Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Real World Tax Strategies

Kathryn Cooper's
"Real World" Personal Strategy Note

Identity Thieves Want YOUR Tax Return

"Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I'll show you someone who has overcome adversity." - Lou Holtz


The hits keep on coming for Target Corp, and it's unfortunate for them because they seem to be a company that works hard at doing things well. In fact, they were on the forefront of "Point of Sale" (POS) security with some new software, but other retailers didn't join them, so it became cost prohibitive to go it alone.


They recently announced that they will be offering a year of free credit monitoring to those who were affected, and this seems to me an effective way of "making things right". But this crisis has highlighted a bunch of risks that you should understand ... and it provides another reason to get your taxes submitted (properly) ASAP.

Here's the list of forms you should be looking for in the mail, and online (from any employer, vendor, client or anyone else with whom you had a taxable transaction last year):
* Wage earners, watch for your W-2 forms, one from each employer.
* "Other income" (like a state tax refund, or government benefits) is shown to you on Form 1099-G
* Prize winnings -- Form W-2G
* Most canceled debt (but not all) is reported as taxable. In which case, you'll get Form 1099-C
... as I'm writing this, I realize the list is extremely long. Here's a good place for the whole list: [look under the section "Information Returns"]

So, as if there wasn't enough incentive to get your taxes prepared by someone who knows what they are doing (ahem), here's another log on that fire...

It may not surprise you to learn that identity theft is annually the number one complaint made to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Well, the tax return component of this crime has been heating up.

In 2010, only about 15 percent of all identity theft complaints to the FTC dealt with tax returns. Well, in 2013, that jumped to 43 percent.

All the thief requires is your SSN, a few easily-forged counterfeit documents ... and WHAMMO, they've got your expected refund.

In essence, to prevent this kind of theft of your refund, or your return filing status, you need to file your return before the thief does. Which is just another reason to start the process with us, ASAP (Here's our number: (415) 279-3951 -- call us today).

The good news is that the IRS is aware of this problem, and they do have systems in place. If this DOES happen to you, we can help you work with the IRS to get it resolved. Alternatively, of course, you can call the IRS ID Theft Protection Unit yourself at (800) 908-4490, extension 245. The hold times ... well, they're not always fun. There will be paperwork to file and other things you will have to do as quickly as possible.

Which means that it's nice to have someone in your corner who can handle this kind of thing on your behalf, right?

Other ways to protect yourself
Nobody can *guarantee* that they won't get victimized, but here are a couple steps you can take to reduce the risk...

  • If you file by mail, go to the post office. Don't place your documents in an unlocked mailbox in front of your house.
  • If you file electronically, use a secure computer on a secure network (which we happen to have). Never do anything financially sensitive from a public WiFi spot.
  • Get your return done as soon as you can. It really is in your best interest to file as early as possible.
Again, while we can never fully prevent bad things from happening, we certainly can help you cover your bases!

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