Changes to Innocent Spouse Relief

With today’s divorce rate of first marriages at 50%, the ‘happily ever after’ that most people seek can be elusive. If things go sour in a marriage then they could go sour in other areas also, including jointly filed tax returns. When a couple files jointly they can be many benefits, but they are also both fully responsible for any taxes owed, interest and penalties. This also applies to any couple that lives in a community property state even if they file separately. This can detrimental to anyone going through a divorce financially if the person filing the return underreports or over deducts.

There is relief for the innocent spouse. The IRS has three ways to help innocent spouses with joint return that have gone awry, and they include:

  • Innocent Spouse Relief: which provides you relief from additional taxes that you may owe that your spouse failed to report, improperly reported, or if they claimed credits or too many  deductions.
  • Separation of Liability Relief: allocates additional taxes owed between you and your former or current but separated spouse on items not reported correctly. It allows you to pay what you owe.
  • Equitable Relief: may be applied for when you do to qualify for either innocent spouse relief or separation of liability for something not reported properly on a joint return, or for the right amount, but the payment remains unpaid.

In the past, the IRS has allowed a two year window to file for relief, but this has recently changed. Now as long as the statute of limitations has not expired then you can still file for relief, the two year window no longer applies. With this change, if you have applied for relief and were denied solely on the two year window, then you may reapply using the Form 8857 as long as the statute of limitations has not expired.

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IRS Collections Due Process Program and Collections Appeal Procedures

With the economic downturn in recent years, many taxpayers have found it hard to keep up with their income tax obligations. It is hard to recover when people are getting notices everyday and are feeling hopeless.  The IRS has two programs to help in the appeal process when there is nothing left but to lien, levy, or seize a person’s property. The Collections Appeals Program (CAP) and the Collections Due Process (CDP) are two ways a taxpayer has a chance to stop collection and appeal the process.

According to the IRS, taxpayers can use the CDP process when they have received one of the following letters:

  • Notice of Federal Tax Lien Filing and Your Right to Hearing Under IRC 6320
  • Final Notice-Notice of Intent to Levy and Notice of Your Right to a Hearing
  • Notice of Jeopardy Levy and Right to Appeal
  • Notice of Levy on Your State Tax Refund-Notice of Your Right to a Hearing
  • Post Levy Collection Due Process (CDP) Notice.

Taxpayer, who experience one of the following problems, has the CAP available for them:

  1. Before or after the IRS files a Notice for Federal Tax Lien
  2. If property has received a lien or levy
  3. If the IRS has terminated, proposed to terminate, rejected, modified, or proposed to modify an installment agreement.

The first step is to take action. Contact your CPA immediately. They can help you figure out which appeal process will work best for you situation. With immediate action collective activities can be frozen long enough to collect your thoughts and information. Request an “account transcription” form the IRS to be able to review all the transactions and outstanding balances for the account.

If the taxpayer chooses to go through the CDP process then there is 30-days from the initial notice letter to request a hearing. If the 30-day window is missed there can be a request for an “equivalent hearing”, but this will not suspend collection procedures.

The CAP hearing can be requested at any time, but cannot go on to tax court if the taxpayer contests the decision. The taxpayer can go on to CDP hearings, but only if they have not already pursued this option. By picking the right appeals process, the taxpayer and IRS can both can be happy with the results.

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Tips for Getting Your Taxes Done Now

You’ve waited until the last minute to file your taxes. You know it is time to roll up your sleeves and get it done. Without being rushed to meet the April 15th filing deadline, you’ll need to set aside a couple of hours of time to file your 1040. Whether you do it on your own or allow our team of tax professionals to do it for you, the following tips will help you to get through those seemingly difficult hours and just get this done.

Updating Software and Documents

The IRS didn’t release all of the tax filing documents until late this year. To make matters worse, various tax filing programs were not set up in time to meet the changes. The IRS even detailed some types of filing while it worked out the process. The bottom line is that, before you file, you need to ensure you have the right documents or the most up to date software programs. You can get what you need at the IRS website if you plan to do this on your own. Submitting the wrong return or lacking key tax information while completing it could cost you big time. You do not want to make these mistakes.

