Southbourne Tax Group Review: How to make taxes easier as a property investor

Southbourne Tax Group has been a part of different projects that includes tax services to various businesses and individuals. Since its beginnings, the firm has been showing unrivaled commitment to their clients and giving them necessary guidance with their taxes.

Southbourne Tax Group targets to provide help specifically to property investors with this post. A few tips will be provided that can make taxes at least a bit easier to individuals or businesses. But first, as a property investor, remember to have a correct tax return.

As mentioned earlier, having an appropriate and complete tax return is indeed crucial for property investors since they often come under inspection when submitting returns. Call your accountant today and talk about important tax matters and define what can and can’t be claimed as a tax deductible expense.

Hiring a tax specialist is one of the recommendations of Southbourne Tax Group to help you make your taxes easier. Offsetting the net loss from negative gearing against other income can reduce your tax payable. Claiming the interest of a property is also plausible if it is available for rent.

Always confirm if you have the right coverage when checking your insurance policy. Experts add that a standard home and contents insurance policy won’t cover specific risks included in property investing. Make sure that you will never forget the costs you are rightfully entitled to as well.

As a self-managing landlord working from home, you surely have some expenses and such costs can be claimed as well but only a fair and reasonable part of it. On the other hand, Southbourne Group also recommends getting the service of a professional property manager because its costs can be a deductible expense too.

Moreover, a property manager can assist the organization while creating a potential tax benefit. Such professional can also handle very well the administrative responsibilities involved in an investment property. Completing and compiling paperwork are no problem to property managers as well.

Mentioned above were only some of the basics to make your taxes easier as a property investor, Southbourne Tax Group encourages you to contact them for further guidance.

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Southbourne Tax Group Review: How to avoid making mistakes in your taxes as a property investor

Since its foundation, Southbourne Tax Group has been providing trusted tax service to different businesses and individuals. And to give some help to property investors the firm prepared some helpful tips that can at least make taxes easier for them and to reduce their tax-worries. But first, remember that as a property investor, you must have a correct tax return.

When submitting returns, landlords usually come under inspection so it is really important to have complete and appropriate tax returns. Ensuring about the legitimacy of all claims and maximizing tax return amount involves a thorough discussion with your accountant on what can and can’t be claimed as a tax deductible expense.

Making taxes easier for you may also involve hiring a tax specialist. Southbourne Tax Group provides a few more tips below to help property investors with their taxes.

Reducing your tax payable could include offsetting the net loss generated by negative gearing against other income. You can also claim the interest of a property if it is available for rent.

Checking your insurance policy must also include having the right coverage. Being a landlord, you should know that a standard home and contents insurance policy won’t cover particular risks involved with property investing. You surely have costs that you are rightfully entitled to, so see to it that you won’t overlook them.

Working from home as a self-managing landlord had costs wherein you can claim a fair and reasonable part of it. Southbourne Group also suggests hiring a property manager because its costs can be a deductible expense, which is a good thing, right?

Property managers have the ability to create a potential tax benefit while assisting the organization as well. An investment property includes administrative responsibilities, which can be taken good care of property managers. Having a problem with compiling and completing important paperwork? A property manager can indeed provide a great help in this matter and make it easier and simpler for you.

All those given tips above are some of the ways to help you avoid making mistakes on your taxes as a property investor. For more information about taxes, contact Southbourne Tax Group today.

Southbourne Tax Group Review: How to steer clear of tax-time stress as a property investor

As a property investor, having appropriate and correct tax returns is imperative. As a company who exerts brilliant dedication on providing tax services to businesses and individuals, Southbourne Tax Group prepared some simple tax tips to property investors in managing their taxes.

Landlords often come under inspection when submitting tax returns, thus it is essential to have a complete and appropriate returns. Contact your accountant and discuss important tax matters to identify what can and can’t be claimed as a tax-deductible expense. You can ensure all claims are legitimate and the tax return amount is maximized with this.

Making your taxes easier is possible with the help of a tax specialist, so better get their professional service today. Below are more tips provided by Southbourne Tax Group.

