IACCGH Hosts Free Tax Seminar

From left: Rajiv Bhavsar, Jagdip Ahluwalia, Swapan Dhairyawan Mark Warren, Allen Richards, Ajit Thakur, Mahesh Desai, Mike Jain, Kershaw Khumbatta, Atul Kothari. Photo: Bijay Dixit

By Manu Shah

HOUSTON: IACCGH’s Outreach Program – a tax seminar designed to educate the community on various tax issues attracted over 130 members of the Indo American community on Sunday, February 19, at India House. Held for the sixth year in a row, IACCGH Executive Director Jagdip Ahluwalia described the event as part of the Chamber’s efforts “to empower the community with the right knowledge.”

President Allen Richards thanked the distinguished panel of 6 CPAs’ and IRS Assistant Special Agent Mark Warren for volunteering their time on a Sunday afternoon and emphasized the Chamber’s commitment of bringing “value to the community” through such events. Moderator and IACCGH Past President, CPA Ajit Thakur highlighted the fact that henceforth spouses must be careful about signing tax returns as IRS is sending separate notices to spouses. He also cautioned the gathering about the growing menace of identity theft.

Panelist IRS Special Agent Mark Warren noted that the IRS was cracking down on international tax fraud with the help of international tax treaties. Countries were bound by these treaties to provide information about assets owned by American citizens. He allayed fears about “mistakes” in tax returns versus “fraud” and stated that “intention is what makes the difference.” He encouraged the gathering to file tax returns even if they don’t have the money to pay the taxes – IRS can be lenient on that score and may offer an installment option.

CPA Mike Jain anticipated bold tax laws both at the Corporate and Individual level to come into effect under the Trump administration and proposed deferring taxes into future years to take advantage of these tax cuts. CPA Kershaw Khumbatta presented different Retirement plans such as Traditional IRA, Roth IRA, Simple IRA and the Solo (One person) 401(k) plans. However, the IRA fund cannot be used as security for a loan or to buy property for personal use. The Supreme Court has also ruled that creditors may not seize IRA assets in bankruptcy proceedings.

CPA Mahesh Desai highlighted Forms 114 and 8938 that must be filed by taxpayers holding more than $10,000 in an overseas account. The OVPD and the SDOP are two other IRS schemes to voluntarily disclose foreign accounts. He also added that rents and stock market returns in India must be reported.

Chairperson and CPA Swapan Dhairyawan shed light on the different scams affecting taxpayers such as inflated refund claims, fake charities and identity theft. The phone scam plaguing taxpayers was busted in October 2016. The FAST Act, he stated, could result in denial of a passport for certain tax delinquencies. He emphasized the importance of informing the IRS about address changes and suggested calling the friendly Tax Advocate Service at 877-777-4778 for tax advocacy.

An entity is any way, shape or form to limit liability for businesses – a topic covered by CPA Atul Kothari. There are two different types of entities – the No Liabilities Protection and Liabilities Protection. Options to save tax will be based on the entity you own. LLC, he observed, is the most suitable entity for small businesses as it has one level of taxation and offers both liability protection.

The seminar concluded with a Q & A session.

Disclaimer: The IACCGH tax seminar is for advisory purposes only