Harless Tax Blog

Harless Tax Blog

Phony IRS calls increase during filing sea

Friday, March 15, 2019

Source from irs.gov | The tax filing season is a busy time for taxpayers, but scammers also stay busy. Taxpayers should be aware of several types of tax scams, but phone scams start to increase during the beginning of tax season and then remain active throughout the remainder of the year. Here’s how this scam generally work:

  • Scammers impersonating the IRS call taxpayers telling them they owe taxes and face arrest if they don’t pay.
  • The scammer may leave a message asking taxpayers to call back to clear up a tax matter or face arrest.
  • When taxpayers call back, the scammers often use threatening and hostile language.
  • The thief demands that the taxpayers pay their tax debts with a gift card, other pre-paid cards or a wire transfer.

Taxpayers who receive these phone calls should:

  • Hang up the phone immediately.
  • Report the call to TIGTA using their IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting form or by calling 800-366-4484.
  • Report the number to phishing@irs.gov; put “IRS Phone Scam” in the subject line.

Taxpayers should remember that the IRS does not:

  • Call taxpayers demanding immediate payment using a specific payment method. Generally, the IRS first mails a bill to the taxpayer.
  • Threaten to have taxpayers arrested for not paying taxes.
  • Demand payment without giving taxpayers an opportunity to question or appeal the amount owed.

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Mortgage and Divorce: Navigating Financial Independence

Friday, March 08, 2019

Source from redfin.com | If you look at the data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for 2016, you can easily see that nearly half of all married couples end up getting a divorce. According to this information, 6.9 people per 1000 total population got married, while 3.2 people per 1000 total population got divorced. If you are getting a divorce and have a shared mortgage, you certainly aren’t alone.

Happily ever after may seem harder to achieve these days, but it is possible with some planning and cooperation. Learning everything you can about your options when faced with legal separation, divorce, mortgage, and co-owned home alleviates the stress attached to this type of experience while also providing valuable strategies to preserve the peace. Just remember that you had choices before you tied the knot, and you still have legal choices now. Whether you have a current mortgage in Portland or Atlanta, here’s a look at what you need to know.

What are your options if you are going through a divorce but have a co-owned home and mortgage?

Your options actually depend on several factors, including:

  • The title on the property.
  • Current financing on the home.
  • If anyone wishes to keep the home.
  • Each spouse’s ability to refinance the mortgage, which often involves credit scores and earning capacity.

Option 1: Removing spouse from mortgage by refinancing

Refinancing your mortgage is one of the easiest ways to settle the question of who gets the home. It places financial responsibility of owning the home squarely on the shoulders of the spouse who retains possession while allowing the remaining spouse to recoup the existing financial investment in the property. Several pros and cons are attached to this strategy, including:

Advantages
  • Changes the title into the name of one spouse only.
  • Only the spouse retaining possession is responsible for the monthly mortgage payments.
  • Allows one spouse to buy out the other spouse’s share in the property.
  • Both spouses can get on with their new lives because there’s no need to wait for a buyer.
  • The remainder of the divorce proceedings should be amicable now that both spouses are getting value from the marriage home.
  • The interest rate on the refinanced mortgage may be lower than the original percentage.
  • Alimony and/or spousal support qualify toward the income requirement for the loan as long as legal documentation validates the amounts and the length of time during which they are to be provided.
Disadvantages
  • Only your income is counted for your mortgage application. As a result, the refinance loan may not be approved.
  • You may not have built up enough equity in the home to refinance with a standard loan, making it more likely that you will need to obtain special financing.
  • Obtaining approval for a divorce loan to refinance the marital home is often contingent on the individual’s credit score, which may have fallen during the marriage. As a result, approval may not be given. You may not have enough time to raise your credit score, even with a rapid credit rescore.
  • The interest rate may be higher than the one on the existing mortgage.
  • The mortgage payment may be larger due to having to borrow additional funds to compensate the other spouse.
  • The mortgage term may be longer due to any number of reasons, including a higher loan amount or insufficient funds to take a shorter term.
  • You may need to ask a responsible adult, such as a parent or sibling, to co-sign your divorce loan in order to qualify. The co-signer becomes legally responsible for the mortgage if you default, making it more difficult for some divorced individuals to obtain a divorce loan.

