Richard A. Lindsey, CPA

Lindsey & Waldo, LLC – Certified Public Accountants

  • Sep 29

    Claiming Your Homestead Exemption Can Save You Thousands

    Sometimes you rock along from year-to-year doing the same ole thing because it’s what worked in the past… or someone once told you that’s the way things were. Well, things change. Every day. If you’re over 65, or disabled, and are still paying the property taxes you were paying before that milestone, you may be paying too much.

    According to information obtained from the Mobile County (AL) Revenue Commissioner’s office, all property owners 65 or older are eligible for an exemption from all State property taxes. County, School, and Municipal taxes still apply. The exemptions apply even if only one of the owners of a jointly owned property meet the qualifications.

    To apply for this exemption:

    • You must be 65 years old,
    • Own and occupy the property as your primary residence, and
    • You must visit one of the Revenue Commissioner’s offices to present proof of age and sign an assessment sheet.

    Low income property owners 65 and older may also be eligible
    to claim exemption from a certain portion of the County, School,
    and Municipal property taxes. To qualify you must be 65 years
    old, own and occupy the property as your primary residence,
    and your taxable income must not exceed $12,000 – bring your
    tax return as proof.

    If either you or your spouse is totally and permanently disabled or legally blind, you may be eligible for a complete exemption from all property taxes on your residence regardless of your age or income.

    Homestead exemptions granted on the basis of income or disability must be renewed each year and it is the responsibility of the property owner to claim the renewal. If you do not receive an exemption renewal form by mail, you will need to contact the County Revenue Commissioner to have a duplicate form sent to you, or you may visit an office in person.

    Exemptions cannot be granted retroactively or after the December 31 deadline.

    For more information, contact our office or your local County Revenue Commissioner.

  • Dec 31

    Last year, in Phenix City, Alabama, tax preparer Lasondra Miles Davis was ordered to pay $1,941 in restitution to the IRS, sentenced to two years in prison, and one year of supervised release for her involvement in a stolen ID tax fraud.

    Davis pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated ID theft. Her mother, Teresa Floyd pleaded guilty earlier in the year to one count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. and one count of aggravated ID theft.

    News outlets cited court documents that said that between March 2011 and May 2014, Davis and her mother operated several tax preparation businesses where she obtained stolen IDs. Floyd then used the information to file more than 900 false federal income tax returns that claimed more than $2.5 million in refunds.

  • Jun 10

    Between January 2011 and February 2013, Patrice Taylor, an Albany, Georgia resident, conspired with her husband, Antonio Taylor and Jarrett Jones to file over 1,100 fraudulent tax returns. At least 1,089 of the returns were e-filed from two IP addresses registered to Taylor, both located at her home. Patrice was employed at Tift Regional Hospital and used the personal identifying information of five patients to file fraudulent federal income tax returns. Taylor also used the identities of 531 sixteen-year olds to file fraudulent returns.

    The individuals were sentenced to prison terms up to 147 months and ordered to pay restitution to the IRS totaling $2,310,563.

    In Tampa, Florida, law enforcement officers recovered lists and medical records containing the personal identifying information of more than 7,000 victims.

    In Montgomery, Alabama, Keisha Lanier and Tracy Mitchell were sentenced for their roles in a large-scale identity theft ring that filed more than 9,000 false federal income tax returns that claimed more than $24 million in fraudulent refunds. The defendants obtained the stolen identities from various sources, including from the U.S. Army, several Alabama state agencies, a Georgia call center and employee records from a Georgia company.

    Identity theft is growing worse every year. The Federal Trade Commission reported that it has been the top consumer complaint for 16 years straight.

    “Tax-related identity theft is an evolving criminal activity that can happen to anyone.” Rep. Jim Renaccie, R-Ohio, CPA turned lawmaker, said in a statement last month. “In fact, last tax season, my identity was stolen and used to file a fraudulent tax return.”

