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Top 5 Tips to Avoid an IRS Audit

Top 5 tips to avoid an irs audit

The Senate recently approved nearly $80 billion in IRS funding, with $45.6 billion specifically for enforcement. This new funding is expected to result in more tax audits. There is no sure way to avoid an IRS audit. However, there are some things that the IRS has generally viewed as “red flags.” These could increase the chances of an audit for taxpayers. Here are our top five tips to avoid an IRS audit.  

File Your Tax Return 

Currently, you must file a tax return if your gross income meets certain thresholds based on your age and filing status. If you meet the minimum income requirement and you do not file a federal income tax return, or file late. In 2024, you can be penalized 5% of your unpaid tax liability for each month your return is late. However, the penalty will not exceed 25% for your total tax balance. Additionally, you will incur a 0.5% per month for failure to pay penalty, up to 25%.

While both penalties have a cap, interest will continue to accrue until the balance is paid off. It is compounded daily at the federal short-term rate, plus an additional 3% for individuals. In 2024, the underpayment penalty is 8% for individual taxpayers. In addition, the IRS may prepare a substitute for return (SFR) on your behalf. They do this by using your W2 and 1099 forms for that tax year and even your bank account records. The SFR will likely result in a larger tax bill, since tax credits and deductions will not be claimed. In short, choosing to not file a return each year will not excuse you from paying taxes.  

Report All Income 

Underreporting income is one of the most common reasons taxpayers get audited. Remember, the IRS receives copies of all your W-2 and 1099 forms for the year. If incomes do not match up, they will investigate your tax situation. The IRS could then give you the IRS negligence penalty. This can cost you an additional 20% of the underpaid amount in penalties. That said, it’s always best to report all earnings the first time around. 

Use Common Sense with Business Expenses 

The IRS reminds taxpayers that business expenses should be “ordinary and necessary” to produce income for your specific trade or business. In other words, items like office equipment and advertising costs are fine, but you should not try to deduct your daily lunch expenses. You should always avoid comingling personal and business expenses. 

Keep Good Records 

Keeping good records that support your reported income is critical. This can include invoices, canceled checks, mileage logs, and other documents. The IRS recommends keeping records for three years after filing. Bookkeeping can be a tedious process, so it may be best to hire a professional if you are not up to the task. 

Know How to Report Losses 

The IRS will likely audit individuals and businesses that report multiple or consecutive losses. If your business claims a loss for several years, the IRS may classify it as a hobby instead of a for-profit business. Once this happens, you will not be allowed to claim a loss related to the business and you will have to prove that your “business” has an acceptable motive to earn a profit. 

Tax Relief for Taxpayers 

Odds of an audit increase when the IRS notices any red flags. The audit process can be tedious and taxing. Failing an audit can result in a huge, unforeseen tax bill. It’s best to seek assistance from experts who can help you avoid an IRS audit. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with tough tax situations.  

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** Optima Tax Relief is a tax resolution firm independent of the IRS** 

How Does the IRS Collections Process Work?

How Does the IRS Collections Process Work?

The IRS is responsible for collecting taxes owed to the United States government. When taxpayers fail to pay their taxes on time, the IRS initiates a collections process to recover the outstanding debt. This process can be complex and intimidating for those unfamiliar with it. Understanding how the IRS collections process works can help taxpayers navigate their obligations and avoid potential consequences. 

Assessment of Taxes 

The IRS begins by assessing the amount of tax you owe. This assessment can occur through various means. For example, if you file a tax return reporting income and deductions, or if the IRS conducts an audit to determine the correct amount owed. Once the tax liability is determined, the IRS will send you a notice detailing the amount owed, including any penalties and interest that may have accrued. At this point, the collections process has begun, and it will only end when one of two things happens. The tax bill needs to be paid or settled, or the statute of limitations needs to run out.  

IRS Notice and Demand for Payment 

After assessing the tax liability, the IRS sends a Notice and Demand for Payment. This notice outlines the amount owed and provides instructions on how to pay. It is important for you to respond promptly to this IRS notice to avoid further collection action by the IRS. Keep in mind that interest will accrue until the tax balance is paid in full. The current rate is 8% per year, compounded daily. Unfortunately, those who do not pay their tax bills will also need to deal with the failure to pay penalty. This is 0.5% for each month, or partial month, that the tax goes unpaid. The penalty can cost up to 25% of the total amount owed.  

Payment Options 

The IRS also accepts various forms of payment, including electronic funds transfer, credit card, check, or money order. You can pay the full amount owed in a lump sum. If paying in full is not possible, there are options for tax relief.  

