Some tax returns could be very complicated for taxpayers. However, regardless of the level of complication, all taxpayers could greatly benefit by partially reviewing their tax return and by asking a few questions.

Hiring a tax preparer to prepare a tax return does not confer an immunity from liability to the taxpayer. A taxpayer cannot necessarily transfer the liability to the tax preparer in an audit by the Internal Revenue Service or a state taxing authority. The IRS will not process a return until the taxpayer declares and signs that “Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined this return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete. Declaration of preparer (other than taxpayer) is based on all information of which preparer has knowledge.”

The tax return could have many pages. Many items are difficult to understand. However, there are some steps that taxpayers could take to ensure that their return is accurate by reviewing and asking questions related to certain items.

Taxpayers who received more than one (1) W-2 may not have all W-2s accounted for because some preparers would not report the correct income to increase the earned income tax credit and other credits. However, the IRS received all of them. Taxpayers could have a fraudulent Schedule A to show more fictitious deductions, and or a Schedule C on their returns. Most of the times, a schedule C is used to lower taxable income by showing a fictitious business loss. It is easy to discover inflated expenses on the Schedule A (1 page) and the Schedule C (2 pages). Look for fraudulent Form 8863 – Education tax credit- if you did not pay school tuition.

We strongly advise you to take some time to review: line 1 – Total amount from Form (s) W-2; line 8 – Additional Income and Adjustments to Income from Schedule 1 (take a look at schedule 1); line 9 – Total Income; line 12 – Standard deduction or itemized deductions; line 34 – Refund. A suddenly big refund without some changes in your financial situation is a red flag. Finally, ensure that the tax preparer’s name, signature, address, and PTIN is noted at the bottom of the page below your name. Ask questions!

This review could save taxpayers a lot of money and could protect them from audit because an audit is costly and could take a very long time!

Self-employed taxpayers (Schedule C) might not have the correct income reported. When the total gross income does not match that from the 1099-Ks or other 1099s, it is a red flag for audit. You would likely receive a Notice CP2000 later on from the IRS. If you reported gross income without expenses, it is also a red flag because the income reported affects the earned income tax credit amount. In Memorandum 200022051the Internal Revenue Service Office of the Chief Counsel advised tax professionals that they should know that all expenses must be deducted.

Partners and shareholders should keep track of their basis in their partnership or S corporation. They should inquire about the classification of any income received, whether it is distribution of capital (basis) which is not taxable or net income from the profit, a taxable event. Reasonable compensation is another audit target because shareholders would take a lower salary to minimize their FICA and employment taxes. In these cases, the IRS could determine a reasonable salary and penalize the shareholders or partners. The IRS could also reclassify income when it could be determined that income is disguised as distribution. Partners and shareholders should review their schedule K-1 for accuracy. Part of the 80 billion dollars that the IRS recently received has been used for tax law enforcement. Higher income earners, partnerships and corporations are currently the main targets.

Taxpayers who claimed to be real estate professionals must pass the three-parts test for losses to be fully deductible: 1) spending more than half personal service in real property trades or businesses- log of business activities is key, 2) 750 Hour Rule – must perform at least 750 hours annually, and 3) material participation– taxpayers could meet this test in several ways as described by the code and regulations. A taxpayer would not pass the active participation test when he or she owns less than 10% of the real estate business. Grouping of activities under IRC section 469 and relevant regulations provides a remedy.

The Internal Revenue Code in Section 6662(a) and (b)(1) imposes an accuracy-related penalty equal to 20% of the amount of any underpayment of tax that is due to the taxpayer’s negligence or disregard of rules or regulations. An underpayment is generally defined as the difference between the tax imposed on the taxpayer and the tax reported on the tax return. Section 6662(a) imposes an accuracy-related penalty on taxpayers on the theory that the petitioners’ underpayment of tax was due to negligence.

For years, the IRS has been unsuccessfully trying to get legislation that would prevent unqualified individuals to prepare paid tax returns. As a result, every year, the IRS has imposed more due diligence requirements on tax preparers. Do you know that the IRS is now more forceful in prosecuting deceptive tax preparers and ghost preparers?

The Internal Revenue Code provides an exception in Section 6664(c)(1) to the imposition of a penalty, if it is shown that there was reasonable cause for the underpayment and the taxpayer acted in good faith.

Further readings:

  • Internal Revenue Code Section 469.
  • Treas. Regs. section 1.469.
  • Revenue Ruling 56-407, 1956-2 C.B. 564
  • Publication 4717- Help Your Tax Preparer
  • Internal Revenue Code Section 6662(c)
  • Treas. Regs. section 1.6662-3(b)(1)

  Hiring a tax resolution expert is the best action a taxpayer could take in a tax matter before the IRS or a state tax authority. 

We offer FREE initial consultation!!!

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