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Feature Articles

 

- Business identity theft, tax consequences and best practices

- Many tax planning questions arise after Supreme Court's DOMA decision

- IRS ruling highlights benefits of like-kind exchange, deferred tax arrangements

- FAQ: What can I deduct doing volunteer work for a charity?

- How Do I? Get a tax break on my vacation home

- July 2013 tax compliance calendar

 

 

 

Business Identity Theft: Tax Consequences & Best Practices + What Can I Deduct Doing Volunteer Work For a Charity + July 2013 Tax Compliance Calendar



Facilitated by the speed, ubiquity, and anonymity of the Internet, criminals are able to easily steal valuable information such as Social Security numbers and use it for a variety of nefarious purposes, including filing false tax returns to generate refunds from the IRS.

 

The victims are often unable to detect the crime until it is too late, generally after the IRS receives the legitimate tax return from the actual taxpayer. By that time the first return has often been long accepted and the refund processed.

 

Because of the ease, speed, and difficulty involved in policing cybercrime, identity theft has grown rapidly. One estimate from the National Taxpayer Advocate Service has calculated that individual identity theft case receipts have increased by more than 666 percent from fiscal year (FY) 2008 to FY 2012.

There is, however, another dangerous facet of identity theft that costs the government, taxpayers, and businesses millions of dollars each year. That is business identity theft, which like its consumer counterpart involves the theft or impersonation of a business's identity.

 

To add insult to injury, business identity theft can have crippling federal tax consequences. The following article summarizes the problem of business taxpayer identity theft, the methods employed by thieves, and the means by which you can protect your business.

Business v. Individual identity theft

Businesses generally deal with larger transactions, have larger account balances and credit lines than individual taxpayers, and can set up and accept merchant credit card payments with numerous banks. Business information regarding tax identification numbers, profit margins and revenues, officers, and even officer salaries are often public and easily accessed.

 

At the same time remedies and enforcement tend to focus more on individual identity theft. Thus, business identity theft can be more lucrative and arguably less dangerous to engage in than individual taxpayer identity theft.

 



Methods used

Only some of the many business identity theft schemes relate to tax. Nevertheless, such schemes can be devastating for businesses, resulting in massive employment tax liabilities for fictitious wages or huge deficiencies in reported income. Identity thieves can use a business's employer identification number (EIN) to initiate merchant card payment schemes, file false tax returns, and even generate hundreds of fake Form W-2s in furtherance of more individual taxpayer identity theft.

How they do it

Business identity theft can require less effort than individual identity theft because less information is required to establish a business or open a line of credit than is required of individuals. In general, the thief needs to obtain the business's EIN, which is easy to acquire. Common sources for an EIN include:

 - Filings made to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) such as the Form 10-K, which includes the EIN on its first page;
 - Public databases that enable users to search for business entities sometimes also display the employer's EIN;
 - Websites specifically designed to search for EINs, such as EINFinder.com;
 - Business websites sometimes openly display the EIN; and
 - Forms W-2, W-9, or 1099.
 

Once a thief has the EIN, he or she may file reports with various state Secretaries of State to change registered business addresses, registered agents' names, or even appoint new officers. In some cases the thief will apply for a line of credit using this new information. Since the official Secretary of State records display the changed information, potential creditors will not be alerted to the fraud.

 

In one case, however, criminals changed the names of a business's officers by filing with the Secretary of State's office and then sold the whole business to a third party. In the end, however, once an identity thief has established a business name, EIN, and address information, he or she has all the basic tools necessary to perpetrate business identity theft.

Best practices

Businesses should review their banks' policies and recommendations regarding fraud protection. They should know what security measures are being offered and, if commercially reasonable, take them. In a recent U.S. district court case from Missouri, the court found that a bank was not liable for a fraudulent $440,000 wire transfer because it had offered the business a commercially reasonable security procedure, and the business had rejected it. The decision cited Uniform Commercial Code Article 4A-202(b), as adopted by the Missouri Code. Many other states have also adopted the UCC, meaning victimized businesses might find themselves without recourse against their banks in the event of a large fraudulent wire transfer.

Other easy preventative measures that businesses can take include monitoring their financial accounts on a daily basis. They should follow up immediately on any suspicious activity. Businesses should also enroll in email alerts so that they would immediately be apprised of any change in your account name, address, or other information.

A business should also monitor the information on its business registration frequently, whether or not the business is active or inactive. Often businesses that close do not go through the formal dissolution process, which terminates all of the corporate authority. They instead let the charter be forfeited by the Secretary of State. These forfeited charters may be easily reinstated and hijacked by identity thieves.

After fraud occurs

If it is too late, and a fraudulent transaction has occurred in your business's name, take immediate action by contacting your bank, creditors, check verification companies, and credit reporting companies. Report the crime to your local law enforcement authorities and your state's secretary of state business division. Finally, whenever possible, memorialize all correspondence in writing and keep it in your records.

 


 

FAQ: What can I deduct doing volunteer work for a charity?


