Tax Relief Solutions

Top 10 benefits of working with a professional tax relief firm

Having an outstanding tax debt is becoming a growing issue that many Americans face. The number of Federal tax liens and levies filed by the IRS has grown significantly in recent years.  In 2011, nearly 4 million tax levies were served on third parties, a 456% increase when compared to the same IRS reports from 2001. Similarly, the IRS issued over one million Federal tax liens in 2011, up 145% from a decade earlier.

The IRS is usually relentless in their pursuit of collecting outstanding tax debt. The stress and pressure that is often placed on individuals and families can be overwhelming. Professional tax relief firms can be an incredible source of assistance when it comes to dealing with the IRS (or other State Tax Authorities) regarding back tax amounts owed or a wide range of other tax related challenges. Here are the top 10 benefits of working with one of these organizations.

1.  You don’t have to face the IRS alone

One of the major benefits of using a tax relief company is the fact that they have many professionals with different educational backgrounds to help you. By having a wide range of experts who understand how the IRS works (such as attorneys, CPA’s, or other specialists), they are able to put that knowledge to work for you so that you can reach the best possible settlement or solution for your tax problems.  After all, when dealing with the IRS or State Tax Authority, you can never have too many professionals working on your side.

2.  Reduce the overall balance you owe

The total amount you owe the IRS is often compounded by additional penalties and interest, and may involve more than one tax period or issue. These penalties and interests are automatically assessed to your account by their computer system; however you may not actually have to pay the additional fees.

A professional tax relief firm can evaluate your situation, and depending on the circumstances behind why you owe the debt, can oftentimes have these penalties removed from the total balance owed. This applies to the interest accruing on your balance as well, which can really add up over any length of time.

3. Avoid losing your home or other property from an IRS seizure

In some extreme cases, people have lost their home or other property because of past due tax debts. Although property seizure is one method that the IRS can use to collect amounts owed, it is usually a last resort for them.

However the number of IRS property seizures has increased dramatically in the last decade. In 2011, the IRS conducted 776 property seizures (compared to 234 seizures in 2001), resulting in a 230% increase in this form of enforcement in just 10 years. An experienced tax relief organization can help you avoid becoming one of these alarming statistics.

4. Avoid having your bank account levied

Similar to a property seizure, the IRS can also implement other actions to collect past due taxes. One more common method used is to levy your bank account. This action will occur after the IRS sends several written notices and warnings, yet still takes many people by surprise when they find out their bank account has been cleared out overnight.

According to the IRS, over $55 billion dollars was collected as a result of enforcement actions in 2011, up 63.3% from a decade before. Imagine the nightmare of waking up one morning only to find that the IRS followed through with their threat of levying your bank account, and realizing that the money in your account that you were going to use for bills, rent, or other items, is no longer yours to spend.

But this is just another example of a situation that can be avoided by having a professional tax relief service help you. You should contact them the moment you receive that first threatening letter from the IRS.

5. Stop or prevent an IRS wage garnishment

Garnishing your wages is yet another tool the IRS can implement to collect past due amounts owed to them. This adjustment to your paycheck can be financially devastating to your household income, usually taking somewhere between 30-75% of your NET paycheck before it makes it into your hands.

The IRS legally requires an employer to comply with their collection efforts and the wage order stays in effect until the IRS releases it, usually not until the entire amount owed to them has been collected.

A skilled tax relief firm can appeal to the IRS on your behalf and have the garnishment of your earnings reduced to a more reasonable amount or oftentimes stopped altogether.

6. Settle your outstanding tax debt for much less than you actually owe

Oftentimes the IRS is willing to negotiate with tax payers in regards to outstanding debts that are owed. This is true largely because of the fact that they would rather collect a lesser amount than nothing at all. But entering into a settlement negotiation with the IRS can be risky territory, especially if you are not fully aware of all of your rights or settlement programs that exist to reduce your overall debt.

This is another area where a company that specializes in tax resolution can assist you. By negotiating with the IRS on your behalf, they can usually reach an agreement that not only significantly lowers the total amount you owe, but also makes the terms of payment simple and for a shorter period of time.

