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Five Steps to Take if You're Audited

Getting audited is no one’s idea of a good time, yet you can minimize the stress if you take the right approach.

Step 1: Understand why and when. While it’s possible you were selected randomly, it’s more likely you were selected for a specific reason. One example might be if your deductions for charitable donations or business expenses were greater than is typical for your income or profession. Before proceeding, try to understand what is being challenged and when you must reply.

Analysis: Your chance of being audited rises along with the size of your income. With $200,000 a year in income your chance of being audited nearly doubles (1.01% in FY2016) compared with a person who has half that income. People with more than $10 million in income have a nearly 1-in-5 chance of an audit every year.

Step 2: Consider the type of audit. There are three types of audits, in increasing levels of seriousness: a correspondence audit, (conducted through the mail); an office audit (a visit to the nearest IRS office); and a field audit (an IRS agent comes to visit you). How you prepare will vary depending on the type of audit.

Analysis: About 70 percent of audits are conducted through mail correspondence which typically involves routine issues like providing information about deductions. With proper documentation and prompt attention, they can be relatively painless to resolve. Office and field audits can be trickier and will involve more work and preparation.

Step 3: Gather documents. Once you’ve understood the reason and the type of audit, gather and organize as much of your relevant records as possible to prepare your response. For example, if the audit is specifically about deducting vehicle costs for business use, gather your mileage logbook, receipts and other supporting documentation. This will help prove your case and let the IRS know you are a responsible taxpayer.

Analysis: If you do not have adequate documentation, you can try to get third-party corroboration. For example, if you took charitable deductions but lost the receipts, you could try reaching out to the charity for their records. While the charity cannot create new receipts, they may have copies of confirmations sent out to you at the time of your donation.

Step 4: Know your rights. You have rights to ensure you get a fair chance to state your position. Specifically, you have the right to clear explanations about what the IRS wants and their decision regarding your case. You have the right to appeal the IRS’s decision. You also have the right to have your accountant or lawyer represent you during the audit. In addition, there is a special Taxpayer Advocate Service that is available to help you navigate through problems with your case.

Analysis: While you should stand up for your rights, always be polite with the IRS agent assigned to your case. They are just doing their job and you aren’t doing yourself any favors if you show hostility during your audit.

Step 5: Get help. No matter what, reach out immediately if you get a letter from the IRS. It pays to have the right help, because an experienced professional can guide you away from costly mistakes. Too many taxpayers have corresponded with the IRS without this help and have paid the price. Try as you might, you probably do not know the tax law as well as the IRS.

Audits happen. How you handle them can make all the difference. Please call if you need help.

New College Savings Option- How to get more money without reducing need awards

Beginning in 2023 there is a new way to save money for college that won’t impact your student’s ability to qualify for financial aid. This change is in the 529 college saving program and is a change that every parent, grandparent, or friend of a future scholar should know.

Simply put, grandparents can now open up 529 savings plans without hurting the student’s ability to get financial aid!


529 college savings plans provide a way to contribute after-tax money into an account designated for a beneficiary (the student). The plan is controlled by the account holder on behalf of the student, so there is little risk that the funds won’t be used as intended for education. As the deposits grow over time, any gains on the deposits are tax-free as long as they are used for qualified educational expenses. Even better, these funds can be used for both college and K through 12 qualified expenses. Funds not used for education will be subject to ordinary income taxes AND a 10% penalty.

The problem

While anyone can open a 529 savings plan for a future student, any time a distribution was made to the student from a non-parent account, that distribution used to be treated as untaxed income to the child. Up to 50% of this distribution could impact the student’s ability to receive other aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). On the other hand, if the account is in the parent’s name, the reduction in aid eligibility is maxed out at 5.64%!

