Tax Planning

Am I Required to Make Estimated Tax Payments?

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.

For most employees, their employer withholds taxes from their paychecks before sending the money directly to the IRS and state government. These employees don’t have to worry about having to calculate their taxes every paycheck, because it automatically comes out, which could lead to them receiving a nice refund come next tax season.

If you’re self-employed, then you know that your taxes are not automatically withheld from your paychecks. You need to calculate how much taxes need to be withheld by making estimated tax payments either monthly or quarterly. Here are a few tax tips the self-employed should follow in order to stay up to date with the IRS.

  1. Determine your business income. If you expect to be in a higher tax bracket this year, you’ll want to review what deductions you qualify for in order to reduce your income since you will most likely be subject to the highest tax rate. 
  2. Decide when you want to receive your income. Being self-employed usually means you can determine when you receive your payment for the service that you rendered. This can help you estimate how much income you will have and when you need to make your estimated tax payments in order to stay compliant. 
  3. Review what medical deductions you qualify for. Make the most out of your medical insurance deduction by deducting yourself, spouse, or any dependents you have. This will adjust your total income for the year which could help you owe less at the end of the year or even possibly receive a refund. 
  4. Understand itemized deductions vs. business deductions. It’s important to understand the difference because taking business deductions instead of itemized deductions will help you reduce your total adjusted gross income and self-employment tax for the year. 
  5. Track your business mileage. Make sure to keep all business expenses that you incur throughout the tax year such as gas, oil, vehicle maintenance as well as other expenses that may apply. Once you have kept a record of these business expenses, you can deduct it from your tax return. 

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

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Should I File an Amended 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.

If you’ve already filed your tax return only to realize that there’s an error or you omitted pertinent information, you may need to consider amending your tax return. Here are the dos and don’ts you should follow when it comes to determining whether or not you should amend your return.

  1. You received a CP2000 notice. If you received this notice, the IRS is notifying you that they determined there is underreported income on your tax return. Don’t immediately file an amended return when you receive this notice. Instead, review the information that the IRS has provided you and see if there is something in fact missing on your return.
  2. You received an audit notice. In the event you receive this type of notice, the IRS will request you provide further information that they feel you did not prove on your tax return(s). Keep in mind that you are unable to file an amended return when you are being audited by the IRS. 
  3. The IRS rejected your e-filed return. Don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that you need to amend your return if the IRS rejects it. Instead, review all the information to ensure it is accurate (name, birthdates, social security numbers) and attempt to e-file again. The IRS typically rejects returns if they believe identity theft is occurring or if two people have claimed the same dependent. 
  4. You forgot to include additional information on your tax return. If you already filed your return with the IRS and realized that you forgot to include additional income you earned throughout that tax year, you do have the option to amend your tax return to include this additional income. This ensures that the IRS won’t send you a notice later on inquiring about the additional income that you received.  
  5. You forgot to claim a credit of deduction. The IRS offers many credits and deductions for eligible taxpayers to place on their tax return that could potentially lead to them reducing a tax balance they may have or receiving a bigger refund. If you qualify for either a credit or deduction but failed to include it on your return, you can amend your tax return to include this in order to receive the most out of your tax filing.
  6. Your employer made a mistake on your W-2. If there were errors on your W-2 form that lead to your employer having to send you a corrected W-2 form after you filed your taxes, the IRS will allow you to amend your return to include the new information.

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

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How to Make a Payment 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.

  • The IRS offers payment options for those seeking to pay down their tax liability or make estimated tax payments.
  • Taxpayers paying off their tax balance can choose to have a monthly payment directly debited from their account or make payments manually.
  • For those making estimated tax payments, the IRS offers the option to mail in your payments or pay online. 

If you’re looking to avoid paying your back taxes at the end of the tax year or you want to start paying down your tax liability but have no idea where to make payments, it may be beneficial to look into what options the IRS can provide to you in order to stay compliant and out of collections.

If you owe a tax balance to the IRS and don’t have the ability to pay it back in full right away, the IRS does provide payment plan options for you to pay on a month to month basis. 

