What to expect when dealing with the IRS

Individuals who do not pay their tax bill after filing their tax return will receive a bill for the amount they owe. Once the IRS sends a bill to a taxpayer, the collection process will begin and will continue until the account has been paid in full or the IRS is no longer able to legally collect on the tax debt; for example, the time or period for collections expires.

Taxpayers will receive a letter from the IRS that will explain the balance due and details on how to pay their balance in full to remain compliant with the IRS. The letter will also include the amount of tax, plus any penalties and interest accrued on an unpaid balance from the date the tax was due.

Any unpaid balance is subject to interest that compounds daily in addition to a monthly late payment penalty. The IRS recommends taxpayers pay their tax liability in full as soon as they can in order to minimize both the penalties and interest. Taxpayers also have the option to consider other financial avenues with the IRS such as obtaining a cash advance on their credit card or getting a bank loan. The rate and any applicable fees your credit card company or bank charges may be lower than the combination of interest and penalties imposed by the Internal Revenue Code. If you cannot pay in full, you should send in as much as you can with the notice and explore other payment arrangements.

Individuals who are unable to pay their tax balance in full right away, may qualify for a payment plan with the IRS. One option is a short-term payment plan of up to 180 days, available to individuals who owe up to $100,000. Taxpayers who cannot pay their tax liability in full within the 180 days, may qualify to pay monthly through an installment agreement.

When setting up an installment agreement, taxpayers should be aware that there is a user fee that they will need to pay before the agreement is actually set up. For low-income taxpayers, the user fee could potentially be reduced or waived altogether if certain conditions apply. Taxpayers should be aware that interest and late payment penalties will continue to accrue while they make installment payments.

Taxpayers who cannot afford to make monthly installment agreement payments can apply for an Offer in Compromise (OIC). An OIC is an agreement between a taxpayer and the IRS that resolves a taxpayer’s tax liability by payment of an agreed upon reduced amount. Before an offer can be considered, you must have filed all tax returns, made all required estimated tax payments for the current year, and made all required federal tax deposits for the current quarter if the taxpayer is a business owner with employees.

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.

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Optima Tax Relief Partners with VITA to Provide Free Tax Filing Assistance

Optima Tax Relief recently announced that they are teaming up with the IRS to provide assistance to low-income residents and other members of their surrounding community with free tax preparation services. Fifty members of Optima’s staff registered with the United Way of Orange County, California and Mesa, Arizona to participate in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which was launched by the IRS to provide free tax preparation services to those such as:

·        Persons with disabilities

·        Limited English-speaking taxpayers

·        Individuals who generally make $57,000 or less per year

Christian Giandomenico, Optima’s Director of Tax Preparation and one of the staff members who volunteered for the program, said that it is the inclusiveness of the program that led her to sign up. “Quality tax preparation should be available to everyone, regardless of income or background,” she said. “Taxes can be complicated, and I couldn’t stand the thought that some people are left trying to navigate through complex situations without any assistance, all because they feel like they can’t afford it. I was inspired to know that the program serves over 3 million taxpayers annually, putting over $4 billion back into low-income communities. The first day I showed up and saw the various demographics; from students, the elderly, ESL individuals…I realized the level of impact this translated into. It was such an incredible feeling of fulfillment.”

The free tax help offered by the VITA program is particularly beneficial for those who are 60 years of age and older, as it specializes in questions about pensions and other retirement-related issues that are unique to seniors. Many of the community members who would qualify for the program are retired individuals associated with non-profit organizations that receive grants from the IRS.

Giandomenico found the specialized support for seniors to be the most rewarding part of the program. “I had never realized how many seniors try to do their taxes on their own. They’ve been filing their taxes the same way for decades, and now that they’ve retired, they aren’t always aware of what has changed or what new write-offs they qualify for,” she said. “The experience was very heartwarming; we were told ‘Thank You’ countless times from individuals coming in to pick up their returns or needed assistance filling out tax forms. Some indicated, ‘you don’t know how much this helps me year over year’. Without this program, they would have never had their taxes professionally prepared.”

Optima CEO David King wasn’t surprised when he was informed of how many members of his staff volunteered for the program. “We hire for character in all facets of the company, and then reinforce that regularly with all of our employees. Seeing all those members of our staff volunteering for this program really underscores the kind of quality people we have in the Optima family.”

By partnering with the IRS, the VITA program is able to offer reliable, trustworthy tax filing services for free. Optima’s volunteers are all licensed tax preparers that are up to date with both federal tax laws and any new IRS updates making them ideal candidates for the VITA program. The volunteers have also gone through extensive IRS training to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of all taxpayer information.

