penalties

Did You Know that NJ Now Requires All Residents to Have Health Insurance?

Starting this year, New Jersey is requiring all residents to have health insurance. Even though the Federal government has gone in the opposite direction, there are a handful of states that have their own mandates or are considering a mandate. What are some of the requirements, exceptions, and penalties regarding this new law?

Requirements: The law requires you to have minimum essential health coverage or qualify for an exemption of coverage. If you do not have coverage or qualify for an exemption, then you will incur a shared responsibility payment when you file your 2019 New Jersey tax return next year.

Exceptions: There is a whole list of exemptions, and some of them are as follows: income related, such as marketplace affordability and income below filing thresholds, gaps in coverage of less than two consecutive months, hardships, and group memberships, such as being a part of a health care sharing ministry.

Penalties: The minimum penalty is the greater of 2.5% of your household income or $695 for an individual taxpayer. This increases to a maximum of $15,060 for a family of two adults and three dependents with a household income greater than $400,001.

The penalties are steep so make sure that you are properly covered or are able to receive an exception to the penalties. For those who are looking for non-traditional coverage options, health care sharing ministries such as Solidarity HealthShare or Christian Healthcare Ministries may prove to be good, low-cost options. However, make sure to perform your due diligence to make sure that these can be the right fit for you.

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I Received a Notice from the IRS – Now What?!

If you receive a letter in the mail from the IRS, the first thing you should do is open it! It might not be as bad as you think. The most common notice I see is that a client forgot to include interest, dividends, or wages from a W-2 on their income tax return and now they owe additional taxes, interest, and penalties.

Just because you receive a notice that you owe money doesn’t mean the notice is correct. You want to see why there is an increase, and compare the figures in the letter to your tax return. Then you want to see what the proposed changes are. I have seen notices that have actually showed incorrect W-2 wages.

Usually you have 30 days to respond to the notice before additional interest and penalties will be assessed. There are several options to take at this point.

The first option, if the notice is correct and the additional penalties and interest are very insignificant, should be to pay the amount due as soon as possible. If the notice is correct and you have a valid reason for not including a portion of income, you should then include payment of the taxes and interest on those taxes only. Additionally, you will need to respond to the notice to state why the penalties should be removed. The IRS will remove penalties if you have a justifiable reason. As a caveat, if the penalties are not removed then you will owe not only penalties, but possible interest on the penalties as well. The cost/benefit has to be weighed carefully. If the notice is completely wrong, then you should not send any payment, but include an explanation in your written response to the IRS, along with any supporting documents to show why you do not owe additional taxes, interest, and penalties.

As you can see there are several options when receiving a notice from the IRS or one of the state taxing authorities. Do not hesitate to contact our office if you receive a notice. We can clearly explain it to you and guide you through the next step to take.

An Overview of IRS Audits

There are different types of IRS audits. The first and least complex is the correspondence audit, next is the office audit, and lastly and most complex, the field examination. I highly recommend to anyone who receives a letter from the IRS, or even the State of NJ, to contact their tax advisor as soon as possible.

The correspondence audit is the most commonly used audit of all three types of audits. It starts with a letter issued from the IRS stating that a change has been made to your tax return, such as for investment income that you failed to report. Assuming in this case the IRS is correct, you will need to submit the additional tax assessed on the unreported income, along with interest to the IRS. If the IRS is not correct and you disagree then you will need to provide an explanation to prove that you do not owe additional taxes. Sometimes the notice is partly right, and the best course of action may be to file an amended return or complete the appropriate forms.

Since correspondence audits are very cost effective for the IRS, they also send letters for specific deductions, such as charitable contributions, to request substantiation for your deductions. This is why it is extremely important to keep all receipts for your deductions, because without any proof that you made donations, your deduction will be disallowed and additional taxes and interest will be assessed.

The next audit, the office examination, takes place at one of the field offices of the IRS by a local agent. Although more complex than a correspondence audit, the agent usually focuses on a select number of items. It is very important to be very prepared for this type of audit because it can lead to the agent broadening the scope of the audit.

Lastly, and most in-depth, is the field examination. This involves an IRS agent visiting your place of business or possibly your home. The agent requests much more information and asks a lot more questions. Again, it is very important to be well-prepared for this audit. It is also crucial to communicate with and work closely with your tax advisor.

After completion of an audit, there can be several outcomes. The first is an assessment of additional taxes, interest, and/or penalties, the second is no change to your tax liability, and third you may actually be due a refund (not likely, but that would be a great outcome)!