The IRS also offers the following options to help you make your monthly payments:

Direct Debit– For those who don’t want to deal with making manual payments to the IRS every month, you can request that your monthly payment is taken out from your bank account. Once you have established an agreement with the IRS, they will request that you fill out a direct debit form, also known as a 433-D form. The form requires that you input your accounting and routing information, the name of your bank, the tax balance amount, what tax years you owed for, and a signature to confirm you are requesting the tax payment be debited out of your account. 

Manual Payments – If you’re eligible, you can request to manually make your installment agreement payments. The IRS does require that you either mail in a check, money order or cashier’s check and to make it payable to the U.S. Treasury. In addition, the IRS also requires the following when you send in your payment:

  • Your name and address
  • Social security number 
  • Employee Identification number (if applicable)
  • Daytime phone number
  • Tax year
  • IRS notice or form related to the payment (if applicable)

Depending on the state you live in, the IRS will require that you mail your payment off to a specific processing center. You can click here to see where to send your payment.

Estimated Tax Payments

If you know that you’re going to owe a tax balance at the end of the tax year or are a 1099 earner looking to avoid owing money after filing your taxes, the IRS recommends that you make estimated tax payments either monthly or quarterly. 

The IRS provides several options for those looking to make their payments:

Pay online– Taxpayers can make their estimated tax payments online if they want to avoid the hassle of having to send in their payment. You can choose to: 1)  pay in full with a debit card or a credit or 2) make monthly installment agreement payments (subject to additional fees for each payment).

Manual payments– For those that choose to submit their payments by mail, the IRS requires the same information as mentioned above for the manual installment agreement payments. Taxpayers should also keep track of every payment they have made to the IRS throughout the tax year to ensure there are no discrepancies when they file their taxes. 

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


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Avoid any Tax-Time Surprises by Following these Simple Rules

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.

  • Taxpayers could potentially qualify for credits on their tax return that could either lower their tax balance or produce a larger tax refund. 
  • The IRS recommends that taxpayers check their withholdings throughout the year to ensure they are on the right track.
  • If you’re a 1099 earner or you’re not withholding enough from your paychecks, you will most likely need to make estimated tax payments throughout the year.

Tax filing season is upon us which means there may be some surprises you encounter along the way that may or may not be unpleasant. So what can you do to avoid being caught off guard when filing your taxes? 

Below are a few ways to prepare to get the most out of filing your tax return:

Understand what you qualify for. There are a vast amount of tax credits that you could potentially qualify for. The IRS isn’t going to tell you what you’re allowed to place on your tax return, so it is up to you as a taxpayer to do your own research or inquire with a tax professional to see if the type of expenses you have incurred can possibly go on your return. A few types of credits that you may qualify could be the following:

  1. Lifetime learning credit– this is to help offset the costs of post-secondary education; eligible students could earn up to $2,000. The credit is available to those who make $58,000 or less, or for married couples earning $116,000 or less. 
  2. Child and dependent care credit – this is to help offset the cost of babysitting and daycare. This is available to taxpayers who have children under the age of 13.
  3. Savers tax credit – Those who qualify have made eligible contributions to retirement plans such as a 401K. Taxpayers with the least income will qualify for a larger credit – up to $1,000 for those filing as single, or $2,000 for those filing jointly.

Do a withholding checkup. The IRS recommends that taxpayers check their withholdings throughout the year to ensure they are on the right track to receive a refund and to avoid owing at the end of the year. If your income has increased during the year, it is advised that you do a checkup to ensure that you are withholding enough or if more needs to be taken out of your paycheck. 

Make estimated tax payments. If you’re a 1099 earner or you’re not withholding enough from your paychecks, you will most likely need to make estimated tax payments throughout the year to ensure you don’t owe a tax liability come next filing season. The IRS allows taxpayers to make their payments via ground mail or online. Taxpayers are required to make their payments quarterly or monthly to ensure they do not receive a penalty when they file their taxes. If you need assistance calculating your estimated tax payments, the IRS encourages you to use their withholding estimator to see how much you should be making in payments. 

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

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Why You Should Review Your Tax Return Before Signing Off

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.

  • When reviewing your tax return, double-check that all income you received has been properly reported.
  • Ensure your name, social security number, and your accounting and routing number are accurate.
  • If your tax return is missing or contains inaccurate information after you signed off on it and it has already been filed, you may need to get it amended.