Reducing the tax payable involves offsetting the net loss generated by negative gearing against other income. If a property is available for rent, then as a landlord, you can claim the interest, but if for example, it is lived for half a year and then leased as a holiday rental for the other half you can’t claim the interest for the full 12 months.

Make sure that when checking your insurance policy, you’ll have the appropriate coverage. With a standard home and contents insurance policy, experts said that landlords won’t be covered for particular risks involved in property investing.

Surely, you have costs you are rightfully entitled to, so make sure you won’t forget them. As said earlier, consulting your accountant regarding what can and can’t be claimed before submitting your claim is vital.

Being one of those self-managing landlords, having costs from working at home is usual, but don’t forget that you can claim some of them. But remember you can’t claim all the costs included from working at home such as buying a computer or the monthly internet bills, however, a reasonable part of this may be deductible.

Hiring a property manager also provides great help. The costs included in getting their services can be a deductible expense. They can help you save time because they can create a potential tax benefit while assisting the organization as well. Taking good care of the administrative responsibilities involved in an investment property is easy for them. Compiling and completing important paperwork? A property manager can handle them.

Tax-time stress is often inevitable but with those mentioned above, you can steer clear from major tax-time stress as a property investor. Keep in touch with Southbourne Tax Group to understand this subject better.

Southbourne Tax Group Review: How to avoid doing taxes wrong as a property investor

Property investors should know how important it is to settle their tax returns correctly. The following are some tax tips prepared by Southbourne Tax Group to help you avoid having errors on your taxes.

When lodging tax returns, landlords usually come under inspection from the government so it is really crucial for them to have complete and accurate returns. In order to determine what can and can’t be claimed as a tax-deductible expense, Southbourne Tax Group suggests consulting your accountants as a landlord. With this, all claims are ensured legitimate and the tax return amount is maximized.

If you seek to make taxes easier as a landlord, it would be better to get the professional advice of a tax specialist. It is sometimes unavoidable to have tax-time stress but just continue reading and Southbourne Tax Group has a few more tips for you.

Negative gearing: In order to reduce the tax payable, the net loss which generates from negative gearing should be offset against other income. If a property is available for rent, landlords can claim the interest. However, you can’t claim the interest for the full 12 months of a property that is lived in for half a year and leased as a holiday rental for the other half.

Insurance: Making sure that you have the right coverage in checking your insurance policy is also important. Landlords won’t be covered for particular risks involved in property investing with a standard home and contents insurance policy.

Expenses: Southbourne Tax Group suggests not forgetting to claim the costs you are duly entitled to. As mentioned before, before submitting your claim, confirm first with your accountant on what can and cannot be claimed.

Offsetting costs: Are you one of the self-managing landlords? Working from home and its costs could be claimed as well, but not all since only a fair and reasonable part of it can be deductible.

Property manager: The cost of property managers can be a deductible expense said experts and they can be helpful to landlords as well. Landlords can save time by hiring a property manager because they can create a potential tax benefit while assisting with the organization at the same time.

Moreover, the administrative responsibilities included in an investment property can be taken good care of a trusted property manager, so with the help of such professional, the tax-time burden can surely be lessened.

You can contact Southbourne Tax Group today to know more steps on how to avoid doing taxes wrong with their proper tax guidance and service.

The Southbourne Tax Group: 5 surprising things you can deduct from your income taxes

“Can I deduct this?” When Americans sit down to fill out their income-tax forms on or before the April 15 deadline, that’s the question they’ll likely ask the most.

They may be shocked by how often the answer is “yes,” and the sheer variety of expenses they can deduct. Most people know that business-related items are usually tax deductible — no matter how odd. That could include body oil for a masseuse or professional body builder, says Dave Du Val, vice president of customer advocacy at TaxAudit.com, which is based in Sacramento, Calif. Ditto, free beer used for a sales promotion. But a recent survey showed that only 51% of more than 1,000 people surveyed understood relatively basic questions about their income taxes, and the estimated average $2,840 tax refund for 2017 likely does not include the refunds that people did not know they could claim.