The new opportunity

It appears now that a grandparent (or potentially any non-custodial parent or friend) can open up a 529 savings plan without it hurting the future student’s ability to get federal aid. In the eyes of the new FAFSA, this funding is now virtually invisible to them as they calculate a student’s financial needs because they are no longer asking the questions about the grandparent’s contributions. So not only will the assets in the 529 account be ignored, but the distributions from the 529 account will also not influence the FAFSA results.


If you are considering this option to help fund the ever-increasing cost of college, here are some considerations and ideas:

  • Let grandparents know of the change. Consider having your parent set up an account for the benefit of your child (their grandchild). Then put their gifts into the account, instead of giving cash to your child. Remember, they can contribute up to the gift threshold limit each year (currently $17,000 per person in 2023) or even more with special funding rules.
  • No college? No problem. If your grandchild does not go to college and there isn’t a need to fund K through 12 education, you can change the beneficiary to another grandchild or family member.
  • Need to pull the money. If you need to pull the money, remember that the original contributions are tax and penalty free. Taxes and penalties only apply to earnings in the account that are distributed.
  • Consider other applications. If the student goes to a private school, these grandparent contributions may need to be disclosed, so plan accordingly.

Given the ever-increasing cost of college, now is a great time to have more advocates helping to save for future educational expenses. These extra savings could make a big difference in reducing your student’s future debt obligations.

Improve Next Year's Tax Situation Now!

This publication provides summary information regarding the subject matter at time of publishing. Please call with any questions on how this information may impact your situation. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission, except as noted here. This publication includes, or may include, links to third party internet web sites controlled and maintained by others. When accessing these links the user leaves this web page. These links are included solely for the convenience of users and their presence does not constitute any endorsement of the Websites linked or referred to nor does Willis & Jurasek have any control over, or responsibility for, the content of any such Websites.
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Make Your Child's Summer Break a Tax Break

As a busy working parent, you may be concerned about what activities are available for your kids this summer. There may be a solution that’s also a tax break: summer camp!

Using the Child and Dependent Care Credit, you can be reimbursed for part of the cost of enrolling your child in a day camp this summer.

Am I eligible?

  1. You, and your spouse if you are married, must both be working.
  2. Your child must be below age 13, your legal dependent, and live in your residence for more than half the year.

Tip: If your spouse doesn’t work but is either a full-time student, or is disabled and incapable of self-care, you can still qualify for the credit.

How much can I save?

You can claim a minimum credit of $600 for one child on up to $3,000 in expenses, or $1,200 for two or more children on up to $6,000 in expenses, if your adjusted gross income (AGI) is greater than $43,000. If your AGI is less than that, the credit per child scales up to $1,050 and $2,100, respectively.

What kind of camps?

The only rule is: no overnight camps.

The credit is designed to help working people care for their kids during the work day, so summer camps where kids stay overnight aren’t eligible for this credit.

Other than that, it doesn’t matter what kind of camp: soccer camp, chess camp, summer school or even a simple day care. All of them are eligible expenses for this credit.

Other ways to use this credit

While summer day camp costs are a common way to use this credit, any cost to provide care for your children while you are working may be eligible.

For example, if you pay a day care center, a housekeeper or a babysitter to take care of your child while you are working, that qualifies. You can even pay a relative to care for your child and claim the credit for that expense, as long as the relative isn’t your dependent, minor child or spouse.

This is just one of many possible tax breaks related to children and dependents. Call if you have questions about this credit, or if you’d like to discuss any other tax savings ideas.

