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9 Red Flags That Could Get You Audited By the IRS

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Getting audited is not common. In fact, the IRS only audited 1 in 160 individual tax returns in 2018. A decade ago, there was an audit rate of 1 in 90.  Every year, the number of taxpayers audited has been slowly dropping

Cuts at the IRS have resulted in fewer staff members, and, as a result, fewer audits.

The more money you make, the higher the likelihood of being audited. If you’re making north of a $1 million per year, there is a 1 in 25 chance of you being audited.

There’s only a .5 – .6 % chance that you will join the ranks of the audited. The odds are low, but you don’t want to fib or flub your tax return and risk an expensive and time-consuming audit process.  That percentage still puts about 1 million taxpayers on the hook each year. Here are 8 ways you could become one of them.

Claiming Home Office Deductions   

In order to claim home office deductions, you need to ensure that the area you’re dedicating is only used for business.

Claiming a home office deduction means you can prorate some of your household expenses like:

  • Utility bills

  • Homeowner’s association fees

  • And more

This is done on a fractional basis,  based on the percentage of your home that the home office space takes up.

It is also an area that is often abused, which is why claiming home office deductions can be risky business.

Giving a Lot to Charity  

If you’re giving too much to charity, then the IRS will question the validity of your donations. They know how much those who make the same amount you do and giving too much will often signal that something fishy is at play.

Be sure to keep all receipts and records for your charitable donations. It’s recommended to write checks for charitable donations, which are much harder to falsify than other forms of donation.

Using Digital Currencies 

This one is a little newer. The government is looking for those that aren’t reporting income from cryptocurrencies.

Sure, it’s not the US dollar, but the government still wants to know what you’re making from it. Failure to report crypto income could result in worse than an audit, it could lead to a large fine ($250,000) or prison time.

Not Reporting Taxable Income  

This one is simple. Be sure to provide the IRS with every 1099 and W-2 from every job you’ve had this year.

Just because you don’t send one in, doesn’t mean that the IRS doesn’t know about them. A copy of all your tax forms are sent to the IRS, so you can’t just pretend certain jobs didn’t exist.

They’re looking for those participating in businesses that operate in large amounts of cash and those working in the gig economy.

Deducting Entertainment, Meal, and Travel Costs  

You can’t claim entertainment costs on your taxes anymore, so don’t try. You can still deduct travel and meal costs, but you need to be very clear with your records in order to stay in the clear with the IRS. We recommend recording:

  • Amount spent

  • Location

  • A list of those that attended

  • The business purpose of the meeting

Keep receipts for any meal or travel costs that are over $75.

Claiming Losses   

Claiming losses of any kind on your tax ups the chances that you’ll get audited.

Some types of losses include:

  • A business that reports losses for 3 years – this makes the IRS view your business as a hobby

  • Rental losses – Find a tenant that stays and pays

  • Stock market losses

Claiming these types of losses and others could be a red flag that gets your business audited.

Filing a Form 5213  

This form basically tells the IRS to not audit you for the first 5 years of your businesses’ life. It can help you transition from a hobby to a business, but once the 5 year period is up, you’re now under the microscope.

Be aware of this if you have already filed this form or are considering it.

Having Bank Accounts in Other Countries 

It’s not a crime to have bank accounts in other countries, but it is a common tactic for those attempting to hide income from the IRS.

Don’t do it.

If you have foreign bank accounts, be sure to report any that combined have an excess of $10,000+ anytime in the prior year. You can do this electronically or with an IRS Form 8938 if you have an account with far more than $10,000 in them.

Falsifying Tax Form or Making Errors  

If you file your taxes with a preparer that the IRS knows has falsified taxes, you might be on the hook instead of the CPA you hired.

Additionally, basic math errors are another type of issue that could draw the attention of an IRS agent. Use a tax preparing software or a trust tax preparer to negate any of those sorts of issues.

Your chances of being audited are low. But why take the risk? Some of the red flags on this list are unavoidable if you’re filing your taxes properly. Others are completely avoidable.

To cover yourself, hire a tax professional that will not only ensure that your taxes are done properly, but also will represent you if you are one of the million taxpayers that are audited each year.

3 Tax Benefits for New York Veterans

Current and former members of the military are eligible for certain tax exemptions.

