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Check your tax forms for errors and avoid fines for 2013

TAX-Check-tax-forms(BPT) – Tax season will be here before you know it and businesses everywhere want to handle their reporting quickly, efficiently and on time in order to avoid the penalties and fines associated with missed deadlines. In recent years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has increased its penalties for misfiled or late tax forms. As a result, it’s more important than ever for leaders of small to mid-sized businesses to stay on top of changes and be doubly vigilant in assembling and reviewing their reporting documents.

As simple as it may seem, one of the most important but least utilized steps to this review is simply double-checking all reporting documents and deadlines. It is vital to double check the information on tax forms for accuracy and be aware of year-end deadlines to prevent errors resulting in fines or other penalties. If filing is not done by the deadline, taxpayers will face failure-to-file penalties.

“Tax season doesn’t have to be a stressful time of the year that starts ulcers for small business leaders,” says Janice Krueger, a tax and reporting expert at Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “A recent study revealed that 39 percent of filers are never certain that they are meeting all the rules and requirements when reporting annually. We want to help alleviate those concerns by informing taxpayers about filing requirements and deadlines, along with the ramifications of errors and/or late filings.”

Many 1099 and W-2 reporting penalties have doubled or even tripled over the past few years and it is increasingly essential that businesses file and complete all wage and income filings on time. Here is a list of filing penalties for W-2 and 1099 forms Greatland believes taxpayers should be aware of this season:

* The penalty for failing to file accurate information on returns is $100 per return.

* The maximum failure-to-file penalty is $1.5 million.

* If returns are filed within 30 days after the due date, the penalty is $30 per return.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days is $250,000.

* The penalty for filing returns more than 30 days after the due date, but before Aug. 1, is $60 per return.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1, is $500,000.

For small businesses, defined as organizations with annual gross receipts of $5 million or less for the three most recent tax years:

* The maximum failure-to-file penalty is $500,000.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns within 30 days after the due date is $75,000.

* The maximum penalty for organizations that issue returns more than 30 days past the due date, but before Aug. 1, is $200,000.

To make sure your business has all of the accurate information needed, you can find a full list of federal and state filing regulations to remember on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.

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2014 Standard Mileage Rates

The Internal Revenue Service issued the 2014 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, 2014, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

56 cents per mile for business miles driven

23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes

14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The business, medical, and moving expense rates decrease one-half cent from the 2013 rates. The charitable rate is based on statute.

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 for a taxpayer to use a standard mileage rate to calculate the amount of a deductible business, moving, medical, or charitable expense are in Rev. Proc. 2010-51. Notice 2013-80 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.

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Five key deadlines to help small businesses avoid IRS headaches

*TAX-Five key deadlines

BPT) – The adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure still rings true – especially for businesses preparing for tax season. If you oversee your company’s filing requirements, knowing what is due and when can save you and your employee’s penalties, time and stress.

Every year, January’s arrival means two important tasks if you are in charge of filing and reporting for your company or employer: issuing W-2s and 1099 forms to employees. Small-to-medium-sized businesses should plan accordingly to stay ahead of key dates crucial to making the 2013 filing season your “gold-star” year.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), businesses must send their employees W-2s by Jan. 31 and provide all W-2s and the transmittal form W-3 to the IRS by the last day of February.

If an employee does not receive a W-2 from their employer, they can contact the IRS for assistance. The IRS requests employees to wait until at least Feb. 14, allowing for slow mail delivery. After Feb. 14, the IRS will contact the employer and request the employee receive a duplicate W-2. The employer will be notified of the penalties if it fails to comply with government regulations, which can include fines, penalties and even imprisonment.

The same applies to issuing 1099s, used primarily for reporting company payments to freelance and contract workers, or other non-employees. In general, businesses need to furnish employees with a copy of their 1099 form by Jan. 31, 2014.

According to the experts at Greatland Corporation, a company that provides W-2 and 1099 forms and e-filing services to small businesses, for the past three years, the IRS has been cracking down on contractors who aren’t always attentive when it comes to paying taxes. In fact, the government has collected $9.5 million in back wages from employers who misclassified workers as independent contractors since 2011.

