Need a Tax Payment Plan?

Many people are suffering financial hardship because of the COVID-19 economic downturn. 

Some of those people owed more money to the IRS when they filed their 2019 income tax return, but they didn’t have the funds to pay. Interest and penalties on unpaid tax balances keep adding to your tax debt, whether you have money or not. 

So, what do you do if you owe the IRS? Here is what you need to know:

  • Extended Payment Options – The IRS offers two ways for taxpayers to extend their tax payments over time:
  1. Short-term Payment Plan – If you can pay within 120 days, this option charges no fees and makes it easy to apply online. You’ll get an immediate notification of whether your application is approved. Interest and penalties continue to accrue until the tax is paid in full.
  2. Installment Agreement – Used when you need more than 120 days to pay, this option requires a set-up fee (e.g., $31-149 online and $107-225 via phone). Installment Agreements may require more information from you, depending on the balance due. Payments can be debited from your bank account, paid online, or by check. Credit card payments cost additional fees.

More details and a link to apply are at https://www.irs.gov/payments/payment-plans-installment-agreements#costs.

  • Tax Debt Amount Matters – Payment plan applications are generally easier to get approved for lower tax liabilities due than for large balances. Applications for $10,000 or less are automatically approved as a guaranteed Installment Agreement. For applications of amounts from $10-25,000, the approval is not guaranteed, and full payment must be made within six years. Tax debt payment plan applications for $25,000 up to $50,000 require information about your income, assets, and monthly expenses. Over $50,000 means a more thorough asset review to determine if anything can be liquidated to pay the tax due.
  • Offer in Compromise – A growing number of taxpayer households are suffering from long-term job loss, eviction, and medical issues with no insurance coverage. The IRS wants to collect all tax due but does not want to create an undue burden on taxpayers’ ability to provide for their basic needs. An Offer in Compromise allows you to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount owed if paying your full tax liability would create a financial hardship based on your assets, income, and expenses. See if you qualify at https://www.irs.gov/payments/offer-in-compromise.

Taxpayers who cannot pay their taxes due to the IRS in full have options to catch up. Depending on the amount due and your ability to pay, the IRS has extended payment plans and other mechanisms to avoid placing additional undue burdens on taxpayers who have already suffered financial hardship.

Signs You’re About to be Attacked by Ransomware

Kidnappers do their homework before snatching their victims to be sure that they have enough ransom money to be worth the time and risk. Until today, I hadn’t thought about scammers doing their homework before launching a ransomware attack. An article in Sophos News by Peter Mackenzie, The Realities of Ransomware: Five Signs You’re About to be Attacked, opened my eyes that system kidnappers usually leave a trail that can be detected.

I encourage you to read Mr. Mackenzie’s article and take action to protect your systems from being held for ransom. He shares valuable tips from his own professional experience, including tools and methods. https://bit.ly/2PFuhnX 

Here is a quick list of evidence of an existing or immanent ransomware attack that could be detected by a cybersecurity professional:

  • Unusual Behavioral

A periodic scan of your network’s file history can detect repeating patterns or other indicators of malicious activity on your systems. It could be nothing to worry about, but anything that looks unusual is probably worth checking out. Even if malware has been detected and removed, scammers could still be conducting harmful operations on your network.

  • Scanner Snooping

Scammers often gain access your systems by using phishing or social engineering schemes with authorized users. They especially love to capture credentials for users with administrative rights because it gives them more access. Once in, they can install a network scanner to find files with valuable information, such as bank accounts and tax IDs. A scanner can be detected and removed if you know how to do it.

  • Neutralized Security

Scammers that manage to compromise admin rights often try to disable your security software to swing open the door to your systems even wider. Several tools are available to force the removal of your security software. These tools have legitimate purposes, but they can be used by criminals to leave your systems vulnerable.

  • Embedded Tools

In addition to installing a scanner, scammers can embed keystroke readers to capture logon credentials. Capturing keystrokes allows access to your systems, some of which could store financial and confidential identity information. Other tools can be used to extract data and lists of usernames and passwords for use or sale.

Turns out, ransomware attackers do their homework just like kidnappers looking for a rich victim to snatch. Peter Mackenzie’s recent article in Sophos News really opened my eyes that ransomware attacks can be detected before they hold systems hostage. Read his article and arm yourself with tools to fight off cybercrime. 

Six Years in Business – Already?

Just the other day, someone asked me how long ago I started my business. I was surprised to realize that it’s been six years this week! I’ve never regretted the decision to parlay my entrepreneurial spirit and experience into a full-time business. Sure, it’s been a lot of work, but with diligence and good luck, I’ve achieved my goals. 

Anniversaries are milestones worth celebrating, and a time for reflection – to assess progress, identify improvements, and set new goals. Businesses that survive to celebrate many anniversaries and other milestones invest significant time and effort in these four activities:

  • Plan with Your Objective in Mind 

A business plan is a road map to get where you want to go and help to keep your “Eye on The Prize”. Unless you know what you’re reaching for, you can’t grab it. Set your overall objectives and describe the detailed steps to achieve them. Set interim milestones along the way to help measure your progress and keep you motivated.

  • Execute Your Plan

Actively work through the detailed steps in your plan. It’s exhilarating to achieve goals and move forward. Executing your plans also gives you opportunities to get more information. Use new information to adapt your plans and make course corrections. Also listen to how your network receives your message and adjust the wording to get your message across better.

  • Outsource Needs You Can’t Meet

Be realistic about aspects of your business where you do not have the necessary expertise or can’t take the time away from your core business to do it yourself. Legal, accounting, and social media are some areas where engaging an expert can accomplish specialized tasks, free up your time, and prevent you from making costly mistakes.

  • Give to Your Network

Answering general questions in your area of expertise and presenting at workshops gives are ways that you can share knowledge with your network and establish your credibility. Sharing tips and perspective helps to establish your brand and draw people to you and your business. Being generous is often its own reward, over the long run.

The last six years of being in business full-time have been hard work, fun, and rewarding – all at the same time. It takes a lot more than investing in these four activities to be successful. But businesses that invest in planning, executing, outsourcing, and giving back increase the probability that they will enjoy many future anniversaries and milestones.