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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.  

Contact Us Today for a No-Obligation Free Consultation 

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

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: IRS Enforcement

Today, Optima Tax Relief’s Lead Tax Attorney, Phil Hwang, discusses IRS enforcement, including the statute of limitations and how it might affect your credit report. 

Did you know the IRS has a certain amount of time to collect your tax debt before it expires? How long? Well, the simple answer is 10 years, but several factors can pause this timeline. For example, filing for bankruptcy, living abroad, applying for an installment agreement, submitting an offer in compromise, applying for innocent spouse relief, applying for a taxpayer assistance order, requesting a collection due process hearing, serving in the military, or being sued by the IRS can all pause the 10-year collections period 

Many also wonder if IRS enforcement can affect your credit. The IRS can file a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, or a priority claim over all of your assets. While this notice does not show up on your credit report directly, it does become public information that creditors can access through supplemental reports. This can affect your access to credit, business opportunities, and even employment. 

Join us next Friday as Phil will answer your questions about levies and wage garnishments! 

If You Are Being Hit with IRS Enforcement, Contact Us Today for a Free Consultation 

Many Erroneous CP14s Have Been Issued – Here’s What You Need to Know

irs notice cp14

IRS Notice CP14 is sent to taxpayers to inform them of an outstanding balance on their federal tax account. It serves as a bill for unpaid taxes. It includes details such as the amount owed, accrued interest, and any penalties incurred. While receiving this notice might not be a shock for many, some taxpayers impacted by a declared disaster area may be surprised to see a CP14 in their mailbox despite IRS promises of tax relief. If you are one of these taxpayers who mistakenly received IRS Notice CP14 despite being in a disaster area, don’t panic. Many erroneous CP14s have been issued by the IRS. Here is what you need to know. 

Which disaster areas qualify for automatic tax extensions? 

The IRS has continued to issue automatic tax extensions to those impacted by natural disasters. These areas have included impacted counties of the following 12 states: 

  • California 
  • Florida 
  • Oklahoma 
  • Indiana 
  • Tennessee 
  • Arkansas 
  • Mississippi 
  • New York 
  • Georgia 
  • Alabama 

It also includes the impacted areas of Guam and the Mariana Islands. A full list of impacted qualified disaster areas can be found at https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/tax-relief-in-disaster-situations. All taxpayers in impacted areas were automatically given an extension of time to file. They might’ve also received an extension to pay until October 16, 2023, or another form of tax relief.  

Why did I receive a CP14 if I’m in a disaster area? 

IRS Notice CP14s have been sent out because the IRS is legally required to if a balance is due. However, many Californian taxpayers living or working in disaster areas have received this notice which demands payment to the IRS within 21 days. Unfortunately for Californians impacted by disaster, this sends mixed messages. The IRS has issued guidance to let these taxpayers know that they do indeed have until October 16, 2023 to file and pay their 2022 taxes.  

What should I do if I received a CP14 if I’m in a disaster area? 

If you received IRS Notice CP14 but you have been given an automatic tax extension due to disaster relief, you do not need to worry about submitting payment within 21 days as the notice instructs. In fact, these letters should also include a specific insert stating that the payment date indicated in the letter does not apply to anyone covered by a disaster declaration, and that the disaster dates still apply. 

While it may seem counter-intuitive, affected taxpayers do not need to call the IRS for confirmation. Doing so may result in extremely long wait times. The IRS has issued an apology for the confusion this has caused. At Optima, we understand how intimidating an IRS notice can be.  

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