    In the U.S., someone dies every 7 seconds but there is an identity theft victim every 2 seconds. Seventy percent of those whose identities are stolen need the help of an attorney to resolve the issue. Costs can run into the thousands as well as hundreds of hours of your time.

    Being a victim of identity theft is no picnic. But it is a major warning sign to take action. If you have been a victim, it is self-evident that your information is being bought and sold. Few victims have the highly technical skills and complex tools required to find where their data has been spread and to stop it.

    Ideally you need to have a plan in place before the theft. Unfortunately, most don’t. Fortunately, it’s not too late to protect yourself from further breaches. If you have been a victim, or know someone who has, and would like a referral to someone I know and trust to help, give us a call, or shoot us an email and we’ll be happy to put you in touch.

  • Jun 26

    While the 2015 hurricane season is predicted to be below historical averages, it is still wise to be prepared when safeguarding our tax documents and records. You should complete the following before it’s too late.

    • Create an electronic back up of your records.
      • These records should include bank statements, tax returns, insurance policies, and so much more. You should store this electronic copy in a different place than the original documents.
    • Document/inventory your valuables.
      • The best way to document your valuables is by taking pictures or video of the items in your home.
    • Update your emergency plans.
      • These should be reviewed and updated once a year and related parties should be notified of any changes or updates.

    If for some reason you don’t have these safeguard procedures in place when the next disaster hits our area, the IRS can be of some help. Upon a taxpayer’s request, the IRS can provide you with the previously filed tax returns and filed forms such as W-2s, 1099s, etc.

  • Nov 15

    Identity theft is on the rise. Even though measures are being taken by the IRS and legislators, not all identity theft can be prevented, but an ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.

    In January 2012, Marsha Elmore, an Alabama tax return preparer, was sentenced to 184 months in prison for filing false claims, wire fraud, and aggravated identity theft. Elmore admitted to stealing tax refunds by filing false tax returns using stolen identities, including names, social security numbers, and dates of birth. She was ordered to pay over $1 million in restitution to the IRS.

    Take the following preventative measures to decrease your chances of becoming the next identity theft victim. It will be easier to put these precautions into place than to face the consequences and headaches of having your identity stolen.

     

    • Arrange to have your social security number masked where possible (such as insurance cards);
    • Watch your credit reports from the major credit bureau sources- such as Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion;
    • Resist giving businesses your social security number, or other personal information;
    • If you receive any information from the IRS make sure to forward it to us, your CPA, as soon as possible.  If you receive an email, from what appears to be the IRS, do not open any attachments or click on any links.  This is a phishing email and someone could be trying to steal your identity.  Remember, the IRS will NOT contact you by email;
    • Safeguard social security numbers in a secure place and do not discard any documents with social security numbers or personal information before taking the time to shred the documents;
    • File all tax returns, personal information, and documents in a locked safe or filing cabinet; and
    • Protect your personal computer by using firewalls, anti-spam, or anti-virus software.

     

  • Oct 4

    Millbrook, Alabama resident Janika Bates obtained names and social security numbers of student loan borrowers from electronic databases of a former employer, and used them to make false claims for tax refunds. Bates was sentenced to 94 months in prison following her conviction of aggravated identity theft, wire fraud, and conspiracy to make false claims for tax refunds.

    But what about the victim?

    The consequences of having your identity stolen can be numerous. If your identity is stolen, your tax refund will be more than likely held up by the IRS. A victim sometimes won’t see his refund for a minimum of eleven weeks, or until he can convince the IRS that he really is a victim of identity theft. The burden of proving you have become a victim of identity theft is primarily placed on you. An identity theft victim is faced with the possibility of lost job opportunities, being refused loans, education, housing or cars, or even being arrested for crimes he didn’t commit.

    Over the past year the IRS has put filters into place to address different issues or flags of identity theft. In 2012, the IRS planned on spending approximately $330 million to fight against identity theft, but due to limited resources additional funds are needed. The filters that were placed in service this last year help to differentiate justifiable returns from counterfeit ones and prevent recurrence. If a return is caught by a filter, it is reviewed manually to validate the information. To validate the information the IRS may contact the taxpayer to verify the correct information, or the IRS may send a correspondence audit notice to the taxpayer.

