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How to protect your small business from a tax scam in 2017

(FINANCE NEWS) Experts say that small businesses are more vulnerable to fraud, whether by employees or outside vendors. Here’s what you must know.

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It could happen to you

April is looming in just a few months, which means everyone is trying to understand and get their taxes filed. It also brings out the criminals who prey on vulnerable individuals. If you’re a small business owner, you might believe that your business won’t be targeted by tax scammers, but according to the data, that is not at all true.

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What are the scams?

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners reports that the typical organization loses about 5 percent of revenues each year due to fraud. However, I could not find any statistics about how much of that is from tax scammers. The ACFE says that small businesses are more vulnerable to fraud, whether by employees or outside vendors.

Don’t get fooled by any tax scam

  1. Phone scams – The IRS will not call your business and make threats. The IRS will send you a letter if you owe them money or are being audited.
  2. Fake charities – Don’t give money to a non-profit without checking their status. Sometimes, the name will be quite similar. If you are trying to get a tax break through charity, do your homework.
  3. Phishing emails – The IRS does not send threatening emails. See phone scams.

Tax preparers can also scam your business
Your tax preparer should never charge you a percentage of your refund. You should never hide money in an offshore bank or falsify income. If your tax preparer suggests that you file false documents, run, don’t walk to a professional CPA.

If the tax shelter your advisor is suggesting sounds too good to be true, it probably is.Click To Tweet

You are responsible for everything on your tax return, even if someone else advised you to do it. Your tax preparer should be willing to explain every number on the tax form to you. Don’t try to cut costs with your tax preparation. It’s just not worth the fines and penalties, the headache and the stress, and the worry about whether you’ll get caught.

Know who is giving advice

Use a local CPA or tax preparer with the credentials to handle your business. Know what you’re sending in to the IRS. Use the small business resources from the SBA and IRS to understand your taxes and avoid being scammed. You can also report fraud to the IRS and work with the government to get your taxes in order.

#TaxScams

Dawn Brotherton is a staff writer at The American Genius, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. Before earning her degree, she spent over 20 years homeschooling her two daughters, who are now out changing the world. She lives in Oklahoma and loves to golf. She hopes to publish a novel in the future.

Business Finance

Freelancers, big brands salivating over new UltraFICO scores

(FINANCE) Everyone from freelancers to giant business are impacted by the new UltraFICO scores, ushering in a new era of lending in America.

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If you’re anything like me, then you don’t like to spend money you don’t actually have. I didn’t have a credit card until I was 28 years old. I moved to another country on cash alone. My wife and I bought our first car with cash. We thought this made us responsible. The credit reporting bureaus and financial institutions disagreed.

To our surprise, you’re not considered a “responsible American” unless you’re in a constant cycle of borrowing money from banks through credit cards and loans.

We’re not the only ones who think this system needs improvement. A growing number of millennials have eschewed traditional credit cards and loans for various reasons, and this has left these otherwise responsible Americans out in the lurch regarding their credit scores.

We’ve all heard the adage “bad credit is better than no credit,” but really take a moment to think about how silly that is. In this day and age, having a history of borrowing money from the banks and not paying it back on time is somehow better than paying for everything yourself without help from bank loans, credit card companies, or government programs.

According to the Fair Issac Corp. (issuer of FICO scores), about 7 million consumers have too-low scores (in the high 500s or low 600s) to be considered safe bets for lending. Fortunately, baby steps towards credit reform is on the horizon, in the form of UltraFICO scores.

Next summer, customers unsatisfied with their standard FICO score will be allowed to apply for an UltraFICO score.

The difference between the two is that while a normal FICO score is based off of credit history, an UltraFICO score takes standard everyday bank account history into consideration. Your current checking balance, length of checking history, transaction frequency, and overdraw history will all be a vital part of your UltraFICO score.

The UltraFICO increases the chance of loan approval to millions of Americans that might otherwise be denied, and that has a lot of people happy — including lenders themselves, and the many companies with big ticket items that typically rely on consumers that finance their products (furniture, jewelry, cars, etc. not just housing).

Let’s not kid ourselves here, this isn’t a charity program. The UltraFICO exists to widen the possible customer base for loans as an entire generation opts out carrying debt. The more people approved for loans, the more money credit issuers stand to gain. This is a calculated business move, but it could possibly benefit all parties regardless.

That’s not to say there aren’t pitfalls here. On a macro scale, American consumers already hold $1 trillion worth of credit card debt, and loosening loan requirements could very well cause this debt to balloon even further.

On a micro scale, opting in for an UltraFICO score means handing over sensitive personal data of your banking history over to third parties, which is something we should all be wary of doing.

It’s not a new concept, in fact in 2011, a major data company launched an alternative credit score to include reporting on your phone bills, cable bills, and so forth, to open lending (some mortgage lenders do use this alternative score in their practices).

It’s not just of interest for companies with big ticket items, but for small businesses and freelancers that don’t rely on credit cards, which could open new lines of credit as they build their companies.

