IRS Use of Private Debt Collectors Begins April 2017

Beginning this month as result of federal legislation enacted in December of 2015, the Internal Revenue Service will begin using private debt collectors to collect certain outstanding inactive tax receivables. The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, in fact, requires the use of private collection agencies for certain tax debt that the IRS is no longer actively working on collecting.

The IRS has announced that CBE, Conserve, Performant, and Pioneer and the four private collection agencies that will be assigned collection matters. With the ever-present risk of tax related scams, the IRS has provided guidance regarding the procedures when the accounts are transferred to the private debt collection agencies.

First, a taxpayer will receive written notices from both the IRS and the private collection agency indicating that the private collection agency will be handling the collection. The private collection agency representatives are also required to identify themselves as debt collectors and will be required to follow the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

Taxpayers who are contacted by a private debt collector should ensure that the contract is from one of the above listed private debt collection agencies and that they have received the proper notices listed above. In the event a taxpayer is contacted regarding a tax debt, you may wish to confirm the accuracy of such debt using the IRS’s new balance check, available at https://www.irs.gov/uac/view-your-tax-account.

© 2017 Vandenack Weaver LLC
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IRS Warns Taxpayers About Recent Phone Scam

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) recently warned taxpayers that an aggressive phone scam that targets taxpayers, often senior citizens, is making rounds throughout the country and costing taxpayers millions of dollars and their personal information. The callers are con artists who claim to be IRS employees. The caller tells the victim taxpayer that the taxpayer owes money to the IRS and threatens the taxpayer with legal action if he or she refuses to pay. The caller often demands immediate payment with a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.

The callers often alter caller IDs to make it look like the IRS is the true caller, know information about their victims, use fake names and IRS identification badge numbers, and leave urgent callback requests. Similarly, callers may tell taxpayers they have a refund due, in an attempt to trick taxpayers into sharing private information.

The IRS reminded taxpayers the IRS will never do any of the following:

• call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method,
• threaten to immediately bring legal action against a taxpayer who refuses to pay,
• demand that a taxpayer pay taxes without providing the taxpayer the opportunity to question or appeal the amount the IRS claims the taxpayer owes,
• ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

he IRS also reminded taxpayers it will work with private collection agencies for the collection of certain tax debts this year. However, the IRS reported that if a private agency calls, there will not be any threats or immediate payment demands and the call will typically occur only after the agency has mailed the taxpayer a notification about the debt.
The IRS urges taxpayers to protect their personal information at all times and to report scam calls to the IRS, the Federal Trade Commission, or the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

© 2017 Vandenack Weaver LLC
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Tax Related Identity Theft Awareness

The holiday season is underway and while this is a time for family events and holiday parties, this is also the time that many identity theft scams occur. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) started the process of alerting taxpayers about potential tax-related identity theft and to provide advice on how to prevent threats to your identity.

For prevention, the initial steps include ensuring use of security software on devices, use of secure wireless networks, and never providing sensitive data when replying to emails, texts, or pop-up ads. For individuals that are hit with tax-related identity theft, it may not become apparent until attempting to file taxes or receiving a notice from the IRS and finding out that a tax return has been filed on your behalf. When this occurs, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.identitytheft.gov/, file a report with the credit agencies, and contact the IRS. Importantly, regardless of the situation, ensure that your taxes are filed and paid, even if it requires filing in paper form.

Taking steps now to add layers of security for your social security number and other sensitive data can help prevent tax-identity theft in the future. If you have questions, please contact the attorneys at Vandenack Weaver LLC.

© 2016 Vandenack Weaver LLC
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Preparing for January 31st Deadline to File W-2s

Effective for wages paid in 2016, recent federal law requires employers to file W-2s with the Social Security Administration by January 31,, 2017.  Employers are familiar with the January 31st deadline for providing copies of the W-2s to employees; however, previously, employers had until the end of March for electronic filings with the Social Security Administration. The earlier filing deadline is part of the increased focus on detecting and preventing refund fraud.

A 30-day extension is still available; however, the extension is not automatic and is generally only granted under extraordinary circumstances, such as a natural disaster. Applications for extensions are submitted on Form 8809.

Employers must be aware of the filing deadline to avoid penalties, which are determined as follows:

  • $50 per Form W-2 if you correctly file within 30 days of the due date;
  • $100 per Form W-2 if you correctly file more than 30 days after the due date but by August 1; or
  • $260 per Form W-2 if you file after August 1, do not file corrections, or do not file required Forms W-2.

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Non-Resident Income Tax Withholding for Mobile Employees

Having employees work outside the traditional office is becoming more common, especially as technology and travel make it easier to work from different locations. This trend coincides with state governments having persistent budget shortfalls, leading to state audits of employers for income tax withholding. These events have given rise to new problems for employers because of state income tax rules for non-resident employees. Often, this problem becomes pronounced when an employer is located on the border, between states, such as an Omaha employer having Iowa residents as employees.  States are now looking to ensure that non-residents working in their state are paying the proper amount of income taxes, and to the right state.

Every state has unique rules for employer income tax withholding of non-resident employees, but in Nebraska, the employer is responsible for withholding income tax for all non-resident employees working in Nebraska. For example, an Iowa employee working for a Nebraska company must have income tax withheld for the state of Nebraska at the same rate as any Nebraska resident. If the company is not a Nebraska employer, the employer must still withhold Nebraska income tax when the employee performs services in Nebraska and transacts business greater than $600 or maintains an office in the state.

These rules can become complicated for the human resources department, but if not properly evaluated, it may trigger an inadvertent violation. For example, if an employer allows an employee to regularly work from home, but the employee lives in another state, it may be possible that the employer is responsible to the other state for withholding. To avoid these problems, ensure that clear policies for working remotely exist and that the employer has a clear understanding of where employees spend substantial time working.

© 2016 Vandenack Weaver LLC
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IRS Shuts Down E-file PIN Tool

In response to recent cyber-attacks on the Electronic Filing PIN App (“e-file PIN”), the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) announced the e-file PIN capability is no longer available online or through the toll-free phone service.  Prior to the shutdown, taxpayers could use the e-file PIN tool as an alternative method for signature verification on individual tax returns.

In February, the IRS announced that criminals attacked the system and accessed more than 100,000 e-file PIN numbers, but did not steal taxpayer information.   The IRS did not close down the system at that time and instead elected to provide more security, noting the program’s application programming interface was embedded in most commercial return preparation software and a shutdown would cause a major disruption.  The IRS planned to shut down the program later this year, but additional attacks prompted an earlier shut down.

The IRS reports that only a small number of taxpayers used the e-file PIN tool, so the effect on taxpayers should be minimal.  Most taxpayers opted to use their adjusted gross income from their prior-year tax return to authenticate their returns.  Taxpayers who have not filed their tax returns this year and need a replacement e-file PIN will need assistance from their respective tax software providers.

  © 2016 Vandenack Williams LLC
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