It is important at the end of the year to start thinking about next year’s tax situation.  While it is likely too late in the year to fix any issues you had in 2018 with your withholding or estimated tax payments; but it is never too early to get your situation fixed going into 2019. 

Analyze Your Situation 

If you are expecting similar income in 2019 compared to what you have earned in 2018 then you have a good starting point in determining what you need to do with your 2019 tax payments. Going online to a withholding calculator, like the one the Internal Revenue Service offers, right now can show you what type of refund or balance you can expect for your 2018 tax return. Usually, it is not as in depth as going to accountant to get your taxes prepared; but, it can give you a good estimate as to what you are looking for. 

Dealing With Refunds

If you are showing a major refund that is good news.  There are two ways to go with this information for 2019.  You can either keep things as they are and likely get another refund in 2020 for your 2019 tax year.  You could also change your withholding to lower what your refund would be; but, you would see the money in your paycheck every pay period. Just make sure to be careful you are not expecting a change to your 2019 taxes, such as no longer being able to claim a child or decrease in mortgage interest from selling a home (and not purchasing a new one).

A lot of people love getting all that money back in the spring time.  Some use it as a vacation fund that they cannot touch (because the money stays with the government until you file your return).  Others use their refund to pay off those holiday season credit card bills.  Still others use their refunds as a way to get that big-ticket purchase that they have been putting off. 

Others will look at getting a huge refund and think, why should the government get to hold my money during the year?  They can use a withholding calculator to determine the minimum that they would have to pay in during the year to maximize how much they take home every pay period.   Most calculators will advise you to withhold at a level that keeps your withholding at the point where you either get a $100.00 refund or will owe $100.00. 

People can use that extra money each pay period to catch upon bills throughout the year, start saving for a vacation, or starting a retirement account.  One reason why putting the money into a long term investment is a good idea is that it can help with lower your total taxable liability for that year.  It can also get rid of the temptation to dive into that fund for random things through the year.  This goes back to people who don’t mind having the government hold onto the over withholding, it serves has a no interest savings account that they cannot access.  In order to get that savings account back you must file your return.  You are only entitled to the three most recent years of refunds, if you do not file on time. 

Handling Tax Liabilities

On the other side, are those who have not been withholding enough taxes throughout the year.  Those individuals need to make the proper corrections so that they do not continue to owe taxes year after year.  The biggest issue most people have once they owe for one year is that they do not take the necessary steps to correct the underlining issue and the taxes owed for previous years can snowball on them to the point they do not know what to do. 

If you are expecting to owe for 2018, first thing to do is to figure out the issue that is causing you to owe. One common problem is under-withholding from your wages is causing the problem. If this is the issue, then provide an updated W4 form to your employer as soon as possible so that your withholding can be in the proper place at the start of the new year. Another one of the most common problems we see are self-employed individuals that did not make enough estimated tax payments for 2018. If this applies to you, then you need to start preparing for 2019 taxes now. 

Self-Employed Individuals or Business Owners

The first step would be to develop a business budget tracker.  Most self-employed individuals just do not keep good records of what is a business expense and what is a personal expense.  Keep these records can help determine what your actual net income is. Your net income is the key factor in determining what your tax liability is. If you keep a solid spreadsheet of your gross income minus business expenses you can then figure out how much of your net income should be set aside to make quarterly estimated tax payments. 

The IRS requires that if you owe more than $1,000.00 in self-employment tax for one year, the next year you are required to make estimated tax payments.  If you do not make those payments during the year, when you go file your return, and there is another balance, you may have additional penalties for not pre-paying your tax. 

We try to advise self-employed clients to look very closely at their business and personal budgets to figure out where they can make up the difference to pay their taxes going forward. For many, it’s a lot of tough decisions on their personal side. You often have to make the conscientious effort to set aside the potential tax payment every month or quarter.  For others, they realize that being self-employed is too much of a hassle and go find work as a wage earner.  It is possible to be self-employed, make good money, and be responsible with your tax obligation.  It isn’t the easiest thing, but it can be done.

Arthur Rosatti, Esq. is a licensed attorney authorized to represent clients with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Tax Court. He has experience negotiating with various taxing agencies on behalf of individuals and companies.  If you have concerns about your tax liabilities, making estimated tax payments, or correcting your withholding, schedule an appointment with our office.

