Category Archives: Tax Tips

[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.

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.

Heed These Warning Signs When Seeking Tax Resolution

Nearly two-thirds of America’s small businesses say that the complexity and cost of federal tax preparation poses a significant problem for their business, according to the National Small Business Association. Consequently, small business owners can sometimes miss important nuances of the tax code, putting them at odds with the IRS and in need of tax resolution services.

“Businesses facing difficult tax problems can be very vulnerable,” said Brian Biffle, president of 20/20 Tax Resolution. “Owners feel they need to react quickly but they are often worried about facing IRS penalties and can be unsure of tax policy regulations. The rush to solve the problem, combined with a lack of knowledge, can make identifying a qualified tax resolution provider a challenging process.”

However, there are many reputable professionals providing tax resolution services, Biffle said. The key is to identify one that is knowledgeable, diligent and will actually help solve tax problems.

“Many tax resolution companies work very hard to provide honest and effective counsel to their clients,” said Biffle, whose company has successfully managed tax issues for more than 26,000 clients nationwide as of April 2016. “But there are distinct warning signs business owners should recognize when searching for a provider.”

  1. Overpromising – No tax consultant can guarantee results, whether those results include reducing tax liabilities or promising acceptance into the IRS Offer In Compromise program. If a company makes immediate guarantees with no information to back up its claims, it may be a sign to seek a different provider.
  2. Lack of transparency – Every tax resolution provider should be comfortable delivering background information on their company in an upfront and easily understood manner. The provider should be able to discuss company ownership, years in service and past client successes. When they aren’t able to do so (or are unwilling to do so), a business owner should move on.
  3. Demands for in-full payment upfront – As in any relationship with a professional services provider, trust is a key indicator of partnership. If a tax resolution provider wants to charge a fee just to speak with a consultant, you can end up paying an unlicensed salesperson to simply tell you what the company can do for you. Find a company that provides initial consultations completely free of charge.
  4. Lack of credentialed consultants – A competent tax resolution provider will not utilize unlicensed commission-based sales people to provide a diagnosis of your tax issue. Remember that only a CPA, an attorney or an Enrolled Agent can represent you before the IRS. If your tax resolution provider is not offering you assistance through a seasoned, credentialed consultant, it’s a good sign the provider will not be working in the best interests of the business.
  5. Unclear next steps – The provider should be able to discuss who will be managing the work, how often they’ll be in contact and what a business owner can expect with respect to ongoing reporting of progress. If these specifics are unclear, it’s a sign to walk away.

“These are the key indicators that should raise consumer concern,” Biffle said. “Of course, business owners should always use their best judgment, but as in so many aspects of business, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is.”

Experts: Plan Now To Improve Tax Outcomes Next Year

According to Internal Revenue Service data, nearly one third of all Americans wait until the last minute to file their federal income taxes. And that delay can come at a hefty price, say tax consultants at 20/20 Tax Resolution. Therefore, taking the time right now to plan for next year’s tax deadline is the surest way to ensure you and your business feel less pain and don’t run into trouble down the road.

“Business filers can take an average of 24 hours to prepare their annual tax returns,” said Brian Biffle, president of 20/20 Tax Resolution in Broomfield, Colo. “But for complex returns, that figure is typically much higher and poor planning comes with huge opportunity costs, including the risk of missing deductions, making errors and increasing stress due to the hurried rush to finish by the deadline.”

Instead of incurring these costs and risking another stressful tax season, Biffle and his consultants advise clients to take action immediately.

“Our clients come to us when their situation seems so dire they have no option but to seek professional assistance,” said Biffle, whose agents provide tax resolution services to clients facing action by the IRS or state taxing authorities. “But with a little proactive planning throughout the year, businesses and individuals can vastly decrease the pain of tax preparation and even save themselves the possibility of needing 20/20’s services in the future.”