7. Get caught up on past returns

It is estimated that 1 in 6 Americans (26 million people) is currently struggling with tax problems. Many people let these problems grow and compound over years and end up failing to file new tax returns, figuring they are already in enough trouble with the IRS as it is. Working with a professional tax relief organization can also offer benefits by helping you get caught up on any back tax returns you may still need to file.

8. Assistance during audits

One nightmare than many people fear is being audited by the IRS. A reputable tax relief firm will stand by you through this process and make sure that everything you need to have is covered. The chances of being selected for an audit are relatively low with only around 1% of tax returns being selected for this process each year. Furthermore, of those returns that are audited, only about an additional 1% of them are for individual tax payers. So while the odds of being audited are low, it is nice to know you have someone on your side if you need them.

9. Avoid dings in your credit score due to unpaid tax issues

While the IRS is not currently providing information to the 3 major credit bureaus about any unpaid taxes you may owe, it is something they have strongly considered recently. Additionally, if the IRS files a lien because of outstanding debt owed, that information could show up on your credit report since it is considered a judgment, and will remain on your credit report for 7 years after you have repaid it or 10 years if you ignore it. This information can definitely affect your overall credit score and sometimes even potential employment.

10. Enjoy a little piece of mind again

The stress and pressure that can be placed on an individual or family because of outstanding tax debt can be so overwhelming and can even cause major problems in the lives of people who are struggling with it. It can seem like the easiest solution is to run and hide from the problem, but let’s face it, the IRS is one powerful and relentless authority and when they want their money, chances are they will find you.

These issues will not go away on their own. The only way to make them disappear is to face them and address them as they arise. Having an experienced tax relief firm on your side to help with all the complicated policies and procedures can help your overall mental health dramatically.

Although facing the IRS and State Tax Authorities can be a very scary and intimidating experience for many people, it doesn’t have to be so difficult. There are many options to help reduce or sometimes eliminate the debt you owe, but trying to handle it on your own can be equally challenging. Working with a professional tax relief firm is often your best bet. These knowledgeable and skilled individuals can help you handle everything necessary to get your tax related problems resolved once and for all.

How to Remove Tax Lien from Credit Report

A new tax lien policy recently approved by the IRS gives hope to many taxpayers plagued by the stigmas long attached to their negative credit reports. In this article, we’ll discuss how to remove tax lien from credit reports.

New Tax Lien Policy

It’s a well-known fact that federal tax liens have a habit of sticking around on credit reports like the inevitable albatross around debtors’ necks for the entire time it takes to pay off the loan, plus an additional seven year penance (thank you Fair Credit Reporting Act!). Purgatory some may say, others indentured servitude, but the awful reality is they have been here to stay, no matter what way one looks at it.

Enter the new policy recently passed, announcing that federal tax liens are now approved for removal and will be erased from credit reports faster than any other detrimental issue. How? The process by which the IRS has termed “withdrawal.” Withdrawal occurs when the taxpayer’s lien is paid in full, OR the taxpayer signs up for a payment program that is scheduled for periodic installments until the account is up to date and closed.

How To Remove Tax Liens From Credit Reports?

Either of these scenarios can now result in the IRS formally withdrawing a tax lien, along with the stigma mark on one’s credit report. In order to achieve this, the taxpayer must make a formal request to the IRS (using IRS Form 12277, also known as Application for Withdrawal of Filed Form 668(y), Notice of Federal Lien). Once this request is filed, the IRS will return a form 10916(c), which is the magic word to open the door to cleared credit.

It is important to note that this new policy does not include tax liens held at the state levels. These liens will still be evident on your credit reports. Also not subject to complete withdrawal are tax settlements. Such settlements, commonly called “offers in compromise,” are present when a taxpayer and the IRS settle on terms of a lien where less than what is actually owed is considered adequate payment. Due to this not being an exact repayment in full, the IRS grants what they call a “release” rather than an actual withdrawal. As such, unfortunately, the credit report will still show such releases for a full seven years after the date paid.

A Win-Win

On all counts, it seems that this new policy is a win-win situation. The IRS benefits because debtors who may have normally attempted to settle their debts may now be more willing to step up to the plate to pay, since now such actions could help their credit. The taxpayers, obviously, reap the reward of having not having a black cloud of doom hanging over their credit reports when applying for credit in the future.

