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I Received an IRS Notice: Now What?

i received an irs notice now what

Receiving an IRS notice in the mail can be scary, but the situation can be less daunting if you know what to do. First, it’s important to note that not all IRS notices are negative as some are only informational. In any case, taxpayers should know what steps to take upon receiving an IRS notice. 

Do Review Your IRS Notice 

The IRS will send notices for a variety of reasons, from notifying you of a balance due, to informing you of a delay in processing your return, whether your return is missing a schedule or form required for processing, to informing you of a potential audit. Carefully review your notice for important information, and if you’re unsure of what the notice means, you can look up the CP or LTR number, located on the top or bottom right-hand corner of the notice. It also shows the date and time the IRS expects you to provide the information it is seeking. In the best case scenario, the IRS is pursuing a correspondence audit covering one or two elements of a single year’s tax return, with a deadline by which the IRS expects to receive your reply. Correspondence audits are conducted entirely by mail and makeup 75 to 80 percent of all audits. An in-person interview audit takes place at your local IRS office. A field audit is scheduled for a particular date and time but takes place in your home or office. It is considered the most comprehensive type of audit. If you’ve received a letter from the IRS and need help understanding what it means you can analyze your IRS notice in three easy steps with the Optima® TAX APP. 

Don’t Panic

If the information on the notice looks inaccurate, you should respond with a written dispute. Doing so in a timely manner can help minimize interest and penalty fees. Be sure to include any information and supplemental documentation to support your case. Typically, the IRS should respond to disputes within 30 days.  

Gather Your Documentation

Once you have determined what information the IRS is seeking, it’s time to begin gathering your paperwork. If the IRS is challenging a particular deduction or tax credit that you claimed, gather whatever documentation you have to support your claim, including bank statements, receipts, and invoices. Provide as much information as possible concerning the inquiries the IRS has made, but do not volunteer information the IRS has not requested. Also, make photocopies of everything that you intend to provide to the IRS. Never give up your original documents.

Do Respond in a Timely Manner 

If the information on the notice looks inaccurate, you should respond with a written dispute. Doing so in a timely manner can help minimize interest and penalty fees. Be sure to include any information and supplemental documentation to support your case. However, do not volunteer information the IRS has not specifically requested.  Typically, the IRS should respond to disputes within 30 days.  

Do Check for Scams 

Remember that the IRS will never contact you via text message or social media. In fact, initial contact from the IRS is usually via mail. If the notice does not appear credible, you can always check your online tax account on the IRS website to confirm balances due, communication preferences, and more. 

Do Not Ignore the Notice 

Some IRS notices are purely informational and require no additional action. However, do not assume this is always the case and ignore the notice. Simple mistakes made on your return or underreporting income can result in the IRS requesting action from you. A notice can also be a notification that you owe taxes and will give instructions on how to pay the balance by the due date. 

Do Not Reply Unless Instructed To Do So 

Typically, a response is not needed. Once you confirm a response is not required, you can proceed with other actions. Even if the notice informs you of a balance due, there is no need to contact the IRS unless you do not agree with the information on the notice.  

Tax Relief Professionals for Those Who Owe 

Even if you prepare your own returns, having a professional from Optima Tax Relief check out your response before you return it to the IRS may save you from making a costly error. If you have been contacted for an in-person interview audit or a field audit, the IRS allows you to be accompanied by a representative. Take advantage of this opportunity. You’ll likely be nervous during the procedure and may share information that might prompt the IRS agent to probe beyond the original scope of inquiry. Not only that, most IRS agents prefer dealing with a professional.

The best thing to do to avoid receiving warnings from the IRS is to always ensure that you remain compliant with tax law. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you owe the IRS, tax relief is always an option. If you need tax help, give Optima a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation with one of our tax professionals. 