Depending on your views, this program either lowers the limits for acceptable loan applicants and puts our economy at risk, or merely broadens our definition of personal fiscal responsibility. As I’m solidly in the second camp, I’m excited to see what these new changes can bring to the table in 2019.

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Business Finance

20 states won’t grant or renew a professional license if your student loans default

(FINANCE) If your student loans default, your professional license may be revoked – a hard blow to medical practitioners, Realtors, delivery drivers, and so many more hard working people.

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Student loans represent a significant financial burden for recent graduates, with average loan debt in 2017 hitting $37,172, and the impact of debt repayment at graduation causes many Americans, mainly younger professionals, to delay everything from traveling the world and marriage, and even opening their own business.

Beyond the burden of debt, student loans are particularly tricky because they play by some different rules.

Most debt for example, doesn’t accrue interest while you don’t make any payments, and the flexibility of the repayment options can put borrowers in difficult situations where they don’t recognize their repayment amount. In addition, because the way we relate to the lender (AKA the federal government), the consequences of student loan debt often makes it seem less important to pay.

However, most of that flexibility is limited to non-private student loans. Private student loans have all the troubles of regular loans, with some added bite.

One way that student loan debt is different from other forms of consumer debt is that not even bankruptcy can clear you.

In 1976, Congress passed a law that put public student loan debt in a separate category that can’t be discharged. In 2005, Congress extended that to private student loans.

Not paying your student loans can lead also lead to wage garnishment and tax refund seizure.

But perhaps the most painful and insulting consequence of student loan default can be the withholding of your professional (or even your driving) licenses. If you’re a barber, nurse, teacher, lawyer, psychologist, realtor or need to drive a car, that can be devastating.

NYT uncovered that the following 20 states that allow this include:

  1. Alaska
  2. Arkansas
  3. California
  4. Florida
  5. Georgia
  6. Hawaii
  7. Illinois
  8. Iowa
  9. Kentucky
  10. Louisiana
  11. Massachusetts
  12. Minnesota
  13. Mississippi
  14. New Mexico
  15. North Dakota
  16. South Dakota
  17. Tennessee
  18. Texas
  19. Virginia
  20. Washington

Beyond the damage to credit scores, liens on properties, and the financial consequences, these license seizures can represent financial ruin, and can punish well-meaning borrowers and those who are working on public service loan forgiveness as well.

The most important thing you can do is know your options.

If you have public loans, explore repayment options, explore refinancing with direct loans, and most importantly, communicate with your lender. If you have private loans, consider moving that debt into something more manageable, especially since private loans have no interest cap, a personal loan or a home equity loan can be a more affordable option.

The best way to handle default is to avoid it – and don’t drown by avoiding swimming. Most importantly, get in the know, explore your options, and get talking. And if you’re feeling extra motivated, work with your state representatives and work on getting legislation to help make students loan more manageable.

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Business Finance

How to invest in any cryptocurrency without the IRS hunting you down

(FINANCE) Paying taxes on your cryptocurrency investments doesn’t have to be a headache with this simple tool.

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token tax for cryptocurrency capital gains

The next tax season will inevitably approach, and those of you who took a chance on cryptocurrency may be wondering: Do I have to pay tax on my digital investments? Sorry, but yes you do.

Although tax laws are constantly changing, especially in the wild west of cryptocurrency, fear not. Token Tax is the one tool to rule them all, and can help you report cryptocurrency taxes.

In this past year, cryptocurrency investment has skyrocketed. The total market cap rose over 1000 percent, even breaking a record and climbing over $600 billion in December.

Coinbase, the most popular online platform for buying and selling digital currency, gained one million users in one month alone.

Cyrptocurrency’s increasing popularity led to changes in IRS rules.

Although cryptocurrency investors were previously able to use the “like-kind” tax code exemption, the IRS now says digital investments must be taxed as short and long-term capital gains.

Back in 2015, only 802 Americans reported Bitcoin related gains and losses. At the time, cryptocurrency could technically be categorized a property instead of income. The 2017-18 year should show a greater increase in reports due to the new IRS regulations.

It can be difficult to determine how to report your taxes, and many other available tools victimize you with information overload. Understanding your tax liability is no fun at all, but it’s not something you’d want to get wrong unless tax jail sounds exciting.

The newly minted Token Tax does the work for you, integrating directly with Coinbase’s API to import all your investments in an easy to read format that’s directly exportable to the IRS. Kraken, Bittrex, and GDAX are also securely integrated with the platform.

Using FIFO, Token Tax calculates your tax liability and displays it in an easy to read interface. You can then export a fill-out 8949 form directly to your accountant or the IRS for review.

Creators Alex Miles and David Holland Lee say they believe Token tax “could be the TurboTax for crypto.”

Even though Token Tax is still in test mode, not even beta, it caught our attention by winning first place overall in Product Hunt’s Global Hackathon.

If you have invested in cryptocurrency and want to get ahead of the curve for tax season, check out their demo and see for yourself.

This story was first featured here in January of 2018.

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