Responding to an IRS Letter of Audit or Examination – What’s Involved

Even the possibility of getting an IRS letter can cause alarm, especially for crypto traders. But rather than worry, learn what’s involved and be prepared.

You open your mailbox and there’s an IRS letter asking about your crypto tax return. To respond to the audit, what work needs to be done and by who? It can be easy to panic and feel alarmed, but the best thing you can do first is to understand the process and your options.

What To Know If You Get an IRS Letter

IRS letter

To understand what’s involved, and how best you can respond, I’m going to tell you about the five main activities during an examination of crypto transactions and records.

  • Substantiation is the producing of receipts, records, and evidence of any income or expenses under question. It includes gathering all exchange transaction records and off-exchange transactions related to cryptos. Only the taxpayer knows where these records are, so collecting them is their responsibility.
  • Accounting involves summarizing taxpayer records into tax reporting categories or forms. It is a taxpayer’s responsibility, but this work can be hired out. An example of this is using a crypto-capital gains calculation service to analyze transaction records to generate a list of gains. It is a complicated activity and critical to documenting the gains for the IRS.
  • Reporting involves preparing or amending tax returns to report income and expenses or anti-money laundering forms. During an IRS examination or audit of crypto reporting, this work is done by Crypto Tax Audit at no charge for its subscribers; otherwise, Crypto Tax Audit will provide this at a reasonable fee.
  • Representation is the strategizing and responding to tax authorities. It involves communicating with the IRS or tax authorities on the taxpayer’s behalf whether in writing or verbally, on all matters. This includes responding to letters, negotiating fast track mediation or settlement, negotiating with IRS Appeals office, requesting abatement, preparing taxpayer financial statements, applying for Currently Non-Collectable status or preparing Offers-In-Compromise petitions, keeping the taxpayer updated, and performing all other taxpayer dispute and collection options available in the tax code or Internal Revenue Manual.

For crypto-related examinations and audits, Crypto Tax Audit performs these services at no charge for its subscribers; otherwise, Crypto Tax Audit performs these services for a reasonable fee.

  • Controversy is the term used to describe when a taxpayer and the IRS disagree on how a matter should be treated under the tax laws and regulations. It is a significant activity because all crypto-related transactions are new and stretch how laws and regulations are interpreted. Controversy work requires legal training because it involves statutory interpretation and analysis of prior court cases, IRS rulings, and commentary from the congressional Joint Committee on Taxation. For crypto-related examinations and audits, Crypto Tax Audit does this work at no charge to its subscribers. This is an area of significant interest and investigation by Crypto Tax Audit to prevent the most persuasive arguments during IRS representation.
  • Litigation is needed when all efforts at escalation, appeals, and use of the tax advocate service do not provide a satisfactory result. A case can be taken to US Tax Court or Federal District Courts. A fresh legal case is prepared for arguing the tax controversy before a judge. Less than 4,000 cases per year are heard because the IRS uses its Appeals group to settle cases out of court if possible. While taxpayers can represent themselves at tax court, hiring an experienced tax litigation lawyer will increase the chances of winning. Paying for a lawyer is the taxpayer’s responsibility. Crypto Tax Audit will assist subscribers at no charge on crypto-related litigation efforts.

Read More: Latest Release of IRS Crypto Tax Information – Interview with Brad Kimes on XRP

What Can an IRS Letter Entail?

IRS letter

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Not all matters require all these skill areas. Often the cost is the driving consideration.

If your IRS letter is about collecting on a debt that is not disputed, then representation service is all that a taxpayer needs.

If your IRS letter is questioning the math on a return or the omission of reporting, then usually representation and sometimes reporting services are needed.

If your IRS letter is about a formal examination or audit, then more work may be needed. Substantiation, possibly bookkeeping, reporting, representation, and controversy work are needed.

Learn More: Our Services

Protect Yourself in the Case of an IRS Letter

As a service of Donnelly Tax Law, a Crypto Tax Audit annual subscription can ensure the best protection against crypto tax risks.

It’s the proactive way to have peace of mind and know you’re protected regarding your crypto taxes.

To learn more, visit CryptoTaxAudit.com

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IRS Publishes Inflation Adjustments for 2020

The IRS has announced the tax year 2020 annual inflation adjustments, including the tax rate schedules and other tax items. Learn how it may affect you.

As it typically does, the IRS has made inflation adjustments for various tax items for the coming year — 2020. More details can be found in Rev. Proc. 2019-44. Below are the adjustments that apply to a wide range of taxpayers.

Inflation Adjustments

The standard deduction for married filing jointly rises to $24,800 for tax year 2020, up $400 from the prior year. For single taxpayers and married individuals filing separately, the standard deduction rises to $12,400 for 2020, up $200, and for heads of households, the standard deduction will be $18,650 for tax year 2020, up $300.