“Every year, low-income residents miss out on millions of dollars in federal and California tax refunds and credits that they are entitled to and deserve. Our OC Free Tax Prep program helps these hard-working people keep more of their earnings,” said Susan B. Parks, President and CEO of Orange County United Way. “Many of these families already face financial struggles and the pandemic has caused even greater strain. These tax refunds and credits will provide a much-needed boost to help pay for rent, food or medical expenses.”

Optima Tax Preparer Manager and VITA program participant Anne Tran said she would do the program again in the future if given the opportunity.  “I’d do it every year if I could,” she said.  “I love helping people and volunteering. That’s why I joined the VITA team. Most of the people I worked with were getting a professional tax return done for the first time.  It was wonderful getting to know them and to help them get the biggest return possible. I met an elderly lady whose family dropped her off at the VITA office with the intention to pick her up in a couple of hours. After her family left, she found out she forgot to bring a critical document. I offered to drive her home to get it so we could complete her tax filing. She was so happy and kept saying ‘thank you’ the whole time.  It was such a rewarding experience.”

Optima’s top priority is to continue working alongside the IRS to assist both their community and individuals across the U.S. by resolving unmanageable tax burdens and helping their clients achieve a better financial future.

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Should you Electronically File your Taxes?

Taxpayers have two options when it comes to submitting their tax return to the IRS: electronically or by mail. Before filing your taxes, a taxpayer should review the pros and cons of both methods. For example, e-filing is known to be safer, faster, and much more convenient than filing a paper tax return. Choosing to mail a paper return to the IRS is cheaper but takes much longer to process and for you to receive your tax refund.

E-filing a tax return

As of 2020, approximately 90% of taxpayers chose to e-file their tax returns. One of the biggest benefits of going with electronic filing is that taxpayers received an immediate confirmation from the IRS that their tax return has been received.

If the IRS finds any errors on an individual’s tax return, the IRS will mail out a rejection notice, typically within 24 hours of attempting to process and file the return. The IRS notice sent to taxpayers will indicate what triggered it to be sent out and how they can fix their error.

E-filing your tax return means your tax return will be processed much quicker and that you will receive your tax refund faster.

Although there are many pros to e-filing your tax return, taxpayers should be aware that there are also some disadvantages. Tax filers should be aware that outages or glitches may occur when using the internet to file your tax return.

E-filing supports most tax situations, however, there are certain scenarios it does not support. For example, you cannot:

  • File a return for someone who has passed away.
  • Attach images or PDFs to your return.
  • File before the IRS opens e-filing for the year.

Paper filing your tax return

There are some benefits when it comes to filing a paper tax return. For example, if an individual needs to file a tax return for someone who passed away, the IRS will require you to file a paper return. Paper filing also allows you to print and submit images or PDFs to supplement your tax return.

Taxpayers should be aware of the disadvantages that comes with mailing a tax return to the IRS. Data transcribers at the IRS are required to manually input taxpayer information for every paper return they receive. This could result in errors that may require you to file an amended return.

Paper filers may not realize that they have to manually sign the paper return or the IRS will not accept it. Novice paper filers often forget this fact, leading to even longer delays than what is normal with a paper 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.

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Common Errors Taxpayers should Avoid when Filing their Taxes

Filing a tax return electronically can help reduce mistakes since tax software notifies a taxpayer if there are any math issues, flags common errors, and prompts taxpayers for missing information. Using a tax software can also help a taxpayer claim valuable credits and deductions.

Using a reputable tax preparer, certified public accountants, enrolled agents, or other knowledgeable tax professionals can help an individual prevent making avoidable errors.

The IRS recommends that taxpayers file electronically and opt for the direct deposit to get their refund much faster and avoid any pandemic-related paper delays.

