GOT TAX PROBLEMS? THINGS THE IRS DOESN T WANT YOU TO KNOW (BUT YOU WILL LEARN BY READING THIS!)

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1 GOT TAX PROBLEMS? THINGS THE IRS DOESN T WANT YOU TO KNOW (BUT YOU WILL LEARN BY READING THIS!) When I was a young lawyer, I assumed the Internal Revenue Service was like my father strict and stern, but fair. Looking out for me. Letting me know what actions and inactions were in my best interest. Telling me the right answers. I quickly learned that isn t true. I learned that the worst place to get answers to tax law and tax procedures questions is the Internal Revenue Service. Is it really a surprise? Sadly, I also learned that the IRS will take advantage of taxpayers who aren t represented, or who are represented by someone who doesn t know what he s doing or is intimidated by the IRS. I call these professionals the Pretenders. Too often the IRS will take advantage of taxpayers in these situations, too. The Pretenders may be very good in their usual professions as tax accountants, CPAs, or even tax and bankruptcy lawyers, but they do not have sufficient tools to adequately represent the taxpayer in trouble with the IRS. You already probably know what tools to which I am referring. These tools are the combination of education, experience, and proper temperament in tax procedures law and (sometimes) bankruptcy. Due to their lack of experience, education, and/or training, these Pretenders are ignorant of some of the secrets or tools of the trade, or how and when to push and when to pull back when dealing with the IRS. But if you keep reading, you will learn some of these secrets that the IRS doesn t want you to know, written by one of the professionals who does have the requisite education, experience and temperament in accounting, tax law, tax procedures, and bankruptcy. I will tell you Secrets and ways of doing things that are known by those lawyers and accountants who are at the top of their game in the field of tax problem resolution. But with 1

2 whom do these professionals usually share these secrets? Only those clients with the money to pay for a key to unlock the vault in which these secrets are kept. Because you have requested this essential tax guide, I am in a sense giving you the key to the vault. And while you may not benefit as much as clients who actually hire my law firm (there is no substitute for actual, full and complete representation), I can assure you that with this guide, you will be way ahead of anyone else without the benefit of representation, or who is represented by a Pretender. So, read, enjoy, and share with your friends and family. And use what you read here in resolving your tax problem once and for all. And, no, you won t get in trouble with the IRS just because you ve learned these secrets the IRS just wishes you didn t know them. Good luck! Or don t rely on luck give my office a call or or , or me at SECRET #1 FOR THOSE WITH UNFILED TAX RETURNS. The Problem Believe it or not, not everyone files their tax return every year. That s right. While most people file by April 15, or request an extension to file by October 15, not everyone does. And would you believe that some people don t file returns for several years? I m not talking about 1, 2 or even 3 years. There are people who don t file for 5 or even 10 years! The record in my practice is around 25 years. This may come as a shock to you, and it should. You may wonder how that can be. How could someone do that? Well, you re probably thinking of the most common situation where someone works as a w-2 employee with taxes withheld from his wages. Well, I ve had many clients who were chronic non-filers even though they were w-2 employees. It never made sense to me either because they had little or no liability after filing. In many situations they had refunds coming! But most of the chronic non-filers are self-employed small business owners, or work-in-sales positions or construction or other jobs where taxes are not withheld. Small business owners frequently get behind on payroll taxes and other bills and find it almost necessary to not file their returns because they wouldn t have the cash to pay the taxes that are due. The 2

