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

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Affordable Care Act Overview

Here is some information put out by the #IRS on the Affordable Care Act, and your duties under the Act. 

The Individual Shared Responsibility Payment – An Overview
Starting January 2014, you and your family must either have health insurance coverage throughout the year, qualify for an exemption from coverage, or make a payment when you file your 2014 federal income tax return in 2015. Many people already have qualifying health insurance coverage and do not need to do anything more than maintain that coverage in 2014.
Qualifying coverage includes coverage provided by your employer, health insurance you purchase in the Health Insurance Marketplace, most government-sponsored coverage, and coverage you purchase directly from an insurance company. However, qualifying coverage does not include coverage that may provide limited benefits, such as coverage only for vision care or dental care, workers’ compensation, or coverage that only covers a specific disease or condition.
You may be exempt from the requirement to maintain qualified coverage if you:
  • Have no affordable coverage options because the minimum amount you must pay for the annual premiums is more than eight percent of your household income,
  • Have a gap in coverage for less than three consecutive months, or
  • Qualify for an exemption for one of several other reasons, including having a hardship that prevents you from obtaining coverage, or belonging to a group explicitly exempt from the requirement.
A special hardship exemption applies to individuals who purchase their insurance through the Marketplace during the initial enrollment period for 2014 but due to the enrollment process have a coverage gap at the beginning of 2014.
For any month in 2014 that you or any of your dependents don’t maintain coverage and don’t qualify for an exemption, you will need to make an individual shared responsibility payment with your 2014 tax return filed in 2015.
However, if you went without coverage for less than three consecutive months during the year you may qualify for the short coverage gap exemption and will not have to make a payment for those months. If you have more than one short coverage gap during a year, the short coverage gap exemption only applies to the first.
If you (or any of your dependents) do not maintain coverage and do not qualify for an exemption, you will need to make an individual shared responsibility payment with your return. In general, the payment amount is either a percentage of your income or a flat dollar amount, whichever is greater. You will owe 1/12th of the annual payment for each month you (or your dependents) do not have coverage and are not exempt. The annual payment amount for 2014 is the greater of:
  • 1 percent of your household income that is above the tax return threshold for your filing status, such as Married Filing Jointly or single, or
  • Your family’s flat dollar amount, which is $95 per adult and $47.50 per child, limited to a maximum of $285.
The individual shared responsibility payment is capped at the cost of the national average premium for the bronze level health plan available through the Marketplace in 2014. You will make the payment when you file your 2014 federal income tax return in 2015.
For example, a single adult under age 65 with household income less than $19,650 (but more than $10,150) would pay the $95 flat rate.  However, a single adult under age 65 with household income greater than $19,650 would pay an annual payment based on the 1 percent rate.

Have questions on your tax situation? Contact Austin Tax Attorney Martin Cantu

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

#IRSAppeals - The Saving Grace

Just when all is lost, the #IRSAppeals section comes to the rescue - sort of.

#IRSAppeals is a great tool to use, at the right time and under the right circumstance. It can provide taxpayers with a break to get their house in order and make a good faith attempt to pay off the tax debt, usually via an installment plan.

Its not quick fix pill. It takes work to muster the documents needed to support the taxpayer's position and to give the appeals officer the foundation to make the decision you want them to make.

I like because is changes the playing field, getting it off one person's desk (collections) and onto another person's desk (appeals). Maybe its a card your don't have to play, or maybe its one you save for an other day. That is where experience plays a big role.

As one collection officer told me recently, there are appeals opportunities all through the process. He was right, but the taxpayer has to get involved early to take advantage of those opportunities.

Have questions about your appeal rights? Contact #Austin-Tax-Help today for a no-cost/no-obligation phone consult. Tax Attorney Martin Cantu will answer your questions and assist you in your decision making process.

Monday, February 24, 2014

#UnfiledTaxReturns - the Elephant in the Room

So why, Austin residents, should you worry about #unfiledtaxreturns? You've gotten by this long, so why worry?

Lets run through the reasons:

1. A good nights sleep - believe it or not, so many clients tell me that they have not a good sleep as the years pass and they continue not to file returns.

