Friday, October 31, 2014

Prayers for a Friend

Danny, age 12, is a friend of the firm. Danny has cancer.

The family hoped for continued good reports after long treatments of chemotherapy. Recently, the tumor returned and Danny bravely faced another surgery.

He's currently in ICU and his Dad reports that he's doing well. They are exploring new treatment options after surgery.

If you pray, please keep Danny in your prayers. If you don't, please keep a good thought for a 12 year boy who is facing the ultimate challenge.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Big Brother16 and the IRS

I'm now addicted to watching BigBrother #BB16, something I never considered watching until I was at my daughter's house. As I watch the "social game" play out, I thought it would be fun to use the players as examples of the type of people and responses we receive from the #IRS. Here are a couple, just for fun - 

Devin - heavy handed and insulting; your worst nightmare; you'll do anything to get your file off his desk.

Zack - loud, crazy and not much substance; you'll put up with an hour of ranting to get to one minute of rational thought.

Nicole - sweet as pie; she'll bend over backwards to help you out, even though you may not like the result.

Cayleb - "beast mode tax man"; my way or the highway, unless you're female.

Donnie - dumb as a fox; you better watch yourself with Donnie - I think he has a masters in tax law and is former Navy Seal.

Derrick - the perfect combination of smarts and empathy.

 All in good fun. I wonder what the comparisons would be if you used Seinfeld instead?

Has big brother raised questions about your taxes? Contact Austin Tax attorney and San Antonio Tax Attorney Martin Cantu.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Mid-Year Tax Review

The dog days of summer are a great time to spend a few minutes with your 2014 tax projections to see how the year is stacking up. Are you making as much income as you anticiapted? Are there any unexpected income or expense items? Are you having enough withheld or paid in as estimated tax?

All great questions to be asking yourself now, rather than next April, when it's too late for action. Keep your notes - it makes a last minute look in December all the easier.

While you're reviewing your situation, now is a great time to consider a charitable deduction to the 501(c)(3) charity of your choice. With school just around the corner, so many organizations are gearing up to help those in need as we move into a new school year. Their need for funding extends way beyond the end of the year.

Our office supports these charities, as we're pleased to highlight them now for the great work they perform in the community. 

In San Antonio we support Seton Home. They are a residential facility that provides housing and supportive services for homeless, abused, pregnant and/or parenting teens and their children.

In Austin we support Caritas.  Caritas provides a service continuum for those experiencing poverty that begins with a safety net and links them to resources to achieve self-sufficiency.

Our community has countless other charities that are worthy of your support. This is great time to re-evaluate your tax situation and perhaps make a meaningful contribution to the charity of your choice. 

Have tax questions or need help? Contact tax attorney Martin Cantu

Contact our Austin tax office for a face-to-face consultation.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

#IRS Audit Update

Here are a couple of notes from the #IRS audit front lines for the first half of 2014:

1. IRS auditors are focusing on particular industries and work groups, accumulating a lot of data that they can use in other audits in the same industry. 

2.Auditors are more interested than ever in your "monetary lifestyle", and how that lifestyle compares to your stated deductions.

3. IRS auditors are more anxious to close out your case, good or bad, than ever before. 

Lately we've read a lot in the press about the shortcomings of IRS spending on technology and staff. The IRS countered with some great data mining and sharing of information on the local level. For example, here in central and south Texas the IRS is focused on audits of oil field services, drilling operations and landowners in the #EagleFord area. Databases and other informal information on say, oil field truck drivers, is shared among the local audit group. Financial profiles quickly emerge; information on a particular company's reimbursement policy is documented; job profiles emerge;  norm is established.

Auditors are using taxpayer prepared budgets to compare to the taxpayer's prior returns. The auditor then compares the budget expenses with the return expenses, and then with "lifestyle acquisitions" such as cars, boats, or houses, even the number of children in the household.

Finally, auditors are more anxious than ever to close out your cases - good news if you're prepared, not so good if you're not prepared.

