World Class Certified Public Accountants

Serving Detroit and Southeast Michigan for 30 years

Review Your Taxes This Summer to Prevent a Surprise Next Spring

Each year, many people get a larger refund than they expected. Some find they owe a lot more tax than they thought they would. If this happened to you, review your situation to prevent another tax surprise. Did you marry? Have a child? Have a change in income? Some life events can have a major effect on your taxes. You can bring the tax you pay closer to the amount you owe. Here are some key IRS tips to help you come up with a plan of action:

  • New Job.   When you start a new job, you must fill out a Form W-4, Employee’s Withholding Allowance Certificate and give it to your employer. Your employer will use the form to figure the amount of federal income tax to withhold from your pay. Use the IRS Withholding Calculator on IRS.gov to help you fill out the form. This tool is easy to use and it’s available 24/7.
  • Estimated Tax.  If you earn income that is not subject to withholding you may need to pay estimated tax. This may include income such as self-employment, interest, dividends or rent. If you expect to owe a thousand dollars or more in tax, and meet other conditions, you may need to pay this tax. You normally pay it four times a year. Use the worksheet in Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure the tax.
  • Life Events.  Check to see if you need to change your Form W-4 or change the amount of estimated tax you pay when certain life events take place. A change in your marital status, the birth of a child or buying a new home can change the amount of taxes you owe. In most cases, you can submit a new Form W–4 to your employer anytime.
  • Changes in Circumstances.   If you are receiving advance payments of the premium tax credit, it is important that you report changes in circumstances, such as changes in your income or family size, to your Health Insurance Marketplace. You should also notify the Marketplace when you move out of the area covered by your current Marketplace plan. Advance payments of the premium tax credit help you pay for the insurance you buy through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Reporting changes will help you get the proper type and amount of financial assistance so you can avoid getting too much or too little in advance.

Seven Steps for Making Identity Protection Part of Your Routine

The theft of your identity, especially personal information such as your name, Social Security number, address and children’s names, can be traumatic and frustrating. In this online era, it’s important to always be on guard.

The IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure you understand the dangers to your personal and financial data. Taxes. Security. Together. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

Here are seven steps you can make part of your routine to protect your tax and financial information:

1. Read your credit card and banking statements carefully and often – watch for even the smallest charge that appears suspicious. (Neither your credit card nor bank – or the IRS – will send you emails asking for sensitive personal and financial information such as asking you to update your account.)

2. Review and respond to all notices and correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service. Warning signs of tax-related identity theft can include IRS notices about tax returns you did not file, income you did not receive or employers you’ve never heard of or where you’ve never worked.   3. Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. Visitannualcreditreport.com to get your free reports.

4. Review your annual Social Security income statement for excessive income reported. You can sign up for an electronic account atwww.SSA.gov.

5. Read your health insurance statements; look for claims you never filed or care you never received.

6. Shred any documents with personal and financial information. Never toss documents with your personally identifiable information, especially your social security number, in the trash.

7. If you receive any routine federal deposit such as Social Security Administrator or Department of Veterans Affairs benefits, you probably receive those deposits electronically. You can use the same direct deposit process for your federal and state tax refund. IRS direct deposit is safe and secure and places your tax refund directly into the financial account of your choice.

To learn additional steps you can take to protect your personal and financial data, visit Taxes. Security. Together. You also can read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Answers to Five of Your Questions about the Premium Tax Credit

The premium tax credit is a refundable credit that helps eligible individuals and families with low or moderate income afford health insurance purchased through a Health Insurance Marketplace. To get this credit, you must meet certain eligibility requirements and file a tax return.

Here are five questions the IRS is hearing from taxpayers, along with answers and where to go for more information.

1. What is included in household income?

For purposes of the PTC, household income is the modified adjusted gross income of you and your spouse if filing a joint return, plus the modified AGI of each individual in your tax family whom you claim as a dependent and who is required to file a tax return because their income meets the income tax return filing threshold. Household income does not include the modified AGI of those individuals you claim as dependents and who are filing a return only to claim a refund of withheld income tax or estimated tax. For this and other detailed premium tax credit questions and answers visit IRS.gov/aca.

2. The IRS is asking to see my 1095-A. What should I do?

You should follow the instructions on the correspondence that you received from the IRS.  You may be asked for a copy of Form 1095-A in order to verify information that has been entered on your tax return.  Visit our Health Insurance Marketplace Statements webpage for more information about Form 1095-A and how to obtain a copy,

3. If I got advance payments of the PTC, do I have to file even if I never had a filing requirement before?

Yes. If you received the benefit of advance payments of the premium tax credit, you must file a tax return to reconcile the amount of advance credit payments made on your behalf with the amount of your actual premium tax credit.  You must file a return and submit a Form 8962 for this purpose even if you are otherwise not required to file a return.

4. Marketplace says I did not file, but I did file before the extended due date.  What should I do?

In advance of the open enrollment period that runs through January 31, 2016, the Marketplace sent Marketplace Open Enrollment and Annual Redetermination letters to individuals who might not have filed a tax return. Follow the instructions in the letter you received.

