Banking

The Equifax breach and you: be proactive

Posted on Nov 2, 2017

Earlier this year, hackers were able to breach the security of Equifax, one of the three national credit reporting agencies. More than 143 million Americans – nearly half the entire country – were exposed to the attack, and may have had their personal information stolen (including names and birthdates, and Social Security and driver’s license numbers). Equifax is still determining exactly whose data has been exposed. While you wait to find out, it’s worth taking a few proactive steps to make sure your info isn’t misused by hackers. 1. Start checking. Visit Equifax’s website at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and enter your last name and last six digits of your Social Security number. The site will tell you whether it’s likely or not your data has been exposed, and put you on a list to get more information. You can also sign up for a year’s worth of free credit monitoring. 2. Watch your statements. Start checking your credit card statements, and pay special attention to cards you don’t use often. The initial reports from the breach were that hackers may have been making charges on underused cards. 3. Check your credit reports. You can look for suspicious items on your reports, such as new accounts being opened in your name, at all three credit report agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Free annual reports are available at www.annualcreditreport.com. You may want to stagger your use of the reports to one from each agency every four months. More frequent checks will cost you a small fee. 4. Freeze your credit. If you suspect you may become a victim of identity theft, you can place a credit freeze on your profile at each of the three credit reporting agencies. This stops new accounts from being opened in your name. Note that you’ll have to unfreeze your accounts if you want to apply for new loans or make your credit accessible for things such as job applications. 5. File your taxes early. One of the most common ways identity thieves use your information is to try to claim a tax refund with your data. This was the most common scam in 2016, according to the Better Business Bureau. If you file your tax return as early as possible, you shut down this opportunity for any would-be thieves. 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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Stay away from structuring

Posted on Sep 29, 2017

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...

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