• James D. Lynch

Many taxpayers are aware that the IRS will never call to demand immediate payment over the phone or call about taxes owed without first having mailed you a bill. To try and trick taxpayers, some scammers are mailing legitimate-looking IRS letters.


An example of a fake IRS letter is pictured below. Some of the telling signs are the following:


● The processing address in Austin is not correct. ● The notice tells the taxpayer to make a check to the IRS when it should be the U.S. Treasury. ● The IRS gives you the right to appeal if you disagree with the tax assessed. The fake letter insists on your payment of the additional tax in spite of your disagreement.


If you get a letter from the IRS that appears it may not be legitimate, call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 (as opposed to the number written on the notice) to verify what you might owe.



  • James D. Lynch


For Cyber Monday, online thieves take advantage of having so many people shop online at once. They steal shoppers’ personal information and package it as their own.


The IRS and its partners in the Security Summit advise taxpayers to take these simple steps to protect their identities, financial accounts, computers, and mobile devices.


● Shop at sites where the web address begins “https;” the “s” is for secure communications over the computer network. This is an added layer of protection when sharing credit card numbers for a purchase. Note: scam sites also can use “https,” so shoppers should ensure they are shopping with a legitimate retailer.

● Do not shop on unsecured public wi-fi. This helps to prevent thieves from eavesdropping. Instead, use secure home wi-fi with a password.

● Use security software for computers and mobile phones, and keep it updated. Make sure anti-virus software has a feature to stop malware and there is a firewall that can prevent intrusions.

● Do not hand out personal information. Phishing scams, impostor emails, calls, and texts are the top ways thieves steal personal data.

● Do not open links or attachments on suspicious emails.

● Use strong, unique, yet easily remembered passwords.

● Use two-factor authentication whenever possible. Many email providers and social media sites offer this feature to help prevent thieves from easily hacking accounts.

● Back up files on computers and mobile phones. A cloud service or an external hard drive can be used to copy information from computers or phones.



  • James D. Lynch


Taxpayers can take the home office deduction if they use a portion of their home regularly and exclusively for business. That portion of their home could be the taxpayer’s main place of business, a place where the taxpayer meets patients, clients or customers in the normal course of business, or a place to store inventory or samples. It can also be a separate structure that is not attached to the taxpayer’s home (such as a garage or barn) as long as it is used regularly and exclusively for business.


Taxpayers can claim the deduction whether they are a homeowner or a renter. It can be used for a house or apartment, but not for a hotel or other temporary lodging.


There are two options for figuring and claiming the home office deduction:


● Regular method: direct expenses (such as repairs solely in the home office) are deducted in full, while indirect expenses (such as the home’s mortgage interest, rent, utilities, insurance, real estate taxes, repairs, and depreciation) are deductible based on the size of the home office as a percentage of the entire home.


● Simplified method: If the home office is 300 square feet or less, the taxpayer deducts $5 per square foot of the home office, up to a maximum of $1,500 for a 300-square-foot space. The simplified method reduces the paperwork and recordkeeping for small businesses.


The home office deduction is presently only for self-employed taxpayers. Between 2018-2025, employees cannot deduct home office expenses. (Prior to 2018, employees could deduct home office expenses under miscellaneous deductions subject to the 2% floor, including unreimbursed employee business expenses.)