“These exemptions and credits are one small way we can show our gratitude to the brave and dedicated individuals who currently serve or have served in our military,” said Acting Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Nonie Manion in a 2017 press release.

Photo by Benjamin Faust on Unsplash

Photo by Benjamin Faust on Unsplash

In today’s post, we’ll examine a handful of the exemptions available for New York veterans.

Property Tax 

As many as half a million New York veterans benefit from property tax exemptions, many of which are offered by local governments.

Depending on the circumstance, the property tax burden of a wartime veteran could be up to 15% or even as high as 25% if the veteran serves in a combat zone.  Cold War veterans (between 1945 and 1991) could see up to 15% in exemptions.

If the veteran was disabled in the line of duty, they could see up to 50% off in exemptions.

How do these property tax exemptions work?

In September 2017, Gov. Cuomo signed a bill that allowed the 679 school districts the option to allow exemptions for Cold War veterans for the entirety of the time the veteran owns the property. Prior, it was 10 years.

To find out which of these exemptions applies to you, you’ll need to contact your local assessor’s office. Visit NYS’s Municipal Profiles website to get the contact information you need.

Military Pay  

If your permanent home was in NYS before you entered the military, you don’t have to pay income tax on your active-duty pay. But it isn’t quite that simple.

You have to meet ALL three of the following conditions:

  • Didn’t have a permanent home in NY

  • Maintained a permanent abode outside of NY (this excludes military quarters like barracks, BOQ, etc.)

  • Spent less than 30 days in New York during the year

Basically, you need have not lived in New York almost at all for the entirety of the year to be eligible for this perk. You also had to be living somewhere off-base/ship to not owe income taxes.

Hire a Veteran Credit 

There are two types of hire a veteran credit. They are:

  • Corporations subject to franchise tax

  • Individuals, estates and trusts under personal income tax laws

This credit applies if you or your business:

  • Hires a qualified veteran before January 1, 2020

  • Employees the qualified veteran for 35 hours

If the veteran is disabled, the credit is 15% of the total wages paid during the first full year of employment. That amount can’t exceed $15,000 per veteran.

If the veteran isn’t disabled, the credit is10%  of the total wages paid during the first full year of employment. For nondisabled veterans, the credit is capped at $5,000.

These are just a handful of the tax benefits, credits, and exemptions that veterans can take advantage of. Reach out to one of our tax professionals and we’ll ensure you’re getting the most tax benefits from your service.

 

6 FAQs About 529 College Savings Plans

College is a large expense and one worth planning for, especially if you want your future college graduate to start their lives with minimal debt. One common way to prepare for such an expense is to open a 529 college savings plan.

Photo by Ruijia Wang on Unsplash

Photo by Ruijia Wang on Unsplash

What is a 529 plan?

College savings 529 plans are state-sponsored savings accounts that offer both tax and financial aid benefits.

What states run a 529 program?  

Almost every state has a 529 program, each with different perks and benefits. You can pick based on perks and you don’t need to live in the state you opened the account in.

You can look at 529 plan options using this tool from SavingforCollege.com.

What are the two types of college 529 plans?

There are two types of 529 plans, they are:

  • College savings plans – This plan is similar to a Roth 401k or Roth IRA by allowing you to contribute after-tax income in the form of mutual funds and other types of investments. There are a number of investment options to choose from and the 529 account will go up and down and value according to those investment choices. The money is this account is available for tuition, books, and often housing.

  • College prepaid tuition-  This plan can be used to pre-pay all or part of the costs of an in-state public college education. Sometimes, they can be converted for use at private or out-of-state colleges.

What are the perks of using a 529 savings plan?

Each state provides slightly different incentives for its 529 programs. But some of the overall benefits include:

  • Large income tax breaks (for federal and often state taxes)

  • The donor stays in control of the account until its use

  • They’re low maintenance

When can you start them?

You can start one of these savings plans at any time. Most 529 programs are “set it and forget it” meaning the investments come straight out of your paycheck or bank account.

Where can I learn more about college 529 plans?

There are a lot of online resources for comparing and ranking different 529 programs. You can reference one of these, or reach out to your friendly neighborhood tax professionals. We can help you select the best option for you.

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Any U.S. tax advice contained in the body of this website is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by the recipient for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code or applicable state or local tax law provisions.