National Tax Security Awareness Week

During the online holiday shopping season, the IRS, state tax agencies and the tax industry remind people to be vigilant with their personal information. While shopping for gifts, criminals are shopping for credit card numbers, financial account information, Social Security numbers and other sensitive data that could help them file a fraudulent tax return.

Anyone who has an online presence should take a few simple steps that could go a long way to protecting their identity and personal information.

The Internal Revenue Service, state tax agencies and the tax community, partners in the Security Summit, are marking “National Tax Security Awareness Week”, Nov. 27-Dec. 1, with a series of reminders to taxpayers and tax professionals. In part one, the topic is online security.

Cybercriminals seek to turn stolen data into quick cash, either by draining financial accounts, charging credit cards, creating new credit accounts or even using stolen identities to file a fraudulent tax return for a refund. 

Here are seven steps to help with online safety and protecting tax returns and refunds in 2018:

  • Shop at familiar online retailers. Generally, sites using the “s” designation in “https” at the start of the URL are secure. Look for the “lock” icon in the browser’s URL bar. But remember, even bad actors may obtain a security certificate so the “s” may not vouch for the site’s legitimacy.
  • Avoid unprotected Wi-Fi. Beware purchases at unfamiliar sites or clicks on links from pop-up ads. Unprotected public Wi-Fi hotspots also may allow thieves to view transactions. Do not engage in online financial transactions if using unprotected public Wi-Fi.
  • Learn to recognize and avoid phishing emails that pose as a trusted source such as those from financial institutions or the IRS. These emails may suggest a password is expiring or an account update is needed. The criminal’s goal is to entice users to open a link or attachment. The link may take users to a fake website that will steal usernames and passwords. An attachment may download malware that tracks keystrokes.
  • Keep a clean machine. This applies to all devices – computers, phones and tablets. Use security software to protect against malware that may steal data and viruses that may damage files. Set it to update automatically so that it always has the latest security defenses. Make sure firewalls and browser defenses are always active. Avoid “free” security scans or pop-up advertisements for security software.
  • Use passwords that are strong, long and unique. Experts suggest a minimum of 10 characters but longer is better. Avoid using a specific word; longer phrases are better. Use a combination of letters, numbers and special characters. Use a different password for each account. Use a password manager, if necessary.
  • Use multi-factor authentication. Some financial institutions, email providers and social media sites allow users to set accounts for multi-factor authentication, meaning users may need a security code, usually sent as a text to a mobile phone, in addition to usernames and passwords. For added protection, some financial institutions also will send email or text alerts when there is a withdrawal or change to the account. Generally, users can check account profiles at these locations to see what added protections may be available. 
  • Encrypt and password-protect sensitive data. If keeping financial records, tax returns or any personally identifiable information on computers, this data should be encrypted and protected by a strong password. Also, back-up important data to an external source such as an external hard drive. And, when disposing of computers, mobile phones or tablets, make sure to wipe the hard drive of all information before trashing. 

There are also a few additional steps people can take a few times a year to make sure they have not become an identity theft victim. 

Receive a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus once a year. Check it to make sure there are no unfamiliar credit changes. Create a “My Social Security” account online with the Social Security Administration. There users can see how much income is attributed to their SSN. This can help determine if someone else is using the SSN for employment purposes. 

You can take steps to protect themselves online. Visit the “Taxes. Security. Together.” awareness campaign or review IRS Publication 4524, Security Awareness for Taxpayers, to see what can be done.

IRS WARNING: WATCH OUT FOR FAKE CHARITIES

IRS WARNING: WATCH OUT FOR FAKE CHARITIES

Our community is well known for giving and caring. Many of you have already donated to disaster relief and many may be planning to.  It is  a sad reality that cyber-criminals eagerly exploit tragic circumstances in order to take advantage of and steal from new targets. In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma, a number of new scams have cropped up, including:

SCAM WARNING:IRS Issues Urgent Warning to Beware IRS/FBI-Themed Ransomware Scam

SCAM WARNING:IRS Issues Urgent Warning to Beware IRS/FBI-Themed Ransomware Scam

The FBl and the IRS  are warning the public to be on alert for a phone scam that spoofs, or fakes the FBl’s name on the recipient’s voice-mail.

Scammers have targeted residents around the region, claiming to be the FBI stating they are an “officer” of the FBI , Department of Tax and Crime Investigation. The intended victim is told that this is their final notice and that their physical address is under investigation and an arrest warrant has been issued under their name.

The public is reminded that the FBI does not call private citizens threatening arrest or requesting money and to never give out unsolicited requests for personal information to callers that you don't know. Individuals receiving such calls can file a complaint through the FBl’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.

NEW DUE DATES FOR EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS TO RETIREMENT PLANS FOR C CORPS AND PARTNERSHIPS, NO CHANGE ON WHEN EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION IS DEDUCTIBLE

NEW DUE DATES FOR EMPLOYER CONTRIBUTIONS TO RETIREMENT PLANS FOR C CORPS AND PARTNERSHIPS, NO CHANGE ON WHEN EMPLOYEE COMPENSATION IS DEDUCTIBLE

If you’re a C corporation or partnership that sponsors a qualified pension, profit sharing, 401(k) plan or a Simplified Employee Pension Plan (SEP) or Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) IRA plan, please note that the due date for making employer contributions to these plans has changed.

