IRS Increases Debt Ceiling For Streamline Installment Agreements

An IRS Installment Agreement, or payment plan, is the primary means by which taxpayers with tax debts settle up with the government. A special provision in the law allows the IRS to accept payment plans without reviewing your financial information, which they are otherwise normally required to do. These simpler payment plans are called a Streamline Installment Agreement.

Normally, applying for an IRS payment plan is literally like applying for a home mortgage loan, and requires extensive prying into your personal finances. Historically, the IRS will simplify this procedure if you owe less than $25,000 and can make large enough payments to pay off the tax debt within 5 years (60 months).

The IRS has issued new regulations regarding Streamline Installment Agreements, due to the continued economic difficulties and the fact that their collections case burden is skyrocketing and they don’t have the personnel to manage so many tax debts.

The IRS will accept now a Streamline Installment Agreement for taxpayers that owe up to $50,000. In addition, they will give you up to 6 years to pay it all off. This effectively makes the vast majority of tax debtors eligible for the program, allowing the IRS to expend resources chasing after people that owe much larger sums of money, and lessening the headache and aggravation they cause to middle class families that have enough to worry about without the threat of the IRS seizing funds in bank accounts or garnishing wages.

Setting up an Installment Agreement under these criteria can be done over the phone or on the IRS web site. Of course, you may wish to consult with a licensed tax professional to determine if another option, such as Status 53 or an Offer in Compromise, may be better for you financially. Oftentimes, individuals and small businesses that qualify for a Streamline Installment Agreement with a small payment amount may also be eligible for these other programs. Status 53, also called “Currently Not Collectible” status, doesn’t require you to make any payments, but does require full financial disclosure. An Offer in Compromise also requires full financial information from you, but allows you to settle your entire tax liability for some fixed amount that is less than what you actually owe.

As with most things in life, make sure that you explore all your options, and that you thoroughly understand both your rights and your obligations under any tax resolution program you enter into. … Continue reading

Top 5 IRS Enforcement Priorities For 2012

Every year, the IRS rolls out new initiatives to make sure everybody is complying with the tax laws. While certain things, such as frivolous tax arguments, are always enforced, the IRS shuffles personnel around to enforce compliance with certain parts of the tax code based on the trends they identify. Five of those trends are discussed here.

1. Foreign accounts and assets. If you have money or assets overseas, the IRS wants to know about it. If you have more than $10,000 in a foreign bank account, you’re required to file an annual disclosure statement with the Treasury Department. In addition, the IRS is now requiring foreign banks to enter into information sharing agreements, or else have 30% of payments transferred to them from the U.S. withheld to pay potential tax bills. The failure to disclose your overseas assets can result in significant penalties, and potentially criminal prosecution.

2. Payroll taxes. The single biggest emphasis of enforcement within the employment tax arena has to do with taxpayers that pyramid their employment tax liabilities, meaning that they owe money, and continue to accrue new liabilities each quarter. The IRS is also heavily targeting the owners of S-corporations that don’t pay corporate officers a fair wage (and thus payroll taxes), but rather take nothing but distributions, which are not subject to payroll taxes.

3. Gift tax audits. Many people don’t realize that giving cash gifts to their friends and family can have tax consequences. Every person has a lifetime cumulative exemption from gift taxes, and there are also annual limits. The IRS has started to electronically examine property transfers based on public records in order to ferret out people that may owe gift taxes.

4. Automated Substitute for Return Program. Section 6020(b) of the Internal Revenue Code allows the IRS to file a tax return for you if you fail to do so. They prepare this Substitute for Return (SFR) based on information they have on file, such as W-2 and 1099 information sent to the IRS by your employer. A computerized system now prepares these returns, and the IRS has asked Congress for the past several sessions to make it a felony when you fail to file a tax return for three out of five straight years and the tax exceeds $50,000. Fortunately, this has never been passed into law, but it is a law that the IRS will likely continue asking for.

5. Schedule C Continue reading

Remembering To Do Marketing During Tax Season

When it’s the middle of tax season, and you’re buried under a mountain of returns, it’s often difficult to think about doing marketing of any sort in order to get new clients.

As a tax professional, your day right now probably looks a lot like mine: A full day of new tax returns that need to be done. Most days, I have appointments on the hour, every hour, for the entire work day, plus an entire stack of work that takes into the evening to complete.

Because of this, it’s difficult for me to stop and “practice what I preach”. Fortunately, I have built highly automated systems and have a very short list of marketing items that I have to perform daily.

To generate the day’s mailing list for postcards takes literally a push of a button, and then uploading of that list to Click2Mail.com and sending out that day’s mailing takes only a few more clicks, and it’s done.

Similarly, to generate another set of personal introduction letters to new prospects that I mail out daily, I click one link in my CRM system, and it generates a mail merged PDF with all the letters for that day. It’s usually only 10 to 20 new letters, which I then sign and have my assistant hand address and stamp.

My total time commitment for my daily client marketing: About 5 minutes.

That right there is the power of having systems and checklists, to get done the things that need to get each and every day, but doing them quickly and efficiently without sacrificing quality.

What are you doing on a daily or weekly basis, even during tax season, to ensure that you have a steady stream of business even after tax season? Leave a comment below to share how you’re doing it, and read the other comments to see what other people are doing.… Continue reading