How to Properly Display the American Flag

This Fourth of July all across the country, people will show their love for America by displaying flags along streets, hanging them from porches, and proudly carrying them in parades and festivals. Old Glory will be everywhere. But did you know there are official rules on properly displaying the U.S. flag? This infographic from USAGov, based on the Federal Flag Code, can help you show respect for the flag as you celebrate America’s 241st birthday:

  • When: You can display the flag outside from sunrise to sunset. If you want to fly it after dark, it will need to be lit. Don’t fly the flag during inclement weather, unless it’s an all-weather flag.
  • On the porch: The union of the flag–the blue section with white stars–should be placed at the peak of the staff unless the flag is at half-staff. When the flag is suspended from a rope on a pole extending from a house, the flag should be hoisted out, union first, from the building.
  • On the wall or the window: When the flag is displayed on a flat surface like a wall, the union should be at the top left.
  • On the street: The flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street or to the east in a north and south street. The flag should never touch anything beneath it, so make sure it’s hoisted at the proper height.
  • At the office: Suspend the flag vertically with the union to the observer’s left upon entering. If the building has more than one main entrance, the flag should be suspended vertically near the center of the corridor or lobby with the union to the north when entrances are to the east and west, or to the east when entrances are to the north and south. If there are entrances in more than two directions, the union should be to the east.
  • On a vehicle: The staff should be fixed firmly on the right side of the vehicle. Do not drape the flag over the hood, top, sides, or back of a vehicle or a boat.
  • Half-staff: During periods of mourning, it’s common to see the flag flying at half-staff. Only presidents can proclaim such periods for a national remembrance (PDF, Download Adobe Reader). Governors can also declare mourning periods at a local level. In some cases, heads of federal agencies can order the flag flown at half-staff on grounds under their supervision. Traditionally, states and local governments follow the president’s proclamation during a period of national mourning.

Take care of your flag. Many dry cleaners will clean U.S. flags for free during the months of June and July. Store your flag in a well-ventilated area. If it gets wet, make sure it’s completely dry before storing it. If the flag is damaged or worn out, it should be burned and disposed of with dignity. Learn more about the flag, its history, protocol, and ways to pay your respects, including the proper way to fold it.

Have a happy and safe Forth of July from all of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100,    Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,     Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331,    or    St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

 

 

IRS Imposter Scams: How to File A Complaint

You get a call from someone who says he’s from the IRS and tells you that you owe back taxes. These call usually involve threats for immediate payment. The caller may know part of your Social Security number. And your caller ID might show a Washington, DC area code. But is it really the IRS calling?

No. The real IRS doesn’t call and if they do contact you about unpaid taxes, they do it by mail, not by phone.

Here’s what you can do:

  1. Stop. Don’t wire money or pay with a prepaid debit card. Once you send it, the money is gone. If you have tax questions, go to irs.gov or call the IRS at 800-829-1040.
  2. Pass this information on to a friend. You may not have gotten one of these calls, but the chances are you know someone who has.

Please Report Scams

If you believe you’ve been the victim of an IRS scam, please report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

For help with your taxes, please call one of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100,    Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,     Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331,    or    St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

 

How to Request a Transcript or Copy of a Prior Year’s Tax Return

You should always keep a copy of your tax return for your records. You may need copies of your filed tax returns for many reasons. For example, they can help you prepare future tax returns. You’ll need them if you have to amend a prior year’s tax return. You often need them when you apply for a loan to buy a home or to start a business. Or, you may need them to apply for student financial aid. If you can’t find your copies, the IRS can give you a transcript of the information you need, or a copy of your tax return. Here’s how to get your federal tax return information from the IRS:

  • Transcripts are free. You can get them for the current year and the past three years. In most cases, a transcript includes the tax information you need.
  • A tax return transcript is a summary of the tax return that you filed. It also includes items from any accompanying forms and schedules that you filed. It doesn’t reflect any changes you or the IRS made after you filed your original return.
  • A tax account transcript includes your marital status, the type of return you filed, your adjusted gross income and taxable income. It also includes any changes that you or the IRS made to your tax return after you filed it.
  • The quickest way to get a copy of your tax transcript is to use the Get Transcript application. Once you verify your identity, you will be able to view and print your transcript immediately online. This Fact Sheet provides details on how to complete this step.
  • If you’re unable or prefer not to use Get Transcript Online, you may order a tax return transcript and/or a tax account transcript using the online tool Get Transcript by Mail or by calling 800-908-9946. Transcripts arrive at the address we have on file for you in five to 10 calendar days from the time IRS receives your request.

