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2017 Standard Mileage Rates for Business, Medical and Moving Announced

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2017 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2017, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 53.5 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 54 cents for 2016
  • 17 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 19 cents for 2016
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The business mileage rate decreased half a cent per mile and the medical and moving expense rates each dropped 2 cents per mile from 2016. The charitable rate is set by statute and remains unchanged.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

These and other requirements are described in Rev. Proc. 2010-51. Notice 2016-79, posted today on IRS.gov, contains the standard mileage rates, the amount a taxpayer must use in calculating reductions to basis for depreciation taken under the business standard mileage rate, and the maximum standard automobile cost that a taxpayer may use in computing the allowance under a fixed and variable rate plan.

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

 

Avoid Identity Theft; Learn How to Recognize Phishing Scams

Simply ask for it. That’s the easiest way for an identity thief to steal your personal information.

Each day, people fall victim to phishing scams through emails, texts or phone calls and mistakenly turn over important data. In turn, cybercriminals try to use that data to file fraudulent tax returns or commit other crimes.

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry — all partners in the fight against identity theft — urge you to learn to recognize and avoid phishing scams.

We need your help in the fight against identity theft. That’s why, as part of the Security Summit effort, we launched a public awareness campaign that we call Taxes. Security. Together. We’ve launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals.

It’s called “phishing” because thieves attempt to lure you into the scam mainly through impersonations. The scam may claim to be from a friend, a company with whom you do business, a prize award – anything to get you to open the email or text.

A good general rule: Don’t give out personal information based on an unsolicited email request.

Here are a few basic tips to recognize and avoid a phishing email:

  • It contains a link. Scammers often pose as the IRS, financial institutions, credit card companies or even tax companies or software providers. They may claim they need you to update your account or ask you to change a password. The email offers a link to a spoofing site that may look similar to the legitimate official website. Do not click on the link. If in doubt, go directly to the legitimate website and access your account.
  • It contains an attachment. Another option for scammers is to include an attachment to the email. This attachment may be infected with malware that can download malicious software onto your computer without your knowledge. If it’s spyware, it can track your keystrokes to obtain information about your passwords, Social Security number, credit cards or other sensitive data. Do not open attachments from sources unknown to you.
  • It’s from a government agency. Scammers attempt to frighten people into opening email links by posing as government agencies. Thieves often try to imitate the IRS and other government agencies.
  • It’s an “off” email from a friend. Scammers also hack email accounts and try to leverage the stolen email addresses. You may receive an email from a “friend” that just doesn’t seem right. It may be missing a subject for the subject line or contain odd requests or language. If it seems off, avoid it and do not click on any links.
  • It has a lookalike URL. The questionable email may try to trick you with the URL. For example, instead of www.irs.gov, it may be a false lookalike such as www.irs.gov.maliciousname.com. You can place your cursor over the text to view a pop-up of the real URL.
  • Use security features. Your browser and email provider generally will have anti-spam and phishing features. Make sure you use all of your security software features.

Opening a phishing email and clicking on the link or attachment is one of the most common ways thieves are able not just steal your identity or personal information but also to enter into computer networks and create other mischief.

Learning to recognize and avoid phishing emails – and sharing that knowledge with your family members – is critical to combating identity theft and data loss. Businesses should educate employees about the dangers.

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

IRS, Partners Suggest Tips for Safe Holiday Online Shopping

The holiday online shopping season is a prime time for cybercriminals and identity thieves to trick shoppers into giving up financial, identity or password information.

The Internal Revenue Service and its partners urge you to follow a few safe practices that will increase your security online and help protect you from identity theft.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax professional industry are asking for your help in their effort to combat identity theft and fraudulent tax returns. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

That’s why we launched a public awareness campaign that we call Taxes. Security. Together. We’ve also launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals.
The Monday after Thanksgiving Day is known as Cyber Monday – the online equivalent to Black Friday — as shoppers head to retailers’ websites.

