We’ve heard of artificial intelligence in movies like Terminator and I, Robot. But the real applications of artificial intelligence include analyzing complex data sets, driving vehicles, providing more insightful user experiences, and even setting dinner plans or weeding out spam callers. While these applications have grown incredibly in the private sectors, government agencies like the IRS have also started to employ artificial intelligence as a utility for improving communication, taxpayer assistance, and even detecting tax evasion.

Several government tax agencies have already employed the use of chatbots to answer taxpayer questions. The most recent example comes in the form of Canada’s Charlie the Chatbot. A similar system is no doubt in the works for the IRS, which will hopefully help taxpayers avoid long wait times on the phone and get clarification on confusing documentation on the IRS website. Artificial intelligence has a consumer-facing goal of making lives easier, so it’s not far off to expect time-saving applications like chatbots.

While this appeals to taxpayers and consumers, the ideal application for an agency like the IRS is in tracking tax evasion, and increasing the likelihood of collecting tax payments from delinquent tax payers or non-filers. Such an application comes into the picture as the Internal Revenue Service ramps up data collection and analysis by using artificial intelligence to create graphs and present relationships between data to identify people who may be avoiding their taxes. But the usability goes as far as analyzing the scripts between IRS agents and taxpayers in order to find out how to effectively solicit tax payments, and ultimately “get a check sent.”

In an effort to fulfill these objectives, the IRS has even engaged in relationships with data firms to investigate potential tax evasion. IRS commissioner Charler Rettig even reveals the benefits of these new partnerships with this quote: “If I get a first name and a cell phone number, you’d be shocked how much information Palantir can provide.” Palantir refers to Palantir Technologies, a private data analytics company based in California. The initiatives are still fairly new and uncertain considering the budget of the IRS.

Additional implications come from the already detached nature of the organization becoming more automated, pushing human interaction even further from the taxpayer. Often, taxpayers are already confused as to the reason for IRS notifications, and making the communication process automated could become frustrating and ultimately leave taxpayers even more uninformed.

While the involvement of artificial intelligence in tax processes remains uncertain, human interaction will always be close by. Taxpayers should be wary of the fact that the evolution of technology within agencies like the IRS makes it much harder to conduct nefarious actions like tax evasion.

Talley’s experienced team of tax professionals provides comprehensive tax compliance and consulting services so you can preserve, enhance and pass on to the next generation the assets and wealth that you’ve worked hard to build. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the current opportunities available to you, your family and business. For more information, contact us today.

With tax season in full swing, it’s a great time to address tax savings strategies that apply to everyone. No matter what your age or what capacity you are employed in, if you are making money then these tips apply to you. We wanted to focus on retirement, not only because it’s relevant in the current self-help-centered social climate, but because saving for retirement is one of the most crucial investments in your future that may also serve as a tax-saving tactic.

Most Americans are not prepared for retirement. Consider the fact that almost 300,000 baby boomers are set to retire each month until 2030 with less than 10% of the suggested minimum retirement savings. The unfortunate reality is that the lack of retirement investments and savings coupled with active debt (e.g., a mortgage), many baby boomers are not in a position to enjoy a stress-free retirement. Many may even be forced out of retirement or kept from retiring altogether. That is why it is so important to take advantage of financial planning options like retirement accounts and leveraging tax-saving strategies that are available to you.

Most workplaces offer options like a 401(k) or 403(b), which are effectively savings accounts that allow you to invest your money while deferring any taxes until a later time. Although there is more to it and the details are generally pretty complex, it’s not hard to set up automatic contributions every month. As a bonus, if you are utilizing a 401(k) offered by your company, they may even offer to match what you put in up to a certain amount.

Traditional IRAs are also an option because you are taxed at the time of withdrawal. As such, these contributions may be considered tax deductions when you file your taxes. Roth IRAs are an interesting alternative because you pay taxes upfront, so the benefits come later on. Either way, the best part is that you can maintain both a 401(k) and IRA at the same time.

In conjunction with money management and financial planning, long-term tax planning can help both you and your family protect your hard-earned money. No matter your situation, consulting with your wealth advisor and tax advisor is a good start.

Talley’s experienced team of tax professionals provides comprehensive tax compliance and consulting services so you can preserve, enhance, and pass on to the next generation the assets and wealth that you’ve worked hard to build. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the current options available to you. For more information, contact us today.

California’s groundbreaking Assembly Bill 5 (AB 5) went into effect on Jan. 1st, becoming the standard for determining whether workers should be classified as employees or independent contractors. All companies using independent contractors in California will be put through a three-part test to determine whether they must reclassify their workers. If they don’t pass that test, they’ll have to turn their workers into employees.

