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Tips for Preventing a Tax Audit

Despite what individuals may have been told in the past, an audit by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t random. The IRS utilizes a state-of-the-art software program to flag tax returns for auditing. The software is called Discriminate Income Function (DIF). It flags returns for investigation by comparing the deductions an individual or business takes compared to others that are within the same income bracket.

There’s no reason taxpayers should be afraid to take the deductions to which they’re legally entitled, as long as they have the appropriate documentation to support what they’re claiming. There’s no foolproof way to be protected against an IRS audit, but there are steps individuals can take to minimize the potential.

Targeting Factors

Some jobs, careers, tax brackets, and geographical locations are more likely than others to be targeted for an audit, along with the very rich and the very poor. Individuals with an annual income of less than $25,000 have an audit rate of about 0.69 percent, a figure that’s 50 percent higher than all others.

Areas with a large African-American, Hispanic, Native American, and poor population are audited more. People that regularly receive tips such as hairdressers, waitresses, and bartenders are audited with more frequency, along with accountants, doctors, and attorneys that typically keep their own books. It’s a good idea for anyone in these categories to avoid miscellaneous deductions.

Self-Employed & Small Business

Small businesses and the self-employed are favorite IRS targets. Many choose to incorporate or form a limited liability company as they’re audited less often. File any pertinent worksheets, avoid amendments, know when to file, and hire a professional to prepare tax returns.

Know What’s Questioned

Keeping exemplary records is critical. Home office deductions, medical expenses, casualty losses, and business costs for travel, entertainment, and meals are some of the most often questioned.

Neatness Counts

Being neat really does make a difference. Returns that are difficult to read or have blank lines are more likely to be audited. It’s better to use a zero on a line than to leave it blank.

Do the Math

Use a calculator, double check the math, and make sure federal and state returns match. For those that use online tax preparation software, if it says there’s a problem and something needs to be revisited – pay attention.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Tax Penalties you Need to Avoid

It doesn’t matter whether it’s time to pay your personal taxes or your business taxes, it’s easy to run afoul of the IRS. There are some common types of tax penalties that you may incur if you don’t stay focused. The following are the most common tax penalties you need to avoid.

Bad Checks

If you write a check to pay your taxes and the funds aren’t available when the IRS tries to withdraw the money, you can be penalized a set amount or the full amount of the check you wrote.

Charitable Contributions

Anyone caught operating for-profit activities while claiming the endeavor as a charitable organization will face considerable penalties. Non-profits that are caught operating for-profit activities can lose their tax exempt status.

Failure to File

There are some taxpayers that aren’t required to file a return, but if you do have to file, you need to do so by a specific date or file for an extension. An extension gives you six more months to file, but won’t absolve you from the need to pay any taxes owed by the usual deadline.

Failure to Pay

When you owe taxes to the IRS, you have 21 days to pay the entire amount. If you don’t, the IRS will charge you ½ of 1 percent per month on the amount you owe.

Fraud

Fraud occurs when you don’t report all your income or inflate the number of deductions you have to lower your taxes. The IRS can penalize you by 75 percent of what you actually owe and/or have you jailed. The IRS receives a copy of your earnings every year, just as you do.

Late Payments

If you fail to pay a balance owed the IRS by the filing deadline, there will be financial penalties that will be added to what you already owe. Those penalties accrue compound interest each month that they go unpaid.

Social Security Number

You have to provide a Social Security number for yourself, spouse, and anyone you claim as a dependent. You must disclose those numbers or face penalties for each instance of non-compliance.

Underpayment

For individuals that estimate their tax burden, you’ll incur a fine if you fail to pay the entire amount. There is also a fine for underestimating what you owe. The fine will be added to the amount you owe the next time you’re required to file.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Tax Saving Tips for Millennials

Many Millennials are struggling when it comes to their taxes. They don’t have access to the wide variety of tax deductions that their parents have been claiming for years. They’re at a unique point in their life where they’ve just graduated, started a new job, or are just struggling with day-to-day expenses. The following are some tax tips specifically for Millennials.

Filing Fees

Anyone that makes less than $64,000 per year is eligible to file for free. The IRS website can lead filers to companies and organizations that provide the online software to complete their federal and/or state taxes and for e-filing.

Education

Students and graduates should write off every possible educational deduction, including a tuition and fees deduction. It could result in a deduction of up to $4,000. To do so, Millennials will need to save every receipt that may apply. Young taxpayers can also claim their student loan interest up to $2,500.

