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Monthly Archives: February 2017

The Southbourne Tax Group: Voices Preventing tax-related ID theft

Posted by penningbeal16 on February 27, 2017
Tax / Comments Off

As the owner of a small tax office business, I see tax-related identity theft among others often, but when it happened to my employees as well, I decided to expand the responsibilities of my business to become tax protectors as well as tax preparers. To do this, I needed to educate not only my employees and clients, but first, myself. I was then able to take action that has provided positive results and empowered employees and a loyal customer base.

Tax-related identity theft happens when a taxpayer’s Social Security number is obtained from someone else and used to file a tax return claiming a refund. Thieves may also use a stolen Employee Identification Number from your business clients to create fake W-2s. Both of these actions could support fraudulent refund schemes.

For example, earlier this year at Tampa General Hospital, an employee with access to the personal health information of thousands of patients was found guilty of illegally accessing the personal information of more than 600 patients between June 2011 and December 2012. That information was used to file 29 false tax returns of refunds totaling over $226,000.

So my first step was to become intimately familiar with Publication 5199, Tax Preparer Guide to Identity Theft, and Most of the information I organized into steps derived from these resources. This helped me to formulate actions when identity theft happens or when fraud is suspected, and finally what measures to take in prevention. My next step was to lay out separate procedures for reporting and prevention.

In either instance, I directed all employees and recommended to clients that they become familiar with the Federal Trade Commission Web site,, for reporting fraud or protecting their credit.

For prevention of identity theft and fraud, I made it policy for all my employees to mark out the Social Security number and direct deposit bank account information when providing physical copies of returns to clients. This was the most obvious weakness, as it could allow someone simple access in obtaining a Social Security number just through viewing someone’s return. Secondly, I provided referral information to them regarding securing their credit with fraud alerts or a security freeze through the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. This was something that each employee and client needed to do independently.

Last and most important, I made it mandatory for all tax preparers to obtain certification with the Internal Revenue Service. This was actually easier to implement, as I offered to reimburse my employees for their training and testing. Having certified preparers turned out to be a valuable investment all around as it not only increased their knowledge, but also their job satisfaction.

These are some specific steps I started looking for as warning signs before reporting:

1. When you receive an IRS reject code of R0000-902-01 for one of your clients, this indicates the Social Security number was already used in a previous return.

2. The IRS reports that your client has a balance due, refund offset or a collection action taken for a year in which they did not file.

3. IRS records indicate that your client received wages from an unknown employer.

4. Your business client receives an IRS notice about an amended return, fake employees, or about a bogus business. (Note: The IRS will only communicate with your clients by postal mail. They will never use e-mail or phone!)

5. Lastly, I directed all employees to closely examine all tax forms (i.e., W-2s, 1099s and so on) for physical tampering or alterations, excessive income or federal income tax withheld.

For actual reporting, I took these actions:

1. Instructed employees and clients to never ignore any IRS notice they receive in the mail, and to bring it to the office as soon as possible for action.

2. Assisted employees and clients in completing Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit, and faxing or mailing it to the IRS.

3. Requested clients provide a power of attorney on file so I may speak directly to the IRS on their behalf. (I’m working on my Enrolled Agent certification, as this will remove the necessity for this step.)

The last couple of tax seasons have shown that these actions are a win-win for my clients, my tax preparers and my business. Employees are empowered to get real help to our clients on a topic we were not previously prepared for.

I have applied these steps not only to my employees and clients, but to their families, friends and people I’m just meeting for the first time.

These aggressive and direct steps show how much we care, and knowing that someone cares goes a long way in keeping employees and clients reassured during a stressful situation and eventually getting them the help they need. This makes all involved happier and has shown a growth in returning customers.

Establishing identity theft protection and recovery action plans for my employees and clients certainly worked for me. It went a long way to establishing and maintaining positive and trusting relationships.

Make a plan and protect your internal and external interests. Doing so could go a long way in securing your business growth, but most importantly guard against this industry threat.

Additional resources for business accounting tips are available here.


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The Southbourne Tax Group: Tips on having an efficient tax appointment

Posted by penningbeal16 on February 23, 2017
Finance, Tax / Comments Off

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI)–Sandy Furuya with Wamhoff Financial Planning and Accounting provides tips to help you be ready for your tax appointment and make it a productive, stress-free experience.

What should I bring?

• As a general rule of thumb, it’s always best to bring too much than not enough. So if in doubt, bring it with you! This list includes:

1. Tax forms you`ve received from employers, vendors, or government authorities: w-2s, 1099s

2. Statements from your brokerage and investment accounts (many of these 1099s do not arrive until February or later, and many are not final)

3. Receipts and supporting materials for business-related expenses

4. Forms or receipts related to moving, childcare, education, medical expenses, home mortgage, etc.

5. Social security card for any new dependents

6. Mileage logs

7. Home office deductions

8. Any changes that will affect the future year

9. Any notices you`ve received from the government, including your IP pin if you`ve had identity theft

10. Voided check for direct deposit of your refund. This year, your tax professional must verify this information and sign off on it.