Calculating tax

Tax Penalties

The deadline to file your federal income tax return is fast approaching. Normally falling on April 15, this year it is on April 17 due to the fact that April 15 is on a Sunday and April 16 is Emancipation Day in Washington D.C., which gives everyone across the nation an extra day to file. With the deadline just days away many Americans will submit extensions to file, pushing the date the tax return is due to October 15. This is a great tool if you know you do know have all of your tax documents in time to prepare an accurate return. An extension, however, is simply for filing of your return, not paying any tax owed. If you do not pay your tax by the April deadline you may incur additional tax penalties on top of the tax owed.

Failure to File

Failure-to-File penalties are one of the harshest tax penalties the Internal Revenue Service can issue against an individual taxpayer. The way they are calculated is as follows: 5% of the taxes you owe for each part of a month you’re late, up to a maximum of 25% of unpaid taxes. So for your 2017 taxes, if you file on April 18th you are hit with a 5% penalty. On May 18th it is another 5% until you reach your maximum of 25%, at which point it doesn’t matter how late you file you will get that 25% penalty.

Failure to Pay

The other type of penalty is the Failure-to-Pay penalty. This tax penalty happens if you owe taxes after the initial filing deadline, April 17, 2018 for your 2017 taxes. The calculation for that is 5% of unpaid taxes for each part of a month you’re late, up to 25% of unpaid taxes due. There is a way to avoid this penalty if you pay 90% of your tax owed when you file an extension to file your return, you are entitled at that point to pay the remaining 10% by the extension deadline without incurring the failure to pay penalty. This penalty doesn’t seem like much but if you have a balance for a long period of time it can cause your balance to sky rocket into something you may not be in a position to handle properly.

Filing Late

It is never a good idea to file your taxes late, but even more so if you owe. Even if you do not owe and are due a refund, it is important to file your taxes as close as to the date they are due as possible. The IRS only grants refunds for the previous three years worth of tax returns. So, before 2017 is officially due on April 17, 2018, you can get your refund if you have not filed and are entitled to it as far back as 2014. The IRS has reported that there are hundreds of millions of dollars that the tax payers are not getting back by not filing their 2014 tax return. After April 17, 2018, the IRS only distributes refund from your 2015, 2016, and 2017 returns. As a result, if you have not filed and are due a refund, please file ASAP.

If you have not filed and expect to owe for 2017, please file before April 17 even if you can’t pay your total tax bill because as noted above, the failure to file penalty is more severe than the simple failure to pay penalty.

Planning Ahead

If you find yourself owing year after year please speak with a tax professional regarding changing your withholding or saving money on a quarterly basis. It is always better to plan ahead with taxes than to be caught on April 14th with no game plan. If you have accumulated substantial tax debt, there are options to deal with the debt.

With the new tax laws in place, withholdings have changed. Many individuals will owe less in taxes as a result of the change in laws, but some may owe more. It is very important to review your paychecks regularly. You should review your paycheck whenever there is a change in income to ensure you are not paying too much or too little in. The IRS has a calculator to give you a starting point in figuring out potential tax liability. Planning for the next tax year will help avoid unnecessary tax penalties whenever possible.



Arthur Rosatti, Esq. is a Florida licensed attorney authorized to represent clients with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Tax Court. He has experience negotiating with various taxing agencies on behalf of individuals and companies. His goal with their tax debtand get them into the best plan possible to manage the debt. He also works with business owners to address Estimate Tax Payments and helps people get on track with their payments.

Offer in Compromise

Settle your tax debt for less.  Pennies on the dollar.  Negotiate your debt for thousands less than you owe.

You owe taxes and now you are trying to figure out what to do. When reviewing options, you have probably heard these statements and guarantees in your life.  Lots of TV and radio ads promise these things for people who owe back taxes.  However, these promises are a lot of time empty and can just cause more headaches than they are worth. These ads are referencing Offer in Compromise (OIC), which can work for some, but not very many.

“You must live in a van, on public property, and not own the van to get an Offer in Compromise.”

While this is just hyperbole, there is some truth to the statement.  The Offer in Compromise calculation is a deep dive into your financial life by the Internal Revenue Service or state taxing authority.  If you own anything of value, that value will be part of your offer.  Have land in a wooded area of the state stashed for a retirement getaway, well the value of that land is now part of your offer.  Any artwork in your possession that may be worth more than $100, well that value is part of your offer.  Have a 401(k) at your work? That is part of your offer.  Starting to get the picture?

While for some taxpayers it may be worthwhile to submit an offer in compromise because they rent, have a car that is older and don’t have any retirement savings.  Most people have something that will increase their offer more than they would like.