Another deduction is Lifetime Learning Credits. The deduction can be taken for continuing education even after graduation and has the benefit of making individuals more attractive to employers.

Healthcare

A Health Savings Account (HSA) is a fund to which a taxpayer can contribute on behalf of their medical expenses. Up to $6,150 can be deposited each year and it’s all tax-free money that can be used toward any medical expense.

Retirement

Millennials should start saving for retirement as soon as possible. A Roth IRA, for example, allows individuals to take money from the original principal without penalties if needed while continuing to yield monetary results.

Working

Expenses associated with moving to start a new job may be deductible as a work-related expense if the relocation is at least 50 miles. For Millennials that may be working from home, a portion of their living space may qualify as a home office and be eligible for the home office deduction.

Amazon, eBay, and Etsy are all great ways to make extra cash and those avenues may qualify as a home business. Some individuals that are working in positions in which they can offer consulting services can change their filer status from employee to entrepreneur, which opens up new savings possibilities when filing.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Automobile Tax Expenses

The powers that be have historically written sections into the tax code promoting business activities. One of the traditional write-offs has always been the expenses associated with using a vehicle for business purposes.

 

The simplest automobile tax expense situation is one in which a vehicle is used entirely for business. For example, if you have a van used for a delivery service and nothing personal, all expenses associated with the van can be written off. This is known as the exclusive use situation. For many small businesses, however, a vehicle will be used for both personal and business reasons.

 

Where you use a vehicle for both personal and business reasons, you can only deduct the automobile expenses associated with the business use. Keep in mind that driving to and from work is not considered business mileage while driving from an office to meet a client is considered business mileage.

 

There are two methods for determining deductible automobile tax expenses. The first is a simple calculation known as the standard mileage deduction. The second is the actual expenses method. You can choose whichever deduction provides you with the biggest deduction unless you lease the car. With a lease, you must use the standard mileage deduction.

 

The standard mileage rate deduction is a calculation wherein you multiply your total business mileage for the year by a figure provided by the IRS. For the first eight months of 2005, the figure provided by the IRS is 40.5 cents per mile. For the last four months of 2005, the figure has been bumped up to 48.5 cents to reflect high gas prices.

 

The actual cost expense option is exactly what it sounds like. It is the actual cost associated with using the vehicle for tax purposes for a particular tax year. Automobile tax expenses will include gas, tires, repairs, oil changes, registration costs, licensing, insurance and so on. In many cases, the actual expense deduction will end up being larger than the standard mileage deduction.

 

Regardless of the method you choose, you must document the automobile tax expenses. This means keeping a mileage book and receipts of anything you intend to deduct.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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What is a Sole Proprietorship?

A sole proprietorship is the business or an individual who has decided not to carry his business as a separate legal entity, such as a corporation, partnership, or limited liability company. This kind of business is not a separate entity. Any time a person regularly provides services for a fee, sells things at a flea market or engage in any business activity whose primary purpose is to make a profit, that person is a sole proprietor. If they carry on business activity to make profit or income, the IRS requires that you file a separate Schedule C “Profit or Loss From a Business” with your annual individual income tax return. Schedule C summarizes your income and expenses from your sole proprietorship business.

 

As the sold proprietor of a business, you have unlimited liability, meaning that if your business can’t pay all its liabilities, the creditors to whom your business owes money can come after your personal assets. Many part-time entrepreneurs may not know this, but it’s an enormous financial risk. If they are sued or can’t pay their bills, they are personally liable for the business’s liabilities.

 

A sole proprietorship has no other owners to prepare financial statements for, but the proprietor should still prepare these statements to know how his business is doing. Banks usually require financial statements from sole proprietors who apply for loans. A partnership needs to maintain a separate capital or ownership account for each partner. The total profit of the firm is allocated into these capital accounts, as spelled out in the partnership agreement. Although sole proprietors don’t have separate invested capital from retained earnings like corporations do, they still need to keep these two separate accounts for owners’ equity – not only to track the business, but for the benefit of any future buyers of the business.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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Tax Tips for Mortgage Holders

It’s that time of year again when numbers such as 1040, W-2 and INT-1099 become all too familiar to millions of people.  One of the benefits of holding a mortgage on your house is the ability to claim certain deductions that can assist you in offsetting some of your tax burden.  As you prepare to file your yearly taxes let’s look at a few areas where you can take advantage of tax deductions and keep a little more green in your pocket this tax season.

