Top Five Concerns of People Facing IRS Action

You’ve received a letter from the IRS telling you there’s a problem with your taxes. You’re not entirely clear on what the letter means. Yet you are sweating a little. You’re nervous about what happens and what steps you should take next. You’re anxious and are tempted to ignore it all.

Here’s your first step: DO NOT IGNORE THE IRS NOTICE. For your next step, read the following concerns that 20/20 most often hears from clients calling our office for the first time. With our 19 years of experience helping people overcome tax difficulties, we’ve heard just about every concern. Here are the top five concerns common to our clients. Taking Notes

1. Aggressive enforcement and liens

People who speak with 20/20 agents overwhelmingly express fear that the IRS wants payment immediately and by any way possible. Taxpayers want protection from aggressive enforcement actions like bank levies, accounts receivables levies, wage garnishments and asset seizure. While every person’s case is unique, we have a variety of tools we can use to intercede and ensure that these extreme IRS actions are avoided. In nearly every case, we are able to use these tools to give clients the time and space they need to establish compliance and form a strategy to meeting their tax obligations.

2. Difficulty dealing with or communicating with the IRS

It’s not surprising that the second most-frequent concern we hear is that resolving this issue will require inordinate amounts of time, effort and frustration. Who hasn’t sat on hold trying to reach an account service representative? Taxpayers envision a customer service nightmare multiplied tenfold by government inefficiency. Because we work with the IRS all the time, we’re familiar with the agency’s communications processes and we know how to reach the right person to get the right information. We take over communication and do it for the taxpayer, freeing them up to run their business – and their life.

3. Revenue officer showing up at place of business and employees or others finding out about liability

While the IRS is stepping up enforcement and collection efforts of unpaid or delinquent taxes (particularly employment taxes), the agency does work to respect and protect a taxpayer’s privacy. However, in a busy office where documentation and information is shared widely, it’s entirely possible that some news about tax issues may filter out to others. But any employee or other individual will feel less anxious when they know a qualified, experienced tax resolution company like 20/20 is working on the case. The alternative is to have employees or others worry that nothing is being done to manage the liability.

4. Debt to IRS growing out of control (penalties and interest accrual)

There are very few ways to avoid having to pay interest when a tax obligation is delinquent. However, 20/20 can make certain that all obligations, interest and even any penalties will be the least amount allowable under the law. The bottom line: Doing something to resolve the situation is always better than doing nothing.

5. Getting a good and manageable resolution.

Finally, 20/20 clients are worried about achieving a fair, manageable resolution that won’t break the bank and will alleviate their worries. Fortunately, we’ve been helping clients achieve this goal for almost 20 years so we can say with confidence that we can help most taxpayers. We’ll use our experience to obtain the best resolution available under your specific circumstances.

While reactions to potential IRS action vary, it’s fairly typical for clients to feel some or all of the above concerns. Some people seem unfazed and are not frightened of the IRS at all. Typically, this reaction comes from taxpayers who have dealt with the IRS previously. The strongest fear many people experience is that others (employees, spouses, friends, etc.) will discover the problem. There’s a certain stigma about owing money to IRS – and they worry what others will think.

But the truth is many people experience these types of problems and it doesn’t indicate any lack of character. Taxes are a complicated issue – and running a business is always challenging. What’s important is recognizing when you need help in order to keep any problems from becoming overly burdensome. That’s precisely why we exist.

Summertime Tax Tip: Amending a 1040 Return

As the IRS states, the tax code is a complex set of laws affecting virtually every American individual and business. Last year the IRS processed over 244 million tax returns and other documents. The volume is a tribute to the voluntary tax system as well as the IRS workforce.

Undoubtedly, however, the complexity and volume of our tax system means that errors are almost unavoidable. As representation experts we do our best to find and correct those errors made by the IRS. But, that’s just one side of the equation. Every year countless taxpayers ask us what to do if they discover an error on a return that was already filed. The short answer is to not panic and correct the mistake.

2020 Summer Tax Tip_FINAL_PNG

Questions about your unique situation? Learn more about ways we can help or feel free to contact us at any time!