Of course, most people know many charitable donations are deductible, but some people are especially watchful for deductions others might miss. Grafton “Cap” Willey, managing director at CBIZ Tofias, an accounting and professional services provider in Providence, R.I., helped a client who’d bought a house and land — and wanted to build a better house — write off the fair market value of the windows, lumber and other usable items from the property that he donated to a homeless charity. And documentation is critical. “Take a photo with your iPhone of that bag of clothes you donate, and get a receipt. That all counts as evidence.”

To help people think more broadly about the kinds of things they can deduct, here are five unusual tax deductions:

Swimming pools

Context is everything when it comes to deductions, especially when expenses are being characterized as being for medical purposes. Johanna Turner, senior partner at Milestones Financial Planning in Mayfield, Ky., had clients who successfully deducted the full cost of a $40,000 swimming pool. “Their child had been injured in an accident,” she says. “They received doctor’s orders for swimming therapy.” The key here is making sure a doctor signs off on the deductions, Turner says. There are also deductions taken for hot tubs and pools as long as they, too, are doctor-prescribed, adds Megan Thompson, a certified public accountant at Thompson Accounting in San Jose, Calif. Upgrading your property for lifestyle or reselling, for instance, would not count.

Abortion

This may be the most politically and ideologically divisive of all deductions. The IRS says: “You can include in medical expenses the amount you pay for a legal abortion.” So an abortion — which can cost from $500 to $1,000 — could be deductible if it was included with other medical expenses. Taxpayers can also include in medical expenses the amount they pay to purchase a pregnancy test kit to determine if they are pregnant, and the cost of a sterilization or vasectomy. When it comes to all medical expenses, you cannot include those that were paid by insurance companies or other sources, and the total medical expenses in question need to exceed 10% of your adjusted gross income (this falls to 7.5% for those who are 65 or over for all medical expenses).

Gambling losses

“If you have gambling gains, you can deduct a large number of expenses to go to Vegas up to the point where it offsets much or all of the gains,” says Scott Bishop, director of financial planning at STA Wealth Management in Houston. You can deduct your losses, but no more than your winnings in that tax year. Gambling income includes winnings from lotteries, raffles, horse races and casinos, and fair market value of prizes such as cars and trips. “To deduct your losses, you must be able to provide receipts, tickets, statements or other records,” the IRS states. For casinos, you need copies of check-cashing records. Some states don’t allow deductions on gambling losses, however.

Service dogs and dog food

Man’s best friends can be another tax-deductible expense. “I had a client with a warehouse deduct the cost of buying guard dogs,” Bishop says. Their pet food may also be deducted. He is aware of one case where a person deducted the cost of transporting their six dogs as a work-related moving expense. Taxpayers may also include as medical expenses the costs of buying, training and maintaining a guide dog or other service animal to assist a person with physical disabilities. This includes any costs, such as food, grooming and veterinary care incurred in maintaining the health of the service animal.

Gender confirmation surgery

In 2010, the federal tax court ruled in favor of a transgender woman, Rhiannon O’Donnabhain, who had taken up a case against the IRS for refusing to allow a $5,000 deduction for $25,000 in medical expenses for gender confirmation surgery, those costs “not compensated for by insurance or otherwise, for medical care of the taxpayer.” In its ruling, the tax court said gender-identity disorder is widely recognized in diagnostic and psychiatric reference texts, and all three experts testifying in the case consider the disorder a serious medical condition, and the mental-health professionals who examined O’Donnabhain found that her disorder was a severe impairment.

Additional resources for business accounting tips are available here.

 

The Southbourne Tax Group Review: The state of play on tax evasion and avoidance

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Sometimes it can be hard to keep up with the avalanche of government announcements on tax avoidance and evasion. This guide, produced by Jason Collins, a member of the CIOT’s Management of Taxes Sub-Committee, should bring tax agents, journalists and others with an interest in tax compliance up to speed with the rapidly changing landscape in this area

Offshore evasion

The 1st of January 2017 was a seminal date in the war against offshore tax evasion because it is the date on which financial accounts in existence in jurisdictions in the ‘late’ adopters of the Common Reporting Standard (CRS), will have to be reported, even if they are closed after this date.