If you are getting ready to file your taxes, it is important to understand that as a taxpayer, you are fully liable for the information placed on your tax return once you sign off on the dotted line. Although you may have gone to a tax preparer to file on your behalf, it is still your responsibility to ensure that everything adds up correctly and that the information entered is accurate. Should you fail to do so, you could potentially face consequences with the IRS down the road. 

Here are a few ways to make sure that your tax return is accurate before sending it off to the IRS:

Double-check that all your information is on your tax return. Do not just sign off on a completed tax return, take the time to actually review the information that has been placed on it. If there is any information that is missing, especially your income, you could run into some issues with the IRS and it may also cost you more money. When reviewing your tax return, double-check that all income you received has been properly reported. You can double-check the amounts by reviewing your W2 or 1099 forms provided to you by your current or past employers. 

Look for incorrect information. Something else that you should check before signing off on your tax return is if your name, social security number, and your accounting and routing number are accurate. Ensuring that all your information is correct on your tax return will help you avoid any delays in your tax return and allow you to get your tax refund as quickly as possible.

Avoid having to have your tax return amended. If you realize your tax return is missing or contains inaccurate information after you signed off on it and it has already been filed, you may need to get it amended. In order to avoid raising any red flags with the IRS, make sure that you’ve provided all tax relevant information to your preparer so they can include it on your return. In the event that you fail to provide certain information to your tax preparer, you will need to request that the tax preparer amend your tax return to include the missing information. This will not only cost you more money but also your time.    

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

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Why Taxpayers Should be Prepared for Natural Disasters

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.

  • Learn how to recover lost or stolen tax documents in order to file your taxes. 
  • Reach out to the tax preparer that filed your returns and request copies.
  • If you used a tax filing software to file your taxes, you can log back in and review past returns that you previously filed.
  • Request a copy of your transcripts from the IRS either electronically or by mail.
  • Upload digital copies of your past tax years onto a secure server.

Tax season is such a chaotic time of the year, especially when it comes to scheduling tax appointments, finding the right tax preparer, and getting all your documents in order. What most people can’t plan for is when a natural disaster hits that could potentially devastate their community, their home, and any important documentation that was stored in their home. 

So what can you do if a natural disaster has caused you to lose tax documents? Here are a few ways that will help you recover your important information and get back on track with filing your tax return:

  • Contact the IRS. If your area has been federally declared a disaster area, you can call 866-562-5227 and speak with an IRS agent who is specialized to assist taxpayers affected by natural disasters.
  • Get a copy of your tax return. If you are in need of past tax returns because they were damaged in a natural disaster, you can always reach out to the tax preparer that filed your returns and request copies. If you used a tax filing software to file your taxes, you can log back in and review past returns that you previously filed.
  • Request a transcript. If you are unable to access your previous tax years, you can always request a copy of your transcripts from the IRS either electronically or by mail. 
  • Create digital copies. Upload digital copies of your past tax years onto a secure server so if a natural disaster ever occurs you will have back-up copies on file to refer back to.

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

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Live Here, Work There. Where do I pay state income taxes?

After weeks or months of job seeking, you land the position of your dreams–but the job is in a different state. The location of the job is close enough so that you can commute every day rather than move, but you are still faced with the dilemma of where and how to pay state income taxes. Here’s what you should know if you live in one state but work in another.

Where do I pay state income taxes?

The easy rule is that you must pay non-resident income taxes for the state in which you work and resident income taxes for the state in which you live, while filing income tax returns for both states.

However, this general rule has several exceptions. One exception occurs when one state does not impose income taxes. The other exception occurs when a reciprocal agreement exists between the two states.

States with No State Income Tax

There are currently seven states in the USA that have no state income tax:

  • Alaska
  • Florida
  • Nevada
  • South Dakota
  • Texas
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

Two more states: New Hampshire and Tennessee tax only dividend and interest income. If you work in one of these nine states but live in one of the 41 states (plus the District of Columbia) that do impose state income taxes, you will generally pay only resident state income taxes for the state where you live. Similarly, if you live in one of these nine states but work in a state that imposes state income tax, you would only pay nonresident taxes for the state where you work.