The lender for the original mortgage must agree to your decision to refinance the loan in order to delete one of the spouse’s name. It is best to get this agreement in writing for your personal records. Your spouse must also agree to the new financial arrangement as well as to the change in the name on the title. Changing the title of the property to your name is a simple process that typically involves the use of a quitclaim deed. This type of deed is used when the property isn’t actually being sold, and it does successfully change the name on the title.

Before you jump in and apply for a mortgage, it’s important to explore your options using a mortgage calculator. Experiment with different terms to help guide you in making a choice in interest rates, term lengths, and mortgage points.

Option 2: Sell the home and split the profits
Finding a solution for what to do with a co-owned home and mortgage can be stressful, particularly when you and your spouse cannot agree. In some cases, selling the marital home and searching for new homes individually works in favor of both spouses. Here is a look at the pros and cons attached to selling the home and dividing up the profits:

Advantages
  • Provides a solution when both spouses want the home.
  • Opens up funds to pay off marital debt.
  • Avoids the need to refinance and acquire more debt.
  • Offers a fresh start for both spouses.
  • Makes it easier for both spouses to obtain new loans or credit.
Disadvantages
  • One or both of the spouses must continue to make monthly mortgage payments until the property goes through settlement.
  • Settlement costs can eat into the profit of selling your home. Typical costs include taxes, real estate agent fees, and title insurance.
  • Fighting may continue if one spouse wants the home but cannot afford a divorce loan.
  • Both spouses need to find a new place to live.
  • Both spouses may need to find temporary storage solutions for personal belongings.
  • It is possible that both spouses may need to pay capital gains taxes on the sale of the property if it exceeds the legal limit.
  • If the current housing market is sluggish, you may not get a good price for the sale of your home. As a result, you may not recoup your initial investment in the property.

Option 3: Rent the home
It is possible that you may need to consider renting the home if:

  • Neither spouse can afford to refinance the home.
  • Neither spouse wants to refinance the home.
  • A buyer does not step forward to purchase the home.

If one or more of these conditions apply, renting your existing home short-term or long-term is always a possibility. As with each of the options in dealing with the marital home, a few pros and cons exist, including:

Advantages
  • As long as the mortgage payments are made on time, the credit scores of both spouses are protected.
  • The financial value of the home is maintained.
Disadvantages
  • Both spouses are responsible for the remaining balance of the original mortgage.
  • Someone needs to handle the rental income, maintenance on the property, and tenant issues.
  • Credit scores may drop if the mortgage payments aren’t paid on time and in full.

Each of the above issues should be clearly detailed in the divorce agreement to avoid unnecessary problems. It is also important to include what consequences may arise if the responsible party doesn’t follow through with intended actions, such as making mortgage or property tax payments.

Tips for Applying for a New Mortgage as a Single Income

Refinancing the marital home comes with its own list of issues, not the least of which is making sure you qualify at the time you submit your application. Under normal circumstances, this should not be an issue. However, applying for a new mortgage with only one income is trickier than doing so when a dual income is involved. Here are a few tips to help you streamline the refinance process while ensuring the likelihood of a successful conclusion to your application.

Get your taxes in order
No matter which lender you decide to use, you are going to need your tax forms from the last two or three years. Providing these forms is one of the ways that you can establish your ability to afford a monthly mortgage payment. Not only are one of the most widely accepted forms of documentation to prove your financial stability, but they are also proof of your earning ability and creditworthiness.

However, tax forms may be difficult to obtain if you aren’t the spouse who handled taxes. You may also need to provide additional documentation if you took off significant time from employment, such as maternity or family leave, and your income decreased as a result.

Obtain your divorce decree
Before you submit your application for a new mortgage, you should obtain a copy of your divorce decree. Not only does this document provide proof that you are now legally divorced, but it also shows what your financial responsibilities are regarding your ex-spouse and children.

Child support documentation if needed
If you either pay or receive child support, it is important to obtain copies of the agreement before you apply for a mortgage loan. This documentation is used to assist the lender in determining how much you can reasonably afford to borrow.

Working through your divorce with your spouse benefits everyone involved. In many instances, the marital home has the greatest financial significance during the divorce. Figuring out what you need to know to successfully negotiate a peaceful solution for the dispersal of this asset is an important step in keeping your sanity during this process.


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Here’s how a name change affects a tax return

Friday, March 08, 2019

Source from irs.gov | When someone legally changes their name, there are tax consequences they need to know about, especially at tax time. People change their names for several reasons:

  • Taking their spouse’s last name after a marriage
  • Hyphenating their last name with their spouse’s after getting married
  • Going back to their former name after a divorce
  • Giving an adopted child the last name of their new family

The IRS wants people experiencing a name change to remember these important things:

Reporting change to SSA. Taxpayers should notify the Social Security Administration of a name change ASAP. When a taxpayer files their taxes, the IRS checks SSA records to ensure names and social security numbers on the forms match.