“We have many customers that used to feel overwhelmed by adopting a clear process for managing the timeline for ordering and submitting their forms,” says Janice Krueger, a spokesperson for Greatland, one of the country’s leading providers of W-2 and 1099 products for business. “Feedback from a recent survey we conducted showed that 43 percent of small business filers are terrified of being fined by the IRS for not complying with a new rule or regulation for W-2 and 1099 reporting. Adopting an early game-plan is always recommended to allow enough time for the complicated filings.”

Estimates are that 20 percent of businesses misclassify workers; so make sure your business knows how to correctly report your contractors when issuing a W-2 and 1099 forms.

According to Greatland, these key dates will allow company W-2 and 1099 filers to stay on track this filing season:

* Jan. 31, 2014 – Due date to mail employee copies for W-2

* Jan. 31, 2014 – Due date to mail recipient copies for 1099

* Feb. 18, 2014 – Due date for 1099-MISC if reporting payments in boxes 8 or 14

* Feb. 28, 2014 – Due date to send Copy A to federal agency on paper (W-2 to SSA, 1099 to IRS)

* March 31, 2014 – Due date to send Copy A to Federal agency electronically (W-2 to SSA, 1099 to IRS)

To make sure your business doesn’t miss a deadline, you can find a full list of federal state and filing dates to remember on Greatland’s W-2 and 1099 fact center website.

 

 

 

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Deadline to file for new Michigan tax exemption is February 10

From Kent County Bureau of Equalization

 

There are new changes in Michigan’s Personal Property Tax beginning this year.

These changes exempt personal property from taxes under certain conditions. The Kent County Bureau of Equalization wants to be sure all property owners are aware of this new tax break, and that they file for exemption before a fast-approaching deadline.

A taxpayer who owns, leases, or has possession of personal property, with a total true cash value of less than $80,000, may request the property be exempt by filing an exemption affidavit (Form 5076) with the local unit of government. The affidavit must be filed by February 10 each year in order to obtain the exemption. If an affidavit is not timely filed, the property will not be exempted. Property owners who file the affidavit are not required to file the personal property statement as they have in the past.

“Businesses will want to pay special attention to their Personal Property Statements and other letters from their Assessor this year,” said Matt Woolford, Director of the Kent County Bureau of Equalization. “The majority of small businesses may find they are eligible to be exempted from paying personal property taxes. Like a homeowner, though, businesses will have to apply to their local assessor to receive an exemption. It is in every business owner’s interest to educate themselves on these new tax breaks. They should contact their local assessor to find out more how this law may apply to them.”

Along with the deadline, there are provisions that prevent property owners from dividing up their property among different entities to fall under the threshold. In addition, the law requires the property owner to maintain records demonstrating the value of their personal property and make those records available to the assessor on demand.

This is a significant change to the personal property tax law and property owners with questions are encouraged to contact their local Assessor’s office. For 2014 only, a taxpayer who misses the February 10 deadline may petition the March Board of Review to add the exemption; however, the Bureau of Equalization strongly recommends filing an exemption affidavit before the deadline.

The Affidavit of Owner of Eligible Personal Property Claiming Exemption from Collection of Taxes (Form 5076) can be found at http://www.michigan.gov/documents/treasury/5076_439273_7.pdf or at your local Assessor’s office.

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Six tips on making estimated tax payments

Some taxpayers may need to make estimated tax payments during the year. The type of income you receive determines whether you must pay estimated taxes. Here are six tips from the IRS about making estimated tax payments.

1. If you do not have taxes withheld from your income, you may need to make estimated tax payments. This may apply if you have income such as self-employment, interest, dividends or capital gains. It could also apply if you do not have enough taxes withheld from your wages. If you are required to pay estimated taxes during the year, you should make these payments to avoid a penalty.

2. Generally, you may need to pay estimated taxes in 2013 if you expect to owe $1,000 or more in taxes when you file your federal tax return. Other rules apply, and special rules apply to farmers and fishermen.