Here are 20/20’s top tax planning tips for 2016:

  • Start maintaining better records: It seems like a no brainer, but maintaining organized, accurate records throughout the year is the quickest way to reduce tax headaches come next April. Rather than throwing receipts in a box and waiting till next year to review them, start documenting them now. You’d be surprised at how many businesses fall short in this area.
  • Get organized: If your accounting system is a hodgepodge of spreadsheets and documents in a folder called “Taxes” on your hard drive, now is the time to research and identify a manageable system for 2016. There are a lot of products available for nearly every need (no matter the size of your business) and using one of these will save immeasurable time and money next spring.
  • Get educated: You probably asked your accountant about a half dozen questions in the last week about your taxes (and they were the same six questions you asked last year). Take the time now to educate yourself on all things tax related, and give yourself an occasional refresher throughout the year. This education will make you a much more savvy taxpayer.
  • Plan for estimated taxes: If you were unprepared for your tax bill this year – just as you were last year and the year before that – start planning now for your quarterly and annual estimated taxes. Accurate planning takes the bite out of tax season. In addition, it helps you make smarter business decisions throughout the year.

“Obviously, we specialize in helping people resolve their tax issues when problems arise,” said Biffle. “But following these tips can help businesses start off on the right foot, and keep them from running into the problems that bring so many distressed taxpayers to our door.”

[Infographic] 5 Tax Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

Confronting an actual or potential tax liability with the IRS can be worrisome and overwhelming — it’s important to know what mistakes to avoid. There are may nuances to understanding how to work though a situation effectively. But, there are also some very simple rules that will be beneficial to both you and your business in the long run.

As a business owner, this infographic outlines five tax pitfalls that you DON’T want to make when dealing with a liability.

Five Tax Mistakes You Don't Want to Make

There are solutions available to taxpayers who owe taxes. The key to making the experience as manageable as possible is knowing a few easy tips about what to avoid.

You can always learn more about the ways in which we can help you and your situation, or feel free to contact us with any questions.

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

Payroll: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

I regularly speak to the collection system or process that underlies IRS and state collections. A common theme that is promoted in our collection representation education courses is to try and control as much of the collection process as possible. There is nothing more powerful to one’s role in the collection process than knowledge and communication.

These key components of dealing with the IRS are true for individuals and businesses alike. And yet, when we talk about knowledge and communication we are so often referencing areas of improvement for business owners. Small to medium-sized business (SMB) owners are typically inundated with responsibilities. Not only are the company’s employees looking to owners for their livelihood, but many are still directly involved in the company’s production, its product.

Take these burdens and couple them with an IRS system that sends an extraordinary volume of mail to report on even the slightest detail (a change in reconciling small dollars on a return) and certain problem patterns develop. There are two very common scenarios that lead to the owner getting behind and thus losing control of the collection process very early on:

  1. Not opening IRS mail
  2. Empowering someone other than themselves to control the payroll process

The IRS is infamous for its mountains of mail. Taxpayers know it, tax professionals know it and the IRS knows it.  For the IRS, it’s a crucial and relatively cost effective way to fulfill certain statutory obligations such as the need to keep taxpayers notified. And while it works there can also be a point of diminishing returns. It is not at all uncommon for the volume of mail to lead to the feeling that the letters never have any substantive material. This fosters an almost apathetic approach to the next letter that leads to missing key pieces of information such as notification of ability or an appeal.

That same feeling of apathy can develop in relationships within a business. Sometimes it’s not a lack of interest that creates the problem but rather putting too much unchecked trust in someone responsible for something as important for payroll. In any business, the owner carries the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that payroll tax obligations are met and met timely.  Although someone can be hired for a specific skill like accounting, a business owner cannot delegate responsibility for employment taxes. There is no way to move that burden. A business owner will always be in a position to know where their company stands with its payroll tax obligations if this is clearly understood. 

I recommend to my clients nothing short of weekly meetings, even if they are quick, to review the critical functions of their company. With many small businesses, there are going to be some issues. Knowing about the problems so they can be addressed is vital to getting back on top. Let us be of assistance when it comes to answering any of your questions by

Let us be of assistance when it comes to answering any of your questions by contacting us now, we are always here to help. You can also learn more about payroll tax issues, here.

Business Owner? Pitfalls of Not Paying Attention

Business owners wear many different hats and often times work long hours to ensure that they provide quality products and services for their clientele. Over the years, I have worked with many business owners that take considerable pride in their given trade. Whether I am working with an electrician, hair stylist, physician or daycare owner, there exists a certain level of experience and passion, a calling if you will, that leads one to start their own business. While applying a skill set in a particular trade is undoubtedly a vital aspect of running a successful business, the role of the business owner does not stop there.