Failing to report a name change. If a name on a taxpayer’s tax return doesn’t match SSA records, it can delay the IRS processing of that return. In that case, if the taxpayer is due a refund, it will take longer for them to get their money.

Name Change Due to Adoption. In the case of an adoption, if the child has a Social Security number, the taxpayer should be sure to inform the SSA of a name change. If the child does not have a Social Security number, the taxpayer may use an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number on their tax return. An ATIN is a temporary number. Taxpayers can apply for an ATIN by filing Form W-7A, Application for Taxpayer Identification Number for Pending U.S. Adoptions. Taxpayers file this form with the IRS.

Getting a New SS Card. After a name change, a taxpayer should file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. The form is available on SSA.gov or by calling 800-772-1213. The taxpayer’s new Social Security card will reflect the name change.


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Why that secret cash payment to your nanny could backfire on your taxes

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Source from cnbc.com | If you're paying your nanny cash under the table, you might catch heat from the IRS.

It's no secret that child-care costs are a massive expense for working parents. Families with infants pay a nanny an average of $580 a week, according to Care.com — or $30,160 annually.

To put things into perspective, average tuition, fees, room and board adds up to $21,370 at a public four-year school and $48,510 at a private four-year school for the 2018-2019 tax year, according to the College Board.

It may be tempting to slip your caregiver some cash off the books, but you're taking a chance with the IRS for failure to pay the appropriate employment taxes.

"It doesn't make sense to risk financial consequences in terms of penalties and tax problems or even getting a felony tax evasion charge," said Tom Breedlove, senior director of Care.com HomePay.

In fact, failing to pay your household workers the right way could hurt you at work, too.

Consider the so-called Nannygate controversy back in the 1990s surrounding President Bill Clinton's picks for attorney general, Zoe Baird and Judge Kimba M. Wood. Both women came under fire for the way they hired and paid their child-care helpers.

Most recently, Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman who recently removed herself from consideration to be the next U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also reportedly had a nanny tax issue.

Here's what you need to know about paying your nanny on the books and what it means for your taxes.

Your employee
Your tax obligations hinge on a key question: Is your caregiver your household employee?

If you control the work and how it's done, then congratulations: You're an employer, according to the IRS. It doesn't matter if your household employee works part time or full-time, or whether you pay them on an hourly, daily or weekly basis.

This also means that you're on the hook for employment taxes.

If you paid cash wages of $2,100 or more in 2018, then you are obligated to withhold and pay the Social Security and Medicare taxes. This adds up to 15.3 percent of wages, which you'll split with the employee.

If you paid wages of at least $1,000 in any quarter of 2018, you're also on the hook for federal unemployment taxes of 6 percent.

Be aware that your state may also require you to pay state unemployment taxes.

You're also responsible for delivering a Form W-2 to your employee, detailing wages paid and taxes withheld.

Finally, you must also spell out the details on your employment taxes paid when you file your income tax return by April 15. You'll be using Schedule H to do so.

Once you're paying your caregiver on the books, you may be eligible for certain tax breaks.

For instance, if you paid someone to look after your child while you're at work, you might be able to claim the child and dependent care tax credit. This credit maxes out at $1,050 for one qualifying child under age 13 or $2,100.

You'll need your caregiver's taxpayer identification number — generally their Social Security number — in order to claim the credit.

A dependent care flexible spending account can also help you offset some of your child-care expenses.

These accounts, which often are offered as a workplace benefit, allow you to save up to $5,000 a year per household on a pretax basis. Your child must be under the age of 13.

Getting it right
If you want to avoid the headache of paying back taxes, it's best to formalize your relationship with your caregiver. Consider drafting an employment contract so that you can address sick days, vacation time and other details.

"It's always easier to do it right from the get-go," said Breedlove.

Here's the paperwork you'll need for your employee and the IRS:

  • Form I-9: This is used for verifying the identity and employment authorization of your worker. Your employee will need to provide documentation to prove their identity.
  • Form W-4: A withholding allowance certificate that you'll need from your employee if you withhold federal income taxes.
  • Schedule H: You'll turn in this form with your 1040 when you file your taxes. This will spell out how much you paid your employee(s) and the applicable unemployment, Social Security and Medicare taxes paid.