3. When figuring the amount of your estimated taxes, you should estimate the amount of income you expect to receive for the year. You should also include any tax deductions and credits that you will be eligible to claim. Be aware that life changes, such as a change in marital status or a child born during the year can affect your taxes. Try to make your estimates as accurate as possible.

4. You normally make estimated tax payments four times a year. The dates that apply to most people are April 15, June 17 and Sept. 16 in 2013, and Jan. 15, 2014.

5. You should use Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, to figure your estimated tax.

6. You may pay online or by phone. You may also pay by check or money order, or by credit or debit card. You’ll find more information about your payment options in the Form 1040-ES instructions. Also, check out the Electronic Payment Options Home Page at IRS.gov. If you mail your payments to the IRS, you should use the payment vouchers that come with Form 1040-ES.

For more information about estimated taxes, see Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. Forms and publications are available on IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Protect yourself from the dirty dozen tax scams

The IRS’s annual Dirty Dozen list includes common tax scams that often peak during the tax filing season. The IRS recommends that taxpayers be aware so they can protect themselves against claims that sound too good to be true. Taxpayers who buy into illegal tax scams can end up facing significant penalties and interest and even criminal prosecution. 



The tax scams that made this year’s dirty dozen list are:

Identity Theft.  Tax fraud through the use of identity theft tops this year’s Dirty Dozen list. Combating identity theft and refund fraud is a top priority for the IRS. The IRS’s ID theft strategy focuses on prevention, detection and victim assistance. During 2012, the IRS protected $20 billion of fraudulent refunds, including those related to identity theft. This compares to $14 billion in 2011. Taxpayers who believe they are at risk of identity theft due to lost or stolen personal information should immediately contact the IRS so the agency can take action to secure their tax account. If you have received a notice from the IRS, call the phone number on the notice. You may also call the IRS’s Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. Find more information on the identity protection page on IRS.gov.



Phishing.  Phishing typically involves an unsolicited email or a fake website that seems legitimate but lures victims into providing personal and financial information. Once scammers obtain that information, they can commit identity theft or financial theft. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS, send it to phishing@irs.gov. 



Return Preparer Fraud.  Although most return preparers are reputable and provide good service, you should choose carefully when hiring someone to prepare your tax return. Only use a preparer who signs the return they prepare for you and enters their IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).  For tips about choosing a preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro. 



Hiding Income Offshore.  One form of tax evasion is hiding income in offshore accounts. This includes using debit cards, credit cards or wire transfers to access those funds. While there are legitimate reasons for maintaining financial accounts abroad, there are reporting requirements taxpayers need to fulfill. Failing to comply can lead to penalties or criminal prosecution. Visit IRS.gov for more information on the Voluntary Disclosure Program.



“Free Money” from the IRS & Tax Scams Involving Social Security.  Beware of scammers who prey on people with low income, the elderly and church members around the country. Scammers use flyers and ads with bogus promises of refunds that don’t exist. The schemes target people who have little or no income and normally don’t have to file a tax return. In some cases, a victim may be due a legitimate tax credit or refund but scammers fraudulently inflate income or use other false information to file a return to obtain a larger refund. By the time people find out the IRS has rejected their claim, the promoters are long gone. 



Impersonation of Charitable Organizations. Following major disasters, it’s common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or personal information from well-intentioned people. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds. Taxpayers need to be sure they donate to recognized charities. 



False/Inflated Income and Expenses.  Falsely claiming income you did not earn or expenses you did not pay in order to get larger refundable tax credits is tax fraud. This includes false claims for the Earned Income Tax Credit. In many cases the taxpayer ends up repaying the refund, including penalties and interest. In some cases the taxpayer faces criminal prosecution. In one particular scam, taxpayers file excessive claims for the fuel tax credit. Fraud involving the fuel tax credit is a frivolous claim and can result in a penalty of $5,000.

False Form 1099 Refund Claims.  In this scam, the perpetrator files a fake information return, such as a Form 1099-OID, to justify a false refund claim.


