Top 10 Tips to Know if You Get a Letter from the IRS

irs-building1Here are the top 10 tips you want to know if you get a letter from the IRS directly from the IRS:

The IRS mails millions of notices and letters to taxpayers each year. There are a variety of reasons why we might send you a notice. Here are the top 10 tips to know in case you get one.

1. Don’t panic. You often can take care of a notice simply by responding to it.

2. An IRS notice typically will be about your federal tax return or tax account. It will be about a specific issue, such as changes to your account. It may ask you for more information. It could also explain that you owe tax and that you need to pay the amount that is due.

3. Each notice has specific instructions, so read it carefully. It will tell you what you need to do.

4. You may get a notice that states the IRS has made a change or correction to your tax return. If you do, review the information and compare it with your original return.

5. If you agree with the notice, you usually don’t need to reply unless it gives you other instructions or you need to make a payment.

6. If you do not agree with the notice, it’s important for you to respond. You should write a letter to explain why you disagree. Include any information and documents you want the IRS to consider. Mail your reply with the bottom tear-off portion of the notice. Send it to the address shown in the upper left-hand corner of the notice. Allow at least 30 days for a response.

7. You won’t need to call the IRS or visit an IRS office for most notices. If you do have questions, call the phone number in the upper right-hand corner of the notice. Have a copy of your tax return and the notice with you when you call. This will help the IRS answer your questions.

8. Always keep copies of any notices you receive with your other tax records.

9. Be alert for tax scams. The IRS sends letters and notices by mail. The IRS does not contact people by email or social media to ask for personal or financial information.

10. For more on this topic visit IRS.gov. Click on the link ‘Responding to a Notice’ at the bottom left of the home page. Also, see Publication 594, The IRS Collection Process. You can get it on IRS.gov/forms at any time.

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Helpful IRS Video on How to Avoid Tax Scams

Here is a helpful video from the IRS on how to avoid tax scams this season.

 

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Average Tax Prep Fee Inches Up to $273 (REPOST FROM ACCOUNTING TODAY)

REPOST FROM ACCOUNTING TODAY:
WASHINGTON, D.C. (JANUARY 14, 2015)

The average fee for preparing a tax return, including an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return, will increase a few dollars to $273 this year, a 4.6 percent increase over the average fee of $261 last year, according to a survey by the National Society of Accountants.

The figure also represents an 11 percent increase from two years ago when the survey was conducted.

The average cost to prepare a Form 1040 and state return this season without itemized deductions is expected to be $159, also a 4.6 percent increase over the average fee last year, which was $152. It is an 11.2 percent increase from two years ago.

“When you consider that it takes the average taxpayer five hours to complete a tax return, this is a very strong value,” said NSA executive vice president John Ams in a statement. “The tax code continues to become more complex each year, including some new Affordable Care Act reporting requirements. Professional tax preparers may also be able to find tax deductions and credits that may taxpayers might not notice.”

The NSA collected the fee information during a survey of preparers. The tax and accounting firms surveyed are owners, principals, and partners of local “Main Street” tax and accounting practices who have an average of more than 27 years of experience.

NSA member tax preparers typically hold multiple credentials that demonstrate their expertise, including Enrolled Agent, CPA, Accredited Tax Preparer, Accredited Tax Advisor, and others.

The survey also reported the average fees for preparing additional Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax forms, including $174 for a Form 1040 Schedule C (business), $634 for a Form 1065 (partnership), $817 for a Form 1120 (corporation), $778 for a Form 1120S (S corporation), $457 for a Form 1041 (fiduciary), $688 for a Form 990 (tax exempt), $68 for a Form 940 (Federal unemployment), $115 for Schedule D (gains and losses), $126 for Schedule E (rental) and $158 for Schedule F (farm).

The NSA noted that the fees vary by region, firm size, population, and economic strength of an area.

The average tax preparation fee for an itemized Form 1040 with Schedule A and a state tax return in each U.S. census district are:

•    New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT) – $246
•    Middle Atlantic (NJ, NY, PA) – $314
•    South Atlantic (DE, DC, FL, GA, MD, NC, SC, VA, WV) – $268
•    East South Central (AL, KY, MS, TN) – $262
•    West South Central (AR, LA, OK, TX) – $205
•    East North Central (IL, IN, MI, OH, WI) – $240
•    West North Central (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD) – $198
•    Mountain (AZ, CO, ID, MT, NV, NM, UT, WY) – $256
•    Pacific (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA) – $348

Most accounting firms offer prospective clients a free consultation, the NSA pointed out, which can be worth well over $100 based on the hourly fees of most tax preparers.

All the fees cited assume a taxpayer has gathered and organized all the necessary information.

Taxpayers should also make sure they provide information on time to avoid additional fees, the NSA noted. Many tax preparers will charge an average fee of $114 for dealing with disorganized or incomplete files.

Some will charge an average fee of $42 to file an extension, an average fee of $88 to expedite a return, and an average fee of $93 if information is not provided in advance of an agreed-upon deadline. For taxpayers who are audited by the IRS, the average hourly fee to handle the audit is $144.

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Alleviate Audit Anxiety

IRS4Internal Revenue Service tax audits can be complicated and time-consuming, but the right tax preparation can make them less stressful. Taxpayers facing an audit should remember these five things:

1. Seek Professional Help

Upon receiving an IRS audit notification, taxpayers should meet with their tax professional to discuss what the audit notification means, what is being requested and what records are needed.
2. Seek Representation

Correspondence audits are handled via mail, field audits have auditors visit a home or business in question, and office audits require taxpayers to report to an IRS office. Depending on the type of audit and individual situation, taxpayers may represent themselves or seek assistance from a certified public accountant, lawyer or enrolled agent. Enrolled agents are federally authorized tax practitioners empowered to represent taxpayers before the IRS.

3. Organize

Ideally, taxpayers should keep complete, organized financial records for the past seven years. Gather all receipts, checks and other records relevant to the audit. Be thorough; having the records the IRS requests readily available will help the audit go more smoothly.

4. Be Concise

Taxpayers should only give the auditor copies of documents the IRS specifically requests and answer all questions honestly. Do not volunteer information that is not requested.

5. Appeal

If taxpayers disagree with auditors’ findings, they can file an appeal with the IRS. Appeal options include meeting with the auditor’s supervisor, or filing an administrative appeal to the U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Claims Court or the local U.S. District Court.
Of course, the best audit is the one that doesn’t happen. To lessen the likelihood of being audited, taxpayers should report all income and only claim credits and deductions they are entitled.

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