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How to Avoid a Tax Audit

Avoid tax AuditWhile there is no guaranteed method of avoiding audits, there are things to steer clear of that could trigger an IRS audit. The Senate recently approved nearly $80 billion in IRS funding, with $45.6 billion for enforcement, which could lead to more audits.  Here are four things that the IRS has historically viewed as “red flags,” which could increase the chances of an audit for taxpayers. 

Reporting a business loss  

The IRS will surely be more inclined to audit a taxpayer who reports a net business loss, even if the loss is small. Reporting losses year after year will only increase IRS interest in your tax returns. Remember, it is mandatory to report all earnings in a tax year. However, it might be helpful to reconsider which expenses should be deducted from your tax return. Reporting even a small profit could reduce the chance of being audited by the IRS.  

Being vague about expenses 

When it comes to expenses, the more detail the better. This is especially true when categorizing them on your return. Try to avoid listing expenses under “Other Expenses” as this will lead to more scrutiny from the IRS. It may even be helpful to provide supplemental documentation explaining why certain expenses drastically increased or decreased for that year. Doing so can give potential auditors a valid explanation for such occurrences and possibly avoid a tax audit. Additionally, rounding dollar amounts are red flags for the IRS. You should always use exact dollar amounts on your tax return. 

Filing late 

Some taxpayers believe that filing late can actually decrease the risk of being audited. However, filing on time, as well as paying on time, can help establish a history of IRS compliance. This will be far more beneficial in the long run.  

Excessive deductions 

It is best to avoid any excessive expenses. For example, deducting the cost of your breakfast and lunch each workday may not be acceptable to the IRS. Excessive deductions for your donations to charitable organizations can also increase the chances of being audited. Inflating business expenses can result in being audited, especially if you try to claim large amounts for business entertainment or claim a vehicle that is used for only business purposes 100 percent of the time.  

Tax Relief for Those Being Audited 

The chances of being audited are low, but those chances increase when the IRS notices any of the above red flags. The audit process can be very stressful. It is a tedious process that requires collecting information regarding your income, expenses, and itemized deductions. Failing an audit can result in a huge, unexpected tax bill. It’s best to seek assistance from experts who can help you avoid an IRS audit. Give us a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable tax professionals. 

Analyze your IRS notice anytime with the Optima TAX APP today.

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Real Estate Investments & Tax Implications

real estate investments tax implications

Real estate investments can be very complex, especially when it comes to tax reporting. However, there are general tax implications for common scenarios. Here, we will discuss some of these benefits. 

Real Estate Tax Write-Offs 

The most obvious tax implication for real estate investments are the write-offs that can help reduce rental income. Typically, you can deduct any expense directly related to managing and maintaining the property. This can include: 

  • Property insurance and taxes 
  • Mortgage insurance 
  • Property management expenses 
  • Expenses for maintenance and repairs 
  • Advertising fees 
  • Office space 
  • Equipment used for operating your real estate business 
  • Legal fees 
  • Travel expenses  

Accurate and detailed records should be kept in case the IRS requires substantiation. 

Real Estate Depreciation 

Like many physical assets, real estate investments assume normal wear and tear. You can deduct the cost of depreciation on your taxes each year, which will allow you to lower your tax liability. According to the IRS, the standard expected life of a property is 27.5 years for residential properties and 39 years for commercial properties. This means you can take the value of the property, less the value of the land it resides on, and divide it by the expected life term to calculate the amount of depreciation cost per year.  

Capital Gains 

Many real estate investors purchase properties with the expectations of eventually selling them later. Being aware of the tax implications that result from the sale of a property is just as important as those that result from owning one. A capital gains tax can have drastic effects on your tax liability. 

For example, you can realize a short-term capital gain if you earn a profit on an asset within a year of owning it. The gain is considered regular income. If the profit is large enough, it can move into the next tax bracket, creating a larger tax bill. 

On the other hand, you can realize a long-term capital gain if you earn a profit on the sale of property held for one year or more. These gains have much lower tax rates than standard income tax rates, which means you will get to keep more of the profit. Additionally, if your income is low enough, you may not be required to pay any taxes on the profit.  

