Protect Yourself From Tax Scams

Protecting your financial information is always a top priority for us. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently reminded us that tax-related scams, even after tax season, are still pervasive. Two particular scams are on our radar – fake IRS phone calls and email phishing – and we want to be sure they’re on yours, too.

 

These unsolicited calls, automated messages or emails supposedly from the IRS, could be notifying you of a bogus tax bill or refund, or an email may even link to a website that looks real, but likely is not. The IRS offers these tips to help you identify potential fraudsters:

  • The IRS will always mail a bill first, not call you for immediate payment. You can question and confirm the bill with someone before paying it.
  • The IRS will not ask for your credit or debit card numbers over the phone, and will not demand that you pay a certain way (i.e., with prepaid debit card).
  • The IRS will not threaten to call the police or file a lawsuit against you.
  • If you receive an unsolicited email, do not click on the provided link, as it could contain a virus. (You can forward the email to phishing@irs.gov, then delete it.)

 

We believe you can never be too careful when it comes to protecting your information privacy. Here are a few more suggestions for thinking ahead of potential scams:

  • Never share any personal or financial information when contacted unexpectedly.
  • Question all unsolicited emails, before opening any contained links. Try hovering your mouse over a link to ensure it’s encrypted (often denoted with an https://).
  • Phony emails may be characterized by poor grammar and a lack of formatting.
  • Are you being told not to contact your lawyer, accountant or another third party? It’s probably a scam.
  • If you’re being promised something outlandish, it probably is too good to be true.

 

The false alerts and bogus claims are intended to take advantage of our desire to fix a problem as quickly as possible. If you’re prompted for information – for whatever reason – take a moment before you react. According to the IRS, you should always be afforded time to confirm a claim directly with someone before handing over sensitive information.

 

If you do receive a questionable communication, investigate further by doing an internet search for legitimate contact information before divulging anything.

2012 Direct-to-Charity IRA Option Extended Until January 31

If you would like to use a required minimum distribution from your IRA funds to make gifts to your favorite charities, you may still do so for the 2012 tax year due to the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 signed by President Obama on January 2.

You’ll have to act quickly, however.

The new tax rules extend for 2012 and 2013 the option of donating IRA funds directly to qualified charities. By taking this path, the IRA holder or beneficiary avoids taking possession of the funds and the tax bill that would result. Because the legislation took effect so close to the end of the year, special rules validate such distributions for the 2012 tax year as long as the transaction is completed by January 31, 2013.

If you took a distribution from your IRA from December 1 to December 31, 2012, you can treat the distribution as a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) as long as you forward the distribution to an eligible charity before February 1, 2013. You may also take a QCD from January 1 to January 31, 2013, and treat it as if it were made on December, 31, 2012.

Briefly, a qualified charitable distribution, which can be made only by IRA participants who are at least 70½ years of age, may be as high as $100,000. A QCD can be used to satisfy your required minimum distribution. The funds, which cannot come from active SEP or SIMPLE IRAs, must be sent directly to the qualified (IRS-approved) charitable organization. You’ll be able to report the donation on your 2012 tax return.

If you wish to take advantage of this time-limited provision in the tax law, please let us know at your earliest convenience.

If you’re intrigued by the idea but would like to discuss the rules in more detail, I’ll be happy to talk with you about it – but please call us soon.

————————————————————————————————————-

The information contained within this commercial email has been obtained from sources considered reliable, but we do not guarantee the foregoing material is accurate or complete