Here are some common errors taxpayers should avoid when preparing their tax return:

  • Missing or inaccurate Social Security numbers (SSN). Each SSN on a tax return should appear exactly as printed on the Social Security card.
  • Misspelled names. A name listed on a tax return should match the name on that person’s Social Security card.
  • Math errors. Math errors are one of the most common errors taxpayers make on their return. Taxpayers should always take the time to double-check the math on their return before submitting it over to the IRS.
  • Credits or deductions. Taxpayers should look into credits to see if they are eligible to place them on their tax return. Some of the most common credits are the earned income tax credit, child and dependent care credit, and recovery rebate credit. Individuals eligible for the recovery rebate credit and did not receive their payment, can claim the recovery rebate credit when they file their taxes.
  • Incorrect bank account. Taxpayers who are due a refund should choose direct deposit. This is the fastest way for a taxpayer to get their money. However, taxpayers need to make sure they use the correct routing and account numbers on their tax return.
  • Unsigned forms. An unsigned tax return is considered invalid and will not be accepted by the IRS. In most cases, both spouses must sign a joint return. Exceptions may apply for members of the armed forces or other taxpayers who have a valid power of attorney. Taxpayers can avoid this error by filing their return electronically and digitally signing it before sending it to the IRS.

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.

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Tips for Hiring a Tax Resolution Firm

IRS issues can be complicated to solve on your own. Understandably, many people look to find a professional tax firm for help.  But some tax companies are better qualified than others. Optima CEO David King and Lead Tax Attorney Philip Hwang provide helpful tips on how to find a truly qualified tax firm and some red flags taxpayers should look out for.

Got an IRS Notice? Get a FREE Risk Review with our Optima® TAX APP with Notice Analyzer

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Taxpayers could Receive a Tax Break on Unemployment Benefits

The recently passed $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan allows qualifying taxpayers who received unemployment during the 2020 tax year to have the first $10,200 of those benefits exempt from their federal income taxes. 

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The IRS has Resumed its U.S. Passport Revocation Program

The IRS recently announced that they are resuming their Passport Revocation Program. Optima CEO David King and Lead Tax Attorney Philip Hwang discuss how this program can cause delinquent taxpayers to lose their passport until they become compliant with the IRS. 

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Unemployment Fraud could affect Individuals this Tax Season

Due to the ongoing pandemic, millions of Americans lost their jobs, many of whom received unemployment benefits from their state agency. As taxpayers start to file their taxes, they need to be aware of scammers looking to file fraudulent unemployment benefits and steal their personal information.

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Filing your Taxes may be much harder this year

The IRS granted taxpayers additional time to file their federal tax returns due to COVID-19 and new stimulus provisions that made the current tax filing season much more complex compared to prior years. With so many new tax law changes, taxpayers should be more cautious when filing their taxes.

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The IRS has Received More Tax Returns compared to last year. Here’s why.

Many taxpayers have been filing their taxes at a faster rate compared to last year. This could be because people are looking to receive their tax refund in addition to their stimulus check.

The IRS began accepting and processing tax returns on February 12th this year, slightly later compared to last year. The IRS did this on purpose in order to have more time to accept and process tax returns and distribute out stimulus checks to qualifying taxpayers.

On February 12, the agency received 55 million returns in the first weekend alone. The returns were comprised of not just individual tax returns but also business returns and a variety of other types of returns.

In the first eight days of tax return intake, the IRS received 34.69 million individual returns, according to the agencies statistics. Last year on February 21, the IRS received 49.8 million returns, which is 30.5% fewer compared to this year. It is important to note that these numbers reflect before it was announced we were in a global pandemic.

The IRS extended their April 15 deadline to May 17 in order to allow individuals more time to file due to COVID-19. Taxpayers still have the option to file a tax extension for October 15 if they need additional time to file their taxes.

Texans, however, now have until June 15 to file their taxes due to the winter storms that affected them.

It is also important to note that although the federal deadline has been extended, individuals should check in with their state to see if their state tax deadline has also changed or if it has remained the same.

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.

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How Taxpayers can end up in the 0% Tax Bracket

A majority of individuals have a portion of their income go to taxes when they file. Those who are looking for a way to legally decrease or eliminate their tax bill altogether, should take advantage of certain tax perks when filing their tax return.

Look into deductions

Tax deductions are a great way for taxpayers to have more money in their pocket and reduce their total tax bill. Individuals who qualify for tax deductions, should take advantage by including them on their tax return. Utilizing tax deductions will reduce the total amount of income that was earned throughout the year which could reduce your tax bill or even get you a refund.

Hold onto winning investments

If you invest in stocks, it is important to understand how it can affect you when you file your taxes. If you are looking to reduce the total amount of taxes you may have to pay when filing your taxes, you my want to consider holding your stocks even if the price shoots up. If you hold your investments for over a year, you will be eligible for the long-term capital gains tax rates of 0%, 15%, or 20%.

Earn more qualified dividends

For those who are not ready to sell their stocks, there is another way to get the same rates you would get for long-term capital gains.