The personal exemption for tax year 2020 remains at 0, as it was for 2019. This elimination of the personal exemption was a provision of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

Marginal rates: For tax year 2020, the top tax rate remains 37% for individual single taxpayers with incomes higher than $518,400 ($622,050 for married couples filing jointly). The other rates are:

  • 35% for incomes over $207,350 ($414,700 for married couples filing jointly).
  • 32% for incomes over $163,300 ($326,600 for married couples filing jointly).
  • 24% for incomes over $85,525 ($171,050 for married couples filing jointly).
  • 22% for incomes over $40,125 ($80,250 for married couples filing jointly).
  • 12% for incomes over $9,875 ($19,750 for married couples filing jointly).
  • The lowest rate is 10% for single individuals with incomes of $9,875 or less ($19,750 for married couples filing jointly).

For 2020, as in 2019 and 2018, there is no limitation on itemized deductions, as that limitation was eliminated by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

inflation adjustments

Additional Inflation Adjustments

The alternative minimum tax exemption amount for tax year 2020 is $72,900, and it begins to phase out at $518,400 ($113,400 for married couples filing jointly, for whom the exemption begins to phase out at $1,036,800). The 2019 exemption amount was $71,700, and began to phase out at $510,300 ($111,700, for married couples filing jointly, for whom the exemption began to phase out at $1,020,600).

The new maximum earned income credit amount is $6,660 for qualifying taxpayers who have three or more qualifying children, up from a total of $6,557 for tax year 2019.

The qualified transportation fringe benefit now has a monthly limitation of $270. The monthly limitation for qualified parking is the same, up from $265 for tax year 2019.

The dollar limitation for employee salary reductions for contributions to health flexible spending arrangements is $2,750, up $50 from the limit for 2019.

The annual exclusion for gifts is $15,000 for calendar year 2020, as it was for calendar year 2019.

This is not a comprehensive list, and there are subtleties that you should discuss with a professional in the new year.

© 2019

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How to Avoid the Top 10 Estate Planning Errors

Estate planning can get very complicated, and by the time you realize you’ve made a mistake, it may be too late. Learn more and be prepared.

There are myths and misconceptions about estate planning. Here are the top common mistakes to avoid and help your family save thousands of dollars in unnecessary taxes and probate fees:

Estate Planning Errors to Avoid

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1. Beneficiary omissions — Not naming contingent beneficiaries or failing to review beneficiaries often enough. This may subject your estate to probate, creditors and delays.

2. No stretch IRA — No contingent beneficiary on an IRA may mean there is no stretch IRA, a valuable tax break that enables someone who inherits an IRA to draw out distributions over his or her life expectancy if the original beneficiary has died.

3. Forgetting to change an ex-spouse on an IRA — Your new spouse becomes your beneficiary the day you get married, but not in an IRA. This can have disastrous consequences for your new spouse and family.

Minors, Ownership, and Residuary Clause in Estate Planning

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4. Leaving assets directly to a minor without dealing with guardianship issues — Who will handle their inheritance? The phrase “for their benefit” welcomes a whole host of potentially abusive interpretations.

5. Ownership mistakes and imbalances — If too many assets are in one spouse’s name, it could wreak havoc with tax planning. One spouse may have a much larger IRA and own a vacation house in his or her name only. By shifting the house or investment to the other spouse, the estate becomes more equalized, possibly reducing taxes.

6. Not having a residuary clause — A residuary clause covers items not named in a will or included in a trust. These can include items you don’t yet own but will before your death. Sometimes there are things you might not even know you own.

7. Not planning for the unexpected — There are a multitude of things that could happen, such as a sudden decline in your spouse’s health or a change in your assets. You can address this by having assets go to a trust. You can control how, to whom and when money gets distributed.

What Estate Planning Brings Up

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8. Not dealing with your own mortality — Don’t leave your family ruined because you don’t want to admit to yourself that you are going to die someday. Don’t make matters worse by failing to plan.

9. Not updating your will — Many changes take place within a family or business structure. Ensure the assets you leave behind are given to the people you intended to have them.

10. Not planning for disability — An unexpected long-term disability can affect your personal and financial affairs in myriad ways. Decisions such as who will handle your finances, raise your children or make health care decisions on your behalf are essential. It may be necessary to appoint a power of attorney or create a living trust to work on your behalf if you’re unable to do it for yourself.

Benefits of Estate Planning

You can benefit from having an estate plan. Not only can it help maximize the actual value of the estate you pass on to your heirs and beneficiaries, but you’ll also have an opportunity to make informed decisions concerning how your assets should be handled while you are still alive.

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Paying Taxes is Not a Choice

This Las Vegas lawyer thought he could evade paying taxes. He had been influenced by the teaching of several prominent tax defiers. Learn what happened.

A Las Vegas real estate broker was recently sentenced to 78 months in prison for tax evasion and willful failure to file tax returns.

He had been influenced by the teaching of several prominent tax defiers.

Evading Rather Than Paying Taxes

According to court records, William Waller Jr. sought to evade taxes by incorporating a shell entity, opening bank accounts in its name, and directing his income into those accounts rather than accounts in his own name. He also dealt extensively in cash and reduced his equity in his home.

Waller testified at trial that he believed that he was not required to file tax returns or pay taxes, but acknowledged that he was influenced by the teachings of several prominent tax defiers.

paying taxes

The Consequences for Not Paying Taxes

In addition to his prison sentence, Waller was ordered to pay $1.45 million in restitution.

