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Avoiding an IRS Tax Audit

Posted on March 31st, 2021

Marianne Kern, CPA
Owner, President
Kern & Associates CPA, P.A.

Just 0.45 percent of taxpayers were audited in fiscal year 2019. Still, with taxes becoming more complicated every year, there is an even greater possibility of confusion turning into a tax mistake and an IRS audit. Avoiding “red flags” like the ones listed below could help.

Red Flags That Trigger IRS Audits

  • Claiming Business Losses Year After Year
    When you operate a business and file Schedule C, the IRS assumes you operate that business to make a profit. Claiming losses year after year without any profit raises a red flag with the IRS.
  • Failing to Report Form 1099 Income
    Resist the temptation to underreport your income if you are self-employed or have a second job. The IRS receives the same 1099 forms that you do, and even if you didn’t receive a Form 1099 when you think you should have, you can’t be sure the IRS didn’t either. If the IRS finds a mismatch, you are sure to hear about it.
  • Early Withdrawals From a Retirement Account
    In general, if you withdraw money from a retirement account before age 59 1/2, you will need to pay a 10 percent penalty. You will also owe income tax on the amount withdrawn unless you qualify for an exception. Sometimes – but not always – these types of early withdrawals trigger an audit, typically a correspondence audit where the IRS sends you a letter.
  • Excessive Business Expense Deductions
    Too many deductions for your income and type of business, claiming 100 percent use of a car for business, and inflating business meals, travel, and entertainment expenses are examples of excessive business expenses that could raise a red flag. Always save receipts and document your mileage and expenses.
  • Overestimating Charitable Deductions
    Taxpayers that don’t itemize can take an above-the-line deduction for charitable contributions made in tax year 2020 on their tax returns of up to $300 for qualified charitable cash donations that reduce taxable income. The maximum amount for 2020 tax returns is $300 (i.e., not $600), even if you are married filing jointly.

    For taxpayers that do itemize, taking disproportionately large deductions as compared to your income could raise a red flag. The IRS keeps records of average charitable donation at various income levels, and even if you inherited a large sum of money and want to donate it to charity, there’s a chance you could get audited.

  • Failing to Report Winnings or Claiming Big Losses
    Professional gamblers report winnings/losses on Schedule C, Profit or Loss from Business (Sole Proprietorship). They can also deduct costs related to their profession, such as lodging and meals, for example. Gambling winnings are reported on Form W-2G, which is sent to the IRS. As such, you must report this income. You may deduct gambling losses, but you must itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040) and keep a record of your winnings and losses. Ordinary taxpayers (recreational gamblers) report income/losses as “Other Income” on Schedule 1 of their Form 1040 tax return.

What To Do if You Are Audited

If you’ve received correspondence from the IRS in the U.S. mail that indicates that you are being audited, don’t try to handle it yourself. Instead, contact the office immediately for assistance.

Taxpayers who have been audited or otherwise interacted with the IRS should know that they have the right to know when the IRS has finished the audit. The right to finality is one of ten basic taxpayer rights – known collectively as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. All taxpayers dealing with the IRS are entitled to these rights.

 

 


Small Business Tax Roundup

Posted on March 24th, 2021

Marianne Kern, CPA
Owner, President
Kern & Associates CPA, P.A.

Tax changes due to recent legislation such as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act and the CARES Act affect both individual taxpayers and small businesses. In 2020, the IRS issued several guidance documents and final rules and regulations that clarified several tax provisions affecting businesses. Here are five of them:

PPP Expenses Now Deductible

Deductions for the payments of eligible expenses are now allowed when such payments would result (or be expected to result) in the forgiveness of a loan (covered loan) under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Previous IRS guidance disallowed deductions for the payment of eligible expenses when the payments resulted (or could be expected to result) in forgiveness of a covered loan.

The COVID-related Tax Relief Act of 2020 amended the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) to say that no deduction is denied and no tax attribute is reduced. Furthermore, no basis increase is denied because of the exclusion from gross income of the forgiveness of an eligible recipient’s covered loan. This change applies to taxable years ending after March 27, 2020.

Meals and Entertainment

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) eliminated the deduction for any expenses related to activities generally considered entertainment, amusement, or recreation for tax years after 2017. While taxpayers may still deduct business expenses related to food and beverages as long as certain requirements are met, certain questions remained.

Recent IRS regulations provided clarification for several of these issues: disallowance of the deduction for expenditures related to entertainment, amusement, or recreation activities, and including the applicability of certain exceptions to this disallowance. The regulations also provide guidance to determine whether an activity is considered entertainment. The final regulations also address the limitation on the deduction of food and beverage expenses.

Like-kind Exchanges of Real Property

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) limited like-kind exchange treatment to exchanges of real property. As such, effective January 1, 2018, exchanges of personal or intangible property such as vehicles, artwork, collectibles, patents, and other intellectual property generally do not qualify for nonrecognition of gain as like-kind exchanges.

Furthermore, like-kind exchange treatment applies only to exchanges of real property held for use in a trade or business or for investment. An exchange of real property held primarily for sale does not qualify as a like-kind exchange.

Under the IRS’s final regulations, real property includes land and generally anything permanently built on or attached to land. In general, it also includes property that is characterized as real property under applicable State or local law. Certain intangible property, such as leaseholds or easements, also qualify as real property under section 1031.

Property not eligible for like-kind exchange treatment prior to the enactment of the TCJA remains ineligible. Neither the TCJA nor the final regulations change whether the properties exchanged are of like kind.

Qualified Transportation Fringe and Commuting Expenses

The 2017 TCJA generally disallows deductions for qualified transportation fringe (QTF) expenses and does not allow deductions for certain expenses of transportation and commuting between an employee’s residence and place of employment.

Final regulations address the disallowance of the deduction for expenses related to QTFs provided to an employee of the taxpayer, including providing guidance and methodologies to determine the amount of QTF parking expenses that is nondeductible. The final regulations also address the disallowance of the deduction for expenses of transportation and commuting between an employee’s residence and place of employment.

Relief for Developers of Offshore Renewable Energy Projects

Renewable energy projects constructed offshore or on federal land are ordinarily subject to significant delays that can result in project completion times of up to twice as long as other renewable energy projects. These delays threaten taxpayers’ ability to satisfy requirements to claim the production tax credit and the investment tax credit.

To address this hurdle, the Treasury Department and the IRS have determined that it is necessary to extend the safe harbor period to up to 10 calendar years after the year in which construction of the project began.

The extension of the safe harbor for these projects provides flexibility for taxpayers constructing renewable energy projects offshore or on federal land to satisfy the beginning of construction requirements despite ordinary course delays that threaten their ability to claim tax credits.