Installment Agreements 

An IRS installment agreement is a formal arrangement between a taxpayer and the IRS to pay off a tax liability over time. With a short-term installment agreement, you will need to pay your full tax bill within 180 days. This option is available to those who owe less than $100,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest. With a long-term installment agreement, you can pay your full tax bill in over 180 days. This option is available to those who owe less than $50,000 in combined tax, penalties and interest.   

Offer in Compromise 

An Offer in Compromise (OIC) is a program offered by the IRS that allows taxpayers to settle their tax debt for less than the full amount owed. It’s a viable option for individuals or businesses who are unable to pay their tax liability in full or would suffer undue financial hardship if forced to do so. It’s important to understand that the chances of the IRS accepting an OIC is not high. This form of tax relief is reserved for taxpayers who have suffered severe, long-term financial troubles, making it impossible for you to pay your tax bill. 

Currently Not Collectible Status 

Currently Not Collectible (CNC) status, also known as hardship status, is a designation used by the IRS for taxpayers who are experiencing significant financial hardship and are unable to pay their tax debt. When a taxpayer is granted CNC status, the IRS temporarily suspends collection activities, such as liens, levies, and garnishments, until the taxpayer’s financial situation improves. 

IRS Notice of Federal Tax Lien 

Once the tax debt remains unpaid, the IRS files a Notice of Federal Tax Lien. Filing the NFTL makes your unpaid tax debt public and establishes the IRS’s legal claim to your property. The IRS will also send you a copy of the notice. A federal tax lien will make it very difficult for you to sell or transfer property without satisfying the IRS’s claim. Furthermore, the lien may affect your credit score and ability to obtain loans or credit. 

To release the Notice of Federal Tax Lien, you must satisfy the tax debt in full, either by paying the amount owed, entering into an installment agreement with the IRS, or settling the debt through an Offer in Compromise. Once the tax debt is paid or otherwise resolved, the IRS will issue a Certificate of Release of Federal Tax Lien within 30 days. This removes the lien from your property and releases the IRS’s claim. 

IRS Final Notice of Intent to Levy 

If you still make no effort to pay your taxes, the IRS will issue a Final Notice of Intent to Levy. This notice typically comes 30 days before the levy is initiated. When the IRS levies, it means they seize your property to satisfy a tax debt. Levies can take various forms, including seizing wages, bank accounts, vehicles, real estate, retirement accounts, or other assets.  

You have the right to appeal a levy action by requesting a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing with the IRS Office of Appeals. During the CDP hearing, you can dispute the validity of the tax debt, propose alternative collection options, or present evidence of financial hardship or other extenuating circumstances. The IRS may release a levy if you apply for a payment arrangement, demonstrate financial hardship, or present an Offer in Compromise. Once the IRS releases the levy, you regain control of your assets, and the IRS stops collection actions related to those assets. 

Legal Action 

In extreme cases, the IRS may take legal action against delinquent taxpayers to enforce collection of unpaid taxes. This can involve filing a lawsuit in federal court to obtain a judgment against the taxpayer or pursuing criminal charges for tax evasion or fraud. Legal action should be avoided whenever possible, as it can result in significant financial penalties and even imprisonment. 

Tax Help for Those in IRS Collections 

The IRS collections process is a complex and multifaceted system designed to ensure compliance with the tax laws. While dealing with tax debt can be stressful and intimidating, understanding how the process works can help you navigate their obligations and avoid serious consequences. By responding promptly to notices from the IRS and exploring payment options, taxpayers can resolve their tax issues and move forward with peace of mind. When in doubt, seeking the help of a credible tax professional is a good option. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over $1 billion in resolved tax liabilities.  

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

IRS Collections are Resuming: Are You Prepared?

The new year has brought both good and not so good news from the IRS. The IRS has resumed sending out collections notices to taxpayers who owe. On the other hand, they’re providing $1 billion in penalty relief to nearly 5 million 2020 and 2021 tax returns. Optima CEO, David King, and Lead Tax Attorney, Philip Hwang, provide helpful advice on who qualifies for penalty relief, how much you can expect to get back and how the IRS will notify you if you qualify for this type of relief.

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

The IRS is Restarting Collections in 2024 

The IRS is Restarting Collections in 2024

In a significant development, the IRS has announced the resumption of collections in 2024. This marks a crucial phase in the aftermath of the global economic challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This decision has implications for taxpayers across the United States, as the IRS seeks to address the mounting financial pressures faced by the government. However, the IRS is providing penalty relief to nearly 5 million taxpayers. In this article, we’ll discuss the details of IRS collections in 2024 and tax relief options available for those with tough tax situations. 