To download a high-resolution version of this infographic, please click here

 

Employment Tax Noncompliance Reaching Historic Numbers

As political leaders in Washington consider dramatic cuts to federally funded programs and agencies, billions in employment taxes, interest, and penalties has gone unpaid due in some part to decreasing efforts from the IRS to pursue and collect from the growing number of delinquent employers.

That’s the assessment of experts at 20/20 Tax Resolution, a tax resolution firm that specializes in helping business owners manage and resolve tax obligations when they’ve fallen behind. According to IRS data, nearly $46 billion in unpaid employment taxes and penalties were left unaccounted for in fiscal year 2015. Yet, five consecutive years of IRS budget cuts have reduced the agency’s ability to manage enforcement caseloads.

“Employers are often under tremendous financial pressure to meet tax obligations,” said David Miles, vice president at 20/20 Tax Resolution. “When they fall behind, either through financial necessity or willfully, it’s important that the IRS possess the resources to work with employers to rectify any shortfalls.” IRS Building Sign

According to the federal budget proposed by the Trump Administration in early March, the IRS budget would be reduced to $9.65 billion, a 14.1 percent cut for the fiscal year that begins in October and would mark the agency’s sixth consecutive year of budget cuts. The proposed 2017 cut goes against the stated desires of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who believes the IRS needs more money and staff to fulfill its mission and increase revenue. For taxpayers seeking to meet their tax obligations, the proposed IRS budget cuts would result in fewer personnel available to resolve issues, slower response times and ultimately more frustration.

“It has been shown that every dollar of IRS funding returns four dollars in revenue – and as much as $10 if invested in enforcement activities,” said Miles. “Yet additional cuts to IRS funding will further erode the agency’s capabilities to realize this revenue generation.”

“A properly funded IRS provides necessary resources to garner faster, more efficient and more accurate resolutions to employer tax issues,” Miles said. “To reiterate, when fewer resources are available, the result is a reduction in decision makers, longer wait times and slower resolutions, making employers focus longer on their tax troubles and potentially even dissuading some employers from complying voluntarily.”

“Egregious” employer tax noncompliance (defined as 20 or more consecutive quarters of non-payment) has tripled over a 17-year period, according to IRS records. When collection against an employer is unsuccessful, the IRS pursues the individuals responsible for the company by assessing the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty (TFRP). In FY 2015, the IRS assessed the TFRP against approximately 27,000 responsible persons – 38 percent fewer than just five years before as a result of diminished revenue officer resources.

“It becomes a challenge for employers to seek resolution when the resources required to remedy tax issues are not available or are exceedingly difficult to manage,” Miles said. “For the sake of taxpayers and the nation as a whole, a fully supported IRS offers the best way to help employers meet their obligations.”

IRS Collections Going Private this Month. Be Wary of Tax Scams.

After months of conversation, and criticism, taxpayers across the country will finally start hearing from private debt collectors starting this month. If you are unfamiliar with this initiative, please take a moment to read through our blog post “IRS Turning to Private Debt Collectors.” This piece provides a great overview of what the program entails.

Interestingly, the conversation about the IRS’ third go-around with private debt collection has really shifted from its past failures to how the IRS will separate itself from the many IRS scammers passing themselves off as a private collection firm.  To do its part to combat IRS scammers the IRS has, in the past, leaned heavily on the fact that it does not make outbound phone calls to collect taxes. That will change under private debt collection.

It has been announced that private debt collectors are only going to be assigned cases that are inactive. This means that these entities are going to be calling taxpayers that have not heard from the IRS in quite some time making the potential risk of confusion about who is calling much higher. The IRS recognizes the issue and has given advice to taxpayers to help distinguish the legitimate private debt collectors from others.

According to a recent IRS announcement, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen explains, “Here’s a simple rule to keep in mind. You won’t get a call from a private collection firm unless you have unpaid tax debts going back several years and you’ve already heard from the IRS multiple times.” He continues with, “The people included in the private collection program typically already know they have a tax issue. If you get a call from someone saying they’re from one of these groups and you’ve paid your taxes, that’s a sure sign of a scam.” The concern is that the Commissioner’s explanation may not resonate with many taxpayers.  As a result, if scammers attempt to leverage private debt collection into a new tactic, taxpayers may not know who is who.