Bill seeks to extend state tax relief for mortgage debt forgiveness – Will It Happen?

One of the near-casualties of the Fiscal Cliff earlier this year was the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act, which expired on December 31st, 2012. However, on January 3rd, 2013, President Obama signed The American Taxpayer Relief Act, which extended the deadline of the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act one more year to December 31st, 2013.

The Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act was originally enacted in 2007 to accommodate the rising number of homeowners who had to do short sales as a result of the housing crisis.

A short sale occurs when a lender allows the homeowner to sell their home at a price that is lower than what is owed on the mortgage. The difference between the amount owed and the sales price is “forgiven” by the lender.

As with most forms of debt relief, the amount forgiven by the lender has been historically treated as taxable income by the IRS (adding insult to injury for the home seller).

When the housing crisis began to unfold, Congress and the Legislature decided not to consider canceled housing debt as income. This applied to canceled debt from foreclosure, the refinancing of a home loan or the short sale of a primary residence up to $2 million.

The California state law providing more relief, the Mortgage Debt Forgiveness Relief Act of 2007, expired at the end of 2012. This excluded up to $500K from taxable income in the form of debt forgiveness.

In California, AB 42, a bill that seeks to extend state tax relief for mortgage debt forgiveness was presented by Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno earlier this month. AB 42 would mirror the federal law and extend state income tax relief for debt forgiveness up until the end of 2013.

The Franchise Tax Board estimated the local impact to be a $50 million reduction in state income tax for 2013.

Since California’s mortgage debt forgiveness bill could affect state revenues, the measure was set aside until further analysis could take place regarding next year’s budget projections.

Brenda Harjala is a staff writer for Optima Tax Relief. Her mission is to help consumers stay financially savvy, and save some money with tax relief.

Is Your State Making a Big Tax Change?

Via LearnVest By Cheryl Lock ~

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know it’s tax time. This season, while you’re gathering up your papers and receipts and your W-2s, DailyFinance is reporting that eight states either already have passed or could soon be passing changes to their state income tax codes.

California

In the sunny state of California, the approval of Proposition 30 ushered in two different tax increases. The first is a quarter-percentage-point increase in sales tax, along with an income-tax increase for taxpayers who file as single and make more than $250,000, and for joint filers making $500,000 or more. An additional 1 to 3 percentage points will be added to the existing top tax bracket through 2018.

Kansas

This year the top tax bracket has been reduced from 6.45% to 4.9% in Kansas. The law also eliminates income taxes on small business income for hundreds of thousands of businesses.

Louisiana

Although it hasn’t passed yet, Governor Bobby Jindal’s tax swap would get rid of the state’s income and corporate taxes in exchange for higher sales taxes.

Maryland

In a law effective for the 2012 tax year, new tax rates on high-income residents means higher taxes for single filers making more than $100,000 and for joint filers making $150,000 or more.

Massachusetts

A proposed new tax plan for the state would boost the income tax rate one percentage point to 6.25% but lower sales taxes from 6.25% to 4.5%.

Minnesota

Governor Mark Dayton of Minnesota is attempting to raise the state income tax rate in order to lower sales and property taxes. The lack of support Gov. Dayton has received for his proposal has many thinking he’ll drop parts, if not all, of his tax reform plan.

Nebraska

The great state of Nebraska would like to get rid of its income tax entirely, thank you very much. Gov. Dave Heineman has said he would scale back sales-tax exemptions to finance the reduction in income-tax.

North Carolina

In North Carolina, legislators would also like to see the state’s income tax eliminated in order to keep them competitive for individuals and businesses that may be looking to relocate.

 

 

LearnVest is the leading lifestyle and personal finance website for women.

The post Is Your State Making a Big Tax Change? appeared first on SuperMoney!.

What to Do if You Can’t Afford to Pay Your Taxes

Via LearnVest By Alden Wicker ~

If you owe money to the IRS for taxes this season, but you don’t have enough cash in your bank account to cut the check, all is not lost. First things first: Make sure to file your return. That way, you avoid the failure-to-file penalty.

Next, decide how much you can pay. The more you pay down now, the less you will pay in interest and the monthly late payment penalty.

