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Explore the latest happenings at Kirtland FCU and learn about important topics from around the financial world. Here’s your insight!
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All Posts > Taxes

Security Taxes Fraud

‘Tis the season! For taxes, that is. And, unfortunately, the tax scammers who come with them.

IRS scams are not new, and they’re also not isolated to the early spring. But there’s no doubt that these types of scams pick up the pace around this time of year. And after a year filled with record high unemployment claims, stimulus checks and more, 2020 is shaping up to be a complicated one for taxes.

“This is an extraordinary year for fraud,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
(as reported by the AARP)

If you’re getting ready to file your 2020 taxes or waiting for a stimulus check from the IRA make sure you don’t fall prey to these common scams. Here are a few opening lines you may hear if you encounter an IRS scammer.

“We need a small payment to release your stimulus check!” Whether you get this message during a phone call, in a text, or in an e-mail, it’s never true. Stimulus checks will either automatically drop in your account (if the IRS has your information) or will be sent in the mail. Check on the status of the latest stimulus check here.

“We have issued a warrant for your arrest due to back taxes—unless you pay!” The IRS will never call you with a message like this. If you receive a letter from the IRS about your taxes, contact the agency yourself to verify. Don’t pay money or give personal information over the phone, via text, or online! If it’s an e-mail, just delete it.

“Click here to update your bank information.” The IRS does not e-mail, call, or text you to ask for banking information. You can hang up, delete the e- mail, or ignore the text. If there is an issue with your tax return, your tax preparer will alert you or you’ll be prompted to fix your return on your own.

“You must give us a gift card to fix fraud on your account.” Demanding payments, especially with a very specific method like purchasing a gift card, is a big red flag. In fact, requesting gift cards as payment is a key indicator of a scam, no matter what the subject of the scam is. The reason is because gift cards are not traceable or refundable. Once you’ve purchased it and sent the information to the scammer, there is no way to retrieve your money.

“There’s no need for us to sign your tax return.” If you’re paying a person or a service to complete your tax return form for you, that preparer is absolutely required to sign it and provide their preparer tax identification number (PTIN). A refusal to do so is indicative of a less-than-trustworthy tax preparer. Never sign your form if it’s blank. Considering the level of personal information that is turned over to tax preparers, you should be very careful about whom you choose to help you complete tax returns. If you do have problems with a tax preparer, you can file a complaint with the IRS by submitting Form 14157, a Return Preparer Complaint.

Have you ever encountered a tax scammer? Some fraud schemes are easy to spot, but others can take you by surprise. Rely only on reputable tax preparation services, never share personal information when prompted (and especially when threatened) to do so. And remember: the IRS will never e- mail, call, or text you asking for payments with gift cards.


When is the last time you looked at your W-4 form? 

If you just scratched your head and thought, “What’s a W-4 form?” then you are in good company. If you’re like many employed Americans, you likely filled out a W-4 as part of your hiring process, and you never saw it again. And if you haven’t made edits to your form lately, you could be in for a rude awakening on your tax filings next year after some major tax changes in 2018. With a brand-new W-4 form for 2020, now is the time to double-check your form and make any updates.
So let’s start with the basics. Your W-4 form lets your company know how much to withhold for state and federal taxes every paycheck. The old W-4 form asked you for a number of “allowances” to determine your withholding. The more allowances you enter, the less tax would be taken out of your paycheck. These allowances ostensibly matched up with the personal exemptions you’d be able to claim on your taxes—if you’d entered the proper amount of allowances, you’d neither owe or receive refunds come tax time.
But with the sweeping changes to the federal tax code in 2018, personal exemptions were done away with at the federal level in favor of nearly doubling the standard deduction and limiting certain itemized deductions, including applying a new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deduction. To catch up with this new tax reality, the new 2020 W-4 form is a lot more dynamic in terms of the information it takes into account. On the redesigned form, you’ll be asked for personal information, information about other jobs or your spouse’s job, dependent information, and other factors that could affect your tax situation.