Put Your Tax Refund to Good Use

Three-fourths of filers get a tax refund every year, with the average check weighing in at $2,972* so far this tax season. Here are some ideas to put that money to good use:

  1. Pay off debt. Part (or all!) of your refund could be used to reduce or eliminate debt. With interest on credit cards skyrocketing due to inflation, this is a great place to start. Or an extra payment on your mortgage or vehicle could put more money in your pocket over the long haul.
  2. Save for retirement. Saving for retirement works like debt, just in reverse. The sooner you set aside money for retirement, the more time you give the power of compound interest to work for you. Consider depositing some of your refund check into a traditional or Roth IRA. You can contribute a total of $6,500 in 2023, plus an extra $1,000 if you are at least 50 years old.
  3. Save for a home. Home ownership can be a source of wealth and stability for many people. If you dream of owning a home, consider adding your refund to a down payment fund. Or if you own a home, start a maintenance fund you can use to replace an aging roof, furnace, or air conditioner.
  4. Invest in yourself. Sometimes the best investment isn’t financial, it’s personal. A course of study or conference that improves your skills or knowledge could be the best use of your money.
  5. Give to charity. Donating your refund to a charity helps others and gives you a deduction for your next tax return if you itemize.
  6. Beware of fraud! Scammers are using new tactics every year to separate people from their tax refunds. Remember, real IRS agents will never call over the phone and demand immediate payment for any reason.

Finally, consider saving some of your refund to have a little fun. If you use some of the ideas mentioned here, you can feel comfortable you are taking a balanced approach with your refund.

*Source: IRS 2023 tax filing season statistics, cumulative through March 10, 2023.

It's Tax Time! 1st Quarter Estimated Taxes are Due.- Now is the time to file your taxes and make your estimated tax payment.

Both your individual tax return AND first quarter estimated tax payment are due by Tuesday, April 18th. Here is what you need to know.

First quarter due date: Tuesday, April 18, 2023

The estimated tax payment rule

You are required to withhold or prepay throughout the 2023 tax year at least 90 percent of your 2023 total tax bill, or 100 percent of your 2022 federal tax bill.* A quick look at your 2022 tax return and a projection of your 2023 tax obligation can help determine if a quarterly payment might be necessary in addition to what is being withheld from any paychecks.

Things to consider

  • Underpayment penalty. If you do not have proper tax withholdings throughout the year, you could be subject to an underpayment penalty. A quick payment at the end of the year may not be enough to avoid an underpayment penalty.
  • W-2 withholdings have special treatment. A W-2 withholding payment can be made at any time during the year and be treated as if it was made throughout the year. If you do not have enough to pay the estimated quarterly payment now, you may be able to adjust your W-2 wage withholdings to make up the difference.
  • Self-employed. In addition to paying income taxes, self-employed workers must also pay Social Security and Medicare taxes. Creating and funding a savings account for this purpose can help avoid the cash flow hit each quarter to pay your estimated taxes.
  • Use your refund? An alternative option to pay your 2023 first quarter estimated tax is to apply some or all of your 2022 tax refund.
  • Pay more in the first quarter. By paying a little more than necessary in the first quarter, you can be in a position to adjust future estimated tax payments downward later this year if your 2023 tax obligation trends lower than you originally thought.
  • Not sure if you need to make a quarterly payment? Take a quick look at your 2022 tax return to see the amount of tax you paid last year. Divide this amount by the number of paychecks you receive each year and compare to your most recent paycheck. Is enough being withheld from each paycheck? Talk to your employer if you decide you need to adjust your withholdings to cover your 2023 tax bill.

*If your income is more than $150,000 ($75,000 if married filing separate), you must pay 110 percent of your 2022 tax obligation to avoid an underpayment penalty on your 2023 tax return.

Understanding the Gift Giving Tax- Excess gift giving could cause a tax surprise

In an effort to keep taxpayers from transferring wealth from one generation to the next tax-free, there are specific limits to the amount of gifts one may give to any one person each year. Amounts in excess of this limit are subject to filing an annual gift tax form. For most of us, this is not something we need to worry about, but if handled incorrectly it can create quite a surprise when the tax bill is due.

The Gift Giving Rule

You may give up to $17,000 (up $1,000) to any individual (donee) within the calendar year 2023 and avoid any gift tax filing requirements. If married you and your spouse may transfer up to $34,000 per donee. If you provide a gift to your spouse who is not a U.S. citizen, the annual exclusion amount is $175,000 for 2023.