  • Jun 29

    Effective August 1, 2012 it will be against the law in Alabama to read, write or send a text message, instant message, or an e-mail while driving a motor vehicle.

    According to the national Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times greater than when a driver is not distracted. And sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.  During that short time, a driver going 55 miles per hour will cover the entire length of a football field.

  • Jun 14

    The Alabama Department of Revenue recently announced Alabama’s first annual Severe Weather Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday will be held July 6 through July 8, 2012. Alabamians are encouraged to stock up on a variety of supplies for protecting their homes or businesses during Alabama’s tornado and hurricane season’s.

    Counties and municipalities can choose to join the state by removing their own local sales and use taxes from the same items during the same weekend.

    The following list contains examples of items covered under this year’s Severe Weather Preparedness holiday.

     

    Items that have a sales price of $60 or less per item:

    ~ Batteries:  AAA-cell batteries, AA-cell batteries, C-cell batteries, D-cell batteries, 6-volt batteries, 9-volt batteries;

    ~ Cell phone battery;

    ~ Cell phone charger;

    ~ Portable self-powered or battery powered radio, two-way radio, weather-band radio or NOAA weather radio;

    ~ Portable self-powered light source, including battery powered flashlights, lanterns, or emergency glow sticks;

    ~ Tarps, plastic sheeting, plastic drop cloths, and other flexible, waterproof sheeting;

    ~ Ground anchor system, such as bungee cords or rope, or tie-down kits;

    ~ Duct tape;

    ~ Plywood, window film or other materials specifically designed to protect window coverings;

    ~ Non-electric food storage cooler or water storage container;

    ~ Non-electric can opener;

    ~ Artificial ice, blue ice, ice packs, reusable ice;

    ~ Self-contained first aid kit;

    ~ Fire extinguisher;

    ~ Smoke detector;

    ~ Carbon monoxide detector;

    ~ Gas or diesel fuel tank or container.

     

    Items that have a sales price of $1,000 or less:

     ~ Portable generators and power cords.

     

    Beginning next year, the annual Sales Tax Holiday for Severe Weather Preparedness will be held during the last full weekend of February.

  • Jan 13

    Did you know that 80 percent of new jobs are created by small businesses?  According to the U.S. Small Business Administration there are approximately 69,200 businesses in Alabama with less than 20 employees.  According to the federal government, small businesses account for about 97 percent of all private employers in the state, and they employ almost half of the state’s private-sector work force.  So it’s easy to understand why Governor Bentley recently stated, “Small businesses are the backbone of the Alabama economy.”

    One might remember a few years ago, when Alabama approved $400 million worth of tax incentives to encourage a ThyssenKrupp steel mill to the state.  The steelmaker promised to bring 2,700 jobs once it was fully operational and approximately another 29,000 temporary positions during the building process.  What if I was to tell you, that this new tax credit for small businesses could potentially create more jobs for the state of Alabama and be cheaper for our government?

    Alabama’s Full Employment Act of 2011 is designed for small businesses in Alabama who have 50 or fewer employees.  These small businesses could receive a one-time income tax credit equal to $1,000 per new job paying more than $10 per hour.  This credit will be available for the tax year during which the employee has completed twelve months of consecutive employment and can begin on or after January 1, 2011.

    How might this tax credit be better than the ThyssenKrupp tax incentive?  Rosemary Elebash, the state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, illustrated it this way:

    “If only 5 percent of those (69,200) businesses hire one person at a qualifying wage — we’re looking at 3,460 new jobs across the state.  That’s a lot more than ThyssenKrupp promised to hire, and remember, ThyssenKrupp’s tax incentives were valued at $400 million.

    If 3,460 small businesses qualify for incentives under the governor’s Full Employment Act, we’re talking about only $3.5 million.