Here are a few basic steps to make your shopping season safer:

  1. Look for the “s” in “https.” The “s” in the opening URL stands for security. Always look for “https” – example, https://www.irs.gov – before sharing any information about your identity or your credit card/bank information. The “https” means the site uses secured, encrypted technology.
  2. Don’t use a public Wi-Fi to shop online. Unsecured hotspots can be used by thieves to peek at your transactions. Do not make online purchases or financial transactions while connected to a public Wi-Fi.
  3. Avoid phishing emails. Your inbox will likely fill with all kinds of “special” offers that you never requested, from online companies unknown to you. Avoid clicking on any links within emails from unknown sources or downloading any attachments. Beware of emails asking you to update your accounts, for example from your credit card company, bank, tax software provider or internet provider.
  4. Skip online employment offers. Along with retail “special” offers in your inbox, the holiday season also brings special, unsolicited job offers – promising “mystery shopping” jobs or work-from-home employment for extra cash. These often are ruses to steal your identity. Think before providing your Social Security number, financial information or identity information to any online source.
  5. Shop with reputable online retailers. If a retailer is unknown to you, check them out a bit before providing any information. The Better Business Bureau is a good place to start. You also can do a general internet search for customer reviews of the company.
  6. Review financial statements frequently. Keep a close eye on your credit card and/or bank statements. Quickly alert your financial institution to any unauthorized charges or withdrawals.
    The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry joined together as the Security Summit to enact a series of initiative to help protect you from tax-related identity theft in 2017. And you can help by taking these basic steps.

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

IRS, Partners Warn of Online Threats; Protect Personal Computers

The Internal Revenue Service, states and the tax industry remind you that online threats and annoyances abound. There are viruses, worms, Trojans, bots, spyware and adware – all fall under the malicious programs (malware) umbrella.

How do you protect your computer from hackers and identity thieves? You need security software and to keep it turned on. You also need security on all of your digital devices, including laptops, tablets and mobile phones.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax professional industry are asking for your help in their effort to combat identity theft and fraudulent returns. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

That’s why we launched a public awareness campaign that we call Taxes. Security. Together. We’ve also launched a series of security awareness tips that can help protect you from cybercriminals.

Tens of thousands of new malware programs launch each day, making the use of security software essential to safe internet use. These malware programs can disable your computer, install viruses that give cybercriminals control, steal your data, track your keystrokes to give criminals your passwords and many other malicious acts.

Here are a few basic steps to help protect your computer:

  1. Use pre-installed security software. Many computers come pre-installed with firewall and anti-virus protections. A good broad-based anti-malware program should be able to protect you from viruses, Trojans, spyware and adware.
  2. Turn on automatic updates. Set your security software to update automatically so it can be upgraded as threats emerge. Also, make sure your security software is on at all times.
  3. Investigate your security software options. Search out trusted sources to learn more about security software options. This will help you decide if you should invest in security software that gives you even stronger protections and options.
  4. Consider encryption software. If you retain important financial documents, such as prior-year tax returns, on your computer, consider investing in encryption software to prevent unauthorized access by hackers or identity thieves.
  5. Protect your children. If your children also use the same device, make sure it has parental control options to protect your children from malicious websites. Educate your children about the threats of opening suspicious web pages, emails or documents.
  6. Set password protections for all devices. Whether it’s your computer, tablet or mobile phone, always set a password requirement for accessing the device. If it is lost or stolen, your device is still protected from access.
  7. Protect your wireless network. Set password and encryption protections for your wireless network. If your home or business Wi-Fi is unsecured it also allows any computer within range to access your wireless and steal information from your computer.
  8. Never download “security” software from a pop-up ad. A pervasive ploy is a pop-up ad that indicates it has detected a virus on your computer. It urges you to download a security software package. Don’t fall for it. It most likely will install some type of malware. Reputable security software companies do not advertise in this manner.
  9. Avoid downloads from suspicious sources. Never open a PDF document or picture attached in an email from an unknown source. It may contain malware.

The IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry joined as the Security Summit to enact a series of initiative to help protect you from tax-related identity theft in 2017. You can help by taking these basic steps.

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

 

Employers that hire Holiday Help: Understand the Health Care Law’s Rules Around Seasonal Workers

As an employer, your size – for purposes of the Affordable Care Act – is determined by the number of your employees. If you hire seasonal or holiday workers, you should know how these employees are counted under the health care law.
Employer benefits, opportunities and requirements are dependent upon your organization’s size and the applicable rules. If you have at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, you are an ALE for the current calendar year. However, there is an exception for seasonal workers.
If you have at least 50 full-time employees, including full-time equivalent employees, on average during the prior year, your organization is an ALE. Here’s the exception: If your workforce exceeds 50 full-time employees for 120 days or fewer during a calendar year, and the employees in excess of 50 during that period were seasonal workers, your organization is not considered an ALE. For this purpose, a seasonal worker is an employee who performs labor or services on a seasonal basis.
The terms seasonal worker and seasonal employee are both used in the employer shared responsibility provisions, but in two different contexts. Only the term seasonal worker is relevant for determining whether an employer is an applicable large employer subject to the employer shared responsibility provisions. For information on the difference between a seasonal worker and a seasonal employee under the employer shared responsibility provisions see our Questions and Answers page.