Tax Help for Real Estate Investors 

It’s always best to get the advice of a reliable tax preparer or professional during tax time, especially if you have complex investments like real estate. Not knowing the correct way to report income, losses or deductions can result in IRS auditing, penalties and fees. If you need tax help, give Optima a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation with one of our knowledgeable agents. 

Analyze your IRS notice anytime with the Optima Tax App today. 

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What is IRS Penalty Relief and How Can I Qualify for it?

The IRS recently announced that it will be providing penalty relief to help struggling taxpayers affected by the pandemic. Optima CEO David King and Lead Tax Attorney Philip Hwang provide insight on what penalty relief is and how individuals can qualify for it if they are still dealing with an ongoing tax burden.

Got an IRS Notice? Get a FREE Risk Review with our Optima® TAX APP with Notice Analyzer.

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Is My Side Business a Hobby or Small Business?

hobby or small business

The desire or need for extra income has become increasingly prevalent. Side gigs have been a popular method of supplementing earnings but with this comes more reporting during tax time. When is a side business treated as a business in the tax world, and when is it treated as a hobby? 

Small Businesses 

The IRS considers an activity a business if it’s “carried on with the reasonable expectation of earning a profit.” If you consider your activity a business, then you can deduct certain expenses on Schedule C. During the beginning stages of your activity, you may incur several “startup” costs like tools, materials, equipment, etc. that you can deduct during tax season. You may even be able to deduct the loss against your regular income. Some expenses are also limited in how they can be deducted, so it’s best to check with a tax preparer for clarification. 

Hobbies and the Hobby Loss Rule 

If your side activity doesn’t qualify as a business, it can be treated as a hobby. As of 2018, the IRS does not allow hobby expenses to be deducted from hobby income.  

Internal Revenue Code Section 183: Activities Not Engaged in for Profit officially lays out a guide to determine if you are running a business or engaging in a hobby. 

  1. Does the time and effort put into the activity indicate an intention to make a profit? 
  2. Do you depend on income from the activity? 
  3. If there are losses, are they due to circumstances beyond your control or did they occur in the start-up phase of the business? 
  4. Have you changed methods of operation to improve profitability? 
  5. Do you have the knowledge needed to carry on the activity as a successful business? 
  6. Have you made a profit in similar activities in the past? 
  7. Does the activity make a profit in some years? 
  8. Do you expect to make a profit in the future from the appreciation of assets used in the activity? 

If you answered yes to several of these questions, it’s likely the IRS will view your activity as a business. You can also use the profitability test to determine if your activity is a business. Typically, the IRS will determine this by looking at your business activity to see if you earned a profit in three of the last five years, including the current tax year. If you did in fact earn a profit, the IRS will consider it a for-profit business.  

Tax Relief for Hobbyists and Business Owners 

It is the responsibility of the taxpayer to know if they are operating a business or engaging in a hobby. Claiming ignorance will not be an acceptable excuse for underreporting income with the IRS. Keeping detailed records of income and expenses related to hobbies and businesses is essential to remaining compliant with tax law. If you need tax help, give us a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation. 

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Converting Your Home to a Rental Property

converting home to rental property

Real estate has long been considered one of the greatest long-term investments. Further, with the trend of minimalist living, many are turning their primary residences into rental properties. While turning your home to a rental property comes with passive income and tax benefits, it’s important to note the tax implications as well.

Benefits of Converting Your Primary Residence to a Rental Property 

Passive income is just one of the benefits of converting your home into rental property, but there are plenty of others. 

Tax Deductions 

Deducting the expenses related to your rental property can decrease the income reported on your tax return. Every property is different, but the most common expenses you can deduct include: 

  • Cleaning and maintenance 
  • Property taxes 
  • Commission fees 
  • Repairs  
  • Insurance 
  • Mortgage interest 

Depreciation Expenses 

The IRS allows you to depreciate your rental property over a 27.5-year period in order to account for things like wear and tear and deterioration. Taxpayers can do this by taking the value of their home at the time of conversion, less the land value, and then dividing it by 27.5 years to calculate the annual depreciation expense. If your depreciation expense is greater than your rental income in a given year, no taxes are owed on the income.  

