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What is the IRS Fresh Start Program?

what is the irs fresh start program

A new year could mean a financial fresh start. The IRS Fresh Start program was created to help struggling taxpayers and small businesses. In 2023, taxpayers are still asking how the program works. Here are some key details about the program. 

The History of the Fresh Start Program 

The Fresh Start Initiative was established in 2011 to give first-time tax offenders leniency and the opportunity to solve their tax issues through consolidated tax bills and payment arrangements. Shortly after launching the program, the IRS made it easier to remove federal tax liens. It also allowed taxpayers to come to more favorable payment arrangements with the IRS. One year after that, the IRS gave more taxpayers access to the Offer in Compromise (OIC) program.  

Changes to Federal Tax Liens and Installment Agreements 

The IRS used to file tax liens on balances above $5,000. The Fresh Start program increased the tax balance limit to $10,000. It also gave taxpayers the chance to withdraw their lien, which then helped those taxpayers access more credit. 

Streamlined installment agreements (SLIAs) were also expanded in 2011 that allowed more favorable terms for the taxpayer and helped avoid tax liens. This allowed taxpayers with debt of up to $50,000 to be set up with a SLIA, up from the previous $25,000 cap. Further, the term length was increased from 60 months to 71 months. The simple installment agreement is preferred for most taxpayers since it does not require giving the IRS extensive documents detailing financial situations.  

Changes to the OIC Program 

The OIC program is very sought after by taxpayers with a large tax debt balance. An Offer in Compromise is essentially an agreement between the IRS and taxpayer that settles the owed tax debt for a lesser amount. However, offers are not accepted if the IRS thinks that the taxpayer is capable of paying the balance in full. In 2012, the IRS allowed greater access to the OIC program by revising how it calculates taxpayer future income, allowing taxpayers to repay student loans and past-due state and local taxes, expanding the allowable living expense amount, and reducing the offer amount for those who qualify for an OIC. It’s important to note that the IRS does not accept OICs often. In fact, the IRS only accepted about a third of OIC applications from 2010-2019.  

Tax Help for Those Who Owe 

The Fresh Start program can really help taxpayers who owe the IRS but don’t necessarily have the funds to pay their debt. Working with an experienced tax relief company can help ease the process. If you are wondering if you are eligible for the Fresh Start program, we can help. Optima Tax Relief is the nation’s leading tax resolution firm with over a decade of experience helping taxpayers.  

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

How Home Equity Loans Affect Taxes

how home equity loans affect taxes

Sometimes the idea of taking out a second mortgage is a necessity. It can be a viable solution to eliminating debt, funding home renovations, or paying off unexpected medical bills. Before taking out a home equity loan, you should know the tax implications that come with it. Here’s how home equity loans affect taxes.

What is a home equity loan? 

Also known as a second mortgage, a home equity loan is a type of consumer debt that allows homeowners to borrow against the equity in their residence. The equity that you have accumulated through mortgage payments is used as collateral. The loan is paid out to you in a lump sum. Then it’s repaid with interest at a fixed rate each month for a set number of years.  

How much can I borrow with a home equity loan? 

Typically, the max you may borrow is around 80% to 85% of your home’s appraised value less the remaining balance on your mortgage. For example, let’s say your home is valued at $500,000, your mortgage balance is $200,000, and your lender will allow you to borrow up to 80% of your home’s value. 

$500,000 x 80% = $400,000  

$400,000 – $200,000 = $200,000 maximum loan amount 

In this scenario, you may borrow up to $200,000. The principal would be repaid at a fixed rate each month for a set number of years. This is in addition to your regular mortgage payment, hence the term “second mortgage.” 

How Do Home Equity Loans Affect My Taxes? 

Like many other loans, the interest on a home equity loan can be tax deductible, but there are some limitations. If you used funds from the loan to “buy, build, or substantially improve” the home that was used to secure the loan, the interest is tax deductible. Since the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, you can’t deduct loan interest if it was used for another purpose. The amount of interest that may be deducted will also depend on your filing status.  

