Wednesday, April 27, 2016

5 Finance Tips for New College Grads

It’s the end of April, and the population of Intern Isle - the group of desks where the interns sit at SPAN Enterprises, parent company of ExpressIRSForms - is rapidly dwindling. Graduation is just around the corner, and while we’ll miss the ones leaving us, we know they’re all going on to do great things.

As new college grads all over the nation are learning, with great opportunity comes a few new responsibilities. With more than two-thirds of new alumni in debt - about $35,000 per graduate, on average - fiscal responsibility should be a top priority for new grads. Thankfully, we live in the age of the internet, when people who have developed fiscal responsibility blog about how to get the hang of it.

Take More Than Your Salary into Account
When applying for jobs after getting that degree, it may be easiest to go for whichever one offers you the highest salary, but that’s not necessarily the best idea. While the highest salary is certainly the more preferable salary to have, there are other factors to consider: medical and retirement savings benefits, for example, as well as cost of living and taxes, which vary state to state. A high salary might not be able to afford all the Treat Yo’self Days you’re planning if your new job doesn’t help with those not-as-fun-but-still-pretty-necessary benefits.

Create a Budget You Can Stick To
We’ll give you an example of a fairly basic - but effective - budget in a moment. The main thing to remember with this point, however, is that the budget you come up with has to work for you because you are the person holding you accountable for sticking to it. Setting your budget so that you put 30% in savings each month is admirable, but it’s not going to matter if you know you won’t be able to do that. If you find yourself having trouble with your budget, adjust it. It’s better to actually save $10 each month than it is to say you’re going to save $30/month and spend it all instead.

If you need a starting point, try a 50-30-20 budget. First, figure out your monthly income; of that, put 50% toward needs (rent, utilities, groceries), 30% toward wants (shopping, entertainment, restaurants), and 20% toward savings and debt repayment. If your student loans are substantial, or you’re looking to save more, you can swap the percentages, so 20% is allotted for wants and 30% goes toward your savings/loans.

Manage Your Debt and Be Wary of Accruing More
The best way to handle your student loan debt is staying on top of it. Pay off the loans with the highest interest rates first. You can pay the minimum towards balances with the lowest interest rates, but be sure to make payments larger than that on the bigger ones. Time says the “biggest mistake you can make is paying the minimum into each loan and waiting until you ‘make more money when you’re older’ to deal with them.”

On the other side of that coin, some debt can be beneficial: a solid credit history can open the door to all sorts of benefits, like a low-interest loan on your first car or house. This is why a lot of new grads will start looking into opening up a credit card. Just make sure if you do to avoid the oh-so-slippery slope of biting off (or purchasing) more than you can chew (aka pay back). A good way to help build your credit with a card is to get one, but reserve it for purchases you know you’ll be able to pay back immediately, or at least that month, like gas.

Start Saving for Retirement, Like, Yesterday
For most college grads, retirement is at least 30-40 years away, which may seem like a lot of time to build up funds for your golden years. But with medical and societal advances happening as they are, your retirement fund may need to last as long as the years you worked. One of the biggest mistakes those new to the workforce make is declining an employer’s retirement plan offer, usually because they’re in an entry-level position they don’t anticipate being in for a worthwhile amount of time or think it’ll be more beneficial to wait for a better-paying job to start saving.

Take advantage of the retirement plans offered to you as soon as you’re in a position where they’re offered to you; most employers offer 401(k) retirement plans, and many of those offer some form of matching benefits. All of your contributions to a retirement plan are yours to keep, regardless of whether or not you become fully vested in the plan itself. And if this is the case, you may even be able to roll over your plan into a new employer’s plan or an IRA (individual retirement account).

Ask for Help
Whether it’s from your parents, someone in HR or Accounting departments at your new job, the Internet, or your friendly neighborhood e-file provider, help can be found if you need it. Don't put off asking for help either; the longer you flounder with financial issues and strains, the harder they'll be to overcome. And, hey, if you’re reading this and you’ve got some financial advice for new grads, tell us all about it in the comments below!

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Monday, April 25, 2016

The IRS 2015 Filing Fraud Report Is In! Was Your Tax Return Affected?

Remember the other week when we talked about the importance of knowing about tax fraud and protecting your identity during tax season (as well as all the others)? Well, the results for the 2015 filings are in, and the steps the IRS and taxpayers have taken to prevent tax identity fraud have had commendable results.

This report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration was issued last Thursday, based on how the IRS’s performed January 1 through mid-April, 2016. The final results of their analysis will be released in September.

