Tax Musings of a Burbank CPA: IRS Phone Scams Still a Serious Threat

Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents are still a serious threat to taxpayers. People claiming to be from the IRS or the Treasury Department say that your return has been recalculated and that the taxpayer now owes taxes and demand payment by wire transfer, gift cards or a prepaid debit card.  The “agents” threaten the taxpayer with police arrest, deportation and jail time if the tax bill isn’t paid immediately. They can also leave “urgent” callback demands through telephone robocalls and phishing emails. A new claim is that the “payment” by those methods will be tied into the IRS EFTPS system and that the taxpayer will be able to validate the “payment” through that system after it is made. These phone scams have been going on for years and can still be successful, especially with taxpayers who are on extension and think they may owe money and the elderly.  Since October of 2013 the Treasury General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reports over 10,000 victims have collectively paid more than $54 million because of phone scams.  The IRS will NEVER: * Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method like gift cards, prepaid debit cards [...]

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Tax Musings of a Burbank CPA: IRS Warning Taxpayers About “Phishing” Schemes to Steal Personal Information

The Internal Revenue Service has been warning taxpayers to watch out for phony websites and emails looking to steal personal information. The was a big spike in these “Phishing” schemes this last tax season, plus the IRS has seen email scams targeting tax and payroll professionals as well as human resources personnel and schools in addition to average taxpayers. In these scams, criminals pose as a person or organization the taxpayer trusts or recognizes, such as a bank, credit card company, tax software provider or government agency. There are websites that appear legit but have fake login pages so that victims will provide passwords, social security number s and other information that can be used for identity theft directly or can be sold to other criminals to use. Some of the scams are increasingly targeting tax professionals in an attempt to access their cleint list of personal and financial data. These phony emails and websites can also infect the victim’s computer with malware, giving the criminal access to the device so they can find sensitive information as well as track keyboard strokes, allowing access to login information. Just remember that Government Agencies don’t communicate by email but by certified mail. [...]

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Tax Musings of a Burbank CPA – Is Your Business Really a Business or a Hobby?

Now that tax season is over, I want to discuss the hobby loss rules a bit.  Is your small business really a business or is it a hobby (with the loss of any corresponding tax losses). The IRS has addressed the issue with a list of factors they use to determine if a business is a hobby or not.  Here is the list from the IRS website: Income & Expenses Question: How do you distinguish between a business and a hobby? Answer: In making the distinction between a hobby or business activity, take into account all facts and circumstances with respect to the activity. No one factor alone is decisive. You must generally consider these factors to establish that an activity is a business engaged in making a profit: Whether you carry on the activity in a businesslike manner. Whether the time and effort you put into the activity indicate you intend to make it profitable. Whether you depend on income from the activity for your livelihood. Whether your losses are due to circumstances beyond your control (or are normal in the startup phase of your type of business). Whether you change your methods of operation in an attempt to improve [...]

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