by Bobby Anderson, Staff Writer
Only a few days remain before the April 15 filing deadline and there are a few items Oklahoma City Certified Public Accountant Lynne Van Blake says seniors need to look out for.
“Seniors need to be aware that they may need to file a tax return if they have income from other than Social Security,” Van Blake said. “Filing a return does not mean they will owe taxes.”
Founded in 1984, Van Blakes, is a family-owned CPA firm providing year-round accounting, tax preparation, incorporation, and other financial consulting, as well as planning services and advice—helping clients achieve their financial goals while maintaining legal and statutory compliance.
As the clock ticks down, Van Blake says it’s important that seniors pay attention to changes that will affect them.
“Seniors older than 70 may earn unlimited amounts without affecting their Social Security income,” Van Blake said. “Under age 70, a portion of their Social Security is reduced if their wages or net self employment are above certain limits. Seniors over age 70 may owe taxes on their earnings.
Van Blakes seeks to assist individuals, families, and businesses with tax preparation and accounting services that ensure they are fairly represented to tax agencies and financial institutions, while also developing long-term relationships built on cooperation and trust.
Van Blake said seniors need to pay particular attention to the special limits they have access to when it comes to padding their retirement accounts.
Seniors age 55 and older are able to add an additional $1,000 to bring total contributions to IRA’s to $6,500. These contributions can be left to heirs as part of an inheritance.
Contributions to a Roth IRA do not require minimum distributions at age 70 1/2. That, too, can be a tax planning tool.
The IRS offers this advice to seniors:
– If you do not itemize your deductions, you can get a higher standard deduction amount if you and/or your spouse are 65 years old or older. You can get an even higher standard deduction amount if either you or your spouse is blind.
– You must file using Form 1040 or Form 1040A to receive the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled. You cannot get the Credit for the Elderly or Disabled if you file using Form 1040EZ. Be sure to apply for the Credit if you qualify.
– IRS-sponsored volunteer tax assistance programs offer free tax help to seniors and to low- to moderate-income people who cannot prepare their own tax returns.
– Also see Publications 524 (Credit for the Elderly or Disabled); and 554 (Tax Guide for Seniors).
Van Blake also warns people to be cautious with their information.
Aggressive and threatening phone calls by criminals impersonating IRS agents remain a major threat to taxpayers, but now the IRS is receiving new reports of scammers calling under the guise of verifying tax return information over the phone.
The latest variation being seen in the last few weeks tries to play off the current tax season. Scam artists call saying they have your tax return, and they just need to verify a few details to process your return. The scam tries to get you to give up personal information such as a Social Security number or personal financial information, such as bank numbers or credit cards.
“These schemes continue to adapt and evolve in an attempt to catch people off guard just as they are preparing their tax returns,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Don’t be fooled. The IRS won’t be calling you out of the blue asking you to verify your personal tax information or aggressively threatening you to make an immediate payment.”
The IRS reminds taxpayers to guard against all sorts of con games that continually change. The IRS, the states and the tax industry came together in 2015 and launched a public awareness campaign called Taxes. Security. Together. to help educate taxpayers about the need to maintain security online and to recognize and avoid “phishing” and other schemes.
The IRS continues to hear reports of phone scams as well as e-mail phishing schemes across the country.
“These schemes touch people in every part of the country and in every walk of life. It’s a growing list of people who’ve encountered these. I’ve even gotten these calls myself,” Koskinen said.
This January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) announced they have received reports of roughly 896,000 phone scam contacts since October 2013 and have become aware of over 5,000 victims who have collectively paid over $26.5 million as a result of the scam. Just this year, the IRS has seen a 400 percent increase in phishing schemes.