Tax Relief for Homeowners 

Deducting home equity loan interest only makes sense if your itemized deductible expenses are more than the amount of the standard deduction. If you choose to deduct home equity loan interest, youll need to use IRS Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement. Tax planning can be incredibly stressful and intimidating, especially when taking new actions such as deducting loan interest. 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 

How Inflation Will Affect Your Taxes in 2023

how inflation will affect your taxes in 2023

Every year, the IRS makes inflation adjustments. With consistently high inflation in 2022, some experts are predicting larger adjustments than normal that can affect tax brackets in 2023.  

What is Inflation? 

Put simply, inflation is the overall increase in prices of goods and services over a given period of time. Inflation is the reason a gallon of milk costs about $4.33 today but only $2.72 in 2002. The increase can come from a rise in demand, like when a tech giant charges increasingly high prices for a new product because of growing popularity. The increase can also result from a decrease in supply, usually because of an increase in cost of production, materials or labor.  

Does Inflation Always Affect Taxes? 

Inflation does always affect taxes. In fact, the IRS automatically adjusts income tax brackets and the standard deduction each year according to inflation rates. Since the 1980s, the U.S. inflation rate has staggered around 2%, which is considered a healthy rate by the Federal Reserve’s standards. In some years when inflation has been relatively higher or lower, the rate has fluctuated between 0% and 4%.  

How is Inflation Affecting Income Tax Brackets in 2023? 

The consistently high inflation in 2022 has resulted in higher-than-expected inflation adjustments for income tax brackets, with most sitting between 6.5% and 8%. This essentially means that taxes will apply to less of your earnings beginning on January 1, 2023, to reflect the newest value of money based on inflation. The most notable changes are as follows: 

  • 12% Tax Bracket: Taxable earnings up to $11,001 for single filers and $22,001 for joint filers 
  • 22% Tax Bracket: Taxable earnings up to $44,726 for single filers and $89,451 for joint filers 
  • 24% Tax Bracket: Taxable earnings up to $95,376 for single filers and $190,751 for joint filers 
  • 32% Tax Bracket: Taxable earnings up to $182,101 for single filers and $364,201 for joint filers 
  • 35% Tax Bracket: Taxable earnings up to $231,251 for single filers and $462,501 for joint filers 
  • 37% Tax Bracket: Taxable earnings up to $578,126 for single filers and $693,751 for joint filers 

How is Inflation Affecting the Standard Deduction in 2023? 

The standard deduction will also increase.  

  • Single Filers: $13,850 
  • Married Individuals Filing Separately: $13,850 
  • Married Couples Filing Jointly: $27,700 
  • Heads of Households: $20,800 

Tips for Taxpayers 

Tax planning can be very complicated and sometimes it’s best to seek help from professionals in the industry. 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 

How to Manage Finances as a Single Individual 

how to manage finances as a single individual

As the cost of living continues to rise, it is becoming increasingly difficult for single individuals to live comfortably. Without the safety net of a second income, the need to manage finances as a single individual is more important than ever. The process comes with unique benefits and challenges, both throughout the year and during tax time.  

Budget Tips for Single Individuals 

There are countless budget strategies you can use as a single individual. Some of the most popular ones are the 50/30/20 budget and the zero-based budget. 

50/30/20 Budget 

One of the most popular methods is the 50/30/20 budget, in which you spend about half of your after-tax income on necessities. This includes bills, groceries, housing, and all the other items that are necessary to live. Thirty percent of your income should then go to your “wants”, like dinners, entertainment, and travel. The final 20% should be designated for savings and debt repayment. These percentages can be altered to fit your own specific needs. 

Zero-Based Budget 

In the zero-based budget strategy, every dollar you earn is allocated to a specific expense. A certain dollar amount goes to housing, another goes to utilities, another goes to debt, and so on until every dollar in your paycheck is assigned to one expense. At the end of the pay period, whatever is left over is sent to your savings. This strategy is especially helpful in preventing impulse spending. 