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

End of the Year Tips: Max Out Retirement Contributions

Saving for the future has several benefits. You pay less in taxes, ensure your retirement years are secure and qualify for tax breaks. The simplest way to realize the full advantages of your retirement account is to maximize your retirement contributions. You may make a contribution anytime from January 1 to the tax filing deadline (April 17 in 2017).

401(k)

If you have a 401(k) plan, you can contribute up to $18,000 in 2016. The limit was the same in 2015. If you maxed out your 401(k) in 2015, then you should keep your monthly contributions at the same rate.

Roth IRA

Eligibility for a Roth IRA phases out for taxpayers with income between $116,00 and $131,000 ($183,000-$193,000 for couples). Couples earning more than this limit can convert a traditional IRA to a Roth IRA.

You do not pay taxes on your contributions to a 401(k), but you’re taxed on withdrawals. However, on Roth IRA, you pay taxes at the time of making the contribution and make tax-free withdrawals later. Depending on which retirement account you have, you can plan your contributions based on how you are taxed. If you prefer paying taxes at a known tax rate, then the Roth IRA is preferable. However, if you want tax-free growth, a traditional IRA or a 401(k) is the retirement account to choose.

IRA

You can contribute up to a maximum of $5,500 to an IRA in 2016. If you are age 50 years or older, the maximum contribution limit is $6,500. One restriction to an IRA is that if you have a workplace retirement plan and a modified adjusted gross income (AGI) between $61,000 and $71,000 for individuals ($98,000-$118,000 for couples) in 2015, then you cannot make a full deduction on the contribution. In some cases, you cannot even take a partial deduction.

Also, even if you don’t have a workplace retirement plan but your spouse does, you cannot deduct the full amount of your contribution to an IRA if your income together is over $183,000. If your income together is over $193,000, then you cannot take any deduction.

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

End of the Year Tips: Prepare Your Records

Preparing your tax and financial records for 2016 will help you to keep track of your income, expenditures, savings and taxes. These four elements are vital in measuring monetary growth. Organized records also make preparing your tax return easier. Here are tips on what to do when preparing your records.

What Records to Keep

Records of receiving of income such as bank statements, expenditures such as credit card statements, and receipts of expenses that are tax deductible such as those of charitable giving are important and should be retained. Any document that supports the claims you make on your tax return should find a space in your tax records.

In case of an audit, the responsibility of proving deductions, entries and statements on your tax return falls on you. This is called the burden of proof. Even if you did not include incorrect information on the return, you must be able to prove that you included the correct information by using supporting documents.

Collect Information Returns

Depending upon whether you file as individual or business, you might be required to file various information returns. Some of the most commonly filed information returns are:

  • Form W-2 for Wage & Tax Statement
  • 1099-INT for Interest Income
  • 1099-D for Dividends
  • 1099-MISC for Miscellaneous Income
  • 1098-E for Student Loan Interest
  • 1099-R for Distribution from Pensions, Annuities, IRAs, Retirements, etc.
  • 5754 for Receiving Gambling Winnings
  • 1099-C for Cancellation of Debt

For businesses, there are forms, including:

  • Form 8027 – Employer’s Annual Information Return of Tip Income & Allocated Tips
  • Form 8300 – Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business

The recipient must receive these forms by January 31 unless the deadline doesn’t apply, such as in the case of gambling winnings.

Gather the Receipts

If you itemize deductions, it is vital to keep the receipt or bank record of any deduction you claim on your return. You may gather receipt for medical expenses that are not covered, charitable contributions, restaurant bills for business meetings, property taxes, and so on. If you are unsure of what to keep, retain and organize the receipts of all the expenses before your return preparer informs you of which deductions to claim.

For help with tax planning 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

The Taxpayer Advocate

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that provides free assistance to taxpayers in resolving tax problems. The TAS can be beneficial to both individual taxpayers and businesses whose problems are causing financial difficulty.

Eligibility

Taxpayers who tried but failed to resolve their tax issues through normal IRS channels are eligible to receive help from the TAS. Also, taxpayers who are dissatisfied with the procedures and service of the IRS can seek assistance from the TAS. Some of the problems that the organization helps to resolve are identity theft, fraud by unscrupulous return preparers, tax debt and collection actions.

If you or your business is experiencing financial difficulties due to the IRS, are in danger of IRS collection actions, or are frustrated with the IRS’ service, you may seek help from the TAS.

Resolution Process

As part of the TAS resolution process, an individual or business is assigned to an advocate who listens to their tax problem and helps them to become familiar with standard IRS procedures. All services of the TAS are free.

