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Top 4 Reasons Not to Ignore Tax Debt

Tax Debt: A Debt Not to Ignore

Owing taxes may not seem like a big deal. Tax debt is not immediately reported on your credit and the IRS seems to only send collection letters. While it is true, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is not usually aggressive the first year you owe traditional income taxes, the IRS can ramp up collection efforts and be very aggressive if they are not satisfied you are trying to pay back the debt and/or get current going forward.

1. The Impact to your Credit Report

While not a direct action against your wages or bank account, a tax lien can have a more lasting impact on your life. They are public record and can be reported to your credit report.  You can see a credit hit of more than 50 points from a federal tax lien.  They attach to all property whether real or personal.  The IRS rarely goes after personal property, unless you are living a lavish lifestyle.  They will go after real property, especially if it is not your primary place of residence.  The lien is the way they have the right to take more aggressive action.

2. IRS Can Levy Wages up to 100%

A wage levy is a headache that nobody wants to deal with. The IRS has a chart that they use to determine how much of your paycheck is exempt from levy.  It is not a favorable chart for the taxpayer.  If you are paid hourly or salary you could see as much as 85% of your pay seized every pay period.  If you are an independent contractor who is paid via 1099 you could lose 100% of your income if a levy is issued to your source of income.  This affects truck drivers more than most.  Also, if you own your own business the IRS can go after accounts receivable with a levy.  Wage levies stay in place for wage earners until the tax debt balance is paid or the taxpayer takes the necessary steps to get it removed, typically agreeing to an installment agreement with the IRS.

3. IRS Can Seize You Bank Accounts or Investment Accounts

Even if the IRS does not go after your wages directly, they can still get your income via a bank levy. The IRS can send notices to any financial institution that you may be banking with.  The institution then will set aside whatever funds are in your accounts at the time the bank receives the levy for 30 days.  After 30 days the bank will release those funds to the IRS if they have not received a levy release directly from the IRS. Even with those funds frozen you can still use your account with any additional money that gets deposited during the 30 day hold.  If you have previously gotten refunds from the IRS and gave them banking information for direct deposit of the refund, the IRS will go after that bank first if you owe debt in the future.

Investment accounts that are levied go through the same 30 day hold on the account before funds are send to the IRS. The major thing to remember here is that when those funds are sent to the IRS that creates a taxable event on most retirement accounts. So the taxpayer who has an investment account levied by the IRS, then gets hit with another tax liability because the IRS does not let you choose to withhold any of the investment funds for tax purposes.

To get your bank account unfrozen and save some of the money in there you have to show an undue hardship with the IRS. In the past I have been able to get funds saved on joint accounts where the other person was a child who was away for college, shown that some of the funds in the account are for an upcoming mortgage payment, and shown that the taxpayer has no ability to pay and the account was placed into Currently Not Collectible status.  However, this does not always work and it is sometimes determined by how nice of a collections agent you get on the phone with the IRS

4. Your Passport Can Be Suspended

The most recent attempt to force people into handling their tax situation is the suspension of passports. Congress passed a law that allows the IRS to tell the Department of State when a taxpayer is seriously delinquent with their tax debt.  Anyone with more than $51,000 in back taxes, who has not taken steps to pay back the debt, could be subject to their passports being suspended.  If you do not have a passport your social security number could still be sent to the Department of State and you will be denied a passport should you apply for one.

The IRS started implementing this in 2018 and some taxpayers are seeing their passports being suspended. There are ways to get your account back in good standing with the IRS.  Two most common ways are: 1) an installment agreement to pay back the debt over time or 2) having an offer in compromise accepted, not just filed.  The IRS will not simply remove the passport hold because a taxpayer pays their debt below the $51,000 threshold.  The taxpayer has to get into an agreement to repay the balances.

 

 

 

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 debt and get them into the best plan possible to manage the debt. If you have concerns about your tax liabilities, schedule an appointment with our office.

Small Business Video #1 – Choosing the Right Name and Business Structure

 

Take a look at the first video in our video series about setting up your new business. It is important to set up your business properly; your business structure will dictate what protections you do or do not have. There can be legal and tax consequences to the way you start your business. It is important to understand all your options.

The most common forms of business are the sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, and S corporation. A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a business structure allowed by state statute. If you choose an LLC, you must also inform the Internal Revenue Service on how you want to be taxed. If you are a sole owner, you have two options: as a sole proprietorship (listed on a Schedule C) or S-Corp. If you have multiple owners, your only option is usually as an S-Corp. There are pros and cons to each type of taxation; you should talk to a tax and legal professionals before deciding on how to set up your business.