For many individuals, volunteering for a charitable organization is a very emotionally rewarding experience. In some cases, your volunteer activities may also qualify for certain federal tax breaks.

 

Although individuals cannot deduct the value of their labor on behalf of a charitable organization, they may be eligible for other tax-related benefits.

Before claiming any charity-related tax benefit, whether for a donation or volunteer activity, you must determine if the charity is a "qualified organization." Under the tax rules, most charitable organizations, other than churches, must apply to the IRS to become a qualified organization.

 

If you are uncertain about an organization's status as a qualified organization, you can ask the charity. The IRS has a toll-free number (1-877-829-5500) for questions from taxpayers about charities and also maintains an online tool at www.irs.gov/charities.

Time or services

An individual may spend 10, 20, 30 or more hours a week volunteering for a charitable organization. Precisely because the individual is a volunteer, he or she receives no remuneration for his or her time or services and cannot deduct the value of his or her time or services spent on activities for the charitable organization. Unpaid volunteer work is not tax deductible.

Vehicle expenses

Vehicle expenses associated with volunteer activity should not be overlooked. For example, many individuals use their personal vehicles to transport others to medical treatment or to deliver food to shut-ins. Taxpayers can deduct as a charitable contribution qualified unreimbursed out-of-pocket expenses, such as the cost of gas and oil, directly related to the use of their vehicle in giving services to a charitable organization. However, certain expenses, such as registration fees, or the costs of tires or insurance, are not deductible.

 

Alternatively, taxpayers can use a standard mileage rate of 14 cents per mile to calculate the amount of their contribution. Do not confuse the charitable mileage rate, which is set by statute, with business mileage rate (56.5 cents per mile for 2013), which generally changes from year to year. Parking fees and tolls are deductible whether the taxpayer uses the actual expense method or the standard mileage rate.

Uniforms

Some volunteers are required to wear a uniform, such as a jacket that identifies the wearer as a volunteer for the charitable organization, while engaged in activity for the charity. In this case, the tax rules generally allow taxpayers to deduct the cost and upkeep of uniforms that are not suitable for everyday use and that the taxpayer must wear while performing donated services for a charitable organization.

Hosting a foreign student

Qualifying expenses for a foreign student who lives in the taxpayer's home as part of a program of the organization to provide educational opportunities for the student may be deductible. The student must not be a relative, such as a child or stepchild, or dependent of the taxpayer and also must be a full-time student in secondary school or any lower grade at a school in the U.S. Among the expenses that may be deductible are the costs of food and certain transportation spent on behalf of the student. The cost of lodging is not deductible. If you are planning to host a foreign-exchange student, please contact our office and we can explore the possible tax benefits.

Travel

Volunteers may be asked to travel on behalf of the charitable organization, for example, to attend a convention or meeting. Generally, qualified unreimbursed expenses may be deductible subject to complicated rules. Very broadly speaking, there must not be a significant element of personal pleasure, recreation, or vacation in the travel. Special rules apply if the charitable organization pays a daily travel allowance to the volunteer. There are also special rules for attendance at a church meeting or convention and the capacity in which the volunteer attends the church meeting or convention. If you plan to travel as part of your volunteer activity for a charitable organization, please contact our office and we can review your plans in greater detail.

If you have any questions, please contact our office.
 




July 2013 Tax Compliance Calendar

As an individual or business, it is your responsibility to be aware of and to meet your tax filing/reporting deadlines.

 

This calendar summarizes important tax reporting and filing data for individuals, businesses and other taxpayers for the month of July 2013.

July 3
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates June 26-28.

July 8
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates June 29- July 2.

July 10
Employees who work for tips. Employees who received $20 or more in tips during June must report them to their employer using Form 4070.
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 3-5.

July 12
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 6-9.

July 17
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 10-12.

July 19
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 13-16.

July 24
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 17-19.

July 26
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 20-23.

July 31
Issuers and plan sponsors subject to the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Trust Fund fee use Form 720 for the 2nd quarter to report and pay it. Other Form 720 liabilities for that quarter should be reported on the same form.
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 24-26.

August 2
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll dates July 27-30.

August 3
Employers. Semi-weekly depositors must deposit employment taxes for payroll date July 31..

 


 

   

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As always you can call me at 714-619-0667 if you have any questions about investing, retirement or any other tax & accounting related issues. 

 

Regards, Monica Rebella, CPA/IAR

President, Rebella Accountancy

 
Disclaimer:  The opinions contained herein are not intended to be investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any securities. With any investment you should carefully consider the investment objectives, potential risks, management fees, and charges and expenses before investing.  Past performance is not a guarantee of future results. The investment return and principle value of any investment will fluctuate so that an investor’s shares, when redeemed, may be worth more or less than their original cost.

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Monica Rebella, CPA/IAR | President - Rebella Accountancy | Certified Public Accountants
507 E. First Street, Suite A | Tustin, CA 92780 | Phone: 714-619-0667 | Fax: 714-544-0236
Email: mrebella@rebellacpa.com | www.RebellaCPA.com | www.MyDentalCPA.com