As expected, the IRS is urging all taxpayers that owe back taxes to work through a resolution sooner rather than later.  And for those taxpayers unsure of where they stand with IRS the Commissioner suggests that they take the necessary steps to determine what taxes, if any, remain unpaid.

If you find yourself unsure about what you owe, contact us today.

*Want to read more? Click here to check out the latest IRS announcement.

[Infographic] 5 Common Business Owner Payroll Myths: Debunked

When it comes to running a business, ensuring that payroll obligations are met, both to employees and all applicable taxing authorities, doesn’t come without challenges. While there are a wide variety of resources available to help businesses of all sizes manage their payroll obligations, perhaps no other challenge can be as “taxing” (particularly for small- to medium-sized companies) as ensuring that these obligations are met.

If you own a company, take some time to familiarize yourself with some of the most common myths many business owners believe when addressing their payroll tax concerns.

 

Five Common Payroll Myths Debunked

Questions about your unique situation? Learn more about ways we can help or feel free to contact us at any time!

To download a high-resolution version of this infographic, please click here

Unpaid Taxes Will Impact Your Future Travel Plans

It was hard to miss the dramatic changes to tax collection introduced at the end of 2015 in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act). At the time, journalists and tax professionals alike wrote about and discussed FAST’s re-implementation of the IRS’ use of private debt collection agencies and the IRS and Department of State teaming up to revoke or suspend passports over unresolved tax debt. While private debt collection agencies dominated the narrative come the end of 2016, recent talk of how the new passport rules in FAST will play out have taken center stage.

The IRS issued guidance in early 2017 providing insight on how the program will be run. According to Section 32101 of the FAST Act, the Secretary of Treasury upon receipt of a certified list of seriously delinquent taxpayers will provide such list to the Secretary of State for action with denial, revocation or limitation of the passports for those on the list. The law describes “seriously delinquent taxpayers” as those having an assessed liability of more than $50,000 for which a Notice of Federal Tax Lien has been filed (and appeal rights exhausted or lapsed) or a levy has been issued.

There are, however, exceptions. The law reads that liabilities that have been resolved by an installment agreement or Offer in Compromise, have exercised Collection Due Process Rights (CDP) in response to a levy, or cases in which collection has been suspended due to an innocent spouse claim will not qualify for certification from IRS. The good news is that if you find yourself on the list, you can get off of it. The law provides for reversal of such certification, generally within 30 days, of the liability being satisfied or in the event that the taxpayer meets one of the aforementioned exceptions.

Despite the IRS’ guidance there undoubtedly remains a degree of uncertainty with the continued development of the program and its inner workings. For example, will the initial IRS certification include every taxpayer that could qualify or is the IRS going to exercise some internal judgment on a smaller class of more “serious” delinquencies? How often will the IRS be providing a list its seriously delinquent taxpayers to the State Department? Will the IRS include taxpayers that have been placed into Currently Not Collectible status? How will the State Department develop its protocols and how strict will those be? Can the IRS abide by its requirement to decertify a taxpayer within a certain timeline and how quickly will State subsequently respond to the decertification by releasing a taxpayer’s passport? All valid questions and concerns that will eventually need to be addressed.

And there remains yet another concern for a taxpayer making it on to the IRS’ certification, domestic travel. According to a 2005 law, REAL ID Act only certain types of state ID will be recognized by federal agencies in the future. Think TSA. For taxpayers that have identification issued by states whose driver’s license do not yet meet the federal requirements of the 2005 ID law travel from state to state could also be impacted. To see where your state stands with complying with REAL ID Act, click here.

With such uncertainties on the horizon, the best way to combat these potential scenarios and unanswered questions surrounding the new passport law is to enter into an agreement to resolve your unpaid taxes as soon as possible. If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t know where to turn or have specific questions regarding your unique circumstances, please contact us now.

Advocate to IRS: Focus on Taxpayer Services

 

Each year the National Taxpayer Advocate authors an annual report to Congress. The report typically focuses on Ms. Olson’s evaluation of how she views the IRS performance when it comes to addressing its mission as well as recommendations for improvement. This year is no different.