Take Advantage of Big Deductions

One of the easiest but most often overlooked ways to get a tax break is to open an IRA. Even if you have other types of savings accounts, maximizing the amount of money in these accounts to meet the limits set by the IRS could mean more money in your pocket and less money in the pocket of the government. Let’s say you owe this year. By opening up an IRA and depositing some funds into it, those funds become a tax deduction for you. That means you save those funds for retirement (and they start helping you to earn money through compounding interest) and you don’t have to repay them to the government.

E-File

Once you sort through all of the tax documents, you’ll want to e-file rather than mailing your documents. First off, even if you owe money, e-filing is effective because it allows you to receive a confirmation that the IRS received your return. If you are expecting a refund this year, be sure to sign up for direct deposit. This will help you to get your money faster. It is also completely safe to do.
The bottom line: Don’t wait to file your taxes any longer. You also don’t have to try and do the work yourself. Contact us for tips and help getting your return in fast.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Looking Out for Property Tax

With any state, the majority of revenue comes from both personal and real property tax. Combined with the erosion of local tax base, many home and business owners may face higher assessed values then in past years. Some tax assessors may be too aggressive with their assessments so they can maintain the tax revenue, but it is important to keep on top of your assessed property value to make sure that you are not paying too much in property tax.

The object of property assessment is to provide fair and equitable value for each property. Most properties are assessed using fair market value. Fair market value is “the price in a competitive market a purchaser, willing but not obligated to buy, would pay an owner, willing but not obligated to sell, taking into consideration all the legal uses to which the property can be adapted and might reasonably be applied.” The property assessment is either full market value or a percentage of the market value. States then take the assessed amount and multiply it by the millage to get the amount owed in real estate taxes. This process can take place yearly, or over a mandated time, usually 3-6 years.

Determining the assessment of residential home tends to be more straightforward then the process of industrial or commercials properties. Houses are compared to other homes in comparable neighborhoods that have recently sold to determine the assessed value. Commercial and industrial properties have more variables to consider before an appropriate assessment is generated. Since there are so many variables, the chance of an assessment error is there, giving the business owner a chance for an appeal of the assessment.

Timely tracking of personal property assessment is essential to guarantee deadlines are not missed. Many only offer a brief deadline for appeal, usually 15-45 days from the assessment date. Once the business owner determines if there is a tax assessment that warrants an appeal, the appeal is filed. There are three levels to the appeals depending on the severity of the assessment. Each needs proper detailed documentation. If you think that there is a problem with your assessment then it would be beneficial to consult with a CPA firm for assistance.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Things to Consider With a Tax Extension

When it comes to filing yearly income tax returns, you find all types. There are those who are itching to file right after the New Year’s champagne toast, and those who trudge toward April 15 as if it were Armegeddon. And of course there are plenty of people who fall somewhere in between.

Because income can come from many different sources, and at all sorts of different levels, filing taxes is much more of a strain for some than others. Some may wind up with a quick and easy return, while others struggle to find the time, and sometimes the money to meet the deadline.

For those who see April 15 approaching a little too quickly, there is the option of filing the IRS form 4868 to get an extension. By filing an extension, taxpayers have an additional six months to file their taxes. But although there may be extra time, there may also be an extra expense. An extension allows a tax payer extra time to file, but not extra time to pay. If you are one of those who has to pay into the IRS or your state’s revenue department, holding off could mean that you’ll have to pay more. With an extension there is more time to file, but not more time to pay.

In order to limit fees, penalties, and interest taxpayers are best off paying their taxes at the time that they file for the extension. This can be tricky for some who don’t necessarily know what they owe. In order to make the process a bit easier, your tax accountant can estimate what you might owe. While not guaranteed to be accurate, these estimates will give you a place to start when it comes to knowing your tax bill.

If paying the whole amount is not feasible, pay what you can. Any penalties and interest will be calculated based on what you owe after April 15. If you’re due a refund, you won’t be charged penalties or interest. The following situations can make your tax obligation creep upwards: failing to file on time (your 4868 should take care of this), failing to pay, and Interest.