Consider either working with an accountant or using payroll software — such as NannyPay or HomePay — to stay on top of your tax obligations as an employer.

"If you don't get the right guidance or help at the beginning, you could find it's more expensive than you thought, said Breedlove.


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Small-business owners look to grab this 20 percent tax break

Monday, February 04, 2019

Source from cnbc.com | Small-business owners filing their 2018 taxes may be able to take advantage of a brand-new 20 percent tax break.

One of the new features of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the introduction of the qualified business income deduction, which went into effect last year.

This tax break allows owners of “pass-through” entities, including sole proprietorships, S-corporations and partnerships, to deduct up to 20 percent of their qualified business income.

Don’t get too excited just yet. Business owners and their accountants have been grappling with the deduction for most of 2018, trying to figure out who qualifies.

Adding to the uncertainty, the IRS also spent most of last year and part of January 2019 fine-tuning the regulation and more closely defining which industries could nab the deduction.

“I think overall, the IRS did a great job of clarifying things, but there are still open and unanswered questions that I think need to be addressed further through other guidance,” said Jeffrey Levine, CPA and CEO of Blueprint Wealth Alliance in Garden City, New York.

“I think this is something we’ll be dealing with for years and years,” he said.

Here’s what you should know.

Do you qualify?
The IRS has built in some limits in order to keep the qualified business income deduction from being a free-for-all.

First, entrepreneurs, regardless of industry, may take the 20 percent deduction if they have taxable income that’s under $157,500 if single or $315,000 if they’re married.

Over that income threshold, the IRS places limits on who may take the break.

For instance, “specified service trades or businesses,” including doctors, lawyers and accountants, aren’t able to take the deduction at all if their taxable income exceeds $207,500 if single or $415,000 if married.

The rules are different for businesses that aren’t “specified service trades or businesses.”

Those business owners get a reduced deduction if their taxable income exceeds the $157,500/$315,000 threshold and is still under the $207,500/$415,000 threshold.

If your company is not a “specified service trade or business” and your taxable income is over the $207,500/$415,000 threshold, your deduction is generally capped as a percentage of W-2 wages paid to your employess.

A break for landlords
In January 2019, the IRS proposed additional guidance for rental real estate owners, a safe harbor they can follow in order to be certain they qualify for the 20 percent deduction.

Those guidelines include maintaining separate books and records for each rental enterprise, as well as performing and documenting at least 250 hours of rental services in a year.

Those servicesmay include time spent collecting rent, maintaining the property and supervising employees and independent contractors.

However, other activities are excluded, including traveling to the property and studying financial statements.

Accountants say that the 250-hour hurdle is onerous.

“When you hire someone to cut the grass, you do just that,” said Troy Lewis, CPA, associate teaching professor at Brigham Young University and chairman of the qualified business income task force at the American Institute of CPAs.

“You don’t say, ‘Cut the grass and tell me how many hours it takes you to do it,’” he said.

If you’re a landlord who’s hoping to nab the 20 percent deduction under the safe harbor, be sure you have all of your invoices from 2018 to back up the number of hours spent servicing your property, Lewis said.

Your vacation home
A rental property that you also use personally isn’t eligible for the safe harbor, which could make things uncertain for people who lease out basements or vacation homes.

“If you live there part of the time in the same space, then it’s a challenge,” said Lewis at Brigham Young University.

Even renting out your beach cottage to summer visitors won’t guarantee that you qualify for the safe harbor.

“Let’s say I rent out a condo in Boca Raton, but I never go there,” said Lewis. “That’s OK, but the problem is I won’t meet the 250 hours of rental service.”

Triple net leases — arrangements in which the tenant agrees to foot the bill for real estate taxes, insurance and maintenance — are also excluded from the safe harbor.

Failing to qualify doesn’t preclude you from trying to claim the deduction on your 2018 tax return, but it does mean you have to be ready for the IRS to push back.

“Remember that just because you don’t meet the definition, doesn’t mean you won’t be considered a business for the purpose of the deduction,” said Levine of Blueprint Wealth Alliance. “But the onus is on you.”

How to proceed
As tempting as the 20 percent deduction is for small businesses, entrepreneurs should proceed with caution and be ready for the possibility that the IRS could challenge your deduction. Here’s how to proceed:

Keep well-documented books and records. Be sure to closely review the receipts and statements that pertain to your business, and prepare to turn these in to your accountant.