The debate that raged around the bill for months focused mainly on its effects on Big Tech and gig economy companies such as Uber, Lyft and Postmates. But by the time the legislation became law last year, its scope broadened to encompass an array of industries, from transportation/trucking to journalism. Proponents of the bill say that it forces companies to replace gigs with jobs that entitle employees to state-mandated protections like paid time off, coverage for job injuries, and unemployment insurance. Critics of AB 5 say despite its good intentions the legislation has boomeranged on contractors, making it harder for tens of thousands of them to make a living in a tight economy.

The three-part AB 5 “ABC classification test” requires businesses to use the following test in determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor:

(A) The person is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact.

(B) The person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business.

(C) The person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.”

If even one of the conditions is not met, then the worker is classified as an employee. As concerns grow over the new law, large companies and third-party organizations like Uber and Airbnb are looking for ways to avoid having to take on a rush of new “employees” under this classification.

Our assessment of AB 5 is that it will have major tax implications across a wide variety of businesses and industries. Talley welcomes the opportunity to discuss what AB 5 may mean for you and your business. For more information, feel free to contact us

If you have followed the news in regards to retirement, you know that multiple sources have referenced the lack of retirement savings among retirees and older people. While this isn’t isolated to America, the Fed reports about 25% of Americans don’t have a retirement plan in place. With declining policies in place to take care of Americans post-retirement, retirement accounts and financial knowledge is more important than ever. While the SECURE Act doesn’t specifically address all the financial issues when it comes to retirement, it does allow some solid options for Americans.

RMDs to start at age 72 instead of 70 ½. First and foremost, the SECURE Act increases the age in which you need to start required minimum distributions from traditional retirement accounts. While the change from 70 ½ years old to 72 is only 1 ½ years, this allows retirement accounts to continue gaining interest while also allowing the account holder to hold off on paying interest on the money.

You can contribute to traditional IRAs after age 70 ½. There is no longer an age cap on a traditional IRA, similar to a Roth IRA. After 70 ½ years old, participants can continue to contribute money to the retirement account, provided they have earned income. This is especially helpful for not-so-retired retirees.

More Annuity Options with 401(k) plans. Another positive note is the addition of improved legal coverage for employers with hopes that this will lead to more options in the annuity realm. Traditionally, the liability was too much for most companies to offer an option like this in a 401(k). They were even able to offer 401(k) options to part-timers as long as they fulfill a short list of requirements. Small businesses gained a boost as well, with potential to offer 401(k) options through economies of scale.

Your tax bill on inherited IRAs will come sooner. The bill also essentially eliminates the “stretch IRA,” an estate planning method that allows IRA beneficiaries to stretch out their distributions from their inherited account and the required tax payments that come with it. Under the new law, most beneficiaries will be required to withdraw all the distributions from their inherited account and pay taxes on it within 10 years.

Talley’s experienced team of tax professionals provides comprehensive tax compliance and consulting services so you can preserve, enhance, and pass on to the next generation the assets and wealth that you’ve worked hard to build. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the current opportunities available to you. For more information, contact us today.

While a new year means new commitments to health and happiness, individuals should also make goals for their financial wellness. With tax season opening at the end of January, making some new year’s tax resolutions can make a big impact and require little follow through. Although new tax laws from the IRS and Congress can’t always be anticipated, it is a good idea to try to avoid as many surprises as possible when it comes to your taxes.

First and foremost is to take a step back and evaluate your plans for 2020. These include personal plans, business goals (if you are a business owner), and whether any of these impact your tax withholding. Some examples of significant plans or changes include having a child, purchasing a home, and getting married. A quick check on the IRS website or a consultation with a tax advisor can help determine if you are withholding too much or too little.

Even more important may be a look at your beneficiary designations. When working on non-probate assets like retirement accounts or life insurance policies, you must be sure to have the proper beneficiary designations in place. With changes to IRC §401 and other parts of the law, the way that you contribute and benefit from non-probate assets has changed. Being proactive and taking a look at the pieces you can control, like beneficiary designations, can give you more peace of mind. In addition to this, estate planning documents are important items to review. Changes in federal estate taxes and exemptions may have an impact, and even if they don’t, there may be reason to adjust for new goals or changes in your life.

A final tip is to always stay aware and up to date on policies and changes to tax laws. Following the correct procedures and remaining compliant, especially when it comes to alternative interests like offshore accounts or virtual currency, is as important as ever. Most people might not realize it, but the penalties for willingly ignoring tax laws can be incredibly serious. While these resolutions don’t require much more than a bit of time and consideration, they can offer massive benefits later during tax time.

Talley’s experienced team of tax professionals provides comprehensive tax compliance and consulting services so you can preserve, enhance, and pass on to the next generation the assets and wealth that you’ve worked hard to build. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the current opportunities available to you. For more information, contact us today.