Gift Tax Reporting

Amounts given in excess of this annual amount are subject to potential gift tax reporting. The amount of tax is currently unified with estate taxes with a maximum rate of 40%. The donor of the gift is responsible for paying any associated tax. When you exceed the annual gift giving amount, this triggers the need to file a gift tax form with your individual tax return. The excess gift amounts are netted against your lifetime unified credit. If your lifetime gifts do not exceed the credit you may not have additional taxes owed. Here are some instances when a gift tax problem may occur and ways to manage the problem:

  • Gifts for college. Grandparents like to help out with the tremendous expense of funding a college degree and amounts donated can quickly surpass the annual gift threshold. To avoid the gift tax problem consider making payments directly to the college as this form of payment can be excluded from the annual gift giving limit AS LONG AS the funds are not used to pay for books, room or board on behalf of the donee.
  • Be careful with 529 plan funding. If your children are anticipating going to college, many consider creating a 529 college savings plan. You may then fund the savings plan (or have someone else fund it) on behalf of your child. However, remember the deposits into 529 accounts are considered a gift and are subject to the annual gift giving limits.
  • Gifts to cover medical expenses. It is very easy to mount up a large medical bill. While you may want to step in and help out by giving money to the individual with the medical bills, you may be creating a gift tax obligation. Better: make payments directly to health care providers for medical services on behalf of the patient to avoid gift tax exposure.
  • Gifts to help make a down payment. It is becoming more common to have family members help their kids with the down payment on a first home. This can be tricky. Lenders will look for recent deposits in bank accounts and ask the prospective buyers to substantiate the source of funds. Providing the funds as a loan may disqualify the couple for taking on the mortgage. Even worse, if the purchasing couple claims the funds are a gift, this action may create a gift tax obligation to the person providing the funds. Care must be taken to provide the correct audit trail to prove the gift does not exceed the annual amounts.
  • Gift of real estate. If you give property to a relative for little or nothing in return, this generates the need to file a gift tax form as well. Recent IRS studies suggest over 50% of taxpayers fail to declare property transfers as gifts.

Other things to consider

  • You may provide gifts to or receive gifts from ANYONE. There are no limits or restrictions on who you may give a gift to or who may provide a gift to you. Creative gift giving can be a useful tool to help someone in need without creating a tax obligation.
  • Do not give a lump sum gift for the maximum amount. If you provide a gift for the maximum allowable to an individual, you may not provide any other gifts to this person during the year or the event would be deemed excess gift giving and require filing a gift tax form. For example, a grandmother gives $17,000 to her granddaughter for college. She also pays for a vacation trip to send the family to Disney World and provides a wonderful birthday gift. Technically, the additional gifts are in excess of the annual limit and would present a gift tax event.

The IRS is paying attention to the massive non-compliance in the timely filing of the annual gift tax form. So much so, that it is actively researching property transfers in key states to ensure the gift tax filing is taking place. So identifying when to file the gift tax form is your most important take away from this tax tip.

Audit Target: The Sole Proprietor

This publication provides summary information regarding the subject matter at time of publishing. Please call with any questions on how this information may impact your situation. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed without permission, except as noted here. This publication includes, or may include, links to third party internet web sites controlled and maintained by others. When accessing these links the user leaves this web page. These links are included solely for the convenience of users and their presence does not constitute any endorsement of the Websites linked or referred to nor does Willis & Jurasek have any control over, or responsibility for, the content of any such Websites.
All rights reserved.

Three Tax Break Tips for Caregivers

If you’ve ever had to care for a sick, elderly or disabled person, you know it can be difficult financially as well as emotionally. A recent study found that many caregivers are forced to make financial sacrifices, including delaying retirement, in order to help their loved ones.