Then, depending on your circumstances, you can request an extra 120 days to pay, either through the Online Payment Agreement application or by calling 800-829-1040.

It’s important you address this now, because if you don’t pay or get an extension, the IRS will send you a bill for the amount you owe, which starts the collection process, somewhere you don’t want to be–both for your emotional and financial state.

If you don’t think you can make the deadline, you have several options:

If You Owe …

Less Than $300: Put It on Your Credit Card

This is the easiest way to do it. If you are just waiting for a paycheck and can pay it off at the end of the month, there’s no reason not to put it on your credit card. If you think you will be carrying a balance if you use your credit card to pay, use this calculator to figure out how much it will cost you to pay the interest on it. A good rule of thumb is that if you owe the IRS less than $300 and you plan on paying it off within the year, this is a good option.

Between $300 and $1,000: Take Out a Loan

You could consider taking out a personal loan, but make sure you are getting it from a good source such as a credit union, which can give you a loan at about 11%. This is a good choice if what you owe to the IRS is less than $1,000 and you’re planning on paying it back within the year. You’ll pay about $88 a month to pay it off over a year, adding up to $56 in interest.

More Than $1,000: Set Up an Installment Plan

The IRS will charge you a fee for setting up an installment program, so we only recommend this if you owe more than $1,000 or so. If you do a direct debit agreement, where regular amounts are transferred directly from your financial institution, the fee is $52. If you do a standard agreement or payroll deduction, the fee is $105. Or, if your income is below a certain threshold based on the federal poverty guidelines, it will cost you $43. You’ll have to apply to qualify for the reduced fee.

If You Can’t Pay at All

If you are unable to pay the IRS at all for what you owe, you may request a temporary delay in the collections process or apply for an Offer in Compromise. You can only use these options if there is doubt as to whether the amount you owe is correct, what you owe is larger than your assets and future income together or you are currently suffering economic hardship. Call the IRS using the number on your bill to talk to a representative about doing this, or find all the forms here.

Whatever your situation, don’t ever just ignore your tax bill!  Contact the IRS right away so that you don’t get nailed with big penalties on top of what is owed, and you’ll have one less stress in your life!

LearnVest is the leading lifestyle and personal finance website for women.

The post What to Do if You Can’t Afford to Pay Your Taxes appeared first on SuperMoney!.

Who to Turn to When You Have Tax Problems As An Independent Contractor

One of the biggest headaches facing anyone that chooses to be an independent contractor is dealing with their taxes.  Because you do not work for any company but your own, you are responsible for making sure everything is paid on time and, in turn, things could get a little hectic as April 15th draws near.  If you keep these simple things in mind, however, you will be able to get your taxes taken care of with little to no hassle.

File every quarter of the year.

  • This is a commonly known requirement when it comes to being an independent contractor.  Many self employed individuals and businesses have to pay every three months of the calendar year to avoid penalties.  Whether you are required to or not, it is smart to do this not only to avoid fees but as a way to stay organized and on top of your taxes.

Make sure you deduct enough from your paycheck.

  • This is something that many independent contracts do not anticipate when they start taking out taxes from their paycheck.  It is a general rule of thumb to take out 30% of your check for taxes and the like so that you are covered no matter how much your taxes comes out to.  This will keep you safe once tax time rolls around.

If all else fails, file for an extension.

  • This should be a last ditch effort, but filing for a tax extension that elapses in October is a great way to buy time so you can save the money that you did not have in April.  This should not be done all the time but is a good way to get a little extra help when your back is to the wall.

If you are interested in getting more tax help, please contact us.

 

The post Who to Turn to When You Have Tax Problems As An Independent Contractor appeared first on Debt America.

Have IRS Problems? Know Your Tax Resolution Options

When the Federal Income Tax deadline draws near, there are some circumstances that can lead us to being underpaid or underwithheld by an amount that simply isn’t within our budget to hand over all at once. If you are in this situation, it is not necessarily time to panic or even expect some form of IRS harassment or audit. The IRS only seriously investigates flagrant attempts to commit W-2 fraud or hide income. An honest mistake on a form or forgetting to update a W-2 is simply penalized by the fact that there is an amount owed, plus applicable late fees and interest.

