IRS Audit Rates

Tax relief for the wealthy does not have much popular support these days.  And apparently the IRS feels the same.  The IRS recently reported that audit rates for individual taxpayers earning over $10 million has nearly tripled since 2009.  If you’re one of the .01 percent who makes that kind of money, then you have a 29.93 percent chance of being audited.

I know how some people are going to read this headline.  Some people are going to think that they are safe because they earn a lot less than $10 million per year.  If the IRS is focusing its efforts and manpower on examinations of the ultra wealthy, then that means audits of returns filed by the average Joe are decreasing, right?

Wrong.  The overall audit rate remains constant at 1.11 percent.  Maybe you like those odds.  Well, before you do anything you’ll regret later, be aware that income is only one factor that the IRS looks at when determining who to audit.  Furthermore, I’m not certain that these statistics include the so-called correspondence audits, which are becoming more and more common these days.

The Misguided Appification Efforts of TurboTax and IRS

For some reason I just can’t let it go.  Tax smartphone apps are not as amazing as some would have you believe!

I came across a press release issued on behalf of this morning praising IRS2Go and TurboTax’s mobile tax software called SnapTax. IRS2Go is a free app that allows users to quickly access the IRS on Twitter and YouTube, check the status of a tax refund, order transcripts, and obtain IRS news and tax tips. SnapTax costs $9.99 and apparently makes it possible to do your taxes “on the go.”

Here’s what says about SnapTax:

Look, apps are where it is at now. Pretty soon, many people won’t even be using browsers any more, and will be viewing a lot of their content through apps. I know Bill Harris, the guy who started Turbo Tax. He and his company he created ChipSoft, which were acquired way back from Intuit, have been THE leader in this field since Day 1. I am thrilled they are ahead of the curve on this as well.

Ok, maybe apps are where it’s at, but it’s not where taxes should be. I don’t know much about SnapTax, but I cannot imagine why anyone would prefer to do their taxes on their phone as opposed to sitting down at their computer. Most people have what they need to file by the end of January. Are we that busy that we can’t find a couple hours between Feb 1st and April 15th to plop down in front of our computer and knock it out? Are people really going to file their taxes “on the go” in between turns in Words With Friends? I’m not sure if TurboTax is ahead of the curve on this one or if they made a wrong turn.

Here’s what says about IRS2Go:

With these helpful apps, taxpayers can now spend a ton less time and money filing their taxes and more time focusing on improving their finances, things like their monthly budget, credit score, and chipping away at debt

Really RoadFish?  Did you even look at the app? How does it save you tons of time and money?

Sign me up when there’s a tax relief app with a “Pay Less Taxes” button. When it comes to apps, only 1 in 10,000 is truly useful (or fun, or serves its intended purpose). Most apps are pointless because, even though everybody wants to push their goods or services with the newest technology, you really can’t appify EVERYTHING.

Romney Will “Probably” Release Tax Returns in April

I’m not sure what people are hoping to see on Romney’s tax return. Everyone already knows he is very wealthy. Are they hoping to find that he owes the IRS or has other tax problems? He’s probably just waiting for the last possible minute to file (that would be 11:59pm on April 17th this year) like any other tax-loathing American would do. If it’s prior year tax returns that they are hoping to see then he still has some time before he could be criticized for going against history and tradition.

Romney’s running mates are pushing him to release his tax records sooner than later because they think that whatever is revealed  in his taxes may have an influence on how people vote. Presidential candidates are not required to make their tax returns public, but they have traditionally done so . . . usually around tax time.

I looked at what has been done in campaigns in the past . . . They have tended to release tax records in April or tax season . . . And if I become our nominee, and what’s happened in history is people have released them in about April of the coming year, and that’s probably what I would do.

~ Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, speaking at a Republican presidential debate on January 16, 2012

See CNN story for a list of party nominees in the last few elections and when they released their tax records.

Your Tax Preparer Might be an Inmate

It’s 10:00pm; do you know where your children are right now?  What about your tax preparer?

According to a recent TIGTA audit, the IRS approved 331 tax preparer identification numbers to individuals serving prison terms.

  • How did they do it?  In most cases the prisoners lied on their applications by not disclosing their convictions.
  • Why do they do it?  To try to defraud the IRS.  They use false or fraudulent tax returns in hopes of obtaining refunds.  Prisoners have a history of trying to defraud the government, particularly the IRS.  They have enough time on their hands and not much to lose if their scheme is unproductive.
  • What is the IRS doing about it?  The IRS has vowed to suspend tax preparer identification numbers already issued to prisoners and deny any future applications from inmates.

Chances are that these inmate preparers are not actually preparing returns for the average American consumer.  Maybe they’re doing returns for their fellow inmates.  Maybe their laying the groundwork for after their prison terms are over.  Or, even more likely, they are just seeing where this new credential will take them.  Whatever the case may be, it is usually a good idea to actually meet your tax preparer in a face-to-face meeting . . . even if just to confirm they’re working out of an office and not a prison cell.

Hot off the Press: New IRS Publication 17

IRS Publication 17 contains a whole host of information on filing your 2011 individual federal income taxes. It is the number one source for basic tax filing information, especially handy for those who plan on filing their taxes themselves (without hiring professional help). This publication has been around for over 60 years, but was recently updated for the 2012 filing season.  In a nutshell, Pub 17 covers the topics of Income, figuring you income, deductions, and credits.  But there is also information on taxpayer rights and how to obtain tax relief if you cannot pay what you owe.

But wait, before you click on the link and hit “Print,” you should be aware that this is a lengthy document.  The index alone is over 20 pages long.  The total page count is just over 300, so you’d be better off just saving the link. Besides, if you print it then you lose some of its functionality — Pub 17, in its electronic form, is full of links that (1) help you navigate those 300 pages quickly, (2) help you find additional information on key topics, and (3) take you to other forms and publications you may need when preparing your 2011 taxes.

Preparing your taxes yourself is not always the right choice for everyone. But if you do, you should definitely consider reading Pub 17 or at least keep it on hand as a reference tool.