Blog

Are you withholding enough for taxes?

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 in IRS, Tax Law, Tax Planning, Tax Tips | 0 comments

Don’t leave it up to chance – check your 2017 tax withholdings while you still have some time to make changes. You can use the withholding calculator on the IRS website to see if you are paying too much or not enough. To make a change, fill out a Form W-4 and give it to your employer. You’ll end up filling out another form in early 2018 to adjust your withholding schedule. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

RENEW YOUR ITIN NOW

Posted by on Oct 11, 2017 in Tax Tips | 0 comments

If you have an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) rather than a Social Security number (SSN) you may need to take action or you’ll be unable to file a tax return for 2017. What to know about ITINs ITINs are identification numbers issued by the U.S. government for individuals who do not qualify to receive an SSN. An ITIN can be used to file tax returns and is also a form of identification often required by banks, insurance companies and other institutions. Unfortunately, ITINs are also a source of identity fraud. To combat this, the 2015 PATH Act made substantial changes to the program. Now a number of ITINs will expire if not renewed by December 31, 2017. No ITIN, no problem. If you do not have an ITIN, but have an SSN, this expiration does not affect you. No tax return in past three years. ITINs that have not been used when filing a tax return at least once in the past three years will automatically expire on December 31, 2017. Middle digits of 70, 71, 72 and 80 also expire. The new law creates a rolling expiration date for all issued ITINs. The key number to look for is in this position: 9xx-XX-xxxx. If your ITIN has any of those numbers, you’ll need to renew your ITIN. Last year the middle digits of 78 and 79 expired. Renew your ITIN Don’t wait until the last minute and then discover your tax return has been rejected and your refund is delayed because of an expired ITIN. To renew, fill out Form W-7 with the required support documents. To learn more, visit the ITIN information page on the IRS website. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

No change to fourth-quarter interest rates

Posted by on Oct 10, 2017 in Business Taxes, IRS, IRS Rules, Tax Law | 0 comments

Fourth-quarter interest rates will stay the same. Those rates include: 4 percent for overpayments (3 percent for corporations), 1.5 percent for the portion of a corporate overpayment over $10,000, 4 percent for underpayments and 6 percent for large corporation underpayments. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

Fair market value (FMV): What is it and how to defend it

Posted by on Oct 6, 2017 in Audit, Investments, IRS, IRS Rules, Tax Law | 0 comments

So what is fair market value (FMV)? According to the IRS, it’s the price that property would sell for on the open market. This is the price that would be agreed on between a willing buyer and a willing seller. Neither would be required to act, and both would have reasonable knowledge of the relevant facts. This is the standard the IRS uses to determine if an item sold or donated by you is valued correctly for income tax purposes. It is also a definition that is so broad that it is wide open to interpretation. Understand when FMV is used Fair market value is used whenever an item is bought, sold or donated and has tax consequences. The most common examples are: Buying or selling your home, other real estate, personal property or business property Establishing values of other business assets like inventory Valuing charitable donations of personal goods and property like automobiles Valuing bartering of services, business ownership transfers or assets in an estate of a deceased taxpayer Know how to defend your FMV determination If the IRS decides your FMV opinion is wrong, you are not only subject to more tax, but also penalties. Here are a few tips to help defend your FMV in case of an audit. Properly document donations. Fair market value of non-cash charitable donations is an area that can easily be challenged by the IRS. Ensure your donated items are in good or better condition. Properly document the items donated and keep copies of published valuations from charities like the Salvation Army. Don’t forget to ask for a receipt confirming your donations. Get an appraisal. If you sell a major asset such as a small business, collections, art or capital asset, make sure you get an independent appraisal of the property first. While still open to interpretation by the IRS, this appraisal can be a solid basis for defending any differences between your valuation and the IRS. Keep pricing proof for similar items and transactions. This is especially important if you barter goods and services. If you have a copy of an advertisement for a similar item to the one you sold, it can readily support your FMV claim. Take photos and keep detailed records. The condition of an item is often a key consideration in establishing FMV. It is fair to assume an item has wear and tear when you sell or donate it. Visual documentation can be used to support your claimed amount. And keeping copies of invoices for major purchases is also a good idea. With proper planning, establishing FMV of an item can be done in a reasonably defendable way if ever challenged. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