Additionally, most individuals set up a business structure to ensure protection for personal liability. In order to get these protections, you must make sure you are following corporate formalities, such as separate bank accounts, accounting, operating agreement. Even if you are a sole owner, you must have an operating agreement that dictates how decisions for the company must be made. Legal protections only continue to exist when formalities exist; otherwise, the courts will see the business as just an extension of the owner(s) and not a separate entity.

Divorced couple fighting over dollar bills

Tax Consequences of Divorce

If you are considering getting divorced, you must speak with a divorce attorney immediately. There may be potential tax consequences of divorce.

During what could be the most trying part of one’s life, it may be hard to think about how getting a divorce can affect your taxes.  There are many things that a person who is attempting to finalize a divorce this year has to think about.

Alimony/Spousal Support may be taxable

First, let’s take an example of where there is no tax debt in the relationship.  This allows the couple to only have to worry about one major thing about taxes moving forward: alimony payments or spousal support.  In the past, alimony payments made by one spouse was a tax write off, while the spouse that received the payments had to pay a tax on the amount of alimony received.  This law was changed with the passing of the Tax Cut and Jobs Act of 2017.

The new law said that starting in 2019, alimony payment will no longer be a tax deduction for those making the payments and those receiving the payments will no longer have to claim the payments as income.  Importantly, one can get “grandfathered” in to the old system if they finalize their divorce in 2018. What that this new law essentially means that if spouses finalize their divorce in 2018, the alimony payments fall under the old law; this allows a tax deduction for the spouse making payments and requires the spouse receiving the payments report the payment as income.

As long as your divorce is final before January 1, 2019 – and if Congress doesn’t change the provision again – the payments will be deductible for the payer and taxable for the payee for the life of the existing agreement. However, if you or your spouse modify your agreement in the future, the new laws would control; thus, resulting in change in the tax liabilities.

It is important that couples that are going through divorce understand this change in the law.  One spouse may try to drag things out to 2019 while the other will want to finalize in 2018.  This change is law has resulted in many contentious divorces during 2018.  If you have a divorce attorney, please do not hesitate to have them discuss this provision with a tax professional; this helps ensure they can draft the settlement properly and know your exact tax consequences of divorce .

Tax Debt

Second, the more cantankerous situation during a divorce occurs when there is debt owed jointly between the two spouses when the divorce is finalized.  It is even more difficult to manage joint tax debt.

The first thing figure out in a divorce is who is responsible for repayment of the debt.  Keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service does not honor what the divorce decree says. The divorce decree only affects the rights of the spouses; it cannot alter the rights of third parties. For example, if the divorce decree states that one spouse must pay the joint debt, the IRS can and will go after both spouses for the debt after a divorce.  With that in mind, for the spouse that is not responsible for repaying the debt in the divorce decree, it is important to have language in the decree/property settlement agreement that gives that spouse the right to reimbursement of any money that goes towards the outstanding tax liability; whether it is future tax refunds, payments as part of a repayment plan, or levy/garnishment payments.

 

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 debt and get them into the best plan possible to manage the debt. He has experience dealing with divorce spouses dealing with their joint tax debt. If you have concerns about your tax liabilities, schedule an appointment with our office.

Calculating tax

Tax Penalties: Filing on time helps avoid extra costs

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

Offer in Compromise: The Truth Behind Settling Tax Debt for Pennies on the Dollar

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.

Tax debt can seem like a road block

Many Options Available to Manage Debt from Taxes

Ashley F. Morgan Law, PC helps many people with their debt issues. We pride ourselves in being able to help individuals find the best solutions for their individual problems. Our firm often helps people address their traditional debts, such as credit cards and loans, through the bankruptcy process. We also help people with tax issues through standard tax resolution options, such as payment plans or offers in compromise directly with the Internal Revenue Service. But sometimes we are able to handle all their debts through a bankruptcy. We understand dealing with taxes can be stressful, which is why we want you to know about all potential options.

Most people believe that taxes cannot go away with bankruptcy. There is only some truth to that idea. Some tax debt, such as trust fund taxes, cannot be discharged. Other taxes, such as income taxes, may be discharged if certain conditions are met. For the tax to be potentially dischargeable, the clients needs to have filed the taxes on time (or close to on time). Additionally, the taxes need to have been due three years before you file for bankruptcy, filed at least two years ago and 240 days since the taxes were assessed. There can also be no allegations of fraud related to the tax debt. Make sure to review your situation with an experienced bankruptcy attorney. Timing is especially important with tax issues; last thing you want is to file a few months or days early.

There are certain benefits to managing tax debt through bankruptcy. The most important benefit is that there is one process that is potentially managing all your debt issues.