To help filers gets ahead of these changes and take advantage of the new W-4 form, the IRS has answering some of your most taxing (hehe) questions about the redesigned W-4 form.
Why did the IRS put out a new form?
The new design reduces the form's complexity and increases the transparency and accuracy of the withholding system. While it uses the same underlying information as the old design, it replaces complicated worksheets with more straightforward questions that make accurate withholding easier for employees.

Do I have to fill out a new form?
No. Employees who have furnished Form W-4 in any year before 2020 are not required to furnish a new form merely because of the redesign. Employers will continue to compute withholding based on the information from the employee's most recently furnished Form W-4.

Why do I need to account for multiple jobs on the redesigned form? I never had to before.
Tax rates increase as income rises, and only one standard deduction can be claimed on each tax return, regardless of the number of jobs. Therefore, if you have more than one job at a time or are married filing jointly and both you and your spouse work, more money should usually be withheld from the combined pay for all the jobs than would be withheld if each job was considered by itself. Adjustments to your withholding must be made to avoid owing additional tax, and potentially penalties, when you file your tax return. All of this has been true for many years; it did not change with the recent tax law changes. The old Form W-4 accounted for multiple jobs using detailed instructions and worksheets that many employees may have overlooked. Step 2 of the redesigned Form W-4 lists three different options you should choose from to make the necessary withholding adjustments. Note that, to be accurate, you should furnish a 2020 Form W-4 for all of these jobs.

When should I increase or decrease my withholdings?
You should generally increase your withholding if:
  • you hold more than one job at a time or you and your spouse both have jobs (Step 2) or
  • you have income from sources other than jobs or self-employment that is not subject to withholding (Step 4(a)).
  • If you do not make adjustments to your withholding for these situations, you will very likely owe additional tax when filing your tax return, and you may owe penalties. For income from sources other than jobs, you can pay estimated tax instead of having extra withholding.
You should generally decrease your withholding if:
  • you are eligible for income tax credits such as the child tax credit or credit for other dependents (Step 3), and/or
  • you are eligible for deductions other than the basic standard deduction, such as itemized deductions, the deduction for IRA contributions, or the deduction for student loan interest (Step 4(b)).

Where can I find the redesigned W-4 form?
You can download the new form here. You can also stop by your HR department and request to fill out the new W-4 form.

So, make visiting your HR department a priority in 2020 and be tax ready next year!
You can also take advantage of a handy tool from the IRS that can help you estimate your withholdings.

See a full list of FAQs and more resources from the IRS here!



New year, new you!

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? We all have our tried-and-true avenues for becoming a healthier person in the new year—giving up the treats we spent the holidays indulging in or starting a new workout routine. This year, instead of just resolving to hit the treadmill more often, let’s commit to becoming financially fit!

Making smart financial decisions and changing bad habits may not be easy. Keeping track of your money, making and managing a budget, and setting and tracking goals are challenging in today’s fast-paced world. It’s just a $5 cup of coffee here and a forgotten gym membership there, but those little things add up. Do you know where your financial blind spots are? With the right technology, it’s easy to keep your thumb on the pulse of your financial well-being. Money Management IS that technology, and it’s FREE for Kirtland FCU members!

What is Money Management?

Money Management is mission control for your money! It’ a free budgeting and money management tool you can use to view and manage your complete financial picture. Accessible right from your Online Banking account and your Mobile App, Money Management allows you to:
  • View all your accounts, including those at other financial institutions, in one place for a truly 360-degree view of your financial situation.
  • See where your money is going with intuitive, easy-to-read graphs and charts.
  • Set and track goals and set alerts to keep you on the right path.
  • Make a budget (or let Money Management do it for you based on your spending history!)
Spotting trends and seeing places where you can streamline and improve? Invaluable, and Money Management can bring that to your fingertips.

What’s included?