Retirement Tips for Single Individuals 

The key to retirement savings is understanding that the earlier you start, the better. Let’s say two people begin saving $100 per month. One begins at age 25 and the other begins at age 35. The one who begins saving earlier will have nearly twice as much savings by age 65. Prioritizing any portion of your income for retirement can really maximize your savings, especially if you take advantage of employer contributions.  

Automate and Maximize Your Saving 

Having an emergency fund that can cover three to six months of expenses is crucial if you don’t have a second income to rely on if you lose your job or cannot work. Automating your savings can help you reach your goals faster. You can create automatic bank account transfers or even use mobile apps that schedule money transfers from your checking account to your savings account or online account. While you’re at it, you can maximize your savings by opening a high-yield savings account that will accrue interest at a higher rate than a typical savings account. 

Tax Relief for Single Individuals 

During tax season, it’s important to know which tax bracket you’ll fall into as a single filer. The federal income tax bracket for 2023 is as follows: 

  • 10%: $0 – $11,000
  • 12%: $11,001 – $44,725 
  • 22%: $44,726 – $95,375 
  • 24%: $95,376 – $182,100
  • 32%: $182,101 – $231,250 
  • 35%: $231,251 – $578,125
  • 37%: $578,126 and up

Single filers do not qualify for deductions that many families take advantage of, so it’s also important to learn which ones you are eligible for in order to reduce your taxable income, and even your tax bracket. Remember, the tax bracket ranges above are based on taxable income, and not the actual amount of earned income you receive. In other words, the tax bracket is based on your income after deductions and credits are taken. Doing taxes on your own can be intimidating and stressful. 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 

How to Get a Copy of Your IRS Transcript

How to Get a Copy of Your IRS Transcript

Getting a copy of your IRS transcript is easy and can be done entirely via the IRS.gov website. Follow these simple steps to retrieve your tax transcript.

Keep in mind that only transcripts for filed taxes are available. For example, if you did not file in 2003, there won’t be a tax transcript for that year. Also, if the IRS has not finished with your taxes, the transcript will not be available until they have completed those taxes.

What is an IRS Transcript used for?

IRS transcripts are typically used to validate past income and to prove income to lenders. They are often used to determine status for mortgage, student, and small business loan applications and help with tax preparation.

What information is on an IRS Transcript?

An IRS transcript includes most line items from your tax return, including all accompanying forms and schedules, as it was originally filed. Any changes made after the original filing will not be reflected.  Key information listed on transcripts include marital status, AGI, taxable income, payment methods, and W-2 information.

How to get your IRS Transcript Online

You can request tax transcripts online for the current tax year and the three prior tax years. To request older transcripts, you’ll need to submit Form 4506-T. To request a transcript online:

  1. Visit the IRS website at IRS.gov.
  2. Look under the Tools tab that is part way down the web page. Click: Get transcript for your tax records.
  3. Once you reach the transcript page, you can request to get them by mail or continue getting them online by clicking on the box to the left, Get transcript online.
  4. If you have gotten transcripts before, you can sign in. If not, you will need to click on the right side to create an account: Sign up.
  5. Complete the sign up process and log in.
  6. The next page will show a drop-down menu and ask why you need the transcript. Choose the answer that best fits your needs and continue. They ask you what you need it for so they can help you pick the right transcript.
  7. The next page lists all your transcripts, in four different categories for all the years you filed. These include Tax Return Transcript, Record of Account Transcript, Account Transcript, and Wage and Income Transcript.
  8. Select the transcript you need for the right year.
  9. The site will automatically generate a PDF file of your transcript. Print it and save it.
  10. Log out completely or close the browser when you are finished.

Make sure your pop-up blocker is off for the IRS site. It can cause errors when trying to retrieve your transcripts. If you chose mail, allow 5 to 10 business days for them to arrive before requesting another.

If you have problems navigating the website, you can contact the IRS for further assistance at 1-800-829-1040. For further assistance or help with a different tax issue, contact Optima Tax Relief. Optima Tax Relief offers a comprehensive range of tax relief services. Schedule a consultation with one of our professionals today.