Luckily, there are three key federal income tax breaks available to help lighten the financial burden on caregivers. Here are some tips to help take advantage of them:

Tip #1: Use the “family” credit

This is a $500 tax credit that you can claim for each dependent other than children under age 17. This credit is generally for relatives and others who are members of your household and for whom you provide more than half of their support. The credit begins to phase out at $400,000 for married joint filers and $200,000 for individual filers.

Tip #2: Use the medical expense deduction

Caregiving often comes with medical expenses. The good news is that you can claim a deduction for the medical expenses you pay for your dependents.

The threshold for claiming the medical expense deduction is 7.5 percent for the 2022 and 2023 tax years, meaning that you can deduct any medical expenses higher than 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income.

Bonus tip: You can still claim the deduction for medical expenses for a relative even if that person wouldn’t otherwise be classified as a dependent (such as when they don’t live in your household), as long as you provide more than 50 percent of their support. In the case where multiple people together provide more than 50 percent of the support for a relative, you can collectively decide who gets to take the deduction as part of a multiple support agreement. This is useful when, for example, siblings share the cost of caring for elderly parents.

Tip #3: Use the Child and Dependent Care Credit

If you are working while acting as a caregiver for a dependent, you may be able to use the Child and Dependent Care Credit to offset part of the cost of their care. The dependent must be physically or mentally incapable of caring for themselves and live in the same home as you for more than half the year. Depending on your income, the credit can be applied against 20% to 35% of qualified expenses, up to a total maximum credit of between $600 and $1,050 for one dependent.

Bonus tip: Both you and your spouse must be working during the year to claim this credit. If your employer provided any dependent support as part of a benefits package, the amount of the credit is reduced by that amount.

If you have any questions about the tax benefits available to you, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Rejected!- What to do if your e-filed tax return is rejected by the IRS

More than 90% of individual tax returns are now filed electronically, and usually the process goes smoothly. When an e-filed tax return is rejected, however, e-filing can become more complicated.

Common causes for rejected tax returns

Simple filing errors. Most rejections are caused by things such as misspellings, typos on Social Security numbers, or missing forms. When an e-filed tax return is rejected, the IRS e-filing system sends back rejection codes. These codes are specific to lines on the tax return and descriptions of the problem are readily available. Most of these errors can be easily corrected.

Dependent errors. This error occurs when someone else has claimed a dependent on a previously filed tax return. This often occurs with divorced and unmarried couples who each claim the same child on their tax return. The IRS does not take sides in this situation, they simply accept the earlier-filed return and reject any subsequent returns.

Identity fraud. Someone else has already filed a tax return using your Social Security number.

What to do

Most errors are simple and easily corrected, which paves the way for resubmitting your tax return for e-filing without much additional delay. However there are two instances that require your immediate attention. When either of these occur, you may need to file your tax return via physical mail and work to correct the error for future tax filings:

1.) Dependent errors. A dependent can only be claimed on one tax return. If a dependent is already claimed on another individual’s tax return you will need to provide proof that the dependent belongs on your return. If this happens, contact the other party who claimed your dependent and ask them to amend their return. Let them know that you’re filing your tax return correctly claiming the dependent. Your filing will target both tax returns for a potential IRS audit. This audit risk often is enough motivation to correct the problem.

2.) Identity Fraud. Criminals using stolen information submit tax returns electronically in an effort to steal your tax withholdings. Fraudulently claimed refunds are then automatically deposited into thieves’ bank accounts. Unfortunately, you may discover the theft when your e-filed tax return is rejected. If this happens to you:

  • File a paper tax return.
  • Include Form 14039: Identity Theft Affidavit with your tax return.
  • Confirm your identity using the IRS Identity Verification Service or by calling the IRS.
  • Mail your tax return using Certified Mail with Return Receipt Requested so you are certain of timely delivery.
  • Immediately take steps to protect your financial information. The following link will take you to the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft area for recommended steps to protect yourself: FTC Identity Theft Assistance

While solving the cause for a rejected e-filed tax return can be a headache, the sooner the problem is addressed, the sooner your refund can be received.