TAX-LOSS HARVESTING TIPS

Posted by on Oct 4, 2017 in Investments, IRS, IRS Rules, Tax Tips | 0 comments

Though the markets have been up strongly this year, your investment portfolio may have a few lemons in it. By using the tax strategy of tax-loss harvesting, you may be able to turn those lemons into lemonade. Here are some tips: Tip #1: Separate short-term and long-term assets. Your assets can be divided into short-term and long-term buckets. Short-term assets are those you’ve held for a year or less, and their gains are taxed as ordinary income. Long-term assets are those held for more than a year, and their gains are taxed at the lower capital gains tax rate. A goal in tax-loss harvesting is to use losses to reduce short-term gains. Example: By selling stock in Alpha Inc., Sly Stocksale made a $10,000 profit. Sly only owned Alpha Inc. for six months, so his gain will be taxed at his ordinary income tax rate of 35 percent (versus 15 percent had he owned the stock more than a year). Sly looks into his portfolio and decides to sell another stock for a $10,000 loss, which he can apply against his Alpha Inc. short-term gain. Tip #2: Follow netting rules. Before you can use tax-loss harvesting, you have to follow IRS netting rules for your portfolio. Short-term losses must first offset short-term gains, while long-term losses offset long-term gains. Only after you net out each category can you use excess losses to offset other gains or ordinary income. Tip #3: Offset $3,000 in ordinary income. In addition to reducing capital gains tax, excess losses can also be used to offset $3,000 of ordinary income. If you still have excess losses after reducing both capital gains and $3,000 of ordinary income, you carry them forward to use in future tax years. Tip #4: Beware of wash sales. The IRS prohibits use of tax-loss harvesting if you buy a “substantially similar” asset within 30 days before or after selling it at a loss. So plan your sales and purchases to avoid this problem. Tip #5: Consider administrative costs. Tax-loss harvesting comes with costs in both transaction fees and time spent. One idea to reduce the hassle is to make tax-loss harvesting part your annual tax planning strategy. Remember, you can turn an investment loss into a tax advantage, but only if you know the rules. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

Your receipts are important: save them

Posted by on Oct 2, 2017 in Audit, Credits, Investments, IRS, IRS Rules, Tax Break, Tax Law, Tax Planning, Tax Tips | 0 comments

When it comes to taking qualified deductions on your federal tax return, three things must happen: Recognize that an expense might be deductible on your tax return. Keep a record of the expense in an organized fashion. Obtain the proper (and timely) documentation to support your deduction. This might be obvious to most people, but here are some typical areas where taxpayers often fall short. In the long run, these items could end up costing you plenty during tax filing season, and trigger IRS audits. Cash donations to charity. To deduct and support your deduction to a qualified charity you must have valid support. Donations of cash are no longer deductible if they are not supported by a canceled check or written acknowledgement from the charity. A donation deduction of $250 or more needs to be supported by documentation created at the time of the donation. A canceled check and bank statement are not sufficient. If you get audited, having the charity issue documentation after the fact may not be enough. Non-cash contributions. You need documentation for these donations as well. This includes a detailed list of items donated, the condition of the items and their estimated fair market values. While this level of detail is not required for small donations, keeping good records and taking photos is a good practice. Investment purchases and sales. If you bought or sold an investment you will need to know your cost basis. Today’s regulations require brokers to report to the IRS the cost basis of investment sales. Review your broker accounts and correct any errors. It’s very difficult to defend yourself in an audit when records reported to the IRS are in error. Copies of divorce decrees, alimony and child support agreements. There are often conflicts between two taxpayers taking the same child as a deduction. Do you have the necessary proof to defend your position? The same is true with alimony and child support. Keep these documents in a safe place and be ready to use them if necessary. Copies of financial transactions. Keep copies of documents from any major financial transaction. This includes real estate settlement statements, refinancing documents and any records of major purchases. These documents are necessary to ensure your cost basis in the property is properly recorded. The documents will also help identify any tax-related items like mortgage insurance, property taxes and possible sales tax paid. Mileage logs. Lack of tracking deductible miles is probably one of the most commonly overlooked documentation requirements. Properly recording charitable, medical and business miles can really add up to a large deduction. If the record is not available, the IRS is quick to disallow your deduction. If you are not sure whether a document is needed, retain it. Then you can always retrieve it if needed. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

