Five Tax Tips For Starting A Business

New business owners may find the following five IRS tax tips helpful:

1. Business Structure.  An early choice to make is to decide on the type of structure for the business. The most common types are sole proprietor, partnership, limited liability company,  and corporation. The type of business chosen will determine which tax forms to file.

2. Business Taxes. There are four general types of business taxes. They are income tax, self-employment tax, employment tax and excise tax. In most cases, the types of tax a business pays depends on the type of business structure set up. Taxpayers may need to make estimated tax payments. If so, use IRS Direct Pay to make them. It’s the fast, easy and secure way to pay from a checking or savings account.

3. Employer Identification Number (EIN).  Generally, businesses may need to get an EIN for federal tax purposes. Search “EIN” on IRS.gov to find out if the number is necessary. If needed, it’s easy to apply for it online.

4. Accounting Method.  An accounting method is a set of rules used to determine when to report income and expenses. Taxpayers must use a consistent method. The two most common are the cash and accrual methods:

a. Under the cash method, taxpayers normally report income and deduct expenses in the year that they receive or pay them.

b. Under the accrual method, taxpayers generally report income and deduct expenses in the year that they earn or incur them. This is true even if they get the income or pay the expense in a later year.

Get all the basics of starting a business on IRS.gov at the Small Business and Self-Employed Tax Center.

Eight Tips to Protect Taxpayers from Identity Theft

Identity theft happens when someone steals personal information for financial gain. Tax-related identity theft happens when someone uses another person’s stolen Social Security number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN) to file a tax return to obtain a fraudulent refund.

Many people first find out they are victims of identity theft when they submit their tax returns. That’s because the IRS lets them know someone else already used their SSN to file.

The IRS continues to work hard to stop identity theft with a strategy of prevention, detection and victim assistance. So far, the agency has stopped millions of dollars from getting into the hands of thieves.

Check out these eight tips on how to protect against identity theft:

1. Taxes. Security. Together. The IRS, the states and the tax industry need everyone’s help. The IRS launched The Taxes. Security. Together. awareness campaign in 2015 to inform people about ways to protect their personal, tax and financial data. Learn more at www.IRS.gov/TaxesSecurityTogether.

2. Protect Personal and Financial Records. Taxpayers should not carry their Social Security card in their wallet or purse. They should only provide their Social Security number if it’s necessary. Protect personal information at home and protect personal computers with anti-spam and anti-virus software. Routinely change passwords for online accounts.

3. Don’t Fall for Scams.  Criminals often try to impersonate banks, credit card companies and even the IRS hoping to steal personal data. Learn to recognize and avoid those fake communications. Also, the IRS will not call a taxpayer threatening a lawsuit, arrest or to demand immediate payment. Beware of threatening phone calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS.

4. Report Tax-Related ID Theft. Here’s what taxpayers should do if they cannot e-file their return because someone already filed using their SSN:

  • File a tax return by paper and pay any taxes owed.
  • File an IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit. Print the form and mail or fax it according to the instructions. Include it with the paper tax return and/or attach a police report describing the theft if available.
  • File a report with the Federal Trade Commission using the FTC Complaint Assistant.
  • Contact Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov and type in “identity theft” in the search box.
  • Contact financial institutions to report the alleged identity theft.
  • Contact one of the three credit bureaus so they can place a fraud alert or credit freeze on the affected account.
  • Check with the applicable state tax agency to see if there are additional steps to take at the state level.

5. IRS Letters. If the IRS identifies a suspicious tax return with a taxpayer’s stolen SSN, that taxpayer may receive a letter asking them verify their identity by calling a special number or visiting an IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center.

6. IP PIN. If a taxpayer is a confirmed ID theft victim, the IRS may issue them an IP PIN. The IP PIN is a unique six-digit number that the taxpayer uses to e-file their tax return. Each year, they will receive an IRS letter with a new IP PIN.

7. Report Suspicious Activity. If taxpayers suspect or know of an individual or business that is committing tax fraud, they can visit IRS.gov and follow the chart on How to Report Suspected Tax Fraud Activity.

8. Service Options. Information about tax-related identity theft is available online. The IRS has a special section on IRS.gov devoted to identity theft and information for victims to obtain assistance.

For more on this Topic, see the Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

Avoid scams. The IRS does not initiate contact using social media or text message. The first contact normally comes in the mail. Those wondering if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information on IRS.gov to find out.

How Does the IRS Contact Taxpayers?

When the IRS needs to contact a taxpayer, the first contact is normally by letter delivered by the U.S. Postal Service. The IRS doesn’t normally initiate contact with taxpayers by email, nor does it send text messages or contact through social media channels.

Depending on the situation, IRS employees may first call or visit with a taxpayer. In some instances, advance notice is provided in writing via a letter or notice, but not always.

