Are copyright laws alive and well?

By Debby Winters

I’ve recently come across two interesting articles discussing copyright laws that I thought I would share.

The Washington Post published an article entitled “David Bowie was wrong about copyright — thankfully” in which the writer explains how the recently deceased musical genius declared that “I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years.” The author of the article, Robert Gebelhoff, writes that we “can be thankful that his prophecy did not come true, as copyright laws continue to play an essential role in our creative economy —and have done so for centuries.”  He goes on to explain why he thinks copyright law is still strong and states that “despite the rise in Internet streaming — and all those people who think they’re clever by downloading MP3 files straight from YouTube — artists still own their music and can make good money off of it.”

This bring me to the second interesting article about YouTube and how it polices what is posted on its site. In “What Beyoncé And Justin Biever Taught Me About Fair Use,” Emily Hong explains her story about making a mashup that superimposed Beyoncé’s “Grown Woman” audio and the Bieber video from “Sorry.” She then uploaded the video onto YouTube, or at least she attempted to. She was served copyright claims in both video and audio components, her video was blocked, and she lost some of her channel privileges  Also, her video was immediately flagged by YouTube! YouTube has made many changes in recent years to prevent being implicated in copyright disputes. If you think they won’t flag your infringing material, think again!

I, for one, am glad to see someone out there policing things for the rightful copyright owners! AND that copyright laws are alive and well!

 

Another Tax Tip- Choose Your Tax Preparer Wisely

Here are some tax tips from the IRS on making sure you have the right person to prepare your taxes:

If someone helps you do your taxes, you’re not alone. The IRS asks you to choose your tax return preparer wisely – for good reason. You are responsible for the information on your income tax return. That’s true no matter who prepares your return. Here are ten tips to keep in mind when choosing a tax preparer:

1. Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications on IRS.gov. This tool can help you find a tax return preparer with the qualifications that you prefer. The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of certain preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:

  • Attorneys.
  • CPAs.
  • Enrolled Agents.
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents.
  • Enrolled Actuaries.
  • Annual Filing Season Program participants.

Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. However, new rules apply to the rights of non-credentialed tax preparers to represent their clients before the IRS. Non-credentialed preparers without an Annual Filing Season Program – Record of Completion – may only prepare tax returns. The new rules do not allow them to represent clients before the IRS on any returns prepared and filed after December 31, 2015. Annual Filing Season Program participants can represent clients in limited situations. For more, visit IRS.gov and see the Understanding Tax Return Preparer Credentials and Qualifications page.

2. Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory.

3. Ask about Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund. Also avoid those who boast bigger refunds than their competition. Make sure that your refund goes directly to you – not into your preparer’s bank account.

4. Ask to E-file Your Return. Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has safely processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns.

5. Make Sure the Preparer is Available. You may want to contact your preparer after this year’s April 18 due date. Avoid fly-by-night preparers.

6. Provide Records and Receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to figure your total income, tax deductions, credits, etc. Do not use a preparer who will e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.

7. Never Sign a Blank Return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign a blank tax form.

8. Review Your Return Before Signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.

9. Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number, or PTIN. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN. Be sure you get a copy of your return.

10. Report Abusive Tax Preparers to the IRS. Most tax return preparers are honest and provide great service to their clients; however, some preparers are dishonest. Report abusive tax preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also fileForm 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on IRS.gov at any time.

Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

Additional IRS Resources:

Use IRS.gov for Everything You Need to Do Your Taxes

It is tax time, so I’ll be passing on tax tips that you might find helpful.  Here are today’s tax tips from the IRS:

The IRS has all you need to do your taxes. Here are the best ways to get IRS products and services:

  • Use IRS.gov tools and services. Get what you need 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on IRS.gov.
    • Click on “Tools” on the IRS home page for helpful online tools.
    • Find answers to your tax questions with the Interactive Tax Assistant and the IRS Tax Map.
    • Use ’Where’s My Refund?’ to check on the status of your refund.
    • Get the App: IRS2Go is the official mobile app of the IRS. Check your refund status, make a payment, find free tax preparation assistance, sign up for helpful tax tips, and more.
    • Use the EITC Assistant to see if you’re eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit.
    • Print tax products by clicking on the ‘Forms and Pubs’ tab.
    • Click on the ‘Payments’ tab for options to pay you tax including IRS Direct Pay.
    • Get the latest news; find free tax preparation sites and more.
  • E-file your tax return. More than 128 million taxpayers used IRS e-file to do their taxes last year. E-file is the safe, accurate and easier way to file your tax return. Try IRS Free File! IRS Free File is only available on IRS.gov. Go to IRS.gov and click on the ‘Filing’ tab to review your options.
  • Get tax forms online. If you e-file your tax return you don’t need any paper forms to mail to the IRS. If you do need a paper form, you can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.
  • Visit IRS.gov/ACA for health care tax information.  If you have any questions about the Affordable Care Act, the IRS website is your spot for answers. Find more on how the health care law affects your taxes. Get the latest ACA tax news for individuals and employees.  

Which Tax Form is Best for You?

This information was provided by the IRS as part of IRS Tax Tip 2016-04. I thought I would share for anyone who might find it useful.

This tax filing season, get things off to a good start. Make it easy on yourself and let the software you use to e-file select the right tax form for you. Filing electronically is the easiest way to file a complete and accurate return. The tax software asks questions at each step and minimizes errors. E-file also helps you get the tax credits and deductions that you are entitled to claim. Brand-name software is also free when you use IRS Free File on IRS.gov.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right forms:

You can generally use Form 1040EZ if:

  • Your taxable income is below $100,000;
  • Your filing status is single or married filing jointly;
  • You don’t claim dependents; and
  • Your interest income is $1,500 or less.

Note: You can’t use Form 1040EZ to claim the Premium Tax Credit. Nor can you use this form if you received advance payments of the premium tax credit in 2015.

Form 1040A may be best for you if:

  • Your taxable income is below $100,000;
  • You have capital gain distributions;
  • You claim certain tax credits; and
  • You claim adjustments to income for IRA contributions and student loan interest.

You must use the Form 1040 if:

  • Your taxable income is $100,000 or more;
  • You claim itemized deductions;
  • You report self-employment income; or
  • You report income from sale of a property.

Remember, if you e-file you don’t need any paper forms to mail to the IRS. Go to IRS.gov and click on the ‘IRS e-file’ icon to check your options. Don’t forget to see if IRS Free File is right for you. If you need a paper form, you can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time. Each and every taxpayer has a set of fundamental rights they should be aware of when dealing with the IRS. These are your Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Explore your rights and our obligations to protect them on IRS.gov.

IRS YouTube Videos:

 

IRS Podcast:

  • First Time Filing a Tax Return?Spanish