• If you’re working with a new tax firm, you can call ahead and discuss what they need. You’ll typically be asked to bring the prior two year’s returns and potentially other items.

Other things to know and do:

• Make a list ahead of time with questions you have for your tax professional. This helps to ensure a productive meeting, and helps you receive the most comprehensive tax advice.

• Many tax professionals have an organizer they can provide which will assist you in gathering your information. Ask for it and use it!

• Be aware that the IRS will be delaying refunds this year until mid-February for people claiming the earned income tax credit, additional child tax credit, or the american opportunity tax credit. In addition, your tax preparer will be required to complete a due diligence checklist form 8867 as required by the path act.

• There are new id and refund fraud safeguards put in place by the IRS and states which will cause additional review of tax returns.

• After filing, you can use ‘where`s my refund’ tool at, or the IRS2go mobile app to check on the status of your federal refund.

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The Southbourne Tax Group: Tips to maximize your tax refund

Posted by penningbeal16 on February 17, 2017
Finance / Comments Off

The 2017 tax season began this month and local tax accountant, Jennifer Eubanks with Mcneel CPA is offering some tips for people who haven’t filed for their refund yet.

“A lot of people that are self-employed don’t look at taking the self-employed health insurance,” says Eubanks, “With health insurance being so high you can take a deduction.”

Another deduction Eubanks says people often miss out is their health savings account where you put money into the account but only use it to foot medical bills.

“You also get to take a deduction on your tax return for putting money into a health savings account,” says Eubanks. “It’s kind of like a retirement account except it is for medical expenses.”

Meaning just like a 401k, the more you put in the less taxable income you have, increasing your refund.

Another tip is for parents that have kids in college, American opportunity tax credit is available.

“Anything that relates to school like books, tuition,” says Eubanks. “Any kind of qualifying expenses for that, they can take that deduction so they need keep up with all the expenses they have while they’re in school.”

Eubanks says the IRS is cracking down on fraud this year delaying the release of earned income credit and additional child tax credit until mid Feb.

“Claiming children that are not supposed to be on their tax return so the IRS is looking into more of those earned income credit trying to eliminate a lot of fraud,” says Eubanks.

When filing your taxes Eubanks says to keep all your receipts and expenses organized to make the filing process easier.

Employers have until Jan. 31 to send W-2 forms and tax returns have to be filed by April 18.

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The Southbourne Tax Group: 3 Tips to Avoid Charity Tax Deduction Scams

Posted by penningbeal16 on February 14, 2017
Finance / Comments Off


Groups and individuals pretending to be charitable organizations are especially active around tax season, as they try to attract donations from Americans looking for a tax deduction. Unfortunately, its one of the “Dirty Dozen” Tax Scams for the 2017 filing season, according to the IRS.

“Fake charities set up by scam artists to steal your money or personal information are a recurring problem,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Taxpayers should take the time to research organizations before giving their hard-earned money.”

Compiled annually, the “Dirty Dozen” lists a variety of common scams that taxpayers may encounter anytime, but many of these schemes peak during filing season as people prepare their returns or hire someone to prepare their taxes.

Perpetrators of illegal scams can face significant penalties and interest and possible criminal prosecution. IRS Criminal Investigation works closely with the Department of Justice to shut down scams and prosecute the criminals behind them.

The IRS offers these basic tips to taxpayers making charitable donations:

1. Be wary of charities with names that are similar to familiar or nationally known organizations. Some phony charities use names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. has a search feature, Exempt Organizations Select Check, which allows people to find legitimate, qualified charities to which donations may be tax-deductible. Legitimate charities will provide their Employer Identification Numbers (EIN), if requested, which can be used to verify their legitimacy through EO Select Check. It is advisable to double check using a charity’s EIN.

2. Don’t give out personal financial information, such as Social Security numbers or passwords, to anyone who solicits a contribution. Scam artists may use this information to steal identities and money from victims. Donors often use credit cards to make donations. Be cautious when disclosing credit card numbers. Confirm that those soliciting a donation are calling from a legitimate charity.

3. Don’t give or send cash. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift.

Impersonation of Charitable Organizations

Another long-standing type of abuse or fraud involves scams that occur in the wake of significant natural disasters.

Following major disasters, it’s common for scam artists to impersonate charities to get money or private information from well-intentioned taxpayers. Scam artists can use a variety of tactics. Some scammers operating bogus charities may contact people by telephone or email to solicit money or financial information. They may even directly contact disaster victims and claim to be working for or on behalf of the IRS to help the victims file casualty loss claims and get tax refunds.

Fraudsters may attempt to get personal financial information or Social Security numbers that can be used to steal the victims’ identities or financial resources. Bogus websites may solicit funds for disaster victims.

To help disaster victims, the IRS encourages taxpayers to donate to recognized charities. Disaster victims can call the IRS toll-free disaster assistance telephone number (866-562-5227). Phone assistors will answer questions about tax relief or disaster-related tax issues.

Find legitimate and qualified charities with the Select Check search tool on (EINs are frequently called federal tax identification numbers, which is the same as an EIN).

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