For instance, if you live in Bristol, Virginia but work in Bristol, Tennessee, you would pay Virginia resident state income taxes. Likewise, if you worked in Bristol, Virginia and lived in Bristol, Tennessee, you would pay Virginia nonresident state income taxes. Though in both cases you would only file a single state income tax return.

States with Reciprocal Tax Agreements

What if you live in Milwaukee but you commute every day by Amtrak to Chicago? It just so happens that Wisconsin and Illinois share what is known as a reciprocal tax agreement. Reciprocal agreements allow residents of one state to work in other neighboring states without having to file nonresident state tax returns in that state they work. As a result, your employer would deduct only Wisconsin state taxes from your paycheck, and none for Illinois. Likewise, if you live in Chicago but work in Wisconsin, your employer would only deduct Illinois resident state income taxes from your paycheck. In both instances, you would only be required to file one state income tax return.

States without Reciprocal Tax Agreements

If you are unlucky enough to work across state lines in a state with no reciprocal agreement with your resident state, (for instance, Illinois and Indiana), then you will need to file income tax returns for both states. However, you should also be able to claim a credit on your resident state income tax return for the state income tax that you paid for the nonresident state. The result is that you actually pay taxes for one state, even though you must deal with the hassle of filing returns in both states.

Please note that reciprocity is not automatic. You must file request with your employer to deduct income taxes based on your state of residence rather than where you work. Unless you make a formal request, with your employer, you will continue to be taxed by both states and you will continue to be obliged to file two state income tax returns.

Filing Multi-State Income Tax Returns

Many people who are faced with the dilemma of working in one state and living in another, meaning they need to file a nonresident state tax return. People living and working in two different states often delegate the task of filing state income tax returns to an accountant or to a tax attorney. Still, know that many online and home-based tax preparation software programs include state income tax forms with detailed instructions on how to fill multi-state tax returns. If your tax situation is otherwise straightforward, you can save yourself a considerable amount of money by using a software program that includes both state and federal income tax forms and filing your own income tax returns.

If your career move was international there are other tax considerations, you should be aware of. Read our article on reporting foreign income to learn about your tax obligations when working overseas.

How to make a payment 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.

  • Taxpayers can pay the IRS directly via their savings or checking account.
  • The IRS allows taxpayers to use their debit or credit cards to make online payments. 
  • If a taxpayer is unable to pay back their tax debt, they can negotiate a payment plan with the IRS. 

If you owe the IRS, or know that you will owe after filing your taxes, you need to be aware of the options for paying back the IRS to avoid falling into collections. The IRS provides several payment options where a taxpayer can either pay the IRS right away or make arrangements to be on a monthly payment plan. 

Here are a few ways you can make payment to the IRS:

  • Pay in full from checking or savings accounts. Taxpayers have the ability to pay their tax bills in full by directly using their checking or savings account and paying online on the IRS website. You can schedule up to 30 days in advance and can cancel your payment or switch your method of payment up to two business days before your payment is taken out. 
  • Use credit or debit cards. The IRS allows taxpayers to use their debit or credit cards to make payments either online or over the phone. The IRS does not charge any hidden fees, although the convenience fees may vary depending on the type of credit card that is used. 
  • Setting up an installment agreement. If a taxpayer is unable to pay back their tax liability to the IRS, the IRS will provide the option of a monthly payment plan so they can make controlled, manageable payments until their tax debt has been satisfied. Taxpayers are required to file all required tax returns before negotiating an agreement. 

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

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How to Avoid Tax Fraud During Tax Season

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.

  • Tax Season leaves many taxpayers vulnerable to identity theft and scammers.
  • Scammers can pose as tax preparers and steal your personal information. 
  • Protect your social security and bank information to ensure it does not end up in the wrong hands. 
  • Ask your tax preparer how you can avoid your personal information getting leaked if there is a data breach. 

Most people don’t realize how vulnerable they are to fraud during tax season.  The scary truth is that during this time of year, many identities are stolen and fraudulent tax returns are unwittingly filed on behalf of a taxpayer. In order to protect yourself, it is vital to exercise caution and provide only the documents and information that are absolutely necessary. Below are a few scams to be aware of during tax time to help avoid becoming a fraudster’s next victim.