The IRS confirms the interim report's findings: 31,578 fraudulent tax returns involving identity theft have been found as of Feb. 29, 2016 (the paper filing deadline). As of March 5, 20,224 of these fraudulent returns have been identified as prisoner tax returns, which are being held for screening (prisoners have a history of claiming bogus tax refunds).

On March 4, the IRS’s return total was approximately 67 million, 62.6 million (93.9%) e-filed and 4 million (6.1%) paper filed. Subsequently, the IRS has issued more than $160 billion in 53,5 million refunds.

The IRS took measures this tax season to catch fraudulent claims before processing (rather than during). State tax authorities are also working to combat identity theft and tax fraud; the state of New York alone stopped more than 239,000 suspicious refund claims, saving taxpayers roughly $400 million.

While it’s true that a majority of the fraudulent returns found this year were e-filed - only 741 of the returns pulled for screening were paper filed - this shouldn’t keep you from e-filing in the future. In fact, it’s easier for the IRS to detect fraudulent returns when you file electronically, which can help expedite the correction process.

You can decrease your risk of fraud by making sure to file with an IRS-authorized e-file provider, like ExpressIRSForms. We’ve taken extra measures to ensure your security and that your information is shared only with the IRS.

If you've got any questions for us, we’re here all year, not just during tax season. Give us a call Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT at (704) 839-2270. Or send us a live chat during those hours through our website, And for all you night owls, we’ve got 24/7 e-mail support at

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The #1 Way to Save on Your Taxes That You Didn't Know About

Congratulations, everyone! We’ve made it through another Tax Day! Monday was the last day to have your income tax return completed and sent off. So now that we’ve had a few days to recover from the rush, we should be able to take a few more months or so before we think about taxes again, right? Say, until next February or March? Right?

Wrong. As unfortunate as it is for those of us who reward our hard work with a significant amount of time off, procrastinating is not the way to handle taxes. So with Earth Day just around the corner (this Friday, the 22nd), and spring in the air, we thought we’d talk a bit today about how you can help save the Earth and save on your taxes this time next year.

Unfortunately, since the initial “Going Green” boom, many federal tax incentives for individuals have expired and efforts to reinstate them seem to have stalled. However, there are still a lot of tax benefits to going green, if you know where to find them. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE), for example, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is a comprehensive online source used to help find incentives and policies (from local to federal levels) that promote renewable energy and energy efficiency. This blog, brought to you by ExpressIRSForms, is another:

Current Tax Incentives for Going Green
  • Renewable Home Energy System(s) Tax Credit
    • This credit remains in tact through December 31, 2016. It covers 30% of the cost of a new renewable energy system (no upper limit), and can be applied to any owned home, not just a primary residence.
    • There’s also a tax credit for 30% of the cost of a residential fuel cell and microturbine system (up to $500 per 0.5 kilowatts of power capacity) available through December 31, 2016.
  • All-Electric Vehicle Tax Credit
    • You can no longer get a tax credit for having a hybrid car, but if your electric car is what’s referred to as a “qualified fuel cell motor vehicle,” you could be eligible for a $2,500-$7,500 tax credit (based on the vehicle’s battery capacity).
    • Visit the DOE’s Fuel Economy website to see if your car is eligible and for more information on state and local incentives for electric vehicles.
  • Go Green by Hiring Veterans
    • This one comes to us from the mind of Jarid Manos of Great Plains Restoration Council, and combines the tax breaks for going green with job creation for veterans.
    • Corporations and businesses can get tax breaks for improving energy efficiency by installing locally produced solar and wind renewable energy and water conservations systems and (thanks to the Vow to Hire Heroes Act of 2011) for hiring U.S. veterans returning home from Iraq or Afghanistan. So, Manos suggests, “hiring [veterans] to do ecosystem restoration work.”
      • That’s a tax credit of up to $5,600 for each veteran hired ($9,600 if he/she is wounded), plus the tax credits from your improved energy.
  • Recycling Your Unwanted Electronics
    • It’s not exactly news that you can get deductions for donating things like old clothes or furniture throughout the year. What you may not know is that recycling places are popping up all over the country accepting donations in the form of your old cell phones, laptops, TVs, and any other electronics you might be upgrading.
    • Always make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company who will reuse your electronics responsibly, and remember to get a receipt for your files. If your total charitable contribution deductions exceed $500, you’ll need to submit a Form 8283 with your return next year.
Inspired yet? Tell us how you plan to go green in 2016 (or how you already have!) in the comments below! And if you have any questions about e-filing 1099s, W-2s, or ACA Forms, we’re here even in the “off” season. Just give us a call Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT, at (704) 839-2270, or send us an email anytime at

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Warning: Don't Lose These Tax Documents After You File

Heads up, taxpayers: today’s the last day to file your personal income taxes (unless you’re in Maine and Massachusetts, you lucky ducks have until tomorrow). So before we continue, if you think you need some more time to file, head on over to really quick and e-file Form 4868 for a six-month extension.