Although the trigger dates were earlier for the Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories (CDOTs) (1 July 2014) and early adopters of the CRS (1 January 2016), the late adopter countries are perhaps the most significant because they include the major financial centres of Switzerland, Hong Kong, Dubai and Singapore.

HMRC received the data from the CDOTs in September 2016 and has begun the process of matching that data to information it already holds in order to decide who to investigate. The data pot will be enhanced by the receipt of the CRS early adopter data in September this year and late adopter data in September 2018.

Enablers

The date of 1 January 2017 also brought the start of Finance Act 2016 penalties for enablers of someone else’s offshore tax evasion or careless non-compliance. Penalties can be up to 100 per cent of that other person’s tax liability.

It is worth noting here that the taxpayer will be entitled to mitigation of his or her own penalty if he or she provides information about any enabler.

Strict liability offence

HMRC is under pressure to prosecute more people for offshore tax evasion, and FA 2016 introduced a new ‘strict liability’ offence which may achieve this end. The offence will apply if a UK taxpayer fails to notify HMRC of his or her chargeability to tax, fails to file a return or files an incorrect return in relation to income, gains or assets in a non-CRS country and the underpaid tax is more than £25,000 per tax year. There will be no need for the prosecution to prove that the individual’s actions were dishonest but the taxpayer can put forward a ‘reasonable excuse’ defence. The maximum sanction is six months of imprisonment. We do not yet have a definite date, but it is expected this will apply from April 2017.

Corporates

As with the above, HMRC is also under pressure from the public to see more companies and partnerships prosecuted – in particular those who fail to prevent their staff and agents from criminally facilitating third party tax evasion. A new offence is being introduced in the Criminal Finances Bill and will be effective by September 2017 at the latest.  Liability is again ‘strict’, but it will be possible to advance a defence that reasonable procedures were in place to try to stop the misconduct (or that it was not reasonable in all the circumstances to expect there to be a procedure in place).  The offence is being introduced because under the current law a corporate will only be criminally liable if very senior management (usually board level) were involved or knew about the facilitation, meaning that it can be all too easy for senior management to let unscrupulous practices go on, provided they know nothing about them.

Tougher civil penalties

Despite bringing more prosecutions, most cases will continue to be dealt with by HMRC levying financial penalties rather than seeking a criminal conviction. The current maximum penalties for offshore evasion depend upon the extent that the UK has exchange of information arrangements with the jurisdiction connected to the non-compliance, with a maximum penalty of 200 per cent of the tax for the most opaque regimes. The standard penalty payable can be increased by up to 50 per cent where there has been a deliberate attempt to move assets in order to avoid exchange of information regimes (Sch 21, FA 2015).

In addition, a new ‘asset-based’ penalty is being introduced (Sch 22 FA 2016) for the most serious cases of evasion with an offshore connection. It is levied in addition to the standard penalties for deliberate behaviour. The asset-based penalty starts at the lower of 10 per cent of the value of the asset and 10 times the potential lost revenue related to the asset and is subject to mitigation. It is not yet known when this penalty will come into force, but it is likely to be sometime in 2017.

Disclosure facilities and ‘Requirement to Correct’

The Liechtenstein Disclosure Facility (LDF), which despite its name could be used for irregularities in other jurisdictions, has been withdrawn and replaced with the much less generous Worldwide Disclosure Facility (WDF). The WDF offers no tax amnesty, penalty reduction or guarantee of non-prosecution and therefore provides little incentive for the hard core who have resisted the numerous previous settlement initiatives to regularise their position. The WDF requires the taxpayer to pay the tax, interest and a self-assessed reckoning of the penalties which apply.

Linked to this, Finance Bill 2017 will include new measures applying to a person with any undeclared tax relating to offshore matters as at 5 April 2017. The law will impose a special ‘new’ statutory requirement to correct the issue between 6 April 2017 and 30 September 2018. The issue is treated as corrected if the taxpayer takes certain steps, including formally bringing it to the attention of HMRC under the WDF, before the deadline.

A failure to correct by the deadline will lead to two things. First, the time limit applying to HMRC’s powers to assess will be extended so that HMRC is given a further four years beyond the usual timeframes in which to discover and collect the under-declared tax.