Failing to file can bring you a penalty of as much as 25% of your tax bill. For each month your return is late, 5% is added to your tax bill. This maxes out at 25%. The failure to pay penalty is less per month — only .5%, however this does not max out so delaying that payment too long could really add up. Interest charges can vary somewhat, but is currently around 4% of the amount that was underpaid.

If you’re feeling rushed or overwhelmed, knowing that there is an option to file an extension can bring some peace of mind, but still even with that extension it is always in the taxpayers best interest to get their taxes in order as soon as they can.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal..

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Innocent Spouse Tax Filing

In the United States, married couples usually file a joint tax return. This means that both are responsible for payment of taxes to and the accuracy of the information filed on the tax return. While in most marriages this is a fair arrangement, there are times when the spouse keeps secret information that should have been filed with the tax return or lies to the spouse about payments.

Starting in 1971, the United States Internal Revenue Service began to realize that sometimes a spouse was kept in the dark for about taxable income and told by the spouse the taxes were paid when they weren’t. In 1971, the IRS wrote the first regulations for its “innocent spouse” program. Under certain limited conditions, a spouse was not held accountable for the other spouse’s actions.

In 1984, and again in 1998, the tax code was revised to give further protection to innocent spouses. This relief was badly needed, as spouses planning divorce would knowingly mislead their spouse so that both would share the tax liability when property was divided during property settlement. In 2013, the IRS announced that it was eliminating the two-year rule for request relief under innocent spouse. In fact, the rule can be applied retroactively and any taxpayer denied relief because of the two-year limitation may refile.

In addition, criminals often cheat on their taxes without their spouse’s knowledge. This is not only true of organized crime members but also people who engage in white-collar crime. The tax code provisions separate the liability so that the innocent spouse is not held responsible for the deceitful acts of their marriage partners.

In addition, a divorced spouse may elect to take an option known as the “separation of liability.” Once this option is taken, the spouse must prove that they had no knowledge of fraudulent activity. If successful, they are relieved of responsibility for falsified joint tax return.

To get relief you need to file IRS Form 8857. You only have to file a single copy of the form even if you are seeking relief for multiple years. If you want to give the IRS more information concerning your request just attach a letter with your name, address, social security number, and filing year. Send the form and any attachments to:

Internal Revenue Service
Innocent Spouse
Stop 840-F
P.O. Box 120053
Covington, KY 41012

The IRS makes it hard to get innocent-spouse relief. Over 50,000 innocent-spouse applications were filed in the past year with less than half of them getting approval. But, more than 1,500 denials were due to the two-year time limit that has been amended.

Your tax accountant is a good resource for help in filing for this relief.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Global Opportunities: Small Businesses Make the Leap

Crowley Halloran Conference RoomIn today’s business environment, the more ways a company can share their product, the better for the company. Markets all over the world hold potential for small business, but what does it take to get into the foreign markets? Can small business take advantage of the global opportunities? The answer is yes. The global economy has never had more opportunities for small business, and with a strong global financial strategy, small businesses are competing in foreign markets.

To succeed globally, small businesses need to create a global financial strategy. Small businesses will face common issues and a few roadblocks in the global market, but having a well-defined plan can make the difference between being successful and failing in the new market

Some questions to consider when creating your plan are:

  • What performance indicators need measured for both financial and operation purposes?
  • How will accounts receivable and payable be set up and managed?
  • Is there enough support for multiple locations and countries?
  • How will the company keep control over the global financial process?
  • How are local tax regulations and requirements managed for each foreign location?
  • How are different currencies handled in foreign locations?

Being able to answer these questions and any other unique question regarding your company is the best way to start.

Some strategies that help in making a successful transition are setting up multi-entity accounting, understanding foreign tax laws and codes, managing multiple foreign currencies, and having local human resources. Businesses with multi-entity accounting have consolidated their business processes. By consolidating business processes, the company will eliminate duplicate work, create a standard workflow, and be able to support the demands of a more complex business model. Hiring a local accounting firm to help with all the local tax codes and regulations would be extremely useful when breaking into the global market. They will be able to navigate your business through the different regulations, and be able to keep up with the different currency fluctuations. They can also be part of your management team that will take care of the day-to-day running of the business.