Budgeting is KEY to financial wellness! Knowing how much money is coming in and going out on a daily, weekly, monthly basis is essential. What are your NEEDS versus your WANTS? And have you factored in debts and savings? Capturing every aspect of your finances can be challenging, but without it, you’re leaving a lot up to chance. There are many online budgeting tools, but none of them are as seamless as Money Management. With Money Management, you can custom-create budgets, or the system can generate one for you based on your spending history! However it works for you. And Money Management budgeting technology not only tracks your transactions, it will help you categorize to spot patterns and set goals. 

Okay, you know you need to see all that money moving in and out of your various accounts. But what do you DO with all that information? Taking into account every penny, trying to wrap your mind around your financial situation can be overwhelming. You could try to categorize transactions by hand, but that’s time consuming and the risk of missing something is high. Check out Money Management’s colorful, easy to read charts and graphs that make it easy to not only set your monthly budget but see how you’re doing at a glance. It’s not just seeing your transactions; you need reliable analysis that transforms your finances into understandable trends that you can use to make real change in your habits.

If you’re just taking a peek in your checking account once in a while to track spending, you’re missing a big chunk of your financial picture. If you have different accounts at different banks, different loans through different companies, and even investment and retirement accounts, you can see them ALL in Money Management, side-by-side. And on any device—desktop, mobile, tablet. 


And perhaps the best thing about Money Management? It’s FREE and accessible right from your Online Banking account! Experience your finances in full color, stereo surround sound. Make 2020 the year of 20/20 vision when it comes to your finances. New year, new you, a new path to financial wellness! No gym membership required. 

But if you get a gym membership—Money Management will help you budget for that, too. 

Learn more and get started now! 



Well, hello, 2020! Right now, millions are heading back to work in the new decade after weeks of holiday splendor. That means one thing—W-2s are coming! Tax return preparers are also heading back to work, prepping for a busy season of tax filings. More than three-quarter of a million people are registered as tax preparers with the IRS, meaning they hold a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). But not every tax preparer is on the up-and-up. Along with these legitimate services, scammers are also busy at work, gearing up to take advantage of tax filers.
‘Ghost’ preparers, the IRS says, are preparers who use shady practices to take advantage of tax filers. They are usually not properly licensed as is required by the IRS of anyone who is paid to complete or assist in the completion of someone else’s tax return.

Dishonest tax preparers may also:
  • Promise a big refund.
  • Charge fees based on the refund size.
  • Require payment in cash only and will not provide a receipt.
  • Invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds.
  • Direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s.
Perhaps one of the scariest aspects of ghost filers is that if the IRS has issues with your return and you need help to handle it, the ghost filer has, well, ghosted! They’re nowhere to be found, and you could be on the hook for any errors and omissions in your return.

If you’re one of the 56% of Americans who use tax preparation services, the IRS has suggestions for making sure the service you use is trustworthy.
  • Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on tax returns.
  • Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. Tax law can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. The IRS website has more information regarding the national tax professional organizations.
  • Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help locate a tax return preparer with the preferred qualifications.
The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of tax preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:
  • Attorneys
  • CPAs
  • Enrolled Agents
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents
  • Enrolled Actuaries
  • Annual Filing Season Program participants
  • Check the preparer’s history. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory. 
  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund or boast bigger refunds than their competition. Don’t give tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information to a preparer when only inquiring about their services and fees. Unfortunately, some preparers have improperly filed returns without the taxpayer’s permission once the records were obtained.
  • Make sure the preparer offers IRS e-file and ask to e-file the tax return. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return.
  • Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see tax records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine the client’s total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file a return using a pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  • Understand representation rules. Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Annual Filing Season Program participants may represent taxpayers in limited situations if they prepared and signed the return. However, non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program may only represent clients before the IRS on returns they prepared and signed on or before Dec. 31, 2015.
  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks clients to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.
  • Review the tax return before signing. Before a taxpayer signs a return, they should review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should ensure they are comfortable with the accuracy of the return and that the refund goes directly to them – not into the preparer’s bank account. Reviewing the routing and bank account number on the completed return is always a good idea.
Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Taxpayers can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a return preparer is suspected of filing or changing the return without the client’s consent, also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Forms are available on IRS.gov.