Stay away from structuring

Posted by on Sep 29, 2017 in Banking, IRS, Money Management | 0 comments

If people manipulate cash transactions to avoid required bank reporting to the Treasury Department, they are using the technique of structuring their transactions. In an effort to identify questionable illegal transactions, financial institutions are required to report any monetary amounts over $10,000 to the Treasury Department. If someone knowingly structures transactions to avoid this reporting, the Bank Secrecy Act allows the IRS to legally seize these assets. The old rules provide fairly broad discretion in this area. Many innocent taxpayers not only had assets frozen, but found it virtually impossible to get their funds returned to them. Here are the most important aspects about structuring that will help you stay out of trouble: Be aware of the rule. As more small businesses try to avoid the high charges associated with credit cards, they must also be aware of the Bank Secrecy Act rules. Establish a good relationship with your banker and have them understand your business to help create a potential ally if needed. Do not knowingly try to avoid the $10,000 reporting rule. Be consistent with your numbers. Create a regular routine of sales deposits. Do not save up deposits and then deposit similar amounts. This could raise red flags. Understand the rules are changing. In a recent change, the IRS will still pursue structuring violations, but will try to more closely align action taken with knowledge of criminal activity. The government must show that the taxpayer knows of the rules and knowingly structures his or her transactions to avoid the reporting. Some people know structuring is illegal but do it anyway. Money laundering is a big problem. Whether for drug money, terrorist fundraising, bootlegging or other illegal activity, excess cash deposits will raise suspicions. So while the IRS uses its tools to catch people acting illegally, it is making an attempt to keep innocent taxpayers out of its net. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WHEN DEBT COLLECTORS CALL

Posted by on Sep 27, 2017 in Uncategorized | 0 comments

At some point you may be on the receiving end of a debt collection phone call. It could happen any time you are behind on paying your bills or when there is an error in billing. In the U.S. there are strict rules in place that forbid any kind of harassment. If you know your rights, you can deal with debt collection with minimum hassle. Here are some suggestions. Ask for non-threatening transparency. When a debt collector calls, they must be transparent about who they are. The magic words they must utter are: “This is an attempt to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose.” In addition, debt collectors cannot use abusive or threatening language, or threaten you with fines or jail time. The most a debt collector can truthfully threaten you with is that failure to pay will harm your credit rating, or that they may sue you in a civil court to extract payment. Know the contact rules. Debt collectors may not contact you outside of “normal” hours, which is between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time. They may try to call you at work, but they must stop if you tell them that you cannot receive calls there. Debt collectors may not talk to anyone else about your debt (other than your attorney, if you have one), but they may try contacting other people, such as relatives, neighbors or employers. This must be solely for the purpose of trying to find out your phone number, address or where you work. Take action. If you believe the debt is in error in whole or in part, you can send a dispute letter to the collection agency within 30 days of first contact. Ask the collector for their mailing address and let them know you are filing a dispute. They will have to cease all collection activities until they send you legal documentation verifying the debt. Tell them to stop. And, whether you dispute the debt or not, at any time you can send a “cease letter” to the collection agency telling them to stop making contact. You don’t need to provide a specific reason. They will have to stop contact after this point, though they may still decide to pursue legal options in civil court. If a debt collection agency is not following these rules, report them. Start with your state’s attorney general office, and consider filing a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as well. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

The tax benefits of staying single

Posted by on Sep 26, 2017 in IRS Rules, Tax Law, Tax Planning, Tax Tips | 0 comments

Have you ever heard of the marriage penalty? It means you could be taxed more as a married couple than you would as single people making the same amount of money. This is because single filers almost always have higher income thresholds when moving to higher tax brackets. Personal exemptions and itemized deductions can also phase out more quickly for married couples than for single filers. The marriage penalty might not be a reason to skip matrimony, but it could motivate you to find out more about how taxes may change for you and yours. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more

Is your hobby actually a business?

Posted by on Sep 22, 2017 in Business Tips, IRS | 0 comments

If you invest a ton of personal time and effort into your hobby, plus you have multiple customers and keep professional records, your hobby might actually be a business. Turning your hobby into a business means you can deduct qualified business expenses. But that’s only if you do it right. The IRS has certain criteria that must be met, or your hobby-turned-business could be challenged. Give us a call to find out more. Gilliland & Associates, PC is a full-service CPA firm specializing in tax planning for individuals and businesses in the Northern Virginia area. We are based in Falls Church, VA and also service clients in McLean and Tysons Corner, VA. Gilliland & Associates is known for our superior knowledge and aggressive interpretation and application of tax laws. We help you keep more of your earnings by finding you the lowest possible tax on your business or personal tax return. You can connect with us on Google+, LinkedIn, Facebook, and...

read more