Monday, February 20, 2017

SILENCE IS GOLDEN!

I have decided to interrupt my tax season blogging hiatus to discuss a recent tax development.
 
Perhaps the most controversial component of the Affordable Care Act (aka “Obamacare”), and the component I oppose the most (along with “age-weighted” premium calculation) is the Shared Responsibility Penalty.
 
The individual shared responsibility provision of Obamacare requires that each taxpayer, and each member of a taxpayer’s household, either have “minimal essential” health insurance coverage for the entire year or qualify for a health coverage exemption.  If you do have appropriate coverage or qualify for an exemption you are subject to the Code Sec. 5000A Shared Responsibility Payment, aka the penalty for not being insured.
 
The collection of the Shared Responsibility Penalty is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the TaxCode, and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner. The only way the IRS can collect an unpaid penalty is by offsetting a current or future refund.
 
On January 20, 2017, the idiot in the White House signed his first executive order directing the Secretary of Health and Human Services and other department and agency heads to exercise all available authority and discretion to “waive, defer, grant exemptions from, or delay the implementation of any provision or requirement of the Act that would impose a fiscal burden on any State or a cost, fee, tax, penalty, or regulatory burden on individuals, families, healthcare providers, health insurers, patients, recipients of healthcare services, purchasers of health insurance, or makers of medical devices, products, or medications.”
 
A major manifestation of Trump’s mental disorder is the fact that be believes he can do no wrong.  I, and many others, believe he can do no right.  However, in this specific situation only, his action with this executive proclamation has had a good outcome.
 
Earlier this year, the IRS was originally rejecting returns during processing when the taxpayer didn’t provide information related to health coverage – i.e. they were “silent” and did not check the box to indicate that they had “full-year coverage”, did not identify an exemption, and did not calculate and include the penalty. However, based on idiot Trump’s executive order, the IRS reversed that position and is now accepting both electronically filed and paper filed returns that are “silent” as to health care coverage.  If you submit a return that is “silent” regarding coverage and requests a refund the return will be timely processed and the refund issued.
 
The IRS does say “taxpayers may receive follow-up questions and correspondence at a future date, after the filing process is completed”, so, depending on how thing play out in Congress, taxpayers who are “silent” about health coverage on their 1040 or 1040A may receive a notice from the IRS after the tax filing season.
 
The Republican Party, which now controls Congress, and the idiot in the White House have vowed to promptly repeal Obamacare, and eventually replace its appropriate components with new health care legislation.  At the very least they will repeal many of the components of the ACA, including the Shared Responsibility Penalty.
 
I strongly opposes the “self-assessment” of IRS penalties like the underpayment of estimated tax or shared responsibility penalties. I especially oppose requiring a taxpayer to pay someone to assess them a penalty.
 
I will never, under any circumstance, prepare a Form 2210 to calculate a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax as part of the filing of any tax return. If the IRS wants to charge the taxpayer an underpayment penalty that is their right. I have no problem charging a taxpayer a fee to assist in reducing, removing, or abating an IRS assessed penalty – because the client is getting real value for the fee paid in that situation.
 
I feel the same way about the Shared Responsibility Penalty, especially since the IRS announcement that remaining “silent” about health coverage will not delay the processing of the tax return or the issuance of a requested refund.
 
At this point, with the repeal of either the entire Affordable Care Act or at least the shared responsibility penalty eminent, and the fact that the IRS does not have the authority to collect any assessed penalty other than by offsetting future refunds, I feel the best course of action for a taxpayer, or a tax preparer, is to remain “silent” about health coverage when the taxpayer would be subject to this penalty, and not include a penalty assessment as part of the tax filing.
 
TTFN

Thursday, February 16, 2017

IRS DEBUNKS TAX REFUND MYTH

The IRS recently issued a news release debunking 5 refund tax myths.  Most important – in my opinion – is this one -
 
Myth 2: Calling the IRS or My Tax Professional Will Provide a Better Refund Date
 
There are lots of good reasons to use a tax professional {certainly the truth – rdf}. It is a myth, however, that bugging your tax preparer, or the IRS itself, will get refunds to taxpayers more quickly.
 
In reality, says the IRS, the best way to check the status of a refund is online at IRS.gov's "Where’s My Refund?" tool. Or taxpayers can use their digital device to check via the IRS2Go mobile app.
 
The IRS updates the status of refunds once a day, usually overnight. Checking either status option more than once a day will not produce new information.
 
And no, trying to connect with a real person at the IRS will not get you any additional info. Only call for added help if the refund status tool or app instructs you to do so.”
 
So if your federal, or state, refund has not arrived as promptly as you think it should have DON’T CALL YOUR TAX PREPARER!
 
TTFN

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

TAX SEASON WHERE THE FAKAWI - #2

February is half over – so just two months left.
 