The information taxpayers share with the TAS is not shared with the IRS except when it is necessary to provide relief to the taxpayer.

How to Contact

The TAS has at least one local taxpayer advocate office in every state, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Taxpayers can contact the advocate in their state by finding their phone number in Publication 1546. Additionally, taxpayers may call the TAS toll-free number 1-877-777-4778.

To send a request for assistance, file Form 911, Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance (And Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order) with the TAS. Form 911 is available by phone at 1-800-829-3676, and on the IRS website – 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

 

 

Al Capone: Criminal Earnings are Taxable Income

Al Capone was a famous gangster who was charged with the most severe tax crime: tax evasion. After he was imprisoned for just nine months for carrying a concealed weapon and two months for contempt of court, the feds began to build up a case of tax evasion against him.

With millions in unaccounted income from illegal earnings, he was found guilty of not reporting and paying taxes, and was awarded 11 years in prison. He was also fined $50,000 for the tax crime and ordered to pay $215,000 in back taxes, with interest.

The federal law requires that illegal income be reported and taxed just like legal income. It means that gangsters, scammers and thieves are also legally required to file a return and pay taxes on their income. Disclosing illegal income to the IRS, however, poses problems. Tax experts say that most criminals do not declare their “earnings”. The only ones that report their earnings do it because they fear being caught.

The feds, on the other hand, use this tax law to put criminals behind bars; if not for their other criminal activities, then for tax evasion. The case of Al Capone stands as example. The IRS says, “When no other crimes could be pinned to Al Capone, the Internal Revenue Service obtained a conviction for tax evasion. As the astonished Capone left the courthouse he said, ‘This is preposterous. You can’t tax illegal income!’ But the fact is income from whatever source derived (legal or illegal) is taxable income.”

When attempting to evade tax, or a willful failure to collect or pay over tax, the penalty is not more than $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations with or without imprisonment for a maximum of 5 years.

For willful failure to file a return, supply information, or pay tax, the penalty is not more than $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for corporations with or without imprisonment for a maximum of 1 year.

On any unpaid taxes, a penalty and interest are added each month. That substantially increases the total taxed owed.

Criminals that disclose their illegal earnings face the risk of being caught because the IRS does inform law enforcement agencies of the illegal activity. Also, in case of an IRS audit, they fail to furnish receipts and supporting documents to reveal income sources. The bright side is that they do not have to face criminal tax charges that can mean more years in prison and a heavy fine.

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

 

New Law Sets Jan. 31 W-2 Filing Deadline; Some Refunds Delayed Until Feb. 15

A new federal law moves up the W-2 filing deadline for employers and small businesses to Jan. 31. The new law makes it easier for the IRS to find and stop refund fraud. It also delays some taxpayer refunds. Those taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit won’t see refunds until Feb.15, at the earliest.

Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act. Enacted last December, the new law means employers need to file their copies of Forms W-2  by Jan. 31. These forms also go to the Social Security Administration. The new deadline also applies to certain Forms 1099. Those reporting nonemployee compensation such as payments to independent contractors submitted to the IRS are due Jan. 31. Employers have long faced a Jan. 31 deadline in providing copies of these forms to their employees. That date won’t change.
  • Different from past deadline. Employers normally had until the end of February, if filing on paper, or the end of March, if filing electronically, to send in copies of these forms. The IRS is working with the payroll community and other partners to spread the word.
  • Helps stop fraud or errors. The new Jan. 31 deadline will help the IRS to spot errors on returns filed by taxpayers. Having these W-2s and 1099s sooner will make it easier for the IRS to verify legitimate tax returns and get refunds to taxpayers eligible to receive them. The changes will allow the IRS to send some tax refunds faster.
  • Some refunds delayed. Certain taxpayers will get their refunds a bit later. By law, the IRS must hold refunds for any tax return claiming either the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until Feb. 15. This means the whole refund, not just the part related to the EITC or ACTC.
  • File tax returns normally. Taxpayers should file their returns as they normally do. The IRS issues more than nine out of 10 refunds in less than 21 days. However, some returns may need further review. Whether or not claiming EITC or ACTC, the IRS cautions taxpayers not to count on getting a refund by a certain date. Consider this fact when making major purchases or paying debts.
  • Use IRS.gov online tools. Starting Feb. 15, the best way to check the status of a refund is with the Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov or the IRS2Go Mobile App.

Taxpayers should keep a copy of their tax return. Beginning in 2017, taxpayers may need their Adjusted Gross Income amount from a prior tax return to verify their identity. They can get a transcript of their return at www.irs.gov/transcript.

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

 

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