The most obvious deduction that many tax filers take advantage of is the interest paid on the mortgage for their primary residence.  For those of us with a mortgage balance of less than $1 million dollars (and hopefully that is the majority of us!) you can fill out Schedule A, also known as “itemized deductions”, and claim all the interest paid in the previous year on your mortgage.  Keep in mind this is for your primary residence (where you live) only and does not include other properties and houses you may own for rental purposes, etc.  If you paid off your mortgage this year and were slapped with a pre-payment penalty you can also use Schedule A to take a deduction on those fees as well.

Taxes paid to local governments, known as real estate or property taxes, are also tax deductible.  If your mortgage company pays your taxes for you through an escrow account you can find the deductible amount listed there – else check your assessment notice sent to you by your local taxing authority.

If you decided to spruce up your home and took out a home equity loan you may also be eligible to take a deduction for the interest of the home equity loan.  One thing to keep in mind though is if the home equity loan plus your mortgage amount puts you over the real value of your home in total amount owed there are limits to what you may deduct.

Points of all types are usually tax deductible as well.  If you refinanced in the past year any points you paid to buy down the mortgage rate can be written off proportionately over the life of the loan.  This means that if you have a 20 year mortgage, you get to deduct 1/20th of the points each year.  An added bonus comes if you refinanced in a prior year and then refinanced against in the past year and ended up paying off the first refinance.  Any points you had not deducted from that first loan now become eligible for write off in their entirety.

If you took out your mortgage in the past year, any points that you paid on the purchase are fully deductible if the mortgage was for your primary residence and you paid an amount down at least equal to the points you were charged.  This one can be tricky, so be sure to consult your tax prepared for more information.

This tax season make sure you are taking advantage of every deduction you can; part of owning a home and having a mortgage means that you get to reap some of the benefits of that ownership through the tax system.  Don’t let the IRS keep the money that you can use to help pay off that mortgage faster!

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

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7 Ways to Minimize Your Income Taxes

Are you paying too much in income taxes?  Are you getting all the credits and deductions you are entitled to?  Here are 7 tips to help you minimize taxes and keep more in your pocket:

 

  1. Participate in company retirement plans. Every dollar you contribute will reduce your taxable income and thus your income taxes.  Similarly, enroll in your company’s flexible spending account.  You can set aside money for medical expenses and day care expenses.  This money is “use it or lose it” so make sure you estimate well!

 

  1. Make sure you pay in enough taxes to avoid penalties. Uncle Sam charges interest and penalties if you don’t pay in at least 90% of your current year taxes or 100% of last year’s tax liability.

 

  1. Buy a house. The mortgage interest and real estate taxes are deductible, and may allow you to itemize other deductions such as property taxes and charitable donations.

 

  1. Keep your house for at least two years. One of the best tax breaks available today is the home sale exclusion, which allows you to exclude up to $250,000 ($500,000 for joint filers) of profit on the sale of your home from your income.  However, you must have owned and lived in your home for at least two years to qualify for the exclusion.

 

  1. Time your investment sales. If your income is higher than expected, sell some of your losers to reduce taxable income.  If you will be selling a mutual fund, sell before the year-end distributions to avoid taxes on the upcoming dividend or capital gain.   Also, you should allocate tax efficient investments to your taxable accounts and non-efficient investments to your retirement accounts, to reduce the tax you pay on interest, dividends and capital gains.

 

  1. If you’re retired, plan your retirement plan distributions carefully. If a retirement plan distribution will push you into a higher tax bracket, consider taking money out of taxable investments to keep you in the lower tax bracket.  Also, pay attention to the 59-½ age limit.  Withdrawals taken before this age can result in penalties in addition to income taxes.

 

  1. Bunch your expenses. Certain expenses must exceed a minimum before you can deduct them (medical expenses must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income and miscellaneous expenses such as tax preparation fees must exceed 2% of your AGI).  In order to deduct these expenses, you may need to bunch these types of expenses into a single year to get above the minimum.  To achieve this, you might prepay medical and miscellaneous expenses on December 31 to get above the minimum amount.

 

The most important thing is to be aware of the tax deductions and credits that apply to you and to plan for taxable events.  And don’t be afraid to ask for help.  The benefits from consulting an experienced tax professional far outweigh the cost to hire that professional.

At Peavy and Associates PC our mission is to assist you with all your tax preparations, payroll and accounting needs.  We provide our clients with professional, personalized accounting services and guidance in a wide range of financial and business needs. Give us a call today and discover why our clients return to Peavy and Associates, PC year after year!

 

Contact Us Today

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