*Jeopardy theme music*

Alright, glad to have you back. Now, onto the subject of the day here at ExpressIRSForms: tax document retention. In other words, what tax records should you keep - and how long should you keep them - after you file?

Generally, taxpayers need to keep a copy of their tax returns and supporting documents for at least three years after the filing year. The IRS recommends this three-year retention period because that’s how long they have to initiate an audit of that tax year (that’s also how long you have to amend that return). But keep in mind that they have six years to initiate an audit in cases of fraud. If you’re already playing fast and loose with the IRS, it’s unlikely you’ll keep the paperwork lying around; but if you do, that’s how long you should.

“Enrolled agents say keep all tax records for seven years just to be safe,” said Kim Lankford, of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in an interview with Patricia Sabatini. Even if you don’t anticipate an audit, keeping your tax documents can help you in the long run. Whether they’re helping you complete future returns, or successfully helping to contest Social Security benefits (an example Ms. Lankford sites), retained tax documents can really come in handy.

Information You Can Use on Your Next Return
Keeping previous tax records and other documents you collect throughout the year can not only help with your tax preparation time each year, but it can help save you money on your taxes. Throughout the year, make sure you hold onto documents and information relating to:
  • Income from wages, dividends, interest, or business: W-2s, 1099s, K-1s, bank statements, brokerage statements, etc.
  • Deductions and credits (child care expenses, dental and medical expenses, use of the home for business purposes, charitable gifts, car sales tax, alimony): receipts, invoices, mileage logs, bank/credit card statements, etc.
  • Home and property: closing statements, invoices, proof of payment, insurance records, receipts for improvements
  • Investments: 1099s and 2439s, brokerage statements, mutual fund statements

The Bottom Line: What to Keep for How Long
The only thing you’ll really, legally need your tax documents for is in the event of an audit. The helping-you-complete-future-returns part is just gravy. Actual tax returns, like your 1040 and its schedules, or your W-2, you should hold onto indefinitely. Everything else, follow this general timeline for document retention:
  • Three years: tax return forms and schedules plus all info to support what you claimed on your return (like records related to property, investments, or business assets)
  • Four years: state tax information (most states have an additional year to initiate an audit)
  • Six years: W-2, 1099, etc. forms (the IRS has six years to contact you about failed reported income)
  • Seven years: information regarding loss from worthless securities or bad debts

For questions on your personal tax return, we’ll try to do the best we can, but you might be better off contacting a CPA or the IRS directly (1-800-829-1040). But for e-filing your 1099s, W-2s, ACA Forms, and W-9s, we’re happy to help! Just give us a call Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EST, at 1-704-83-2270, or send us an email at

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Protect Your Tax Return from Theft and Fraud

When we think about tax season damages, we’re usually thinking about our wallets. Unfortunately, as some people may have already found out the hard way, paying any taxes owed can end up being the least of your worries during tax season.

Tax-Related Identity Theft
With so many individuals sending personal information to the IRS, whether by e-filing or paper filing, the identity thieves are coming out to play. Typically, tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your Social Security number to file a tax return, claiming a fraudulent refund. But it’s not just a matter of protecting that SSN (although you should definitely do that); April is prime time for phishing scams and fraud, and the IRS already has a list of known schemes scammers use to compromise your identity and tax return/refund.

These scams don’t just affect you: fraudulent returns are a hassle for the IRS as well. That’s why the prevention and detection of fraud is one of their highest priorities, and why they provide victim assistance. If you think you’ve been a victim of tax-related identity theft, check out this IRS article so you can begin taking steps to re-secure your identity.