It is one thing to test fate with excessive deductions or claiming unverifiable items, but it is an entirely different thing to not even file a tax return. Yet, that is precisely what Harvard law professor, Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr. did, and the consequences were all too real. Sullivan’s neglect to file his 2005-2013 tax returns resulted in a $1.2 million tax bill from IRS assessments of his records, a sum he claims is much higher than his income warrants.

The IRS can and will file returns for you, known as “substitutes for returns.” As a result of this policy and Sullivan’s irresponsibility, the IRS filed his taxes and assessed that he owed over $1.2 million for 2012 and 2013 alone. When the IRS tried to collect, Sullivan ignored procedure until they filed a Notice of Intent to Levy, which he objected to. Although he argued his income was not indicative of taxes that large, Sullivan again neglected his due diligence when it came time to respond with proof. He was prompted at least seven times for information, including three letters requesting that he file taxes for the years of 2012-2015 and a telephone hearing with an assigned IRS settlement officer.

Throughout 2017, Sullivan continued to ignore these requests, communications, and his responsibility in the matter. As a result, when the case was brought to the United States Tax Court, they upheld the IRS’ assessment of taxes owed and agreed that Sullivan was responsible for paying the total amount. It’s very much possible that Sullivan was telling the truth and that his income did not command taxes owed to that amount, but he lost the opportunity to correct the assessment when he neglected to file tax returns for eight years and failed to respond to the IRS’ inquiries.

It’s disheartening to hear that you have to pay over $1.2 million in taxes (especially if it is just for two years of income), but the reality is that the consequences can be so much worse: an actual levying of your assets and accounts, garnishing of your wages, and jail time. It is unclear how the situation was resolved, but if Sullivan had at the very least filed taxes, the situation would have been much easier to fix.

Talley’s experienced team of tax professionals provide comprehensive tax compliance and consulting services so you can preserve, enhance, and pass on to the next generation the assets and wealth that you’ve worked hard to build. We welcome the opportunity to discuss with you the current opportunities available to you. For more information, contact us today.

As the holidays approach, Americans prepare to spend time with their families and reflect on the past year. The holiday season also brings out the spirit of charitable giving, which offers the opportunity for tax deductions. Unfortunately, looking at last year’s data, changes to the standard deduction threshold from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act may have been a factor in the 1.7% overall drop in Americans’ charitable donations. While tax considerations should not drive generosity, if individuals effectively structure their gifts, they can realize the maximum tax benefit while still impacting others.

Many traditionally give to charity by writing a check or giving cash but do not realize other types of assets can be donated. Individuals that hold a portfolio with appreciated securities or real estate can increase their tax deduction by donating these assets instead. If they were to sell their appreciated assets and then give the money to charity, they would be subject to a capital gains tax. If they donate the non-cash assets directly, they can avoid the capital gains tax and deduct the fair market value. The giver saves on taxes, and the receiving charities get a more substantial donation. 

Taxpayers who are close to the standard deduction ($24,400 for married couples and $12,200 for single taxpayers) may want to accelerate their planned giving to maximize the impact of their charitable contributions. As an example, if someone regularly gives $10,000 every year, they may want to consider bundling a few years’ worth of donations together. This allows them to break through the deduction cap and can help mitigate the tax impact of a higher than usual income from bonuses or other short-term gains. 

Individuals that want to receive the tax deduction in one year but distribute the large gift over a few years can establish a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). A DAF is a special fund run by a sponsoring organization that can be used to contribute cash, securities, or other assets to qualified charities. The fund will build value over time, but these earnings are tax-free since contributions are irrevocable. As the fund increases in value, so does the impact of the charitable contribution. While these are just a few ways to make donations more impactful, tax planning experts can offer even more options to make sure holiday cheer goes the furthest.

No matter the amount, your generosity in gifting time and money to worthwhile causes can have a significant impact on your tax liability. While tax considerations should never drive your charitable giving, it makes sense to structure your gifting to maximize the tax benefits. If you have questions regarding your gifting or estate plan, please contact Talley LLP today.

Fifteen years ago, The Oprah Winfrey Show made TV history with the iconic “You get a car!” giveaway episode. Oprah surprised her studio audience with 276 brand new Pontiac G6 sedans worth over $7 million. While the surprise went down as one of the show’s most memorable moments, the aftermath of the giveaway left recipients faced with a hefty tax bill.

The segment began with Oprah calling eleven random audience members on stage and announcing that they had each won a car. After their excitement had died down, she told the entire audience to retrieve gift boxes from under their seats and announced that one of the boxes also contained car keys. Upon opening the boxes, every audience member found a set of keys causing pandemonium throughout the studio.

