Month: January 2019

The IRS and Private Tax Debt Collection

To collect unpaid taxes, the IRS is turning to private companies.

IRS Using Debt Collection AgenciesThe growing backlog of debt has proved too much for the agency, which continues to use four debt collection companies to round up outstanding payments from taxpayers who’ve been contacted numerous times and still haven’t coughed up any cash.

The new private debt collection program originally started slowly, with just a few hundred taxpayers a week receiving mailings and subsequent calls. But now it’s in full swing, with thousands of people being contacted.

Taxpayers with long-overdue tax bills who’ve received several collection notices from the IRS through the mail are now being informed that their accounts have been transferred to private collectors. The collection agencies send letters of their own, clearly identifying themselves in all communications as working for the IRS.

Collectors Follow the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act

Of course, these new debt collectors need to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which spells out when they can call, whom they can call, and what they can and cannot say. The IRS has told the collectors not to use robocalls to contact taxpayers.

The new private debt collection program comes straight from Congress, which required this action, noting that it’s a way to fund road improvement projects for the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, which was passed in 2015.

The four collection agencies are CBE Group, ConServe, Performant and Pioneer Credit Recovery. These agencies explain how they work. For example, Performant notes on its website how they work and lists official government sites for more information.

Protecting Yourself from Scammers

A problem jumps into anyone’s mind: how to tell the official debt collectors from the scammers. The IRS has noted that the it is urging taxpayers to be on the lookout for scammers who might use this program as a cover to trick people. One sign is payment: Performant notes, for example, that it tells taxpayers to make checks out to the federal government, and not to the private agency.

So, how can taxpayers protect themselves from new scams? There are some simple ways to tell whether the call is legitimate or from a fraudster. It’s a scam if the caller does any of the following:

  • Is very aggressive or threatens you in any way with arrest or someone coming to your house.
  • Tries to pressure you to make immediate payment.
  • Asks for your credit or debit card information.
  • Requests payment via gift cards, including Amazon and iTunes, prepaid debit cards, or a wire transfer.

More information is available on the U.S. Treasury site.

We’ve got your back

Legitimate private debt collection firms will instruct taxpayers to send a check, made out to the U.S. Treasury, directly to the IRS. It’s always a good idea to check with us to keep up to date with the new program and the new scams that come from it. Of course, if you have an outstanding debt to the IRS, contact us immediately so we can help you with the process of paying the government what you owe. Don’t go it alone! Contact KRS managing partner Maria Rollins at [email protected] or 201.655.7411 for a complimentary initial consultation.

Medical and Dental Expenses: What Can You Deduct?

Can you deduct medical and dental expenses? That’s a complicated question.

Medical and Dental Expenses: What Can You Deduct?To start with, your deductions must exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income. And they have to fall into an IRS-approved category.

Deductible medical expenses may include, but aren’t limited to the following:

  • Payments of fees to doctors, dentists, surgeons, chiropractors, psychiatrists, psychologists and nontraditional medical practitioners.
  • Payments for inpatient hospital care or residential nursing home care, if the availability of medical care is the principal reason for being in the nursing home, including the cost of meals and lodging charged by the hospital or nursing home. However, if medical care isn’t the principal reason for the nursing home stay, then the deduction is limited to medical care costs only.
  • Payments for acupuncture treatments or inpatient treatment at a center for alcohol or drug addiction, for participating in a smoking-cessation program, and for drugs to alleviate nicotine withdrawal that require a prescription.
  • Payments to participate in a weight-loss program for a specific disease or diseases diagnosed by a physician, including obesity; but not ordinarily payments for diet food items or the payment of health club dues.
  • Payments for insulin and payments for drugs that require a prescription.
  • Payments made for admission and transportation to a medical conference relating to a chronic disease that you, your spouse, or your dependents have (if the costs are primarily for and essential to necessary medical care). However, you may not deduct costs of meals and lodging while attending a medical conference.
  • Payments for false teeth, reading or prescription eyeglasses or contact lenses, hearing aids, crutches, wheelchairs, and for a guide dog or other service animal to assist the visually impaired or hearing-disabled person, or for a person with other physical disabilities.
  • Payments for transportation primarily for and essential to medical care that qualifies as medical expenses — payments of the actual fare for a taxi, bus, train, ambulance or for transportation by personal car to include the amount of your actual out-of-pocket expenses, gas, oil, etc. Standard mileage rate for medical expenses, plus the cost of tolls and parking apply as well.

Caveats for long-term care insurance

Payments for insurance policy premiums that cover medical care or for a qualified long-term care insurance policy are both deductible, but there are some caveats:

  • If you’re an employee, don’t include in medical expenses the portion of your premiums treated as paid by your employer under its sponsored group accident, health policy or qualified long-term care insurance policy.
  • Don’t include premiums that you paid under your employer-sponsored policy under a premium conversion policy (pre-tax), paid by an employer-sponsored health insurance plan (cafeteria plan), or any other medical and dental expenses unless the premiums are included in box 1 of your Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement.

Only include medical expenses paid during the year and use the expenses only once on the return. Reduce your total deductible medical expenses by any reimbursement, whether you receive the reimbursement directly or it’s paid on your behalf to doctors, a hospital or other medical provider.

Finally, note that the threshold rises to 10 percent for 2019.

We’ve got your back

This is just a summary of a complicated series of rules.Rather than guessing at the IRS rules and requirements, why not let the KRS CPAs tax experts help? We will help you determine which expenses you can safely deduct. Contact us at 201.655.7411 to get started.

Now Is the Time for Business Succession Planning

According to several national surveys of closely held business owners, approximately three in five do not have any business succession plan in place.

At KRS, we specialize in advising owners of family and closely held businesses and our observations are consistent with the survey results.Now is the time for business succession planning

I am working with Joe, the owner of a profitable $75 million company, and we have been talking about succession planning for several years.  Joe is in his mid-sixties, in good health, and has no plan to retire in the foreseeable future.   Are you surprised that Joe has no succession plan for his business? Like many business owners, Joe can’t get his arms around the fact that having a plan doesn’t make retirement mandatory; it only protects the business (which is Joe’s most valuable asset) if he does.   Although we frequently discuss the importance of succession planning, Joe doesn’t seem to want to face the tough decisions involved.

Employee and customer concerns

Joe’s employees have been concerned about succession plans for quite a while.  When I met with him recently, Joe shared the fact that several of his major customers have also asked about his plans for the company.  Joe said that the customers don’t want to see the plan and don’t care about the financial arrangements, but they just want to know that the company will continue if something happens to Joe.  They want to know who will run the company if Joe can’t.  This is understandable, especially since the company is a major supplier for several customers.  The customers don’t want to risk interruption in product supply and they may reduce this risk by diversifying purchases among several suppliers if they don’t get answers, resulting in decreased revenue and profitability for Joe’s company.

Plan succession before it’s too late

Joe is the sole owner of his company, but succession planning is equally important in multiple owner companies.  In all cases, it is best to execute a plan while everyone is healthy and getting along.  When a triggering event occurs, it is usually too late.  If you are a business owner, review your succession plan today, and if you don’t have a plan, contact your attorney and CPA to start working on one.