  • Log in to your Marketplace account to update your 2016 Marketplace application.
  • Check the box telling the Marketplace you reconciled your premium tax credits by filing a 2014 tax return and Form 8962.
  • Update your Marketplace application by December 15, 2015.
  • If you don’t update your Marketplace application, any help with costs you currently get will stop on December 31, 2015 and you’ll be responsible for the full upfront costs of your Marketplace plan and covered services.
  • For more help visit HealthCare.gov or call your Marketplace.

5. What are my options to receive help with filing a return and reconciling?

Filing electronically is the easiest way to file a complete and accurate tax return as the software guides you through the filing process. Electronic filing options include free Volunteer Assistance, IRS Free File, commercial software, and professional assistance. For information about filing a return and reconciling advance credit payments, visit IRS.gov/aca.

Don’t take the Bait; Avoid Phishing and Malware to Protect Your Personal Data

 “Update your account now.” “You just won a cruise!” “The IRS has a refund waiting for you.”

In the cyber world of phishing, the sentences are “bait” – lures from emails, telephone calls and texts all designed to separate you from your cash, your passwords, your social security number or your very identity.

The IRS has teamed up with state revenue departments and the tax industry to make sure you understand the dangers to your personal and financial data. Taxes. Security. Together. Working in partnership with you, we can make a difference.

No doubt you’ve heard that warning to beware of phishing many times. But, phishing remains a problem because it works. Cybercriminals on a daily basis concoct new ways to trick people into turning over cash or sensitive data that can affect your taxes.

When it comes to this type of crime, the main line of defense is not technology, it is you.

Criminals pose as a person or organization you trust and/or recognize. They may hack a friend’s email account and send mass emails under their name. They may pose as your bank, credit card company or tax software provider. Or, they may pose as a state, local or federal agency such as the Internal Revenue Service or a state agency. Criminals go to great lengths to create websites that appear legitimate but contain phony log-in pages.

Just remember: No legitimate organization – not your bank, not your tax software company, not the IRS – will ever ask for sensitive information through unsecured methods such as emails. And the IRS never sends unsolicited emails or makes calls with threats of lawsuits or jail.

Scam emails and websites also can infect your computer with malware without you even knowing it. The malware can give the criminal access to your device, enabling them to access all your sensitive files or track your keyboard strokes, exposing login information.

Here are a few simple steps you can take to protect yourself: 

  • Avoid suspicious phishing emails that appear to be from the IRS or other companies; do not click on the links- go directly to their websites instead.

  • Beware of phishing scams asking you to update or verify your accounts.

  • To avoid malware, don’t open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it and what it contains.

  • Download and install software only from websites you know and trust.

  • Use security software to block pop-up ads, which can contain viruses.

  • Ensure your family understands safe online and computer habits.

To learn additional steps you can take to protect your personal and financial data, visit Taxes. Security. Together. You also can read Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:

IRS Tax Tips for Deducting Gifts to Charity

The holiday season often prompts people to give money or property to charity. If you plan to give and want to claim a tax deduction, there are a few tips you should know before you give. For instance, you must itemize your deductions. Here are six more tips that you should keep in mind:

1. Give to qualified charities. You can only deduct gifts you give to a qualified charity. Use the IRS Select Check tool to see if the group you give to is qualified. You can deduct gifts to churches, synagogues, temples, mosques and government agencies. This is true even if Select Check does not list them in its database.

2. Keep a record of all cash gifts.  Gifts of money include those made in cash or by check, electronic funds transfer, credit card and payroll deduction. You must have a bank record or a written statement from the charity to deduct any gift of money on your tax return. This is true regardless of the amount of the gift. The statement must show the name of the charity and the date and amount of the contribution. Bank records include canceled checks, or bank, credit union and credit card statements. If you give by payroll deductions, you should retain a pay stub, a Form W-2 wage statement or other document from your employer. It must show the total amount withheld for charity, along with the pledge card showing the name of the charity.

3. Household goods must be in good condition.  Household items include furniture, furnishings, electronics, appliances and linens. These items must be in at least good-used condition to claim on your taxes. A deduction claimed of over $500 does not have to meet this standard if you include a qualified appraisal of the item with your tax return.

4. Additional records required.  You must get an acknowledgment from a charity for each deductible donation (either money or property) of $250 or more. Additional rules apply to the statement for gifts of that amount. This statement is in addition to the records required for deducting cash gifts. However, one statement with all of the required information may meet both requirements.

5. Year-end gifts.  Deduct contributions in the year you make them. If you charge your gift to a credit card before the end of the year it will count for 2015. This is true even if you don’t pay the credit card bill until 2016. Also, a check will count for 2015 as long as you mail it in 2015.

6. Special rules.  Special rules apply if you give a car, boat or airplane to charity. If you claim a deduction of more than $500 for a noncash contribution, you will need to file another form with your tax return. Use Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions to report these gifts. For more on these rules, visit IRS.gov.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

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