I have completed 35 sets of returns during the first two weeks of the season.  And I have either done, received, or made arrangements with about 31% of my client list so far. 
 
I am ahead of last year at this time – I had done 28 sets and heard from 26% of the herd by 2/14/16.  A good sign.
 
No issues yet this season – processing, computer, or weather.
 
As is usually the case, for the first two weeks I have been completing returns as they are received, with at most a one day turn-around.  Now the floodgates will open, and turn-around time will gradually increase until it becomes about two-weeks.
 
Now – back to the 1040s!
 
TTFN

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

THE TWELVE DAYS OF TAX SEASON


And now what you have been waiting for – my annual posting of:
 
THE TWELVE DAYS OF TAX SEASON
 
On the first day of tax season my client gave to me a Closing Statement for the purchase of a home.
 
On the second day of tax season my client gave to me 2 W-2 forms.
 
On the third day of tax season my client gave to me 3 mortgage statements.
 
On the fourth day of tax season my client gave to me 4 Salvation Army receipts.
 
On the fifth day of tax season my client gave to me 5 Form K-1s.
 
On the sixth day of tax season my client gave to me 6 1099s for dividends.
 
On the seventh day of tax season my client gave to me 7 cancelled checks.
 
On the eighth day of tax season my client gave to me 8 useless items.
 
On the ninth day of tax season my client gave to me 9 medical bills.
 
On the tenth day of tax season my client gave to me 10 stock sale confirms.
 
On the eleventh day of tax season my client gave to me 11 employee business expenses.
 
On the twelfth day of tax season my client got from me a finished tax return, 11 employee business expenses, 10 stock sale confirms, 9 medical bills, 8 useless items, 7 cancelled checks, 6 1099s for dividends, 5 Form K-1s, 4 Salvation Army receipts, 3 mortgage statements, 2 W-2 forms, and a Closing Statement for the purchase of a home.
 
And, of course, on the thirteenth day of tax season the client gave to me a corrected Consolidated 1099 from Wells Fargo Advisors!
 
And so the 2017 Tax Filing Season – my 46th - officially begins.  Open the floodgates and bring on the 1040s!
 
As is my custom, due to the demands of the filing season I will be taking my annual “tax season hiatus” from posting to THE WANDERING TAX PRO. 
 
This also means there will be no BUZZ installments until after April 18th.  To help you deal with BUZZ withdrawal I suggest you follow Joe Kristan’s daily (although I am not so sure of its regularity during the “season”) TAX ROUND-UPs.
 
Between now and April 18th I will barely have time to relieve myself let alone blog!  Nor will I have time to respond to comments. If a comment requires a response I will do so after April 18th.
 
DO NOT EMAIL ME OR SUBMIT COMMENTS WITH SPECIFIC QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR 2016 TAX RETURN!  ALL SUCH ITEMS WILL BE PROMPTLY DELETED UPON DISCOVERY!
 
I am NOT accepting any new 1040 clients (or any other kind of tax preparation clients). So don’t email me asking if I can prepare your 2016 tax returns.  THE ANSWER IS A MOST DEFINITE "NO". 
 
I will be publishing a WHERE THE FAKAWI post occasionally here at TWTP to keep my clients up-to-date on my progress during the season and to report changes or additions to my tax season policies and procedures. Clients can also keep track of my tax season progress by following me at TWITTER (@rdftaxpro).
 
I realize that I am abandoning you at a time when you may need me the most – but I need to make a living!
 
I find it a bit amusing that the period of time when TWTP gets the most “hits” is during the tax filing season when I am not posting.
 
“Talk” to you when it is all over!
 
TTFAW 
 
 
 
 
 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

I DO NOT “ACCEPT” OR “RESPECT” THE IDIOT IN THE WHITE HOUSE

Before I take my tax-season hiatus from posting I feel I must make one more statement about the Presidency.
 
People say I must “accept” that arrogant buffoon Trump is our President, give him the respect that the office entitles him to, and “move on”.
 
I “accept” that the election was “legitimate” and that, despite losing the election by close to 3 Million votes, Trump has completed the legal process to be selected as President.  There is no doubt he is indeed legally the 45th President of the United States.
 
But I do not “accept” or “respect” Donald Trump the man.  He was a deplorable and despicable human being, a dangerous mentally unstable narcissist and sociopath, before running for office, during the campaign, and after being selected as President.  He has not automatically been endowed with honor, integrity, or intelligence where none existed before by mere virtue of his being sworn in as President.  He is still the same dangerous, deplorable and despicable mentally unstable narcissist and sociopath.
 
I strongly oppose and denounce Trump the man.  It has nothing to do with his alleged politics or policies.  It is not because he is Republican and I voted for the Democratic candidate.  Trump has absolutely no political beliefs, convictions, or philosophy.  The only thing he truly believes is “Trump is good and Trump is great”.
 