Tax Impact of Selling a Rental Property 

While the benefits sound nice, it is critical to understand the tax implications that come with not only owning a rental property, but also those that accompany selling one.  

Capital Gains 

In the selling process, timing is everything because it will determine the amount of capital gains tax paid, if any. Capital gains tax is tax owed on the profit earned on an asset upon selling it. It can be found by a simple calculation: 

Final Sale Price – (Asset’s Original Cost + Expenses Incurred) 

The IRS Section 121 exclusion allows taxpayers to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from the sale of your rental property. The amount increases to $500,000 if married filing jointly. To qualify, the taxpayer must own and use the property as their primary residence for two of the past five years. If a taxpayer sells their residence during a time of using the property as their primary residence for only one of the past five years, they would no longer be eligible for the Section 121 exclusion. In this case, the taxpayer would need to report the gain of the sale in their taxable income.  

Tax Debt Relief for Rental Property Owners 

Tax implications revolving real estate can be extremely tricky. It’s important to make sure you are keeping track of all rental property expenses and income to ensure accurate reporting during tax time. If you need tax help, give us a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation. 

Analyze your IRS notice with the Optima Tax App today. 

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Biden Announces Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

student loan forgiveness

President Biden has announced his three-part student loan forgiveness plan that aims to provide relief to student loan borrowers, especially those belonging to low and mid-income levels.  

Part I: Student Loan Forgiveness for Eligible Borrowers 

Borrowers with individual incomes less than $125,000, or $250,000 for married couples, are eligible for student loan forgiveness up to $20,000. The Department of Education will cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt to borrowers who received a Pell Grant and had loans held by the Department of Education. Those who did not receive a Pell Grant will receive up to $10,000 in debt cancellation. Since this plan will not benefit high-income households, the Biden administration has extended the pause on loan repayments once more until January 2023.  

Part II: Manageable Loan System for All Borrowers  

The Department of Education proposed a new repayment plan that will replace the current income-driven plan in place. It will prevent low-income borrowers from committing to monthly payments of more than 5% of their discretionary income, a drop from the current 10%. This would lead to an average savings of $1,000 per year for both current and future borrowers.  

In addition, they will expand on the recent improvements to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. More than 175,000 public servants have had $10 billion in student loans canceled and the Department of Education expects these numbers to increase. Public servants include nonprofit workers, military members, and officials working in federal, state, local, or tribe level governments.  

Part III: Reduced Cost of College  

Earlier this year, President Biden approved the largest increase to Pell Grants since 2009, a bill that doubled the size of the maximum Pell Grant to $6,895. In addition to making tuition costs more manageable, the Biden administration has also taken steps to hold colleges accountable for keeping reasonable tuition costs, as well as ensuring students are receiving the value for their investments in higher education.  

Assuming every eligible borrower takes advantage of this plan, it will completely cancel student loans for nearly 20 million borrowers, as well as partially cancel student loan debt for 43 million others.  

Tax Debt Relief for Student Loan Borrowers 

The debt relief in Biden’s Student Loan Forgiveness Plan will not be treated as taxable income for the federal income tax purposes. However, borrowers should remain mindful of available tax breaks and filing requirements. If you need tax help, give us a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation today.  

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Inflation Reduction Act Part IV: More Audits, More Tax Collection

inflation reduction act

We know that an increased budget for enforcement will lead to more audits. More audits mean more tax collection. The question that remains to be answered is exactly how much federal tax revenue the IRS expects to collect with the new Inflation Reduction Act

How much taxes will be collected with the Inflation Reduction Act? 