    That seems like a small price to pay to put 3,460 people back to work — 3,460 people who would, in turn, have money to spend at other businesses in their communities.”

    Through this new tax credit, I hope small businesses will not only see the benefit for their small business, but also for the people of Alabama and our economy.  To help determine if your small business is eligible for this income tax credit, Abroms and Associates of Florence, AL, and Bradley Arant Boult Cummings, LLP created a flowchart which can be found at: http://www.ascpa.org/Content/39513.aspx.

  • Nov 4

    All business entities or employers must use E-Verify or be in danger of suspension of their business licenses and loss of expensing for state income tax purposes. 

    On June 9, 2011, the Beason-Hammon Alabama Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act was signed into law by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley. Supporters and opponents to the act are calling it the toughest one of its kind in the country to crack down on illegal immigrants, far worse than the 2010 Arizona law that was appealed to the Supreme Court. 

    The law’s self-described aim is to “preclude any state or local government or official from refusing to enforce federal immigration laws” and to “prohibit an alien unlawfully present in the United States from receiving any state or local public benefits.” It attempts to accomplish that goal by creating several newly-defined crimes. 

    The law prohibits private businesses from knowingly employing undocumented workers. It prohibits “aliens not lawfully present” in the United States from entering into business transactions, housing leases, and other forms of contract by making the contract void and unenforceable in the courts. Violations could cost you your business license. 

    The law went into effect September 1, 2011 with provisions governing employers, and imposing new obligations. The following is a summary of the employer’s obligations:

    1. Effective April 1, 2012 all employers in Alabama must verify through federal E-Verify all new hires and determine if they are illegal aliens. Businesses that receive any state contract, grant or incentive must enroll and use it a few months earlier, no later than January 1, 2012. They can’t continue to employ or hire for employment any unauthorized aliens to perform work in the state.  E-Verify will protect the employer from any violations in respect to the employment of employees and it is their only “get out of jail card” with Immigration Compliance and Enforcement (ICE) and the only safe harbor under the Alabama Immigration Act.  Employers must keep on file a copy of the I-9 and certify that the employee has presented documentation confirming his or her right to work in the U.S.  Make sure that your I-9 forms are the latest version and that you put an E-Verify policy in your employee handbook. 
    2. Any business entity or employer with 25 or fewer employees can use the Alabama Department of Homeland Security to run its E-Verify checks for free.  This service will be available within 90 days after the effective date of this act. 
    3. An employer who becomes aware of an employee with an illegal status must terminate the employee to avoid facing severe penalties such as probation and suspension of their business license. 
    4. A business entity or employer who deducts, from state income or business taxes, any wages, compensation or remuneration of any kind for services paid to an unauthorized alien, will be liable for a penalty equal to 10 times the business expense deduction claimed. 
    5. A business entity or employer who knowingly keeps an unauthorized alien and fails to hire a job applicant that is a U.S. citizen or authorized alien or fires a U.S. citizen or authorized alien, can be sued by the unsuccessful applicant in an Alabama civil action for discrimination under Section 17 and be awarded compensatory relief, court costs and reasonable attorney fees. 
    6. The act provides that no court will enforce the terms of, or regard as valid any contract entered into with illegal aliens. 
    7. The act makes it illegal to pick up any day labor in your vehicle on a street, roadway or highway for work at a different location if the motor vehicle blocks or impedes normal movement of traffic. This applies regardless of citizenship or alien status. 
    8. It will be illegal to transport an alien “in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien in the United States, knowingly or in reckless disregard to the fact that the alien has come to, entered or remained in the United State in violation of the federal law.” 
    9. It is illegal to induce an alien to come to or reside in Alabama if the person knows or recklessly disregards the fact that the alien will be in violation of the federal law.  It is also illegal to “conceal, harbor or shield” an alien for detection in any place, including any building or vehicles if the person knows or recklessly disregards that the alien is in the United States illegally. 
    10. It is illegal to enter into a rental agreement with an illegal alien, if the person knows or recklessly disregards the fact that the alien is in the United States illegally.