If you’re hoping to claim the deduction for a property you rent out and do so under the safe harbor, the IRS will want to know how much time you spent on maintenance, management and more.

Think before making dramatic changes to your business. Last summer, the IRS put the kibosh on aggressive strategies accountants pitched to help entrepreneurs qualify for the break.

The qualified business income deduction is still a work in progress — and it’s only around until the end of 2025 — so slow down before doing anything too drastic.

“The well-advised client will view this as another data point to reevaluate their structure and business,” said Jonah Gruda, CPA and partner at Mazars USA. “But I always tell them that while tax is an important aspect of business decisions, it’s only an aspect.”

Talk to your accountant. Do a gut check of your appetite for the deduction, and prepare for the possibility that you may have to make your case to the IRS.

“There are gray areas where it’s a matter of your tax risk tolerance,” said Levine of Blueprint Wealth Alliance. “Are you a fighter, or are you going to say, ‘I have bigger things to worry about’?

“I have clients in both camps,” he said.


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Tool on IRS.gov helps taxpayers

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Source from irs.gov | When people are done giving thanks at the dinner table, many start another kind of giving. The annual Giving Tuesday happens the week after Thanksgiving to kick off the season of charitable giving. This year, Giving Tuesday falls on Tuesday, November 27.

Taxpayers may be able to deduct donations to tax-exempt organizations on their tax return. As people are deciding where to make their donations, the IRS has a tool that may help. Tax Exempt Organization Search on IRS.gov is a tool that allows users to search for charities. It provides information about an organization’s federal tax status and filings.

Here are four facts about the Tax Exempt Organization Search tool:

  • Donors can use it to confirm an organization is tax exempt and eligible to receive tax-deductible charitable contributions.
  • Users can find out if an organization had its tax-exempt status revoked. A common reason for revocation is when an organization does not file its Form 990-series return for three consecutive years.
  • EO Select Check does not list certain organizations that may be eligible to receive tax-deductible donations, including churches, organizations in a group ruling, and governmental entities.
  • Organizations are listed under the legal name or a “doing business as” name on file with the IRS. No separate listing of common or popular names is searchable.

Taxpayers can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant, Can I Deduct my Charitable Contributions? to help determine if a charitable contribution is deductible.

Taxpayers may also want to decide now if they’ll itemize their deductions when they file next year. Last year’s tax reform legislation made changes to the standard deductions and itemized deductions. Many individuals who formerly itemized may now find it more beneficial to take the standard deduction. So, taxpayers should check their 2017 itemized deductions to make sure they understand what these changes mean to their tax situation for 2018. More information about these changes is on IRS.gov/taxreform.

Tax Planning | South Florida

Safekeeping tax records

Friday, December 07, 2018

Source from irs.gov | WASHINGTON — With the tax filing season quickly approaching, the Internal Revenue Service wants taxpayers to understand how long to keep tax returns and other documents.

This is the seventh in a series of reminders to help taxpayers Get Ready for the upcoming tax filing season. The IRS has recently updated its Get Ready page with steps to take now for the 2019 filing season.

The IRS generally recommends keeping copies of tax returns and supporting documents at least three years. Employment tax records should be kept at least four years after the date that the tax becomes due or paid, whichever is later. Tax records should be kept at least seven years if a return claims a loss from worthless securities or a bad debt deduction. Copies of previously-filed tax returns are helpful in preparing current-year tax returns and making computations if a return needs to be amended.

Safe-keeping records
Tax records should be kept safe and secure regardless of whether they are stored on paper or kept electronically. Paper records should be kept in a secure location, preferably under lock and key, such as a secure desk drawer or a safe. Records retained electronically should be backed up electronically and encrypted when possible. The IRS also suggests scanning paper tax and financial records into a format that can be encrypted and stored securely on a flash drive, CD or DVD with photos or videos of valuables.

Disposing of records
Tax records contain sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, income amounts and bank account information. Tax documents not properly disposed of can land in the hands of criminals and lead to identity theft. Once past their useful date, records should be disposed of properly. Paper tax returns and supporting documents should be shredded before being discarded. Old computers, back-up drives and media contain sensitive data. Deleting stored tax files will not completely erase them. Using special wiping software ensures the removal of sensitive data.

Taxpayers still keeping old tax returns and receipts stuffed in a shoebox may want to rethink their approach. When records are no longer needed the data should be properly destroyed. More information is available on IRS.gov at How long should I keep records?