2. The #IRS will address your situation - the difficult thing with the #IRS is to figure out their timeline. Sometimes its 5 years; sometimes 3; sometimes 8; either way they will catch up to you, on their schedule.

3. When they do, it will impact you like a stranger walking up to you on the street and slapping you on the face, hard - When they do catch up to you, the IRS will get your attention. #WageGarnishment is clearly the worst of the actions. It will get your attention - fast.

#TaxParalysis prevents many Austin residents from getting past this issue. Call us today for a free phone consult about your situation, and what we can do to help you avoid the #IRS slap.

Call Austin Tax Attorney Martin Cantu for your free phone consult.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

In Defense of the IRS

Lots of news this week about the #IRS' lean resources and what that means to customer service. Yes wait times are high - higher than most any other customer service business. Yes, their computer systems are antiquated leaving each representative to re-verify the same information over and over again. This wastes at least 25% of each phone call, if not more. 

I do wish there was one way to verify your power of attorney for a client. I do wish their computer systems were faster. I do wish I could call ahead for a virtual appointment. Maybe we'll get that in the future.

But I have to praise the telephone work of the IRS representatives I speak to from across the country. I find them to be helpful, understanding, and cheerful. This does not mean our conversations are "love-fests", but you have to a willingness to cooperate on both sides to reach an agreement. As an advocate for my clients, this is essential to moving their case on to resolution so they can get on with their lives. 

So here's a thank you to those IRS phone representatives for a job well done, and much appreciated. Now while I have you, let me ask you about a client who needs to reduce his installment payment.....

Have questions? Contact Austin Tax Attorney Martin Cantu. #Austin-Tax-Help

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Notice of Levy or Garnishment

So you received the dreaded Notice of Garnishment. What do you do now?

The first thing you need to understand is that by the time you received the notice, the garnishment has been acted upon. It will quickly be followed by a notice from your payroll department confirming the garnishment, the amount taken by the IRS and the amount you are left with. The amount taken reflects a mathematical calculation, leaving you a very small amount to get by with through the new payroll period. 

Garnishment is the same as a slap in the face - designed to get your attention. It is the ultimate call to action. 

Candidly, by the time I get involved its usually too late to get the amount taken released by the IRS. The analogy I use is that the "toothpaste is out of the tube". 

At this point your goal is to establish a line of communication with the IRS. Then, you can work to  stop the garnishment by setting up a payment agreement, providing financial agreement, or something in between. Contacting a tax professional who has experience in this area is money well spent at this time. Time is an important factor for you in this situation. Limiting your exposure to the garnishment hinges on how fast you can act to establish that line of communication. 

Have questions? Contact #Austin-Tax-Help or #SATaxHelp today. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

IRS - Early Action Equals Early Success

Just a quick note to you to remind everyone that the earlier I can get into the game for you, the quicker we can have some success.

Tax problems bear a remarkable resemblance to cancer, something many people can relate to and understand more than cancer. Not to trivialize cancer - its a horrible disease and my prayers go out some many friends, clients and family members that deal with this disease.

Just like cancer, early in means early success. The later it goes the harder it gets to extricate yourself from the mess. It really paints you into a box and leaves you with few options.

Yes, the medicine can be tough, but once you get past that you'll find the road open up with more choices and the added benefit of relief.

We can help you with #IRSgarnishments, #IRSlevies, #IRSaudits and other tax issues. Take the first step and give us a call today.

#AustinTaxHelp #SATaxHelp

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Our Austin Office is now open.

We're back in Austin after a 4 year hiatus! We opened our office at 7000 n. Mopac at Far West.

We strive to help taxpayers dig out of their IRS tax problems - one step at a time. Please visit our new Austin website - Time after time we hear from clients about the sense of relief we provide. From our expert advice about how to stop the IRS train to our fixed fee and installment fee agreement - let us show you the difference we can make.

Our main office remains in San Antonio where will continue to help San Antonians and south Texas with a higher quality of service.

#Austin-Tax-Help #SATaxHelp