental losses in the year you incur them.

But there’s a big hurdle to the tax law classification as a real estate professional. You must show that you spend

  • more than 50 percent of your personal service work time in real property trades or businesses in which you materially participate, and
  • more than 750 hours of service during the tax year in real property trades or business in which you materially participate.

Having a rental property home office that qualifies as a tax-code-defined principal place of business makes it easier to qualify as a real estate professional, because your time spent on deductible travel to and from your rental properties counts toward the time requirements.

Claiming Your Deduction

The Schedule E instructions not only fail to provide any explanation about where to put your home-office deduction, but they also do not even mention a home office.

But the instructions do say that you can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses, and the home office meets that rule. Also, as established in Curphey (a precedent-setting case), the home office is allowable as an expense against income from a rental business.

If you would like to discuss your rental properties with me, please call us directly at 855-743-5765. Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, need help with tax debt, business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance
assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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How Serious Is your IRS Letter?

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Has the IRS sent you a collections letter? How serious is that letter? Can you stroll to the phones, or do you need to break and run to the phones and call for help?

Listed below are the most common IRS collection letters that one may receive when they have tax debt. I’ve listed them in order from stroll to the phones (low detection on the IRS radar) to break and run to the phone lines & get help (requires immediate action).

CP14 – Casually stroll (No sense of real urgency).

CP501 – Put a little pep in your step (Take notice).

CP503 – Speed walk (Decide to do something).

CP504 – Start Jogging (things are getting very serious).
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Letter 1058/LT11 – (Final Levy Notice)—Run like you’re trying to lose weight. —act now or lose your collection due process rights (your right to a hearing and a stop of collection).

CP90/CP91 – Run like you’re trying to lose weight. Another form of Final Notice of Intent to Levy.

CP71 – 10 Day Final Notice of Intent to Levy. RUN LIKE YOU’RE BEING CHASED IN A HORROR MOVIE. Act now, you are out of time.

Although we’ve given you the basics, this is not an all-inclusive article. Should you have questions, need help with tax debt, business tax preparation, business entity creation, business insurance, or business compliance
assistance please contact us online, or call our office toll free at 1-855-743-5765 or locally in Chicago or Indiana at 1-708-529-6604. Make sure to join our newsletter for more tips on reducing taxes, and increasing your wealth.

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Never miss another tip again! Join our newsletter, to receive tax reduction/wealth building tips delivered right to your inbox!

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