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Employers should be aware of W-2 scam

Thursday, December 06, 2018

Source from www.irs.gov | Small businesses should be on-guard against a growing wave of identity theft and W-2 scams. Employers hold sensitive tax data on their employees – such as Form W-2 data – which is highly valued by identity thieves. All employers are targets for the W-2 scam. This scheme has become one of the more dangerous email scams. Here’s how it works:

  • These emails appear to be from an executive or organization leader to a payroll or human resources employee.
  • The message usually starts with a simple greeting, like: “Hey, you in today?”
  • By the end of the email exchange, all of an organization’s Forms W-2 for their employees may be in the hands of cybercriminals.
  • Because payroll officials believe they are corresponding with an executive, it may take weeks for someone to realize a data theft has occurred.
  • Generally, the criminals are trying to quickly take advantage of their theft, sometimes filing fraudulent tax returns within a day or two.

This scam is such a threat to taxpayers that a special IRS reporting process has been established. Here’s an abbreviated list of how a business should report these schemes. They should:

  • Email dataloss@irs.gov to notify the IRS of a W-2 data loss and provide contact information. In the subject line, type “W2 Data Loss” so that the email can be routed properly. The business should not attach any employee personally identifiable information data.
  • Email the Federation of Tax Administrators at StateAlert@taxadmin.org to get information on how to report victim information to the states.
  • File a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. Businesses and payroll service providers may be asked to file a report with their local law enforcement agency.
  • Notify employees. The employee may then take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission’s www.identitytheft.gov provides guidance on general steps employees should take.
  • Forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov.
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Whats new with the child tax credit

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Source from irs.gov | Many people claim the child tax credit to help offset the cost of raising children. Tax reform legislation enacted last year made changes to that credit. Here are some important things for taxpayers to know about the changes to the credit.

Credit amount. The new law increases the child tax credit from $1,000 to $2,000. Eligibility for the credit has not changed. As in past years, the credit applies if all of these apply:

  • the child is younger than 17 at the end of the tax year, December 31, 2018
  • the taxpayer claims the child as a dependent
  • the child lives with the taxpayer for at least six months of the year

Credit refunds. The credit is refundable, now up to $1,400. If a taxpayer doesn’t owe any tax before claiming the credit, they will receive up to $1,400 as part of their refund.

Earned income threshold. The income threshold to claim the credit has been lowered to $2,500 per family. This means a family must earn a minimum of $2,500 to claim the credit.

Phaseout. The income threshold at which the child tax credit begins to phase out is increased to $200,000, or $400,000 if married filing jointly. This means that more families with children younger than 17 qualify for the larger credit.

Dependents who can’t be claimed for the child tax credit may still qualify the taxpayer for the credit for other dependents. This is a non-refundable credit of up to $500 per qualifying person. These dependents may also be dependent children who are age 17 or older at the end of 2018. It also includes parents or other qualifying relatives supported by the taxpayer.

CPA | South Florida

IRS warns of “Tax Transcript” email scam

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Source from irs.gov
WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service and Security Summit partners today warned the public of a surge of fraudulent emails impersonating the IRS and using tax transcripts as bait to entice users to open documents containing malware.

The scam is especially problematic for businesses whose employees might open the malware because this malware can spread throughout the network and potentially take months to successfully remove.

This well-known malware, known as Emotet, generally poses as specific banks and financial institutions in its effort to trick people into opening infected documents. The Summit partnership of the IRS, state tax agencies and the nation’s tax industry remind taxpayers to watch out for this scam.

However, in the past few weeks, the scam masqueraded as the IRS, pretending to be from “IRS Online.” The scam email carries an attachment labeled “Tax Account Transcript” or something similar, and the subject line uses some variation of the phrase “tax transcript.” These clues can change with each version of the malware. Scores of these malicious Emotet emails were forwarded to phishing@irs.gov recently.

The IRS reminds taxpayers it does not send unsolicited emails to the public, nor would it email a sensitive document such as a tax transcript, which is a summary of a tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers not to open the email or the attachment. If using a personal computer, delete or forward the scam email to phishing@irs.gov. If you see these using an employer’s computer, notify the company’s technology professionals.

The United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a warning in July about earlier versions of the Emotet in Alert (TA18-201A) Emotet Malware.

US-CERT has labeled the Emotet Malware “among the most costly and destructive malware affecting state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments, and the private and public sectors.”

CPA Firm | South Florida