Audit

The best way to avoid an audit: Preparation

Posted on Jan 24, 2018

Getting audited by the IRS is no fun. Some taxpayers are selected for random audits every year, but the chances of that happening to you are very small. You are much more likely to fall under the IRS’s gaze if you make one of several common mistakes. That means your best chance of avoiding an audit is by doing things right before you file your return this year. Here are some suggestions: Don’t leave anything out. Missing or incomplete information on your return will trigger an audit letter automatically, since the IRS gets copies of the same tax forms (such as W-2s and 1099s) that you do. Double-check your numbers. Bad math will get you audited. People often make calculation errors when they do their returns, especially if they do them without assistance. In 2016, the IRS sent out more than 1.6 million examination letters correcting math errors. The most frequent errors occurred in people’s calculation of their amount of tax due, as well as the number of exemptions and deductions they claimed. Don’t stand out. The IRS takes a closer look at business expenses, charitable donations and high-value itemized deductions. IRS computers reference statistical data on which amounts of these items are typical for various professions and income levels. If what you are claiming is significantly different from what is typical, it may be flagged for review. Have your documentation in order. Keep your records in order by being meticulous about your recordkeeping. Items that will support the tax breaks you take include: cancelled checks, receipts, credit card and investment statements, logs for mileage and business meals, and proof of charitable donations. With proper documentation, a correspondence letter from the IRS inquiring about a particular deduction can be quickly resolved before it turns into a full-blown audit. Remember, the average person has a less than 1 percent chance of being audited. If you prepare now, you can narrow your audit chances even further and rest easy after you’ve filed. 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...

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

Posted on Oct 6, 2017

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...

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Your receipts are important: save them

Posted on Oct 2, 2017

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...

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Avoid These Common Tax Mistakes

Posted on Sep 24, 2017

There are nearly 1,000 different tax forms used by the IRS to report tax obligations. It’s no wonder the IRS faces thousands of tax returns with errors each year. Here are some of the most common: Wrong names and Social Security numbers. Taxpayers regularly make mistakes by entering incorrect information for their spouses and dependents. If you recently married or divorced but haven’t yet changed your name with the Social Security Administration, you’ll need to file under your old name. Errors in age and birthdate. Much of the tax code is based on age. Without the correct birthdate, your eligibility for tax benefits could be cast in doubt. Incorrect bank account numbers. If you’re expecting a refund and want to have it direct deposited into your account, double-check your routing and account numbers. The IRS may catch most errors, but many are often missed. Once your refund is deposited in the wrong bank account, it’s very difficult to get it fixed. Overlooking online donations. Many people forget about emailed receipts at tax time. Catch missing deductions by searching your email inbox for keywords such as “gift” or “donation” before you file. Missing forms. Taxpayers can miss dividend, interest and brokerage forms (Form 1099s) they get from their banks and investment accounts. These potential missing forms now also include Form 1095, proof of health insurance. If a form is missing, it may cost you extra tax, penalties and interest. Not signing the return. Don’t forget to sign your return! The IRS won’t accept an unsigned return, and many people forget this last step. An unsigned tax return is the same thing as not filing in the eyes of the IRS. You not only face penalties and fines, but your tax return is open for audit...

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Keep your audit fears in check

Posted on Jun 20, 2017

Getting audited by the IRS is no fun. However, your chances of being audited are probably lower than you think. A look at the latest IRS statistics for 2016 reveals some interesting and reassuring facts about the risk of an IRS audit. Audits are becoming less common. The number of individual tax returns the IRS audited fell to a 12-year low last year, to just above 1 million. Audits have been steeply declining over the last five years, which the IRS commissioner said was due in part to declining budgets and a smaller workforce. Audits target the rich. It’s a fact: IRS audits target the super-rich. The statistical chance of being audited increases dramatically for people of higher income levels. Missing data can get you audited. High income isn’t the only thing that gets you audited. Any missing data on your return can also trigger an audit. Standing out gets you audited. The IRS takes a close look at business expenses, charitable donations, and high-value itemized deductions. They have statistical data on what amounts are typical for various professions and income levels. If your return stands out from what is “normal,” it may be flagged for review by the agency’s computer system. More audits are done by mail. If you face an audit, most likely it will be done by mail. Only about one in four IRS audits are field audits conducted in person by an IRS agent. The most common issues, such as math errors or missing data, are done through mail correspondence. If your issues are more complicated, you may face a field audit – and you may owe more to the IRS. The average field audit recommended the individual pay an additional tax of nearly $19,000, while the average correspondence audit recommended a payment of less than $7,000. Most audits end up costing you. You can fight the tax law, but the tax law usually wins. Most people audited by the IRS end up owing additional tax. Only 11 percent of correspondence audits and 8 percent of field audits concluded with a “no change” finding in favor of the...

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KEEP YOUR AUDIT FEARS IN CHECK

Posted on Jun 16, 2017

Your chances of being audited are probably lower than you think. A look at the latest IRS statistics for 2016 reveals some interesting and reassuring facts about the risk of an IRS audit. Audits are becoming less common. The number of individual tax returns the IRS audited fell to a 12-year low last year, to just above 1 million. Audits have been declining steeply over the last five years, which the IRS commissioner said was due in part to declining budgets and a smaller workforce. Audits target the rich. It’s a fact: IRS audits happen most often to the super-rich. The statistical chance of being audited increases dramatically for people of higher income levels. Missing data gets you audited. High income isn’t the only thing that gets you audited. Any missing data on your return can also trigger an audit, since the IRS usually receives a copy of the same tax forms you get every year. Standing out gets you audited. The IRS takes a close look at business expenses, charitable donations, and high-value itemized deductions. They have statistical data on what amounts are typical for various professions and income levels. If your return stands out from what is “normal,” it may be flagged for review by the agency’s computer system. More audits are done by mail. If you face an audit, it’s most likely that it will be done by mail. Only about one in four IRS audits are field audits conducted in person by an IRS agent. The most common issues, such as math errors or missing data, are done through mail correspondence. Most audits end up costing you. You can fight the tax law, but the tax law usually wins. Most people audited by the IRS end up owing additional tax. Only 11 percent of correspondence audits and 8 percent of field audits concluded with a “no change” finding in favor of the taxpayer. 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...

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