IRS Phone Calls

  • IRS revenue officers work directly with taxpayers to educate them about their options to resolve delinquencies and to collect delinquent taxes and tax returns, while protecting taxpayers’ rights.
  • IRS revenue agents or tax compliance officers may call a taxpayer or tax professional after mailing a notice to confirm an appointment or to discuss items for a scheduled audit.
  • Private debt collectors can call taxpayers for the collection of certain outstanding inactive tax liabilities but only after the taxpayer and their representative has received written notice. Private debt collectors for the IRS must respect taxpayers’ rights and abide by the consumer protection provisions of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

IRS Visits

  • IRS revenue officers routinely make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss taxes owed, delinquent tax returns or a business falling behind on payroll tax deposits. IRS revenue officers will request payment of taxes owed by the taxpayer; however, payment will never be requested to a source other than the US Treasury.
  • IRS revenue agents usually visit taxpayers or tax professionals to conduct the audit after either mailing a notice and/or agreeing on the day and time. IRS revenue agents will sometimes make unannounced visits to a taxpayer’s home or place of business to discuss a tax matter.
  • IRS criminal investigators are federal law enforcement agents who may visit a taxpayer’s home or place of business unannounced while conducting an investigation. They will not demand any sort of payment.

Ask For Credentials

IRS representatives can always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and a Personal Identity Verification Credential (PIV). Pocket commissions describe the specific authority and responsibilities of the authorized holder. The PIV is a government-wide standard for secure and reliable forms of identification for federal employees and contractors. Criminal investigators also have a badge and law enforcement credentials.

Paying Taxes

All tax payments are to the U.S. Treasury. Taxpayers should never use a preloaded debit card or wire transfer to make a payment. The IRS provides specific guidelines on how to make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments.

IRS employees and contractors will never:

  • Be hostile or insulting
  • Demand payment without giving taxpayers the opportunity to question or appeal the amount
  • Require a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card
  • Threaten lawsuits, arrest, deportation or other action for not paying
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Avoid scams. The IRS never initiates contact using social media or text messages. First contact generally comes in the mail.  A special page on IRS.gov, “How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door,”  helps taxpayers determine if a person claiming to be from the IRS is legitimate or an imposter.

Additional Resources:

Tips to Keep in Mind on Income Taxes and Selling a Home

Homeowners may qualify to exclude from their income all or part of any gain from the sale of their main home.

Below are tips to keep in mind when selling a home:

Ownership and Use. To claim the exclusion, the homeowner must meet the ownership and use tests. This means that during the five-year period ending on the date of the sale, the homeowner must have:

  • Owned the home for at least two years
  • Lived in the home as their main home for at least two years    Gain.  If there is a gain from the sale of their main home, the homeowner may be able to exclude up to $250,000 of the gain from income or $500,000 on a joint return in most cases. Homeowners who can exclude all of the gain do not need to report the sale on their tax return

Loss.  A main home that sells for lower than purchased is not deductible.

Reporting a Sale.  Reporting the sale of a home on a tax return is required if all or part of the gain is not excludable. A sale must also be reported on a tax return if the taxpayer chooses not to claim the exclusion or receives a Form 1099-S, Proceeds from Real Estate Transactions.

Possible Exceptions.  There are exceptions to the rules above for persons with a disability, certain members of the military, intelligence community and Peace Corps workers, among others. More information is available in Publication 523, Selling Your Home.

Worksheets.  Worksheets are included in Publication 523, Selling Your Home, to help you figure the:

  • Adjusted basis of the home sold
  • Gain (or loss) on the sale
  • Gain that can be excluded

Items to Keep In Mind:

  • Taxpayers who own more than one home can only exclude the gain on the sale of their main home. Taxes must paid on the gain from selling any other home.
  • Taxpayers who used the first-time homebuyer credit to purchase their home have special rules that apply to the sale. For more on those rules, see Publication 523. Use the First Time Homebuyer Credit Account Look-up to get account information such as the total amount of your credit or your repayment amount.
  • Work-related moving expenses might be deductible, see Publication 521, Moving Expenses.
  • Taxpayers moving after the sale of their home should update their address with the IRS and the U.S. Postal Service by filing Form 8822, Change of Address.
  • Taxpayers who purchased health coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace should notify the Marketplace when moving out of the area covered by the current Marketplace plan.

Avoid scams. The IRS does not initiate contact using social media or text message. The first contact normally comes in the mail. Those wondering if they owe money to the IRS can view their tax account information on IRS.gov to find out.

Additional Resources:

Security Summit Alert: Tax Pros Warned of New Scam to Steal Their Passwords

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax industry today warned tax professionals to be alert to a new phishing email scam impersonating tax software providers and attempting to steal usernames and passwords.

This sophisticated scam yet again displays cybercriminals’ tax savvy and underscores the need for tax professionals to take strong security measures to protect their clients and protect their business. This is the time of year when many software providers issue software upgrades and when tax professionals are working to meet the Oct. 15 deadline for extension filers.

These types of phishing scams are why the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry, acting as the Security Summit, launched the 10-week Don’t Take the Bait campaign currently underway. This awareness effort highlights the many tactics of cybercriminals as well as the steps tax professionals can take to protect their clients and themselves.

This latest scam email variation comes with a subject line of “Software Support Update” and highlights an “Important Software System Upgrade.” It thanks recipients for continuing to trust the software provider to serve their tax preparation needs and mimics the software providers’ email templates.