I do oppose and denounce the policies and proposals he ran on during his campaign – but these were not necessarily what he believed but what he believed his followers wanted to hear and were put forward by Trump solely to be able to hear “the roar of the crowd” at his rallies.
 
Trump does not deserve any respect from anyone, regardless of the office he holds, because he has shown no respect for anyone or anything.
 
I cannot “move on” because I truly believe that Trump’s Presidency poses a serious threat to the future of America and the world.  I must vocally and aggressively denounce and oppose him at every available opportunity.

It is obvious from his words and actions that Trump is mentally unstable - unfit and unable to properly carry out the duties and responsibilities of President.  He must be removed from office based on his mental incompetence.
 
Opposition to Trump is NOT politics – it is patriotism!
 
TTFN
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, January 30, 2017

WHAT’S THE BUZZ, TELL ME WHAT’S A HAPPENNIN’

None of the ads for commercial tax preparation chains or for Credit Karma mention anything about the competence of tax preparation or competence, training, or knowledge of their preparers, or the ability of their preparers to properly prepare accurate returns so you pay the least amount of tax legally possible.  They only mention “come in and get a check” or “preparation is free”.  I truly believe that no one should use Credit Karma or a commercial preparation chain to prepare their 2016 federal or state tax returns. 
 
That said – on with the last BUZZ before my tax-season hiatus!
 
* Some excellent advice worth repeating again and again from Russ Fox, author of the TAXABLE TALK blog, in dealing with “2017 Mailbag #1: The 1099 Doesn’t Show Up, So I Don’t Have to Report It, Right?” (highlight is mine) -

Yes, you need to report the income. All income is taxable unless Congress exempts it. Yes, the company you did work for is supposed to issue you a Form 1099-MISC. But whether or not you receive a 1099 doesn’t change whether income is taxable or not. You were paid for services, and that’s income. Simply total what you received and include it in your gross receipts for your business.”

And –

Remember, simply report all of your income regardless of whether or not you receive a 1099 (or other paperwork). It’s easier to sleep at night when your tax return is accurate.”

* Did you see my open letter to Vice President Pence and Congress?  Click here to read it.

* The NSTP BLOG reminds us “ICYMI: New Two-Stage E-Mail Scheme Targets Tax Professionals”.  

* FYI – I updated my article on “The Cost of Tax Preparation” at FIND A TAX PROFESSIONAL based on most recent NSA fee study.

* An interesting analysis from the Tax Policy Center’s BRIEFING BOOK -  How do US taxes compare internationally?

* Peter J Reilly quotes me, and references my “eccentricity”, at the end of his announcement that “TaxProf Calls An End To Day By Day IRS Scandal Coverage”.

* From RUBIN ON TAX – “Reminder: FBARs Due in April Starting This Year”. 

FYI - FBAR stands for “Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts” and is not to be confused with FUBAR, which is the formal description of the current US Tax Code.

* NJ taxpayers – did you know there was a special newsletter written just for you?  Learn the joy of avoiding NJ taxes! Click here for more info.

The Last Word –

No Trump comments today.  See my final statement before tax-season hiatus about the idiot in the White House in a special post tomorrow.

I do want to bring your attention to a unique new political organization and campaign – Brand New Congress. 

According to its website the plan of this organization is – “to recruit over 400 extraordinary ordinary Americans to challenge both Democrats and Republicans in congressional primary races across the country in order to replace almost all of Congress in one fell swoop. These will be people who have track records of integrity and service in their communities and who are not all career politicians -- we're looking for nurses, teachers, engineers, scientists, factory workers, and so on.”

For years I have been complaining about the incompetence and inability to work together to accomplish anything of the idiots in Congress.  This sounds like an excellent solution to this current ongoing problem.

I have read and agree on principal with much of what has been published on the website about their platform.  Of course I will reserve final judgment until I read more details of the organization’s specific platform proposals – but so far I am truly impressed.

Please visit the organization’s website and give it careful consideration.

FYI - On Wednesday I will be giving you what you have been waiting a year for!

TTFN

 
 NO tax software package, or online filing service, is a substitute for knowledge of the Tax Code, and NO tax software package, or online filing service, is a substitute for a competent, experienced tax professional.
 
Do you need to find a qualified and competent tax professional?
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

WHAT’S NEW ON 2016 STATE TAX FORMS

As I previously mentioned in an introduction to an earlier BUZZ installment there is no change to the 2016 Form 1040, or 1040A.  They are “line-for-line, exactly the same as the 2015 Form 1040, except for the changes in the standard deduction and personal exemption amounts”.
 