How to Protect Yourself
The main thing to remember anytime you’re reporting personal information, whether it’s to the IRS, your doctor, or even when you’re shopping online, is always to remain vigilant against illegitimate sources. Just as you wouldn’t hand over all of your personal info to a stranger on the street, you don’t want to do so online either. So here are a few tips for keeping your identity secure when you e-file this year:
  • If the IRS emails you, it isn’t the IRS. The official IRS will contact you if there are any issues with your return via snail mail. If you do get a suspicious email claiming to be the IRS, forward that email (without opening it, if you can) to
  • If the IRS asks for your credit card information or PIN by email, text message, or over the phone, it isn’t the IRS. Most of the time, the IRS doesn’t even accept credit cards for payments, only checks or Electronic Funds Withdrawals.
  • Avoid opening any links or attachments in emails you receive from unfamiliar sources and be wary of ones from known sources. Basically, don’t open anything sent to you in an email unless you’re 100% sure that it’s legitimate.
  • When using a public Wi-Fi hotspot, avoid logging into anything with sensitive information because others using the network could hack into your credentials or data.
  • Always logout of sensitive sites and services when you’re finished, don’t just close the webpage. Additionally, while it may be convenient to have your browser remember your login credentials, this also makes it easy for hackers to enter your account.
  • When handling sensitive information, don’t use the same computer your kids use. Many phishing scams are targeted at kid-oriented sites and services, so it’s much more likely the computer they’re playing on has been compromised in some way.
  • Take extra security measures: it’s always better to be over-protected than to risk exposing your identity online.
    • Use strong, unique passwords, and if you think you might forget them, store them in a safe place away from your computer. 
    • And before you start entering any sensitive data, check for the padlock icon in front of HTTPS (instead of HTTP) in your web address bar. This indicates the site you’re using is secure and encrypted, making your information safer.
  • Limit your exposure to threats with security tools like antivirus software, and, above all, be skeptical. As it’s been proven time and time again, if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

We’re five days away from the personal income tax deadline (April 18 this year), so if you’re last minute e-filing, ensure that your identity is still safe by not rushing through your security checks. If you’d like more time to make sure you can get everything filed safely, you can e-file a personal extension Form 4868 (securely!) through our sister site,

Questions for ExpressIRSForms? You can give us a call Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., at (704) 839-2270, or send us an email anytime at

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Monday, April 11, 2016

There's Still Time to Extend Your Tax Deadline!

The 2015 tax filing deadline is just a week away: April 18, 2016 (April 19 for Maine and Massachusetts). But if you’re not ready, there’s still time to get more time!

Extension Form 4868
Form 4868, Application for Automatic Extension of Time to File U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, can extend your personal filing deadline from April 18 to October 17 when filed by next Monday. You can file for an extension using Form 4868 if you usually file one of these tax return documents:
-Form 1040               -Form 1040A               -Form 1040-EZ
-Form 1040NR         -Form 1040NR-EZ      -Form 1040-PR
-Form 1040NR-SS

It’s Time to File, Not Time to Pay
The fine print on Form 4868 - and most other IRS extension forms - is that this form only offers an extension of time to file that other form you need to file, not pay the taxes you owe (if any). This means when filling out Form 4868, you’ll need to give an estimate of how much you’ll be paying back to the government, or indicate that you either don’t owe anything or are eligible for a refund. If you do owe taxes and they aren’t paid by April 18, you could be penalized and charged interest for late payments.

E-filing Form 4868
Of course, e-filing is the quickest way to submit Form 4868, but did you know that the easiest (and also best) way to e-file 4868 is with our sister product, ExpressExtension. It breaks 4868 down into easy-to-follow steps, and even allows you to pay all or part of any taxes owed before you transmit your form. Once your extension’s been approved, you’ll receive an email from us letting you know, usually within 15 minutes of filing.

Not to brag, but this email notification’s kind of a big deal. When you file 4868 directly with the IRS, they don’t send you any sort of notice that your extension request has been approved, rejected, or even received. This leaves you to either a) assume your form was accepted (and potentially face the consequences for assuming), or b) call the IRS and maybe, eventually, get in touch with someone who can tell you the status of your extension.

The Information You Need to File
Filling out Form 4868 is relatively easy as far as IRS documents go. In addition to your tax owed estimate, you’ll need to enter your name, address, and social security number. Not too bad, right? But watch out if you’re filing jointly: it can get a little confusing as you’ll need to know your spouse’s name, address, and social security number as well.

And If You Have Questions
While technically Form 4868 is ExpessExtension territory, you can still give us a call with questions regarding e-filing if you prefer! We’re available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT by live chat and phone, (704) 839-2270. Or send us an email at But, if you’d rather you can also call ExpressExtension at (803) 514-5155 or email them at!

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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Ace Adventures: We're Just Getting Started

“Boy, it was nice of Ace to throw us this bar-b-que!”

“Yeah, he sure does go all out for the end of filing season, huh?”