Second, the old penalty regime will fall away and a new super penalty will be applied.  The penalty is between 100 per cent and 200 per cent of the potential lost revenue (depending on the levels of cooperation).  The underlying conduct giving rise to the non-compliance is irrelevant.  However, there is a ‘reasonable excuse’ defence and provision for reduction of the penalty in special circumstances.

This super penalty can be imposed in addition to the asset–based penalty mentioned above. It is also subject to an increase of up to 50 per cent under Sch 21 FA 1015 if HMRC can show that assets or funds have been moved in a deliberate attempt to avoid exchange of information (see above).

Obligation to write to clients

Advisers who have provided tax advice to UK residents in relation to offshore accounts, assets and sources of income and financial institutions who have provided offshore accounts are required to send a letter to their clients enclosing a HMRC leaflet and reminding them of their obligation to disclose offshore income and gains. It will apply in respect of advice provided in the year to 30 September 2016 and there are exclusions. A useful exclusion for advisers covers the situation where all the adviser has done is prepare tax returns disclosing offshore income.  Letters need to be sent by 31 August 2017 but advisers need to start working out which clients they need to contact, if they have not already done so.

Requirement to notify offshore structures

HMRC is consulting until 27 February 2017 on a proposed new legal requirement for intermediaries (both within and outside the UK) creating or promoting certain complex offshore financial arrangements to notify HMRC of the details and provide a list of clients using them. The measure aims to target arrangements which could easily be used for tax evasion purposes. It is proposed that the requirement should apply to arrangements in existence at 31 December 2016, rather than just new arrangements entered into after the new measure comes into force, in order to tie in with the start of CRS.

Onshore evasion

More tax is lost to onshore evasion or non-compliance than to offshore evasion and avoidance but it does not always attract the same level of public interest – for example a former minister for tax was vilified for making the very valid point about the scale of the tax loss from paying tradespeople in cash. Indeed, the largest single type of loss to the exchequer is from the ‘hidden’ economy – for instance those who fail to register for tax at all (known as ‘ghosts’) or fail to declare an entire source of income (known as ‘moonlighters’). In 2014/15 (the latest figures available), 17 per cent of the tax gap (some £6.2bn) was estimated to be down to this type of non-compliance.

As with offshore evasion, HMRC has adopted a two pronged strategy to counteract domestic tax evasion. This involves a combination of ‘encouraging’ recalcitrant individuals to come forward and increasing HMRC’s powers to obtain information from third parties who may provide the key to finding those who are non-compliant.

Disclosure initiatives

Recent ‘encouragement’ initiatives involve HMRC targeting areas where they believe there may be non-compliance. In the past HMRC has focused on specific industries, eg plumbers, solicitors and doctors, but over the last year it has launched campaigns targeting specific types of income that may be relevant to the population more generally, such as buy-to-let rental income and income from second occupations. These initiatives enable a voluntary disclosure to be made of previously undeclared income and generally offer reduced penalties, compared to the position if it is HMRC that discovers the non-declared income.

‘Nudge’ letters

A more controversial aspect of the strategy to encourage non-compliant people to come forward voluntarily has been the use of ‘nudge’ letters. These letters to taxpayers reminding them of their obligations are sometimes not copied to agents, such as one that was sent out just before Christmas to those who had declared interest income on their 2014-5 tax return asking them to check the figures returned. It was not clear from the contents of this standard letter whether it had been sent randomly or to specific individuals as a result of HMRC receiving different information from banks and building societies about the interest paid. Anecdotal evidence from tax advisers suggests that the letter worried some individuals who had, in fact, complied with their obligations.

Increased HMRC powers

In relation to the second prong of the strategy, there were three consultations last year on additional powers to clamp down on the hidden economy. One consultation proposed extending HMRC’s data gathering powers to enable it to collect data from money services businesses (for instance businesses that provide money transmission, cheque cashing or currency exchange services). As part of the ‘Fintech’ revolution, more and more people are buying bank services outside the traditional bank supply lines and HMRC has had to respond to try to ensure that the ‘shadow banking’ sector cannot easily be used to hide sources of income or wealth.