Background 

The temporary halt on IRS collections was initiated in February 2022 as a response to the economic downturn caused by the pandemic. It provided relief to countless individuals and businesses struggling to meet their tax obligations. The suspension aimed to alleviate immediate financial burdens and stimulate economic recovery. Although taxpayers should note that the failure-to-pay penalty continues to accrue during nonpayment. However, as the nation slowly recovers, the IRS has deemed it necessary to reinstate collections to ensure the sustained functioning of essential government services. 

Key Changes in IRS Collections 

The IRS will send out collection notices again beginning in January 2024. The IRS is focusing on taxpayers with taxes bills for tax years before 2022. They will also send notices to businesses, tax-exempt organizations, trusts, and estates with tax bills from before 2023. The specific IRS notice being sent out will be IRS LT38, which is a notice of resumption. Taxpayers who receive this letter should contact the IRS about payments or other options available to them. If action is not taken, the next notice they receive will involve more serious action leading to IRS collections.  

As collections resume, the IRS will also ramp up its enforcement efforts to address outstanding tax debts. This may involve increased audits, investigations, and legal actions against non-compliant taxpayers. It is crucial for individuals and businesses to ensure compliance with tax obligations to avoid potential legal consequences. 

IRS Penalty Relief 

To ease the new collections process, the IRS is offering penalty relief to nearly 5 million taxpayers, including businesses and tax-exempt organizations. The IRS did not send these taxpayers automated notices during the pandemic. The relief will come in the form of waivers for failure-to-pay penalties, adding up to $1 billion. Eligible taxpayers will automatically receive penalty abatement in their online accounts with no further action needed. If the taxpayer already paid their penalties for tax years 2020 and 2021, they would receive a refund. Alternatively, the IRS may credit the payment towards another tax bill. Refunds and credits will be sent out beginning in January 2024. More information can be found in IRS Notice 2024-7 on their website.  

To be eligible for penalty relief, taxpayers must have a tax balance of less than $100,000 for each return and each entity. They also must have received an initial balance due notice between February 5, 2022, and December 7, 2023. The IRS will resume the failure-to-pay penalty for eligible taxpayers on April 1, 2024. 

Preparing for IRS Collections Resumption 

As the IRS gears up to resume collections, taxpayers are encouraged to take proactive steps to manage their tax liabilities effectively: 

  1. Review Financial Situation: Assess your current financial situation and evaluate your ability to meet tax obligations. Understanding your financial standing will help you make informed decisions and explore available options. 
  1. Explore Payment Plans: Investigate installment plans and other payment options offered by the IRS. Engage with the agency to negotiate a plan that aligns with your financial capacity. 
  1. Seek Professional Guidance: Consult with tax professionals or financial advisors to navigate the complexities of tax obligations. They can provide valuable insights into available options and help you make informed decisions. 
  1. Stay Informed: Stay updated on IRS communications and guidelines regarding the resumption of collections. The IRS website and official announcements will be valuable sources of information during this period. 

More Relief Options for Taxpayers Who Owe 

The IRS resuming collections in 2024 marks a pivotal moment for taxpayers in the United States. While it signifies a return to normalcy for government revenue collection, the penalty relief demonstrates a commitment to supporting individuals and businesses still recovering from the economic impact of the pandemic. By staying informed and proactively managing their tax obligations, taxpayers can navigate the challenges posed by the resumption of collections and work towards financial stability. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over a decade of experience helping taxpayers with tough tax situations. 

If You Need Tax Help, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Ask Phil: No More Surprise RO Visits

Today, Optima Tax Relief’s Lead Tax Attorney, Phil Hwang, discusses an important update regarding surprise RO visits.

The IRS just announced that it is discontinuing home visits as an enforcement method. This means the days of intimidating revenue officers (ROs) knocking on your door are over. Instead, you will receive IRS Letter 725-B, which serves as an appointment letter to schedule an in-person meeting between you and an RO. In this meeting, you and the RO will review your financials, analyze your ability to pay your back taxes, and discuss how you can remain tax compliant moving forward.  

Remember, the IRS will never contact you via social media or text message. If you receive a message through one of these channels, you should report it to the IRS immediately. In addition, all letters coming in the mail from the IRS should be reviewed for potential scams. Be wary of letters advising you of unclaimed refunds, unclaimed Economic Impact payments, or unclaimed Child Tax Credits. If you’re unsure about a letter or notice, contact the IRS directly to confirm its validity. 

Don’t miss next week’s episode where Phil will discuss passports and taxes. See you next Friday!  

If You Need Help Dealing with the IRS, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation