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I Didn’t Pay my Tax Balance by July 15. Now What?

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

If you missed the tax deadline this year and aren’t sure what to do next, don’t worry.  There’s still time for you to file your tax return and avoid having the IRS come after you for a failure to file or for having any remaining balance owed after filing your tax return. 

Here are some after-tax-day tips you should follow:

  1. File ASAP to avoid additional interest and penalties. For those who filed their taxes before the tax deadline and received a refund, they will not have to deal with the IRS charging additional fees against them. If you have filed after the deadline, the IRS will place penalties and interest against you until the tax return has been filed. Taxpayers can request an extension up until the October deadline, but  it is important to keep in mind that interest will still accrue even if an extension is filed.

A 5% failure to file a penalty is applied to those who fail to file or file a return late. If a return is filed more than 60 days late, the minimum penalty is either $435 or100% of the unpaid tax, whichever is less. The basic failure-to-pay penalty rate is generally 0.5% of unpaid tax for each month or part of a month.

  • File to get a tax refund. The only way to receive your tax refund is to file your taxes. There typically is no penalty for filing after the tax deadline if a refund is due. The IRS strongly recommends taxpayers electronically file their taxes since there will be delays this year for those who file their paper return. 
  • File your taxes electronically. Taxpayers who owe a tax balance will be able to pay off their liability through the IRS’s website by debit or credit card. If you are unable to pay off your tax balance in full, the IRS has an option to go on a payment plan. With Direct Pay and Electronic Federal Tax Payment Systems, it can make it easier and much more efficient for taxpayers to file their taxes and pay off any balances they may owe.

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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IRS Increasing Focus on Taxpayers Who Have Not Filed Tax Return

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

It is expected that the IRS will visit more taxpayers who have yet to file their past tax years in an effort to increase tax compliance and enforce the law. The IRS is also looking into tax data, researching new compliance methods, and including increasing in-person visits to taxpayers who are in collections or out of compliance.

The IRS’s main goal is to bring delinquent taxpayers into compliance by filing all unfiled past tax years as well as assisting with any pending payment obligations taxpayers may still have with the IRS. The IRS wants to further promote compliance by also using the following systems:

  1. Increase Identification and cases for individuals and business non-filers. The IRS will look into assigning new cases to IRS employees to ensure those assist those who have yet to file their past tax years.
  • Automated Substitute for Return program (ASFR). Individual taxpayers who have multiple unfiled years as well as a tax liability possibly tied to these years will receive notices alerting them to tax years that need to be filed as well as any potential tax liability they may owe.
  • Automated 6020(b) process. Promotes employment tax filing by identifying business taxpayers with employment requirements who have yet to have filed for a specific tax period. The IRS will be making greater efforts to ensure that businesses comply with both tax filing and payment requirements.
  • Delinquent Return Refund Hold Program (DRRH).  A taxpayer’s refund will be held if the IRS finds that the individual has at least one unfiled tax return within the last five years.

Many non-filers are owed tax refunds but are unable to receive them because of past tax years that still need to be filed. The IRS strongly recommends filing any unfiled years to ensure they receive any future tax refunds. 

For taxpayers who haven’t filed in previous years, the IRS has current and prior year tax forms and instructions available on the IRS.gov Forms and Publications page or by calling toll-free 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676).

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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How to Qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is known as a refundable tax credit that applies to low and moderate-income workers. For those who have children, the amount will vary based on the number of kids placed on their tax return. For the tax year 2020, the current earned income credit ranges from $538 to $6,660. 

If you qualify for this tax credit, be sure to claim it on your tax return so you can get the most out of your tax refund. Here’s how you know whether or not you qualify.

In order to know if you qualify for EITC you have to ensure that your earned income does not exceed a certain range. Taxpayers can meet the requirements for EITC without a qualifying child if you have a child that meets all the qualifying child rules for you or your spouse if filing a joint return. Taxpayers can utilize the EITC Assistant to find out their filing status and how they can qualify.

In order to meet the standards for an EITC credit you must use one of the following statuses:

  • Married filing jointly
  • Head of household
  • Qualifying widow of widower
  • Single

For those filing married filing separately, they will not be able to claim the EITC. If you or your spouse are a nonresident alien for any part of the year, you will be unable to claim the EITC unless your filing status is married filing jointly. 

Additional 2019 income rules taxpayers must follow in order to qualify for the EITC:

  • Tax year investments must be $36,000 or less.
  • Form 2555, Foreign Earned Income, Form 2555-EZ, and Foreign Earned Income Exclusion can’t be filed.
  • Total earned income must be at least $1.

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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Taxpayers should Report Tip Income on Their Tax Return

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

Receiving additional pay on top of your income can have its benefits. No matter how you receive additional income, it needs to be reported to the IRS when you file your taxes – even tips. Here’s what you need to know to stay on the good side of the IRS.

If you receive tips worth more than $20 each month, it will be considered taxable income. These tips are also subject to Social Security and Medicare tax withholding. The average tip rate in the United States is typically 8%, and those who earn this much in tips are expected to report it to the IRS. 

If the reported tip income is less than 8%, employers are required to allocate unreported income among their employees. This is only applicable to companies that employ more than 10 employees on a typical business day. 

Taxpayers must include all tips they receive on their tax return as it is considered additional taxable income. This includes:

  • Tips directly from customers.
  • Tips added using credit cards.
  • Tips from a tip-splitting arrangement with other employees.

The IRS recommends three ways for a taxpayer to report their tip income correctly:

  • Keep a daily tip record.
  • Report tips to their employer.
  • Report all tips on their income tax return.

It is vital for taxpayers to report their tips as income to ensure that the IRS does not come back at a later date inquiring about missing income that was not reported. To learn more about how your tips should be reported on your tax return, you can visit the IRS website

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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U.S. Armed Forces Receive Special Tax Benefits when Filing Taxes

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

If you have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, you could qualify for certain tax breaks and certain rules may also apply such as deductions or credits that can be claimed at a lower rate. If you have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, here is what you could qualify for when filing your taxes:

  1. Deadline Extensions. For members of the military and those who serve in combat zones, the government will allow you to postpone tax deadlines and, in some cases, you can receive an automatic extension so you have more time to file your taxes. 
  2. Combat Pay Exclusion. If you serve in a combat zone, your pay will either be partially or fully tax-free. If you serve in a support area for a combat zone, you may also qualify for this exclusion. 
  3. Signing Joint Returns. If you are married and choosing to file jointly, it is required that both you and your spouse sign your tax return. If you are unable to be present to sign your portion of the tax return, you may need a power of attorney to file a joint return.
  4. Uniform Deduction. You can deduct the cost of certain uniforms that you can’t wear while off duty. This also included the costs of purchase and upkeep. 
  5. ROTC Allowances. This applies to allowances for education and subsistence. Active ROTC pay is also considered taxable.
  6. Civilian Life. If you leave the armed forces, you may qualify for deductions on certain job search expenses. This could include, the cost of travel, preparing a resume and job placement agency fees. Moving expenses may also qualify for a tax deduction.
  7. Tax Help. Most military bases offer free tax preparation and filing assistance during the tax filing season. Some may also provide free tax help after the tax deadline.

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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What it Really Means to Get a Tax Refund

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

One of the main reasons why you don’t want to receive a refund is because it means you’ve essentially loaned the government money that you will never receive interest on. This money could have potentially been applied to other debt that you’ve been carrying around such as student loan or credit card debt instead of loaning it out to the government to use. Rather than overpaying in taxes, here is where you could put your money instead:

  1. Open a retirement account. The average taxpayer will receive a tax refund upwards of $3,000. Instead of overpaying in taxes which could cause you to miss out on huge savings opportunities, you could invest it in a retirement fund or increase the amount you are contributing to your current plan. By the time you are able to retire, you could have a large lump sum of cash waiting for you.
  1. Start an emergency fund. If something unexpected ever happens that may impact your financial wellbeing, you may want to consider placing your money in an emergency account. The money that you place into this account doesn’t just accrue overnight, it requires that you set funds aside little by little. The refund that you receive after filing your taxes could be preventing you from placing more money into a back-up account and you may need to consider adjusting your withholding or estimated tax payments you are making to the IRS.
  1. Look into paying down your debt. If you receive a tax refund of about $3,000, that means that you are missing out on pocketing an extra $250 a month. This money could be used to pay down any loans or negative balances you have to ensure that you remain in good standing on all your debts. 

If you’re still unsure about how much you should be withholding from your paycheck, consider using the IRS’s withholding calculator. It will require information such as how much you pay in taxes and how much you have already withheld. This will help you make a determination on how much you should be withholding in order to get the most out of each paycheck. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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Is there a Deduction Limit on Charitable Donations?

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

If you’re debating whether or not to donate to charity, it’s important to understand the tax benefits and tax-saving opportunities that could be available to you. Here’s a breakdown of what you need to know when understanding what you could qualify for when it comes to charitable donations.

Some donations may not be eligible for deductions. In order to make a donation, it must be to a charity with a tax-exempt status determined by the IRS. This means that charitable donations cannot be made to friends, relatives, or groups that do not fall under the tax exempt status. The list of approved organizations are the following:

  1. A community chest, corporation, trust, fund, or foundation, organized or created in the United States or its possessions, or under the laws of the United States, any state, the District of Columbia or any possession of the United States, and organized and operated exclusively for charitable, religious, educational, scientific, or literary purposes, or for the prevention of cruelty to children or animals.
  2. A church, synagogue, or other religious organization.
  3. A war veterans’ organization or its post, auxiliary, trust, or foundation organized in the United States or its possessions.
  4. A nonprofit volunteer fire company.
  5. A civil defense organization created under federal, state, or local law (this includes unreimbursed expenses of civil defense volunteers that are directly connected with and solely attributable to their volunteer services).
  6. A domestic fraternal society, operating under the lodge system, but only if the contribution is to be used exclusively for charitable purposes.
  7. A nonprofit cemetery company if the funds are irrevocably dedicated to the perpetual care of the cemetery as a whole and not a particular lot or mausoleum crypt.