The Congressional Budget Office recently released a report that estimated the budgetary effects of the Inflation Reduction Act. They expect increased collections of about $203 billion over the next decade. This would raise federal revenue by almost $125 billion during that 10-year period after taking into account the $80 billion cost of the act.  

Why is tougher enforcement necessary? 

According to the IRS, most taxpayers pay their federal taxes willingly and on time. However, that still leaves nearly $400 billion in uncollected tax payments. They believe that tougher enforcement can help close the tax gap. In other words, stricter enforcement will help lessen the difference between the amount of taxes that is collected, and the amount taxpayers owe.  

IRS enforcement, audits in particular, has been less frequent in the last decade. In fact, audit rates have dropped for all levels of income between 2010 and 2019. In fact, a tax return was three times more likely to be audited in 2010 than in 2019. However, this is not due to the IRS becoming more lenient or forgiving. The issue centers around staffing levels and funding. The IRS is expecting the new funding from the Inflation Reduction Act to help balance staffing levels in order to be able to collect more tax revenue.  

Are you prepared for increased tax collection? 

With increased IRS tax collection approaching, it’s important to be prepared. It’s never too late to seek tax debt relief. Get protected from the stress and burdens that come with IRS tax collection. Give us a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation. 

Get started on your own and analyze your IRS notice with the Optima Tax App today. 

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Optima Newsletter – August: What is the Inflation Reduction Act?

news letter

What is the Inflation Reduction Act?

From a pandemic to inflation, American taxpayers haven’t been able to catch a break since 2020. To combat the current state of the economy, Senate has passed a new bill with a ten-year plan called the Inflation Reduction Act.

Read More

How Filing an Extension Affects Your Taxes

With a massive increase in taxpayers filing for an extension, what does this mean for people who owe? How does the extension deadline work? Hosts CEO David King and Lead Tax Attorney Philip Hwang discuss these details and more in this week’s episode.

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Tax Rules for an Airbnb or Vacation Rental

Renting out your property as an Airbnb can be a good way to secure residual income. While Airbnb may send you a tax form at the end of the year, it’s important to understand your tax responsibilities to check for errors and in the event you aren’t issued a form.

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Filing Taxes as Head of Household

Do you provide over half the cost of living for your household? You may want to consider filing your taxes as head of household, which could qualify you for a higher standard deduction. Head-of-household filing status also provides lower tax rates than filing as single or married and filing separately.

Read More

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Inflation Reduction Act Part III: More Auditors, More Audits

inflation reduction act

More than half of the $80 billion Inflation Reduction Act will be spent on IRS enforcement, including activities that aim to collect back taxes, conduct criminal investigations, monitor digital assets, obtain legal support and hire thousands of new IRS auditors. 

How many auditors will the IRS hire? 

The IRS is looking to hire nearly 87,000 employees over the next 10 years, a major increase from its current 80,000 employees. A majority of the new hires will help bring IRS staffing levels back up to par to maintain efficiency. As of now, it remains to be seen exactly how many of the new hires will be responsible for auditing since the bill does not set any requirements for staffing. It will be up to the IRS to determine the number of enforcement agents that are hired, in addition to all other positions within the agency.  

Who will be audited? 

More auditors mean more audits, so understandably taxpayers are wondering if they will be impacted. The U.S. Treasury Department has said that the low and middle-class, as well as small businesses, will not be the focus of the upcoming increased enforcement activity. In addition, the Biden Administration has called for the IRS to focus its auditing efforts on high-income taxpayers and large corporations that earn more than $400,000 per year. The bill itself includes language that states the goal of the Inflation Reduction Act is not to increase taxes for any individual or entity earning less than $400,000 per year.  

Are you prepared for an audit? 

With increased IRS enforcement activity approaching, it’s important to be prepared. It’s never to late to seek tax debt relief. Let Optima’s team of experts help you get protected from the stress and burdens that come with IRS enforcement. Give us a call at 800-536-0734 for a free consultation. 

Analyze your IRS notice with the Optima Tax App today.  

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