“This is arguably the most important piece I have written about the IRS in my fifteen years as the National Taxpayer Advocate.” Nina Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate; 2016 Annual Report to Congress

In the most recent report (which can be found here), Ms. Olson takes aim at the culture of the IRS. She reiterates a message that she has sent to Congress in the past, “To create an environment that encourages taxpayer trust and confidence, the IRS must change its culture from one that is enforcement-oriented to one that service-oriented.” The message is not a surprising one given Ms. Olson’s role as our nation’s taxpayer advocate.

And yet, it is reasonable to assume the IRS may not agree with her vision for the future. Certainly, the IRS has shown signs of a commitment to improving a taxpayers experience with the agency through various initiatives such as the ‘Get Transcript’ portal. But the agency has a long history of viewing enforcement as a critical component of its mission and ensuring taxpayer compliance. In Ms. Olson’s report, it is noted that the IRS allocates 43% of its budget to enforcement and has proposed an increase of that spending by over 7% in the upcoming fiscal year.

Another point made by Olson in highlighting the IRS’ mindset is the IRS’ quiet rewriting of its mission statement. In the Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Congress directed the IRS to, “restate its mission to place a greater emphasis on serving the public and meeting taxpayers’ needs. In response, the IRS adopted the following mission statement: Provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and by applying the tax law with integrity and fairness to all. In 2009, the IRS changed it to read: Provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the tax law with integrity and fairness to all.

In addition to her emphasis on changing IRS culture, Ms. Olson also makes a strong case for the simplification of the tax code. Olson remarks that it has been 30 years since the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the last major effort at significantly simplifying the tax code. And that in each year since the Tax Reform Act the code has grown more complex. The complexity burdens taxpayers and the Service alike and as a result, must be simplified. In this sentiment Olson is not alone. Even among tax practitioners, whose work often centers on assisting taxpayers comply with the tax code, there are calls for consistency and simplification through organizations such as the NAEA and AICPA.

With the political climate seemingly focused on substantive change to government, tax reform may have real potential. A significant shift in the allocation of the IRS’ budget or a change to its mission, however, is less likely.  After all, in past statements Ms. Olson has even stated that 98% of compliance with the IRS is voluntary. Compare that with the fact that the IRS has unpaid assessments of over $137B and a tax gap that stands at well over $400B. Keeping those metrics in mind, one may see the IRS become even more committed to collecting what is legally due.

Keep These Resolutions for a Happy New (Tax) Year

New Year’s resolutions focused on financial goals can be the most rewarding to achieve but are often the most difficult to maintain, according to tax resolution experts at 20/20 Tax Resolution.

“Making financial changes can feel daunting,” said Brian Biffle, president of 20/20 Tax Resolution. “However, they can be the most critical resolutions to establish and keep, particularly if you own your own business.”

A lack of financial planning (leading to challenges meeting tax obligations) is the overwhelming reason business owners seek tax resolution services, Biffle said. Therefore, developing goal-oriented financial practices is the most effective way to avoid facing action from taxing authorities.

Here are 20/20’s top 2017 New Year’s tax resolutions:

  • Make those changes you talked about in April: Remember when you noticed you weren’t maintaining business receipts properly? Review your 2015 tax return to recall what changes you wished you made last year.
  • Resolve to keep better records: It seems like a no-brainer, but maintaining organized, accurate records throughout the year is the quickest way to reduce future tax headaches.
  • Make projections: Many business owners fail to project taxes they’ll owe throughout the year, creating financial uncertainty around tax deadlines. Projecting for these costs helps eliminate surprises.
  • Start a tax-specific bank account: A specific tax-focused bank account to set aside for that expense and serve as a constant reminder to save for tax obligations.
  • Review business and personal expenses: It’s usually easier than one thinks to identify items that can be eliminated, saving hundreds of dollars.

“Most important, get on it,” Biffle said. “If you are currently experiencing a tax debt problem, be proactive and stop running from the issue. It’s really not as frightening as it seems and there are experienced professionals that can help.”

Holiday Hiring: Don’t Forget About Tax Regulations

Retailers and seasonal companies currently on a hurried hiring spree for the holiday season would be wise to slow down enough to ensure they are complying with all required tax regulations, according to experts in the tax resolution business.