Call now if you need help planning for your #IRSaudit. We have offices in Austin and San Antonio and will meet with you personally to discuss your situation. Contact Austin and San Antonio tax attorney Martin Cantu for assistance. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

How to Screw Up Your IRS Issue

Here are a couple of things not to do when confronted with an IRS issue:

1. Ignore all those certified letters. Certified letters are the IRS' way of slapping you in the face to get your attention. Continue to ignore those letters and you're sure to anger the IRS. If your looking for a levy or garnishment, then you're headed in the right direction. 

2. My accountant/lawyer/spouse/ etc  is responsible for filing my returns. Responsibility for filing returns rests squarely on you - not your spouse, not you accountant, not your lawyer or anyone else. Blame has no role in solving your tax issue. 

3. The IRS owes me money, so I won't file. Great strategy, until you realize that the limitations period will run and you will lose that refund. And you know the movie script here - you have several years of taxes due that could be wiped out by a refund you did not claim 6 years ago. Just like any 70's disaster movie you lose. You lose the refund and you owe the tax due for the recent years. The IRS writes the rules here and they're written in their favor, not yours. 

4. I'll settle my debt with one cash payment, at a discount. This is clearly the biggest misconception around right now. Its a real slap in the face - the IRS doesn't negotiate or haggle. The amount due is the amount due. The IRS grants about 10 -15% of Offers in Compromise, and you need to be flat broke and have no job to qualify for the OIC. The IRS is not in the business of settling debts on a percentage basis. 

Have questions about your tax situation? Contact Austin tax attorney Martin Cantu

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

#IRS - Rely on Our Guidance at Your Peril

In a truly Alice in Wonderland moment, the Unites States #TaxCourt issued an order in which the Court says that #IRS guidance "is not binding precedent and that taxpayers rely on same at their own peril." What?

Okay, maybe the #TaxCourt meant that you can't rely on something a clerk tells you on the phone or at your local #IRS office. Maybe the #IRS representative was not authorized to issue the guidance, or perhaps they misconstrued the #TaxCode - you might understand how that could happen. 

Not the case. The #TaxCourt Order in  Bobrow, Docket No. 7022-11, dated ironically enough April 15, 2014, warns taxpayers that they can't rely on #IRS guidance.

Looking deeper into the case, the advice was actually contained in an IRS publication, Number 590 to be precise. The #TaxCourt stated that reliance on Publication 590 "would not have served as substantial authority for the position taken on their tax returns."

The American College of Tax Counsel filed an Amicus brief in support of the taxpayer's motion for reconsideration. The ACTC argued that the #IRS' position could undermine public confidence in the tax system. How can you penalize a taxpayer for reliance on published IRS guidelines?

The taxpayer made an argument that reasonable people could agree on - I'll pay the additional tax due, but don't charge me a penalty. The taxpayer's position was in accord with the published #IRS guidelines, so sounds good on all sides. The lesson is that reasonable arguments don't win in #TaxCort or with the #IRS - its form over substance. 

 “But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here.” 

 Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

#Austin-Tax-Help #SATaxHelp

Monday, March 31, 2014

#IRS Announces New Tax Scams

The #IRS recently announced two scams that will impact taxpayers and the manner in which they deal with the #IRS.

The newest approach involves scammers phoning taxpayers using fake names and IRS badge numbers - brazen acts to further intimidate unsuspecting taxpayers into providing the scammers with sensitive financial data. This method is effective because the #IRS will contact you by phone and the agent will identify himself with name and badge number.

Further complicating the situation is that the scammer will threaten the taxpayer with severe consequences if the tax bill is not paid. The scammer may also have stolen an #IRS notice from the taxpayers mailbox, providing the scammer with an amount, a notice number and date, and other valuable information about the taxpayer's actual tax problem.

The scammer will make threats, may use rude tones and language, and demand action now. Unfortunately, some agents may use these same tactics, especially when attempting to collect large amounts or trust fund related taxes.

The second scam involves a "phising" attempt via email.

Taxpayers should be aware that the #IRS never uses email to collect taxes.

The first scam is troublesome because it mimics the exact approach that the #IRS takes to collect taxes.

Taxpayers should contact the #IRS via their 800 number, 800-829-1040, to verify collection status and action.

Do you have questions about your tax situation? Contact Austin tax attorney Martin Cantu with you questions. #Austin-Tax-Help #SATaxHelp