Phone and Email Scams

The most obvious way to protect yourself against scammers is to never give out your personal information to someone you don’t know, especially over the phone. If someone from the “IRS” is attempting to contact you over the phone or by email and asks for your social security or card information, don’t give it to them. The IRS almost never contacts via phone, instead preferring to send notices via mail.  Even if you do receive a call from the IRS, they won’t ask for your social security number – they already have that information.  If you feel uncomfortable about the validity of a call, hang up and call the IRS yourself – that way you know if what they’re telling you is true.

Accountant fraud

Be wary of scammers who will pose as a tax preparer and then rip off customers through refund fraud or identity theft. These phony accountants will tell you that they can get you a large tax refund and typically prey on low-income and non-English speaking taxpayers. 

Even if you go to a legitimate tax preparer, your information can still be exposed if there is a data breach. To avoid this happening – and being left vulnerable – ask your tax preparer what more you can do to protect your information in case of a breach.

Identity theft

Make sure to protect your social security number at all costs. Identity thieves will attempt to steal this information in order to steal not only your identity but your tax refund too. As long as you notify the IRS that your information has been compromised and your refund has been stolen, the IRS will work with you to provide your refund. However, it will take extensive time and paperwork to prove that your information was stolen.

Tax Season is now upon us, and it’s important to protect your personal information and ensure that it can’t be compromised. Always be wary of phone calls or emails that you receive claiming to be from the IRS, especially when they’re asking for your bank information or social security number. Also, do your research when looking for a tax preparer to file your taxes for you, and make sure they have their license, as well as positive reviews from previous clients. Lastly, make sure to monitor your social security number to ensure that your data has not been breached and your identity hasn’t been stolen. 

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

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What to Do If You Work Abroad and Owe 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.

  • Working abroad doesn’t excuse citizens from paying their taxes, in fact, they are still held to the same standard as those working within the U.S. too.
  • For those working abroad, tax filing will begin on January 27th and are provided a two month extension-until June 15th-to file their tax return.
  • U.S. citizens have the choice to either mail their tax return or e-file as long as it is before the tax deadline. 

Working abroad can be an exciting adventure.  For starters, you get to experience different cultures, meet new people, and eat foods you’ve never even heard of before. It can be easy to immerse yourself in a new country and forget all the responsibilities that you had back at home. While this can be a welcome development for many, one responsibility you should try not to skirt is your taxes.  Even when you’re working abroad, you are still bound to the same tax laws, and you will need to report your income and file your tax return when you’re living in another country. If you’re an American citizen that is working abroad or are even just considering doing so, it is important to know when you should file, where you can file, and if you are able to file online.

When you should file

If you’re a U.S. citizen, resident alien, or you are in the military on duty outside of the U.S. that is working abroad, you are still obligated to file your tax return by April 15th. The only difference between someone working abroad versus someone that resides in the U.S. is that the person working abroad is provided an automatic two-month extension. This means those working outside of the U.S. are given until June 15th to prepare and file their tax return. It should also be noted that taxpayers are still required to pay any tax balance they have by April 15th or they will be charged interest.

Where to file

Working abroad can cause some confusion about how and where you are able to file your tax return. If you’re a U.S. citizen or resident alien; this includes a green card holder, you can mail your U.S. tax return to:

Department of the Treasury

Internal Revenue Service Center

Austin, TX 73301-0215 USA

Can you e-file?

Taxpayers that have their adjusted gross income of $69,000 or less have the ability to electronically file their tax returns for free. If taxpayers have a greater adjusted gross income greater than the specified threshold, they can use the Free File Fillable Forms, the e-file by purchasing commercial software, or the Authorized IRS e-file Provider Locator Service.

If you’re a U.S. citizen looking to work abroad, it is important to know your tax duties and obligations you will still have, regardless of whether you’re working and residing elsewhere. Make sure to mark your calendar for tax filing season every year so you remember to file your tax return. It is also critical to know what your options are when it comes to filing your tax returns and what software you are able to utilize. 

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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