Ventures into a new market are exciting new opportunities for small businesses. With a proper plan and a good management team, anyone, even a small business, can take advantage of the global business opportunities.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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IRS Payment Plan

If you were unable to file your taxes by April 15, you are not alone. Around 5.5 million business tax extensions are filed every year. This extra six months is a nice cushion if you just couldn’t get everything done on time, but the next deadline, October 15, is coming. And since the IRS only allows one 6-month extension to file form 1040, it is time to scurry.

It is vital that you file on time or you may be subject to fees and penalties. If you are concerned that you will be financially unable to pay everything you owe immediately, consider the IRS’ installment agreement. Let’s look at this "payment plan" so you are prepared.

It is perfectly acceptable to make monthly payments with the IRS installment agreement if you are financially unable to pay your tax debt.

To proceed with this IRS installment agreement process, you must:

  • File all required tax returns
  • Consider other sources, like a loan or credit card, to pay your tax debt completely to save money
  • Figure out the largest monthly payment you can afford to make, with a $25 minimum payment, and
  • Understand that any future tax refunds will be applied to your tax debt until it is paid off

Next, you can avoid the fee for setting up an installment agreement if you pay the full debt amount within 120 days. If that is your plan, you will need to specify this option when you sign up. But you will still need to call if you owe more than $50,000.

The fees for setting up an installment agreement are:

  • Direct Debit – $52
  • Standard or Payroll Deduction – $105
  • Lower Income Level – $43

There are a few ways to apply for an installment agreement:

  • If you owe $50,000 or less (including individual income tax, interest and penalties), apply online
  • You may call the phone number on your bill or notice
  • You may mail the completed Form 9465-FS.

After all this work to file an installment agreement, be sure to keep your account in good standing. This is easily accomplished by:

  • Paying, at the very least, your minimum monthly payment when it is due
  • Including your name, address, SSN, daytime phone number, tax year and return type on each payment
  • Filing all tax returns on time
  • Paying all taxes you owe completely and promptly
  • Continuing to make all payments even if a refund is applied to the account balance

If you would like to know more, you may contact Crowley Halloran CPA’s at www.crowleyhalloran.com.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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Tips for picking a CPA

Mike Crowley | Crowley Halloran CPA

Michael W. Crowley, CPA - Principal

One of the most critical decisions anyone can make is picking a good-quality, reliable accountant. There are several things to keep in mind when a business owner chooses an accounting firm. Many accountants are excellent, but are they going to meet your business needs?

There are a few basic tips to keep in mind, as a business owner, when choosing a CPA firm:

Certification: The CPA should meet all the states requirements and passed the required exam. It is important that an accountant has met all the requirements and even continues their education to stay certified. It is the best way to know that they are current in all the new procedures and tax laws.

Experience: Make sure the accountant or CPA firm is experienced in the business field that your business specializes in. It is important that they know what the unique business needs are and how to handle any problems that may arise. They should have worked with that business industry before or something very similar.

Size: While the larger, more popular CPA firms may be ok, do not over look the smaller firms. The larger firms can probably take care of all the business needs and more, but the smaller firms will offer a more personalized approach. Many of the larger firms will contract out the smaller firms to work on small accounts anyway, so why not start with the local, smaller firm and go from there. Just make sure they meet the requirements that your business needs.

Get a Referral: One of the most important factors to finding a good, reliable CPA is to get a referral. Ask your friends, family, co-workers and other business owners to see who they would recommend. The best reference usually comes from word of mouth.

Once all the references have been compiled, do some research on the CPA firm and then ask to meet them and conduct an interview. Ask questions and find the right fit for you. Remember your CPA is to be one of your most trusted advisors, so make sure they are the right fit for you and your business.

Here at Crowley & Halloran CPA’s, our consultants would be happy to help you plan and manage your business budget. Click here to request a proposal.

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