Frivolous Arguments.  Promoters of frivolous schemes advise taxpayers to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. These are false arguments that the courts have consistently thrown out. While taxpayers have the right to contest their tax liabilities in court, no one has the right to disobey the law.



Falsely Claiming Zero Wages.  Filing a phony information return is an illegal way to lower the amount of taxes an individual owes. Typically, scammers use a Form 4852 (Substitute Form W-2) or a “corrected” Form 1099 to improperly reduce taxable income to zero. Filing this type of return can result in a $5,000 penalty.



Disguised Corporate Ownership.  Scammers improperly use third parties form corporations that hide the true ownership of the business. They help dishonest individuals underreport income, claim fake deductions and avoid filing tax returns. They also facilitate money laundering and other financial crimes. 



Misuse of Trusts.  There are legitimate uses of trusts in tax and estate planning. But some questionable transactions promise to reduce the amount of income that is subject to tax, offer deductions for personal expenses and reduced estate or gift taxes. Such trusts rarely deliver the promised tax benefits. They primarily help avoid taxes and hide assets from creditors, including the IRS.

For more on the Dirty Dozen, see IRS news release IR-2013-33.

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Nine tips on deducting charitable contributions

Giving to charity may make you feel good and help you lower your tax bill. The IRS offers these nine tips to help ensure your contributions pay off on your tax return.

1. If you want a tax deduction, you must donate to a qualified charitable organization. You cannot deduct contributions you make to either an individual, a political organization or a political candidate

2. You must file Form 1040 and itemize your deductions on Schedule A. If your total deduction for all noncash contributions for the year is more than $500, you must also file Form 8283, Noncash Charitable Contributions, with your tax return.

3. If you receive a benefit of some kind in return for your contribution, you can only deduct the amount that exceeds the fair market value of the benefit you received. Examples of benefits you may receive in return for your contribution include merchandise, tickets to an event or other goods and services.

4. Donations of stock or other non-cash property are usually valued at fair market value. Used clothing and household items generally must be in good condition to be deductible. Special rules apply to vehicle donations.

5. Fair market value is generally the price at which someone can sell the property.

6. You must have a written record about your donation in order to deduct any cash gift, regardless of the amount. Cash contributions include those made by check or other monetary methods. That written record can be a written statement from the organization, a bank record or a payroll deduction record that substantiates your donation. That documentation should include the name of the organization, the date and amount of the contribution. A telephone bill meets this requirement for text donations if it shows this same information.

7. To claim a deduction for gifts of cash or property worth $250 or more, you must have a written statement from the qualified organization. The statement must show the amount of the cash or a description of any property given. It must also state whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift.

8. You may use the same document to meet the requirement for a written statement for cash gifts and the requirement for a written acknowledgement for contributions of $250 or more.

9. If you donate one item or a group of similar items that are valued at more than $5,000, you must also complete Section B of Form 8283. This section generally requires an appraisal by a qualified appraiser.

For more information on charitable contributions, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. For information about noncash contributions, see Publication 561, Determining the Value of Donated Property. Forms and publications are available at Irs.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Home office deduction

A tax break for those who work from home

If you use part of your home for your business, you may qualify to deduct expenses for the business use of your home. Here are six facts from the IRS to help you determine if you qualify for the home office deduction.

Generally, in order to claim a deduction for a home office, you must use a part of your home exclusively and regularly for business purposes. In addition, the part of your home that you use for business purposes must also be:

your principal place of business, or

a place where you meet with patients, clients or customers in the normal course of your business, or

a separate structure not attached to your home. Examples might include a studio, workshop, garage or barn. In this case, the structure does not have to be your principal place of business or a place where you meet patients, clients or customers.

You do not have to meet the exclusive use test if you use part of your home to store inventory or product samples. The exclusive use test also does not apply if you use part of your home as a daycare facility.

The home office deduction may include part of certain costs that you paid for having a home. For example, a part of the rent or allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and utilities could qualify. The amount you can deduct usually depends on the percentage of the home used for business.

The deduction for some expenses is limited if your gross income from the business use of your home is less than your total business expenses.