Chapter 7

A Chapter 7 can help you wipe out unsecured debt and dischargeable tax debt in one quick and efficient process. The downside is that if there are any non-dischargeable taxes, they will remain after the bankruptcy. This option is often best for individuals with older tax debt that now have managed to owe little or receive a refund in recent years.

Chapter 13

A Chapter 13 allows for a three to five year payment plan to manage all non-dischargeable taxes and will result in a discharge of the dischargeable debts that were unpaid. Additionally, the bankruptcy code allows for a little more flexibility for allowable expenses when calculating a payment plan. The court reviews your plan to determine what is reasonable. The IRS follow their allowable guidelines for each county fairly closely.

The downside to a Chapter 13 plan is that it requires all priority tax debt to be paid in the plan, in addition to all other traditional Chapter 13 requirements. So, if you can pay something over the course of your plan, but it is not enough to satisfy the priority taxes, you will not be allowed to utilize a Chapter 13 filing. This option is often best for individual with low to moderate tax debt and decent income. Additionally, if you have higher than average secured debts, such as cars and homes, the bankruptcy court will take those factors into consideration unlike the IRS.

Tax Resolution Plans

A tax resolution payment plan can allow for other perks; the plans are for up to six years, which is longer than any bankruptcy option. These plans are agreements direct with the IRS, which means there is no public record of the agreement. This agreement would result in no public notice regarding the tax issue, unless the tax debt was significant enough or old enough that a tax lien was filed in the land records against you and all of your property (both real property and personal property).

Additionally, some plans can be as low as $0 per month, if the IRS determines you fall into the category of currently non-collectible. This means that you do not have any disposable income under their standards. However, their guidelines are more strict, as discussed above. But, if you have additional outstanding tax debt, a tax resolution does nothing to help manage those additional  debts. This option is often best for individuals with little to no additional debt or that have a substantial amount of recent tax debt or non-dischargeable tax debt with limited income.

Combination of Bankruptcy and Tax Resolution

Finally, we sometimes use both a bankruptcy and tax resolution to achieve the optimal results for our clients. Chapter 7 can help clients get rid of their unsecured debts, surrender any unwanted secured debt, and get rid of any dischargeable tax debt. We then follow the bankruptcy discharge with a tax resolution payment plan. This plan takes into consideration what the client is able to pay. Our firm often uses this debt management option with clients with higher incomes and substantial tax debt. The substantial, non-dischargeable taxes may help a high income individuals qualify for a Chapter 7 who might not otherwise qualify for a discharge.

By offering our clients bankruptcy and tax resolution options, we are able to fully explain all options to our clients ensure they are making the best choice. If you are experiencing financial difficulties of any kind, please let us know. Schedule an appointment to talk to one of our attorneys about all your options. Our experienced attorneys can review your situation, and discuss all potential benefits and drawbacks to each option. We can be reached at 703-880-4881.

 

 

 

Attorney Ashley F. Morgan is a Virginia licensed attorney. She has been helping clients manage various types of debts for years. Ashley focuses on helping her clients finding the ideals solution to their debt problems. Attorney Arthur Rosatti is a Florida licensed attorney has extensive experience dealing with the IRS and negotiation payment plans and settlements. He understands having tax debt and dealing with the IRS is stressful. He strives to make the process as stress free as possible. Both Ashley and Arthur are available to review your debt situation; they always collaborate on cases to ensure that their clients are receiving the best advice possible.

Significant Tax Debt Can Result in Losing your Passport

Starting in January 2018, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will forward information about certain taxpayers to the Department of State to revoke passports. This was the first action taken to enforce the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act provision, which called for those taxpayers with “seriously delinquent tax debt” to have their passports revoked if they were not taking the necessary steps to deal with the debt. This is being done to encourage taxpayers to deal with their tax debt in as an efficient manner as possible.

Those taxpayers that are deemed “seriously delinquent” are those that owe more than $51,000.00 in back taxes, penalties and interest for which the IRS has filed a Notice of Federal Tax Lien and the period to challenge it has expired or the IRS has issued a levy.

It is important to be proactive with your tax debt in every situation but extremely important if you are over the $51,000.00 threshold. You can protect your passport by getting into a protective agreement with the IRS.

If you have already gotten notice that the IRS has forwarded your account to the State Department, you need to take action in order to get your passport back. Please call our office for a free initial consultation to determine what your best options are. For additional information, check out the IRS website regarding Passport Revocation.

 

 

Arthur Rosatti, Esq. is an attorney at Ashley F. Morgan Law, PC. He has years of experience helping individuals manage their state and federal tax debt.

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