Tag Archives: tax return

Tax Season 2016 – IRS “Get Transcript” Got Hammered!


irs-seal-logoIn a devastating admission the IRS has announced the number of taxpayers PINs compromised has doubled again. In May of 2015 the IRS announced that there were 114,000 breached accounts. Then, in August, it added 390,00 to that number. Now the number sits at 724,000 breached accounts. The hackers were hard at work as the IRS also reported hackers unsuccessfully targeted an additional 295,000 taxpayer transcripts. Now the number of unsuccessful attempts is 570,000. 

Hackers are using the hacked accounts to file false tax returns and stealing tax refunds. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been stolen in this manner and the victims usually don’t know it until they file their return only to have them rejected.

The IRS has begun notifying the new victims and those whose accounts were attacked but not breached. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a statement that “The IRS is committed to protecting taxpayers on multiple fronts against tax-related identity theft and these mailings are part of that effort. We are moving quickly to help these taxpayers.”

According to the IRS hackers were able to access people’s social security numbers and personal details through their website called “Get Transcript.” Get Transcript was launched in January 2014 on the IRS website. The application enabled taxpayers to view and download their transcript or order previous years of tax filing information.

According to the agency taxpayers used the ‘Get Transcript” tool to download about 23 million transcripts in its first few months of  2015 when it was introduced. The service supposedly used extensive security measures to thwart cyber criminals such as asking for Social Security numbers, addresses and birthdays.  The “Get Transcript” function was shut down in May of 2015.

In more sickening news Krebsonsecurity.com reported that the IRS’s attempts to protect last year’s tax fraud victims was also a total failure. Krebs reported that the IRS mailed 2.7 million of the six digit PINs to prior year tax identity theft victims. But the IRS also allowed taxpayers to retrieve their PIN from the IRS website. The same authentication procedures used by the identity thieves to file the fraudulent tax returns in the first place.

Hackers did not attack the IRS computer systems directly. According to experts the information that allowed the criminals to hack accounts came from online searches and social media accounts. Much of the personal information needed to answer security question can be found on sites like Facebook. Another indicator that sharing too much information can be very bad.

Jeff Markley, a tax technician with Burch & Associates Inc. in Lincoln, said, “The culprits already had information through various things. Through social media, you can Google yourself and find out all sorts of sensitive information, like your birth date.”

According to identity theft experts limiting the amount of information shared online is the best way to prevent becoming a victim of identity theft.  Also don’t click on attachments and links in an email unless you are certain of what they are. Don’t talk to people claiming to be the IRS over the phone. The IRS only contacts taxpayers via the mail.

The embarrassments for the IRS continue.  According to a recent report from the Online Trust Alliance six of 13 IRS approved tax preparation companies failed to provide adequate security to its customers. The companies are all members of the IRS’s Free File Alliance. This group provides free tax preparation and e-filing for an estimated 100 million federal tax returns. The Online Trust Alliance reported the following services failed an online security audit.

  1. 1040.com
  2. 1040now.net
  3. Fileyourtaxes.com
  4. Free1040taxreturn.com
  5. Jacksonhewitt.com
  6. Online Taxes at OLT.com

Tax Season 2016 – Tax Prep Apps of the Week

The Internet rapidly automated so many things including filing your taxes.  Because of technology and software advances as many as 80 percent of Americans can and do prepare their own taxes using various software and web services.  

Many African-Americans access the web using smartphones. Because of this we need to examine some very good apps that can help you if decide to do your own taxes using your smartphone. These apps are designed to allow you to record and prepare financial records and even file taxes directly from your smartphone. These are the Apps of the Week.

 

IRS2GoIRS2Go – This is the official app of the Internal Revenue Service. Although you cannot actually file your taxes using this app you can check the status of your tax refund, make tax payments, and get updates from the IRS. IRS2Go also offers important numbers and times to call and ask questions. You can also sign up for tax hints through the app. For those of you who filed e-taxes you can check on their status with the app within 72 hours.

IRS2Go is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

myblock-mobile-app-dMy BlockUnlike IRS2Go the H&R My Block app is a bit more rich in features. My Block, one of two apps offered by the tax prep giant, allows the user to check their refund status. My Block also offers a robust help section that defines terms and answer basic tax questions. It also offers a checklist that helps the user create a tax filing to-do list along with tools that allow you to estimate the size of your refund. If you have additional questions My Block allows you to set up an appointment at a local H&R Block office.  You can also use My Block to upload documents so your tax pro will have them available during your appointment.

My Block is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Prtaxprep-mobile-app-deparation – H&R Block’s Tax Preparation is different from its sister app because it actually allows the user to prepare and file tax returns.  Tax Preparation does a neat trick by collecting and importing information directly from a photo of your W-2. The user can select from various versions from free, basic, deluxe to premium editions. The app shows the user what causes their refund to fluctuate, offers cross-platform syncing and status updates on your return. The app also offers advice and free, in-person audit support. 