Some contributions may lead to only a partial credit. For particular donations, a taxpayer will only receive a portion of a credit. For example, if you purchase a shirt that is a part of a charitable cause, the entire price of the shirt is not deductible. The fair market value must be determined and subtracted from the cost of your purchase in order to determine the amount of your donation.

When determining how much of a charitable donation you would like to make, it is important to know there is a limit on all donations you make throughout the tax year. Total charitable contributions are generally limited to no more than 50% of your adjusted gross income. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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$600 Unemployment Benefits Expected to Fall to $200 or $300 a Week

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

With unemployment due to end this week, unemployed workers may see their additional benefits cut in half to $200 or $300 a week. This proposal outlined by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin was announced last Thursday and negotiations are still proceeding to work out the finer details.

Currently, a new coronavirus relief package is being put together to assist millions of Americans who are financially struggling during the pandemic. The prior bill passed in March provided out-of-work Americans with an additional $600 per week, funded by the federal government. 

Discussions regarding the extension of unemployment benefits have been ongoing. It is expected that Congress will announce a new plan to provide the unemployed a reduced amount of $200 or $300 a week depending on data that is collected to determine what is feasible to distribute. 

Although taxpayers should expect a lower amount of unemployment funds coming their way, it is still expected to help them get by month to month. In addition to extending the length of time to receive unemployment checks, those out of work will also most likely receive a stimulus check to ease their current financial burdens. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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Will Taxpayers Receive More Money in their Next Stimulus Check?

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

Time is drawing near for a decision to be made as to whether or not a second stimulus check will be distributed to millions of Americans. Multiple bills have been proposed to provide relief to those that are financially struggling due to the coronavirus pandemic.

For weeks, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has worked with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on a relief package that would distribute stimulus checks only for those who have been financially impacted the most during the ongoing pandemic.

Negotiations have been ongoing throughout this week to make a decision as to who will qualify for the second round of stimulus checks as well as working out the details on how they will build upon the CARES act in order to assist businesses and Americans that are currently struggling to make ends meet.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin confirmed that the proposed second stimulus check will be the same as the first, meaning taxpayers who qualify will receive up to $1,200. The guidelines for who qualifies for the stimulus check have not changed and will remain the same as the first: 

  • Single filers who earn less than $75,000 a year will receive the full $1,200. For those earn more than $75,000 should expect to see their check reduced by 5% of the amount they earn.
  • Joint filers who earn less than $150,000 a year will receive the full check however those who earn more will see their check reduced by 5% of the amount they earn over $150,000.

As negotiations continue, there is a general expectation that a decision regarding the expansion of the CARES act, as well as when the second stimulus check will be distributed, should be made before the end of July.

We will continue to update you with new information as this story develops. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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Can I File My Taxes Separately from My Spouse?

Optima Tax Relief provides assistance to individuals struggling with unmanageable IRS tax burdens. To assess your tax situation and determine if you qualify for tax relief, contact us for a free consultation.

Filing a joint tax return with your spouse has many advantages, like receiving one of the largest standard deductions every year and providing several tax breaks for those who choose to file jointly. When deciding whether or not you want to file jointly, it is important to consider both the positive and negative aspects and how you can be directly affected. 

Married Filed Joint

The advantages of filing jointly with your spouse can allow you to deduct a significant amount of your income. Couples who file together will typically qualify for the following tax credits:

  • Earned Income Tax Credit
  • American Opportunity and Lifetime Learning Education Tax Credits
  • Exclusion or credit for adoption expenses 
  • Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Those who file jointly receive higher income thresholds for certain taxes and deductions. If you and your spouse earn a higher amount of income, you could potentially qualify for tax breaks.

Married Filed Separate

If a couple chooses to file separately they will receive fewer tax benefits compared to those who file jointly. Those who file separately from their spouse will only receive a standard deduction of $12,200 compared to those who file jointly and receive a deduction of $24,400.

  • Filing a separate return will automatically disqualify from several tax credits and deductions.
  • Separate filers are limited to smaller IRA contribution deductions.
  • You cannot take a deduction for student loan interest.
  • The capital loss deduction limit is $1,500 each when filing separately, instead of $3,000 on a joint return.

If you are unsure of how you want to file this tax season, consider filing both separately and jointly to see which way will be beneficial for both you and your spouse. Always be sure to double check your calculations as well as the amount of income you are placing on your return and review if you have a net refund or a tax liability. This should help you decide how you should file moving forward in order to receive the most out of filing your taxes. 

If you need tax help, contact us for a free consultation.

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