There are options for you to be able to tackle this financial hurdle from the IRS. If the amount owed is similar to what you could afford as a loan within your income level and you can not secure any low-interest credit, an installment agreement may be of help to you. This option has the following pros and cons:

Pros:

  • You Are Dealing Directly With the IRS Rather than Creditors. Your liability is tracked in detail with each payment. If you opt to use the Electronic Federal Tax Payer System (EFTPS), you can pay online and see exacly what you have outstanding in terms of principle and interest. The IRS tends to be willing to accomadate you – within reason – given your financial situation.
  • The Amount Owed Per Month is Fixed. When the agreement is first made a fixed monthly payment will be set. This can be as high or as low as reasonable provided it will pay off the total amount owed within 120 days. It will not change under you without notice and the terms of the agreement will be well defined.
  • You May Re-Negotiate the Agreement. If the payments do not fit within your budget, it is possible to reach a new installment agreement with the IRS. Though they are not guaranteed to approve your request, they will see to it that you reach a repayment option that is suitable for your economic circumstances.
  • Penalties and Interest May Be Less that That of Consumer Credit. This of course depends on your credit score and access to financing, but compare %11 percent with penalties to the %22+ percent some creditors charge, plus late fees and hidden fees. Since the IRS is concerned more with you repaying than with you locked in a cycle of debt, this may be a better option. However, if your credit is good and you have the means a personal loan, line of credit, or credit card may turn out to be better. However, just consider this: if you receive a tax refund as a result of your return, you have essentially given the IRS an interest free loan. They owe you no interest if you pay to much, but you owe them interest if you pay too little. Do research on your financing options and see what works best for you.

Cons:

  • You Are Dealing Directly With the IRS Rather than Creditors. Yes, this was the first pro listed, but taken from another perspective it may be a con. If things do not go according to plan with your installment agreements you will have to speak and answer directly to the IRS – exposing you and your finances to their scrutiny. Though you may have nothing to hide, always take care when speaking to them.
  • The Agreement has no Grace Period. If the installement agreement is even a day overdue it is considered delinquent. Though the IRS may give you some leeway, the monthly date of payment set forth in the agreement must be met or you will be considered in violation of the terms – and may potentially be liable for the total amount due all at once unless there is a reasonable explanation for the failure to pay by the agreed montly date.

IRS Fresh Start Initiative: Can It Help You?

The IRS Fresh Start Initiative, first announced February, 2011, has had one goal: to make it easier for individuals and businesses to pay their back taxes and penalties. The Initiative has been expanded since then, but still holds true to its original purpose. How exactly will it affect you if you’re struggling to pay up? Here are the four components that Fresh Start has changed for your benefit.

Waived Penalties

Originally, when paying and filing your taxes, missing the April deadline meant immediate interest charges and penalties. But with the Fresh Start Initiative, qualifying unemployed taxpayers can apply to have Failure-to-Pay penalties waived for six months. This means that individuals have until October 15th, 2013 to pay their 2012 taxes.

The six-month extension is available to individuals who were unemployed for at least 30 consecutive days during 2012, or prior to tax day in April 2013. For self-employed taxpayers to qualify, they must show that they had a 25 percent decrease in business income during 2012.

Couples earning more than $200,000 annually, or individuals earning more than $100,000 annually do not qualify for the extension. If a person’s tax balance was greater than $50,000 at the end of 2012, they are also disqualified.

Offer in Compromise (OIC)

The Offer in Compromise is an option you can use when you can’t afford to pay the full balance of what you owe to the IRS. It allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed, legally.

The IRS has incorporated the Streamlined Offer in Compromise to help the investigation process move faster. The process is more efficient, including fewer requests for more information and the option of requesting information by phone instead of by mail. Additionally, the changes add more flexibility to the process by shortening the OIC repayment process to two years.

New Installment Guidelines

Installment agreements allow a person to make monthly payments on their tax debt if they can’t afford to pay the total at once, and/or aren’t eligible for an Offer in Compromise. In the past, once an individual’s tax balance reached $25,000, the IRS began conducting a financial analysis of the person’s income and expenses to determine how much the taxpayer would pay per month. Additionally, a Notice of Federal Tax Liens was filed.