For help with your taxes, please call one of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100,    Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,     Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331,    or    St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

 

How Selling Your Home Can Impact Your Taxes

Usually, profits you earn are taxable. However, if you sell your home, you may not have to pay taxes on the money you gain. Here are ten tips to keep in mind if you sell your home this year.

  1. Exclusion of Gain.  You may be able to exclude part or all of the gain from the sale of your home. This rule may apply if you meet the eligibility test. Parts of the test involve your ownership and use of the home. You must have owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of sale.
  2. Exceptions May Apply.  There are exceptions to the ownership, use and other rules. One exception applies to persons with a disability. Another applies to certain members of the military. That rule includes certain government and Peace Corps workers. For more on this topic, see Publication 523, Selling Your Home.
  3. Exclusion Limit.  The most gain you can exclude from tax is $250,000. This limit is $500,000 for joint returns. The Net Investment Income Tax will not apply to the excluded gain.
  4. May Not Need to Report Sale.  If the gain is not taxable, you may not need to report the sale to the IRS on your tax return.
  5. When You Must Report the Sale.  You must report the sale on your tax return if you can’t exclude all or part of the gain. You must report the sale if you choose not to claim the exclusion. That’s also true if you get Form 1099-S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. If you report the sale, you should review the Questions and Answers on the Net Investment Income Tax on IRS.gov.
  6. Exclusion Frequency Limit.  Generally, you may exclude the gain from the sale of your main home only once every two years. Some exceptions may apply to this rule.
  7. Only a Main Home Qualifies.  If you own more than one home, you may only exclude the gain on the sale of your main home. Your main home usually is the home that you live in most of the time.
  8. First-time Homebuyer Credit.  If you claimed the first-time homebuyer credit when you bought the home, special rules apply to the sale. For more on those rules, see Publication 523.
  9. Home Sold at a Loss.  If you sell your main home at a loss, you can’t deduct the loss on your tax return.
  10. Report Your Address Change.  After you sell your home and move, update your address with the IRS. To do this, file Form 8822, Change of Address. Mail it to the address listed on the form’s instructions. If you purchase health insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace, you should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan.

For help with your taxes, please call one of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100,    Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,     Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331,    or    St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

Employee or Independent Contractor? Know the Rules

The IRS encourages all businesses and business owners to know the rules when it comes to classifying a worker as an employee or an independent contractor.

An employer must withhold income taxes and pay Social Security, Medicare taxes and unemployment tax on wages paid to an employee. Employers normally do not have to withhold or pay any taxes on payments to independent contractors.

Here are two key points for small business owners to keep in mind when it comes to classifying workers:

  1. Control. The relationship between a worker and a business is important. If the business controls what work is accomplished and directs how it is done, it exerts behavioral control. If the business directs or controls financial and certain relevant aspects of a worker’s job, it exercises financial control. This includes:
  • The extent of the worker’s investment in the facilities or tools used in performing services
  • The extent to which the worker makes his or her services available to the relevant market
  • How the business pays the worker, and
  • The extent to which the worker can realize a profit or incur a loss

2) Relationship. How the employer and worker perceive their relationship is also important for determining worker status. Key topics to think about include:

  • Written contracts describing the relationship the parties intended to create
  • Whether the business provides the worker with employee-type benefits, such as insurance, a pension plan, vacation or sick pay
  • The permanency of the relationship, and
  • The extent to which services performed by the worker are a key aspect of the regular business of the company
  • The extent to which the worker has unreimbursed business expenses

The IRS can help employers determine the status of their workers by using form Form SS-8, Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding. IRS Publication 15-A, Employer’s Supplemental Tax Guide, is also an excellent resource.

For help with your tax return or with any questions, please call our office:

Plymouth 734.454.4100, Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,  Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331, or St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

 

IRS Offers Tips to Help You Prepare for Hurricanes, Natural Disasters

With hurricane season underway, the IRS offers advice to those impacted by storms and other natural disasters. Here are some tips to help you prepare for such events:

  • Use Electronic Records. You may have access to bank and other financial statements online. If so, your statements are already securely stored there. You can also keep an additional set of records electronically. One way is to scan tax records and insurance policies onto an electronic format. You may want to download important records to an external hard drive, USB flash drive or burn them onto CD or DVD. Be sure you keep duplicates of your records in a safe place. For example, store them in a waterproof container away from the originals. If a disaster strikes your home, it may also affect a wide area. If that happens, you may not be able to retrieve the records that are stored in that area.
  • Document Valuables. Take photos or videos of the contents of your home or business. These visual records can help you prove the value of your lost items. They may help with insurance claims or casualty loss deductions on your tax return. You should also store these in a safe place. For example, you might store them with a friend or relative who lives out of the area.
  • Count on the IRS for Help. If you fall victim to a disaster, know that the IRS stands ready to help. You can call the IRS disaster hotline at 866-562-5227 for special help with disaster-related tax issues.
  • Get Copies of Prior Year Tax Records. If you need a copy of your tax return, you should file Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return. The usual fee per copy is $50. However, the IRS will waive this fee if you are a victim of a federally declared disaster. If you just need information that shows most line items from your tax return, you can request a free transcript. The quickest way to get a copy of your tax transcript is to use the Get Transcript application. You can also get it if you call 1-800-908-9946. Two other options are to file Form 4506T-EZ, Short Form Request for Individual Tax Return Transcript, or Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return.

For help with your taxes, please call one of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100,    Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,     Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331, or    St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

Tax Tips for Students Working this Summer

Tax Tips for Students Working this Summer

Many students get summer jobs. It’s a great way to earn extra spending money or to save for later. Here are some tips for students with summer jobs:

  1. Withholding and Estimated Tax. If you are an employee, your employer normally withholds tax from your paychecks. If you are self-employed, you may be responsible for paying taxes directly to the IRS. One way to do that is by making estimated tax payments on set dates during the year. This is essentially how our pay-as-you-go tax system works.
  2. New Employees. When you get a new job, you need to fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. Employers use this form to calculate how much federal income tax to withhold from your pay. The IRS Withholding Calculator tool on IRS.gov can help you fill out the form.
  3. Self-Employment. Money you earn working for others is taxable. Some work you do may count as self-employment. These can be jobs like baby-sitting or lawn care. Keep good records of your income and expenses related to your work. You may be able to deduct those costs. A tax deduction generally reduces the taxes you pay.
  4. Tip Income. All tip income is taxable. Keep a daily log to report your tips. You must report $20 or more in cash tips received in any single month to your employer. And you must report all of your yearly tips on your tax return.
  5. Payroll Taxes. You may earn too little from your summer job to owe income tax. But your employer usually must withhold social security and Medicare taxes from your pay. If you’re self-employed, you may have to pay them yourself. They count for your coverage under the Social Security system.
  6. Newspaper Carriers. Special rules apply to a newspaper carrier or distributor. If you meet certain conditions, you are self-employed. If you do not meet those conditions, and are under age 18, you may be exempt from Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  7. ROTC Pay. If you’re in ROTC, active duty pay, such as pay you get for summer advanced camp, is taxable. Other allowances you may receive may not be taxable, see Publication 3 for details.

For help with your tax return or with any questions, please call our office:

Plymouth 734.454.4100, Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,  Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331, or St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

Don’t be Fooled; IRS Scams Continue to Pose Serious Threat

The Internal Revenue Service has some advice for taxpayers that  may prevent them from being the victim of a tax scam: Don’t be fooled by scammers. Stay safe and be informed. Here are some of the most recent IRS-related scams to be on the lookout for:

Telephone Scams. Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain an ongoing threat. The IRS has seen a surge of these phone scams in recent years as scam artists threaten taxpayers with police arrest, deportation, license revocation and more. These con artists often demand payment of back taxes on a prepaid debit card or by immediate wire transfer. Be alert to con artists impersonating IRS agents and demanding payment.

Note that the IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone or call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone or threaten to bring in local police or other law enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.

Scammers Change Tactics. The IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone. The latest variation on this scam uses the current tax filing season as a hook. Scam artists call saying they are from the IRS and have received your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process it. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.

Tax Refund Scam Artists Posing as TAP. In this new email scam targeting taxpayers, people are receiving emails that appear to come from the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, a volunteer board that advises the IRS on issues affecting taxpayers. They try to trick you into providing personal and financial information. Do not respond or click the links in these emails. If you receive an email that appears to be from TAP regarding your personal tax information, forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

For help with any income tax question call one of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100, Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,  Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331, or St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

Amending Your Tax Return: Ten Tips

You can fix mistakes or omissions on your tax return by filing an amended tax return. If you need to file one, these tips can help.