If you are self-employed, use Form 8829, Expenses for Business Use of Your Home, to figure the amount you can deduct. Report your deduction on Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business.

If you are an employee, you must meet additional rules to claim the deduction. For example, in addition to the above tests, your business use must also be for your employer’s convenience.

For more information, see Publication 587, Business Use of Your Home. It’s available at IRS.gov or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

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Did you file a 2009 tax return?

IRS has $917 million for people who have not filed a 2009 return

WASHINGTON — Refunds totaling just over $917 million may be waiting for an estimated 984,400 taxpayers who did not file a federal income tax return for 2009, the Internal Revenue Service announced. However, to collect the money, a return for 2009 must be filed with the IRS no later than Monday, April 15, 2013.

The IRS estimates that half the potential refunds for 2009 are more than $500.

Some people may not have filed because they had too little income to require filing a tax return even though they had taxes withheld from their wages or made quarterly estimated payments. In cases where a return was not filed, the law provides most taxpayers with a three-year window of opportunity for claiming a refund. If no return is filed to claim a refund within three years, the money becomes property of the U.S. Treasury.

For 2009 returns, the window closes on April 15, 2013. The law requires that the return be properly addressed, mailed and postmarked by that date. There is no penalty for filing a late return qualifying for a refund.

The IRS reminds taxpayers seeking a 2009 refund that their checks may be held if they have not filed tax returns for 2010 and 2011. In addition, the refund will be applied to any amounts still owed to the IRS or their state tax agency, and may be used to offset unpaid child support or past due federal debts such as student loans.

By failing to file a return, people stand to lose more than refund of taxes withheld or paid during 2009. In addition, many low-and-moderate income workers may not have claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). For 2009, the credit is worth as much as $5,657. The EITC helps individuals and families whose incomes are below certain thresholds. The thresholds for 2009 were:

$43,279 ($48,279 if married filing jointly) for those with three or more qualifying children,

$40,295 ($45,295 if married filing jointly) for people with two qualifying children,

$35,463 ($40,463 if married filing jointly) for those with one qualifying child, and

$13,440 ($18,440 if married filing jointly) for people without qualifying children.

For more information, visit the EITC Home Page.

Current and prior year tax forms and instructions are available on the Forms and Publications page of IRS.gov or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Taxpayers who are missing Forms W-2, 1098, 1099 or 5498 for 2009, 2010 or 2011 should request copies from their employer, bank or other payer.

If these efforts are unsuccessful, taxpayers can get a free transcript showing information from these year-end documents by filing Form 4506-T, Request for Transcript of Tax Return, with the IRS or by calling 800-829-1040.

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Four things you should know if you barter

Small businesses sometimes barter to get products or services they need. Bartering is the trading of one product or service for another. Usually there is no exchange of cash. An example of bartering is a plumber doing repair work for a dentist in exchange for dental services.

The IRS reminds all taxpayers that the fair market value of property or services received through a barter is taxable income. Both parties must report as income the value of the goods and services received in the exchange.

Here are four facts about bartering:

1. Barter exchanges.  A barter exchange is an organized marketplace where members barter products or services. Some exchanges operate out of an office and others over the internet. All barter exchanges are required to issue Form 1099-B, Proceeds from Broker and Barter Exchange Transactions, annually. The exchange must give a copy of the form to its members and file a copy with the IRS.

2. Bartering income.  Barter and trade dollars are the same as real dollars for tax reporting purposes. If you barter, you must report on your tax return the fair market value of the products or services you received.

3. Tax implications.  Bartering is taxable in the year it occurs. The tax rules may vary based on the type of bartering that takes place. Barterers may owe income taxes, self-employment taxes, employment taxes or excise taxes on their bartering income.

4. Reporting rules.  How you report bartering varies depending on which form of bartering takes place. Generally, if you are in a trade or business you report bartering income on Form 1040, Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business. You may be able to deduct certain costs you incurred to perform the bartering.

For more information, see the Bartering Tax Center in the business section at IRS.gov.

 

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