Under Fresh Start, more taxpayers will be able to avoid this invasive process altogether, as the tax balance threshold has been raised to $50,000. At that point, once the installment agreement process is started, you’ll now have six years to pay the debt off. If you are considering entering an installment agreement, let us know and we’ll make sure you qualify.

Notice of Federal Tax Liens

If an individual fails to pay their tax debt the government can file a claim against that person’s property with a federal tax lien. “Property” includes everything an individual owns, including real estate, vehicles and financial assets. The Notice of Federal Tax Lien alerts creditors that the government has a legal right to a taxpayer’s property. This may limit your ability to get credit.

Similar to installment agreements, FSI has raised the Notice of Federal Tax Lien filing threshold to $10,000 from $5,000. The IRS might still choose to file at an amount less than $10,000, but it’s not as automatic as before.

The IRS Fresh Start Initiative is a big move to get taxpayers back on their feet. Wondering if you’re eligible? Check out Do I Qualify for the Fresh Start Initiative, and give us a call.

If you’re struggling with paying your taxes, don’t know how to fill out an Offer in Compromise or don’t know which forms to file, contact Optima Tax Relief today. We’ll help you take advantage of the Fresh Start Initiative, and deal with the IRS so you don’t have to.

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Do I Qualify for the IRS Fresh Start Initiative?

Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rolled out its Fresh Start Initiative, aimed at helping struggling taxpayers. The initiative allows qualified taxpayers to avoid the IRS Failure to File penalty. This penalty is usually placed on unpaid tax balances, with accrued interest. Qualified individuals can request a six-month payment extension in which no penalties will accrue. Late payment penalties will be charged if the balance is not paid by October 15. Secondly, Fresh Start provides a different installment structure, allowing taxpayers to avoid financial reviews and Federal liens.

Recognizing the need for tax relief, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said, “This new approach makes sense for taxpayers and for the nation’s tax system, and it’s part of a wider effort we have underway to help struggling taxpayers.” Do I Qualify for the IRS Fresh Start Initiative? is the logical question being asked by many taxpayers. Consider the qualifications below.

  • You must have been unemployed for a minimum of 30 consecutive days during 2011 or before April 15 2012.
  • Married couples filing jointly need to have only one spouse that meets the qualifications.
  • Individuals who are self-employed need to be able to show at least a 25 percent drop in their net income.
  • Taxpayers must not earn more than $200,000 per year for married couples or $100,000 per year for individuals.
  • Fresh Start is also limited to taxpayers whose tax balance was not more than $50,000 at the end of 2011.
  • Taxpayers must file Form 1127A, which is not available electronically.

IRS Levy and Back Taxes: Tax Problems that Can be Resolved

A levy is the seizure of your property to pay a tax debt.  If you receive notice that you are subject to an IRS Levy due to back taxes, this is a problem that can be resolved.

Before seizing your property, the IRS will send you a notice giving you 30 days to respond.  According to the IRS, if you don’t respond and make payment arrangements they can levy your assets, your income, and your social security benefits.

The IRS has two methods to levy social security benefits.  In an Automated Federal Payment Levy Program, the IRS can take up to 15 percent of your benefits each month until the debt is paid in full.  Under the Manual levy, there is no cap on the amount they can take.  They do, however, say that they “take into account money for reasonable living expenses”.  The IRS will not levy children’s benefits, SSI, or lump sum death benefits.

The IRS can also levy your bank account.  Any account with your name on it is subject to levy, even joint accounts.  Once your bank receives a Notice of Intent to Levy, the bank will freeze all of your checking, savings, CDs, and any other accounts in your name.  The bank holds the funds for 21 days, giving you time to work out a payment arrangement with the IRS.  After the money is turned over to the IRS, you won’t be able to get it back even if you later work out an agreement.  Only the funds on deposit at the time of the levy are affected.  Money deposited afterwards, such as if your paycheck is directly deposited, is not subject to the levy.

If the IRS levies your paycheck, it is immediate and it will continue until the debt is paid.  Typically called a wage garnishment, your employer will send a portion of your pay to the IRS each pay day.  Some of your pay will be exempt; the amount depends on your filing status and number of exemptions you claim.

 

The post IRS Levy and Back Taxes: Tax Problems that Can be Resolved appeared first on Debt America.