5 Quick Tips to Avoid Tax Scams in 2015

There are several simple things you can do to avoid tax scams in 2015 and beyond.

There are several simple things you can do to avoid tax scams in 2015 and beyond.

Tax scams are so prevalent these days that you’re probably lucky if you never get contacted by someone looking to scam you. In early 2015, nearly 400,000 taxpayers received phone calls from scammers posing as IRS agents and demanding payments over the phone. They succeeded in their schemes as they made millions of dollars – and will probably pocket even more as the year goes on.

To help you remain free from any issues, consider using these quick tips to avoid tax scams in 2015 and beyond:

– Be leery of unfamiliar phone numbers.

Phone scams are a huge problem for countless American taxpayers. Scammers are calling potential victims, posing as IRS agents with “real” badge numbers, and then demanding payments in various forms and for various reasons. If someone calls you up with a story like this, be on guard. Never give out your credit card number over the phone to someone using any of these tactics. It’s wise to avoid answering calls from unfamiliar numbers, but there’s a chance the fraudster will leave an urgent voicemail for you as well.

– Never respond to e-mail messages from the IRS.

The IRS will never communicate with you via e-mail. In fact, there is no reason anyone at the IRS should even have an e-mail address on file for you, unless you specifically remember providing it to a legitimate IRS representative. So any e-mails that come from a domain name with “IRS” in it are probably from a scammer. Remember that the IRS almost always communicates with taxpayers by regular snail-mail.

– Avoid giving out your Social Security Number.

Unless it’s an absolute must, you should always avoid providing your Social Security Number to anyone. A Social Security Number can help a scam artist unlock your personal life and information, allowing someone to file tax returns on your behalf and claim refund money that you should be receiving. Never give out your SSN by phone or online, unless you are 100% confident in where it is going. Even if you receive paperwork in the mail requesting this number, be wary of including it on a printed form.

– File your taxes early.

While the 2015 tax season is coming to a close soon, remember for future reference that filing your taxes early can help you steer clear of fraudsters. The main reason for this is that scammers often file fraudulent tax returns on behalf of victims, and then they try to get refund money that should be going to a legitimate recipient. So if you file early enough, you won’t have to worry about someone else filing a fake return in your name.

– Use a reputable accounting firm.

Filing your taxes yourself is convenient for some people. But it’s not always the safest route to take. When you let a reputable accounting firm prepare and file your taxes with the IRS, you can significantly reduce your chances of becoming victimized by a tax scam artist. Some tax preparers have been found to be tax fraudsters themselves, so be sure you are confident in whomever is preparing your taxes on your behalf.

For more tips to avoid tax scams in 2015 and beyond, consider partnering with the accounting experts at 1-800Accountant. Call 1-800-222-6868 or click over to www.1800accountant.com.

Image credit: The image included in this blog post is used with permission via the Creative Commons license through Flickr.

Down on the Farm: Tax Tips for Farmers

Use these tax tips for farmers to reduce your IRS tax bill.

Use these tax tips for farmers to reduce your IRS tax bill.

Happy National Agriculture Day!

While agriculture and farming have become much more automated in recent years thanks to advances in technology, farmers still carve out an incredibly important niche in our economy – and directly impact the food on our dinner tables each night. Many farmers operate farms as their own small businesses. If you own a farm in any area of our great nation, consider these tax tips for farmers to help reduce your IRS tax liability and keep more money in your business bank account:

– Understand how the IRS classifies farmers.

According to IRS rules, farmers are considered those who oversee livestock, orchards, dairy, poultry, vineyards, ranches, and even fish. While the good majority of small business owners use Schedule C to report their business activities, farmers should use Schedule F when filing their taxes with Uncle Sam.

– Determine if your farm is a business or just a hobby.

There are far more tax benefits from the IRS available to farmers whose farms are considered businesses rather than simply operating one as a hobby. There is one line on Form 1040 to declare expenses if you farm as a hobby, but there are many more tax breaks to being a business farmer. To qualify, you must operate your farm in a businesslike manner. You must devote considerable time and effort to it, rely on the income your farm generates for your livelihood, maintain detailed records of your farm expenses and activities, and meet other specific qualifications to seriously be classified as a business farmer rather than a hobbyist with a horse farm. Keep in mind, though, that a farm doesn’t have to generate profit in order for it to be considered a small business. As long as you keep solid records and attempt to improve your farm over time, you should be in good shape.

– Claim all relevant tax deductions for farming.

