Taxable or Not – What You Need to Know about Income

 

All income is taxable unless the law excludes it. Here are some basic rules you should know to help you file an accurate tax return:

  • Taxed income.  Taxable income includes money you earn, like wages and tips. It also includes bartering, an exchange of property or services. The fair market value of property or services received is taxable.

Some types of income are not taxable except under certain conditions, including:

  • Life insurance.  Proceeds paid to you because of the death of the insured person are usually not taxable. However, if you redeem a life insurance policy for cash, any amount that you get that is more than the cost of the policy is taxable.
  • Qualified scholarship.  In most cases, income from this type of scholarship is not taxable. This means that amounts you use for certain costs, such as tuition and required books, are not taxable. On the other hand, amounts you use for room and board are taxable.
  • State income tax refund.  If you got a state or local income tax refund, the amount may be taxable. You should have received a 2014 Form 1099-G from the agency that made the payment to you. If you didn’t get it by mail, the agency may have provided the form electronically. Contact them to find out how to get the form. Report any taxable refund you got even if you did not receive Form 1099-G.

Here are some types of income that are usually not taxable:

  • Gifts and inheritances
  • Child support payments
  • Welfare benefits
  • Damage awards for physical injury or sickness
  • Cash rebates from a dealer or manufacturer for an item you buy
  • Reimbursements for qualified adoption expenses

Return Preparer Fraud Hits IRS Annual “Dirty Dozen” List of Tax Scams to Avoid During the 2015 Filing Season

 

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today warned taxpayers to be on the lookout for unscrupulous return preparers, one of the most common “Dirty Dozen” tax scams seen during tax season.

The vast majority of tax professionals provide honest high-quality service. But there are some dishonest preparers who set up shop each filing season to perpetrate refund fraud, identity theft and other scams that hurt taxpayers. That's why unscrupulous preparers who prey on unsuspecting taxpayers with outlandish promises of overly large refunds make the Dirty Dozen list every year.

“Filing a tax return can be one of the biggest financial transactions of the year, so taxpayers should choose their tax return preparers carefully,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Most tax professionals provide top-notch service, but we see bad actors every year that steal from their clients or compromise returns in ways that can severely harm taxpayers."

Return preparers are a vital part of the U.S. tax system. About 60 percent of taxpayers use tax professionals to prepare their returns.

Illegal scams can lead to significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice (DOJ) to shutdown scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

Choosing Return Preparers Carefully

It is important to choose carefully when hiring an individual or firm to prepare your return. Well-intentioned taxpayers can be misled by preparers who don’t understand taxes or who mislead people into taking credits or deductions they aren’t entitled to in order to increase their fee. Every year, these types of tax preparers face everything from penalties to even jail time for defrauding their clients.

Here are a few tips when choosing a tax preparer:

  • Check to be sure the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Anyone with a valid 2015 PTIN is authorized to prepare federal tax returns. Tax return preparers, however, have differing levels of skills, education and expertise. An important difference in the types of practitioners is “representation rights”. You can learn more about the several different types of return preparers on IRS.gov/chooseataxpro.
  • Ask the tax preparer if they have a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant, or attorney), belong to a professional organization or attend continuing education classes. A number of tax law changes, including the Affordable Care Act provisions, can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. Tax return preparers aren’t required to have a professional credential, but make sure you understand the qualifications of the preparer you select.
  • Check on the service fees upfront. Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of your refund or those who say they can get larger refunds than others can.
  • Always make sure any refund due is sent to you or deposited into your bank account. Taxpayers should not deposit their refund into a preparer’s bank account.
  • Make sure your preparer offers IRS e-file and ask that your return be submitted to the IRS electronically. Any tax professional who gets paid to prepare and file more than 10 returns generally must file the returns electronically. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return, whether you do it alone or pay someone to prepare and file for you.
  • Make sure the preparer will be available. Make sure you’ll be able to contact the tax preparer after you file your return – even after the April 15 due date. This may be helpful in the event questions come up about your tax return.
  • Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see your records and receipts. They’ll ask you questions to determine your total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file your return using your last pay stub instead of your Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks you to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.
  • Review your return before signing. Before you sign your tax return, review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Make sure you’re comfortable with the accuracy of the return before you sign it.
  • Ensure the preparer signs and includes their PTIN. Paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN as required by law. The preparer must also give you a copy of the return.
  • Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. You can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If you suspect a return preparer filed or changed the return without your consent, you should also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. You can get these forms on IRS.gov.

To find other tips about choosing a preparer, better understand the differences in credentials and qualifications, and learn how to submit a complaint regarding a tax return preparer, visit www.irs.gov/chooseataxpro.

Remember: Taxpayers are legally responsible for what is on their tax return even if it is prepared by someone else. Make sure the preparer you hire is up to the task.

More Info On Ohio Refund Delay

 

I just got another email from ohio about refunds possibly being delayed for identity theft processing.  Here it is:

 

Dear Ohio Taxpayer:

In order to better protect Ohio taxpayers and prevent tax fraud, the Ohio Department of Taxation (ODT) is implementing additional safeguards that will inevitably cause some refunds to be delayed this upcoming income tax filing season.

These steps are being taken to further bolster defenses in anticipation of a continuing increase in attempted tax fraud involving identity theft. Last year, ODT intercepted an unprecedented number of fraudulent income tax returns seeking to steal refunds totaling more than $250 million. In previous years, attempted tax fraud averaged about $10 million.

To detect and counter refund fraud related to ID theft, an additional up-front filter will now be applied to all tax refund requests to analyze the demographic information reported on a return. This analysis will then assign a “probability of fraud” factor that will determine how the return is then further processed by ODT.

If a return is pulled for review, ODT’s additional security measures will require some taxpayers to successfully complete an Identification Confirmation Quiz, before the return will continue to be processed. If a taxpayer’s return is selected for identity confirmation they will receive a letter from ODT directing them to our website (www.tax.ohio.gov). The website will provide access to the quiz, detailed instructions on how to complete it, and frequently asked questions for reference. Taxpayers without Internet access will be directed to call ODT at 1-855-855-7579, for assistance with completing the quiz.

The additional screening and security measures will unfortunately slow the processing of electronic and paper returns, and the issuance of refunds. Electronic returns requesting a refund may take up to 15 days to be direct deposited this year, and paper returns could take up to 30 days for a physical check to be mailed out.

ODT is committed to aggressively fighting ID theft and tax fraud. Thank you for your time and understanding.

 

Sincerely,

 

Joe Testa
Ohio Tax Commissioner

 

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