I was waiting to see the 2016 Form NJ-1040 instructions to find out when the new $3,000 exemption for veterans became effective.  The answer was recently provided in an announcement on the NJDOT website -
 
Under a new State law, veterans may qualify for an exemption of up to $3,000 on their New Jersey tax return for income earned in 2017. This exemption, part of a bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Christie last October, is in addition to other exemptions or deductions for which veterans may qualify. The exemption is available for all veterans who received honorable discharges or who were released under honorable circumstances from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, a reserve component thereof, or the National Guard of New Jersey in a federal active duty status. Veterans may claim the exemption when they file their Tax Year 2017 returns. The exemption does not apply to 2016 income.” 
 
I have finally seen the 2016 Form NJ-1040 and the one and only change to the form, other than the year, is replacing the boxes in the bottom section of Page 1 for entering the amount of the check enclosed for the balance due (on the 2015 NJ-1040) with boxes for entering a Driver’s License Number (see below).  Otherwise it is exactly the same as the 2015 NJ-1040.
 
The changes that affect the preparation of the 2016 NJ-1040 are –
 
(1) Residents who are eligible and file for a federal Earned Income Credit can also receive a NJ Earned Income Credit equal to 35% of the federal amount.  This increased % was part of the gas tax increase deal.
 
(2) The maximum employee contributions for the various state benefit funds for 2016 are:
 
·         Unemployment Insurance and Workforce Development = $138.56
·         Disability Insurance = $65.20
·         Family Leave Insurance = $26.08
 
If you had 2 or more NJ employers during 2016 and contributed more than these maximum amounts you can receive a refund of the excess on the NJ-1040 via Form NJ-2450.
 
(3) The percentage used to calculate the allowable “Alternative Business Calculation Adjustment” deduction on the 2016 Schedule NJ-BUS-2 (and going forward) is 50%.  The ABCA deduction is now fully phased-in.
 
(4) The Fund for the Support of New Jersey Nonprofit Veterans Organizations has been added to the list of charities to which NJ taxpayers can contribute via the 2016 NJ-1040.  It is identified with code number “22” on the “Other Designated Contribution” line on the form.
 
NJ taxpayers hoping for a quick refund by filing early will be out of luck.  No NJ refunds will be issued until March 1, 2017, regardless of how early the returns have been filed.
 
And, according to the NJ Division of Taxation website –
 
“• Returns filed electronically may take a minimum of four weeks to validate and process.
Returns filed on paper may take a minimum of 12 weeks to validate and process.”
 
So don’t bug your tax preparer if you haven’t received your NJ refund promptly. 
 
For some reason the State of New Jersey is dragging its arse – the 2016 individual income tax forms and instructions are not yet available to download on the NJDOT website.  I was able to view the 2016 NJ-1040 and instructions because a client received the booklet in the mail last week.
 
There have been no changes to New York state income taxes and the 2016 New York IT-201 or IT-203 – other than the statutory cost of living adjustments to the Standard Deduction and the Tax Rate Schedules and some changes to obscure tax credits.  The only credit changes worth mentioning are -
 
·   NYC school tax credit - Beginning with tax year 2016, the credit will now be a New York State personal income tax credit for residents of New York City.  Previously, the credit was a New York City personal income tax credit for residents of New York City.
 
·   Noncustodial parent earned income credit - This credit has been permanently extended.  Previously, this credit was due to expire December 31, 2016. See Form IT-209, Claim for Noncustodial Parent New York State Earned Income Credit, and its instructions.”
 
There is a new requirement for taxpayers who use software to prepare NY state returns, which I do not do (highlight is mine) –
 
The taxpayer’s driver license or state identification information is required. If the taxpayer and/or spouse has been issued a driver license or state identification card, they are required to provide that information to be entered into the software. Taxpayers must provide the ID number, issuing state, issuing date, and expiration date for all licenses or identification cards. If the taxpayer license/ID is a New York State driver license or non-driver ID, the document number found on the license/ID must also be entered. In the event that a taxpayer does not have a driver license or state-issued ID, you will be prompted by the software to indicate this. If the taxpayer does not have either a driver license or state-issued ID, marking the check box indicating that they have neither will fulfill the new requirement. We are requiring this information as an additional means of validating the taxpayer’s identification, and not having the information will not cause delays. However, if all other efforts to validate the taxpayer’s identity are unsuccessful, the processing of the refund may be delayed.”
 
The “document number” referenced above is specific to the New York State driver’s license and is typically found in the bottom right corner on the front, or on the back of the license.
 
NJ also asks for a driver’s license number, but it is optional.  Entering a driver’s license is not required for the processing of the NJ state return.
 
The 2016 New York State, and Pennsylvania, tax forms and instructions are now available to download from the state tax agency websites, as are the 2016 federal forms available at www.irs.gov.  God only knows when the NJ forms and instructions will be available.
 
TTFN