“Paying your taxes is not a choice,” said Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation.

©2019

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Diesel Engine Company Executive Sentenced To Prison in Tax Case

In this recent tax case, an executive failed to pay taxes to the IRS and created false records, ultimately sinking his company.

He failed to pay taxes to the IRS and created false records, ultimately sinking his company.

A Nebraska businessman was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for failing to pay federal taxes.

Delving Deeper

Rolley D. Bennett Jr., 53, of Omaha, Nebraska, was also ordered to pay $31,576.19 in restitution.

Bennett was the controller of the Diesel Power Equipment Company, headquartered in Omaha. During the period of 2013 and 2014, he failed to pay approximately $879,000 in payroll trust fund taxes to the IRS.

tax case

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The Business

Diesel Power distributed and repaired diesel engines, generators, pumps, parts, and accessories, primarily to the mining, railroad, industrial equipment, and agricultural irrigation industries.

Bennett’s failure to make the payroll tax payments resulted in Diesel Power ultimately going out of business.

Bennett took steps to conceal the nonpayment of Diesel Power’s employment taxes, including creating cash flow reports that reported the employment tax liabilities had been paid and creating journal entries in the company’s general ledger, which accrued the employment tax liabilities and their associated payments.

tax case

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This Tax Case Verdict

“Failure to remit those employment taxes resulted in the loss of tax revenue to the government and the possible loss of future Social Security or Medicare benefits for the employees,” said Karl Stiften, Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation.

©2019

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Biggest IRS Crypto Tax Guidance and What it Means for Crypto Traders

The IRS’s recent release of crypto tax guidance heralds major changes for all US taxpayers. Make sure to learn what it means for you as a crypto trader.

In early October, the IRS made its biggest release of crypto tax guidance in the past five years. And it heralds a massive change in how crypto traders report their cryptocurrency income.

The New Crypto Tax Guidance

The IRS has published an early release of the 2019 version of Schedule 1 of Form 1040. The schedule now starts with the following new question,

"At any time during 2019, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?"

A yes or no answer is required. (The IRS defines cryptocurrencies as virtual currencies.)

This question requires all taxpayers to admit if they dabbled with cryptos during 2019.

Once a taxpayer checks this box, they are added to the list of known crypto traders for whom the IRS intends extra scrutiny.

Checking Yes to Crypto Tax

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So let’s say you check yes in 2019. What are the implications?

First, if you sold or exchanged cryptos in 2019, you must list your capital gains from those transactions. When listing a coin sold, you have to state the purchase date. If that date happens to be in a prior year, it begs the question, “did you accurately report your cryptos in that year?”.

Smart traders would go back and amend those prior year returns before the IRS finds out.

Checking No to Crypto Tax

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What are the implications of a crypto trader checking no?

When you sign a tax return, you are signing a statement that says under penalty of perjury, this return is true, correct and complete. Wrongly checking no would be a felony subject to fines or imprisonment.

This new Schedule 1 will cause all U.S. crypto traders to come out of the closet or permanently hide.

Need Crypto Tax Guidance?

To best learn how we can help you, let’s find out where your crypto taxes are at. Take our free Crypto Tax Health Check (download below) and visit our store to benefit from my other ebooks. 

Do you already know that you need our crypto tax services? Check out our Full-Service Crypto Tax Package or our do-it-yourself Crypto Tax Fixer Package.

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Social Security: Note the Key Changes for 2020

The Social Security Administration has released new changes and numbers for those paying Social Security and those collecting it in 2020.

Every year, the Social Security Administration takes a fresh look at its numbers and typically makes adjustments. Here are the basics for 2020 — what has changed, and what hasn’t.

What Hasn't Changed for Social Security

First, the basic percentages have not changed:

  • Employees and employers continue to pay 7.65% each, with the self-employed paying both halves.
  • The Medicare portion remains 1.45% on all earnings, with high earners continuing to pay an additional 0.9% in Medicare taxes.
  • The Social Security portion (OASDI) remains 6.20% on earnings up to the applicable taxable maximum amount — and that’s what’s changing.

What's Changing for Social Security

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Starting in 2020, the maximum taxable amount is $137,700, up from the 2019 maximum of $132,900. This actually affects relatively few workers; the Society for Human Resource Management notes in an article that only about 6% of employees earn more than the current taxable maximum.

Also changing is the retirement earnings test exempt amount. Those who have not yet reached normal retirement age but are collecting benefits will find the SSA withholding $1 in benefits for every $2 in earnings above a certain limit. That limit is $17,640 per year for 2019 and will be $18,240 for 2020. (See the SSA for additional information on how this works.)

Cost-of-Living Adjustments

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Those collecting Social Security will see a slight increase in their checks: Social Security and Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries will receive a 1.6% COLA for 2020. This is based on the increase in the consumer price index from the third quarter of 2018 through the third quarter of 2019, according to the SSA.

An SSA detailed fact sheet about the changes is available on their site.

©2019

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