Another consultation proposed making access to public sector licenses such as licences for private hire vehicles, environmental health, planning and property letting conditional on registering for tax. As an alternative the government is considering measures which will effectively give financial services companies an indirect role in policing the hidden economy, by making access to business services such as insurance and bank accounts conditional on proving that you are registered for tax.

The third consultation document proposed tougher sanctions for those involved in the hidden economy, including higher penalties for those who repeatedly fail to notify chargeability, additional tracking and enhanced monitoring of taxpayers with a history of non-compliance, and strengthening the penalty regime where an immigration offence is also committed.

Connect

In this high-technology age, HMRC has invested heavily to keep up.  It has spent a very large sum of money on a database, called ‘Connect’.  All information is fed into this data trove and reviewed in order to inform HMRC’s deployment of resource to meet onshore and offshore risks, as well as identifying specific instances of non-compliance.  The flip side is that as the country moves away from using cash, the traditional channels for the hidden economy are closing.  Tax evasion is as old as the hills, but one wonders whether it has met its match.

Tax avoidance

A crackdown on tax evasion is probably only just ahead of a crackdown on avoidance in the political popularity stakes. In the eyes of HMRC, aggressive avoidance is no more acceptable than evasion and shares the feature that (because of their overwhelming success rate in challenging avoidance) tax is legally due but unpaid. This perspective has justified a barrage of measures in recent years.

Penalties for enablers of avoidance

The most contentious measure is the suggested imposition of penalties on the ‘supply chain’ in avoidance – not just the designers and promoters, but those who provide advice and who sell the arrangements to others.

A first consultation drew gasps from among the tax industry as it suggested penalties would be applied to any bank or adviser whose client was successfully challenged under, among other things, a targeted anti-avoidance rule. The penalty would be up to 100 per cent of the tax due from the client.

Thankfully HMRC listened to stakeholders’ concerns about the breadth of the proposals and the draft legislation for inclusion in Finance Bill 2017 provides that the measure will only apply to ‘abusive arrangements’. This uses the ‘double reasonableness’ test used for the general anti-abuse rule (GAAR) – arrangements which cannot reasonably be regarded as a reasonable course of action having regard to all the circumstances. The penalty will be capped at the fee received by the adviser/intermediary.  It is proposed that the new rules will apply to activity taking place after Royal Assent is given to the 2017 Finance Bill.

Serial tax avoiders

A new ‘serial tax avoiders’ regime has been in force since 15 September 2016. It applies where a tax avoidance scheme is ‘defeated’ (either by the decision of a tribunal or court or by settlement with HMRC). Anyone who has participated in a scheme on or after 15 September 2016 can be issued with a warning notice which lasts for five years and imposes an annual obligation to notify HMRC of further schemes used, with enhanced penalties, possible ‘naming and shaming’ and restriction of access to tax reliefs if any schemes used within the period are defeated. A warning notice can be issued to those who entered into schemes before 15 September 2016 which are defeated on or after 6 April 2017, but then only the annual notification requirements apply and not the other sanctions.

Increased transparency

Tied in with international measures and the fight against tax evasion and avoidance we have also seen a number of measures to increase transparency. These include the requirement since April 2016 for certain UK companies and LLPs to formally identify and keep a register of ‘persons with significant control’ over them and to provide this information to Companies House at least annually. There are also proposals for a register of people controlling non-UK companies owning UK real estate as well as a register of settlors and beneficiaries of trusts which generate UK tax consequences. Further details are expected this year.

Large businesses will also be required to publish their tax strategy online. This will include details of their attitude to tax planning and their appetite for risk.  Country-by-Country Reporting, under which large companies have to formally break down where they make profits and where they pay tax, will also go live in 2017.

VAT

Clause 95 of the Finance Bill 2017 provides for a new penalty which will apply to anyone found to have claimed input tax on a transaction which they ‘knew or should have known’ was connected with a VAT fraud (the input tax claim thus being bad in law).  HMRC say that the current VAT penalty regime (which identifies careless or deliberate errors) requires HMRC to specify whether they are alleging one or the other of actual and constructive knowledge for the purposes of the penalty, whereas they do not need to make this distinction for the legal test in respect of the tax itself.  Under this new fixed 30 per cent penalty, liability is engaged irrespective of the type of knowledge. The penalty cannot be reduced for co-operation with HMRC and company officers can be personally liable.