You probably have several initial and ongoing expenses you incur when starting a farming operation. Don’t forget to write off any ordinary and necessary expenses as business costs to reduce your tax bill. As a farmer, you can typically deduct expenses such as:

  • Farming equipment, i.e. tractors, trailers, machinery, fuel, etc.
  • Livestock feed
  • Crops, pesticides, sprays, and other items needed to maintain them
  • Fertilizer
  • Cost of goods sold, i.e. buying livestock for resale (including transportation costs when the animal is sold)
  • Repairs and maintenance for farming land, equipment, buildings, etc.
  • Marketing expenses for your farm business
  • Professional fees for farming consultants, lawyers, accountants, etc.
  • Self-employed health insurance premiums

– Consider paying your kids to work on your farm.

Many children who grow up in families that live on a farm automatically find themselves milking cows and spraying crops. However, if you own a farm and have kids over age 7 who help you with it, consider compensating them financially. There are tax benefits here. Through income shifting, you can pay your kids income that is not subject to taxes. This can be a big savings if you pay your kids rather than paying someone else to work for you.

Get more tax tips for farmers and entrepreneurs in all professions by working with the small business accounting pros at 1-800Accountant. To learn more, call 1-800-222-6868 or check out www.1800accountant.com.

6 Ways to Gain Small Business Social Media Followers

1-800Accountant explains how to increase your Facebook "likes," Twitter "followers," and engagement on your other small business social media pages.

1-800Accountant explains how to increase your Facebook “likes,” Twitter “followers,” and engagement on your other small business social media pages.

Whether you post status updates on Facebook, tweet on Twitter, upload photos to Instagram, or shoot videos for YouTube, there’s a good chance you use social media in some fashion. The same goes for small business owners who turn to the Internet for advertising purposes. To help grow your following on the popular social networks out there, 1-800Accountant offers up the following tips:

1. Put links to your social media pages on your website, business cards, etc.

If you have a company website, be sure to include links to your social media pages on the homepage – and perhaps even on every other page within your site. These could simply be the small thumbnail logos that many sites utilize. Put them at the top of your page for increased visibility. If you have business cards, try fitting one or a few of your social networking pages on them. You can an include a QR code with a link to your site, which means someone can simply scan your business card and pull the link right off of it.

2. Put social media links in the e-mails you send out.

Always include links to your company’s social media pages in any e-mails you send out to current or potential customers. The best place for these links is at the bottom in the signature of your e-mail. You might include your name, phone number, website URL, and then add your social media links right below these pieces of contact information. You can include the small thumbnail icons of the social networking sites, like the lowercase “f” representing Facebook. This strategy is simple yet effective in communicating your social media links to others to build up your following on them.

3. Make connections with other social media pages/groups

Most social networking sites allow owners of small business pages to connect with other pages or groups on them. For example, you can follow the Twitter pages of your local government offices, chamber of commerce, and other relevant pages that may benefit you. If you interact with those who run these pages, you can make your small business more visible this way by getting some eye-balls on it. Plus, there are groups specifically designed for small business owners on many of the sites, including Facebook and LinkedIn. Sometimes you have to go out of your way to make your pages known and seen by others. But it’s certainly all part of the social aspect of these sites.

4. Cross-promote your social media pages

It seems like a given practice, but many small business owners fail to cross-promote their social media pages. This means posting a link to your company Facebook page on Twitter, linking to your Instagram page on Pinterest, or putting links to the videos on your YouTube channel on your LinkedIn page. This is free advertising and spreads the word about your other social networking pages if a potential customer only follows you on one of these sites.

5. Offer discounts, hold contests, etc.

A proven strategy to get more users on your social media pages is to be very engaging. You can do this by offering discounts or coupons or hosting contests through which you give out freebies. You could post an actual coupon or offer on your pages that can either be printed out or shown to you in your retail store on a customer’s smartphone. You may want to hold contests where you give away an inexpensive product you sell to get others to try it out. Or, you could encourage people to “share” your content with their friends and then reward the person who shares the most items with a prize. Think creatively and put yourself in a customer’s shoes. What would get your attention? What would engage you?

6. Use ads or “boost” features – within your budget.

If you have the financial resources, you may want to invest a little money into social media ads as part of your marketing efforts. Fortunately for financially-strapped entrepreneurs, advertising on sites like Facebook and Twitter is not going to break the bank. You can increase your “likes” or “followers” by spending a reasonable amount on advertising. You can also promote specific posts on sites like Facebook that you feel could get lots of clicks and, in turn, increase the numbers of “likes” on your page. Spend a little money initially to test it out. Then decide how much to spend going forward.