Many small business (SMB) owners are forced to delegate duties and responsibilities to others as there are simply not enough hours in any given day to “do it all.” Delegation frees up more time to focus on strategic hands-on work, instead of worrying about small details. While effective, business owners must be cautious when delegating responsibilities relative to tax issues. It is not uncommon for a business owner to rely on a CPA to prepare tax returns, or a bookkeeper or payroll service to handle income statements and payroll tax deposits. Ultimately, however, a business owner must maintain accountability despite the fact that someone else is “handling” the taxes.   

The issue of accountability becomes paramount when dealing with tax liabilities in general, but particularly when that liability stems from unpaid withholding taxes. While it is clear that the IRS will attempt to collect unpaid withholding taxes from a business, many owners are surprised to learn that the IRS can also make assessments against willful and responsible parties under the provisions covering the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty. Regardless of whether or not a business owner is delegating the federal tax deposit responsibilities to others, in most cases the IRS will still find the owner responsible on a personal level.

Anyone that has dealt with IRS Collections has probably received numerous letters and notices regarding their liability. In fact, I would go so far as to say that IRS Collections can inundate taxpayers with notices over time. While no one wants to receive a letter from the IRS, it is imperative that business owners pay attention to each notice.  Often times these notices will include requests for a response or additional information, and may contain important deadlines. Failure to respond to a notice could result in audit, additional tax, interest and penalty assessment, or levies, garnishments and possibly seizure.

When it comes to tax issues, business owners must take an active role in reviewing tax returns, federal tax deposits, and notices on a consistent and on-going basis. Paying attention to the details may make the difference between working out a reasonable resolution or facing an insurmountable obstacle. When in doubt, it is essential to seek professional help. Contact us today, and we can help to answer any questions while simultaneously getting you and your business back on track.

“I’ve Got My Tax Liability Under Control”

Over the nearly 20 years that I have been in practice I can’t tell you how many times I spoke with taxpayers believing that they had their resolution under control by making voluntary payments.  These soon-to-be clients suffered from all too common misperception that these payments would in some way deflect attention from their case or cause it to be put to the bottom of the collection pile.

Unfortunately, they couldn’t be more wrong and it’s usually a levy or lien that brings about the realization.  Yes, of course, voluntary payments are important to paying unpaid taxes.  In fact, they are the first thing I recommend in nearly every case, especially employment tax cases.  But to think that voluntary payments alone will alter the course of one’s case can be a huge miscalculation.  State and IRS collections are done by system.  They’re not whimsical or based on good faith.  Until a tax liability is paid in full or a formal resolution, such as installment agreement, is agreed to the collection process moves forward exposing taxpayers to liens and levies.

Just recently, in fact, I encountered this very situation.  A taxpayer came to me at the end of last year irate about being levied by the IRS.  The company owes the IRS just over 100k in employment taxes but the owner of the company had been making voluntary payments of $2,000 per month.  He hadn’t spoken with the IRS but had noted less mail was coming since beginning the voluntary payments.  He was angry that the levy followed his very obvious effort at resolving the situation.  Unfortunately, this taxpayer had assumed that his payments had directly influenced the IRS’ lack of urgency with his case.

Immediately, I began my effort of educating the taxpayer about the collection process.  Most every state and definitely the IRS has a set protocol for collecting unpaid taxes.  The process begins with notification of a balance due, letters with an increasing demand for payment and ultimately assignment to a field personnel for collection.  Every collection case goes through this protocol until the liability is paid or a collection determination is made.  A collection determination means the state or IRS’ decision on how the liability will be resolved.  A tax practitioner’s goal is to mold and influence that collection determination within the rules to their clients’ best interests.

The point here is that making voluntary payments, while advisable, does not alter the collection process.  Short of full paying the liability proactive and consistent contact with the authorities is not just recommended but required in order to ensure that a client remains protected from enforcement action.

If you find yourself in this situation, it is now more important than ever to get in contact with us. We are always here to answer any questions that you might have about your particular situation. Make it a point to contact us today so that we can get your life back on track.

[Infographic] 7 Types of Installment Agreements

Installment Agreements (also known as Payment Plans) are the most accepted and common resolution strategy with the IRS. It takes experience, time and preparation to successfully negotiate an Installment Agreement and no negotiation goes exactly like the other.

We’ve created this simple guide to help illustrate the various types of Installment Agreements that may be available to you depending on your particular situation.  Take a few minutes to better familiarize yourself with their differences — and remember, we are always here to help.

7 Types of Installment Agreements

Learn more about ways we can help or feel free to contact us with any questions.

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