Qualified dividends allow individuals to bypass the higher tax rates that are associated with ordinary dividends. Qualified dividends also give individuals exclusive access to the 0%, 15%, and 20% tax brackets if they qualify for the following:

  1. The dividend must have been paid by a U.S. corporation or a qualifying foreign company.
  2. The dividends must be deemed as qualified in the eyes of the IRS and cannot be listed as a non-qualified dividend.
  3. You have held the stock paying the dividend for more than 60 days during the 121-day period that begins 60 days before the ex-dividend date.

Look into credits

Taxpayers who know they will owe a tax liability should look into tax credits they may qualify for. The Earned Income Tax Credit could help individuals receive a tax refund after filing their return. For those who contribute to a qualified retirement savings account, you may also be eligible for a tax credit that could potentially wipe out your entire tax bill.

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.

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Taxpayers could Receive a Tax Break on Unemployment Benefits

Although jobless benefits are considered taxable income, the recently enacted $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan allows individuals receiving unemployment to have the first $10,200 of those benefits exempt from federal income taxes.

 Taxpayers with a modified adjust gross income of $150,000 or more are not eligible for the tax break. The income threshold is the same for both single and married tax filers.

According to some tax experts, taxpayers who suffered job loss during the pandemic could see $1,000 to $2,000 reduced off their total tax bill.

The law to have the first $10,200 unemployment exempt from their federal taxes took effect after the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had already received at least 55 million individual tax returns. The good news is that the IRS may be able to adjust the already submitted and amended tax returns with no additional paperwork required.

The IRS will issue out refunds in two phases. The first phase will start for taxpayers who qualify to exclude up to $10,200 of unemployment benefits from their federal tax income.

The second phase will include married couples who file a joint tax return. Couples who file jointly, can waive tax on up to $20,400 of benefits.

It is still unknown as to whether the first phase of payments will also include married couples in which just one spouse received unemployment benefits, or if they will fall in the second round. It is also still unknown as to whether or not taxpayers with much more complex tax returns will be issued out a refund in phase one or if they will have to wait for phase two.

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

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.

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The IRS has Resumed its U.S. Passport Revocation Program

Optima CEO David King and Lead Tax Attorney Philip Hwang answer questions on how taxpayers can avoid getting their passport seized by the IRS.

As of March 14, 2021, the IRS resumed their Passport Certification program, and in doing so has notified the Department of State about taxpayers that are certified as owing a seriously delinquent tax debt. The IRS previously suspended certain collection activities, including passport certification, under the People First Initiative, which was created in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

Taxpayers who are delinquent with their tax debt should expect to receive a notice informing them of their balance due. It is recommended that individuals pay off their tax liability or enter into a payment agreement with the IRS to avoid any collection action and having their passports revoked. The level of action the IRS takes against an individual is typically based on the amount owed and how long the taxpayer has been delinquent without contacting the IRS to resolve their tax balance.

The IRS is typically required by law to certify individuals to the Department of State when an individual has unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt over the amount of $54,000 (including interest and penalties), of which a federal lien has be filed against and all administrative remedies under Internal Revenue Code Section 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted. The IRS is also required to certify any individuals who have had a levy issued against a tax debt of that size.

If a taxpayer has a large tax debt amount, the State Department typically will not renew or issue out a new, passport after receiving certification from the IRS, and in some extreme cases, they may even revoke someone’s current passport. Taxpayers living and working overseas will have a limited validity passport issued out by the State Department that is only valid for a direct return to the United States. Before a passport renewal or new passport application is denied, the State Department will typically hold a taxpayer’s application for 90 days to allow a taxpayer to:

  • Pay any owed tax debt in full.
  • Enter into a payment arrangement with the IRS.
  • Resolve any erroneous certification issues.

Once a taxpayer has resolved their tax issue, the IRS will generally reverse the certification within 30 days of the date of resolution and provide notification to the State Department.

Resolve your tax situation

The IRS provides a variety of programs that assist taxpayers in resolving their tax obligations including payment agreements and Offers in Compromise. In some cases, if the IRS determines a taxpayer is in a financial hardship and cannot pay any of their tax debt, a temporary delay will be made to the collection process.

Taxpayers who recently filed their tax return for the current year and expect a refund should be aware that their refund amount will be applied to the total debt owed until it has been paid in full. If the refund is enough to satisfy a delinquent tax debt, the IRS will consider the account paid in full. Taxpayers are warned to not solely rely on this option and resolve their tax issues as soon as possible in order to avoid collections with the IRS.

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