Tax Preparation is free ad available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

 

 

expensify-logoExpensify – Expensify wasn’t exactly made for preparing taxes. But if you own a business or are self-employed this app can help you get the most from your deductions. Using the app allows the self employed business person or any business owner to capture receipts, track billing hours and travel miles. Expensify allows the user to record any expenses or operating costs. It also automatically imports credit card transactions and scan receipts for expense reports that can later be converted to IRS-approved e-Receipts minimizing paper usage and hopefully any tax-related discrepancies.

Expensify is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

Ask a cpaAsk A CPA – Ask A CPA is an app with a host of basic tips encompassing the latest changes in tax law. These tips cover a variety of different categories, from alimony and dividends to adoption expenses and charitable deductions. Ask A CPA also gives the user the opportunity to ask specific questions it hasn’t already covered within the app’s archives. However there have been complaints about the text space available for questions. The coolest feature is that local CPAs in your area answer these questions. Ask A CPA is a powerful resource for owners of small businesses who need answers to common tax questions but also for individual taxpayers.

Ask A CPA is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

Turbo taxTurboTax Preparation – TurboTax Preparation works very similar to its online counterpart. The app offers a wealth of tax-related information and tools for preparing and e-filing your taxes. Like H&R Block’s Tax Preparation  app the TurboTax app can also pull information from a photo of your W-2. It provides step-by-step instructions while seeking out as many as 350 tax deductions and credits intended to maximize your refund.  The app double checks your return and the information you provided as you go.  Once loaded on your different devices the app syncs so you can switch between your iPhone, iPad or computer. 
 

Turbo Tax Preparation is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

 

 

 

Tax ActExTaxACT Express –  TaxAct Express is another full service app for filing taxes. It can help with most common tax situations and, like other apps, automatically imports information from a photo of your W-2. The app will track the status of your IRS refund and notify you when it’s been processed. The app also offer free e-filing of state and federal taxes for free. 

Tax ACT Express is free and available for Apple and Android

 

 

 

 

BNABNA Quick Tax Reference – BNA Quick Tax Reference provides some valuable reference material but is not exactly easy to use but then again it is meant for the more financially savvy user.  The user can find tables showing mileage rates, corporate tax rate schedules, individual tax rate schedules, standard deductions, retirement plan limits, and more. If you looking to file back taxes the tables can take you back to 2012. 

BNA Quick Tax Reference is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

turbotax-taxcasterTaxCaster – This app is also offered by Intuit makers of the TurboTax products.  TaxCaster is designed for filers with relatively simple taxes and a single job, much like the 1040EZ and 1040A tax forms and you don’t have to sign up to use it. The user simply enter their wages, marital status, earnings, and deductions.  TaxCaster can quickly give you a good idea of what kind of refund you might receive. This fairly simple app won’t  prepare your taxes, but it can give you a good idea what to expect when you do.

TaxCaster is free and available for Apple and Android.

 

 

Tax Season 2016 – Claim Your Refund ASAP!

canstockphoto2986221Tax season 2016 is heating up rapidly. And as we’ve told you it is also scam season. Cyber crooks and identity thieves can’t  wait to use those millions of stolen Social Security numbers to file false claims and reap in millions more in fraudulent refunds. The best advice, whether or not you’re expecting a refund, is file your return as soon as possible! 

The IRS and most state tax agencies won’t get your W-2 information until April. This presents cyber criminals with a window of opportunity to file a fraudulent return using your Social Security number if they have it.  New laws should shorten that time by at least a month next year. But that is no help this year.

 According to the IRS 90 percent of federal refunds will be mailed or deposited within 21 days after returns are filed. But that still gives identity thieves plenty of time to file a fraudulent return before the IRS receives your W-2. 

According to Sandra Block of Kiplinger.com crooks using stolen Social Security numbers claimed $5.8 billion in fraudulent refunds in 2013 and the IRS says it blocked phony refunds worth another $24.2 billion.

So again our best advice is to not to wait to file your return. File as soon as you have all your documents. Quickly filing your return and claiming your refund can prevent a thief with your social security number from hijacking your refund before you get it. If you got it they can’t get it!

If you believe you have been the victim of identity theft or your Social Security number has been stolen you can file an Identity Theft Affidavit (Form 14039) with the IRS. 

Another to place to go if you believe that your identity has been stolen is Identitytheft.gov. This is a one stop comprehensive website to handle identity theft complaints and get you started at recovering your identity.

Even if you’re not concerned about someone stealing your tax refund, you should file early for the following reasons;

  • You will get your refund sooner.
  • You will have more time to plan if you owe money (it’s not due until April 15)
  • You’ll have more time to deal with any issues that come up. Tax firms and accountants are busy this time of year so  don’t wait until the last minute.

Now you know.