3 independent contractors, on the other hand, are issued a form 1099 at the end of the year reflecting how much they were paid, but of course no taxes were withheld. I have found that what typically happens is at the end of the year, when they prepare their tax return, they did not put money aside for taxes, or pay anything in via estimated tax payments. Their thinking tends to be well, I won t file the return for last year, and I ll make more money this year to pay both this year and last year. Of course, that plan rarely works. Another year goes by, again no money is set aside, so they decide not to file for a second year. Then a third, etc. Then they are scared and don t know what to do. Would you? So why didn t they file? Procrastination. Fear. Ignorance. For these and other reasons, either alone or in combination. Whatever the reason, they didn t. And you know what the saddest thing is? Many are entitled to a refund, but the refund is lost if the return isn t filed within three years. That s right. Every year taxpayers lose thousands, even millions of dollars, in refunds because they don t file on time. The Secret for Non-filers If you and your spouse are among the many who have unfiled tax returns and need to get into compliance, the first question to be asked is: Do we file a joint return or do we file separately for these unfiled tax years? Myth: Married people have to file jointly with their spouses. Truth: Married people do not have to file jointly; they can file separately from their spouses. Most people assume they have to file joint tax returns, but actually they do not have to file jointly. Surprisingly, the default filing status is that of married filing separate from a spouse. The joint filing status is actually an election that is made by checking the married filing jointly box on the form, and by both husband and wife signing the return. (In order to qualify to file jointly, you generally have to be married on the last day of the tax year, so each year is reviewed separately for joint filing qualification.) While it is true that the tax liability with a joint filing should be lower than the combined tax liability of married people filing separately, the downside or cost of filing jointly is that the 3

4 spouses are jointly and severally liable for any liability. Joint and Several liability means that each spouse is liable for the entire tax, not just half and not just such spouse s share (had they filed separately). And not just for the tax shown as due when the return was filed, but also for any additional tax, penalty and interest found to be due as a result of an audit of the joint return even if that person is no longer their spouse! Why does joint and several liability matter? Or, more important, why may avoiding it be crucial? Let s look at a common situation. Assume the husband is the bread-winner and the wife is a stay-at-home mom. Or maybe the husband is self-employed and owns his own business while his wife has a w-2 job with sufficient taxes withheld from every paycheck. Maybe that s your parents lives. Maybe it s yours. As long as the parties are married and the tax is paid, it doesn t matter that the couple was jointly and severally liable for the tax debt. Who cares? It got paid. But what happens to the wife if they divorce? Or if, say, the husband dies leaving the wife alone? Well, it means that she s liable for the entire debt even though (a) she didn t have any income, or all her income was paid via w-2 with adequate withholding, and (b) the tax debt is entirely attributable to income earned by her divorced (or deceased) husband. Not fair, is it? There are a couple of special laws in place that may help the wife (in this example it is a wife that needs help, but the provisions I am about to discuss apply equally to men when the facts so dictate). You may have heard of the Innocent Spouse provisions. Yes, if the wife can show she didn t know and had no reason to know of the reasons why the family income was underreported, and can satisfy certain other tests, she may be relieved of the tax attributable to her former husband s income. But it takes time, can be financially expensive and emotionally exhausting, and is not successful in many cases. Don t count on it. There are other ways (Secret #1) to avoid joint and several liability. Yet, joint liability can be avoided by doing just one thing. Just ONE thing Filing separate returns in the first place. 4

5 That s right. That s one big secret the IRS does not want you to know spouses do not have to file joint tax returns. When they don t, then the IRS cannot go after (in my example) the wife s income, assets, inheritances, etc. to satisfy the liabilities owed by the husband (whether they are still married or now divorced, separated or widowed). So why doesn t the IRS want you to know this little secret? Because if you file jointly, then that gives the IRS two people they can try to collect from, rather than one. No wonder they don t want you in on this little secret they want to be able to go after the wife s assets and income too! So, if you have a number of unfiled tax returns for years during which you were married, consider filing separately, especially if: 1. either you or your spouse does not work, 2. you both work but one of you has sufficient tax withholdings and the other doesn t, 3. you were married in a tax year for which you have not filed a tax return yet, but are no longer married, or 4. you are going through or considering filing bankruptcy. And don t be afraid to tell the IRS that I, Larry Heinkel, let you in on this little secret that the IRS doesn t want you to know. After all, the IRS isn t your father! 5

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