“Because seasonal hiring often occurs in a hurry, it’s important that businesses adhere to their usual hiring policies and processes so they don’t overlook critical tax documentation and considerations,” said Brian Biffle, president of 20/20 Tax Resolution in Broomfield, Colo. “First and foremost, it’s important to remember that part-time and seasonal employees are subject to the same tax withholding rules that apply to any other employees.”  

To ensure against unexpected tax issues, it’s important that businesses have the resources and the record-keeping systems in place to manage an influx of temporary employees during the busy season, according to Biffle. Maintaining accurate records is not only critical with respect to payroll issues, but also down the road should problems arise. In addition, there are a number of other considerations that must be addressed, Biffle said. For example:

  • Correctly identifying employment status (1099 or W2)
  • Incorporating additional administrative costs (payroll management, for example) into hiring plans
  • Ensuring any potential health care coverage costs (if required for seasonal employees working 30 hours or more per week) are factored into hiring decisions – a rare requirement based on a variety of criteria but worth verifying when making hiring decisions
  • Anticipating the unexpected and planning accordingly

“The retail business especially can be unpredictable, particularly if a ‘hot’ item captures consumer attention creating additional hiring needs. So it’s smart for employers to examine all variables that may impact the bottom line – including hiring costs,” Biffle said. “It can be very easy to neglect costs like these during the rush of the season when business is plentiful, but doing so can put a business in a serious financial bind.”

Conversely, Biffle said that seasonal workers should pay attention to any tax implications created by accepting a holiday job. Workers should ensure they factor in tax withholding to cover any tax liability (whether done through the employer or as a self-employed individual), including federal income tax, state income taxes, Social Security and Medicare (FICA) taxes, as well as any local taxes that may be required.

IRS Turning to Private Tax Debt Collectors

Beginning in the spring of 2017, the IRS is going to take yet another run at using private debt collectors to go after its inactive tax liabilities. This is the third go around for the IRS using private debt collectors—the first two efforts, one in 1996 and the other from 2006-2009, were abandoned due to concerns over their cost-effectiveness and how the private collectors conducted themselves. Despite those failures, in December of 2015 Congress passed the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (FAST Act), which included a provision that the IRS is required to use private collection agencies for the collection of outstanding inactive tax receivables.

Most recently, the IRS announced the four contractors that will be charged with the task of implementing the program across the country. They are as follows:

  • Conserve Fairport, New York
  • Pioneer Horseheads, New York
  • Performant Livermore, California
  • CBE Group Cedar Falls, Iowa

In this announcement, the IRS has offered clarity on the accounts being assigned to these collection agencies. The agencies will work on accounts where taxpayers owe money, but the IRS is no longer actively working their accounts. Several factors contribute to the IRS assigning these accounts including older, overdue tax accounts or lack of resources preventing the IRS from working the cases. The IRS has also clarified that it will not assign accounts to private collection agencies involving taxpayers who are:

  • Deceased
  • Under the age of 18
  • In designated combat zones
  • Victims of tax-related identity theft
  • Currently under examination, litigation, criminal investigation or levy
  • Subject to pending or active offers in compromise
  • Subject to an installment agreement
  • Subject to a right of appeal
  • Classified as innocent spouse cases
  • In presidentially declared disaster areas and requesting relief from collection

In disclosing the selection of its collection contractors, the IRS offered only a few more details on the ways in which these companies will interact with taxpayers and their representatives. According to the release, the IRS will give each taxpayer and their representative written notice that their account is being transferred to a private collection agency. The agency will then send a second, separate letter to the taxpayer and their representative confirming the transfer. The IRS also offered an assurance that as a condition of the contract the agencies must respect taxpayer rights, including abiding by the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Despite well founded concerns with taxpayer rights and privacy as well as the ongoing flood of IRS-related phone scams, implementation of the law probably couldn’t come at a tougher time. The IRS indicates that it, “will do everything it can to help taxpayers avoid confusion and understand their rights and tax responsibilities.” Seemingly, in direct response to a ploy of the scams, the IRS has said that the private collection agencies will not ask for payment on a prepaid debit card and that all payments should be payable to the U.S. Treasury and sent directly to IRS.

The hope is that prior to implementation, the IRS will offer even more details about how these companies plan to conduct themselves. Any complaints or issues with the private debt collectors should be reported by calling the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) hotline at 800-366-4484 or by visiting www.tigta.gov.