Learn more about your tax filing options and why it’s a good idea to file early! 

Happy returns!


The article below is up to date based on the latest tax laws. It is accurate for your 2019 taxes.

The holidays are coming up and while taxes may the last thing you may want to think about, now is a good time to start thinking about money you shelled out for tax-deductible expenses this year so you can start gathering receipts in order to make an impact on your taxes by increasing your tax refund or lowering the amount of taxes you owe.

Here are 10 money-saving tax deductions (and credits) to keep in mind when you start gathering your receipts for tax-time.
  1. Education Expenses: There are two education credits available — the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a credit worth up to $2,500 for the expenses you paid for the first four years of college. The Lifetime Learning Credit, worth up to $2,000 of tuition and fees, is available even if you aren’t pursuing a degree. Make sure you count books and lab fees — even the books you rent on sites such as Chegg and others.
  2. Camp for Your Kids: You may be entitled to the Child and Dependent Care Credit if your children are under the age of 13, and you took them to a before and after school care program, daycare, or day camp so that you can work. However, overnight and sleepover camps are not eligible.
  3. Health Insurance: If you are self-employed, you can take a tax deduction for the health insurance premiums you pay for yourself and your family. If you are not self-employed, health insurance premiums paid after taxes may be tax deductible if you can itemize your deductions.
  4. Medical Expenses: Medical expenses, including miles driven for medical reasons (at 20 cents per mile), may be tax-deductible if they exceed 10% of your income in 2019 and you are able to itemize your tax deductions. The cost of exercise equipment or purchasing and maintaining a spa or swimming pool may be tax-deductible as medical expenses if your doctor recommends them to mitigate a medical condition.
  5. Charitable Contributions: If you made any donations, no matter how small, remember to have your receipts ready since you may be able to deduct them. It’s easy to forget the smaller amounts you contributed to various walks or races, but they add up quickly. You can’t deduct the value of your time when you volunteer, but you can deduct your travel at 14 cents per mile as well as any parking and tolls you paid. TurboTax ItsDeductible will help you accurately value and track your charitable contributions year-round and then transfer your contributions to your TurboTax return.
  6. State Income or Sales and Local Tax Deduction: You are permitted to deduct either the state income tax paid or the state sales tax paid, if you itemize your tax deductions. You can choose either but if you live in a state without a state income tax, it’s a no-brainer — you would deduct the state sales tax you paid. You are free to choose the one that gives you the biggest tax deduction. TurboTax will choose the option that gives you the biggest tax deduction based on your entries. The amount you are able to deduct is capped at $10,000 including property taxes, state income taxes or sales tax.
  7. Home Office: If you use part of your home regularly and exclusively to perform administrative or managerial activities for your business, you can claim a home office deduction for a portion of utilities, rent, mortgage interest, depreciation, maintenance and the like based on the square footage of your home used for your business.
  8. Miscellaneous itemized tax deductions. Miscellaneous itemized deductions like unreimbursed job expenses and tax preparation expenses, unless it’s tax preparation for your self-employment taxes, are no longer available. Uninsured losses due to fire, storms, shipwreck or theft more than 10% of adjusted gross income are tax-deductible only if they are the consequence of a federally declared natural disaster.
  9. Other Dependent Credit: If you are caring for someone other than a child dependent, take advantage of the new deduction. This is a tax credit of up to $500 per non-child dependent that you support.
  10. Mileage Expenses: If you use your vehicle for business and you are self-employed, you can deduct your mileage 58 cents for 2019 (it was 54.5 cents per mile in 2018). If you work for multiple clients, the cost of traveling between job locations is tax-deductible as well.
Don’t worry about knowing these tax rules. TurboTax asks you simple questions about you and gives you the tax deductions and credits your eligible for based on your answers. If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent. TurboTax Live CPAs and Enrolled Agents are available in English and Spanish and can even review, sign and file your tax return.

And did you know that, as a Kirtland FCU member, you can take advantage of discounted prices for TurboTax filing? Learn more and get started now!