The giveaway was sponsored by Pontiac, a General Motors brand, as a promotional marketing campaign. While General Motors covered the price tag of $28,500 and the sales tax of $1,800, the gift tax was left for the prize winners to handle. The cars were not classified as gifts and instead were considered promotional prizes, similar to the way game show giveaways and lottery wins are treated. The value of the cars was going to be taxed accordingly, at a total of about $6,000 to $7,000. This is in accordance with the tax code which states that “Except as otherwise provided in this section or in section 117 (relating to qualified scholarships), gross income includes amounts received as prizes and awards.”

Although receiving a car at a $6,000 price tag is a significant discount, audience members had been chosen by the Oprah staff based on their need for a car. Most individuals had to scramble to come up with the funds to be able to receive any benefit from the prize. The alternate options were selling the car and paying the taxes or turning the prize down altogether.

While unfortunate, the experience of Oprah’s audience members  provides a valuable lesson about dealing with windfall events you may experience in your own life. Winning the lottery, receiving an unexpected inheritance, and cashing out a retirement plan are all financial events that can be a welcome occurrence, but can raise serious financial questions that you must deal with quickly.

Talley offers a broad spectrum of services to fulfill the needs of high net worth individuals, entrepreneurially driven companies, and their owners. Whether you are considering an M&A transaction or experiencing a financial windfall event, the professionals at Talley can help you to make the most of both your earnings and winnings.

Airbnb has become a great way for property owners to make some extra money while providing travelers with unique accommodation options. As this sector of the hospitality industry has grown, new tax regulations have been implemented to account for the additional income generated. One example is Section 199A of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which allows owners to gain tax savings through a qualified business income (QBI) deduction. Unfortunately for many individuals hoping to utilize the deduction, qualifying will take a significant amount of work.

Prior to the TCJA, Airbnb owners preferred not to be classified as a formal business to avoid a self-employment tax of 15.3 percent. The QBI deduction allows owners to claim half of that self-employment tax as a deduction and save up to 20 percent on their business income taxes. Many owners have since decided to change their status but have not kept the necessary records to prove it.

The requirements specify that owners must spend at least 250 hours each year performing rental-related activities. Most individuals do not come close to reaching this threshold and will have to spend additional hours working on their Airbnb rentals. Owners will need to create personal time cards to track their hours and keep detailed records of services performed for property maintenance. Additionally, they will need to file a Form 1099 for payments to service vendors over $600 to comply with other business status protocols.

Airbnb tax regulations may have been lenient in the past, but with many owners expected to take the deduction, the IRS is likely to verify the accuracy of business-related income. There are currently no tax court cases related to the QBI deduction to serve as a precedent, so the penalty for violators is unknown. Having an accurate record-keeping system is essential for business owners in any industry. It is better to be safe than sorry by consulting an expert tax advisor to learn more about reporting regulations.

Talley’s experienced team of tax professionals provide comprehensive tax compliance and consulting services so you can preserve, enhance and pass on to the next generation the assets and wealth that you’ve worked hard to build. We welcome the opportunity to discuss the current opportunities available to you. For more information, contact us today.

The NFL’s 100th season began last week, and with it, over 38 million hopefuls kicked off their fantasy leagues and betting predictions. With several states legalizing sports betting this year, these player’s potential winnings may be taxed differently come championship time. Whether you’re playing in an official NFL channel or an unregulated one, the IRS expects to be informed of any related earnings since the money is technically classified as taxable income.

Since the Supreme Court overturned existing laws in Spring 2018, thirteen states have legalized the activity, and more are expected to create betting markets in the next few months. Over 7 million individuals are expected to bet in casino sportsbooks this year, while another 31 million people will play in less official forms.

For amateur regulated channels, the IRS places the responsibility of reporting winning on both casinos and players. Successful bets 300x the wager resulting in a win of over $5,000 would face about 24% withheld for taxes. Some betting situations under this amount may also face withholdings depending on the circumstance. After a withholding, the casino may also give you a Form W-2G, particularly with wins over $600 that are 300x your bet. For fantasy sports players the form would be the 1099-MISC which will also eventually be turned into the IRS. To help mitigate some of your gambling related tax bills, players can deduct losses up to the amount of their winnings.

For professional gamblers deductions are different due to their activity being work related. Pro players’ travel expenses can be added to their gambling loss deductions rather than being stated as a separate expense. In most cases, the final tax bill on sports betting can be higher or lower, so it is wise not to spend your winnings right away. The best option overall is to consult a tax expert to make sure you are accounting for taxes on any win big or small.

With over 30 years’ experience consulting with industry-leading companies, we understand the challenges facing individuals with generating and protecting income. Whether you’re looking to improve your profitability, build your brand through a business transaction or capital raise, Talley is the consulting and financial services firm dedicated to strategic business solutions that deliver meaningful results.

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