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IRS Warns of Back to School Scams

Issue Number:  IR-2016-107

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers against telephone scammers targeting students and parents during the back-to-school season and demanding payments for non-existent taxes, such as the “Federal Student Tax.”

People should be on the lookout for IRS impersonators calling students and demanding that they wire money immediately to pay a fake “federal student tax.” If the person does not comply, the scammer becomes aggressive and threatens to report the student to the police to be arrested. As schools around the nation prepare to re-open, it is important for taxpayers to be particularly aware of this scheme going after students and parents.

“Although variations of the IRS impersonation scam continue year-round, they tend to peak when scammers find prime opportunities to strike”, said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “As students and parents enter the new school year, they should remain alert to bogus calls, including those demanding fake tax payments from students.”

The IRS encourages college and school communities to share this information so that students, parents and their families are aware of these scams.

Scammers are constantly identifying new tactics to carry out their crimes in new and unsuspecting ways. This year, the IRS has seen scammers use a variety of schemes to fool taxpayers into paying money or giving up personal information. Some of these include:

  • Altering the caller ID on incoming phone calls in a “spoofing” attempt to make it seem like the IRS, the local police or another agency is calling
  • Demanding fake tax payments using iTunes gift cards–IR-2016-99
  • Soliciting W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals–IR-2016-34
  • “Verifying” tax return information over the phone–IR-2016-40
  • Pretending to be from the tax preparation industry–IR-2016-28

If you receive an unexpected call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here are some of the telltale signs to help protect yourself.

The IRS Will Never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

If you get a suspicious phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and asking for money, here’s what you should do:

  • Do not give out any information. Hang up immediately.
  • Search the web for telephone numbers scammers leave in your voicemail asking you to call back. Some of the phone numbers may be published online and linked to criminal activity.
  • Contact TIGTA to report the call. Use their “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting” web page or call 800-366-4484.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission. Use the “FTC Complaint Assistant” on FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.
  • If you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS directly at 800-829-1040.

 

Relationship Building

Attending conferences throughout the country gives me so much insight as to how unique of a business relationship I have built with my clients.

I always ask my industry colleagues at conferences 2 questions:

  1. What do you do to add value to your client?
    1. Most CPA’s rattle off offering tax advice, preparing the return accurately the first time, and helping clients with life transitions that impact the tax return.
    2. My response
      1. The normal CPA response is just an everyday expectation for me and my clients.
      2. Just within the past 3 months I’ve invited serious small business clients to attend an one hour session with a nationally success coach AND held a luncheon for my retired seniors to chat, play games, and enjoy a lunch.
      3. Every month I invite 2 – 7 clients out for coffee, lunch, or dessert
      4. Every week I put 7 cards in the mail – birthdays, anniversaries, house purchase or just a note of thanks.
  2. How do you fee for time?
    1. Most CPA’s answer is ‘anytime we communicate, it’s billable time.’ Communicate? Yes, that includes phone calls, emails, texts, and face to face.
    2. the bmp, CPA way is I don’t fee out unless I have to look at calculated details of your situation.
      1. No fee for quick phone questions
      2. No fee for time and knowledge spent on responding to emails
      3. No fee for quick text replies on random tax impacting events

Relationship building techniques that are the two primary ways we’ve made bmp, CPA different than the rest. Being different is a SUPERB feeling and I’m so thankful that you’ve allowed me to ‘different than the norm’ for you!

If you have a friend, family member, or co-worker that is ready to join our ‘different than the rest’ team, please pass my information on to them. I would love to share this experience with them!

 

Brooke Pettengill, CPA

www.bmp-cpa.com

brooke@bmp-cpa.com

Back to School Tax Tips

Donations to your kid’s school

If you make annual donations to your kid’s public school, then you may be able to deduct the donation amount from your taxable income. If your donation of money or equipment is for the benefit of all students or a group of students, then it potentially qualifies as a charitable donation. For example, if you contribute to a fund to buy sports uniforms for the entire soccer team, then it can be considered tax-deductible.

On the other hand, anything bought directly for your child is not deductible. For instance, the purchase of school uniforms or new athletic shoes for your child cannot be used as a write-off.

After-school activities and the child care credit

Many children attend back-to-school programs, and your child’s program may qualify for the child care credit if it meets certain criteria.

  1. child must be attending the program so that you can work, look for work, or go to school.
  2. The program must also be considered “child care,” so hour-long tutoring sessions don’t qualify.
  3. the credit is only available if your child is under 13 years old.

The child care credit is worth between 20% and 35% of the first $3,000 in qualifying expenses for one child, or $6,000 for more than one child, depending on your income.

It’s also worth mentioning that tuition at the kindergarten level or above never qualifies for a child care credit for federal tax purposes.

It’s never too early to start thinking ahead

Two great options for college saving are a 529 savings plan and a Coverdell ESA (education savings account).

529 savings plans are run by the states and are similar to 401(k)s as far as investment options go. Depending on your plan, you can choose from a selection of mutual funds, including stock- and bond-based options, as well as target-date funds, which gradually reduce investment risk as your child gets closer to college age. Contribution limits are high; many 529 plans allow for balances of up to $400,000. Limited contributions to Iowa 539 College Savings Plans are deductible on the Iowa tax return.