Tax Avoidance Disclosure Regimes for Indirect Taxes and Inheritance Tax

The Government will revise the VAT avoidance disclosure regime (VADR) and widen it to cover other indirect taxes from September 2017. Among the proposals is to move the principal obligation to report schemes from VAT-registered businesses to scheme promoters and align the penalties for non-compliance with VADR obligations with those chargeable under DOTAS. The Government insists that it will reduce burdens as the focus for compliance shifts from all taxpayers to a much smaller number of promoters. HMRC plans to introduce a wider disclosure mechanism applicable to all IHT arrangements that are contrived or abnormal, or which contain contrived or abnormal steps. More details are to be included in the regulations.

Conclusion

Although the pace of change has already been very rapid, a significant number of the measures outlined above are due to take effect in 2017. This will give HMRC considerably more fire power in its battle against tax evasion and avoidance.  Tax advisers need to be aware of the impact these changes could have on their clients and of the increasing number of measures which could catch the unwitting tax adviser.

Additional resources for business accounting tips are available here

The Southbourne Tax Group: How To Recognize the Signs of Tax Identity Theft

Tax filing season is upon us. Soon you will be filing your paperwork and perhaps receiving a nice check — unless thieves file a return in your name first and falsely claim your refund.

Unfortunately, if a thief has your Social Security number and other relevant information, tax identity theft is very hard to prevent. Greg McBride, Chief Financial Analyst for Bankrate.com, notes that “somebody could have your Social Security number and they could have been sitting on it for a while… you would have no idea until they go and file a bogus tax return under your Social Security number. You only find out at the point where your legitimate return gets rejected.”

While recent IRS efforts have resulted in a 50% drop in both confirmed fraudulent identity theft tax returns and new identity theft reports from 2015 to 2016, tax-identity thieves still falsely claim millions of dollars in undeserved refunds every year.

The IRS is attempting to help taxpayers be proactive by recognizing the signs of potential tax ID theft. The “Taxes. Security. Together” program urges taxpayers to take reasonable precautions and to work with the IRS whenever any activity occurs that suggests tax ID fraud.

Examples of suspicious activity include receiving tax–related documents that you did not request and should not receive, including receiving a bogus refund. Occasionally, information meant to be delivered to the thief will be sent to you by mistake. If you receive a tax document from an employer that you have never worked for, a tax transcript that you did not request, or a reloadable prepaid debit card that you did not expect, you should be highly suspicious of potential tax fraud.

You may also receive a letter from the IRS asking you to verify a suspicious tax return filed with your name and Social Security number. A greedy thief may try to claim a large refund or make a basic error in the return that compels the IRS to label the return as suspicious. When that occurs, the IRS will contact you to see if the return is legitimately yours.

If your return is rejected, start by immediately looking for any simple errors such as transposed Social Security numbers or confusion with respect to dependents — for example, your teenage son or daughter filed their own return claiming themselves when you have also claimed them as a dependent. If no errors are evident, you will have to deal with what McBride calls the “massive headache” of rectifying the situation.

McBride offers perhaps your best line of defense: “To whatever extent you can, try to file your tax return early.” Beat the thieves at their own game and file as soon as you have the necessary tax documents from employers and financial accounts. However, since the thieves don’t care if your information is correct or not, they have an inherent time advantage.

It’s preferable to be preventative and extremely careful with your personal information. The IRS urges you to take reasonable and simple steps, such as securing your computer and mobile devices, using strong passwords, avoiding phishing e-mails, and not engaging in suspicious texts and calls from alleged IRS officials.

Make sure that you take similar precautions with your mobile and wireless connections. Never transmit personal information over unsecured Wi-Fi connections or to unverified websites.

With respect to tax fraud, the IRS is your ally. Neither one of you wants tax-identity thieves to succeed. Do your part, be proactive and vigilant, and help to make 2017 a difficult year for tax-identity thieves.

Additional resources for business accounting tips are available here.