In order to be deductible for the 2016 taxable year, employer contributions for these plans for 2016 have to be made by the due date or extended due date of your 2016 tax return. Since certain tax return due dates have changed for tax years starting in 2016, the time limit for making retirement plan contributions has changed as well.

You can sell your business to your employees with an ESOP!

You can sell your business to your employees with an ESOP!

The number of small business for sale in the US is growing. Business selling websites like Bizbuyandsell.com and Businessesforsale.com are reporting record high numbers. AARP states that as the Baby Boomer generation ages they are looking to sell to businesses and retire in record numbers as well.  Often there is no family member willing or able to take over a business and the business goes out to the general market.  There is another option.

 

Year End Tax Planning Update

Year End Tax Planning Update

As we approach the end of the year, this is the time to conduct year-end tax planning in order to optimize your tax position and minimize the amount of penalties and interest that may be due on your 2016 tax return filing.  Year-end tax planning is more than just looking at your income and expenses for the year, it is about looking forward, understanding your business performance, finding positive ways to both help the performance of your company and optimize your tax position in the future.

Keep your Personal Computer and Personal Information Safe

Keep your Personal Computer and Personal Information Safe

In the information age we are all reliant on personal computers and devices. These devices contain our vital information. Cyber threats are real. The IRS has issued a set of instructions that will help you keep those threats at bay. At GMG CPA we are here to help. We wanted to share the information with you. We support efforts to combat identity theft and and fraudulent returns. 

IRS Gives Tax Relief to Victims of Hurricane Matthew; Many Extension Filers in North Carolina Now Affected; Relief for Other States Expected Soon

IRS Gives Tax Relief to Victims of Hurricane Matthew; Many Extension Filers in North Carolina Now Affected; Relief for Other States Expected Soon

North Carolina storm victims will have until March 15, 2017, to file certain individual and business tax returns and make certain tax payments, with similar relief expected soon for Hurricane Matthew victims in other states, the Internal Revenue Service announced today. All workers assisting the relief activities who are affiliated with a recognized government or philanthropic organization also qualify for relief.

Tax breaks ending this year.

Tax breaks ending this year.

 

 

Last year, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH ) Act made permanent a number of expiring tax extenders. Although that legislation thankfully made planning for 2016 a little more certain, there are still a handful of tax provisions that are due to expire at the end of this year.

PATH addressed many critical extenders, such as Section 179 expensing and the research tax credit. With those necessary provisions handled, the stakes this year are much lower. It’s unlikely that the House and Senate will take any action before they adjourn for several weeks leading up to the November elections.

The Joint Committee on Taxation published a comprehensive list of expiring tax provisions for 2016 and coming years. Here are a few that are commonly taken by individual taxpayers.

Business Transfers and Exit Planning

Business Transfers and Exit Planning

For many businesses, the business is a family affair. There comes a time when a business owner wants to pass the torch to a younger generation. However, transferring business ownership even within a family can be problematic. Succession planning has become an industry in itself. Why? Successfully transferring a family business has proven more difficult than any other exit path because it involves family dynamics.

Department of Labor New Overtime Rules Effective December 1, 2016

Department of Labor New Overtime Rules Effective December 1, 2016

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) published the final rule revising the “white collar” overtime exemption regulations on May 18, 2016.  This publication was the result of a process that began in March 2014 when President Obama directed the Secretary of Labor to review and “modernize” the current overtime regulations.  In the final rule, the DOL estimates that the changes will impact 4.2 million white collar workers.

GMG CPA Tax Debt Negotiation Services

GMG CPA Tax Debt Negotiation Services

The IRS estimates more than twelve million Americans owe back taxes in some form. There are a variety of reasons that people and businesses fall behind on their taxes. These reasons can be extremely personal; illness, divorce or other financial issues can trigger a number of issues that result in an unpaid tax bill.  At GMG we are here to help. 

Reducing Stress During Tax Time

Reducing Stress During Tax Time

Tax time can be one of the most stressful times of year. A 2014 survey sponsored by the American Psychological Association found that nearly three-quarters of Americans cited money as a significant source of stress. Money is also consistently among the top causes of marital contention, says Olivia Mellan, a psychotherapist and financial self-help author based in Washington, D.C. (Web MD)

Guide to Access your Money in Retirement

Guide to Access your Money in Retirement

The purpose of retirement plans such as the 401(k) and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is to save money for your retirement years. As such, the IRS imposes a penalty of 10 percent for early withdrawals taken from qualified retirement plans before age 59½. Qualified retirement plans include section 401(k) plans, 401(k) plan, tax-sheltered annuity plans under section 403(b) for employees of public schools or tax-exempt organizations, and individual retirement accounts.