Weeks ago, when he was helping to mail out ACA Forms 1095-B and 1095-C for ExpressIRSForms, Ace took it upon himself to also mail out invitations for his Post-March-31st-Deadline Bar-b-Que to everyone in the city. So here we are today, celebrating the IRS deadline for 1099s and W-2s and the recipient copy deadline for ACA forms for payers and employers.

“Great cook-out, Ace,” a taxpayer Ace helped out earlier this year came up to the grill to say.

“Thanks, it was Alex’s idea,” Ace replied. “I just couldn’t figure out what to do that could include the entire city, but I just had to do something now that that March 31st deadline is over.”

“Yeah, about that,” the taxpayer began. “I thought March 31st was the ACA deadline, but my buddy over there was saying that that’s not until June 30. I don’t get it...why’d I send out all those forms by March 31 if the deadline isn’t until June 30?”

“You see,” Ace continued, “March 31st was the deadline to have your 1095-B and 1095-C forms furnished to your employees or recipients. The deadline to e-file with the IRS is June 30. There’s also a paper filing deadline on May 31, but I don’t want to bring that up too loudly. It could attract Paper Cut!”

“Wait, so the IRS deadline for ACA forms wasn’t last week? I could have sworn it was.”

“And typically it will be. In fact, the IRS announced initially that March 31st would be the e-filing deadline for this year, but in the early days of the 2015 filing season, they decided to extend each of the deadlines so filers had time to clear up any confusion before submitting their forms. But, in future years, recipient copies are due January 31 and IRS copies are due March 31.

“Hey, so Ace,” a taxpayer who picked up on part of their conversation began, “I had my forms sent to my employees through ExpressIRSForms, and they made me transmit them to the IRS to have that done. So I don’t need to do anything else before June 30?”

“That’s correct, other citizen!”

“You had someone send your forms for you?

“I sure did! And you can, too!”

The 1099 and W-2 filing season may be over, but with ACA, we’re just getting started! Head on over to to set up your free account. And if you have any questions along the way, give us a call. We’re available Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT, at (704) 839-2270. We’re also available 24/7 at

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Monday, April 4, 2016

1099 & W-2 Late Filing Penalties

Alright, guys, it’s time to get serious at ExpressIRSForms: if you haven’t filed your 1099s and/or W-2s for your payees and employees, they are officially late. At midnight on March 31, the 2015 tax year POOFED back into a pumpkin, and anyone left not having filed was too late to submit their returns without penalty.

So what, oh what, are these late filers to do?

E-file Your Returns ASAP
The most important thing now is getting your filing done as quickly and accurately as possible. Remember: if your forms get rejected for an error, you have to re-file them, making them even later. Also, remember that your penalty is determined by how long it takes you to file your returns (correctly). You’ll want to make sure you e-file; if you paper file your forms, the IRS will have to determine your penalty by the paper filing deadline (February 29, making them already over a month late) instead of the March 31 e-filing deadline.

Know What You’re Up Against
As we just said, the IRS determines your penalty based on when your forms are ultimately filed. This means that if you file
  • within 30 days of the deadline, your penalty is $50 per form, not to exceed $532,000 a year ($186,000 for small businesses);
  • after 30 days the due date but before August 1, your penalty is $100 per form, not to exceed $1,596,500 a year ($532,000 for small businesses); 
  • after August 1, or not at all, your penalty is $260 per form, not to exceed $3,193,000 a year ($1,064,000 for small businesses).
Know the Exceptions to the Rule…
...but don’t count on them to keep your penalty amount zero. Most of the exceptions are at the discretion of the IRS, so it’s still best to file as soon as you can after the deadline. The IRS considers these three main exceptions when looking into late filing cases:
  1. If you can show that the late filing (or non-filing) was due to events beyond your control, or due to significant mitigating factors rather than willful neglect, the IRS penalty will not apply.
  2. Inconsequential errors or omissions that don’t prevent the IRS from processing the return aren’t considered failures to include correct information. Usually, these errors are related to a TIN, a payee’s/employee’s surname, and any money amounts.
  3. De minimis rule for corrections. In other words, if your correction forms were filed after the deadline but before August 1 and were to correct forms you filed before the deadline. If you meet these conditions, the penalty won’t apply to 10 information returns, or ½ of 1% of the total forms, whichever is greater, for your filing.

Know Who to Call
Hint: it’s not Ghostbusters. Give up? It’s us! Our friendly, US-based support team is here all year long, not just during tax season, to help you with any post-March-31st-at-midnight issues or questions you have. Just send us a live chat or give us a call at (704) 839-2270, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. EDT. You can also email us 24/7 at!

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