  1. Must be filed on paper. Use Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to correct your tax return. It can’t be e-filed. You can get the form on IRS.gov/forms at any time. See the Form 1040X instructions for the address where you should mail your form.
  2. Amend to correct errors. File an amended tax return to correct errors or make changes to your original tax return. For example, you should amend to change your filing status, or to correct your income, deductions or credits.
  3. Don’t amend for math errors, missing forms.  You normally don’t need to file an amended return to correct math errors on your original return. The IRS will automatically correct those for you. Also, do not file an amended return if you forgot to attach tax forms, such as a Form W-2 or a schedule. The IRS will mail you a request for them in most cases.
  4. Form 1095-A, Health Insurance Marketplace Statement, errors. Some taxpayers may receive a second Form 1095-A  because the information on their initial form was incorrect or incomplete. If you filed a 2016 tax return based on the initial Form 1095-A and claimed the premium tax credit using incorrect information from either the federally-facilitated or a state-based Health Insurance Marketplace, you should determine the effect the changes to your form might have on your return. Comparing the two Forms 1095-A can help you assess whether you should file an amended tax return, Form 1040X.
  5. Three-year time limit. You usually have three years from the date you filed your original tax return to file Form 1040X to claim a refund. You can file it within two years from the date you paid the tax, if that date is later. That means the last day for most people to file a 2013 claim for a refund was April 18, 2017. See the Form 1040X instructions for special rules that apply to some claims.
  6. Separate forms for each year. If you are amending more than one tax return, prepare a 1040X for each year. You should mail each year in separate envelopes. Note the tax year of the return you are amending at the top of Form 1040X. Check the form’s instructions for where to mail your return.
  7. Attach other forms with changes. If you use other IRS forms or schedules to make changes, make sure to attach them to your Form 1040X.
  8. When to file for corrected refund. If you are due a refund from your original return, wait to get it before filing Form 1040X to claim an additional refund. Amended returns take up to 16 weeks to process.
  9. Pay additional tax. If you owe more tax, file your Form 1040X and pay the tax as soon as you can to avoid possible penalties and interest from being added to your account. Use IRS Direct Pay to pay your tax directly from your checking or savings account.
  10. Track your amended return. You can track the status of your amended tax return three weeks after you file with ‘Where’s My Amended Return?’ It is available in English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese and Russian. The tool can track the status of an amended return for the current year and up to three years back. If you have filed amended returns for multiple years, you can check each year, one at a time.

For help amending your tax return or with any questions, please call or office:

Plymouth 734.454.4100, Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,  Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331, or St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600

How a Summer Wedding Can Affect Your Taxes

With all the planning and preparation that goes into a wedding, taxes may not be high on your summer wedding checklist. However, you should be aware of the tax issues that come along with marriage. Here are some basic tips to help with your planning:

  • Name change. The names and Social Security numbers on your tax return must match your Social Security Administration records. If you change your name, report it to the SSA. To do that, file Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. You can get the form on SSA.gov, by calling 800-772-1213 or from your local SSA office.
  • Change tax withholding. A change in your marital status means you must give your employer a new Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate. If you and your spouse both work, your combined incomes may move you into a higher tax bracket or you may be affected by the Additional Medicare Tax. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator tool at IRS.gov to help you complete a new Form W-4. See Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax, for more information.
  • Changes in circumstances. If you or your spouse purchased a Health Insurance Marketplace plan and receive advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2016, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace when they happen. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance credit payments are paid directly to your insurance company on your behalf to lower the out-of-pocket cost you pay for your health insurance premiums. Reporting changes now will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance, which may affect your refund or balance due when you file your tax return.
  • Address change. Let the IRS know if your address changes. To do that, send the IRS Form 8822, Change of Address. You should also notify the U.S. Postal Service. You can ask them online at USPS.com to forward your mail. You may also report the change at your local post office. You should also notify your Health Insurance  Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current  health care plan.
  • Tax filing status. If you’re married as of Dec. 31, that’s your marital status for the whole year for tax purposes. You and your spouse can choose to file your federal income tax return either jointly or separately each year. You may want to figure the tax both ways to find out which status results in the lowest tax.
  • Select the right tax form. Choosing the right income tax form can help save money. Newly married taxpayers may find that they now have enough deductions to itemize on their tax returns. You must claim itemized deductions on a Form 1040, not a Form 1040A or Form 1040EZ.

For help with life changes and your taxes, please call one of our offices:

Plymouth 734.454.4100,    Allen Park 313.388.7180,

Grayling 989.348.4055,     Livonia 734-462-6161,

Royal Oak 248.399.7331, or    St. Clair Shores 313.371.6600