Coverdell ESAs are a little different. Contributions are limited to $2,000 per year, but you have a much wider variety of investment options. In fact, in a Coverdell, you can invest in any stocks, bonds, or mutual funds you’d like. Plus, Coverdell funds aren’t limited to college expenses — you can use the account for any level of education.

As far as tax advantages go, both plans work like a Roth IRA: Contributions are not federally tax-deductible, but any withdrawals used for qualified education expenses are 100% tax-free.

For exact impact on your tax return, call Brooke at 319-239-9903 for tax planning!

**New** Services: Notary and Budgeting

Well, not entirely new. They just have more demand than ever before!

I became a notary public in 2012. In the past 30 days I have notarized I-9 forms, credit card fraud statements, divorce agreements, legal judgements, and financial documents.

If you are in need of a notary, I am available most days, evenings, and weekends making it easy to meet the notary requirement on your important documents.

My budgeting services continue to be offered! I’ve worked with several successful folks that had debt, couldn’t control their money therefore living paycheck to paycheck, and was frightened because the hole was quite deep. They were right, the hole was deep but after understanding their spending triggers, needs vs wants, and a way to trim the fat by being a cash basis consumer with a monthly/weekly budget, life got much easier.

We focus on creating an emergency plan, setting aside 3-6 months of living expenses, and paying off debt with a quick effective plan.

Contact me today to start your budget success. brooke@bmp-cpa.com or 319.239.9903

Happy savings!

Change in Hours

Now that tax season is behind most of us, bmp, CPA will change to non-tax season hours.

Monday – Thursday by appointment only.

Only tax planning and budgeting clients will be accepted on Friday, Saturday, and/or Sunday by appointment only.

You may reach Brooke at brooke@bmp-cpa.com or 319.239.9903.

Simplifying the Complex,

Brooke Pettengill, CPA

Schedule Tax Appointment Today!

Wow! That mailbox is starting to fill up with envelopes with the ever famous blue print ‘IMPORTANT TAX DOCUMENTS ENCLOSED.’

Don’t throw them away. Start a folder and shove it all in that folder as they arrive. Around February 10th sort through all of them and sit down with your tax organizer to prepare for your tax appointment.

Schedule your appointment online at wwww.bmp-cpa.com/schedule! Evenings and Saturday appointments go quick! Book today!

Leadership and Oranges…

And he talks about taking time to plan — “Success is not dependent on education, family status or luck,” he writes, reminding us of that representative can of oranges — and to think – See more at: http://thegazette.com/2013/09/08/on-topic-tips-on-leadership-and-oranges/#sthash.7BxVXxqH.dpuf
Fantastic article!

bmp, CPA office Closed Aug 8th – August 21st

Brooke will have no access to internet, email, phone, or text during this time. Please hold your concerns until she returns. If necessary, email her at brooke@bmp-cpa.com and she will respond to your concerns upon her return.

Thank you and enjoy your summer!

Fall Seminar set for October 9th. ONLY 3 SPOTS REMAINING! RSVP Now!

The Must Know’s:

 Probate, Estates, Wills, and Living Testaments.

 

Planning for vacations, graduations, weddings, grandchildren and accomplishing your own ‘bucket list’ always gets highest priority. But planning for the serious stuff often gets put on the back burner –what happens to your real estate, bank account, certificates of deposit, IRA’s, mutual funds, 401k’s when you:

  • Divorce
  • Or your spouse pass away
  • Get married or re-marry
  • Give birth or adopt
  • Move to a different state
  • Have real property in a state other than your home state
  • Have a death of a beneficiary listed in your will
  • Experience major changes in income or asset value
  • Inherit assets

 

Complementary seminar presented by Matthew J. Kriegel

of Eells & Tronvold Law Offices, PLC

 

Seminar Topic Include:

  • The Iowa Probate Process
  • Last Will and Testament
  • Revocable Living Trust
  • Assets with Beneficiaries Already Listed
  • Joint Tenancy of Real Estate
  • Estate Tax
  • Estimate of General Fee Range
  • Q & A session

Seminar Details:

Who : You and your guest
When:  Wednesday October 9th, at 6:00pm
Where: Kava House Café. 122 2nd St. Swisher, IA
Why: You NEEDthis information
RSVP Required. RSVP to brooke@bmp-cpa.com or 319.239.9903 Seminar will be limited to 20 attendees. RSVP today!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

**I often hear age as a reason to avoid future planning but rest assured AGE does not matter. People of all ages should attend.

 

IRS Accidentally Exposed Tens of Thousands of Social Security Numbers

The Internal Revenue Service has reportedly posted the Social Security numbers of tens of thousands of people on the Internet before taking down the information when a whistleblower pointed out the mistake.

The Web site Public.Resource.org, which specializes in posting government documents in the public domain, discovered the privacy breach and promptly alerted the IRS, as well as the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

Public.Resource.Org founder Carl Malamud said in a statement that his organization found the IRS had posted a database containing the filings of Section 527 political organizations such as campaign committees. “This Section 527 database is an essential tool used by journalists, watchdog groups, congressional staffers and citizens,” he wrote. “While the public posting of this database serves a vital public purpose (and this database must be restored as quickly as possible), the failure to remove individual Social Security Numbers is an extraordinarily reckless act.”

Click here for full article.