The e-mail informs the recipients that due to a recent software upgrade, the preparer must revalidate their login credentials. It provides a link to a fictitious website that mirrors the software provider’s actual login page.

Instead of upgrading software, the tax professionals are providing their information to cybercriminals who use the stolen credentials to access the preparers’ accounts and to steal client information.

The Security Summit reminds tax professionals that software providers do not embed links into emails asking them to validate passwords. Also, tax professionals and taxpayers should never open a link or an attachment from a suspicious email.

Tax professionals can review additional tips to protect clients and themselves at Protect Your Clients, Protect Yourself on IRS.gov.

Tax professionals who receive emails purportedly from their tax software providers seeking login credentials should send those scam emails to their tax software provider.

Tips to Keep in Mind for Taxpayers Traveling for Charity

During the summer, some taxpayers may travel because of their involvement with a qualified charity. These traveling taxpayers may be able to lower their taxes.

Here are some tax tips for taxpayers to use when deducting charity-related travel expenses:

  • Qualified Charities.  For a taxpayer to deduct costs, they must volunteer for a qualified charity. Most groups must apply to the IRS to become qualified. Churches and governments are generally qualified, and do not need to apply to the IRS. A taxpayer should ask the group about its status before they donate. Taxpayers can also use the Select Check tool on IRS.gov to check a group’s status.
  • Out-of-Pocket Expenses.  A taxpayer may be able to deduct some of their costs including travel. These out-of-pocket expenses must be necessary while the taxpayer is away from home. All costs must be:
    • Unreimbursed,
    • Directly connected with the services,
    • Expenses the taxpayer had only because of the services the taxpayer gave, and
    • Not personal, living or family expenses.
  • Genuine and Substantial Duty.  The charity work the taxpayer is involved with has to be real and substantial throughout the trip. The taxpayer can’t deduct expenses if they only have nominal duties or do not have any duties for significant parts of the trip.
  • Value of Time or Service.  A taxpayer can’t deduct the value of their time or services that they give to charity. This includes income lost while the taxpayer serves as an unpaid volunteer for a qualified charity.
  • Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can Deduct.  The types of expenses a taxpayer may be able to deduct include:
    • Air, rail and bus transportation,
    • Car expenses,
    • Lodging costs,
    • Cost of meals, and
    • Taxi or other transportation costs between the airport or station and their hotel.
  • Travel Expenses a Taxpayer Can’t Deduct. Some types of travel do not qualify for a tax deduction. For example, a taxpayer can’t deduct their costs if a significant part of the trip involves recreation or vacation.

For more on these rules, see Publication 526, Charitable Contributions. Get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

How to Get Tax Transcripts and Copies of Tax Returns from the IRS

Taxpayers should keep copies of their tax returns for at least three years. Those who need a copy of their tax return should check with their software provider or tax preparer. Prior year tax returns are available from IRS for a fee.

For those that need tax transcripts, however, IRS can help. Transcripts are free.

Tax Transcripts

A transcript summarizes return information and includes Adjusted Gross Income (AGI). They are available for the most current tax year after the IRS has processed the return. People can also get them for the past three years.

When applying for home mortgages or college financial aid, transcripts are often necessary. Mortgage companies, however, normally arrange to get one for a homeowner or potential homeowner. For people applying for college financial aid, see IRS Offers Help to Students, Families to Get Tax Information for Student Financial Aid Applications on IRS.gov for the latest options.

Taxpayers can get two types of transcripts from the IRS:

  • Tax Return Transcript.  A tax return transcript shows most line items including AGI from an original tax return (Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) as filed, along with any forms and schedules. It doesn’t show changes made after the filing of the original return. This transcript is only available for the current tax year and returns processed during the prior three years. A tax return transcript usually meets the needs of lending institutions offering mortgages and student loans.
  • Tax Account Transcript.  A tax account transcript shows basic data such as return type, marital status, adjusted gross income, taxable income and all payment types. It also shows changes made after the filing of the original return.

To get a transcript, people can:

  • Order online. Use the ‘Get Transcript’ tool available on IRS.gov. There is a link to it under the red TOOLS bar on the front page. Those who use it must authenticate their identity using the Secure Access process.
  • Order by phone. The number to call is 800-908-9946.
  • Order by mail.  Complete and send either Form 4506-T or Form 4506T-EZ to the IRS to get one by mail. Use Form 4506-T to request other tax records: tax account transcript, record of account, wage and income and verification of non-filing. These forms are available on the Forms & Pubs page on IRS.gov

Those who need an actual copy of a tax return can get one for the current tax year and as far back as six years. The fee per copy is $50. Complete and mail Form 4506 to request a copy of a tax return. Mail the request to the appropriate IRS office listed on the form. People who live in a federally declared disaster area can get a free copy. More disaster relief information is available on IRS.gov.

Plan ahead. Delivery times for online and phone orders typically take five to 10 days from the time the IRS receives the request. You should allow 30 days to receive a transcript ordered by mail and 75 days for copies of your tax return.