Wednesday, March 16, 2016

8 Things the IRS Looks for on Your Tax Returns

By Brian Figeroux

We are all confronted with a myriad of unsettling issues in the daily management of our lives. Two words in the English language strike absolute terror in the bosoms of us all. What are these two dreaded words? Tax audit. Who exactly is the IRS hunting for in their quest to locate the perfect candidate for an audit?  First let us define our vocabulary. An audit is simply the IRS double checking your numbers to ascertain that you don’t have any discrepancies on your tax return. According to the Motley Fool, the modus operandi of the IRS is as follows:  they send a letter about particular items on your tax return, request supporting documents or ask about a math error it thinks it has found.  The audit letter will contain a comprehensive explanation of the questionable part of your return accompanied by an explanation of the pertinent tax rules.  What are some of the things the IRS looks for in all of those tax returns that reach them by the 15th of April?
1.    Charitable donations. According to Nerdwallet, you should not claim too many charitable donations. If you did in fact make generous contributions to a philanthropic organization you will certain be eligible for some well-deserved deductions but be forewarned—don’t report false donations.  It’s mandatory that you maintain meticulous records-you must have proper documentation to prove the validity of your contribution.

2.    Schedule C.  Do not report too many losses on Schedule C which is a form that is required for the self-employed who can take deductions that will lower their taxable income.  Being your own boss, you might be tempted to conceal income by filing personal expenses as business losses.  The IRS scrutinizes Section C with a very watchful eye.

3.    Home deductions. Claiming a home deduction is narrowly defined by the IRS. It is reserved for people who utilize a designated section of their home exclusively for a business. Only claim a home office deduction if you have set aside a section of your home for your business.
4.    Higher than average income. According to Quick books Intuit, having a higher than average income will possibly lead to increased odds of an audit. You will need to keep meticulous financial records. Large deductions that reduce the amount of your taxable income may cause a red flag at a desk at the IRS if they are out of proportion with your income. IRS uses tables to determine how much is too much.

5.    Numbers that have been averaged.  Rounding up or averaging numbers in our everyday life might be an acceptable practice but when it comes to your tax return it can trigger an audit.

6.    Claiming business losses. Claiming business losses year after year will cause the IRS to take a second look.  If you run a legitimate business that continually reports a loss the IRS might just assume that you are taking deductions that you are not entitled to. Why would you do that? They might think you are trying to avoid paying taxes.

7.    Business entertainment. If a particular tax return includes higher than average entertainment expenses be careful.  If you are going to deduct these types of expenses you must keep records where and when it occurred, who was in attendance and the purpose as it relates to your business.

8.    Claiming your vehicle. If you claim your vehicle, be it your car or van or truck, as 100% business, you will have to choose between the IRS standard mileage rates and actual expenses.   Do not deduct both of these on your tax return. You will need to provide precise records that include mileage logs, dates and the purpose of each and every trip.

The aforementioned list is just the tip of the iceberg concerning what items on your tax return the IRS is looking for before they send, seal and mail that letter inviting you for an audit.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Walking down the aisle to a divorce – 6 issues facing newly-weds

By Brian Figeroux

The marriage ceremony, historically, represents a celebration of a blessed union between two people in love—a memorable and romantic and special day with vows to be faithful till death, do us part.  This is a day when the ecstatic couple envision a happy life together spanning many generations to come. Rings have been exchanged; vows have been exchanged; the bridal bouquet has been tossed and eagerly grasped by a hopeful new bride –to-be.  The honeymoon is over. The couple are now officially and legally wed. Harsh reality steps in as a plethora of irritating and heartbreaking problems now plague the couple. Let’s address some of the most common problems facing that young now disillusioned couple.

1.     Money. Arguments develop and escalate over financial issues, e.g., bills, debts and spending habits. It’s no longer who is going to pick up the check in the restaurant on that third date. There are bigger issues to deal with. According to Jason Carroll, Brigham Young University, “Financial problems are as much a result of how we think about money as how we spend it.” For those couples who want to buy into the dream of home ownership, they face the stress of costly expenditures—mortgages, property taxes, and monthly maintenance costs.  According to, quite conceivably, couples incorporate opposing value systems—one spends money freely; the other is more frugal.  Ranjan Shaw, a marriage counselor and clinical psychologist, observes that most partners are indeed surprised by each other’s spending habits and debts which apparently they did not know about when they were just in the dating mode of their relationship.   

2.     Household responsibilities.  Now that they are living under one roof, disagreements will inevitably arise over the equitable distribution of household chores—taking out the garbage, cooking, grocery shopping, etc. etc. etc. The to-do list is endless. This is particularly problematic in the very early days of the marriage when the honeymoon phase is over and both partners are employed outside the home. Once upon a time household chores fell into the domain of the woman—no longer a truism in the 21st century.

3.     Addiction.  According to Tim Lanigan, formerly with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, drug abusers, to satiate their addiction desires, make withdrawals from the family’s bank account, money that would ordinarily be used for such necessary expenditures as food, shelter and clothing . Witnessing an empty refrigerator, empty closets and the specter of eviction, will most certainly introduce an excessive amount of stress.

4.     Children.  Marriage counselor, Sonali Raisingh, observed that couples differ on what day they plan to check into the maternity ward to have that first child.  Biological considerations dictate when women want to become mothers, whereas fathers prefer to be financially and emotionally prepared to enter into fatherhood. According to Directed Path Ministries, the subject of children involves when to have children, how many to have, how to discipline them and how to educate them.  The issue significantly   escalates when the parents inherit children from previous relationships or marriages.

5.     Sex. Invariably, in most marriages men feel that they are in essence not getting enough love in the bedroom. Couples Counseling Center states that initiating a meaningful dialogue is often difficult due to embarrassment. Periodically, an infrequent occurrence of sexual relations will ensue due to such contributing factors as resentment, exhaustion, or stress. All the glasses of wine and candle-lit rooms will not inspire affection during such stressful times. Stephanie Mane, relationship therapist, observes from her own experience in her practice that, “More than money, kids…the most common issue with married couples…is a struggle with sexual intimacy. “

6.     Technology. A new phenomenon has invaded the marriage counselor’s office as technology increasingly becomes a fact of life for us all. For marriage counselor Amy Morin, “People are texting while they’re at dinner, surfing the Internet in the evening, and using their smartphones.  Sitting next to your partner and using separate laptops doesn’t constitute quality time.”

The aforementioned list is just the tip of the iceberg concerning what disrupts domestic tranquility and disrupts the happily ever after scenario.