Additionally, the major thing people don’t realize with an OIC is that you have at the most 24 months to pay your offer off.  Most think that it’s an extended payment plan and then the debt goes away.  Unfortunately, that is not the case at all.

A Successful OIC Still Comes with Some Limitations

Now if you are successful with your offer, the IRS still has other ways of getting more money from you.  If you are due a refund for the first tax return filed after your offer is accepted, the money automatically goes to the IRS.  You must file all taxes must be filed on time and owe no tax balances by the filing deadline (typically April 15th) for the next five years after your offer is accepted.  If you do owe during that five year period the entire tax debt is coming back on you, minus whatever offer payments you may have made.

There are certain circumstances that the IRS will consider when determining whether to grant your offer or not.  These usually fall into two main categories:  Doubt as to Collectability and Effective Tax Administration.  These two are similar in that it basically means that there is little chance that the IRS will collect the full amount of tax due and accepting an OIC is the best way for them to get any portion of  the tax debt quickly.

Figuring out the Value for an Offer in Compromise

An offer in compromise is mostly a numbers game between the IRS and the taxpayer.  The IRS can request additional information regarding the tax years the debt is from and that can inflate what your offer would be as well.  If you your offer ever goes over more than what you owe it will be rejected almost as soon as it lands on someone’s desk at the IRS.

It is important to discuss everything that an offer in compromise encompasses with a tax professional before deciding to submit one.  It is a long and complicated process that you will want to know every aspect of before jumping in.   The major settlement promised to you by the ads you hear or see only apply to select individuals.  Come in for a free consultation to discuss if an OIC is right for you.




Arthur Rosatti, Esq. is a Florida licensed attorney authorized to represent clients with the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Tax Court. He has experience negotiating with various taxing agencies on behalf of individuals and companies. His goal is to help his clients ensure their tax debt is accurate and get them into the best plan possible to manage the debt. He understands an OIC is a great tool, but wants all his clients to understand the limitations of the program.

Check from the Federal Government/U.S. Department of the Treasury

Many people use their tax refund to pay for necessary expenses. For some, the money allows for repairs on their home; for others the refund allows them to pay off some debt or afford medical or dental procedures. But in general, it is money you have been waiting for all year. When you are struggling financially, this extra money can mean a lot. As a result, many individuals ask us whether they will be able to keep their tax refund in bankruptcy.

The bankruptcy court sees a tax refund as a savings account. You pay into the federal government a little every month and at the end of the year it is waiting there for you to withdraw. This refund affects different chapters of bankruptcy, in different ways.

Chapter 7

If you file a Chapter 7 bankruptcy in the later part of the year or during tax season, this money has had a lot of time to accumulate. If you are due a tax refund and file bankruptcy, you can only keep it, if you are able to exempt or protect those funds. In Virginia, there are exemptions that can protect child credits and earned income credits. Any additional part of the refund must be protected under Virginia’s wildcard exemption. This wildcard exemption is $5,000.00 lifetime protection to be use on cash or cash like assets. This means if you have filed bankruptcy previously or have other cash-like assets, you may have less of the wildcard to apply toward your tax refund.

If you want to protect your tax refund in bankruptcy, talk to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer. A bankruptcy attorney will be able to review your situation, discuss any potential issues and figure out the best plan for you. Sometimes this means waiting until the refund is received and used on normal expenses. But, without an attorney that understands bankruptcy law, you will not be able to make an educated decision.

Chapter 13

Now, a tax refund also plays a role in a Chapter 13. If you are in a 100% plan, which means you are fully paying back all allowed claims, you can keep you tax refund every year during your plan. If your bankruptcy plan pays creditors any less than 100%, the trustee may require that you turn over the refund and he/she will disburse the funds to your creditors. Additionally, your attorney may be able to adjust your budget to reflect the refund over the course of a year. This would mean paying slightly more each month, but being allowed to keep the tax refund.

It is important to have an experienced bankruptcy attorney that can review and understand your situation.



Ashley F. Morgan, Esq. is a Northern Virginia Bankruptcy Attorney with an office in Herndon, VA. She helps individuals in Herndon, Reston, Centreville, Fairfax Sterling, Chantilly, Woodbridge, Manasass and the surrounding areas file bankruptcy. She understands the importance that a tax refund can play in someone’s finances. Her goal is for her clients to fully understand all their options and make the best decision for their circumstances.